Searing Loss

This past week, I have received emails from several people who have read the passages I posted on Grief a while back.  Truly, when I read their pain of searing loss, I am struck by how there are never enough comforting words to say to those who grieve.

Certainly, our Lord suffered loss.  It gives me comfort to know that God is in control, even in our grief, God is the Great Comforter and He will give us a peace that surpasses understanding.  I don’t know how people survive overwhelming grief without Him.

If you or you know of someone who may be grieving, please read and share these scripture verses: http://lynndove.com/2013/12/06/25-encouraging-scripture-verses-for-those-who-are-grieving/

…and listen to the comforting words of this song.

Matthew 5:4  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

 

 

 

 

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Running On Empty

imagesFX3JUEJ0Everyone goes through it at some point.  The gas gauge needle is pointing towards the “E” and in some cars the light starts to flash or there’s a little beep that is supposed to remind you that your car is close to being empty of gas and if you don’t pull into a gas station soon the car will sputter and die from lack of gas.

It’s a great analogy about our spiritual lives, except we don’t have little warning lights or “beeps” that go on to remind ourselves that we’re running on empty.  Instead, we start to sputter and cough and before we realize what’s happening, we’re stopped.  Stopped dead in our tracks.

It may require a boost to get us going again.  A boost like a crisis that requires us to refocus and redirect our lives back to God.  It may be an actual death in the family, where we are reminded of the frailty of life and we need to re-evaluate our own lives.  It may be a mountain-top experience like a retreat or a conference that re-charges our batteries and keeps us going, for a little while at least.

I’ve noticed that when I stall out spiritually a good boost does help for awhile but it’s a short-term solution to the real problem.  Just like a car that needs daily upkeep to keep its engine running smoothly to avoid breaking down, I need to spend time daily recharging MY spiritual batteries by spending time talking to God and spending time in His Word.  If I don’t, it won’t be long before I will be running on empty and worse, completely stalled out and in need of a boost or a good push to get me going again.

A good push?  Just like a car dead in the middle of the road, a couple of well-meaning good Samaritans may come along to help push that vehicle off to the side of the road and may even stay with you while you wait for a tow truck.  Without their help, you’d be stuck there.  It’s amazing how that analogy works with spiritual stalling out too.  I don’t always have the will or the wherewithal to get out of the slump on my own.  That’s when I need a good “push” to get rolling again.

This past week, it was my husband that spurred me on.  I would rather have stayed home and do marking (which there is no end to when you’re a Language Arts teacher) but instead he said, “No, we need to go to small group tonight.”

I didn’t want to go.  I had a good excuse not to go but he knew (and I had to admit it too), that my little spiritual gauge was pointing downwards.  I was running on empty and I needed a boost to get back on track.  I needed his little push, and when I attended I was SO glad I was there.  It was just the recharge I needed.

Are you running on empty?  Maybe you need a boost or maybe a good push so you don’t stall out.  Look for ways to recharge those spiritual batteries but don’t forget that daily maintenance is necessary for optimal performance.

 

 

 

Selective Hearing

As every parent with a teenager knows, with the territory comes some challenges.  In today’s tech age, just getting a teen’s attention at times can be virtually (pardon the pun) impossible.  Now my parents never had that techy-type problem with my brother and I.  We had selective hearing.  We could easily ignore their calls to come wash dishes or take the garbage out.  What we didn’t like to hear (or do), we would ignore.  We never missed dinner or dessert calls.  Selective hearing…it had its advantages.

Today’s teens are different though.  With iPods plugged into their ears most of the time, they honestly cannot hear you when you call them for anything.  We have an intercom in our house, installed by previous owners who were tired of yelling up the stairs for their teens to come down for dinner or chores.  I forgot that we had it when my teens lived at home and so after my voice was hoarse from calling to them upstairs, my husband tried the intercom.  The volume was set at maximum and I nearly fell over backwards from the blast of his voice reverberating around the house.  Did my kids hear him?  No.

I’m sure that years from now, a scientific study will discover that hearing loss in the next generation can be accredited to prolonged iPod usage, and gaming headphones.

I have discovered however, that today’s teen has no trouble hearing the tiny “ting” of a text message coming in on their cell phone.  They can’t hear their mother screech at them to empty the dishwasher, but the “ting” of a text has them scrambling to find their phone.  Selective hearing.

Another thing about this generation of teens is their inability to communicate vocally.  My daughter actually texts faster than she talks.  Again, there will be another study in the future that claims that texting has caused the next generation to have the inability to speak.  Tongues may one day become another vestigial organ.  At least it will be a quiet generation I guess.

I will admit that over the years I have selective hearing.  Yep.  Especially when God is calling me.  I have fine-tuned my ability to hear God’s Voice when He’s asking me to do something (that I like to do), or if He’s saying something (about me) that I like to hear.  It’s funny how fast I can jump to attention when I am getting my pride stroked, or I’m involved in something I just LOVE to do.  But watch me ignore God’s Voice when He asks me to do something I DON’T like or if He’s disciplining me.  Wow.

Sometimes I wonder if God is hoarse trying to get my attention sometimes!  God does speak, but it’s not okay for me to choose to listen to only those things I want to hear.  Selective hearing then becomes disobedience, plain and simple.

Do you suffer from selective hearing when it comes to listening and then responding to God?  Or perhaps you’re more like a teenager, too distracted with technology and being “plugged in” you simply can’t hear anything?

“So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did.  That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’  So I declared on oath in my anger, They shall never enter my rest.’ ”  See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”  (Hebrews 3:7-12)

 

 

 

Teacher, you never smile…

imagesIt’s been a hectic few weeks settling into a classroom routine again.  I will admit that my biggest professional challenge is just learning the technology that now accompanies our 21st century learning environment.  Students of all ages are using computers, tablets, smart phones and the like in their classrooms and I am WAY behind the times when it comes to utilizing technology in the classroom.  As I told the techies in my school, “I know enough about computers to be dangerous!”  After their countless trips to train me and try to undo my computer crashes and glitches, they now believe what I say.

Will I ever get it right?  *sigh*

I’ve been in a classroom long enough to notice the signs of stress, not in my students per se, although they certainly stress out, but in my colleagues and my friends who teach.  There are days that weigh heavily on me and I just feel overwhelmed but something I promised myself I would do is SMILE…a lot.

It happened WAY back when I was the director of my own preschool.  Not only did I have the responsibility of being the owner and operator of the preschool I also taught the four year old classes every day.  I loved being in the classroom but after a particularly stressful week I was reading a storybook to one little guy who looked up at me and said, “Teacher, you never smile…”

His matter-of-fact statement shocked me.  I had fallen victim to a common malady amongst teachers: letting our feelings/stress show on our faces.  Oh my!  I hugged the little boy and apologized and immediately put a big smile on my face.  I didn’t feel like smiling but I smiled because my students needed to see their teacher smile.  I did it for the kids!

Teachers, we spend a lot of time preparing our classrooms and lesson planning and organizing fieldtrips etc. etc. etc. but the easiest thing you can do for your students is give them a smile everyday!

Case in point.

I have been teaching a vocabulary, grammar and spelling unit to my junior high students.  Admittedly the content is dry.  It’s hard to motivate students to find anything remotely “smile-worthy” about conjunctions, adverbs and pronouns so I applaud Weird Al for helping me out this year with his video: Word Crimes.  At least my introductory lesson was fun when I shared that video with the class!  Yesterday we were trying to wrap our heads around yet another grammatical term and one boy pulled out his iPhone-there’s that new technology again :) and asked “Siri” what the definition of that term was.  For those of you who are even more technologically disadvantaged than me: Siri is that little Miss Know-it-all that comes with your smart phone that acts as the voice of all the internet wisdom of the world.  Hahahahaha!  Definitely being sarcastic here.

Anyway, I immediately put the kibosh on using Siri to look up definitions…I’m still “old school” and think my students should use a good ‘ole fashioned dictionary in book form even.  So I said, “I ban Siri from this classroom!”  I was probably frowning when I said it.  A student piped up immediately, “Are you Siri…ous?”

Okay…I smiled… then I laughed…belly-laughed even.  The rest of the class laughed with me and we had a good, but unexpected introduction to the humour of using puns.

One young man commented that it was one of the best language arts classes he had attended all year.  I had to agree.

So remember to smile Teacher, and I even recommend laughing out loud in the class.  Some days it’s hard to laugh, hard to smile but do it anyway.  Smile for the kids!  It will make their day and it will make your day too!

 

Terry Fox – A Great Canadian

I was a young bride, thirty-five years ago.  I was studying at the University of Calgary on my way to finishing my education degree.  My husband was going back and forth from Calgary to Comox, B.C. to visit with his mother who was battling cancer.  We did not know that cancer would affect us so much then or later when his mother lost her battle in 1981, my mother would lose her battle with the same disease in 1990, and I would be diagnosed with breast cancer eleven years later.  To say that cancer has touched this family would be a drastic understatement.  It is no surprise then that one of the people I admire the most is Terry Fox.

Terry Fox is considered one of Canada’s greatest heroes of the 20th Century.  Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1958, and raised in Port Coquitlam, B.C., Terry lost his right leg at age twenty to cancer.  Instead of wallowing in self-pity and remorse, the young athlete decided to run from coast to coast in order to raise awareness and money for cancer research.  He began by dipping his leg in the Atlantic Ocean at St. John’s, Newfoundland on April 12, 1980, with the goal of dipping it again in the Pacific Ocean at Vancouver, British Columbia several months later.  He ran an average of forty – two kilometres a day, a unique running style evident in a hop-skip approach that took tremendous effort and stamina to maintain the grueling pace.  No one had ever done anything similar to the task Fox was undertaking.

At first there was little media attention for the young runner, and his “Marathon of Hope”  but slowly and surely word of the courageous young man began to spread.  It began as idle curiosity and then spread to admiration across Canada.  Communities welcomed him and others began to prepare for his arrival.  It was like a national cheer or wave starting at the east coast and spreading to the west.

I remember watching the news reports and catching the “wave” with millions of other Canadians who cheered on his progress.  Terry and I were the same age and I marveled at his determination and strength.  Then on September 1, 1980 just north-east of Thunder Bay, Ontario after 143 days, running 5,373 km. (3,339 miles) through Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario, Terry was forced to abandon his run.  Cancer had spread to his lung.

I remember the interview he gave so vividly as I watched the news on T.V. that day.  His voice was hoarse, arms crossed over his chest as he lay on a stretcher, tears in his eyes; he promised he would return to the run as soon as he was able to.  Terry had raised $1.7 million dollars for cancer research during his run.

Unfortunately Terry died on June 28, 1981 at the age of 22, one month before his 23rd birthday, but not before becoming the youngest person ever to be awarded the Order of Canada.

Two-and-a-half months after his death, the first Terry Fox Run was held on Sept. 13, 1981.  More than 300,000 Canadians took part in the event at 760 sites across Canada.  The run raised $3.5 million.  Since then the amount raised in over 30 years of Terry Fox Runs is well over $600 million!

Fox’s heroism inspired other Canadians to similar feats in the name of charitable causes.  Steve Fonyo, another runner who had a leg amputated to cancer retraced the same route as Fox and completed the run in the name of cancer research.  Rick Hansen, a paraplegic athlete, made his own trek around the world in his wheelchair to raise funds for spinal cord injury research.

In 1982, British singer/songwriter, Rod Stewart, wrote the song “Never Give Up On a Dream” as a tribute to Terry’s Marathon of Hope and proceeds from the song went towards cancer research.

Terry’s goal was to persuade every Canadian to donate one dollar for cancer research.  Now the run has become a global event with over two million people running world-wide in organized Terry Fox Runs.

I’m not a runner, I’m a writer, but if I can help raise awareness through this blog, I will have done my part.  I encourage my readers to click on this link and generously donate to the Terry Fox Foundation  today.

http://www.spiritus-temporis.com/terry-fox/

Parenting 101- What to Do If Your Child Is Being Bullied.

I have three very unique, very different children.  I am constantly amazed by them!  Certainly there have been times  that I (and they) have questioned my sanity…or lack thereof…in trying to parent these children but for the most part I wouldn’t trade a minute of it!

My daughter Laurelle is now a grown, married woman.  She is a phenomenal young woman with a passion for teaching and raising my two grandbabies in the “way they should go”.  I had no idea when we signed her up in kindergarten french immersion way back when, that one day she would actually teach French to other children and to my grandchildren!  How did that happen?  God had a plan and a purpose for her for today but the journey started many years ago.  Who knew?  God did.

I remember that little girl learning to ride a bike.  She fell off that thing more than she stayed on.  At one point, after crashing once again to the pavement, she picked herself up and in tears kicked the seat with all her might announcing to her father that she would never learn to ride a bike!  It’s hard for a parent to watch their children struggle, but it’s also a time to instill a value, “Don’t give up!  Don’t quit!”  her Dad said, and taking her by the hand, straightened her helmet, and plunked her back on the bike.  “You can do it!”  he said and with a push, he sent her on her way again.  Yes, she wobbled and yes she even fell off a few more times but eventually her perseverance paid off and she mastered bike riding.  It was hard but she didn’t quit.

In grade seven, Laurelle became the victim of bullying.  It was the worst time of our lives.  She had become the primary target of sBullyingome malicious girls at her school who took great pleasure in undermining everything about her.  They called her degrading names; called her stupid, and maligned her every chance they could.  They tripped her, pushed her into her locker and laughed at her.  Her marks plummeted, she started to look sickly and pale.  She started to dress in sombre colours and she rarely smiled.  She had few friends and at one point she wanted to die.  Her father and I tried to question her about school but she was tight-lipped and was a good enough actress at home to make us believe that everything was okay.  We had no idea how serious the bullying situation had become until her piano teacher, who was also a close personal friend, called me and said that Laurelle had confided to her in the middle of her piano lesson that she was thinking thoughts of suicide.  In horror and in panic, I ransacked her room looking for anything that she might use to hurt herself, instead I found her diary.

As a parent, you make split second decisions some times.  In this case to save her life was much more important than respecting her privacy.  I didn’t hesitate.  Page after page of heart wrenching pain was written in her handwriting.  I wept with grief over what my child was going through at school, things she had never shared with us.  When I confronted her later about it, she was horrified I had read her most private thoughts.  I had betrayed her trust.  I didn’t apologize for that.  I wished I had done it sooner.

For a day or two, Laurelle was more angry with me than she was at the bullies at school.  I was okay with that.  Now that I knew what was really going on in her life I could come alongside her and help, even though she rejected that at first.  We immediately contacted the school, set up meetings with the school counsellor, her teachers, and the principal and we illicited prayer support from our church family.  Over the next several weeks, everywhere Laurelle turned she heard, “Don’t give up!  Don’t quit!”    God placed people in her life that supported her, encouraged her, and loved her.  Bullying had caused her to lose hope.  She felt alone and afraid.  Now she was surrounded by people who wanted to help her.  She wasn’t alone and it gave her hope.

Laurelle’s school counsellor, a precious young woman, told Laurelle to journal her thoughts and her pain to God and to trust Him to help her.  Although I had said much the same thing previously to her, she wasn’t ready to listen to me yet because she was still mad I had invaded her privacy, so I praised God when He used another person to speak to her.  It was truly a “God thing” because in this particular public school, teachers and counsellors did not give spiritual advice to their students, they were discouraged from doing so in fact, but I believe God gave this woman boldness to speak to Laurelle about embracing her faith in God and it impacted Laurelle at a critical time in her life.  She also gave Laurelle some very practical ways to “stand up” to the bullies at school.

  • Hold your head up.  Act confident.  Do not retaliate or get angry.  (Bullies are intimidated by those who do not fear them.)
  • Respond evenly and firmly to them or say nothing and walk away.
  • Develop other friendships and stick up for each other.
  • If bullying continues, tell someone, preferably a trusted adult.  Tell your parents, a trusted teacher, counsellor, or principal.

Within several weeks, after rededicating her life back to God and then utilizing the strategies her counsellor had given her to combat the bullies, Laurelle’s confidence came back.  She developed new friendships and her once tiny circle of friends grew.  Eventually her group of friends was much larger than the “bully group” and as such the “safety in numbers” factor cut in.  The bullies lost interest in tormenting her, and on occasion if they tried to intimidate her, she was no longer afraid of telling on them.  She got her “no quit” attitude back and it propelled her through the rest of the year and has remained with her ever since.

A while back I was on Facebook and noticed that one of Laurelle’s Facebook “friends” was one of the girls who had bullied her that fateful year in middle school.  I must admit I was quite surprised to see that Laurelle was actually corresponding back and forth with her quite regularly.  I marveled how God had helped her come to a place in her life where she could forgive and forget so completely.  When I commented about it to her, she just smiled.

Laurelle has had opportunity through the years to share her testimony regarding that bullying experience.  God has given her great sensitivity and compassion towards those young people who are victims of bullying.  She shares how angry she was at me for reading in her diary, but how glad she is that I did.  She shares how God brought people in to her life to help her, to encourage her and to love her at a time when she thought she was all alone.  And lastly she tells them: “Don’t give up!  Don’t quit!”

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

Remembering Sept. 11, 2001

I was recovering from my last round of chemotherapy.  My hair was starting to grow back, but I was still weak from my recent battle with breast cancer.  I had just stepped out of a shower and slowly starting my day when my husband called me from work and told me to turn on the T.V. telling me that there was a catastrophic plane crash in New York City.  I tuned in just in time to see the second plane careen into the World Trade Centre.  It’s one of those scenes you never forget in your lifetime.

On Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists hijacked four passenger jets, each carrying tanks full of fuel and large numbers of travelers enroute to various destinations in the U.S.  The hijackers commandeered the planes and deliberately flew to U.S. landmarks where catastrophic destruction was achieved: The World Trade Centre in NYC and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.  The fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, just north of Camp David, the Presidential Retreat in Maryland.  Their efforts to destroy yet another U.S. landmark that day was thwarted by the heroic passengers on that plane.  Thousands of people were killed; property damage estimated in the billions of dollars, and yet, the world remembers today the countless acts of heroism and bravery by ordinary people who exemplified the human spirit and did extraordinary things!

Memorial Tribute at St. Paul’s to the Victims of Sept. 11, 2001

As a Canadian watching the drama unfold, I was overcome with emotion for my brothers and sisters in the U.S.  Words cannot adequately describe the shock and horror I felt on their behalf.  Later that afternoon, I gathered with many of my American friends who live and work here in Cochrane.  We met at our church and we wept and prayed, clinging to one another, drawn together in mutual grief over the tragic events of that day.

In 2008, my husband and I had the opportunity to visit NYC.  We had never been to the “Big Apple” before so in three short days, we tried to take in as many of the sights as we could in that amazing city.  Of course, one of the places we wanted to see was “Ground Zero”, the site where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre once stood.  Despite the fact it was over seven years after 9/11,  I felt a haunting solemnity in approaching the site.  The rebuilding was starting there, most of the rubble had been cleared away, and yet it was like thousands of voices were whispering in the wind: “Don’t ever forget about us!”

Tribute to the Firefighters, Police, Port Authority and Rescue Teams

Across the street from Ground Zero stands St. Paul’s Chapel.  It is one of the oldest churches in NYC.  Though situated directly across the street from the World Trade Centre, St.Paul’s Chapel miraculously sustained little damage.  The massive Sycamore trees, hundreds of years old, took most of the impact and shielded the tiny building from the flying debris when the Twin Towers collapsed.  As a result, not a single pane of the precious stained glass was broken.

Days after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, families of the victims came to the church to grieve and receive comfort while they awaited news of loved ones who were missing or searching under the rubble of the World Trade Centre.  Later they put up memorials in tribute to those who lost their lives that day.  Each memorial has been left standing and lovingly maintained by the church, and the small congregation now serves and ministers to those families who suffered such loss on that fateful day.

Tributes were also sent from around the world for all the brave firefighters, police, port authority personnel and rescue teams who risked their own lives to save those trapped after the initial attack.  Unfortunately many of the numbered dead are those men and women who responded first to the emergency.

As my husband and I silently, reverently, passed by each display of tribute to those lost on Sept. 11, 2001, I was once again overwhelmed with emotion.

Looking towards Ground Zero from St. Paul’s Chapel. Take note of the blackened headstones as a result of 9/11 and a few of the Sycamore trees that protected the church that day.

As we returned to our hotel, we reflected on what we had just seen at Ground Zero and walking through the theatre district and around Times Square, I was struck by how NYC had managed to rise above the ashes on that day.   As I thought about how that little church surrounded by Sycamore trees had been shielded and protected from harm on Sept. 11, 2001, a scripture verse came to mind:

“To give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness.”      Isaiah 61:3

“Trees of Righteousness”… may it always be so!