14

Epilogue: REFLECTIONS


It has become crystal clear to me as I have spent so much time with Lillian that she is the carrier of a wealth of wisdom. Some of that is from her years of experience. More, I believe, comes from her willingness to let God direct her life. Lillian has never been one to offer advice, so these words of wisdom were hard come by. They have been gleaned from tapes answering specific questions I asked, from the numerous letters we exchanged, and from the many conversations we shared during the past two years.

PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE

Lillian's world view is that God is in charge and that He, not world governments, will determine the earth's destiny. She believes also that He expects us to help preserve what is worthwhile in our culture and to also, by being salt and light, turn people's hearts toward Him by demonstrating better ways of living. She adds quite emphatically though, that she is far from a perfect Christian and that there are still times when she has doubts, still times when she's selfish; she is still very human.

She has amplified this philosophy in a lesson she gave several years ago at a Ladies' Retreat in Alberta:


Horrors in our world such as the civil wars in Bosnia and Somalia sometimes distress her to the point of asking herself, "How can God look and see those things continue where innocent people suffer so much?" But she remembers that Malachi said, "We weary the Lord when we ask `Where is the God of justice?'" and she reminds herself that she is only human and can never fully understand God's ways. She knows that God is the God of justice and that in the end, his ways are always right. Her prayer is, "I believe. Help thou my unbelief."

She believes that loving God and her fellow-man is uppermost: "Life is what we make it. Certainly it is influenced by ancestry and environment, but I believe that once we're grown up we can't blame our weaknesses on others. We must take responsibility for ourselves and what we do. It is our own attitude that determines whether life is good or not."

SPIRITUAL GROWTH


Lillian's opinions and attitudes concerning faith and the real meaning of being a Christian have predictably, changed over the years. From her earliest recollections, she knew that God existed, that He was important in her life and that she wanted to please Him. She also wanted to know more about Him which is why she bought the little Bible when she was twelve. She liked to go to church but isn't sure why. She knows her mother was a Godly woman but doesn't remember her ever telling her a Bible story.

During the year she spent in North Dakota, she regularly attended the Lutheran church - alone. When the family moved to Radville the next year, there was no Lutheran church there, so she began regularly attending what would later become the United Church - again alone. Her faith has been a very personal one all of her life.

When she was first baptized, her only understanding was that if she wanted to be saved and go to heaven she had to obey God. After her baptism, she immersed herself in reading books, attending all church services as well as any gospel meetings she could get to. She says, "I became well grounded in the scriptures and in the restoration hermeneutic - approved apostolic example, direct command to the church, necessary inference and the silence of the scriptures. The Bible was the authority; it was God's word." Following the scriptural patterns was, and still is, very important to her.

Equally important was moral integrity. Virtues such as honesty, loyalty, responsibility, clean speech, sexual purity and faithfulness in marriage came to her from her mother and in her new life as a child of God, her commitment to these Biblical values only increased. "But", she says, "somehow I didn't realize that Christianity should change me. I was basically the same selfish person I had been before."

Then, as a young adult at summer Bible schools, she was introduced to the significance of love in the life of the Christian - that God loves us and expects us to love one another. Col.3:12 - " clothe yourselves with compassion, humility, gentleness and patience . . . And over all these virtues put on love . . ." now had real significance for her! She wholeheartedly grasped this new understanding; her whole mind set changed, from rule keeping to the beauty of loving relationships both with God and with one another.

In spite of all of this study and enlightenment there have been times of doubt and fear in her life. She worked her way through her earliest doubts about the possibility that the Bible was not God's word by reading and studying Christian evidences. Over time she came to understand that doubts come to everyone. She is no longer distressed when they appear; confronting them head on rather than denying them. She says, "Even today I sometimes wonder why God has allowed the senseless slaughter of innocents in Rwanda or the tragedies in the former Yugoslavia. When I don't know the answers I think of Deut. 29:29, 'The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.'"

Although this faithful young woman read her Bible regularly and made obedience a high priority she continued to experience feelings of sadness, even loss. God was all-important to her, but her knowledge of Him was so puny. And then one day she suddenly gained another new insight! God was not just a distant Creator/Saviour; she could know him personally through Jesus! John 14: 9,10 leaped off the page at her, "How can you say, 'Show us the Father?' Don't you believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me? . . . It is the Father living in me, who is doing His work." She says, "That I could know God more personally by reading of Christ's life and teachings was a revelation and insight very precious to me."

In later years, as she grew and matured, she became more acutely aware of God's grace, his gift of love. The realization that we are saved by grace and not by works; that we do the works because we're saved, not in order to be saved, was both exciting and liberating for her.

And again later, within the past couple of years in fact, she has come to recognize, in addition to everything else, the wonderful blessing of Christ, our Saviour, sitting at the right hand of Jehovah God, interceding on our behalf. The wonder of Christianity is that we never understand it all, that there is always something new to discover in God's Word, and in our relationship with him. She says, "Because the Christian life is a lifelong process of learning and growing, and because Christians are at different stages in that growing, I think we should be tolerant and understanding of others who may not always think exactly as we do. I think we should be very careful about labelling fellow Christians with such terms as hypocrite, ignorant, biased, or even liberal or conservative if we are considering those terms in a derogatory sense. May God help us to keep on learning His Will."


SOURCE OF STRENGTH

One of Lillian's major sources of strength throughout her life has been Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him , who have been called according to his purpose." She cherishes several examples of the truth of this promise in her own life over the years. The earliest incident was after the end of her year in North Dakota when she was thirteen. She was bitterly disappointed that she wasn't allowed to go back to her aunt's for Grade Eight.

She loved her family, but she also loved the greater opportunities to learn at the school in Velva. She could have finished her schooling, gone to teachers' college and then taught down there. It certainly sounded like a good idea to her, if not to her mother! And of course her life would have been totally different had she gotten her desire at that time. Because she moved to Radville rather than Velva, she came in contact with H.A. Rogers and through him was baptized into Jesus Christ, the one who has directed her life ever since.

Another disappointment that God turned around for her was in 1939, when she had decided to leave Robsart and move to some place where there was a church. She applied to both Oungre and Radville but preferred Radville because she had gone to high school and summer Bible schools there. You'll remember that she was disappointed when she heard from Radville after she'd accepted Oungre and was mightily tempted to change her decision. But again God worked things out for her greater good. She realized later that if she had gone to Radville she probably would have been content to stay there, not bothering to complete her university degree and be ready and qualified to teach high school when RCC opened.

A third incident was after the seventh summer Bible school when she received that letter suggesting somebody else should look after the finances. She was deeply wounded that anybody would question her honesty. She was so hurt she couldn't even talk to anyone about it; she just quietly resigned, withdrew and turned her attention to summer university classes. Once again God had taken her disappointment and guided her into more preparation for the work He had for her to do.

Probably the most painful of all of these disappointments was her decision not to marry. During her early teaching years there was someone she cared for very deeply, but she knew it could not work out. Although she was pretty grimly unhappy about it, she determined that this personal sadness would not keep her life from being good. Even though she believed she could have had a good life in marriage, she decided she would be content as a single woman, and eventually that contentment came. It has always been her personal philosophy that it is our own attitude that determines whether or not we will be happy and contented.

It became crystal clear to her, as the years passed, that the time and energy she needed to fulfill her commitment to Radville and Western Christian College was far greater than she could have given as a married woman. Once again God had given her more and used her more than would have been possible had she gotten what she thought she wanted.

Lillian attributes her faithfulness throughout the nearly seventy years of her walk with God primarily to two things - her daily quiet time with God, reading and meditating on and praying over His Word, and also with the importance to her of communing with Him each Sunday over the bread and wine, symbols of Jesus' saving sacrifice. She has missed this appointment only twice, in spite of the fact that most of one year at Robsart she broke bread alone.

SUCCESS

What is success? It is generally defined as having a goal and achieving it. Lillian, however, believes that working at that goal brings success, whether or not there has been a hundred percent achievement. When she worked with students in school who had great academic difficulty, perfection was usually an unrealistic goal. Often, though, both she and the student had great feelings of success and achievement with a grade of fifty percent because both had done their best.

In discussing her own success, she believes that, on the most fundamental level, success is growth and in that respect she recognizes that she has achieved some success. Although she can't fully evaluate the extent of her own growth, she doesn't think she has arrived. The anticipation of continued growth pleases her. She can, though, as she looks back over the past eighty-four years, see areas of her life in which she has grown:

MISSION

All that Lillian ever wanted to do was teach. She first became interested because she admired her teachers who opened up a whole new world for her. She perceived it as a special task to "open the books of knowledge to an inquiring mind." There is nothing that brought her greater pleasure than to make people see the beauties of poetry and laughter, and to experience the excitement of adventure stories, the sadness of tragedies and the visions of geography.

But it wasn't until after RCC came into existence that she began to think of her teaching as a mission. Her goal even while teaching in public schools was to make good and happy citizens, so she certainly realized that she didn't have to be teaching in a Christian school in order to do good. She had always believed in the importance of teaching responsibility, and so in that sense she recognized the mission of what she did. However, when she moved into life at RCC, she realized not only that she had a very special mission from God but that God had been preparing her for that purpose throughout all of her life. The thought that this was "My Task" gave her a wonderful sense of satisfaction, contentment and happiness. She subscribes to Cardinal Newman's view of mission, "God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work for me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission."

SIN

Lillian believes strongly that the reason we do or don't do the things we ought is because we don't control our thoughts and our will, that behind every action or inaction is a thought. Because sin is a reality in all of our lives we sometimes don't pay enough attention to the its awfulness; it is corroding and destroying and must be confronted. Sometimes it is not possible for us to get rid of the sin in our lives without God's grace to enable us to grow past it. She urges all parents and educators to consider the many ways to develop self-control and self-discipline in the lives of children.

Now, as a senior, she recognizes how imperative that need is, and she wonders if she did enough to try and develop self-control in her students. Because they were away from their parents, she felt an extra burden to do such things as make sure they completed their homework. Now she wonders if she didn't allow them to realize what would happen if they didn't do it. (except get in trouble with her!)
Lillian's conscience has always been tender about leaving undone things she should have done, particularly pertaining to evangelism and talking to people about her faith. Because she knows she is better at writing than face to face dialogues, she has accepted Bible correspondence course work as her way of doing something to spread the message of God's love. She also accepts that we all have different talents and missions and that none of us can do everything well. She is secure in the knowledge that Jesus understands her, intercedes for her and covers her with his grace.

Young people are sometimes mistaken in thinking that because older people have a quieter life there is no sin in their lives. While it's true that they may not struggle with the same temptations they did when they were young, the temptations have not disappeared, just changed. Older people may be more challenged by such things as neglecting their spiritual life, harbouring bitterness, sometimes gossip, perhaps not giving in the same spirit they once did and a myriad of other things. Life is a never ending struggle.

PRAYER

Prayer has always been an important part of Lillian's life. When she was a very little girl she said her prayers in Norwegian, the only language God spoke, so she thought. Later, when she began praying in English, she recited Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep and The Lord's Prayer. She never thought of wording a personal prayer until after she became a Christian. Actually, that's not quite accurate. She prayed a very personal prayer when she was only twelve years old, promising God she would read her Bible every day until she was twenty.

When she was fifteen and a half she was baptized into Christ and started praying daily. Because of her still immature understanding about God's grace, she didn't dare go to bed at night without asking God to forgive her. Her prayers were primarily self-centred ones - for forgiveness, as well as for her own wants and desires. But even these selfish prayers were good for her; they helped her over difficult and sad times - times when she knew she'd made mistakes and wondered how she'd get over them and times when she had to make crucial decisions. She was considerably older before she was mature enough to spend much time praying for others.

Her prayer life has changed since she's been retired. Much of this, of course, is also a result of her growth over the years; everything didn't just automatically shift the day she retired. Her quiet time with God has moved from evening to morning and she finds that much more beneficial. It is a more leisurely exercise; she reads longer and then spends more time in prayer.

She has a specific routine she follows. First, she gives thanks for her blessings, even if she's had a poor night's sleep and doesn't feel very well. By the time she's itemized all of her blessings she can't help but feel much better. Because her life is more restricted she prays for fewer things for herself, and she moves more quickly into asking blessings for individuals - her sisters, Eleanora and Clarice, her fellow senior sisters in the Lord, people in poor health, or those having family or financial problems.

When it comes to problem solving, she believes that we shouldn't pray for something and then just sit back and expect God to put it in our hands. He has given us intelligence, and when we ask for something we should rather, expect Him to help us through that intelligence. She's very aware that on many occasions, after praying for such help, an idea has popped into her head about how to solve her problem. She firmly believes that God and His Holy Spirit gave her that answer. He has promised to never leave or forsake us.

DEATH

Lillian's understanding of death and her way of coping with it modified over the years, particularly as loved ones died. She was only nine when her Father died. She was very sad, but as you'll remember, it wasn't appropriate to grieve openly. She missed him, but again, it wasn't something to talk about. After she became a Christian and understood that baptism by immersion was necessary, she went through a period of time when she was very anxious about her Father's state in death. She knew that he was a believer (she could remember him singing When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder), but she was also very aware that he had not been immersed. Eventually, she came to terms with it and left it in God's hands. "God is a just God, whose thoughts are far above mine."

When she was seventeen years old, her baby brother died when he was only seventeen days old. This was a terrible shock to her and perhaps the beginning of her recognition that death comes to everyone and only God knows the time and circumstance of our departure.

~


It was a sad day indeed for Lillian when Signe Jelsing MacLeod died in 1963. She had been one of her dearest and closest friends from her youth. Signe had been her confidante, the friend who knew her better than anyone else. She had been bridesmaid at Signe's wedding. They had taught together, dreamed together, laughed together, planned and even grumbled together.

When Signe was teaching in Ceylon, they were able to keep in close touch, but then she and her family moved to Saskatoon and they didn't see each other as often. In addition, there had been a strain in their relationship, since Cecil's resignation from Western, that brought a deep sadness to Lillian's heart. So, when she heard that Signe had terminal cancer it was a profound shock to her.

She desperately wanted to go to Saskatoon to see her, but there were no substitutes for her classes and she struggled with her incessant feelings of responsibility to her students. She heard that Signe was in the hospital and not expected to live long, so she and Clarice decided to go on the weekend. Sadly, when they arrived in Saskatoon they discovered that she had died just hours before they got there.

She has, of course, always regretted not taking the time earlier. She felt cheated that they didn't get to spend any time together. She grieved for her for a very long time, but eventually the memories of the good times became stronger than the pain of losing her. Signe had always been a major influence in Lillian's life, and the faith and serenity with which she met her own dying made a permanent impression on Lillian's own thinking about death and dying.

~

She believes that the death of her mother on August 14, 1977 made the greatest impact on her life. Hulda had lived with Lillian since Eddy's death. She was an amazingly active ninety four. Her mind was clear and lively, as were her fingers. She was limited physically, but determined to do as much as she could. After the shock and grief of losing Eddy eased, she began to enjoy life at Western, going to basketball games, Lectureship and other events with Lillian. She was still pretty independent and enjoyed making her own bed and doing dishes, reading books and doing handwork.

During the summer holidays Hulda and Lillian often went back to Lake Alma, and one Sunday, they decided to go from there to Bowbells, North Dakota to visit some relatives. They attended the morning service at the Estevan church and then headed for Bowbells. About fifteen miles from their destination, Hulda needed a bathroom. Lillian noticed a gas station on the left, and after checking down the road, started her turn. Suddenly a car appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and drove into Hulda's side of the car. She didn't have her seat belt on because of abdominal discomfort following surgery and she was very seriously injured.

Lillian was stunned, bruised and bleeding, but the sequence of events is burned in her memory - someone calling an ambulance, a passing nurse doing what she could to make Hulda comfortable and offering to notify Lillian's cousins in Bowbells whom she happened to know, being taken to Estevan hospital, Mother being quickly transferred to Regina, the agony of being unable to accompany Mother to Regina because of her own condition, the kindness of Steve Ennis in phoning family, as well as his going to the accident site and then returning to explain to her that the reason she hadn't seen the oncoming car was because of a dip in the road under a railroad overpass. He even timed the the distance from the dip to the accident site at seven seconds. She also remembers the policeman visiting her while she was still in Estevan hospital and giving her a ticket for reckless driving.

At about 8:00 p.m. that evening, a nurse came to tell her that Mother had passed away. That was a very long, dark night and sleep eluded her.

The following afternoon she was released from hospital and Ivy Pawlak came to take her back to Weyburn. Another series of images flood her memory - grieving with sister Clarice who arrived very soon after she got home, the kindness of so many people and in particular that of Diana Parry, who lived above her, coming down with a hot pot of tea in a lovely teapot, the unhappiness of planning the funeral, Wilfred Orr, very ill himself, conducting that service at home in Lake Alma.

Her shock and grief were paralyzing. She was cold, dazed and stunned with shock, her feelings numbed. Many kind people tried to console her. One person said, "Your mother lived to a ripe old age and you have to be grateful for that.", but she thought, "Yes, but even though she was ninety four, I still miss her." And she learned something about how not to comfort the grieving.

J.C. and Myrtle Bailey said, "Your mother always believed that when your time came to leave this earth you had to go, no hastening or delaying." And she knew how much her mother would have hated to go to a nursing home, which would have been likely if she had survived.

But nothing brought her much comfort. It troubled her for a long time that her mother had had such complete faith in her as a driver. Hulda always had confidence that she would arrive at her destination safe and sound when Lillian was driving. She hated the reality that she was driving the car that brought about her mother's death.

Many years have passed since that sad time. As with Signe, the happy memories of her mother have replaced much of the sadness. She knows her mother is with the Lord and has forgiven her. She has forgiven herself, but there will always be the pang of regret that she was responsible for hastening her mother's death.

~

We have already mentioned her sorrow and yet joy for her Dad when he left this earth to be with his Lord. When her brother, Elvin, died in 1988 it was very different. She had always assumed he would live a long life as her mother had. She had seen him just a month before at New Years and had thought he was fine then. But he became sick and died in less than a week, before she even got to see him. It was very difficult for her to accept this loss of her only brother, her earliest childhood playmate. The family was shrinking. One more new insight surfaced, "We learn to live with losses."

AGING


Lillian has never dreaded getting old, probably because of the examples of her mother and dad, who aged so gracefully, always serving God. One of her favourite quotations is, "Age is a matter of the mind. If you don't mind, age doesn't matter." In a lecture she gave, titled Growing Old Gracefully, she cited four pitfalls for the elderly to avoid - isolation, inactivity, self pity and despair. She tries to follow her own advice in these areas:

THE DREAM

How does she feel about the dream of her youth now? Has Western Christian College done what she hoped it would? Is there still a place for a school like Western today? The original dream was that, in addition to education, there would be an emphasis on farming, primarily because most of the students were farm children They would be able to work in lieu of tuition, and perhaps even learn a trade. While that part of their scheme was never fully implemented, Radville, later Western Christian College did provide the kind of atmosphere and instruction, both academic and spiritual, that those early visionaries wanted for Christian young people.

Lillian remains completely convinced that Christian education is of inestimable worth. There is no price that can be put on the souls of our children. They still benefit in untold ways from academic instruction in an atmosphere where God's way of living and choosing is the accepted and approved norm. They still yearn for the kind of wholesome, high-minded, lifelong companionships they have the opportunity to make at a place like Western. Sitting and observing the reunion of these relationships at the annual Homecoming celebrations is a heart-warming witness of this. She says, "Western Christian College still provides what we started out with in a day when it is needed perhaps even more. The conventional standards of behaviour in our society have strayed farther and farther from Biblical patterns and our young people are facing problems we never even thought of when the school was founded fifty years ago!"


THE CHURCH

The older Lillian gets, the more she values and cherishes the church - the people of God - her brothers and sisters. This fellowship of believers has always been a substantial power in her life. It was always a factor in deciding where she would live and work.

Much has changed in the church, as well as in Lillian, over the years. For example, the long three week meetings she loved so much no longer happen, but her reaction is that we don't need to feel badly about it; the changing of traditions isn't necessarily bad. People's lives and lifestyles are different today; it is logical that different things are effective.

Some of the changes she has seen in the church over the last seventy years please her. She's gratified that we as a people have become more interested in helping others with problems they struggle with here in this life. The focus of attention used to be to not worry about what is happening here and now, but rather to focus on our security in heaven and making sure we're going the right way to get there.

There seems to be more recognition now that if we're to love these people as God has instructed us to, we have to meet them where they are. Certainly our ultimate hope is that those we come in contact with will turn their minds and their hearts towards God, but part of helping them to do that is assisting and supporting them as they deal with whatever is causing them pain right now, whether it is their marriages, their loneliness, their addictions, or whatever.

Another change she has observed is that we have become a middle class church and she has doubts about that being what God intended; Jesus said he came help the hurting. She believes that one of the reasons the church is growing so rapidly in Africa and other developing areas is that the people who have so few earthly possessions or rewards think more readily about spiritual things. For example, in Ghana, where most of her Bible correspondence course work has been done, there were no congregations of the church thirty years ago; today there are over five hundred, some with more than five hundred members.

While some of the changes in the way we work and worship are somewhat uncomfortable for her at first, she is pleased that younger people are recognizing the need to adjust some of our customs, (although not, of course, our principles or our faith in God's Word) to appeal to the people of this present day who need God's love and saving grace as much as we do. She notes that it is harder for all of us to accept change after we pass middle age, but sees that as an opportunity to grow as we continue to serve.

She remembers with great fondness the small home churches. There was a closeness not possible in large congregations. In a small group, everyone participated, no one was left out - and no one daydreamed! On the other hand, though, she does dearly love the sound of a large group of believers singing their praises to God, never possible in a small home church.

She appreciates good oral Bible reading but she seldom hears it any more and that saddens her. She believes this is something that has been neglected in training our young men. She remembers the time at Western when oral Bible reading was important enough for there to be yearly competitions and a trophy for the best Bible reader.

Not only is the Bible not read well, it seems to have lost some of its importance as well. She doesn't hear the respect shown to the public reading of scripture; it seems rather, to have become a necessary part of the Sunday morning service to get done with quickly. She challenges someone to revive the interest in, the importance of, and the respect for the public reading of God's Word !

The apostle John, at the end of his gospel said, "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." I feel somewhat similar about Lillian. There seems to be no end to stories that could be told. There are scores, maybe hundreds, of people, many not even mentioned in this book, who have been touched and blessed by knowing her. I thank God I have been one of them.

I asked her for a message for all of her spiritual children, and I leave you with that.



Happiness
is found in self-forgetful devotion to some thing
or someone beyond ourselves.
I believe very strongly in Albert Schweitzer's message
"I do not know what your destiny will be,
but one thing I know,
the only ones among you who will be really happy
are those who have sought and found how to serve."
The best therapy for our own trouble is to help somebody else who is in trouble. There will be troubles;
there will be pain; there will be difficulties;
but they will work together for the good if we love the Lord.
Somehow life will become better.

Published in The Old Paths Archive
(http://www.oldpaths.com)

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