“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.




Sun and Cloud


“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” 
  Westminster Catechism

Southern Ontario, because of its proximity to the Great Lakes, often experiences overcast skies, sometimes for days on end.  Many times the early morning’s sunshine lasts only for a few hours before the cloud cover moves in.    This January particularly was stingy with the sun rays, with the only benefit being  (possibly) the milder weather.

The grayness of winter seems to breed discontent along with various colds and flu bugs.   When unsettling headlines make me want to avoid the news, when people try to whip up hatred politically, when bigots intentionally fuel the fires of discord, it certainly can seem that my best option is to take my prickly feelings into hibernation.

Victoria, Watercolor, Pixabay

I am called to be in the world, but not of the world.  Sometimes that seems an impossibility, because there are so many beguiling voices in technology, science, art, world view, the culture itself.

When we read the history of the nations of Israel and Judah prior to the Babylonian exile, they so often incorporated the pagan customs of the nations around them.  They forgot the God who had freed them from slavery and sustained them in a desolate wilderness, who had given them guidelines so that they could prosper in the land he gave them.  As a result, they became slaves all over again, a vassal state or dependent on precarious alliances.  Religion became an incessant need to appease wood and stone idols with imagined powers.

We think we would never be like those primitive peoples, but idolatry hasn’t conveniently gone away.   One way to identify it in our lives is to understand that whatever we put ahead of God, good and pleasurable as it seems,  is never enough.  There’s never enough money for security, never enough drugs or alcohol or sex, never enough popularity, never enough sacrifice or “religion.”  If I center my life on myself, I will never be enough.

We look for meaning and value in them, but ultimately the priority we give to  idols enslaves and desensitizes us, and we can become trapped in an addictive downward spiral.  They steal our lives with their craving, and we are eventually left with emptiness, disillusionment and regret.

When we realize it is God who gives us all we need in His love and providence, we can direct our worship truly to this amazing Creator God.   The breath of God awakens us,  our senses come fully alive to enjoy all good things in their proper place.    Our lives are lit up through the beautiful sunshine of His abundant goodness and grace.

Even in winter.