You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2010.

– A Karen Blessing

So. . . in addition to seeing things, I’m now hearing things too.  But don’t lock me up just yet.  You might like this.

While doing business errands in the city, I had to stop at a drug store, where a two CD set of J. S. Bach begged me to buy it.  Back in the truck, I popped it into the CD player and listened to Anne Sophie Mutter, Sir David Willcocks, The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. . . 40 selections, performed by talented artists, and for TWELVE BUCKS.

Blessed?  You bet!  I’m not a student of  music by any means, I can’t even read music.  But I know that I love Bach.  Think about it:  the man died in 1750, and in January 2010, we still hear what he wrote.  How does this happen, that something composed  almost 300 years ago, remain for us to enjoy today?  We can choose to hear it all day long if we want to, not just for one moment at a concert.

How many people who lived in Europe in the 1600’s and 1700’s ever got to hear Bach?  At numerous concerts?  And 40 selections of his work?  He may have been the only person in Europe that ever heard what I did on those two pieces of plastic!  (though probably his wife did as well).  But really, how does one create something valuable enough to outlast one’s life, and that by 260 years?  And to have it listened to in a place not yet discovered at the time of  composition,  to have it enjoyed by someone driving a pickup truck, on paved roads (not cobblestone, Mr. J. S.), by putting a piece of plastic (“what’s plastic?”) into a machine on the dashboard (“dashboard?”) of my truck, to fill the speakers (“speakers?”  never mind, Mr. Bach) with his concerts, oratorios, the toccata and fugue, parts of the St. Matthew Passion, in a pickup truck in Canada. And all this for twelve bucks,  available to anyone who wandered into the store with cash.  This is astonishing, and Mr. Bach would have been most astonished as well.

Unfortunately, we’re used to it.  The wonder went away with the avalanche of music that is available to us. The bigger question in my mind is this:  is it even possible that any of us could do something that will still be influential in 300 years?  Mr. Bach didn’t have to invent electronics and plastic.   All he had to do was to provide something worth preserving. So, in 2310, will there be a
trace of anything that bears our fingerprints still around?  (For the moms reading this, J. S.’s mom can answer that in the affirmative!)

Johann Sebastian Bach

Will there?  Don’t answer that quickly.

A Sig Blessing (with another Heidi story)

On my way home from work today I was considering which blessing I would share. There were quite a few and I was narrowing down my choices. However when I got to my computer after supper I found this story and everything else went to the back of the line.

For the second time in a week Heidi Janz made the news (and this blog). The first was on Friday when it was announced that Heidi had won the 2010 Tanis Doe Award for Canadian Disability Study and Culture.  Today, the Edmonton Journal reported on the sentencing of the man who broke into her apartment two years ago and brutally attacked her.  It was Heidi’s words of forgiveness in the courtroom that headlined the article. I wish I could have been there when she spoke these words to the man who stabbed, robbed and left her for dead:

“Mr. MacWatt, I want you to know that as a follower of Jesus I’m compelled to forgive you for the wrongs you have committed against me. I do indeed forgive you.”

When I described Heidi on Friday I said she was a dedicated Christian. To this I would add compassionate  and courageous.

Heidi and Sig on a happy day

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about Mildred. Unless of course, Heidi does something else newsworthy.

– A Sig Blessing (but really, I’m sharing a Heidi blessing because she’s a blessing to me – and many others)

I’ve just received word that a good friend of ours has finally had some good news come to her.  We were so happy to hear that Dr. Heidi Janz has been awarded the 2010 Tanis Doe Award for Canadian Disability Study and Culture.

Heidi has a professional and personal interest in disability studies.  Heidi believes that her calling – her mission in life – is to be a voice for the disabled. In order to be a credible voice that understands disability, she believes that God equipped her with cerebral palsy. She also considers her natural German stubbornness an asset in this mission.

I know it’s a unique way to look at disability. But that’s who Heidi is.  Besides the above, I also know her to be a dedicated Christian, loyal daughter,   brilliant playwright, faithful friend, creative author and more. She has a riotous sense of humour, is fiercely independent and is one of the best storytellers around. Occasionally she lets me win when we’re playing  our on-line version of scrabble. I should know by now that I shouldn’t take on someone who has a Ph. D. in English Lit.

For the last few months Heidi has been on our church’s prayer list because of complications she’s had with pneumonia, (breathing in general) learning how to swallow and then having to resort to a feeding tube. She battled that and returned back to work at the University of Alberta a few weeks ago.

This recognition is well deserved. It takes an amazing amount of personal strength to be that voice. Heidi deals with her own frailty, people’s perceptions (don’t even get me started on the Vancouver cab driver!), dependence on others for basic care, and the real roadblocks that keep her from getting from point A to point B.  Yet Heidi gets herself out of the door every day to speak, (sometimes rant) for those who don’t have a voice.   This award shows that she’s being heard.

Way to go Heidi – from one of your biggest TAB* fans!

*TAB = According to Heidi there are two kinds of people in the world – the disabled and the “Temporarily Able-Bodied”

PS – Just remembered today that Heidi’s name means “Battle Maiden”.


– A Sig Blessing

Last weekend my husband and I took a rare weekend away together.  Since I work weekdays and he works every Sunday, this kind of opportunity doesn’t come along often. Somehow we were able to untangle ourselves from our usual responsibilities to spend a couple of days reading, relaxing and being with each other. After more than 30 years together, it’s a nice thing to do.

We headed to Harrison Hot Springs, a little resort area just east of Vancouver and checked into a quiet B & B that was tucked into the side of a mountain. We walked along the lake, read by the fireplace, talked, watched other people (which is one of my favourite activities) and enjoyed a couple of nice meals. Side note – if you’re ever in Harrison Hot Springs make sure you work up a good appetite for an authentic German meal at the Black Forest. Whatever you order make sure it comes with the spaetzle. Also pick up some flavoured honey at Papples Market.

Here’s as many blessings as I could count:

– The quiet

– The beauty of Saturday – bright blue skies and sunshine after a week of rain

– Laughter

– Talking and then not having to talk. Just being together.

-Shared memories

– The pleasure of reading

– Good food!

– The fireplace

– Crocuses (or something like it) spearing through the garden – can spring be far away?

– Safety in traveling

A lake to walk around

– Being able to walk

– No access to internet (too bad – guess I don’t have to check in)

– A waterfall running down between two properties near our B & B.

– Playing scrabble apple with my mom-in-law when we stopped at her place on our way home.

– The kids that managed without us.

For all the above and more – I am blessed.

The other half of the blessing of friendship is the sadness that comes when a friend is experiencing difficulty.  My friend, Wendy, a mom of 4 and grandma of 4, is courageously dealing with the challenges of ALS.  She’s a vibrant, enthusiastic gal who has always shown what it is to live significantly.  Would anyone out there like to add their prayers to ours, for her and her husband, who has become her full-time caregiver?
I know she would appreciate it and, as her friend, I would too.

Thanks,
Karen.

While we’re busy counting our blessings there are people who value their lives and families just as much as we do, who are in a whole lot of trouble.  I’m referring to the earthquake situation in Haiti. Some of us who are reading this are at a computer, with a roof over–not on–our heads.  If there is something you can do to help them, Samaritan’s Purse (the originator of the Shoebox idea at Christmas) is a reliable venue to distribute help in crisis situations.    And it truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

Here’s a copy of  an e-mail received from Samaritan’s Purse:

Samaritan’s Purse is rushing to assist in Haiti after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake rocked the desperately poor Caribbean nation late Tuesday afternoon.

An initial shipment of emergency relief items – including rolls of plastic shelter material, hygiene kits, and water purification kits –
are being flown into Port au Prince on Wednesday, along with the Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Assistance Relief Team.

“We’re asking Canadians to join us in our emergency humanitarian effort,” said John Clayton, Samaritan’s Purse Canada’s director of projects. “Haiti is already one of the world’s poorest countries, so the need for outside assistance is enormous.”

The situation in Haiti is dire. Please join Samaritan’s Purse in bringing relief and hope to the people of Haiti through your donations
and prayers.

Secure Donation link  https://secure.samaritan.ca/Donation/DonationPage.aspx?pc=080383&sc=USPW-HDRE

Thank you and God bless you.


French Doors!

– A Karen Blessing

So. . . blessing for the day?  Having a handyman husband who can do just about anything, including put up french doors in the living room (get ’em while they last, Home Depot, half price.  But you have to find your own installer!)  And you ask what am I seeing?  A savings on our heating costs, as the fireplace heat can be kept in the living area instead of
going to the upstairs when it is not occupied, and wonderful prisms because of the beveled glass panels!

The New French Doors - thanks to Karen's husband and a sale at Home Depot

From Sig – Karen’s husband’s ability to fix/build anything is truly amazing. From building a giant Stanley Cup to  figuring out how to get hotter coffee out of a coffee maker – there’s nothing he won’t attempt.

A Book Blessing Guarantee

– Another  Karen Blessing

I have just finished “Messiah” by Marjorie Holmes. It’s an older book, published in 1987, and follows “Two from Galilee,” about Mary and Joseph, and then “Three from Galilee,” a biographical novel that tells a story of what it may have been like for Jesus to have grown up amid His earthly family.  “Messiah” starts with Jesus’ calling of the disciples, and is a fascinating account of the most outstanding man to walk this earth.  It is a compelling book, not exaggerated, but vivid, with wonderful descriptions of people He associated with.  We in North America are blessed beyond abundance to have access to writing like this.  Read it (although best done in order):  I guarantee a blessing!

Am I ready to see everything as a blessing?

– A Sig Blessing

Over the past few days I had been thinking about how I would define a blessing.  I am aware of the Dictionary.com definition which includes “a favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness”. These kinds of blessings are pretty easy to identify, we just need to be looking for them.  However, would I be strong enough in faith to be thankful for the rough-edged events (or the people) that come my way?

As God likes to do, He challenged me with the words of Henri Nouwen yesterday – which “just happened” (another one of those Divine coincidences) to be the devotional thought my Executive Director chose to read prior our staff meeting yesterday:

The Spiritual Work of Gratitude

To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives – the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections – that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.

Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see  in it the guiding hand of a loving God.

Henri Nouwen

January 12  Bread for the Journey


Let me have the courage to look at everything as a gift.


A Sig Blessing

Be on the lookout for mercies. The more we look for them, the more of them we will see.  Blessings brighten when we count them.

– Maltbie D. Babcock

I’ve had this quote on the bulletin board outside my office for about a year – as a reminder to myself and anyone else who finds themselves at the end of the odd corridor where you will find empty bins, a cool quilt picturing Noah’s ark (where Mrs Noah is wearing gold earrings) and my door.

Back to the quote…I want to be that deliberate in hunting for blessings, on alert at all times just in case one sneaks in without being counted. I picture myself  turning over rocks and crawling through hedges like a child hunting for Easter eggs. How many can I fit in my basket?

Today I found another one (blessing that is) just by doing a search on Maltbie Babcock. I’d been walking by his quote every day and figured it was time to find out who this person was. Turns out he was quite an extraordinary fellow who died far too young.  Wikipedia ‘s article on Maltbie includes an excerpt from his biography:

Babcock was preeminently a preacher. He was a clear thinker and a fluent speaker, with a marvelous personal magnetism which appealed to all classes of people, and the influence of which became in a sense national. His theology was broad and deep, yet without a touch of present-day uncertainty. Added to the genius of spirituality he had the genius of work, and it was owing to his unselfish devotion to the great work of uplifting mankind that he literally wore himself out and died at the early age of forty-two. Noted for his impartial charity, he reached people in countless ways and exerted everywhere a remarkable personal magnetism. While he published no books he may be said to have ‘lived, or sung his thoughts’.

When Babcock lived in Lockport, he took frequent walks along the Niagara Escarpment to enjoy the overlook’s panoramic vista of upstate New York scenery and Lake Ontario, telling his wife he was “going out to see the Father’s world”. She published a poem by Babcock shortly after his death, entitled This is My Father’s World.[1]

Here’s the little God-thing that goes along with this story. Yesterday in church the leader of our Praise Team asked the pianist and myself (acting as organist) if we could play this very hymn. We were happy to oblige since this made choosing an offertory hymn  much easier.

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; his hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise, the morning light, the lily white, declare their maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world, he shines in all that’s fair; in the rustling grass I hear him pass; he speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world: why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad.

Be on the lookout for mercies and blessings.  There’s lots out there.

A Sig Blessing

Pretty much every Sunday morning 12 – 15 Blessings (yes, with a capital “B”) walk in my back door for breakfast. It’s a casual affair, usually some kind of fruit, sometimes yogurt and some kind of bread-type food.  I’ve learned that it’s important to have coffee ready but it’s even more important that we have something toast-able and that the toaster must be able to handle everything being stuffed into it. I don’t know why, but it is.

The Blessings are the young adults from my church who are out of high school, getting post-secondary education or launching themselves into a new career. It’s all very exciting to be a witness to these big decisions and events in their lives. Trust me; it’s worth the breakfast to be around them.

Besides breakfast, the other reason they come is to have some relevant, Bible-based discussion. During breakfast there is a lot of teasing, laughter and jostling for position at the toaster but then, whoever is leading gets their attention and the dialogue begins.  I go into the wings at this point, usually to my study down the hall. I figure this is their time and they don’t need my opinions.   I’ve had a chance to chat with each of them as arrive and I get caught up with them as we have maneuvered around each other in the kitchen.

Some people (okay, my mom), have said things like “I don’t know why (or how) you do it”. To which I have usually said “But it’s something I enjoy doing”. Really, why wouldn’t I do this? I am reminded every Sunday that there are young people who want to do good things. They are trying to live their faith in the real world and Sundays are a time to huddle, re-evaluate and encourage each other. When they do this, they are encouraging me too. It gives me hope for mankind when I hear them praying for each other, for our church and our country. These are our future leaders.

Two years ago, in the matter of months, three out of my four children left home. They all had valid reasons (marriage, education, jobs, moving to another city), however, the silence that followed was deafening. My Sunday morning Blessings help me stay connected to that generation and occasionally, offer computer/technology-related assistance.  Although this is a plus, they do know I love them for more than their expertise. And I know they love me for more than my toaster.

The new 4-slice model (a Christmas gift from the Blessings) that continues to be the centre of attention on Sunday mornings

– A Karen Blessing

Today we (Karen & co) were paroled.  We woke up–in the Southern Alberta chinook zone–to a temperature 30 degrees (count ’em) warmer than yesterday morning.  I like parole.

I was reading in a photography book, I think written by Freeman Patterson, though I can locate neither the book nor the author at present, and he said this about observation:

“Learn to use your eyes for more than just to keep from bumping into things.”

I think of that frequently, as I drive or just notice things, mostly created things.  This approach magnifies the blessings–of trees, covered with snow, the shadows made by the the sun glinting across fields (again, snow covered), the sun coming up, or going down.  Look, think, describe, use adjectives, if only for yourself.

God went to a lot of work to make a beautiful place for us to live in, and He likes it when we notice (of course, He wants us to notice more than just snow and trees, and that is beneficial in other ways).  He actually could have made a black and white world, without the option of color, or one with only the eight basic Crayola colors.  It’s a little extra that He thought was pretty good, and that we would enjoy as well.  Let’s do.

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