Monday, 30 September 2013

Applesauce and Sweetness by Susan L.

We only had to drive around one country block to fill our bags with all the roadside apples we could ever want. Yes, they aren't perfect, lopsided and most had warty skins. But underneath? The white, yellow or pale green flesh was as nice as store bought fruit. Hints of Macintosh, Delicious, and Granny Smith blended together. We are so used to "perfect" fruit. Uniform in shape and blemish free. No matter where it comes from. If it isn't up to par, I've found myself passing over it to find one that is better. There's been some frightening treasures in my crisper when it's easier to toss the whole thing away rather than carefully cutting the damaged bits away. We are so not a culture of poverty. I will say I'm glad God isn't like that. "Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour." Titus 1:1

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Apple Time by Susan L.

A huge black of starlings has just swept by to roost for a moment in the trees across the road. Their restless gathering is a sure sign fall is here. H and I are going to do some apple cooking later today. Pies possibly and more pies because the harvest is bountiful this year. The trees at the side of the road are loaded with fruit so we may as well take advantage of nature's gifts. Last year there weren't many apples due to a late frost that killed the flowers. I wonder if the trees are so loaded because of having a vacation year. Maybe there's a lesson here...o "For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His." He 4:10

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Empty Fields by Susan L.

I've watched a couple of TV programmes following up on two of the worst natural disasters ever to strike: the tsunami of 2004 which flattened coastal Japan and hurricane Katrina of 2005 which obliterated New Orleans. The show about New Orleans made me shake my head in puzzlement. There's been little to no rebuilding in the hardest hit areas which also happen to belong to the poorest citizens. The homeowners are legally obligated to cut the grass in order to maintain ownership. I have no idea where they live but they have to face their loss, their poverty, their helplessness, every time the lawn needs mowing. The program on CBC was about the debris from Japan washing up on B.C.'s coast. It traced a small fishing boat that had been found relatively intact. The owners in Japan had survived. They were living in temporary housing. Tiny quarters bursting at the seams with three generations living there. They figure it will be at least another decade before they will be able to move out. Maybe more. Their way of earning a living is an ocean away and there's no infrastructure in place anyways. At least, not yet. I believe in both cases, these forgotten people are having to make mortgage payments on empty space where their homes once stood. After that, there is not enough left to begin to rebuild their lives. Help them, my Lord. Help their perspective governments cut through the reams of red tape and "reasons" why things aren't being done faster. Let the generous humanitarian aid dollars flow within their own borders. Fill the banks, the finance companies, with compassion and wisdom so solutions can be found and both sides come out on top. In Jesus' name I pray. "What strength do I have that I should hope?" Job 6:11

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Examinations by Susan L.

Last night's Bible study was on grace and mercy. But it was more than that. The questions were probing and thought provoking. It was wonderful to be able to share a blessing a stranger said over me in my early days as a Christian which was grounded in the verses we were reading. "We are God's workmanship created anew in Christ Jesus" to paraphrase a couple different Bible translations of Ephesians 2:10. She told me the Greek word for workmanship is "poema". We are God's poetry. I'll never forget her. My imagination is running away on me this morning. I see the Lord's hand, writing in the Book of Lives, carefully composing. He writes who we are, what we'll be, what giftings we will have, what we'll look like. He plans our family tree forward through the ages, interconnecting some, bipassing others...each of us is pages and pages long yet the book never runs out of space. Does He scratch things out as He searches for just the right words? I see the pen pausing as thoughts are weighed. There's billions of souls to be designed. Each one is unique and special to Him. I see tears soaking the pages as He sees what havoc the devil will create in us, around us, and to the ones we love. I can feel His smile as He gets to the part where we embrace His Son. And He hasn't even created the world yet! Help me, Lord be as You have written. In Jesus' name, amen. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God created beforehand that we should walk in them." Eph 2:10

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Ground Control by Susan L.

Someone near and dear to my heart reached out last night. She was in the throes of a full blown panic attack and didn't know what to do. She had enough awareness to text me those terrifying words, "Sue, call me!" So I did. I've developed an arsenal of grounding tools so I pulled out the best: running water. It has always worked. By placing my hands under the faucet and focusing on the feel helps me reconnect to the present. The sound helps, too. Thankfully it worked for her. Within minutes the worst of the attack had passed. Before we hung up, after talking for a while, I shared about grounding tools. If water isn't nearby, a stone, a coin, the couch, or anything tactile could be used in its place. It's about shifting focus away from the awful gasping for air that usually accompanies a panic attack. It's about taking the mind out of disconnect or flight mode. It's about finding a way to return to the "now". It isn't easy. All you want to do is run but there's nothing to run from except your own mind. I don't like writing about them. It triggers the feelings. My chest is tight from my own vivid memories of how this utter loss of control can feel. But that's okay. At this level I can pray easily to ground myself. "But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." Jn 4:14

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

This Old Man, He Played One...by Susan L.

No alarm clock this morning but the phone woke me. A telephone solicitor wanting to talk about my computer. I think they're the ones that want access to it to "fix" a problem. A dangerous proposition that could give them the tools for identity theft. I put the phone down. Identity theft. Hmmm, we know who's responsible for that particular crime. It has existed for millennium, long before online banking and Facebook. We've all experienced it in one way or another. The devil has used it to poison what we think we know about ourselves. Every negative comment, thought or idea we hold comes from him. We are commanded to set aside the old man and embrace the new, the identity God blessed us with at the dawn of creation. In some instances it is instantaneous. Mostly it's a process of letting go and letting in. It takes time to BELIEVE in the truth: the good, the blessings. It takes time to become a have instead of a have not! I still struggle. Maybe I need to learn to boldly "hang up" on the whispers that cause guilt, shame, self-doubt, anxiety, fear, hopelessness, depression... anything and everything that dares to steal my joy in the Lord. Amen! "For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living." Ps 116:8-9

Monday, 23 September 2013

Communion by Susan L.

We shared Holy Communion in church yesterday. I like how it is celebrated. Everyone is served the bread, the Body of Christ, and we partake of it all together as one. The same with the wine, the Blood of Christ. I patiently waited for all to receive , enjoying a moment of reflection and repentance. My tiny plastic cup was gently cradled in my hand, being careful not to spill it. It struck me how small the Lord had made Himself so we could have this moment of connection. Just as He holds us in the palm of His hand, we are able to hold on to Him with this tactile, earthly piece of Him. It is real. It is the greatest token of love in the universe. "But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." Mat 26:29

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Technological Meltdown by Susan L.

Yesterday's three hour struggle to access my blog site is not condusive to enjoying this writing. In fact, I'm filled with reluctance to even try but I will right now...Whew! It came up no problem! Now what. I was all set to rant about the downside, fickle attributes of my cell phone. Instead I find gratitude in its place. And relief. I was talking with a friend who is taking Aboriginal studies. She shared with me about what they call the "Feather Walk". Sometimes our lives, our choices, our behaviours leave us walking in circles or as the Huron call it, walking the edge of the feather. We almost end where we started when we meet the main path, the feather's shaft, which takes us straight and true up the centre. I suppose in some cases, we would trip over it and begin another circuit of the feather's edge. I know I have. Yesterday. "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Prov 3:6

Saturday, 21 September 2013

A.M. Pause by Susan L.

I feel I should be writing but sitting at the table, my head foggy with sleep, listening to the soft rush of rain is most enjoyable. The fragrance of cool, wet grass and hot coffee fills the kitchen. There's hints of autumn colour out there. A few red leaves punctuate the lightly gilded greens. The odd car roars by, tires hissing on the wet pavement. Everyone, myself included at times, seems to be in such a hurry. Impatient to get somewhere, impatient to be home. Thank You, Lord, for this morning, for letting me set aside my weekend tasks for the moment. Thank You for the sound of Your song in the whisper of the rain. I don't feel tired any more. "May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad on the Lord." Ps 104:34 PS: Three hours later. Major technical difficulties have not been condusive to keeping the peace! Lord, fill me afresh!

Friday, 20 September 2013

Ping Pong Brain by Susan L.

I wrote a list. Everything that was on my mind. It's not something the world needs to know. Frost nipped Morning Glories are not a particularly captivating read. Wait...I thought they weren't important but they're a great metaphor for how I'm feeling. My insecurities have been bubbling up. For the first time ever I'm attending a Bible study. The first two weeks have challenged my faith, my walk in the Lord and have raised questions. I don't have the words, it's just a sense of puzzlement, a seeking, as I look for confirmation that I am on the tight track... I just took a break to check my email. H forwarded me a teaching by Richard Rhor. It held the answers to my unasked queries. Thank You Lord. "And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Acts 2:21

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Whew! by Susan L.

It's amazing how a change in routine can fluster me. My "to do" list is getting pretty long. I am still physically tired from the weekend and a day's gardening/ running around on Tuesday. Reality: I am not as young...What?! Who said that? Today was an early day at work and I scrambled this morning with military proficiency because silly me hit the snooze button one too many times. I've missed sliding into my day with pen and cup of coffee. Tomorrow I will for sure. If it's God's will. The lawn badly needed mowing. I had just enough adrenaline to finish the job. Looks good now, ready for tomorrow's rain. There isn't anything else that's overly urgent. It just feels that way. The camping paraphernalia can stay in the kitchen for another day or two. I think my priority rests on the necessity of a hot bath, jammies, couch, cat and a good book. In that order. "The Lord of hosts has sworn saying,"Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, and so I have purposed, so shall it stand."" Is 14:24

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Recaptured Moments by Susan L.

The new air mattress I used camping wasn't very air tight. It threatened to toss me on the floor with each roll over. It was like sleepung on a bowl of jello. I remembered years ago imagining what a jello bed would be like as I spooned wiggly jiggly orange into my mouth. Now I know! There's a strong doubt it would be recommended by the Canadian Chiropractic Association. Maybe a Laughter Society might! H. brought black shoestring licorice, one of my favorites that I hadn't had in a long time. It's the kind of food that is meant to be played with. Sharing good memories of all the different ways we used to eat it left us both chuckling. Being in the forest, listening to the wind in the maples, the constant "Chuck! Chuck!" of the chipmunks, the sound and smell of the Coleman kerosene lantern, the hiss of the propane stove, the aroma of bacon cooked outdoors...a mountain of remembrance. Yes, it was September chilly (downright cold at night) and bundling up for my bucking bronco bed was a major event of the day but I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." 2 Cor 5:17

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Home by Susan L.

It was a wonderful albeit chilly expedition. Note to self: pack long johns for September camping. There were no mosquitoes though. Yay! As we sat by the dicious smelling maple wood fire there was an abundance of chipmunks that kept us delighted with their boldness and constant squabbling. The high point was when a barred owl perched a few feet away just as it was getting dark. I chanced the poison ivy and stalked him through the trees to try and get a photo. The eyes glowed from the flash but the rest is a vague blur of striped feathers. We heard him calling the next night. Funny though, the chipmunks were awful quiet all of a sudden. The beaches were beautiful. Pockets of sand littered with massive granite boulders. Smaller stones and pebbles gathered all around. All were polished and worn by the deep blue water of Lake Huron. It's hard to describe the infinite variety of colours and textures: orange spotted, pink wrinkled, gray ribbed, black, green, smooth white...like fingerprints no two were the same. It is good to be home. There was frost last night. Furnaces are a great invention! "O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself." Her 10:23

Friday, 13 September 2013

All Packed by Susan L

The car is loaded. The back seats folded down to accommodate all the paraphernalia needed to go camping. There's a lot! This time of year it's necessary to pack everything from shorts to touques. That adds some weight. There's lots of extra bedding too in case it drops down to the forecasted 3° at night. Brrrr. It has gotten chilly. Not surprisingly. It is September! Pumpkin woke me up last night shivvering, poor fellow, so I tucked him under the blankets. His favorite place. There's a bunch of last minute things to take care of. So,whether or not it's cold or hot, sunshine or showers, my heart is singing with joy for the opportunity to reexperience one of the pleasures of childhood. Oh, cold = no mosquitoes! Woohoo! "Then He said to them, "But now he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack."" Lk 22:36

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Yesterday Tomorrow Today by Susan L

As I drove into town a startling thought struck me about the "Recess" poem. As I reflected on how it was written, it hit me that without PTSD, without experiencing the often difficult Traumatic Incident Reduction Therapy, the captured moments of the school yard wouldn't have existed. I have shared about flashbacks. PTSD nightmare moments that yank us in to memory. Sight, sound, touch, smell are pulled into the past. Most often it is unexpected, triggered by some small thing. TIR therapy builds on that by providing a safe place to willingly immerse the mind in our worst memories: the flashback events one piece at a time. This is a healing opportunity because we can explore the incident and seek truth. For me it is the chance to discover God's take on the event. And to find His presence in events where I believed I was all alone. It always amazes me that at the end of the sometime three hour sessions I can find comfort in the midst of awful. As I wrote the first draft of the poem, unknowingly these practiced skills came into play. Although this time it was most delightful and made me smile. My mind stood in the schoolyard and I looked, listened, smelled, touched. Echoed voices of the past filled my senses. My kitchen disappeared as I became seven or eight and picked imaginary gravel out of an imaginary scraped elbow. Lord, I thank You for this ability to travel where time has no meaning. I thank You for all I had to go through to receive it. You are awesome! "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." 1 Pet 4:10

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Writer's Nest Topic: School Memories by Susan L

"Recess" Sacrifice of duty, of honour, Martyrdom minutes volunteered, Red, blue and white dust cakes clap. Yellow powder nose itch twitch and sneeze clouds. "Wait! I'm coming! Aaaachoooo!" Limestone crunch. Eenie meenie potatoes tiger toe catching, "You're it!" scramble and dodge. Sneakered feet on top. Humpback wails. Teeth sucking gravel plucking. Iodine and bandaid badges. "Want to see?" Teeter totter bounce. Eyes wide with realize. "Noooo! Don't get off!" Slamming rump bump puff of dust. And laughter. "Owwww!" Merry-go-round quarters. Merriment round and round. Bed haunting motion of stillness spinning. Flying centrifugal. Red roving packs green lighting. Or red lighting. "Double Dutch!" says Simon. Boring apple. Wilted carrot sticks. Twelve raisins in the little red box. Yuck. "But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High." Ps 77:10

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Camping by Susan L.

The site has been booked about an hour and a half north of here in Awenda Provincial park: thirty five hundred beautiful hectares of woods and beach to explore. I feel like a child, excited and eager for this little holiday. Especially since my friend H. has the Ritz hotel of tents! A two room, easy set up, eight man tent that we can stand in. A far cry from my first camp experience with my children crammed into two pup tents. I've an eighteen inch air mattress, a fluffy, cozy sleeping bag and plenty of warm socks to ward off the chill of a September night. Another friend gave me a two burner propane camp stove. Awesome! Bacon, eggs and a hot coffee to start the day. Seasoned with the aroma of God's cathedral: a dew covered forest. For me that's a bit of heaven on earth. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." Phil 4:6

Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Wedding by Susan L.

The morning's rain had stopped and the evening was clear and warm. The service was held outside in a sheltered glade. A few mosquitoes stood as witness to the exchange of vows. A true Canadian wedding. The bride was stunning, her dress simple yet elegant. The groom handsome and incredibly happy. It is a second chance for both so their combined almost grown up children stood in attendance. They all beamed with joy at their parents' union. The girls wore flowing gowns in shades of green. The boys' tuxes were accented by soft green paisley ties. It sure stirred up my heart. Questions and hopes, joy for the couple, a smattering of prayer for my own life. The realization of just now deep my own marital wounds run. Still. After all these years. I'm not angry. I hope I'm not bitter. Just sad. Lord? Your will be done. I realized, too, that there is a big and busy world out there as I listened to conversations: travel, cruises, jobs, business, goals..It helped me recognize the simplicity of my own life even more. The frog from yesterday still brings a smile. "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me." Ps 131:1

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Arise! Arise! by Susan L

The rain woke me. A nice, soft whisper. It is needed judging from the wilted Black Eyed Susans at the end of my driveway. They've perked up now, happy for the drink. I watched a frog or a toad hopping madly across the road, legs flying everywhere. It made it I am happy to say, reaching the lawn just as a car whizzed by. I gave a little cheer for its effort. There is something special about a rainy Saturday morning when there's nowhere to be, no clock in control, no responsibility but to enjoy the moment: the smell of clean, the lullaby sounds, the colours of freshly bathed leaves and grass. Things will get busy. I've a wedding to go to later in the day but for now...I think I will get another cup of coffee and simply be with my Lord. Amen! "The Lord planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed." Gen 2:8

Friday, 6 September 2013

More Meat by Susan L.

The meeting Wednesday night was done in small groups. A great way to meet others in the PREFER program. The topic was defining peer support with discussions around receiving and giving such. I walked away with an even deeper understanding. Mainly peer support happens whenever people meet. It doesn't have to be full of angst and difficulties. In my own life, standing in the grocery line waiting to check out has opened a door. My writer's group. Work, of course. Church. My neighbours. Peer support happens whenever there is a common element that allows us to relate, connect and communicate with the heart of another human being. Maybe it should be called "Life Support"! "What man is there among you who has one sheep, and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?" Mt 12:11

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Monthly Meat by Susan L.

PREFER met at the library in Richmond Hill. It is a beautiful building but I'd just heard on the news about bed bug infestations in Toronto libraries. They have been travelling about via books taken home to enjoy, in bed for the most part. (Ewww!) It was suggested to pop the books in the freezer to prevent the pests moving in. Other than that little worry it was an great meeting. They usually are. There is such enthusiasm and excitement about the program. I love to hear the testimonies of how each course has impacted others. It's a shame this is the last year. Funding was cut off. I know the organizers are looking for financial support elsewhere. Even if those who complete the program don't end up working as peer support workers, the skills we learn are universal. We finish more confident, more aware, kinder, more patient, better communicators, more balanced...well, just more of everything! Lord, please let the money flow so PREFER can continue to enrich the lives of so many people. Amen! "But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister." Acts 26:16

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Where We're At by Susan L.

Hellfire and damnation. Loud sermons from the pulpit that leave me squirming with guilt and shame and feelings of inadequacy. Although according to the success of some churches who preach this way, who am I to question God's work? It might be for you, it simply isn't for me. That's okay. We each need to find our way of faith. I desperately needed love. I needed to learn what love is. Not our earthly comes-with-a-price kind of love but true love as God intends it to be: unassuming and constant. He has taken it slow, laying a foundation of trust. Treasures like my four leafed clovers have been left along my path. Love tokens to woo a broken and suspicious woman. He has taught me through His unquestionable forgiveness and has filled my heart to bursting with indescribable gratitude: the seeds of love that bloom and grow when nurtured. I learned to say, "I'm sorry", gently convicted of my erroneous ways. I learned to say "thank You". Even if it was a sacrifice to utter those words. The language of love. I am still learning. "But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me." Ps 13:5

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Results by Susan L.

I once heard that all sin is based in theft. It helped make sense of an often convoluted, condemming and harsh Christian understanding of the nature of sin. I also read, and may have shared this before, that Christ's sacrifice on the cross turns the ten commandments into the ten promises. An act of ultimate love. H. and I had a great conversation about sin on Saturday. She shared something which had been written by a nun several hundred years ago. To paraphrase, "We are all beautiful paintings. Sin is like wiping dirt all over it. Paintings can be cleaned; can be restored." I had a good "shower" yesterday. Repentance was my soap. Forgiveness, the water that cleansed my soul. A nice little wall had been built up between my Lord and I: judgements, pride, and other slippery un-Christlike issues. He also straightened out my understanding of confidence. It is not the same as pride. Confidence is the sense of knowing and believing in the person I am as God sees me. Doing less builds walls. (But then, walls can be torn down.) I promised to try and believe. I just need some Help. "For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance." 1 Th 1:5

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Changing Gears by Susan L

Gentle folks, I was all set to try and write something thought provoking and insightful. God has other plans for today. Search and rescue, or call it selah, pause, contemplation, meditation, seeking, prayer...however you choose to describe the fact I feel in my heart that I need to curl up and have a good chat with my Lord. "Lord, what is man that You are mindful of him?"