Monday, December 30, 2013

Searching for the "New" in the Coming Year

I would like to know how many times I have decided that I would become a new person, a better person; more aware, more caring and more capable, that I might make a difference in the world. The hardest part of trying to make oneself into something better is found in the old adage; “Take 2 steps ahead and you find yourself 3 steps back”. It has taken me a lifetime thus far to figure out how to overcome those objects that keep getting in the way and even then I am not always as successful as I would wish to be. I have been accused of seeking power, the spotlight and even putting myself ahead of everyone else, so that I could get ahead. I remember trying so hard to present myself as someone who could help a congregation, only to be told that I was a power monger and that I would only use that church as a stepping stone to some greater potential down the road.

What becomes the hardest to accomplish, is to identify the real problem behind the obstacles that get thrown either in your way, or at times even in your face. Have you ever started out with the greatest and best intentions only to find yourself used, or even used up, by those you wanted to help? It happens. Not all the time, but from time to time. When it becomes a pattern, you really need to stand back and ask the deep questions about life, hope, practice and then faith.

To become new with a purpose takes more effort than most can ever imagine. It seems like it should be so simple just to remake yourself. Ask someone who is trying to lose a few pounds, or change the direction of a deteriorating relationship… or how about those who have, for whatever reason, lost their way and the world has either condemned them or perhaps the judgment they face everyday overwhelms them, before they get to put their best foot forward. To reconstruct a life that has flaws, fallen into decay or to even decide that there must be a better you that can make a difference, can be a most trying and overwhelming task.
I think back over the stories that were read to me as a child. One of those that I found most confusing and challenging was that of one of the judges in the Old Testament… Samson. Have you heard of him before? He was a strange sort of person that God chose to use to portion out His judgment in a manner that most would qualify as extraordinary, if not totally senseless in light of how we expect Him to work His will. Samson did some great stuff, but he lived like there was no tomorrow, like the only thing in life was his own satisfaction. In the end it caused his downfall, but gave him the opportunity for God to show his power in judgment for the wrongs of His people.

In the New Testament is another curious example, when really considered in the fullness of the story, and that is the person of Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul the great missionary and theologian. Saul a devoted Jew was set to exterminate the Christians, but when confronted by Jesus, he changed. You see, here are two examples of characters who struggled with who they had become, what they were and wanted to make a change for the better… One died in the process and the other died because of the process, but both became people used of God, because they died to themselves. This is no easy concept but rings true even in the everyday life of those who want change and are willing to die to themselves, their emotions, their cravings, their mediocrity. They want to step forward with a new perspective, new desire and stand outside of themselves to gain the goal they desire to attain. And the cost is great! No matter the decision made, the cost is always far more than you could have imagined.

It is because of the realization of the enormity of the cost and the inability for some to push through the barriers they face, that so many tend to fail… perhaps we all do far more than we realize, in one way or another. To become new is more often a dream, than a reality for most. Let’s take those New Year’s resolutions that crop up this time of year. Too often we find ourselves unable to continue; wanting to, is so different than the actual stamina needed to carry it off. Maybe resolutions have become fads, that though well intentioned, become just another attempt at keeping up with others. We most often have to internalize these things before we undertake them if we are to succeed.

So I want to become new again. Maybe what I mean is that I want to be renewed. Some time ago I saw and then posted a cartoon that showed the cartoon character Tigger and he was saying; “I want to bounce again!” Maybe that is where I stand in my retirement, though retirement has not made me sedentary and useless. It has given me time to review, regret and try hard to pray through those things that are not the highlights of my life. So, I guess  what I want is to be renewed. The best part of faith is that we serve a wonderful God who not only forgives as we confess those shortcomings (just like he did for David, Peter and Paul from the Scriptures) but who renews and rebuilds for greater paths, greater blessings toward a greater work for Him. Is that too much to bite off, too great a wish to consider, too much for a God who took a Prince of Egypt into the wilderness only to bring him back after 40 years so he could lead His (God’s) people out of captivity and head them towards the Promised Land? I think not.

Maybe some who are reading this, if you have gotten this far, want a renewal in your life too. I have only one message for you today….. You will never succeed on your own strength, will and ability. I have written this before, but it is worth a re-mention. It is only when we die to ourselves, our own natures, wants and personal vision of what should be, that we can actually attain what God wants us to become. Sound hard? You can bet your bottom dollar it is! So why do we fail so often…. Is it just the self that gets in our way? No… it is also satan! He is out there to remind us every day that we can’t do it, even if we have God on our side. All this while he is convincing us that we need to do something altogether different. Lies that influence our hearts, minds and lives come not from a God that tests, but from satan who will use whatever means to break us down and turn us back onto the old track.

So  as you sit down and consider your coming year and those things that you want to remake, redo and renew… consider first where God is in all of that decision making process. I am trying to do that daily. It is not always easy, as I too can crumble under the weight of obligations, natural repercussions of daily sin that may even be committed unknowingly, along with the daily grind of trying to breathe for Him… He breathed the breath of “life” into me… I want to be continually aspirated by the Holy Spirited, so that every breath I take is by His grace and for His blessing.

May your take on the “new” that you have in mind, include what God wants first… it is part of moving toward the edge and my oh my… what a view from there. It may just change your perspective or the outcome you desire. May the Lord richly bless the coming year for you and yours!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Gifts of Christmas

We don’t have to think too hard to remember our most precious Christmas or even our most favourite Christmas gift. I read a note that was written to a friend of mind this morning about one such article in her life… that very special Christmas and that very special gift.  Each year millions of children gather around Christmas trees all over the world and open those wished for items that appear on Christmas morning. But do all children get what they wished for? No sadly, not all children are so fortunate. Many go without for reasons as varied as they are many.

Every Christmas we were reminded that there were so many who were not as fortunate as we were, in one way or another. One year in particular I had asked for an item that was very unlikely to be received. I can’t remember if I wrote a letter to Santa or not, but I did mentioned it to my Mom and I wished every day that I might get what I so hoped to receive. There on Christmas morning was what I had wanted… or was it? You see I had asked for a sword! Simple request eh! No, not all requests are simple or simply understood, either by the person requesting or the person granting the request. So it was that what I found happened to be a beautifully carved sword made from a swordfish's sword. Yup! That is what it was alright! The moment I opened that gift I was surprised, yet my heart sank. It was not something that I could swing around and hack at branches with, fight off vicious pirates and defend some fair maiden while in combat with her enemy. It was in fact only a decorative piece that would one day become a symbol of the love that my Mom had for me in giving me such an important part of local history.

The man we bought fish from was a particular friend of ours. He came from a town nearby and visited every week and on some days stopped and chatted over a cup of tea. Mom had asked him about a swordfish sword for me, just to have to play with and he brought several that Dad tried to cure and prepare, but to no avail, they all rotted and became more than nasty! He one day told Mom that he could get a real sword made by a local craftsman that lived quite near us and so it happened that he delivered, just before Christmas, this very special item that has become a real treasure in my life. It was not what I expected, but something that became so precious indeed.

Gifts come in all shapes and sizes and down through the years I have disguised them as churches, roosters and Christmas sleighs. I have weighed them down with cans of tomato juice and one year with even a brick and a piece of railroad track… in fact it made the gift so heavy that I nearly strained my back trying to get it off the table, about 20 years ago. I have become more practical of late and perhaps that is not always a good thing. And, my wish list has changed drastically too. I get more interested in the quiet reflective moments, even though they are hard to get. So I spend time trying to prepare my heart and mind, looking for the joy, in why this all came about. Not the presence of family directly, but the presence of the Christmas Season and how it affects us as family. Have we prepared our minds, hearts and our lives for this annual event with the right wishes and the correct expectations?

I try to be reminded every day of the value of what took place on that first Christmas. But do I stop enough to consider and reflect on that “very special” eve in history really? A friend reminded me that so often we put our best foot forward for a few weeks at Christmas, choosing, wrapping and distributing gifts, only to go back to the business of life in January and put away the lonely, the forgotten and at times those special friends that only become important enough to visit, during the Christmas season. A sad statement but one that rings true more than we like to admit.

So it was on that first Christmas Eve in Bethlehem town. A people waiting for a savior were told that what they had longed for had arrived, and though eyes turned to a little child in a lowly manger, he was not what they were expecting. What did they want? They wanted a king among men, who would deliver them from the tyranny of those who cared not for their lives, but only their money and what they could provide in slavery and trade. So while the angels sang of the Saviour’s birth, and shepherds left their fields to see this miracle, the Son of God fell short of their expectations and life returned to its drudgery, and high expectations became disappointments. They could not see the true value of what God had given them… so many today are in that same place in life… they can not see; as they can not understand that God’s love was so great that He came; “Emmanue”l, meaning God with us and dwelling among us.

So many gifts are also opened and then forgotten. A popular thing to do today is “re-gift”. "Why", some would say. Well, we receive things that serve no purpose in our lives, having no real value to us and so as a matter of course we either discard them or we give them to someone who may be able to use them with thanksgiving and appreciation, being able to use them where we did not. Is that what happens to the “Greatest Gift” of all? Do we shuffle through the traditions that may have belonged to parents, grandparents, guardians and our communities and use them as a sort of celebratory cover for our desire to just have another party? I pray not. Christ was the “final gift” that came with strings attached, conveyed from the Old Testament and confirmed in the New Testament. God’s people must humble themselves before Him and in doing so attach themselves to him with life, desire and obedience in all we do. Yet He came as a free gift to those who would accept Him. Giving our lives is not easy. Always desiring to go and do what He wants of us in not always easy, and total obedience is impossible. So it is a no win situations, right? No… Not At All! In this little child wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger was LOVE BOTH ETERNAL AND PRESENT. When we accept this gift (like opening one on Christmas morning) we may sometimes feel disappointment, as He was not what we were expecting, because we do not always fully understand what it is that we have done… we only know that He is a gift.

There are so often still the challenges that both alarm and disappoint us, but when we have Christ he is always there. When we confess our shortcomings, our sins and our fears, He loves us even more and forgives, because the Christ Child became “The Christ”, the "Sacrifice for our sins". We do not use God as our trump card, our get out of jail free card or our MasterCard to all wealth and prosperity, but we have assurance that when we do fall and call out to Him, He hears and picks us up again into His loving arms and shields, heals and restores.

My wish list this year includes new eyes to see the face of Jesus before I see anything else, new ears that I may hear His voice as he speaks direction, affirmation and peace into my life, and a new readiness to respond, go and do so that I will be His voice, His hands and feet in this world. I owe a debt that I cannot pay and He has paid a debt that He did not owe… just for me. The gifts of Christmas are not simple, they are complex, yet not so complex that we cannot accept and then once accepting, hold them close and dear to our hearts. They grow richer, more important and life giving as we hold them dear. Walk over to the edge of the manger and take a long look in…. do you see Him looking at YOU?… Being near the edge here may just change your perspective on life.

I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Blessed New Year!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Historical Drift

There will be lots of images that may come to mind when considering what I have entitled my thoughts today I am sure. As time rushes by there are changes that come, not matter how hard we may fight against them. Years ago I watched my Dad changing from a dynamic thoughtful individual to someone who seemed to struggle with maintaining the connections with the surroundings that he had known and loved for years. Oh, he still had the ability most times, to quote from memory tucked away back there, a poem or two, but he was not the same man that led meetings and made important decision some 30 years previously. Perhaps you have watched someone you have loved or admired, begin to stand a bit further back from the center of things, especially decision making opportunities, yet they would cling to their opinions with a tenacity that was either still admirable or equated a just plain out of date thinking!

It is so easy to get caught up in the moment of evaluating others and forget to evaluate ourselves. Take for instance myself and my story, as I continue to go off to meetings at one level or another. I sit and watch most times, I listen to the debates, the challenges confronting the committees and am amazed at the various levels of dialogue that enters the area of discussion. It becomes easy to identify the various personalities, the levels of education, the environments surrounding their history and the levels of experience from which they draw both facts and conclusions. There is also present the dynamic of age and the presence of “Historical Drift”.
Age can modify our ability to accept change. The strange thing about it is that we know we are aging, we know that we appreciate what is and know that change is inevitable. But we are not as interested in having change for the sake of change, even when it is becomes a necessary evil to maintain both healthy and growing living conditions for the community or culture. There can be a fine line of definition here as to the how’s and the why’s, but for the most part we, as we age, will begin to fight change… anything that moves us out our comfort zone. It can be as major as a new Medical Centre located away from where it used to me, to the restructuring of waiting room with different and less inviting furniture at our accountant’s office.
Historical drift on the other hand is subtle in both its existence and its debilitating undermining of our ability to see the pitfalls that begin to appear in both structure and vision. If you want to put a definition to the label, it might be most easily visualized as a perhaps a boat sitting at mooring in the harbour. The owner has had the mooring for years, has sailed to and from that site hundreds of times and is comfortable with it…. There is no need to move it; yet through the years several things have taken place that have made it either no longer viable or safe to use. First, natural wear and tear from tides, wave action during storms and other naturally occurring environmental stresses have weakened its ability to function as it should. Second, there has been a subtle movement of the mooring during winter ice conditions, combined with storm stresses while the boat was moored there, that have moved the mooring slightly each year closer to underwater dangers, never noticed, never calculated really, it just happened. Historical drift is like that in our personal lives… subtle changes come as we get used to doing things a certain way, expect things to respond in certain ways, handle values, vision and the everyday issues of life being lived in a certain, unchanging way, that cause us to lose track of the “track” and the momentum needed to keep the business of living both contemporary and relevant to the times and issues. There is a difference.

I want to be contemporary, but it is a new playground for each following generation. Just like I can no longer go to the gym and play badminton like I did 40 years ago, so I can no longer expect to keep abreast with the young players in the foreground of industry or commerce. I can still evaluate the game, but I can’t seem to grasp the need to change the plays needed to get to the acquired results. I can name all the great players of the past but I don’t want to leave them dangling while newer, more seemingly skilled athletes dazzle the crowds and break the old established records of the past.

And relevance is a battle every day. When you begin to feel that you are no longer relevant to the issues, or even worse the arguments being proposed are not relevant to the issues at hand, fear creeps in and we try even harder to make the point that everyone seems to be missing; “That is not what we have always done!”; only to hear the wisdom of youth retort; “And it didn’t work before so why try it again!”

My heart cries out with both anxious fear and quiet frustration lots of days now. I guess I wanted to expect that things would change. It may seem odd, that statement coming from an aging warrior who has been considered the radical for too many years. But I have always wanted change! From an early age I was fighting the Historical Drift that I saw present in life and wanted to see new growth, potentials that lay dormant for years to now spring into blossom and make what could be, come to fruition for our communities, our businesses and our futures. I tried to herald the cry; “Not just the youth of tomorrow but the youth of today!”, that families now present could cling to the hope of a better tomorrow, based on the growth seen today. Frustration with self, boredom with constant division when unity is the only answer, and too many NO’s! Too often the nay-sayers out-shout the let’s-doers or how-toer’s… especially when change is pending. I will never forget the voice of a man who has made millions and told a small group meeting one day of his key to success. “I got tired of committees to plan meetings, meetings to establish plans, plans to do research and viability through studies on viability and sourcing and so I moved to make change myself… I figure that if you are not motivated to motivate beyond the planning stages you are not motivate toward change! We can talk ourselves into the next century but what we need is to stop talking and start doing!”

So today I am wondering if I am caught in my own Historical Drift and am clinging to an effort that may be better managed by the younger, more energetic youth who are both contemporary and relevant to today’s needs and methods. I like my friend and so many others, who chat along the streets, are tired of committees meeting for the sake of meeting, and getting nowhere.  I don’t want to sound cynical, but am I becoming that way as part of the “Drift”? I have a long list of dreams and wishes and they all still include change and growth, but am I stuck in a puddle of broken dreams and becoming what I feared in others down through the years?

Today, at least, I want to find a modicum of relevancy! I want to maintain a sense of entitlement to speak and if I can muster more than a futile effort of engagement, I may be able to pull off a few tidbits of wisdom without a lengthy diatribe on how it used to be, over against that which it can be, while giving insights on how it can be accomplished, with some visible level of contemporary input. The key may be, for me anyway, the ability to listen toward evaluation. I am learning that evaluation doesn’t have to be a critical process of study and reporting; it most often becomes, when you are part of a group dynamic, the integration of your personal opinions and perceptions into the process being developed. It may be simply the further engagement by the group on your personal insights, when they move towards critical analysis and into a plan of action. When that is no longer is the case, I may be adrift in the drift…. Let’s hope I can be aware enough to notice that does take place and brave enough to step aside so that younger, more energetic voices can take up the tasks… Or… am I there already and am not self-aware yet? Hmmm!

So this is another trip towards the edge. Some may think that these journeys are too complicated, the issues are too deep, but for those who are living the exercise and who want to know they are not alone or need to evaluate their own processes a bit deeper, maybe this rant will give you further fodder to consider. May you be blessed as you stride each day toward the edge, or like me, for whatever reason choose to live there,  and my your perspective find focus away from the normal to just left of where you are… just outside the box… it may be close to the edge… but the view from there can be astounding!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In All Things Give Thanks

Family Gathering 1
I can remember as a child my parents trying to remind me that no matter the situation, always find something good in it. Well as a small fry I had trouble getting my head around such a huge concept as that. After all, there were some huge things going on and not many of them seemed worth y of much gratitude. It is a long story that has been told before, so I will not bore you with the details, but only remind you that in each of our memories there may be those moments where we just could not understand. I get glimpses of that even in life as it is today.

It is fun to watch grandchildren growing up and yet there is also the harsh reality that they too must go through the up and downs, the hardships and disappointments that make up life and they will not always understand either what it is that they are learning or the concept of finding a ray of light that will give them a signal that all is going to be OK… they will survive the minors and most of the majors, no matter the pain along the way. But, too often we allow ourselves to major in minors!

Family Gathering 2
This has been Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. For some the traditions lead to a deeper devotion to thankfulness by the sheer knowledge of the harvest season. Families gather and with the bounty of North American Society shared the wealth of foods around tables of plenty.  Laughter and light banter becomes the joy of getting together. For some it is the opportunity to hear about the adventures, plans and escapades of daily life over the past year; it may have been a year since seeing each other. Others gather for the sheer joy of both family and extended family and over a meal, around campfires and the usual afterglow of conversations, as broad as they are diverse… they share both love of life and the everyday experiences of child raising and work’s challenges.

Levon's Birthday as well.
Some of you will know that our son Benjamin had a brain tumor removed a couple of years ago. This spring he got a report back from an MRI (brain scan) that was stated only as being acceptable. That left him and his family hanging.  In the meantime he and his wife found that they were to expect their second child next spring… A wonderful bit of news for grandparents… but it became an overload of extra concern for Ben. Not wanting to hear bad news, he waited out the time till his next test and was now been given the news that there has been no regrowth (a great sign) and that is excellent. It was originally diagnosed as a low grade cancer and we know that just the word cancer alone can add fear and anxiety to a life… It was such a joy to see a real smile over the weekend. For this I am truly thankful… both the smile and the news warmed my heart.

Yet, into every life come those extra stresses that arise, over which we have no control. For my wife and I it has been the extra use of our car as a truck so I could do some work for family and friends. This weekend as we arrived some hours away from home to visit family over the holidays, we found that our car was making a very different noise. Being a diesel, that can mean a variety of things. With a sinking heart I considered going home to await an answer from our local mechanic. But, as we were already there, our children ferried us around to the various events and we put the car troubles to the back of our minds for the rest of our stay. On arriving home the diagnosis was something more than minor and the car needs some major engine work at a dealership garage an hour and a half away.

It is so easy to let your heart sink and mine did just that. My mind puzzled over the worry of getting to the jobs I have on the go, the time needed to get the car to the dealership, their time to repair it and the transportation back and forth to both deliver and retrieve the car after it has been repaired. I know that this bump in the road is just one of those things that has to be faced, accepted and put behind us, but what of the finding  that small bit of joy for which to give thanks. I am like that little boy who when faced with that which cannot be altered, when disappointment reigns supreme, my joy gets shaken and to a certain degree, trampled on, by some level of sadness and anger which I dare not carry.

I remember well the words of wisdom I would impart to our children years ago. “In 6 months’ time this will all be behind you and forgotten.” Well, perhaps not forgotten, but at least dealt with and filed in that place of “acceptance and get on with life!” It was good to hear those same words quoted to me this morning, as I recounted the news from both the local mechanic and the far away dealership. I need the time to sit and put everything into its proper perspective from time to time and that was what I had to do. The car is but a mechanical fixture that will always need both maintenance and replacement at some point… that is a matter of truth and fact. At some point we either make the decision to trade or repair and in this case, the most expensive repair will still be cheaper than replacement and well maybe the engine and the rest of the car will go another 7 years and 300,000 kilometers. LOL So, what is there to be happy about? Well… it was no accident that caused the turmoil; it was wear and tear, high mileage and the years of use. The driver and passenger are alive, safe and reasonably well, considering the indigestion all this caused. LOL

So I look back to my childhood and the childhood our own children, and I am reminded that there is both meaning and truth in that Biblical directive… “In all things give thanks!”  Walking through life is not always about great adventures, it may oft times be just walking among the challenges that may try to trip us up and shake our faith in what God has for us each day. I am reminded that being able to survive the minors give me more ability to overcome in the majors, because I am not alone. Being alone is what we feel some times, but we are never alone. God is there and when the time is right He shows us His grace, but He also expects us to rely on Him, even when we are busy carrying the burden ourselves. Who else gets us through the fog of our emotions? I know… humanism and philosophy will record a different answer, but I pour out my heart to more than theory… I pour my heart out to He who created and He who sustains. He is my rock and when I get near the edge, like I did this morning, I need that rock so that I can change my perspective from where I am, to what really is… just another bump in the road and in 6 months I will have forgotten my momentary pain and anger.

I pray that today you will find a reason to be thankful and with a thankful heart approach each event, trial and circumstance with the “Rock of Ages” so that after the momentary shock of the disappointments have drained your soul, you will allow to God fill you up again. You need Him to get you through no matter comes your way. May your life be blessed with smooth roads and gentle hills, but if not, may you be blessed with a faith in the God of Love who is always there to get you through… He will add that different perspective…. That I know full well!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Time Tide And the Pewter Cup

It was August 2007. That year was one of those times that life seemed a challenge and I didn't know what was coming next or how I would manage to find the answers that I was seeking in life. God has, it seems at times, a strange sense of timing, or is it just His greater wisdom.... I am not sure always, but when the time was just right things happen and we bend, change or hang on for dear life to strive and see the meaning, value and message of the moments. Summer of 2007 was one of those summers. My quiet heart was crying, my life needed something... I wasn't sure what!

So it was that during a few conversations, my wife Karen was asking about our annual journey to the Mahone Bay Boat Show. The topic always came around to the idea of my Son and I entering a strange little competition called the "Fast and Furious", where the entrants strive to build a seaworthy boat within a time limit, using a designated and supplied amount of material and then sail and paddle the craft over a preset race course for the famous and coveted "Pewter Cup" For many it was the highlight of the 4-5 day event culminating with the races on Sunday afternoon where hundreds came to watch.

Well, Ben was none-committed at first though there was that sense that this might seem like a challenge to him. Little did I know the challenge was not the build, but the team-mate builder.... ME! So, with a trunk full of allowed tools and a doubting heart off Karen and I went. We registered, sat and watched others with the 4 hour build and saw the strategies and downfalls of the other competitors. A couple from South Carolina who vacationed in Mahone Bay and that we had gotten to know asked about our entering the competition and our answer was, "yes, we had decided to this year... I would be entering with our son." They were so happy and told us that they were entering as a team as well... this is for the most part a non-professional event and they had made plans all winter and were prepared to take the cup! Well, we had no plans unless Ben thought of something on the way down that evening. 

Ben arrived almost late... the judges were concerned, but he arrived with an entourage of girlfriend and her family in tow and asked if I had a plan. "Nope! Hope you do!" To which he answered, ''Oh well, we will wing it! We usually do!" "But... we had never built a boat before... so what are you thinking?" "Dad!...Just try to keep up!".... "Hmmm!" So a few minutes later the judges told us to get out our tools (mine... Ben didn't bring a thing except his attitude, of course!) and get ready. He gave us the minor instructions and off we went. I enjoyed the build... I stood and watched, passed Ben some tools for a while and held the end of a piece of stick from time to time until suddenly he just went and sat done next to his girlfriend and said, "Your turn!" So I laughed and started to continue the build. I think he had in mind that I would plead for him to continue, but this ol' duck had other plans. So, after a bit he caved in and joined the fun. What about the other team who was building?... Oh I went over and chatted with them, asked if they were having fun and so on and told them I thought they were doing well... of course they were struggling.. this was their 3rd year of competing!  And the judge just watched, listened to our laughter and banter and once and a while came over to look at the design and did ask where our sketch was. "In his head I guess" was all I could answer, to which Ben would retort.. I thought this was your design!" So we had a great time and laughter was the theme of the hour with great shouts of jovial teasing from the crowds. We finished the build in the shortest time of the event. We won the races that Sunday and took home the coveted cups. The judge said after the build, "You must work together all the time and had this secretly planned!" "No... nothing like that... just two minds working together, linked by a love that binds and matches our efforts and a need to be together here tonight... that is all... no plans only just to do this together!" "Never in over 20 years has a build been so fluid, so much fun to watch and you never skipped a beat.... thank-you... it was great to watch" he said.

Time and tide have changed things. There is no longer a Mahone Bay Classic Boat event... it has changed too! Ben and I, though we built together one evening and raced together that following Sunday in our build, we never built another boat again. But we have built a deeper relationship... and he has rebuilt his life. He married his girlfriend, has a son that may one day build a boat with him and is expecting another... perhaps a boy again.... and he is building something everyday as a contractor. His love for the build has grown, his love for life has taken him though he brain tumor and his family has taken him back to his faith. I like to think that the build may have been part of the reason. A father and a son... a project without a plan.... that just takes shape and becomes a work of art and a desire to win beyond the degree of the knowledge of experienced builders and youth of the other racers. Life can become a whirlwind of challenges and as I think back over that summer I can now see that the build was a starting place for me too.

It is not that we have to reinvent ourselves, but sometimes we need a way to re-evaluate that which is our life and find some way to accomplish what is to be our future without destroying ourselves and what God has planned for us. Though I entered the competition with a hesitant heart and not much expectation, I came away with a new view of what can be, in the pool of what was. That pool held resources yet untapped and ready to be experienced for both Ben and me. I took one path and Ben another, but it has not taken us farther apart, but drawn us closer together. Time and tide have a curious way of bringing change, but also a marvelous way of creating that which should be, if we allow it to manifest itself in the shape and time it needs to become. 

So, we both walked to the edge. For different reasons, with different attitudes and under different circumstances, but we accomplished the ultimate goal... it included a cup... but that was not it.. it was the experience of father and son doing it together and accomplishing the joy and love we both needed... and we won! Take a walk towards the edge and see what you see... you may need to change your perspective, but hey... maybe it is time for a change. Blessings as you walk!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Wind Beneath My Wings

Oh what a feeling … what a rush! It is like having a whirlwind tour and never seeming to have touched the ground. I am used to putting a few weeks of planning into a voyage. There are routes to be checked, watering holes to be pinpointed (that is always a good thing in a family’s striving for peace of mind and bladder), and the list of the wants, likes and hopes that add up to a memorable trip for all. The family knew of the upcoming event pretty well in advance, but as would have it, it was to be held a fair piece away, as we say down east! It was not likely that our branch of the family would be able to attend as retirement has shaken the money tree with renos, new builds and needed a bit of extra outside work just to keep from depleting savings. One daughter was off to Europe on business, another teaches school full-time and so she can’t take time away in the fall and our son is a contractor and a relatively new Dad…. So how does one swing it?

Well, for the adventurous at heart and spirit …. You throw out all the known excuses, accept the blessings as they come and answer the invitation. So it was that our daughter was picked up at the airport, as she flew in from Europe, and our son (with permission) sidestepped his work and family for a few days, while my wife and I, with packed bags in hand, climbed aboard a van mid-evening and drove some 22 hours to Upper Canada. Ok… so it was Ontario! LOL And for the driving?… But for the first leg from Halifax International to Edmundston NB, which my wife drove, our son took the wheel and zipped us to and fro, hither and yon, to all the places, events and back home again… oh to be young again.

It is really not like the old tours we took years back. Being rushed is not one of my forte’s, but I am spontaneous, just not like I used to be. I found that not being “large and in charge” can change a person. The “big kahuna” of travel became not even a co-pilot, but Dad in the back seat; “and stay out of the backseat driving position, thank you very much”! LOL. During my illness, after returning from India last trip, I really got to enjoy being ferried about, being able to relax and rest as needed, but since feeling more myself, well, it was a bit draining, not of the energy needed to make the trip, but of the ol’ guys ego! But I know that comes with the territory. Life has a way of spinning around faster every day and when those years turn into decades, and the decades into generations… well you can see my point… you just become another old dinosaur that has need of care and is put out to pasture. Well, that is not for me.

I’ve got lots of life to be lived yet. When driving is no longer an option for the long hauls, I plan to fly… perhaps on their ticket, if my tears and sad old eyes could make a difference. LOL No… I believe in being somewhat independent and don’t want our children to feel that we have become a burden. My plan is to keep moving, not uprooting, but the everyday routines that can keep life interesting and challenging at the same time. The woodworking shop is nearing completion; soon the cottage home will be a focal point for completion and then more time to explore, or perhaps reinvent myself again. No need to feel sorry for this old bird yet… cause I am not about to feel sorry for myself at this point; there is too much good that can be done in family, community and out there in the world.

Think of the challenges that face us every day. For some it may be more difficult than others, but for each there is the personal feat of getting going, maintaining stride and finishing the daily race before resting for another night. On the chance that life affords me health, strength and resources to get me through each year, I plan to not just make due, but make good, better and the best of each moment, day and month ahead. Retirement can be a host of things to the myriad of folks who face it each year. To some it is the beginning of the end, with little or no choice but to settle in to deterioration and death. I made plans years ago and though some changes have taken place, we still have a view to a future, not just the end. I often tell people that we can die with regrets dampening our spirits, or we can live with the knowledge that the past can be both a stepping stone and a pillar of learning, from which we glean the wisdom to do better, live better and accomplish greater things for others and God.

Life becomes much like the whirlwind tour. Much can be last minute, even more can be poor planning or just plain stupidity at its worst, but it can have its greater moments. This past week I lost the opportunity to see a dear cousin, but I did get to visit a dear friend, attend a nephew’s wedding, go to see Niagara Falls again, but most of all to spend time with family; two of our children, cousins, an Aunt and Uncle and just being free for a few days away! That is not to say that all was perfect… even the small things can become huge when overtired. But we cast off the imperfect to be clothed in love… and that is the key. For an adventure to be great, the sacrifice of self must be more important than the moment… moments are just that… superficial when it comes to a lifetime of joy.

So, it was that last minute plans and a van full of family took to the road and spent hours, laughing, teasing and remembering that life is good, though shortcomings and disappointments do happen, but still we live on. I remember “stuff” from past journeys and it was a treat watching now our grown children leading the way, talking of trips yet to be taken and somehow involving the past generation behind them with an excitement that warmed our hearts. Not being left behind, but included, in conversation, in plans yet to be played out and even greater adventures which might also comprise grandchildren and other family. How can one not feel the exuberance of some advanced years where the knowledge of inclusion disperses the fear of isolation? I know that there will come a time when it will be difficult for the children to involve us, come to visit us… it has begun already,… their lives become a matching of priority and need over desire and conscience. But for now, I celebrate the journey and what a trip it is; humps, bumps but also vistas of unbelievable beauty spread out before us, just waiting to be viewed… and view it we may with the wind beneath our wings.

So I am off to some new adventure today. I am going to go “out there” near the edge again. I’m done wasting time on what can’t be changed, I’m finding time to change what I can and then go explore more of this ol’ world around me. For any one of us it may be just up the street, across town or 2000 Kms. away, but go see for yourself. My son watched as several individuals (and small groups) took pictures at Niagara Falls. There is always someone left out …. You know the deal… whoever takes the pic is always left out. So I said to him; “you should go take the pic for them!” His reply was; “no… I am not there yet!” So off I went and had the joy of bringing them joy, and there always was… joy… for they were now part of the group photo, because I chose to help. One day my son will understand and take the lead perhaps for his son. Don’t be afraid to get near the edge… it may not be at Niagara or the Grand Canyon; it may be in front of some flower garden just down the street. Believe me… it is a life changing experience and it will change your perspective while there. Blessings for your journey and may you find the wind beneath your wings!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Damaged In the Storms

We are often warned of impending storms along the Atlantic Costal areas of North America. It is one of those zones where weather can quickly gather itself into a real northeaster and blow the stuffing out of any area in its path. In my youth I saw pictures of the effects of hurricanes that wrought their devastation on coastal communities in Shelburne County and other parts of Nova Scotia. It is fascinating for sure to watch the coming clouds and a bit scary feel the fast changes in atmospheric pressure caused by the moving weather fronts. In our area people rush to the shorelines to watch the wave action turn from gentle swells to crashing surges of destruction as the power of the storm alters both geological and geographical markers. And then there are those who just venture too close and are injured or killed, not realizing the ferocity of nature at its worst.

I would like to think that we would all remain safe and out of harm’s way, during the storms. Of course, not all storms are due to atmospheric upheaval. There are those little things that just happen in life and are due to either circumstance beyond our control or on the other hand, are out of lack or watchfulness or just plain stupidity. Can you imagine the truth of some of the commercials we watch on TV these days? Insurance ads are sometimes the most curious, alarming and in the deepest sense of dark truth, funny to say the least. Picture; a man walks towards his car to go to work and a huge overhanging limb from a nearby tree drops directly on the vehicle and crushes it completely…. Scan over and upward… we see a man who has just cut the limb with a bow-saw, looking very stupid. Makes you glad you have insurance those days. Of course insurance companies and assurance companies bank on our fear of the unknown and what might happen to fleece us, while covering their cost of expenses  to cover payouts for  someone else’s mishaps. Ah the joy of the insurance schemes afoot in our society. But that is another digression… it happens a lot lately. Note to self… keep your eye on the ball. Ha!

It doesn’t take long as the storms arrive, for us to get the first news of real damages; the heartache of flooding, evacuations, loss of real-estate, and the cost of repairs and rebuilding mount to astronomical figures. For those in the midst of the trauma the reality is theirs, they lay claim to the disaster because for them it is now life, being lived, whether they wanted it this way or not. Physical disasters come in all forms, not just in high winds and torrential rains. The mental and physiological pain of storms in life can take its toll too!
Pan left or right…. Look up from the focus on trying to live with your own moments and see what is around you. It can be both enlightening and upsetting, but it is due to other storms that we have little or no control over in life. Each Sunday we have a time to mention the names of loved ones or acquaintances who we feel need prayer in their lives. In one small country Church family the number of names is outstanding… and then there are those in our midst… the hurting ones who are the victims of their own storms where wind and rain have no blame… it is the thing of life… the everyday news of someone else who health problems and may be facing the worst. Every day, perhaps because I am who I am people speak of their struggles and look to me for both consolation and more to the point prayer. The interesting part of all this is that they may not be people of prayer themselves, but they recognize that here is someone who must be connected and maybe, just maybe, they can connect on their behalf, for needs not faced and voiced in panic and fear. It can be an awesome responsibility and yet that is part of our response to storms… to be doers and not just hearers.

I guess not all storms are huge, like my friend ( we will call her Nellie) who has heard that she has bone cancer or the myriad of people who suddenly find themselves alone as their loved ones are snatched form their midst in death. Some are just the everyday garden variety of arthritic joints, the gastro reflux which has become so popular as we eat more, exercise less and go off the limits of good diets… maybe it is perhaps just, I don’t know… more chemicals in our foods that are causing upset tummies. Ah shoot… I am digressing… pinch me will you! We all suffer the small stuff in life. It may seem like a big thing while it is happening, but for the most part survival is not in question… it may just seem that way. For us here in the local household it has been a scary moment with a medical test and a recall for a closer analysis, a step into a deep hole that twisted an ankle and knee on the same leg, putting me in misery for over a month just trying to stand up, much less sleep at night. Oh by the way… all this at the same time… strange eh!... and the needs of others still remained constant… and the calls came in.

The doctors said; “All clear” for the medical and our hearts beat a little slower as calm swept in once more. Another said; “well if you were able to get up and walk and not feel the greatest extent of the pain for a week then the damage was minor… as in no broken bones, just stretched ligaments and muscles and that will heal eventually.” Again a deep sigh of relief. But the pain remains. It is part of the collateral damages that come with storms. Our hearts may ache due to the twinges of guilt for not having more faith; after all why do we get scared and upset when storms come? Can God not keep us through the storms of life? Lingering pain from injury can be damaging too, as we wonder why the miraculous does not seem to be a contemporary element which could immediately change the course of life daily. It seems that we echo the sentiments of those in Jesus’ time who cried; “Show us a sign Lord!” While there may be some argument today over the absence or presence of miracles, I am a firm believer that God is still that whom He has always been, a God of love, justice and creation (which of course includes His watchful care over that creation).

So today if you are suffering storm damages, you need not buy more insurance … just consider a bit more assurance. We are not alone, even when we feel we are. That is human nature at work and there is no need for guilt, otherwise our Savour’s agony in the garden is for not. When facing the storms, we go through the myriad of emotions and there is no way around it… we forge ahead and try to keep our hearts and heads intact. Look up today, if you are not one of the damaged… or even if you are. Who around you is one of the damaged ones, who may need a bit of your touch, the Master’s touch through you? Take a moment and walk even closer to the edge… it may surprise you what you will find there… a peace that the world knows not… it may be that you might need a new perspective while standing there. Blessed today I pray and take a moment to bless others.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Things Undecided!

Wouldn't it be great to look into each day, as the morning breaks, without a care or a worry. Just to see before us the expanse of potential that will both enliven and excite us as we wend the course of old trails less trod and new ones yet to become an adventure. There is little of that I fear, in this day and age. I do have friends, perhaps more than I know of, who take the time to go on daily walk-about and both taste the goodness of life surrounding them and record the moments to be enjoyed later on, or for others, who are the seekers and watchers from afar.

It would seem in this busy life that many more are watching the timelines, trying to catch the moments in a more scheduled style as they meet personal deadlines, get themselves and even more-so the children, off to school, to daycare centers and then after school programs, as they strive after the elusive all round lifestyle and foundation for themselves and their children's futures. We hear chanted the latest and greatest of products that will expand our time away from cleaning kitchens and households, to healthcare products now so greatly improved that the old products seem dim in comparison. We are being told from every side that we can improve life, expand horizons and even reduce our debt loads by buying more now by borrowing against our futures. I sometimes watch it all go by and wonder who we have become and how we have fallen so enamored with the newest, latest and greatest, while leaving behind the old faithfuls, the tried and true means by which generations have survived. I heard a person in a conversation echoing much frustration and fatigue with life expounding on technology at all levels of personal and home use... "They come out with a new product and tomorrow it is old technology... there is no keeping up with it all!" And everyone has bought into the game... well, I should not be too inclusive... "some" have not!

The time when life was a more carefree style of living is past. Oh, but wait a moment. Was it ever? My grandparents lived a hard life with minimal existence through the tough years of the depression. Jobs were hard to find, food was sought from the land and health, warmth and security were sometimes another elusive pursuit. Gosh, maybe we have just changed standards and experiences. Could it be that every generation has challenges that they must face and doing so are put under stresses that must be dealt with or the price paid with family deterioration and personal demise. More than one person has succumbed to poor health and loss of life due to stresses and poor lifestyle ... and they still do... all over the world. For us here in this more stable society of N.A. culture, we see more affluence in life, than the effluence of life in the constant tribulation for the poor and forgotten of this world. To see this first hand, it is hard to realize that we can not just give, we must teach, train and assist when and where invited. My words to the poor villages of India in my visits have echoed through mission for years; "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he can feed himself and his family for a lifetime!" Easily spoken, but difficult to always translate into the needs as seen through the eyes of the continually poor. I digress!

There is so much in life that we take for granted. Each day we survey those potentials which are, the prospects, challenges, the hopes and dreams which make up the daily route along life being lived. This is the stuff of living, it is to be expected and when the unexpected comes it tends to unravel us. Yes, a good old fashioned term that still holds its meaning and power of description today. Little can be done about those moments. All the preparation in the world can not prepare us for life challenging episodes and none of us are immune to one or some in our lifetimes. I have experienced such episodes in the drama of my own life. I have watched others too many times go through their own dramas and felt their pain of distress and uncertainty. To love and care will often lead us into waters not so placid and surround us with cataracts and undertows that dismantle the assurance of fine living and personal preparation. What we do then, is the challenge that most of us would rather not consider. Yet, this too is a part of living.

So what about today. What is going on with life that brings me here to this topic of indecision? Well, it is a number of things, all of which could be better or worse, depending on the caption in the comic section of life. We go with the captions don't we? I try to provide the captions along with photo journals which will best direct those who follow our renovations, family escapades and travel, with a more humorous perspective of what is taking place. Not everyone follows the statements, but it is amazing how many do and will comment back with delightful retorts of all kinds. Some remain undecided I am sure and will just mull over in their minds the prospects of what might have happened over against what actually did take place. Today I am in that category... the undecided. A challenge is afoot and not only the what, but the hows are making inroads into my psyche and deciding how to deal with the "the stuff" of life is once again at my heels. I know only these thing for sure... God has not changed and He will see us through whatever come our way... He always has!

For those of you who take time to read my blog, this is one of the times when I am both confronted by uncertainty and yet am also comforted by the knowledge that as trials come so does prayer increase. I am certain that God is looking after all the cares we have. I am sure that He loves us more than we know and I am depending on both God and His people to lift us up through prayer for just a while, as we walk the uncertainties of life just now. Are there decisions to be made?... sure there are... there always will be. Are we going to make them all at once?... not likely. We will meet the challenges one at a time... if they become more real than imagined. Here is the key. Lord help us find You present in all that life brings. Help us to lean on You for in our weakness and fear, there are moments when You must carry us once again. Lord, take away all that causes worry and fear and plant Your healing power upon our bodies and hearts this day... as we live near the edge in these moments and help us to remember Lord... it is all about our perspective from here.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

I'm Biding My Time

It is such a great thing to have made a day of it and to know that all is well with the world. I’ve had some of those down through the years. You know it has been one when at the end of the day you just feel complete, or somewhat at peace with yourself and those around you. It would be great if it happened every day, but we know that life does not afford us those victories all the time. There are lots more that end up with a bit of that feeling that there may have been more, or well something is missing and it can gnaw at our ability to rest satisfactorily.

Down our way there are lots of things to see, but not many of what we call bi-roads. You may call them something else in your location; secondary roads perhaps or country lanes. There are so many that can be traveled in a lifetime and many we love to travel over and over again, because at the end, there is something special to see or experience. I remember back a few years to my youth, taking trips with our parents down many of those country roads. We were explorers, setting out to new adventures and seeking new experiences and each little lane and old dirt road was just another avenue of delight in our eyes. Those weekly trips called for a complete loss of control. Not that Dad let go of the steering wheel, but he let go of the stereotypes of the ordinary and the practiced. There was chance that by the end of the day we would have seen most of the back roads of almost any part of the South Shore of Nova Scotia. That meant loosely targeting an area and then letting the road rise before us and not being afraid of a few signs of hard travel. Yup… My Dad and Mom were adventurers and they feared not as the road narrowed and there tended to be a few more bold representations of waterholes and large rocks to be gotten over or around. It was all part of the quest to find new treasures… memories never forgotten.

I have been thinking of late…. I know, some will say that is dangerous, but I do stop and take stalk of the time and tides as the clock ticks on. It may be an appropriate season of life to go on a few of those adventures again. I think, as much as that is practical, that the old haunts at this point in time may hold for me a few “new” surprises, some new forms of adventure that may have eluded me some 50 years back. I am not so myopic at this point… well… that is my opinion and I am allowed to have one by virtue of my age… right? LOL

But life becomes cluttered. The opportunities do not always align with the right time and the time does not always align properly with the correct mood and the mood does not always match the atmospheric conditions… well you get my point. The “stuffs” of life get in the way. I heard, well more correctly read a thoughtful, yet odd suggestion a while back… it was, needing to watch a TV program on hoarding to feel like we are not such a bad housekeeper. Hmm! At first I chuckled and then I let my imagination run with the idea that we do hoard “stuff” and not only that cumulative pile of junk that could go to the annual yard sale or the local Thrift Shop. I mean the stuff we poke into the memory banks in most inappropriate ways and with little justification, other than the fact that we carry those burdens just as that… Burdens! They may eat away at our sense and our sensibilities and cause the joys of life to elude us, when there are those once more adventurous, more freedom granting and joy filling experiences of the Roads Less Traveled;  as a thought from Frost. Hope I can get away with that, but I do give him credit as that bit of prose (and I do love poetry) as it has been somewhat of a guide in life for me.

But I digress. Where was I… Oh yes, the clutter…  Now that is the bane of our existence. We tend to trip over it on the way to living every day. If I had a broom that could handle that mess of useless, hard to handle, self-limiting and downright baffling mess, I would market it and make a fortune. What am I saying?… more, more, more and what I need is less, less, less! Well, you get the drift here. There is always another definition, another justification and another route that seems quite right at the time, and we all play in that sandbox at some point in life, without fail.

Ha… ya, now there is a word… to fail. My view of failure is another’s view of freedom sometimes… all in a person’s perspective in life. That thinly struck line is a demarcation of the things that can get us down. It’s kind of like a tempest in a teapot; we can get struck by the overwhelming sense that whatever it is, becomes too big to handle; when in fact we just need to breathe. Perspective is an awesome teacher. To some life is a haphazard heap of one hardship after another and for others it is the joy of daily challenges that can create just another adventure. Hmm…. Wonder where I “FIT” in there. Perhaps somewhere between challenged and haphazard. Oh well, I just gotta be me, but the clutter needs to be controlled. Yup… gonna control the clutter!

I sometimes wonder, as I wander along the path, if I am stuck or struck. Have you ever thought about that? We can get stuck in life and we can get struck in life as well. We all know, I would suppose, that the idea of being stuck is somewhat a familiar concept and easy to relate to, for some or perhaps even many. “Been there and done that”, some might even now be rehearsing. But the struck concept… now that is a bit different “kettle of fish”… OK... the use of “geographic centered terms is limited to those of certain backgrounds, but hey… walk nearer the edge and use some creative research. Have you ever taken a hard knock to the head, an unexpected hit to the mid-section? Well, it can take the wind out of you, stun you and even cause damage that can affect you in the future. It can’t always be averted, or they can hit you when you didn't see it coming. Sometimes there are those things which just happen, but they have consequences both short and long-term and the sting can be paralyzing at many different levels.

You see clutter is the backyard pile of non-essentials, it is the closet of hoarded past that no longer fits, but felt good to wear, it is the day to day stacks of papers, magazines, dishes left unwashed, laundry still to be started, but it is also those physical and mental pictures, feelings and fears that hide in the crevices of time and season. I am dependent, not so much anymore, upon other’s grace to get me through. That is hard. I am trying to deal with the clutter, in its various forms in life, and am using the overall mechanics and mechanisms of life to get me through… I am biding my time. The one great tool I have at my disposal is love… and another thus far is memory. The latter can be a curse if you are not careful. The way I see it is this… I am loved more than I can imagine, I have been taken on some pretty great adventures and my God has gotten me both to them and gotten me safely home thus far. Family growing up, family being grown and family being expanded has been a blessing. A set of friends, associates, travel more than some and perhaps more than most and now back home again… But now, I am biding my time. Letting go of the clutter, yet busy building what is both important to my those around me and am preparing for years of more adventures and another trip home when the time comes.

I've got some old country lanes and back roads to revisit too! There are some older faces to look upon once again and find the love that is “at harbour” there, while sharing some moments with some new faces would be great too. We are doing some of that every day, as new experiences turn the pages of time and tide. Why don’t you take a step towards the edge? We are on that journey anyway. Look a little further out… it is new perspective and the view from there may be challenge, but what a great view it is!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Adjusting to the Dampness

It’s Monday, it’s Canada Day and it’s raining! Well, two out of three isn't bad. As far as the rain is concerned, not too many folks are overly excited about the dampness that has invaded our Maritime summer in 2013. I have been watching the tourists come and go by home, on their way to explore the waterfront; some carry umbrellas, while others just stroll along adjusting to the dampness and nothing seems to be amiss.

Maybe that is where my thoughts are going this morning… adjusting to the dampness. As you know I am preparing a site for my new woodworking shop and it continues to rain. Nothing can dampen your spirits like the rain, but there are other factors that climb on board of our psyches and tend to take us for a ride in the wrong direction by times. There have been a few of late for me. Some things I talk about and others, well they are things I try to live through, and endurance is the name of the game in life. I see in others the lines of wear in their facial expressions and listen to the pain of experiential sadness that can envelope the soul for a myriad of reasons in life. We all try to do our best and there are days that our “best” can fall short of the mark we set for ourselves.

Years ago my Mom told me to aim high lest our best fall short of the horizon. Shooting for the stars was a practical bit of advice until it came to living the practical side of rural life with parents whose definition of the stars may not align with Jupiter… LOL. We can spend much time trying to calculate the cause and effect of the practical things we are wishing to undertake and miss the mark of what is the here and now. There is that tree! Such a small insignificant sapling not too many years ago, grew into the giant ash that was pushing over a building and we didn't seem to notice. Now that is dampness!

Others, result from years of seeping leaks in roofs and walls, around doors and windows; unnoticed until one day while cleaning, painting or inspecting… there it is… mould, mildew and rot. That can mean major repairs, refits and sometimes a total rebuild. That is where I am… in the midst of a total rebuild and the soul can take a beating if we let the lack of "Sonshine" diminish our view of what really is life. I can attest that projects, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can have their stress points. “IF” I allow myself to become so steeped in the externals of life, while not caring for the internals, I get lost.

Lost is a big word for some because it can stir up all kinds of memories, feelings and reactions that we may not expect. For others, it will just be a word that has meaning for practical reasons… for those “others” along the trail of life. We don’t want to be one of “them”! How convenient to shift the unsavoury hardships of life to only those who wear their lives on their collars. Having been part of an elite part of society for years… (OK,so it sounds fancy… but it wasn't…) I can tell you that we all have struggles and how we hide the stress, or more to the point, deal with the stresses of life, all fall into the same category of stress, even though dealing with it seems more acceptable than wearing it.

For example; many are those who transfer or offload stress… change the pattern by giving it to someone else… no longer their responsibility. Perhaps we do that in life and don’t realize we are doing it. If we pretend something is not there and it is not our responsibility… it does not exist. I am afraid not; that will not work. Somehow that route taken always comes back to bite us. In life we must take the rain with the sunshine and live through both the elements with a desire to see the challenges before us, as well as the benefits gained by our dealing with those challenges, as we face them daily.

That darn root. So I cut off the offending limb and yet I am confronted by a root system that has pushed the foundation stones out of place. You can see my dilemma. Not only was the limb an offending problem, but now deep roots from that original sapling are causing my blood pressure to take Zamba lessons. Talk about cardiovascular! I have chipped away at the site, uncovered part of the root system, sprayed water around the offending foe and still I feel lost. I don’t want to kill the tree, have it left less secure and open to disaster later on for both me and my neighbour. So I walk away during the heavy rains and research… you know the routine. Take a nap (you can do that when you are old and retired) and maybe when you wake up the answer will be forthcoming! LOL! Nope; nothing yet. Actually, my system has gone askew a bit… something that I have to expect from lingering problems following my illness in India in 2012, and this past week was one where I did little and had to rest a lot! That root system, while annoying, is just another challenge that will take a bit of work to overcome. Overcoming is the challenge. Not overlooking… overcoming. What I cannot do alone, I will do with help and it will get done.

So, dampness can get us down, it can cause our outlooks to be clouded, it can even depress us to the point of despair, if we don’t look beyond the rain and see the "Sonshine." In the group there were 2 adults and what seemed to be 3 teenage children and they walked a bit, danced a bit and stopped a bit to view the architecture and the “curious” nature of the street . We do have rather an eclectic assortment, if I must admit it myself. The drizzle was only of secondary importance it seemed. They were out of the car, van, camper or motorhome and were exploring new territory… they were living. The rain got them wet but the body and clothing would dry…. For now there was something to be experience and liquid sunshine was just another part of the day for them.

Watching them saunter along gave me a new perspective that morning. Even though my week was one with its own set of frustrations, I realized that I need not deflect, transfer or neglect the problems at hand, but just take them as they were. Each has its own challenge for sure, but each has its own solution as well. I guess the reasons behind dampness in areas of life may be as varied as they are many, but rather than be overcome by the effects, I am once again (as I tend to overlook that by times you know) peering through the mist and rain and seeing the sunshine in life. It may come in my own view of an eclectic assortment of challenges, but more often it come from family, friends and community; “that eclectic assortment of people and places I call home.”

Ah there may have been a bit of mildew on the old trunk this past week, but a new week is ahead and I see "Sonshine" through the clouds and that alone can turn things around for me, when I give Him a chance. So, if the rain has dampened your soul, do a little dance if you can, smell the rain freshened air and let the sunshine of the smiles of others help make your day cheerier. Take a walk along the edge today, give life a new spin, shuffle the cards and see what the deck holds for you, throw the dice in a new direction and see if it comes up snake eyes or double sixes! Hey! Walking near the can be a challenge, but it all depends on your perspective of the view from there. Go take a rainy day walk and see for yourself! Blessings!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Of Bits and Pieces

Around the corners of my memory banks are those bits and pieces that are sometimes hard to fit into place. You know how it is when you look at a puzzle and the colour and shape seems like it should fit “right there” and yet on trying you find that it is not the one. I find that while I am sitting early in the mornings now, with coffee in hand, just contemplating the next moves that will make-up the coming day, I will quite often get small trickling’s of memories. Perhaps some name that I have been working on for family history will be a reminder of an event, but I can’t always put my finger on it… the facts elude me and I end up with those lost essentials of complete recollection… I am left with just the bits and pieces.

There was a time when I could just call Mom or Dad and prime the pump, ask about that person, place or event and how something fit into a certain timeline. Not anymore! The sad truth is that now those valuable assets which were once readily available, are lost to time and the cycle of life. But I am not without hope. I still have box upon box of paper notes, booklets, clippings and stories collected through more than 5 decades of marriage, spanning a collective total of more than 175 years. It is hard to believe that two people could want to take note of the little things, things which may seem to some as obscure and trite, but to an amateur family historian and genealogist like me, it is a treasure trove.

Stories were told of early camping trips to Murray’s Field; of how a cow came trotting over to investigate the intruders and even though Mom was born and raised in a rural setting, she did not feel comfortable with a charging bovine, no matter its confused intentions. So, her immediate reflex was to swing her purse at the innocent attacker, only to have it disconnect from its handle and go shooting like a missile at the poor beast. Immediate tears! Hysterical events with Mom were always accompanied by tears, and Dad trying to figure out the full extent of the problem, before he got scolded. But, where was Murray’s field. I know it was in Upper Port LaTour, but there I get stuck. So part of the discovery is the process of patient research amongst those scattered archives in the boxes of paper… threads of the past.

What, where and how are not always the problems either. Dad had a love for an old set of repair tools that his Dad had for years. It included a pocket knife, sheathed in a medium-soft leather case, which accepted special tools in one end that locked into place. There was a variety of accessories and I suppose today the famous Swiss Army Knife would be a close second to the multi-tool which many handy-men carry strapped to their sides or in the glove-compartment of their car for easy access. This tidbit from history has its sad tale to tell. On arriving home from a summer vacation Dad found only the accessories remaining in the case… after searching for years his hope of ever finding the missing knife, the very key to the set, faded for ever. He was left with only bits and pieces.

I have noticed in life that many the time there have been stories told and memories shared over barbecues, at family gatherings and later in life social events, yet most of the time we are able to glean at best , only bits and pieces of the full picture of the essence of the that particular event or capsule of time. I used to think that to graze among the conversations and to make contact with as many folks as I could, would be the best use of the limited time, usually afforded us during those occasions. I am finding out that most of the time there were mere shallow contacts made, that had little lasting effect on how or why our conversations might make a difference in life as family. I long now for deeper meaningful chats about who affected their lives. How relationship made important those moments when we could connect and swap stories of who, what, when, where and why and thrown into that a greater, deeper understanding of how to know and love each other better. Not just the bits and pieces of life. It becomes the flip side of social hobnobbing; the flitting from person to person and paying our dues before getting back to “it”… the real meaning of life; the work, the issues we deal with… the rubber as it hits the road… the context, the context, the context, must always have its right place and find its center in the core of significant time spent, until it too is gone! There is little significance for bits and pieces in life.

An aunt once asked if I had many neckties. Another brought out a box and with the zeal of an archaeologist began hauling out remnants of cloth and explaining where each piece came from. A group of ladies captured my attention one day after a Bible Study and we perused the inventory of bags of ends of various fabrics, soon to be ripped, torn and then reconstituted into something beautiful, something memorable, something valuable and soon to be loved by a special person yet to be decided. All of these ladies were artisans, quilt makers and saw the beauty in the cloth, not as scrap, … just bits and pieces… but what they held as potentials for a greater whole, put together by hours of decision making and fine handiwork. Yes, even the strange shape of a necktie made it to the quilters frame and became a work of art and beauty
In my past I have taken time to go through woodpiles; especially hardwood piles. Firewood is generally wood that is gauged to be not quite fit for the other route, of furniture or flooring, where its strength will either be appreciated as a frame for your favorite chair or its beauty as a living room or dining room floor.  Left to mature, its value as a resource for high BTUs in your family room wood stove can endear the hearts of those who love wood heat. But I am more of a picker. Going through the piles I can see pieces that have a special character and have been known, with permission, to snatch a few bits and pieces for use at the lathe at home. Snatched from the fire so to speak, makes the gavels I form more special, as a reminder of how representative creativity can be in life. God snatched me from the fire and gave me a new life of service for Him… I am still working on that premise.

As I try to slow down and take time to see, feel, and share more, I know that I still have a long way to go. We orient ourselves to the fast pace… we have to get it done, we have to meet the deadlines and of course to some extent those are important. But the older I get I can see that there is more to life than just the immediacy of getting it all in. I want to take time once again to visit Murray’s field so to speak. I may not get to the exact location… it is now owned by someone different, but I can go to the village as stroll along the beach, smell the air and be reminded of how the past has both affected and shaped the present and my future.

Bits and pieces of life are sometimes all we have for a while. There may be time to fit many of them together and see the true extent of the beauty of what might otherwise lend an open-ended perspective to our sense of reality. Tying up those loose ends can be fun, or downright agony, but it is all about the perspective from there… while living near the edge.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Shopping For A New Shop

I once heard it said that it is not always wise to tear down to build bigger. Back in my youth my grandmothers Bible stories included the epic of the man who felt he needed bigger barns to store more of his crops, only to be told that his time was up and that he needn't build anything at this point. Hmm! So I have plans to tear down an old shed that served my parents, and who knows how many others, well for many years. The problem is that there is a hill in back of the shed on an adjoining property, from which flows water runoff and to a certain extent mud. That is just normal stuff, but down through the years the back wall facing the neighbours has had to be rebuilt several times and the picture of scabs of new wood now rotted once again haunt my sense of repair or rebuild ambition.

Here is the skinny on that battle of guilt for tearing down vs. good planning and preservation of resources by building new. For years now I have been gathering up both old and new machinery to have a woodworking shop in retirement.  So, I have a few items. There is a great band saw, a scroll saw, a bench-top drill press, my shop table saw, a job site table saw, a 13” planer, dedicated router table… well, you get the picture and I am barely skirting the surface. It has taken a couple of decades, some wonderful people who saw that I could make, carve and build stuff, and a loving wife, all of whom made it possible for me to have the many and varied woodworking tools that I have now. 

Well, when we moved home I stored much of the machinery in our shed, at back of our home. But with its deteriorating condition, the weather, a leaky roof and all started a race to stop the rust on the cast iron tables of my shop saw, and the 6 inch jointer. Then Karen discovered that it was attacking my lathe. She wanted everything saved… well… so did I. So we had a difficult decision to make. Renovate or rebuild. A quick tour and check of existing beams told us that there was rot everywhere. Ouch! Retirement is great but for the unknowns… right? Well, bit by bit decisions were discussed and I then realized that the only way forward was forward! Step by step the process of planning, getting quotes and well, facing the harsh reality of the cost was shocking. But, what does one do? Well, if it were just up to me, I would just go back to bed! LOL But such is not the case here. Karen, my cheerleader and holder of the cattle prod, gently reminds me that if we build it, it will be home to all that “stuff” at some point.

Truth is that Karen is looking forward to having everything in place so that the fun will begin. She is not always so sure of my dreamy projects, but sometimes I do hit on one or two that seem to make sense to her. With 6 grandchildren, and likely at least one more at some point, there will be lots of projects to be undertaken until they are well into their 30’s I figure. Hey, that correlates with my plan to live another 30 years. Some guys I know have worked in their shops until their 90’s! I can do this! Now that is good planning! But, then it will also be construction central for those have to do projects when outside requests for renovations and custom builds enter the picture. I could use my workshop now for a just such a request… that shop table saw would be mighty handy just now. Oh well, that is why I have a job-site saw. Oh my there is a story behind that saw!  I will tell you all about it one day.

Work/funeral hiatus… and now back. I get a lot of calls to conduct funerals for old friends and family. I cannot decline… I am here to help!

Well it has been a couple of busy weeks. But things have progressed here at the demolition site. I started with the roof and have FINALLY made it to the hole in the ground that I need to begin the rebuild, or as I recently told someone; “out of the ashes rises a new woodworking shop!” That may be hard to follow, but for those of you who may follow my photo diary on Facebook, there is a fire component to the tear-down process. Karen, my sidekick and supervisor, loves to burn the small bits and pieces that come with demolition. On the many other projects that we have undertaken down through the years, (and there are many) she has loved to have campfires and burn off the leftovers rather than just find a place for them all to go. In this case there would have not been enough room in the dumpster, which held all the rotten pieces of boards and beams along with roofing and such.

We have been building, rebuilding and renovating, it seems like, constantly for the past 15 years. The question often arises whether I will ever see the end. Nah! I guess not! Anyhow, if you love the work why stop… Right? But life is much like that, it seems. We are never quite satisfied are we? We like to tweak what seems to be OK or sufficient to make do… yet not quite perfect. Or our minds change like the seasons and we just want to try something different. Years back, I was warned by a wise old sage friend of mine to not undertake too much, as there will always be the maintenance of what we have to keep us busy. But who can resist making life better? After all there is that urge to make it all fit in, until one day we realize it is all too big now for us to handle. But on the other hand the needs of the time were met and we did enjoy the product as well as the process.

So what about those barns I mentioned that were too late in the Biblical story? Well, I want to be productive and content, and I think I have been given the resources (machinery and a wee bit of talent) to make good use of this project. So, out of the ashes… a new shop! Curious enough though, I do regret that I couldn't just repair what was there… I am the consummate restoration guy… let’s make it better, not necessarily destroy to rebuild, unless totally necessary. I guess God works that way too. Lots of things about us may show a bit of rot, that sin that can eat away at the roots of our foundations from time to time, but He keeps working on us rather than just starting fresh with a new model.

I’d like to think that most of those who read my ranting would agree with me. If you don’t, that is quite all right. I allow for love to be large enough to embrace the joy of life and then I pray for your peace. I find that as I gaze out to sea I know how much larger life is, than just that which we see around from day to day. I know that the universe is greater than my understanding, and now at this juncture of life, I am building on the knowledge that if God grants me a tomorrow, I want to be of some use whether writing, building or praying… I am going to stand on the edge… and note the view from here for a while yet! 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Looking Back With a View to the Future

Back when (“Back in the day of it”) I was just a puppy, there was so much information to take in. Stuff in the form of names, places and social structure… Ya, I know, back then I didn't even know what social structure was, but you soon learned your place in family and life. Those were different days. The time was mid 1950’s and the 60’s. I likely have shared that family was a fluid sort of structure that seemed to flow with the needs of individuals and community. There seemed to be a lot of coming and going in those days, including within the construct of our direct family. That is just the way it was then, but we all seemed to survive somewhat intact!

The one more stable area for us was the names of places. Sitting around the older men, and later to a certain extent the women of the area, we soon learned all the childhood haunts that became the memories we would cling to. They would float their way to the surface in later years as I happened to drive by them on our way home for a visit. “The Rock” was our first special place. It was nothing more than a boulder the size of 2 car tires piled on top of the other, but to us it was a tower from where we could survey life and wait for Dad to come home from work. It was located just over half way between us and Burns Oickle home on the Ohio Road. That rock shrank as we grew, and it was finally removed when the new road came through in the late 50’s.

Morine’s Brook, named for someone who I can’t remember, was one of the landmarks and a place to catch frogs and polliwogs… never large enough to really fish, but for me it was a whole new world to explore as I made my way west along its stream toward the river. To the east it ran up into the Blueberry Hills. Now that held for me a place of mystery, adventure and a never-ending opportunity for a new quest as the days of summer opened the door to spare time. You see, those so-called Blueberry Hills were filled with paths beat down  over decades of use, by not only the ladies and children who roamed the rolling hills for blueberries, but the deer and before that the moose, who browsed on the young plants and hardwoods that dotted those barrens during that time. All the paths seemed to lead somewhere and the adventure was to find where… usually to a wood road or out to the Ohio Road’s entry point to the hills.

Two massive structures, one man made and the other natural, were out of the zone of activity for a long time, but oh how they called my name. Ipicca Mountain was a huge pile of cut granite which I believe was brought in when mills were being built, so that water could be diverted through granite raceways to power the mills and so on. Remnants of such a mill could be seen near this granite pile and that section of the river became one of my favorite fishing spots. There is now a wonderful set of rental cottages located near there and I know the owners value both the history and the beauty of the area.

The other natural structure was the Rock Mountain. It has a steep incline, but much to our joy it housed an old shed that was for some time perhaps a radio shack for early two-way radio, used by a cousin who lives in the area. Back then it had to be a secret adventure to climb the steep incline to the summit and there pretend that you were at the top of the world. Oh what a feeling … what a rush. Days spent in exploration between chores and time for afternoon and evening swims made summers the most exciting time of the year for us. Life was an adventure and bikes gave us freedom to go further afield and get there faster to afford us a lot more time to see and do it all.

My Dad came to the point where he needed help every day. My brother and I took that task on and gave our time and ourselves to see that he wanted for very little. Putting him to bed at night was for me the hardest part. He wanted to be so independent and put his pyjamas on by himself until near his 96th year. We would hold him upright so he could stand to finish the job and then get him tucked in, in that particular way he liked, and then with these closing words he would ask, “How long Edwin… how long?” It wasn’t the fact that he feared the end coming, it was the knowledge that it might go on too long and he was tired. He remembered home, he told short stories some nights about special places and he always said, “This is how I started out in life… in a crib with the sides up… I've gone full circle Edwin!” I tried never to cry, but would joke those moments away… that is how I handled Dad… I sometimes challenged his opinions and he never knew what to expect.

One day, as I was asked to give him a bath, I thought that I would come dressed in snorkel gear. At the last minute I decided not to, but told Mom about the thought that had passed through my mind. I found out later, I think after Dad’s death, that she had told him what I had planned and he said that he wished that I had gone through with my plan, so that we could have had another great laugh together. Life becomes an adventure and around the corners on life’s trip, there are so many to be had. Not all of them are comfortable trips, that we look forward to, but some become necessary and lend us both strength and stamina, showing us how strong the binds that ties us together really are.

Dad gave us boys a map to the future, but also a link to his past and that was more than mere paths through the woods. He gave us critical information that would keep us safe and likely never even realized what he was doing. He lived the life, from our perspective anyhow, that made sense; one of a responsible parent, citizen and believer. He wanted to remain true to it all and held it in balance as far as I could see.

I guess I may never be quite so successful, but I want to have been. We can spend so much time trying to make amends for failures, that perhaps we have trouble being part of what is taking place now. I guess my path lead me away, rather than towards stability of place and old haunts. We moved a lot and my call in life took me away when family life was really more important to them perhaps. But today I want to spend time with them and I for a time wondered if it would be more like the popular tune of the 90’s where the son wanted time with the father, but the dad had not time then. Later in life when that dad had more time and he wanted to spend time with his son, then the son’s life was busy and he had no time for his dad. So it is in the circle of life. Here are my Dad’s words to me back in 2000 after I had moved to a community just 30 minutes from home just 3 years before; “When are you going to move again Edwin?” Rather rattled I answered, “Why don’t you like having me around?”… His look was sad and he seemed for a moment longing for an answer, and this is how he finally voiced his thought; “I figured if you moved away, I might see you more!”

I now walk among those hills, along those brooks and climb those piles of granite rubble in my mind and realize that one day in the not so distant future … oh in perhaps 30 years or so, it will be my turn to look back from a different perspective. I too will have come full circle. The joy of the journey at this juncture in life for me, as I choose to take time, is the constant review of the little things that have made the trip thus far worth the taking. I try also to visualize those moments with mistakes, things I might do differently and then formulate what may be better done and given, so that my legacy to them will be as meaningful as that of my Dad to me. God gives us so much to give thanks for and we need to glance at the clock sometimes and see where we are on the timeline. No matter the placement in any one given moment, it holds for us opportunities to make a difference and in so doing we are being true to what "is life near the edge".

Note: Today has been a nostalgic moment for me in more ways than usual, as I celebrate another birthday very soon. A few days later my sweetheart and I will celebrate our 40th year of marriage. She figures that I owe her for over 40 years of haircuts now, and if I am going to live to be 100, I will never get out of debt, so I have decided to just keep on letting my hair grow and see what happens.

Be blessed! I am!