Widening the Circle…

I decided to walk down to the lake this morning, going along the boardwalk to the outlook that stretched into the marshland. It’s a walk I’ve always enjoyed because I know I’ll find a heron in the wetland and ducks paddling about in the waterlilies. Some mornings, the resident otter is there, too, and always the soft “plop” of frogs as I walk along the dock.

Usually, I’m the only one on the outlook. I tend to walk early and I’ve discovered that this isn’t an “up and at ’em” neighbourhood. By the time I’m on the boardwalk, all the worker bees have left for work and the rest of the hive are still struggling to get out of bed. So, I enjoy my solitary moments as I survey the little lake and take time to be thankful for the day ahead.

Today, there was someone at the outlook when I got there. I felt a fleeting moment of annoyance. What was he doing in my spot? I waited to see if he would leave, but he showed no signs of leaving.

“Good morning,” I said. “Isn’t the lake lovely in the sunlight?”

And so we started to talk. Nothing significant. Nothing earth-shattering. No philosophical discussions or heart-felt confessions. Just two human beings enjoying a beautiful morning together.

“Have a wonderful day,” he said, as he turned to go.

“You, too,” I said, smiling. And we went our separate ways.

I’ve been thinking about that little encounter all morning. We have become such a suspicious world, so careful of our privacy and so loathe to become “involved” with anyone we don’t know. We’ll cross the street to avoid a passing stranger. We’ll move to another seat rather than sit with someone we don’t know. We avert our eyes from the counter clerk, ignore the small child, turn aside from the elderly man or frown at the rowdy teenager. We don’t want to meet people from other cultures or even from outside our small circle of friends. Our comfort zone is familiarity. Anything else is frightening, challenging or even, in our minds, dangerous.

We’ve lost the ability to connect with people in random ways.

I’m reminded of one of the newer hymns, one which expresses so well what I’m trying to say:

“Draw the circle wide, draw the circle wide.

No one stands alone, we’ll stand side by side.

Draw the circle wide; draw it wider still.

Let this be our song! No one stands alone.

Standing side by side, draw the circle, draw the circle wide!”

My circle is now one person wider than it was yesterday. Even if it’s only one encounter, the circle remains changed forever.

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Come and join me on a website that is dedicated to women and their spiritual journeys. http://www.myquietspaces.org

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Eve Didn’t Stand a Chance…

There is a small orchard in the middle of our little housing complex. It hasn’t been looked after in years, other than a cursory mowing every now and then, but the apple, cherry, pear and plum trees continue to bear fruit year after year.

I love walking through this orchard, and in season, plucking a handful of cherries, or a small ripe plum or a juicy pear. This morning, as dog and I ambled through, there was a loud “thump” on the grass and a huge apple landed at my feet. Another inch and either I or the dog would have been beaned by it.

I picked it up. It wasn’t a grocery store apple – this one had never seen pesticides or fertilizers, so it was lumpy, scarred and misshapen. I sniffed it. Heaven. A rich apple aroma from a fruit that hadn’t been in cold storage awaiting shipment to the other side of the continent. I couldn’t resist taking a huge bite. Heaven!

And I thought about Eve. I wondered if she’d also picked up the forbidden fruit, taken a sniff and immediately forgot all the admonitions to stay away from the apple tree. Just one bite, she probably thought. No one will know.

So often in our lives, temptations drop at our feet, and we’re faced with the dilemma: why not? Who will ever know? Just a little lie; a small cheat, a harmless bit of gossip – surely such a little thing couldn’t have any world-changing consequences.

Perhaps that’s why the Lord’s Prayer contains the line “and lead us not into temptation…”.

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Birds of a Feather…

My new friend Sue and I decided that since it was going to be a scorcher of a day, we’d take our dogs to the beach in the morning and leave the baking sands and hot sun of the afternoon to the rest of the crowd.

This was a big decision for me. My dog, Scoopy, had been rescued by daughter Marnella. She’d seen the little dog running down the yellow line of a Los Angeles highway – the wrong way – and after some traumatic moments scooped her up to safety. Eventually, Scoopy came to live with us.

Scoopy is an almost perfect dog – except that she hates riding in the car. Invariably, either to or from, or both ways, she throws up. We’ve tried everything, but to no avail, and I’ve resigned myself to being a dog-less driver.

So, to decide to take Scoopy and Sue’s two little woofers – Toby and Bisou – to the beach, was, as I said, a big decision. But I hoped that when Scoopy saw how her doggie pals liked riding in the car and were excited at the prospect of going somewhere, she might decide that it wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

We put the three of them in the back of my Smart car, which turned out to be exactly three-doggie sized. I made sure to throw down a towel, have paper towels handy and a wet cloth within reach.

We made it to the beach – about a fifteen minute ride – with no accidents. Wow! She wasn’t even in distress when we arrived.

On the beach, Scoopy faced her second phobia – water – or to be more precise, salt water. She’d had a bad experience the first time she stepped into the “big pond”, not knowing what it was and trying to outrun it by going out further and further.

But, with Toby joyfully enjoying his first taste of the ocean, Scoopy walked quite happily through the wet sand. The section of the beach where we went was an “off-leash” area. With some trepidation, I took Scoopy off her leash. Again, she didn’t run away from the water, but walked along with us, sticking close to Bisou.

Afterwards, we drove to the library. Then lunch  outside on a bistro patio. And finally, home. For the first time in the four years we’ve had her, Scoopy didn’t throw up in the car. She didn’t run way from the water. She didn’t try to hide from strangers in the library and bistro.

The only difference was Toby and Bisou were along with her on the adventure. They gave her the confidence and courage to step out bravely and enjoy every moment of the day.

I think humans are the same. So often, we find that we can face all kinds of challenges if we have a friend by our side, encouraging us and cheering us on. The courage we can’t find when we are alone is suddenly ours when we face our fears with a friend.

For Christians, when no one else steps up to our side, we have Jesus who promised, “I am with you always.” No car ride is too long. No water is too deep. No strangers are too dangerous. We can do “all things”.

Scoops

 

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Up Close and Personal…

I’m sure that you, like me, are constantly bombarded with photos, memes, cute posters and family portraits – often from people you don’t know – on your social media pages, in your email or popping up on newsfeeds. Most of the time, we don’t react other than to smile (or frown), perhaps passing along the best of them, but most definitely forgetting them a few minutes later.

That was the case with me until a friend, Heather Facey, received a macro lens for her camera and began to post her photos on her FB page. Suddenly, what I was seeing jolted me from my complacency. Now I was seeing amazing photos that were part of the experience of someone I knew. Photos like drops of water on a host flower took my breath away…

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I was astounded when I realized that Heather had actually seen this through her lens. This wasn’t something she’d dreamed up, but a true representation of what was there – although never seen by most of us.

A whole world was happening just beyond my vision. In that world, there was a dragonfly sunning himself on a blade of grass.

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And the stamens of a flower created a picture worthy of hanging in any art gallery in the country.

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A bee, busy on his rounds, missed by our rush to get somewhere else, is a joy for our eyes.

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Even something so familiar, yet so breathtaking beautiful as the patterns that the tide leaves on a sand beach, seen close-up look like a divine hand has carefully limned them.

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Such glorious beauty all around us, hidden in plain sight.

Maybe it’s the Creator’s way of telling us to stop, to look closely, to see the wonders just outside our usual visual frame – wonders that remind us that this is a world of infinite design, from the whirl of a flower’s petals to the facets of a fly’s eye.

In these beautiful portraits, I find all the reassurance I need that there is a Creator and that there is a loving blueprint for our world.

I look at Heather’s photographs and I’m reminded of an old hymn:

“This is my Father’s world;

I rest me in the thought:

Of rocks and trees and skies and seas,

His hand these wonders wrought.”

 

Come and join me on a website that is dedicated to women and their spiritual journeys. http://www.myquietspaces.org

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TMI…

Lately, I’ve come to think that there’s entirely too much information about me floating around out there. It seems that every time I have any kind of contact with any kind of customer service representative for whatever reason, they (or it, online), are intent on ferreting out every last bit of detail about me that they can squeeze from my unwilling mouth or pry from my typing fingers.

Name. Address. Postal Code. Birthdate. Phone number. Email address. Favourite colour. First dog’s name. Mother’s maiden name… The really bold ones go for the gold: social insurance number, credit card number, security number. They also want my customer i.d., my password, my PIN… They’ll ask me what my husband’s middle name is, what colour my eyes are, how old I am, what kind of education I’ve had, where do I work, or where did I work before I retired. The list is endless.

I spent part of my day yesterday being hassled by a “customer service” representative from Tangerine who insisted that I tell her what my last postal code and phone number was. Lordy! I have trouble with my current postal code and phone number! I felt like I should be under a bright light, sitting on a hard chair, with a darkened face in front of me demanding more and more information. No police interrogation could have been more effective than that little lady’s unrelenting questions.

I solved the problem the only way I knew how. I closed my account and told them to forward the balance to my bank.

Today, I had a problem with my new Bose system. I called Customer Service and off we went…fifteen personal questions later he told me to unplug the system, wait two minutes and plug it back in. That would reset the program and all would be well. Couldn’t he tell me that without knowing my email address and the serial number of the machine?

I hate the idea of all these different companies and their representatives knowing so much about me. What happened the the concept of personal privacy?

Yet, I find it comforting to know that the my God knows me so well that there is no need of questioning. The Creator has known me since before I was born. In fact, the hairs of my head are counted, I’m assured. My every thought is known; no secrets are hidden. I can relax and trust that God has nothing but love and care for me, all of me, all my faults and shortcomings, all my joys, all my sorrows, all my everything.

I can’t say the same for any of those people who insist they need to know the colour of my first car!

 

Come and join me on a website that is dedicated to women and their spiritual journeys. http://www.myquietspaces.org

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Hoping for the best…

Part of the renovations of our little home is new siding. A few weeks ago, the old, stained and faded aluminum siding was ripped away. After 45 years, it had done its job. For the next couple of weeks, we were in the proverbial “tar-paper shack”, and then, finally, when all the strapping was completed, the first few sheets of the new siding went on.

I’d chosen it months ago. In the store, I was faced with towering lengths of siding in every possible colour. Looking at the long, narrow sample, it was hard to picture what it would look like, lying sideways, row on row, on my house walls. Would the colour still look quite the same outdoors? Would the shade from the trees change its depth? Was it as light as I remembered? Seeing something wrong-way up amongst many other colours in a huge store warehouse was not the same thing as seeing it in its actual place.

I was away when the first strips went on, so it came as a surprise as I came up the front steps, past the big trees and onto the deck. There it was – this same light grey that I’d chosen, now more than halfway up the wall and long past the point of no-return. I felt my heart lift and I know there was a huge grin on my face. It was perfect! Exactly what I’d pictured in my mind. Better even – a richer, creamier grey than I’d expected. Then, a huge wash of relief – it was okay! I’d made the right decision.

So often, we are called on to make big decisions based on small samples. In the heyday of wallpaper, a 18 inch square of paper was all we had to choose from, hoping that in our minds we could see it on our walls. Even paint samples, those tiny chips in the store, are meant to show us what a finished product might look like.

Now that we have on-line shopping, many of us do our buying based on a picture. We can’t  touch the fabric, inspect the finishing, try out the product or do any of the things that tell is it will be okay. We can only hope.

Our Christian walk is like that, too. Every day, we have to trust that there will be something for us at the end of our journey – the “heaven” that is promised. Oh, we experience small samples around us – a particularly spectacular sunset, a piece of haunting music, the sound of a baby’s laugh, the love in someone’s eyes – but the end result we have to take on faith.

Faith – “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

 

Come and join me on a website that is dedicated to women and their spiritual journeys. www.myquietspaces.org

You’ll also find me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MoreQuietSpaces/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel