Showers of Blessing

It’s raining as I write this. It probably won’t be raining when you read this. Most likely, this day of rain might be the last one for several months. That’s because we’re heading into the Dry Season, otherwise known as “summer” here in Victoria.

I didn’t know this when I arrived nearly two years ago. I expected that I would be living in the monsoon-like conditions of Vancouver. Certainly, there was no hint anywhere in my research that Victoria in mid- August could be likened to the Sahara desert. Our first summer, last summer, was a real eye-opener. Day after sunny day. Any clouds that happened across that expanse of blue sky simply disappeared over the mountains. The few occasional drops that did fall did nothing to mitigate the arid expanses of brown lawns or the curling leaves of the rhododendron bushes. Frankly, I was worried.

Then the rains came. And they stayed. I began to wonder if I should be building an ark. Then, early April, and the sun was back in full force.

Today is almost six weeks to the day of the last “good” rain. For the past few weeks, I’ve found myself humming that old hymn, “There shall be showers of blessing, showers of blessing we need. Mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.”

I think that we Christians have the same kind of weather. There are times when we are deluged by showers of blessing – when everything seems to be hunky-dory in our lives, God is in His heaven and all is right with the world. We feel uplifted, joyful, loved, and blessed.

Then, the dry season is upon us. Everything around us is falling apart, our lives are full of frustration and doubt, and God seems far away. We find ourselves hanging on to the mercy drops – those little moments of grace that tell us that we have not been abandoned by God – but in our heart, we plead for the showers of blessing to return.

And they do.

It occurs to me that perhaps we need those dry spells so that we can appreciate the richness and abundance that comes from the showers. *****




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The Forgiveness Thing

I’m having trouble with the “forgiveness thing”. I’m sure I’m not alone in that regard. It’s difficult to move from the white hot anger of the moment to a more measured response to a point where you can truly say “I forgive  you”, and mean it.

Two months later, and I’m still angry.

The problem lies in the fact that we still meet each other frequently on the streets as we both walk our dogs. The best I can manage is a terse, “Hi”. I can tell she is hurt by my obvious distance, but that’s where we seem to be stuck.

I don’t think it’s easy being a Christian. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to forgive and forgive again. I want to do that, but just paying lip-service to forgiveness is not the answer. I need to reach a place where I can truly say that the incident is gone and forgotten and no longer has a place in my thoughts.

I haven’t got there yet.

What makes it even more difficult is that I realize that God will forgive me anything that I do if I truly repent. We know that our “sins” will be put as far as the East is from the West. Even if they’re blacker than the darkest night, they will be as white as snow. Forgiveness is promised to me by my loving Creator. Even Jesus forgave his persecutors as he hung on the cross.

Yet I can’t seem to get there.

As I said, I know I’m not alone. I run into people all the time who are still holding grudges going back 30, 40, even 50 years. Those grudges are  great dark patches on the spirit, keeping out the light of God’s love and festering like old wounds. I don’t want that.

So I’m working on the “forgiveness thing”. I know I will, with God’s love, get there in the end. I’ll keep you posted.


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Quiet Morning Spaces

I’m not a morning person. At least, that’s what I tell myself. Having spent all my life with people who are proud Night Owls, I never really got into the morning habit. When I was younger, my Mother promised mayhem and destruction to anyone who woke her in the morning. My husband seldom stirs much before eight and it feels churlish to wake him.

There is no tiptoeing out of bed in our house. At the first sign of life, which can be as little as an eyelid blink, our two cats begin campaigning for breakfast. Pitiful meows – for we all know they haven’t eaten in several weeks, followed by full-on skittering from one room to the other are sure to provoke a reaction. I tried closing the bedroom door, but both of them think nothing of beating on it with their paws and ratcheting the meows up by several decibels. No – there is no quiet way to slip from my warm bed in the morning.

So, many mornings I lie awake for an hour or so, listening to the birds, watching the shadows brighten, marking the movements of the sun rays across the floor.

However, I noticed that more often than not, my brain was busy playing over old records of wrongs and hurts, worrying about what was waiting for me in the day’s schedule, or fussing about things left undone and things to do.

So I reminded myself of something a friend of mine used to say. “Your first thought is your last thought and your last thought is your first thought.” What a wise saying. The last thing you think of at night is usually the first thing that springs to mind in the morning. So if you go to sleep thinking about the dentist’s appointment tomorrow, that’s the first thing you’ll think about in the morning.

I decided that I was going to consciously make sure that my last thought was one of praise and gratitude. In the morning, I consciously start by thanking God for the day ahead and allow my mind to think of all the things I’m thankful for.

Guess what? I have a new Quiet Space. In that time between my waking and everyone else waking up, I enjoy a beautiful sense of God’s presence with me. I’ve come to love this time with my Creator.

It’s made me realize that a Quiet Space can be any where, any time that you consciously connect with God.


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To Meat or not to Meat…That Is the Question

I’ve been reading the latest issue of The United Church Observer. They seem to like controversial, out-of-the-box subjects – I often think that they write some of their articles just for the ‘shock’ value. After all, when they say their demographic is hugely tilted to little old ladies who run the U.C.W. and have been faithful church goers since youth, controversial subjects might not be the most popular cup of tea.

This issue was milder than most. I found myself enjoying an article about vegans and their reasons for choosing not to eat, well, almost anything.

I am a vegetarian…have been for about fifteen yeas. I’ve never felt the need to defend my decision nor have I felt the need to convince everyone else to join me. It was something I did for myself. My decision was based upon some evidence I found that showed me how inhumane the slaughter of animals really was. Since then, the methods have changed, due mostly to people becoming aware of the old methods and demanding something be done about them..

Still, I remained vegetarian, although I won’t deny that there are days when the thought of a lovely leg of lamb with mint sauce, or a nice roast of pork with succulent crackling doesn’t set my taste buds quivering. I miss hot dogs. Vegetarian substitutes just don’t do it. Same with bologna, favoured sandwich of my childhood.

However, no matter how I look at it, the bottom line is that the animal who provides the meat I put in my mouth, even with the most humane methods, died in fear and terror. Maybe only for a moment, but nevertheless, that was the last emotion that coursed through its body. The body that I would now eat.

In the article, the writer quoted a teacher at Brooklyn College in New York, a vegan, who wrote in a letter to his students, “I believe I have a moral obligation to reduce as much suffering in the world as I can before I die.”

Those words struck a chord in me. That’s exactly how I feel. Never mind all the arguments pro and con, forget the science of incisors, put aside health benefits and the  smarter than you attitude of a lot of non-meat eaters. That’s not the issue. It’s a moral obligation. No Big Mac can top that.


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Sunday, Sunday….

There is something about a Sunday morning. Even though we’ve moved past the time of having Sunday as a day of closed stores and no shopping, I still think of it as a day set apart from all the rest. There is a quietness about it, a sense of rest, that still pervades the day.

When I lived in Nova Scotia, on a Sunday morning, I’d hear the church bells from half a dozen churches, and from the harbour, there was often the skirl of bagpipes faintly riding the air waves. Where I am now, I’m aware as I walk the dog that I’m one of the few up and about that early in the morning.

There have been a lot of songs written about Sunday…usually in a nostalgic vein. Johnny Cash’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down”, is one of my favourites.

“In the park I saw a daddy
With a laughing little girl that he was swinging.
And I stopped beside a Sunday school
And listened to the songs they were singing.
Then I headed down the street,
And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringing,
And it echoed through the canyon
Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday.”

They can take the mandated peace and quiet out of Sunday, with Sunday now just another commercial day like all the rest, but on a Sunday, I think the presence of God shines through the veil just a little closer and just a little clearer.


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Gentle Blessings…Small Spaces of Grace

The sun streaming in across the kitchen table…Two hummingbirds at the feeder…the call of the Canada geese across the little lake…A clump of purple iris in full bloom…A phone call from a friend…The soft breeze on my face…The sound of a lawnmower in the distance…The laughter of children down the road…The loud purring of our big, orange cat…A little dog curling up at my feet…The smell of wild roses growing along the edge of the parking lot…The sight of the Great Blue Heron in the marsh…Coffee with a neighbour…The feel of the earth in the garden…And when all is said and done, the joy of crisp, clean sheets on the bed.

Small spaces of grace filled with blessings from a Loving God.


Morning Has Broken…

This morning, I woke up at 4:30.  My husband was snoring on one side of me; the dog on the other. And from under the bed, the gentle snorting of our old cats.

The room was hot and I was tangled in the thick comforter. As I get older, my body thermostat doesn’t respond as readily as it once did, so I often awake hot and sweaty.

I got up and padded around the house, opening up all the windows. There was a gentle rain falling – not a lot – and I enjoyed the pitter patter on the trees. Soon, a cool breeze swept through the rooms, and I settled back into bed, thinking I might have a couple of hours of sleep left to me.

Then, the “dawn chorus” started up. We live in the midst of West Coast old growth forest, running up the side of a mountain. The homes in our little community are tucked among the towering pines, and the woodlands are home for many birds. In front our home is a little lake, so the marshes abound with blackbirds.  With the windows open, the house was filled with their joyous twitterings as they greeted another new day.

As I lay there I thought that, unlike humans, the birds greet everyday with enthusiasm, calling to one another to be up and into the Creator’s world. But we poor humans – we lay in bed and think about all that is before us in this day – the chores to be done, the work that awaits, the relationships we must deal with, the myriad of “must do, have to do and should do” items that fill our minds.

How can I cultivate my own dawn chorus? How to reach a point so that in my first waking moments of the day, my heart is filled with gratitude and my mind turns to all the blessings that God has given me? How to be like a humble sparrow, filled with joy at the dawning of a new day, which is the greatest gift that God gives us, over and over again?

As I dozed and listened to the birds, I found myself humming one of my favourite hymns:

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word

Sweet the rains new fall, sunlit from Heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day.

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