Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Certainties

While one chuckles at this sign, taxes are not necessarily funny. One might actually have an opposite feeling towards them.  Not only are they certain, they are yearly!

However, the first one brings with it opportunity. How so? Well, it gives you the opportunity to come alongside those who are mourning the loss of a loved one.

I think most people have experienced the loss of a loved one, or, at the very least, have come alongside someone who is mourning the loss of a loved one.

Death is experienced differently in different cultures. My reference for death, dying and funerals has mostly been in Canada.  I have been part of the vigil at the hospital watching a family member as they slowly pass on.  I have been a part of the funeral planning, the grieving, the hurting, the tears and all that death entails.

I have also gone to funerals where I have gone to offer support to a friend who has lost a loved one.  Come along side to share the burden of their grief.

What I have never stopped to appreciate is the way we do all this.  The unhurriedness of the process.  The time allowed to make decisions.  The simple fact of how much time we have to get it all done.

Since we have been here in GDL we have also had the opportunity to come alongside friends who have lost a parent, a grandparent, a spouse, a sibling, etc.

The process is so very different.  For example, last night at 10 p.m Ernie got a text informing him of the death of a friend's (from the gym) mother.  The implication is that you can (should) head over to the funeral home for the 'velorio' (wake).  Friends and family come together to sit with the family and grieve all night (12-24 hours).  Then today at noon was the mass for the funeral.

Everything happens quickly.  From the time you are told of the death within 12-24 hours they are buried.  There is no time to prepare.

Our funerals are a complete service, dedicated to the loved one, with music, scripture, eulogies, etc  all primarily about the loved one.  Often an encouraging message is included, for the family and friends, and generally one of comfort.

Not so within the Catholic church.  It is a mass.  I have been to funeral masses where the person was barely mentioned. I have also been to funeral masses where they were more dedicated to the deceased but the 'norms' or standard components of a mass were still held to.

But, while it is very different and hard to handle the speed with which it all happens, what we have always been able to do is come alongside those who are hurting and be an encouragement. Trying to point them to Christ and the comfort available in Him.


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Daily Living

Last week I told you about my friend who enjoys life to the fullest.  Here we are pictured at her surprise Birthday Party, that her family threw for her.

In all honesty, this is our table, plus Cristy and her husband.  We were the fun table...her crazy friends.  The four ladies sitting (on the right) are lifetime friends of hers.  Never met a more enthusiastic group of ladies.  They love life.  They were a joy.

It seems God keeps placing older ladies in my life to be examples to me.

So I try to give 100% to the things I do.  A place that I get to experience feeling challenged is at the gym.  I love the gym. I have never before in my life had a gym membership. My mother, on the other hand, has had one for years! Another older lady who is a great example to me, on several fronts.

I am glad however that I got to experience the whole gym thing exactly where I am.  The gym where we attend it apparently a bit of a novelty.  Even here in GDL it has a reputation of being a social club.  The friendships are plentiful and rich.  We socialize together, we have groups, we greet, even being all sweaty.  They are our family.  That said...some of us also take working out seriously.  Some classes I excel in and others I work hard in! (I mean to do it well)
Danzika
Above is a picture of my favourite class, where I have to work really hard.  This is a class where we do dance/aerobic/low impact workouts.  My problem here is coordination - two left feet.  But it is fun, we are great friends, and we laugh at ourselves and enjoy the best teacher.  I have improved so very much but he makes sure we feel challenged.

Then ...
This is my strong suit.  What I lack in coordination for dance, I make up for in strength.  Same teacher, many of the same ladies, but here they struggle more than I do.  Latin's dance well, Canadian's are strong?! After a morning of Nelson, we are done in! But we love it. We love suffering together.

On another note.... we enjoyed a little cultural experience this weekend.  GDL is hosting a Cultural Festival and so we headed out to see "Globos de Francia" (Balloons of France).  It was incredible to watch, along with 1000's of Tapatios (people from GDL). 


Life is to be enjoyed and lived to the fullest.  To be challenged. To grow. To Laugh. To Cry. To Celebrate. God gives us days where we feel we are walking 'though the valley of death' and others where we experience pure joy. We need both.

I thank my God for giving me people who are a good example of doing both.  Celebrating life and walking through pain. God is Good...always.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Enjoying Life

Do you ever think about getting older? Or aging?  I remember when I was a teen I thought 50 was 'OLD'! But now that I am over 50 I just happen to think 50 is young.

But one thing is for sure...we are all getting older.  Because if you are not getting older, you are dead! So my attitude is, celebrate every birthday!

I have heard it said that 'aging isn't for the faint of heart'.  I know it isn't always easy.  First you need glasses, then you need a hearing aid, the knees don't like the stairs, never mind watching the diet, due to cholesterol or blood sugar, etc.  Those things are hard.  But I also believe the other thing they say... "age is all about attitude".

I have met people who are such an example to me.  I have met people who are 'young' by the number of candles but are old in life.  I have met others who are 'old' by the candles, but young in life.  I have a friend here in GDL who is just such an inspiration.  She is one of my neighbours, and someone of whom I can honestly say, that when I get old I wanna be just like her!


Today she turned 70 years young.  I say that because she is the most youthful lady I know.  She enjoys life to the fullest.  She laughs, she smiles, and she acts crazy.  She is the life of the party.  Just prior to her birthday she went and got a small tattoo of a butterfly on her shoulder.  She proudly showed it off and told all of us that we could only get one when we turned 70! I love it! What an attitude.

But what makes one person seemingly ageless and another old? When I asked her about it, she said it all in your attitude.  Yeah, she remembers when she could do things that she can't now, but who wants to be cranky.  Look for the sunshine, she says.

I know that this picture seems extreme.  The bodybuilder vs. the little old lady.  BOTH are 80 years old! But I know the bodybuilder women is the real deal.  She inspires me because she took on life after 50, upon the death of a loved one.  She exudes joy when you watch an interview with her.

I am not denying that life is hard, that aging is tough.  I feel a little of my age every time I hang out with my sons, and their boundless energy.  But I want to be like my neighbour lady.  I want to be a joy, I want to be sunshine.  I always say I am a realist, so as not to say pessimist, but that doesn't excuse me.  I need to see the rainbows of promise in life, and celebrate the life God has given me.

I have the best reason ever, to do that!  Jesus lives in me.  He loves me unconditionally.  His grace knows no end.  He forgives me.  He came that I might have life, and life abundantly.

Then, as I start to count my blessings...well, they are many.

How about you? What do people see when they see you? Are they drawn to you, like everybody is to my friend.  I want to live an ageless life, filled with joy unending.  Attitude is a choice.  Thanks to my friend for being an example of 70 years of celebrating life.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Earthquakes....

(Hands in the air is a call for silence...)
Words can not describe the situation in Mexico this month! Two earthquakes, within 10 days, at a 7.1, that brought down buildings, and buried people.  It has been horrific for so very many people.

Listening to the news has been disheartening.  One of the buildings that collapsed was a school - elementary and Jr. High.  Teachers died and children died.  Watching the rescue of children was just beyond words.  I can not even imagine being one of the parents.

It has been reported that there have been 326 deaths between all the affected areas (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Puebla, Morelia, and Mexico City).  However, they are still digging through the ruins.

So, of course a plea was sent out through every imaginable venue: FaceBook, Instagram, Newspapers, Radio, Television, and WhatsApp.  What to give, how, and where.  There were locations put up all over Guadalajara (and likely in other cities and states as well) for people to donate food and clothing to those who had lost everything.

Then came the outcry of the people.  The government was not stepping in to give aid.  The political parties were grabbing the stuff being donated and putting their party stickers on it.  They were accused of stopping the caravans of aid and directing them to their political party warehouses to use later in the run for office (i.e. to buy votes). 2018 is election year here.

It is so hard to know how to help.  We feel like our hands are tied.  We desire to help but we want to help the actual people who are in need.  The corruption is hard to deal with.  You want to trust that the donations are getting to all those hurting people but it looks like you just can't be certain.

The Mexican people are up in arms with their corrupt government leaders.  Their is a cry of outrage. Their own people are hurting, suffering and all they can think about is how this can be used to their advantage.

Pray for Christ followers in Mexico, that we will be an example of Christ's love, goodness, and demonstrate values and attitudes reflective of His kingdom. Our world so badly needs a demonstration of integrity, love, compassion, and self-less honesty!

NEWS:
http://www.infobae.com/america/mexico/2017/09/24/terremoto-en-mexico-subio-a-318-el-numero-de-fallecidos/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEZy-Cl_v4Y  VIDEO OF RESCUE AT SCHOOL


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Life.... and death....

   
     This weekend we said good bye to a dear friend from the fitness gym. In our minds he was healthy, strong, young, and certainly not the one we expected to go. They were to leave for Europe, on holidays, instead, less than 24 hrs before boarding the plane, my good friend had a series of heart attacks, and passed away.

     There is ONE sure thing - we are ALL going to die one day - unless the Lord comes back first. We don't know whether we will die young, or old, of illness, or accident, will have time to say goodbye, or be ushered into eternity in the blink of an eye.
     So, if the when and how is unpredictable, but the fact that it will happen is, what are we doing to prepare for it? Too many of us go thru life thinking we have more time, thinking it won't happen to us (at least not yet), and we 'walk thru that door' unprepared.

     Based on my understanding of scripture, God created humans with freewill. In fact, we get to choose to have a relationship with Him, or not. We get to choose whether we want to spend eternity with Him, or not. BUT, that choice has to be made this side of the grave - and God respects that choice, even though He longs to have us live in fellowship with Him.
   

      The Bible starts in paradise (Genesis 1) and ends in paradise (Revelation). Everything in-between narrates the story of God's amazing efforts and plan to restore that which was lost (when humanity chose to exercise its freewill and fall into sin). We have been given a way to restore the relationship. We can accept God's free gift of salvation, and then embark on a journey with Him, that culminates with our passage thru the gates of death into eternal life. BUT, it's not automatic, it won't happen against your will. YOU have to appropriate it, embrace it, pursue that relationship of dependence and obedience with God - while you're still 'here'. Make plans, but make sure your plans include God, and His plan for your life. Then leaving this world will mean being ushered into something incredibly better, being in God's presence for the rest of eternity! 

      So, what are you doing TODAY? What are you leaving for tomorrow, that you should be doing today? Not saying the words that need to be said... "I love you, thanks, you mean the world to me, thanks for walking with me, I appreciate you..."? Are you putting off going for lunch with someone? Have you told your loved ones, recently, that you love them? Have you tried to fix that broken relationship? Have you forgiven, or do you live with bitterness? 

      I remember my last conversation with my friend on Friday. Neither of us thought it would be the last time. What got left unsaid? How about the people in YOUR circle? Have you left things unsaid or undone, thinking you always have tomorrow? 

     Make sure to make each day count, and make sure that you also prepare for eternity. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Piñata!


     This is an 'old style' piñata, common to Mexico. I say 'old style' because action figures, and the like, are now the rage. Anyway, you will notice that this piñata has 7 points (picos). Some say it was meant to represent the 'Seven Cardinal Sins', a list of 'serious sins' within the Catholic tradition. In the middle of the piñata is a clay pot filled with candy. When you break off the 7 points, and break the piñata, you are showered with gifts (candy). The symbolism should be obvious - fight against the 7 cardinal sins and you will be rewarded!
     In my own Evangelical Mennonite upbringing I was taught that it was a sin to 1) drink, 2) dance, 3) smoke, and 4) go to the movies. I'm sure there were more on the list, but these were the obvious 'external/visible' ones.
      There is a problem with both perspectives (Catholic and Mennonite). There are a number of 'lists' in scripture (Proverbs 10:16-19, Galatians 5:19-21 are good examples) and they are not the same. They are examples of sin, and not meant to be an exhaustive list. Furthermore, a careful study of scripture suggests that sins of the heart (greed, envy, hate, anger, selfishness, pride, etc.) rank prominently on most lists. The 2 greatest commandments are: 1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and 2) love your neighbour as yourself. Avoiding the '7 Cardinal Sins', but living like you want in the meantime, isn't what God has in mind. Avoiding externals (drinking, dancing, smoking), without changing one's heart, attitudes and values, isn't God's idea of righteousness either!
     Finally, although the consequences of one sin (i.e. murder) can be significantly greater than another (i.e. lying), God doesn't seem to give us a 'ladder' or hierarchy to be able to say that one sin is worse than another - sin is sin in God's eyes. A white lie is still a lie! What we should be striving for is a Holy Spirit initiated change in our hearts - our attitudes and values, so that we are ever more Christlike in all we do, say and think. Going to Mass, or going to a church service, once a week, doesn't necessarily 'fix it' or produce the desired change. Confessing and then doing it all over again isn't God's plan. It seems that relationship, with God, and our neighbour, is of utmost importance. Allowing Christ to control, and change, our lives, via the Holy Spirit, makes having healthy relationships possible - on all levels. Although we might not be able to call it 'heaven on earth', it's certainly headed in the right direction!

                            

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Manzanillo

Each year we, as a team, get together for a retreat, with the main objective being getting some much needed R & R.

Since the ocean is so very close to us, we often look for an affordable place seaside.  This year we headed to Manzanillo, a short 4 hours drive from Guadalajara.

Aside from R & R we also take time for some Spiritual renewal.  Every other year we bring someone from Canada to speak to us.  This was not the year for that but to do something ourselves.  We did something we have never done before... We invited a national to speak to us.  Walter and Susie Rempening joined us from our Cuauhtemoc church.

We so very much appreciated his ministry to us this weekend.  He spoke to us from the Book of Ruth.  His theme being the "Frustrations of Life".  He talked about bitterness, such as Naomi allowed to take root, and how, in chapter 4, joy had returned.  We were challenged to not allow bitterness take root in our lives and ministries.

Aside from rich times of fellowship in the Word we also enjoyed times of playing together. The weather cooperated (meaning it wasn't rainy as was forecasted) so we could make use of the pool and ocean.  We enjoyed good meals together, that we all took turns in preparing. Our only complaint was that it was extremely humid and muggy {We all might be just a little spoiled with the perfect climate of GDL}.
Wiebe boys enjoying the pool

Connie and Tara enjoying a relaxing massage