Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Japanese Name

I spent some time recently with my granddaughters and their new Japanese student, Sumira.
The girls were practising Japanese 'letters' although Japanese writing looks more like art-strokes than that we would call 'letters'.

I asked Sumira how 'Julie' would be written in Japanese.   She wrote it out phonetically like this.

I learned that the Japanese have a very interesting, unique custom in how they choose/determine the written form of a given name at birth.  
Sumira explained that that the above phonetic writing of my name is not how I would write it if I was 'Japanese'.  Seeing my name written phonetically would tell the reader  that I was a foreigner. 
If I was born Japanese and my parents named me 'Julie', they would then choose from pages and pages of possibilities a Konji name.   If I understand it correctly -  it is like Julie having multiple ways of writing it each pronounced 'Julie' but each having a different meaning. 
Japanese parents with great care search out just the right Kongi name that will perfectly fit their child. 

I asked Sumira what my Konji name would be and she immediately showed me, on her iphone,  pages of Konji possibilities for 'Julie' and wanted me to choose one. I had no idea how to choose - they all looked complicated and meant nothing to me.  So I smiled and said "You choose one for me!"  
She thoughtfully searched the list going up and down.. stopping at one here and there, considering but then moving on.  Suddenly, she highlighted one, clicked on it and said confidently, "This one!" 
She showed me how to write it. 
 I asked her, "What does it mean?"
And she said, "Tree"  and "mountain".

I gasped...  She of course could not have known,  but those who know me well know that I have a deep love of trees! My son-in-law teases me that I take more photos of trees than anything else.
So it was very meaningful to me that Sumira, not knowing me at all, would choose for me the meaning of 'tree' and of course I live on a mountain... surrounded by mountains so that too was fitting.

One of my favourite scripture passages is the first Psalm where verse 3 says ..
 "He (she)  shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, 
That brings forth its fruit in its season, 
Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper."

Jeremiah 17:8  adds details to this picture comparing the one who loves God and His word to a tree.   
  For he (she)  shall be like a tree planted by the waters, 
Which spreads out its roots by the river, 
And will not fear when heat comes; 
But its leaf will be green, 
And will not be anxious in the year of drought, 
Nor will cease from yielding fruit. 

What a beautiful picture this is !

We are planted -                God planted us and we are meant to grow !  
We are beside the water -  we are planted beside the water - so we can always drink deeply of the 
                                          Water of  Life 
We bring forth fruit --------fruit of the Spirit in character , and fruit as in  adding to the kingdom harvest. 
Our leaf shall not wither----in Christ we thrive in all areas of our life - nothing about us, nothing in our life is                                            in vain or not useful in God's hand for good! 
Our leaf will be green ----- there is no detail of our life that God is not concerned about and providing for -                                             not  one 'leaf 'will lose it colour!  
Our roots are spread out --what security we have when our faith is rooted deeply - no matter what                                                          happens we cannot be 'uprooted'. We will STAND.
We do not fear even when heat comes -- we have our roots in the Water of Life...  The heat of circumstance                                            or sorrow or persecution holds no terror for us. 
We will not be anxious in times of drought -  we are not anxious no matter what happens around us, it is no                                              threat to us. 
We do not cease yielding fruit -  God's purposes in us and through us will not cease - in Him we continue to                                             grow and be blessed and be a blessing to those around us ! 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Update on my Sweet Peas

Earlier this year I wrote this post  on my planting of sweet pea seeds.  I promised to update when they bloomed, IF they bloomed.

A promise is a promise even if I keep it to my embarrassment!

Here is a photo of my sweet pea plants.  I envisioned the stick trellis my husband made for me to be hidden behind a profusion of leaves and blossoms begging to be picked into lovely bouquets.
Well, not quite!
 I kept it tucked up against my basket that overflowed its pot so that it could hide its spindly stems and sparse blossoms.
 I did enjoy my little hummingbird that found the few blossoms and drank their nectar.
 Hardly enough to satisfy -  offering at best only a few sips.

(hummingbird sitting behind the top lilac sweet pea) 

I was so disappointed.  I had watched over the little seedlings with care and as they grew watered and fertilized faithfully, but I finally had to admit that I had failed.

I went on line and typed in 'scraggly sweet peas' and I learned what my problem was and  then realized that even in my failure I could find a lesson.

I learned that sweet peas are not a plant that should be 'coddled'.  When the first sprouts begin to grow they must be pinched off to allow the secondary shoots to be dominate - they are the ones that will grow to produce the abundant flowers I was so hoping to enjoy.
I have never been a ruthless gardener - I tend to be a coddler.  I can never quite make myself follow the example of the expert gardeners who live on my street.  The minute a plant isn't thriving they dig it out, they cut back the good ones, they pinch back growth, prune and divide - and of course their gardens are lush and colourful.

My sweet pea lesson made me think of the passage  where Jesus speaks of the Father as being the Gardener who prunes the good fruit bearing branches so that they will bear more fruit.
I thought about how often we complain that God is not a 'coddler' gardener.  We don't understand when his pruning sheers cut into our life.   We cry and ask why.

But do we consider that God is no more satisfied with a scraggly plant than we are?   Is He sometimes 'ruthless' in bringing those things into our life that will cause us to thrive and overflow with blossoms or fruit?   Does He look for us to be the kind of plants that invite people to pick a bouquet and enjoy our fragrance -  or taste of the fruit of our love and compassion for them?

Next year I'm going to practice being ruthless .... and I have dared to ask God to be ruthless with me.  I don't want to be a 'scraggly plant' - I want to be one that covers the trellis God has built for me to climb on.

"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away and every branch that bears fruit He prunes that it may bear more fruit"   John 15:2

Friday, August 1, 2014

Photos and Thoughts Inspired by our Vacation

    We just came home from a family vacation in Whistler.  We had a wonderful time and there were things we experienced that led to moments of inspiration.
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     Unknown to us we 'happened' to arrive at Whistler on the day the first Ironman Triathlon was held in Whistler.  The last few miles into Whistler forced us to just slow down and enjoy being part of the event.
The Ironman Triathlon is the world's most gruelling race consisting of a 2 1/2 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, then concluding with a 26 mile run --  the allotted time is 17 hours - the winner completed it in 8  hours and 16 minutes.

At first we came upon a few riders, then more and more.




I was impressed by the number of people who  lined the roads to cheer on the bikers as they passed. 





Finally, we were able to access our townhouse (although later it was impossible to get  back out to main roads - they were closed to accommodate the bikers) 

After the bike ride of 112 miles was complete the athletes began their 26 mile run, which took them right past our townhouse, so we watched from the patio......



front door .....  
or 'ran with them' --   that is my husband in the black pants who started jogging beside one runner who  suggested he change places and finish the race for him. 


What impressed me more than the athletes themselves,  was the people who cheered them on.  
Even inside our townhouse we could hear the shouts of encouragement to the athletes as they passed.  These encouragers all along the route sat/stood for hours spurring the runners on to the finish.  

I thought about how we are called to that for each other in the 'race' of life running for the goal  - to cross the finish line to win the 'crown of eternal life'.   How encouraging it would be to have those around us committed to spurring us on, calling out words of praise and expressing confidence in our ability to finish... holding out 'bottles of water' to refresh us. 
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We also witnessed another interesting 'race' of different kind.   The race of the tiny toads from lake to forest where they will grow up. 



The tiny toads (smaller than a dime) having developed from tadpoles come out of the water and gather in piles along the lake shore.  About 25,000 will complete the migration race. 



A man-made barrier to protect them has been laid all along the lake shore to encourage the baby toads along a safe path from lake shore to the forest some distance away. 
A few  toads manage to escape and forge out on their own as this little guy did.  I  felt bad for him.  He had a hard road a head of him - with little chance of surviving or reaching his destination. 



How like us!    God has put up barriers - not to restrict us , but rather to make our journey safe. Yet, like the little toad we wiggle our way through the barrier and try to make our own way - and find that in the end it is to our own hurt and loss. 

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On our way home from Whistler we stopped at Squamish (one hour from Whistler)  to experience the new Sea to Sky gondola that takes you up to the top of The Chief mountain.  It is a 10 minute ride. 


At the top, is a cafe/shop/sitting areas and viewing platforms to take in the 360 degree views! 



Connecting the two viewing platforms is a swinging bridge. (the two blonde girls on the bridge are my grandgirls) 




While we were on top we experienced another 'first'.   The first wedding on top of The Chief. 

The 'aisle' for the bride was the swinging bridge and all traffic was halted so she crossed it alone to meet her groom waiting at the 'alter' with family and friends. 



As one who avoids swinging bridges -  I watched the bride crossing the swinging bridge, high above the ground -- and I thought about how often in life  we have to take 'risks' - letting go ... starting over .... making life changing decisions or choices. 
How much we value our 'goal' will determine how great a risk we are willing to take to get there.  

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God has created us emotional beings - we desire to love and be loved, to feel joy and fulfilment. 
 We are also created with a capacity and need to be WOWED -- to feel 'awe' because feeling 'awe' is meant to draw our thoughts to God. 
How often vacations are planned around the desire to enjoy God's creation. 
Here are a few photos I took that filled me with awe for the beauty God used to create His world to reflect the beauty of His character! 
















In spite of all we saw and experienced, the greatest gift God has given me is my family.  To share time and togetherness is what I treasure most.


Thank you, Father !!   
  "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." 
James 1:17 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Face to Face With Jesus


(last night's glorious sunset)

    While I read a lot of books, I recommend comparatively few... but I recently read a book that I have put on my  'must read' short list.
    The book is called Face to Face With Jesus - by Samaa Habib with Brodie Thorne.
It is a the true story of Samaa Habib, the tenth and youngest child of a strict Muslim family in the Middle East. The story is captivating, inspiring, and makes you feel like you are reading a modern rendition of the book of Acts.
     The first chapter of the book tells of the horrific bombing of the church Samaa attended. Four bombs were planted by terrorists, Samaa standing right beside one of the bombs as it went off.  She was 'killed'.   You are left 'hanging' there as the story takes you back to the beginning of Samaa's life and then leads you back to the time of the church bombing.

     I hate to be a book spoiler so I will say no more, but if you want a good, true-life-experience, inspirational, can't put the book down,  kind of read I encourage you to read this book !

     If you aren't a reader, don't have time to read,  but you have an hour to spare to listen to her audio testimony, you can find a link here.