“Whatever God orders and whatever God guides, he provides. God’s work, done in God’s way, never lacks for God’s supply.”― J. Hudson Taylor

We spent a couple of beautiful days in Niagara Falls, the roar of the spring-swollen river hurtling down into the gorge was, as always, awesome in its power.  The tourist season was not yet fully underway, the weather warm and dry for the first time in weeks, and the tulips that had been delayed by cold and rain were blooming in all their glory.   Perfect timing to make our visit, after several delays and changes in scheduling.

I look back over events in my life, and sometimes wonder about the timing then too, how I found myself in particular places at particular times, in circumstances I certainly did not engineer on my own.

As a child, I wanted to be a missionary.  In those days it was considered a noble ambition, offering an exotic taste of adventure, to bring the knowledge of Jesus to the world.  Unfortunately, these days we are living its legacy of cultural insensitivity.  We knew our God so little that we failed to see that his truth was far wider than our limited experience, and so often killed joy and freedom by the very gospel meant to be good news.

I seem to be on a trail lately,  following the story of missionaries who were not at all like that.  My curiosity began with a group called Bible Study Fellowship, and the woman who first led it, Audrey Weatherell Johnson.  After surviving a Japanese concentration camp in China during the war, she was hindered from returning.  She would have been amazed to know that her faithfulness in teaching a small group of women at home would someday have an effect around the world, including China.

Intrigued, remembering another missionary named Eric Liddell also was incarcerated there in a concentration camp, I searched the internet and found information about the China Inland Mission, which included one of its founders, Hudson Taylor.  Realizing that his European garb was a hindrance, he decided to dress in the clothing of the Chinese people.  Like the apostle Paul, he encountered danger, violence, personal losses.  To travel from England to China in those days required approximately months at sea, with all its attendant dangers.  He influenced many others who would follow in his footsteps, including Audrey Weatherell Johnson, Eric Liddell, Jim Eliot, and Anne Graham Lotz.

Because I’ve always loved the movie Chariots of Fire, I then read more about Eric Liddell and discovered that his widow Florence was buried in a quiet rural cemetery in Hamilton-Wentworth.  On the way to Niagara Falls, we stopped at the site, so far from her life with Eric Liddell, who she married in 1934 in China.  She returned with their two small daughters to family in Canada when it became too dangerous to stay there, and their third daughter, who never met her father before his death in a concentration camp, was born here.

We traveled on, and, looking for parking in Niagara on the Lake, we found ourselves by Queen’s Royal Park.  It was only by chance we came across this commemorative stone tucked into a inobtrusive corner in that beautiful park downriver from the Falls:

There’s history all around us.   Hudson Taylor visited Canada in 1888 and established the China Inland Mission in North America at the Niagara Conference.  Hudson Taylor spent 54 years of his life in China, despite all the obstacles and dangers, because his heart was with the Chinese people God loved.

We all have our mission field, though it may seem small and insignificant in comparison.    Love of God overflows into love for all his people. Knowledge of God is a treasure to share with courtesy and respect among all peoples.  Its essence is grace and mercy and truth, its justice rolls on like a river.






Rex Whistler – Cinderella/Fairy Godmother

Miriam Toews book,  Women Talking, is about a group of women trying to speak out the unspeakable, trying to determine a right course of action.   And maybe this type of sharing has always been powerful than it appears, though it may not involve action-packed drama.

Whenever I’ve been in on a circle of women talking, I’ve been struck by our common humanity.  I can see myself mirrored in their words.  Outwardly they may have made different choices, followed different paths, but we can learn so much from each other.  It’s also why I love to read biographies; how did people survive and thrive in difficult circumstances?  It’s a way of preparing for possible futures.

We are a consortium of the people we were at different stages in our lives. And multiple generations have contributed to the DNA in our cells.   Truly, we are fearfully and wonderfully made, as the psalmist writes.   So relationships are not only in a physical space, but stretch back into the past to influence our decisions today.

Physics has some intriguing things to say about these decisions: is it that of all the possibilities, we “collapse” the potential into reality?  Does there need to be consciousness or a Consciousness?  Are there multiverses in which a version of ourselves continues on the path we rejected?

Science often is a catalyst to improve lives, there is value in different viewpoints that often lead to practical inventions in daily life and in wartime.  But as a basis for reality, theories often prove mistaken, or inadequate.  Scientists are affected, like all of us, by social and political peer pressure, aligned in opposing camps or reluctant to upset the status quo.

It becomes a relief to rest in the Biblical truth of Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the universe was made at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”   Our minds are limited, we will never know the consequences of the paths we didn’t follow.  We can’t get our heads around the amazing miracle of the world as God created it, or the interplay between determinism and free will.  God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.  God breathes his speech into life, and time, and the course of human history.  He sees all, has created us not only as separate physical beings, but with some mysterious connection to Him and the others in our world.

So, to get to the Cinderella story, a story about a girl in distress because she’s suffered the loss of her mother, rejection and disdain from her stepmother and sisters.  As she weeps, her need summons her fairy godmother (from another, spiritual dimension?)  who magically makes it possible for her to begin a new life.  It makes me think of Hagar’s despair in the desert when she’s been cast out by Abraham and Sarah, how God comes to her rescue in such an astounding way that she names him, “The God who Sees.”

When we are women connecting, with God and with each other,  we no longer feel alone in this baffling universe.  And in that, the invisible becomes visible, we are seen, and can see.  We are given the gift of our true selves, and the power to choose our way.

Ear Worms

For as long as I can remember, I have loved music, the communal singing in church and school.  Although there wasn’t a lot of money for music in the budget, there were radio concerts and even a few records.  I memorized the songs from The Sound of Music record word for word.  My humming around the house drove my family to distraction (apparently incessant humming was a genetic trait inherited from a paternal great-grandmother).

When the salesman showed up at the door, I begged my parents for an accordion and lessons.  I still have it today.  The accordion was red and pearl, a beautiful instrument, but heavy.  Still we lugged it into music school and logged about five years of music lessons before high school made that instrument seem very uncool.   It would be years before I would return to making music.

In my mid-thirties,  looking for something to do one dreary Sunday afternoon, I decided to tinker with a keyboard that was lying around the house.  This led to more music lessons, and at one point even meant participating in a recital with fellow (ten-year-old or younger) students.  After years at the piano keyboard, the notes and tones have become as familiar as the keys on a typewriter in my hands, which led to improvisation and playing by ear.  Without written notes as intermediaries, it’s a soul music that calls out emotions and a deep longing.

When an acquaintance was looking for someone to join her in recorder practice, it provided a perfect opportunity to learn another instrument.  A much lighter one!  After squeaking through weeks of getting notes right, it’s been really enjoyable and calming to take out the songbook and just play the simple soprano notes.  There’s still much to learn – counting properly is an essential consideration when playing with more than one musician.  This is not the time to march to one’s own drum!

Music will also be part of a campout with a bunch of kids this summer, and I’m already looking forward to campfire songfests.  My grandchildren learned this simple French lullaby recently, and it seems a perfect song to hopefully lull campers to sleep.  In the meantime, it seems to have lodged itself in my brain, so there’s nothing for it but to properly learn the French lyrics and get it right.

Here’s to bonhomie, and music through all our days!




A Breath of Fresh Air







Sometimes I think another word for Spring could be Hope.  After months of bare branches and dormant plants, new life awakes.  Life, just biding its time until the sun’s warmth stirs it up.

Spring stirs in our blood too, a distant remembering of youth and adventure.  A sense of potential in the warming days impels us to unfold ourselves, like the seedlings in the soil, and to go exploring the outdoors again.    Day stretches itself out languidly in both directions, and invites us to bask in its extended light.

When we were children, spring and summer on the farm invited new daring as our play moved outside.  We spent hours on a steel bar stretched across two trees, hanging there like monkeys, effortlessly pulling ourselves up on it, risking a fall by walking across it, sharing sisterly confidences.  I can still feel the rough surface of the steel bar on my hands.

The pond, fringed by bulrushes, had its own murky fascination, and later the wild berries along the fence lines could be plucked with stained fingers and savoured.  The hayloft in the barn, whether empty or piled high with hay or straw, invited all kinds of forts and feats.  We were warned often to watch out for the holes in the barn floor, but never actually forbidden from roaming around in it.

These days spring means that I lift my face to the lake breeze while tracking across the sand on the shore, take a walk in the woods before the mosquitoes stake their summer claims.   Trilliums bloom between last year’s fallen leaves.  Even before that, against protected southern walls, green spikes of garden daffodils tentatively reach out.  Like our toe in the bathwater, they cautiously test their environment.  Mother Nature can be deceptive, and days of warm weather entice blossoms sometimes, only to cut them short with frost.  Tonight, the snow is flying in large flakes after several days of spring teasing.

In the greenhouse seedlings hold promise, waiting to be presented like debutantes at a spring ball.  I am grateful to be the recipient of my gardener’s green thumb talent, and look forward to appreciating the beauty of a bouquet that is presented all season long.

i thank You God for most this amazing

i thank You God for most this amazing
day for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

. . .

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

ee cummings



“Ask the former generation

    and find out what their ancestors learned

  for we were born only yesterday

and know nothing,

    and our days on earth

are but a shadow.”  Job 8:8-9


When you look through the Bible for references to ancestors,  often the word is linked to the land that God has promised his people.  In Israel, tribal allotments were to stay in the tribe, boundary lines forever marked.  The psalmist rejoiced that these lines for him had fallen in pleasant places, that he had a delightful inheritance. (Psalm 16)

After Israel once more became a country in 1948, Jewish people from all over the world came home.  Two thousand years had elapsed, multiple generations had come and gone.  The term the Israelis used for those born in this new Israel was “sabra,” a reference to the prickly cactus that’s sweet inside.

I get that.  Sometimes I think my restlessness, that  feeling of not quite being comfortable in my skin, fits this prickly description.  In our case, we have had to set down roots in soil where our ancestors had never set foot, and it isn’t always a comfortable feeling.  We have been sometimes hard to assimilate, with our tough exterior.  Once you get past that, hopefully there is a sweetness.

I would never have met my husband if our families had stayed in Holland, though it is a small country.  His family came from Andijk in North Holland, and my family from the Achterhoek, opposite ends of the Netherlands.  In the old days, people usually didn’t travel far.  Any further apart and he would have been in the North Sea, and I would have been in Germany.

When I was an eight-month-old infant, my mother, perhaps because of homesickness, traveled with me back across the ocean in a freighter that had room for a few passengers.    There are photos of a beaming child in a stroller; I am oblivious to the vastness of the Atlantic ocean beyond the guard rail. It was a long and tiring journey, but she felt compelled to take her child to her family, and her childhood home.

Although I obviously have no conscious memory of this, I count it as a blessing to have been held by my grandmother and great-grandmother in Holland.  I like to think they whispered a prayer for all their descendants, the children they would never see grow up, far away in a foreign land.