Sunday, February 28, 2010

O Canada!

I packed my Team Canada hockey jersey that Andy had given me just before Team Canada won gold in 2002 ... I thought that, even here in Bangalore, a little extra support for our boys might be in order. And at 1:25 a.m. on March 1, 2010, my alarm went off and I pulled the jersey on and made my way down the stairs and across the way to the Chellis' living room where they had told me I could come and watch the game on their cable TV. I also took my computer, so that I could start on the TH grocery list in the "boring" parts of the game ...

The Olympic gold hockey game was not to be found on TV - I couldn't get the TV to work! - or by live computer feed outside of Canada and the U.S.

In desperation I even asked the hapless police men checking the verandah on their routine nightly patrol duty to please come inside and see if they could make the TV work! - No luck, but abject apologies and timid instructions to please lock the door after they left because it was "not good" for someone to be able to walk in like they did when I beckoned to them ... 

But I somehow found a blog - The Grinder - on Their regular bloggers for the NHL were sitting around chatting about which celebrities were in the audience, how certain players were cleaner shaven than others, interspersed - it seemed -with a few pithy comments about the game itself. One of them, it appears was actgually at the game. 

I was in the Chellis' living room all by myself, and then Dad popped by to get some water. He stayed for a period and a half, and left to go back to bed when Canada was leading 2-1 at the end of the second.

However, in the third period, some of us following along on the blog grew desperate to know what was actually going on, and we begged the guys to give those of us who could not access the game play-by-play. They (and particularly Sean Gentille) rose magnificently to the occasion.

Here are some snippets patched together to give you a feel of how I "watched" this brilliant end to a fantastic Olympics!


USA v. Canada Gold Medal Live Blog (02/28/2010)

2:46 bvalentine: Welcome ladies and gents to's Live Blog of the USA v. Canada gold medal game. I'm your host Ben Valentine and I'll be joined in a bit by Craig Custance and Sean Gentille.

2:49 bvalentine: This is it. For Canada, their trials and tribulations will all be forgotten if they come out from this with a gold medal. Really, anything less will be considered a disappointment despite taking out Russia en route to this final.

2:51 bvalentine: For the USA, it's been a great run. They've exceeded expectations, taking advantage of a weak group and a thrilling win over Canada a week ago to grab the easiest path to the final. But for those who questioned the talent of this squad, they showed with six first period goals against bronze medalist Finland they deserve to be here.

2:52 Craig Custance: Gentlemen - It's crazy here already. The anticipation for this game has been huge and every Vancouver bar has had lines out the door since 9:30 a.m.

2:52 bvalentine: Also looming in the back ground is that this is a rematch of 2002's gold medal game in Salt Lake City. Canada won that one 5-2 in front of the US home crowd. This batch of US players will be looking to avenge that defeat.

3:03 bvalentine: Guest spot from Don Cherry

3:03 bvalentine: Seriously, Mike if you want to be NBC's Don Cherry you need to go beyond the red tie. That suit is incredible.

3:03 Sean Gentille: Grapes is actually looking pretty restrained.

3:04 Sean Gentille: He looks like a cross between a mountie and an old-time movie usher.
3:04 bvalentine: Cherry is sporting a red suit with a maple leaf necktie.

3:04 bvalentine: Wow, Al Michaels: "I never knew Feb 28 was Halloween in Canada." Zing!

3:04 [comment from alyson] That suit was positively tame for Grapes

5:03 Our Father, who art in Vancouver, hockey be thy name. Thy will be done, GOLD to be WON, on ICE as well as IN THE STANDS. Give us this day, our hockey sticks, and forgive us our penalties, as we forgive those who crosscheck against us. Lead us not into silver, but deliver us to victory, in the name of the... FANS, ......CAN...ADA, and the PUCK. AMEN! ▌♥ ▌GO CANADA GO ▌♥ ▌

5:03 bvalentine: Luongo looks way too well groomed for a tournament.

5:03 Sean Gentille: Fun Luongo fact: Those sideburns are drawn on with sharpies.

5:03 bvalentine: If Canada goes on to lose, I'm blaming his lack of scruff.
 5:10 Sean Gentille: This'd be a great time to commit a crime in Canada.

5:12 [Comment From Canadian in India] Can't get a live feed of the game; you guys are the only ones keeping me going!!

5:13 [Comment From Don] OMG my tv just died

5:13 Sean Gentille: oh god, this is too much responsibility.

5:14 [Comment From marcel] u guys should do play by play here i just lost reseption

5:15 bvalentine: what is wrong with televisions all of sudden?

5:15 Sean Gentille: Are you guys kidding?

5:15 Sean Gentille: haha

I don't get paid enough to be doing play by play right now

5:15 [Comment From Canadian in India] What Marcel said -- please!!!

5:15 [Comment From Don] i watched too much hockey with mine :)

5:15 [Comment From American in Philippines] Ditto for me. I'm dying not being able to see this game

5:16 Sean Gentille: Alright

Sean Gentille: 6 minutes left

5:16 bvalentine: Canada will reset in their end.

5:16 [Comment From jason] THKS SEAN !!!

5:16 Sean Gentille: Miller plays it behind his net, almost screws up.

5:17 [Comment From marcel] thanks

5:17 Sean Gentille: Suter leads the rush

5:17 [Comment From Canadian in India] I love you boys!

5:17 [Comment From Jack] QUACK QUACK QUACK QUACK

5:17 Sean Gentille: Failed wraparound, rebound covered by Luongo.

[Comment From Bomber] CANADA CANADA

Craig Custance: Team Canada takes a timeout

5:27 bvalentine: Well, they all should be well rested.

5:27 [Comment From Don] Go boys!comon

5:27 Sean Gentille: Good call by Edzo: Kesler is gonna have to win this on his backhand

5:27 Craig Custance: Pavelski is going to take it

5:27 [Comment From Imtiaz] USA! USA! USA! USA!!!

5:27 [Comment From Canadian in India] How much time left? Clock stguck on 1:00

5:27 Sean Gentille: Joe Pav, Parise, Langenbrunner

5:28 Sean Gentille: win US

5:28 Sean Gentille: behind hte net

5:28 Sean Gentille: toews clears it, back into CAN zone

5:28 Sean Gentille: pav shot, rebound

5:28 Craig Custance: 24.4 -- USA ties it

5:28 bvalentine: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

5:28 Sean Gentille: Parise

5:28 Craig Custance: Parise

 5:53 Sean Gentille: riser from JoePave

5:53 [Comment From pam] Go CANADA GO!!

5:53 Sean Gentille: Nearly a goal

5:53 Craig Custance: Crosby wins it -- place goes crazy.

5:53 Sean Gentille: OH MY GOD

5:53 Sean Gentille: Gold to Canada.

5:54 Sean Gentille: Crosby with the winner.

5:54 Craig Custance: The gloves and sticks of every Canadian player flies in the air.

5:54 [Comment From canadian] aweyeahhhhhhhh

5:54 [Comment From minime2410] not a bad year for him

5:54 [Comment From Jack] Sean - secretly pumped for your boy Crosby?

5:57 [Comment From Canadian in India] Sean, Craig, bvalentine -- you guys made my whole Olympics!

5:57 bvalentine: thanks.

5:57 Sean Gentille: Glad to do it guys, honestly.

5:57 Sean Gentille: Finally a full replay of the goal

5:58 [Comment From Guest] The legend of Sidney Crosby continues to grow

5:58 Craig Custance: They're rolling out the carpet for the medal ceremony.

5:58 [Comment From sheldonR] like i said more Crosby if they want gold

5:58 Craig Custance: Crosby's fourth goal of the tournament.

5:58 Sean Gentille: Chipped it back in to Iginla.

5:58 Sean Gentille: Got past Rafalski

5:58 Sean Gentille: Iginla to 87: Game.

5:59 [Comment From jeff] 87 buries it.

6:02 Sean Gentille: Iginla is a guy everyone should like, frankly.

6:09 Sean Gentille: 87 to Nash right there: If you played on my wing for a full NHL season, the over/under on goals for you would be 75.

6:09 Sean Gentille: I read his lips, he said it, I swear.

6:10 Craig Custance: Crosby will be the last to get his gold medal.

6:10 Sean Gentille: Huge pop for Iggy.

6:10 bvalentine: Wait till Sid the Kid gets his.

6:11 Craig Custance: It's unbelievable how much Crosby outclassed Ovechkin in this tournament.

6:11 bvalentine: I don't remember him like that at last year's all star game.

6:12 bvalentine: What's up with those medals?

6:12 Sean Gentille: They're awful.

6:12 bvalentine: They look partially melted.

6:12 Sean Gentille: They look melted.

6:12 Craig Custance: Standing for Canada national anthem.

6:13 Sean Gentille: Don't forget the words now, boys.

6:14 bvalentine: If the US had won the game, I might have actually sung the star spangled banner in my living room.

6:15 [Comment From Canadian in India] I'm singing O Canada here in Bangalore at 4:45 a.m. local time!

6:16 Sean Gentille: Canadian in India: Congrats, that's bizarrely heartwarming.

6:17 Sean Gentille: ^meant sincerely

6:19 [Comment From Canadian in India] You have no idea what your play-by-play meant to this Alberta girl with no way of knowing what was going on except for you! Thanks so much!

6:20 Sean Gentille: Man, that's great. Glad to do it.

6:21 Sean Gentille: Alright, lads/lasses, that about does it for me.

6:21 bvalentine: Thanks Sean and Craig

6:21 Sean Gentille: It was a pleasure hanging out with all of you over the last week or so.


PS: And the icing on the gold-medal cake??

Raja, our dear friend who cares for almost all the day-to-day running of the college campus, just brought tea up to Dad's and my rooms. He had NO IDEA of the momentousness of the occasion -- but what he happened to wear today is the red Canadian Olympic tee-shirt given to him earlier by Deborah!

He congratulated me on Canada's win, shaking my hand vigourously, and then Dad took our picture. Raja, you made my day even better!!!

Ten Things I Love About You

 1.     Your middle name links us to Mum - you're the most Irish of us all!

 2.     Your sense of style

 3.     That you're a movie buff

 4.     How you always seek to improve yourself, body, soul and spirit

 5.     You love Lyle ...

 6.     You are always willing to help, at the TH and anywhere

 7.     Seven is the number of perfection; so, of course, Matthew!!

 8.     You too completely understand what it's like to work for an enormous corporation and still retain your integrity and individuality

 9.     You have a rare sparkle, often hidden; but when it appears, you dazzle!

10.     You are not only a sister but also one of my best friends.

Happy Birthday, our own "Wild Irish Rose"!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dancing on your Day

She phoned on a miserably cold December morning and said she had seen the ad in the paper. I told her to bring a resume by and she did, that afternoon.

Lois and I had been praying for a couple of months that the right person would come to the tea house to fill her soon-to-be vacant spot and that I would know who he or she was.

Two minutes after Krista walked in, I knew.

She brings with her a passion for cooking and baking, enviable organisational skills, immense efficiency, an upbeat attitude, a creative imagination that can produce platters of delicacies from everyday ingredients already in the kitchen, and a natural leadership of the staff.

She also brings a love for people, a refreshing pragmatism, and a depth of character so profound that I am only just beginning to uncover its richness and beauty.

She is a wife and mother.
She is a daughter and sister.
She is a grand daughter.
She is a chef.
She is a writer.
She is a singer.
She is a fellow disciple.
She is a friend.

But - above all - she is a dancer. I have never actually seen her dance yet; but she mentioned to me that of all her passions, dancing is the one at the top of her list. And I can sense it embodied in her as she treads lightly through her life: as she leads the worship arts teams at church; as she navigates the waters of two tiny children, with all the challenges around loving and caring for them; as she pays off school loans and supports her husband in his dreams; as she negotiates her family relationships; as she takes a lead in music and drama in Three Hills; as she seeks to deepen her walk with God; as she crafts her life story from some of the most daunting backstory imaginable ... she has a joy in her step and a dancer's discipline in her posture, a fierce intelligence and an indefatigable courage, startling and brilliant in its intensity.

Oh - and she's also drop-dead beautiful.

That day, at the end of our "interview", if one could call it that, I said to her, "I think you may be the answer to my prayers."

Now I know she is.

Happy Birthday, Krista!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mum!

Part of your legacy includes

  1. Hospitality
  2. Spiritual leadership
  3. Perseverance
  4. Artistry
  5. Enthusiasm
  6. Compassion
... and lots of love, on your birthday and every day.

Patricia Christeen O'Halloran Ironside
February 22, 1937 - September 18, 2007

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Forty Days

Today marks Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Christian calendar.

Lent is not something that is necessarily observed in evangelical circles, and I have come to sit with the idea only in recent years.

There's a lot of talk of what people "give up" for Lent; for me, it is becoming more and more a time of remembering:

Remembering that of dust I was formed. There's nothing glamourous about dust -- for the most part, we spend considerable time trying to eradicate it from our lives!

Remembering that Jesus died for me. Even though I am dust, He formed me from that dust. And He loved me, enough to sacrifice His own life for mine. Sometimes it is easy to forget, or to gloss over, the tremendous sacrifice that Jesus made, leaving His home in heaven and taking on the form of dust -- all to bring us to Himself, to God.

Remembering to focus on Christ more than myself. These forty days are a gift as we build up to the holiday that is even more important than Christmas -- Good Friday and Easter. I wonder what Jesus, who of course knew when He was to be crucified, thought about in the forty days prior to His death? Certainly His preaching and teaching had a new sense of urgency about it. And yet His love for others never diminished though the shadow of His impending death had started to loom large.

Remembering to focus on other people more than myself. During these forty days in particular, I want to be more sensitive to the needs of people around me: the college kid with no sense of groundedness ... the high school kid with no sense of direction ... the senior citizen whose spouse has recently passed away ... the friend grappling with health issues, with issues of mortality, with issues of trust and with issues of loss ... the person hit by the economic struggle who in turn is now struggling to find employment ... the ill and the recovering ... the shut in and the shut out ... my own wonderful family.

Remembering what God had to give up for me. God the Father had to give up His Son. God the Son had to give up His life. God the Spirit has had to give up so much in order to live within believers. In response, I try to find something I can give up for a mere 40 days as a tiny token of thankfulness, as a daily reminder.

Remembering the great gift I take for granted. People in less privileged and religiously oppressed countries treasure a page of scripture. And I personally own a number of Bibles! Yet I don't appreciate what I have -- not just the Bibles but the freedom of religion that we enjoy in Canada. For the 40 days of Lent, I want to be more disciplined in studying the Bible for a few minutes each day.

Remembering that to dust I shall return. Ash Wednesday reminds me that life is fleeting and fragile and so I should treasure it deeply but hold it lightly.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tropic of Cancer (Valentine's Day Redux)

Cinnamon piercing eucalyptus,
        humid, lush, golden,
Elephants trumpeting, and birds,
        always birds, flashing
Hibiscus scarlet and peacock blue and nasturtium yellow.
Music and laughter and afternoon tea under the jacaranda blossoms,
        Warm gleaming brown bodies
weaving their stories into the tale of our lives
        until they become our own

Then in the evenings, saffron moon dipping
        low over Anjarakandy sky
Cinnamon-laced eucalyptus breeze
        wafting in waves over shadowy verandah
River chuckling lazily as it
        wends its way, untroubled,
                through dappled forest …
In the distance, coolies singing
        And on the horizon the drums
                marking time

Because we live in the Tropic of Cancer
where the temperature and the time and the tempo
        fuse to this magical moment
when the boxer from Canada can find the Irish princess
        and in the presence of God and these witnesses
write a fairytale with music and laughter and afternoon tea
        and children and friends and stories and love

And so it goes for forty years. Then the page is turned
and the boxer and the princess make their weary way
to northern climes
        where the temperature chills to the bone
        and the friends are wrapped in grey isolation
        and the birds escape for the winter
        and the children are writing their own stories.
So they rely on each other for warmth, for beauty,
        for music, for comfort, until the day
                the princess cannot rise

And the boxer calls the doctor, who
        calls the ambulance that
                wails its way in record time

To the one magician in the city
        who holds the keys
of life and death

The next day, so still, so wounded,
        split in two like an overripe papaya,
                bloated and tiny in her bed
The princess lies, so still, so wounded

The children gather, and the banshee howl
        pierces the morning:
“Mummy mummy mummy mummy mummy mummy …”
And they retreat as one to the waiting room
        of their united memories and their various solitudes

But the boxer stays by his princess
        and loves her and believes –
He gets her the ice chips that cool her failing body
He tells her the stories that calm her fevered mind
His presence can reach her, his touch
        give her strength
And his quavering voice sings her the music of old,
        reminds her
                that they have lived in the Tropic of Cancer before
And he brings her the birds and the moon and the jacaranda tree
        and the river that flows as steady as their love

Until the day that she opens her eyes
Until the day she whispers for tea
Until the day she holds his hand
Until the day she knows
Death did not them part
        this time

And the Tropic of Cancer, which brought them together
        so many years ago,
showed them the way to sustain each other
        through matters of the blood
                and matters of the heart
                        when he would need her hand

And so it went
For though the heart was strong
        the blood grew weak
and the princess grew tired




Until the last evening the boxer held her hands
        and gazed steadfastly into her face
                        and sang her to the gates
                of heaven

But just before she went through them
        the princess opened her eyes
                and gazed back
                at him
                at him

And brown eyes locked with hazel –
a tender “goodnight” too deep for words

The day they committed her body to the ground
He sang for her one more time:
“Have I told you lately
                                        I love you?”

And the question hung, trembling, in the air

But the princess must have heard, for 
                                      the next day
                                                a rainbow –
                                                            her sign –
                                                         from heaven
                                              back to earth 
                                       back to him
A promise of love stronger than death

A promise that the princess will be waiting
        at those gates, waiting
to gaze again into his face, waiting 
        to hear her boxer murmur
                "Have I told you lately ...?"

And the tropic circle of latitude will be restored 
        once more
                beside the river of life
And Irish eyes will smile

© Karyn C. Ironside September 4, 2006; February 14, 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Two cousins. One trip. Two decisions. One God.

Brent and Anita both work at the TH and both were keen to go on a short-term missions trip to Nicaragua, leaving today. Both of these grade 12 students love God and want to serve people the best way they know.

They both prayed about it. One was guided to go; the other was led to stay.

Over the past couple of months I have pondered how that works. It's not a matter of willingness: they were both ready to go and were raising money and awareness and had people praying for them. It can't be a matter of skills or mental fortitude: they are both strong, intelligent, compassionate people.

For the one going, it would have been easier to step back and let others do it. For the one staying, it would have been a natural extension of the gift of helps that is already being developed so pronouncedly.

I've come to the conclusion that it's just that God has different jobs for them at this point in their lives. It shows me that both staying and going are important to God. In addition to that, He's making each of them stretch in ways that they might not have anticipated: one is reaching far outward and one has had to reach deeply inward. The lessons that they will learn from stepping out of their comfort zones!

The thing is that because both of them have acquiesced to God's custom-designed plans for them, both of them will be and are being equally blessed by Him. I am so excited for them both!

My two amazing kids -- I am very proud of both of you.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Free Lectures at Ambrose University College

Ambrose University College has Visiting Professor John Swinton from the University of Aberdeen teaching one of their winter modular courses February 16 - 20. But -- amazingly generously -- they are offering six free lectures to the public! Read more:

You are invited to the following free public events:

Tuesday February 16
"A Practical Theology of Health" 1 - 2:30pm
"A Practical Theology of Christian Healing" 2:45 - 4:00pm

Friday February 19
"When the Darkness overcomes: The Question of Suicide" 1 - 2:30pm
"Ministry with People who have Depression" 2:45 - 4:00pm

Monday February 22
"Raging with Compassion: Pastoral Responses to the Problem of Evil" 7 - 9:00pm

Tuesday February 23
"Together we are the Body of Christ: Disability, Humanness and the Importance of Being a Creature" 11:15 -12:15pm

John Swinton holds the chair in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom. He is also an honorary Professor at Aberdeen's Centre for Advanced Studies in Nursing. Professor Swinton is an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland who worked for 16 years as a registered nurse specializing in psychiatry and learning disabilities. He also worked for a number of years as a hospital chaplain and a community mental health chaplain. Professor Swinton's areas of research include mental health studies, the relationship between spirituality and health and the theology of disability. He has published widely within these fields His books include Raging With Compassion: Pastoral responses to the problem of evil.(2007) Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Practical theology and qualitative research methods. (2006) London: SCM Press (With Dr. Harriet Mowat) Resurrecting the Person: Friendship and the Care of People with Mental Health Problems Nashville: Abingdon (2000), Spirituality in Mental Health Care: Rediscovering a "Forgotten" Dimension London: Jessica Kingsley (2001), Critical Reflections on Stanley Hauerwas' Essays on Disability: Disabling Society, Enabling Theology New York: Haworth Press (2005), and Theology, Disability and the New Genetics: Why Science Needs the Church (With Brian Brock) London: T&T Clarke (2007)

In 2004 Professor Swinton founded the Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability at the University of Aberdeen. ( ) The Centre has a dual focus on a) the relationship between theology, spirituality and contemporary healthcare practices and b) the theology of disability. It is a multidisciplinary project which aims to enable researchers, practitioner and educators to work together to develop innovative and creative research projects and teaching initiatives.

All events are held at Ambrose University College, 150 Ambrose Circle SW, Calgary; phone (403) 410-2000.

For further information, contact .

Sunday, February 7, 2010

"I've Come to do Dishes!"

We had a crazy day at the TH yesterday when in she waltzed: stylish asymmetrical hair, floaty purple dress, extremely hot shoes, all crowned by a flower nestling nonchalantly in the nape of her neck.

"What are you doing here?" I exclaimed.

"I've come to do dishes!" she replied, and grabbed a towel.

"My Little Dawn" -- as I have called her almost since I first met her -- was in the house!

In very little time the dishes were caught up, the kitchen was clean and we had had a chance to chat and catch up. She was down from Edmonton for a wedding, and when it was over she headed over to the TH in all her finery to see what she could do to help out.

Dawn is one of the most important characters in the story of Nilgiris. She came to Three Hills and was ushered in to the TH by her sister and within moments won Brenda's, Andy's and my hearts. She is a hard worker and takes the initiative to look for things to do to make the life of the staff and the guests happier. Coming from Quebec to take grade 12, she was timid and a little self conscious at first; but she graduated through the power of raw intelligence she didn't even believe she had, coupled with sheer determination and courage.

And through that year and the following one, she came into her own. Highly popular with guests, she was also an influence for good on the staff. When she started to realize how many people loved her and appreciated her, she started to let herself believe in herself. 

And then she put herself through school, training to become a first-rate hair stylist.

Everyone has a list of people who have impacted their lives. Dawn sits high on my list. She shows kindness with the lightest of touches. She is consistent and faithful in the smallest tasks and is a loyal friend.

As she was leaving, she said to me, "I can't lie -- I miss this place ..."

I can't lie either, my little Dawn: I miss you too ...

Myrna ...

As I saw you walk into the TH this afternoon, my whole day grew brighter. Your coming to visit us today, on your birthday, was a gift to me. That your Gabby brought you was the ribbon on the package! How she loves her grandma!

This birthday would have been difficult for you, my darling friend; but you are an example of a person who does not mourn as someone who has no hope. You KNOW where your girl is and you know you will see her some day. And in the mean time, you will smile and hug your other girls tighter and hold them a little closer to your heart.

I think this every single time I think of you, but on your birthday it's a good time to say it: for everyone who has the privilege of knowing you, the world is a brighter, less cruel, more loving place for having you in it.

Much love, on February 6 and always.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Happy Birthday, Brian!

Not many men who come to the TH can command a room like Brian can. I have known him for almost 22 years and his sparkling wit and easy charm have never ceased to bewitch me. As they clearly do Char too -- 20 years and counting!

Of course, it helps that we have a mutual predilection for the Earl ...

Happy birthday, dear friend. Your presence at Nilgiris on a Saturday morning adds "a certain sort of something", as they used to describe that indefinable magic that some people possess. And you possess it in spades!
The Two Big Questions

This past Sunday Pastor Strickland picked up where we had left off with the feu-à-tête.

The premise had been established - Moses was going to lead God's people out of Egypt.

Now the pretext as to why Moses couldn't possibly be the one to do this was offered -- by Moses, of course. "Who am I?" he asked incredulously. Perhaps he was thinking, Why me, now? I tried to do this when I was young and had authority and all my wits about me and could possibly control the people. Now I'm not young, I'm not agile, I'm not well spoken or well connected. I'm not even angry any more.

"Certainly I will be with you," was the reply. A sign was even proferred: when Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt, he would worship back on this same mountain where this dialogue was taking place. Wait a minute -- a rearview mirror sign?! Moses would be required to take action in faith that God, who had told him what to do, would fulfill it.

But Moses couldn't leave well enough alone. "Who shall I say you are?" In other words, as Tim put it, Moses was asking God, "Who are You?"

I have often wondered about the exact tone that God would have used in His response to Moses. Was it the booming voice through the fire, clouds and darkness in which He would give the ten commandments to Moses? Or was it the still, small voice that Elijah would hear?

I would like to think that maybe it was the voice that He would use when He invited Peter to join Him in walking on the water: "Come," He would say, matter of factly, like it was so simple. "I Am who I Am," He said here to Moses, maybe matter of factly, because it was so simple. Nothing to prove. Each word given equal weight. "Tell them 'I Am' has sent you."

When Moses had killed the Egyptian he was pretty arrogant, pretty sure he was right, pretty confident that the people would follow him to freedom. After all, he knew exactly who he was: a Prince of Egypt with education, wealth, power, influence, a purpose. He knew his worth.

Forty years in the desert gave him a clearer understanding of himself and his worth. He was nothing in the eyes of the people of Egypt. He wasn't much to his father-in-law -- herding sheep is what he could be trusted to do. He even doubted himself.

And with this self-knowledge, he was exactly at the point where he could be used, where he could be the leader of his people. Because along with the true knowledge of himself came the dawning of the realization of who God is.

God had not changed, from before the foundation of the world. How and who He was, He is, and He will always be. He was the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He would be the same God who would get the Jews disentangled from the Egyptians. The same God who would establish the nation of Israel. 

Something Tim noted that is worth repeating is how so often we get the answers to the two questions completely backward. We think, like Moses did originally, that we are central to our lives, our world, and that God is somewhere on the periphery -- if He is anywhere at all! When we can get to the point of realizing that we are nothing and God is everything, then we can start to be used. "The dynamic tension" is how Tim put it.

God - "I Am"; and me - "I am not." In that order. Nothing else.

It's so simple. But it certainly isn't easy.

Friday, February 5, 2010

All Things New

After the greyness and the gloom and the grief of the week, what a wonderful gift to walk outside and see blue sky and the world made fresh again!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Valley of the Shadow

When her newborn breath-less life was
placed into your hands
you ensured that life was breathed into her
When there was no one to speak for her
you gave her a voice

Though she could not walk
you carried her
Though she could not sit alone
she rested in your arms

When her throat tightened
so did yours
When she could not cry
you wept tears like blood

When all but hope had left
yet you never lost hope
There were angels watching over her
but you were more attentive than them all

You were her shadow.

And when her life was being drawn from her
you would have given your life for hers

But there was someone who already had
and He is standing at the entrance
to the Valley of the Shadow

And He says, "You have given her
all you can give
Now I will give her

So you unlace
her tiny fingers from yours
for the last time
and you wrap them around His

and as He draws her to Himself
He says to you,

"The shadow you see in this Valley
is my shadow
and it is all that stands between
her and the welcoming light
of my Father

"Even as you shadowed her,
how much you felt she was some-
where else! and you were right:
For her whole life
she has been dwelling
in the secret place of the Most High

"And the shadows she has lived in
were Mine as well as yours,
for as you have shadowed her
I have shadowed you

"And now it is in My shadow,
the shadow of the Almighty,
My shadow that she knows
as well as she knows yours,
that she will travel through this Valley

"She is not afraid of the Valley of the Shadow 
because of you
she is not afraid of shadows.”

- for K -
January 30, 2010