Saturday, 30 November 2013

Outage by Susan L.

  The power was out for nearly four hours last night. An unusual event. It was long enough to warrant firing up my little generator to run the sump pump and a light upstairs. It isn't big enough to run the furnace so the house got a bit chilly.
  Thanks go to the hydro crews who were working outside in the frigid dark. They worked hard to get the thousand or so of us up and running as quickly as possible.
  The house was quiet without the TV nattering away. Almost too quiet. There's usually some form of white noise also. The furnace kicking in, the fridge, the water pump or sump. Even my water heater adds its own voice that I hear but don't. The silence throbbed last night and was more unnerving than the dark.
  I need to pray about this. I went a long time without watching TV. Now it's a constant when I am home. Yes, I am usually doing something else when it is on. Some form of hand work keeps me occupied. However, the blank screen rattled my cage and the fact I couldn't have it on stirred up a sense of loss. A sign that perhaps the black box is too big a piece of my life.
  "Therefore, my brethren, flee from idolatry." 1 Cor  10:14

Friday, 29 November 2013

Check In by Susan L.

  I was disappointed not to see my column in yesterday's paper, the last one of November. I know it is going to be published according to avaliable space but I'd hoped...
  If I get stuck driving behind a slow moving vehicle I tell myself there's a reason rather than get angry or frustrated. Maybe if I was going faster there's an accident that could take place further up the road. This is the same idea. It needs to  be surrendered to God for His divine timing. (Not that my little column will be involved in an accident unless it's used to paper train a puppy!) Perhaps there's a person out there who will read it at the exact moment they need to who might have missed it otherwise.
  And maybe, as I have asked the Lord to do in many prayers, it is His way of keeping me humble. This opportunity isn't only about seeing my name in print. Even if I am a bit surprised by the whole thing. I pray the words I write helps others.
  The Lord's Prayer says it all:
  "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory. Forever and ever. Amen" Mat 6:9-13

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Wonderland by Susan L.

  It's Christmas card perfect outside this morning. The sun is shining. Another generous snowfall has adorned everything. Even the Black Eyed Susans I failed to cut back are wearing white, British Beefeater hats.
  It was a slightly treacherous drive coming home from Bible study last night. I almost didn't go but am glad I did. One of the ladies who hadn't been at Church on Sunday shared a revelation. It was a visual image of how prayer creates a cloud of beautiful fragrance around us.
  Sunday's sermon by a visiting pastor was all about prayers. Part of it touched on how they are a sweet incense wafting up before God.
  I've had many thoughts or insights that had been penned in my journal confirmed by the Lord. It's important for me to know I am on the right track. To witness another receive His affirmation only deepens my own trust.
  If the Lord wants to enrich our lives with Him, He will livingly utilize anything, anyone to make sure we "get it". No matter where we are: home, work or at play. There is only one thing we need to do. Like a parent with a newborn babe who can hear their child's tiny cry over a vacuum cleaner, we need to be open and ever vigilant to hear our Lord.
  "And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, a still small voice." 1 Kings 19:12

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

First Step by Susan L.

  A good chunk of yesterday was spent getting things tidied up. Going through the scattered reams of PREFER and other recovery papers was the start. Putting it all in labelled binders made me realize how much has been covered in the past couple of years. (And just how little I've retained!)
  During the sort and toss I came across some of my creative writing. It now has a home in its own binder. At some point I'll go through my journals to find the rest then it will all be together.
  My workshop downstairs needed looking after as well. The workbench had become a dumping ground for all sorts of things "to put away later". Later arrived. It's now ready to build some Christmas gift projects.
  There's still pockets of chaos. My computer desk that I never use, the kitchen table that is my desk, and the coffee table. That's got knitting paraphernalia that will tidy itself as more Christmas projects are completed.
  It has helped squash the mounting anxiety that usually accompanies any sort of "to-do list. I can't "to-do" until the space to do is tidy!
  "The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever." Ps 138:8

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Moment by Susan L.

  It's a gray and white morning, overcast and windy judging from the swaying trees across the road. Their naked branches are rattling a winter rythmn I can hear inside. I'm wondering if the weekend's generous snowfall is here to stay. It looks beautiful and nicely hides the yard work that didn't get done.
  A flock of cardinals is flitting around out there. Their unbelievably brilliant red pops against the drab and leafless trees. I hear a blue jay screaming at them, its harsh voice grating; fingernails on a chalkboard.
  The hiss and burble of the kettle is a comforting sound, warming me against the chilly view out the kitchen window. Coffee goes down good on mornings like this.
  It's nice to do this once in a while, turn off my brain and savour the moment especially since I haven't done it lately.
  It's going to be a good day.
  "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Cor 1:1

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Anti-bullying Week by Susan L.

  Last week our local public broadcasting station, TVO, focused on the nature of bullying. During their children's programming they reached out and initiated a dialogue about it. Children called in with stories, advice on what to do if you're bullied and information about who to turn to.
  Many of our politicians have recognized the damage bullying can do. There have been several teen suicides directly linked to this terrible situation. Anti-bullying legislation has been initiated.
  I change the TV channel. To my dismay it was a broadcast of our House of Commons. It's a horrible display of cat calls, boos, banging tables, shouting to drown out someone who is  speaking, cheers when one of theirs "scores a point" against the opposition...Mob mentality: bullying at its ugliest.
  The best leaders lead by example. "Do as I say, not as I do" isn't good enough. If we want to end bullying, it's got to end at the top! If it isn't a behaviour we want in our children, bully tactics are even less acceptable in us.
  "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." Prov 4:23

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Humbled Ooops by Susan L.

  One of the lessons driven home last week was if you make a mistake, you own it. I'm owning it because I have committed a grand faux pas by jumping on the judgement soap box. Forgive me, Lord.
  Two days ago (Comfort and Joy) I came down hard on my fellow Christians about how they view forgiveness. I made a lot of assumptions about their personal walk with the Lord because it wasn't like mine. I confess I was angry because someone had the audacity to want me to conform to their ideas! It's no wonder we still have wars.
  I need to turn this over to God because I know many of our hurts are just plain too big to be healed this side of heaven.
  The Lord has blessed us with the ability to say, "I forgive" again and again. Whenever we feel ill will towards another.
  This simple yet often difficult choice is more than the password getting us in to heaven. These words are a demonstration of God's grace and love.
  As for heart healing it was something I needed to do personally because of my challenges of depression and PTSD. Medications have helped with the physical aspect, God looked after my soul.
  Today's blog showed me something else. I have a huge problem with authority. Fill me with grace and patience, my Lord, when I bump in to leaders whose ideas don't quite mesh with mine. Help me learn from them. Help me discern when, just like me, our humanness gets in the way! In Jesus name, amen.
  "I, therefore, prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called." Eph  4:1

Friday, 22 November 2013

Revisiting Evolution by Susan L.

  No, this isn't a Darwinian debate. I had a one-on-one with the art therapist who comes to the centre. She had kept a photographic record of the art I produced in session. Her photos went back three years.
  First of all it's hard to believe how much time has passed. A lot of it is a blur. Cycles of struggling. Cycles of feeling better. Recovery is not a straight line journey.
  The final piece was initially an exploration of Native culture. It contained a drawn feather with the silhouettes of a howling wolf and of a bear. I had drawn the feather as a quill penning a big question mark.
  Seeing this picture with fresh eyes last night I realized it was strangely prophetic.
  My first column for the Alliston Herald was accepted with no changes: the quill. The howling wolf: a lone voice seeking to change the perceptions of mental health. The bear represented passion and determination. I guess it was a mama bear.
  Writing about it this morning has given me closure. I feel the page turning in Heaven as once again I surrender my future to God.
  "I was brought low, and He saved me. Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you." Ps 116:6-7

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Comfort and Joy by Susan L.

  I struggle with the ideas held by many in Christian circles about matters of the heart. It grieves me when God's command to forgive is only about what rolls off our tongue. It breaks my heart to see the pain that shadows the minds and faces of wonderful people. Sadness leaves a mark.       Religious obedience stifles true healing. Stating forgiveness ends up being a broom that sweeps everything under the rug.
  As a parent, when my children hurt, it hurts me. Bandaids, ozonol, and ice packs are tokens of love.
  As a friend, when a friend hurts, I listen to them. I honour what they have been through in this often cruel world. I know that a willingness to share is a step into wellness and healing.
  In being honest with God about my feelings I knew it is only through His Divine power that my heart would be healed. He continues to do His work in my life, a process that will last until the day He takes me home.
  My honest confessions have also built trust and an intimicy with Him that is like no other. I can tell Him anything. All of us can. He's got big shoulders.
  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort." 2 Cor 1:3

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Hopes by Susan L.

  PREFER was a pilot, four year program. We are currently seeking sustained funding so this awesome program can keep on going. It has to!
  I've just gone and volunteered myself to facilitate December's meeting. I want to give all members the opportunity to share what PREFER means to them. Even my volunteering speaks volumes about how good the program is. The plan is to put together some type of video to compliment the written request.
  Peer Recovery Education for Employment and Resiliency has done do much for me in building confidence, awareness and self knowledge. Throughout the past year and a half I've been blessed to witness other's incredible growth.
  The men and women who have become part of my life inspire me. Watching seeds of hope explode fills my heart with joy. Seeing amazing people who were once crushed and demoralized by the medical system rise above the abusive nature of psychiatric medicine is astounding and encouraging.
  The best thing of all for me is now I am better equipped to give back in a healthy and sustainable way. That is what it's all about.
  "To Him who led His people through the wilderness, for His mercy endures forever." Ps 136:16

Monday, 18 November 2013

One Word by Susan L.

  Last week's training placed a huge emphasis on language. There are a couple of words that from now on I hope to erase from my vocabulary because they can be so damaging.
  The first one is "you" or "ewe statements" I've decided to call them. The moment that advisory word leaves my lips it means I know best. It means I am asking/demanding someone else to conform to how I believe their life should be. Usually that means "just like mine" as though somehow my life is better than theirs! Sooooo not true!
  Mind you, (ha-ha) a "you" compliment is never wasted.
  During role play, someone dumped a mountain of you's on me. It left me feeling angry and inadequate but worst of all it squashed hope. I remember thinking, "what's the point? I'll never be able to do all they say, there's too much wrong with me!"
  I'm glad it was role play and I was able to share my feelings later with that person. Just part of the learning curve.
  For me, it's all about wiping judgemental, conformist language from my lips. Lord, help me!
  "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not concider the plank in your own?" Mat 7:3

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Adrift by Susan L.

The calm yesterday after the past busy weeks had me feeling a bit lost and lonely.
The woman I have travelled with over the past year and a half is amazing.
  Guaranteed at some point in the early morning, we would share a good laugh. Usually over something silly. It was a wonderful way to start the day. I missed that this morning.
  I am struggling with some grief, too.
  Our classes were held in a small chapel at a United Church. An altar and large crucifix dominated the west wall.
  Stories were shared about the damage caused by people of faith, by religious doctrine. Stories were shared about how the cross triggered sad and terrible feelings of unworthiness and shame. The most common theme was one of feeling unacceptable and inadequate, simply not good enough for church "society".
  What are we, as Christians, really saying about Christ's love?
  The caretaker of the church locked the doors at three, "To keep out the riffraff" he said. A comment that broke my heart.
  Oh, my Lord, forgive us.
  "When Jesus heard it, He said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." Mk 2:17

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Good To Be Back by Susan L.

I've missed doing my bit of writing. The early days, long drives, the incredible amount of material learned, the busyness meant a tired that demanded a 9:30 bedtime. Cause for celebration? You bet! I am now a trained WRAP facilitator and a graduate of the PREFER program. (Peer Recovery Education for Employment and Resiliency) This means a lot to me but more importantly is I am able to give back in a healthy and sustainable way. Becoming a facilitator drove home the value that lay within my own WRAP plan. WRAP, the Wellness Recovery Action Plan, wasn't written by "experts" or doctors in the mental health field. It was designed by everyday people. Mary Ellen Copeland wrote WRAP after she and a group of people with lived experience in mental health got together. Recovery is not a word traditional models of treatment ever use. But it was happening. Ms. Copeland put the pieces together. The concept of the Wellness Recovery Action Plan is taking the world by storm. It has been translated into thirteen languages, including Braille. Pastors, police, first responders and many other high stress occupations have also utilized WRAP. To quote my instructor, "It's more than a plan, it's a way of life." The scientific medical community have researched the impact of WRAP on people living with mental health issues. The results set the medical establishment on its ears. It works. It works well. Hope and empowerment. They go a long way. To learn more go to: www.cultureofrecovery.com "For I hope to see you on my journey." ROM 15:24

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Monday, 11 November 2013

Remembrance Day by Susan L.

One scorching hot summer's day I pulled in to my local gas station. There were three or four olive drab jeeps parked by the pumps. There were half a dozen fully armed soldiers seated in them. It took me by surprise and made me a bit nervous. It was a rare sight that felt very intimidating. Nevertheless, I filled my car with gas and went inside to pay. There were a few more soldiers inside filling the kiosk with green. The sergeant, a stereotypical older man who was built like a bulldog, stood back from the counter. He allowed me to go ahead with a polite, "Ma'am, we're still making decisions." As I exited I noticed one of the young soldiers in the back of a jeep. He casually held his rifle in the crook of his arm while he savoured the icy cold of a giant Freezie. The oddity made me smile yet it struck me just how young he was. There's so much to be thankful for in this great country. Where seeing armed soldiers is rare. Where our borders are safe. Where young soldiers can still be boys. Where we can preach, teach, write, vote, work, shop, travel freely, create, go to school, get medical attention...where soldiers and civilians can rub shoulders in peace. "Lest We Forget" who payed the price for those freedoms. God bless those who serve and who have served. "And You, child will be called the Prophet of the Highest...to guide our feet into the way of peace." Lk 1:76 & 79

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Slippery Slope by Susan L.

Every time I have done more training, my eyes and ears are opened to the slippery slope of judgements. It is so ingrained in us and our society, it's a difficult mind set to overcome. Even my well meant post on Facebook yesterday was a judgement. It was about Mr. Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, who was videoed smoking crack cocaine. After denying he'd done this for several weeks, he admitted a couple days ago to having smoked it. He said it had taken place in one if his "drunken stupors". Mr. Ford has been slammed by the media. Nightly talk shows have mocked him. Enough is enough! On Facebook, I called us Christians to pray for him, that he'd "get the help he needs". The media's judgemental statements are blatantly obvious. My comment is also terribly judgemental. First of all, I assumed Mr. Ford has a problem with alchohol. I assumed he would need help. I judged him a lesser man if he doesn't do the things I feel "right". I assumed his ability to so his job as mayor is impaired because of his choices. I denied him the right to make those choices. Assumption is the backside of judgement. Yes, I am sad about the situation. Mr. Ford appears to be a deeply troubled man. Who knows what haunts him, what drives him to drink himself into a stupor. Lord, he is Your child. Lead him where you see fit and bless him with the strength to follow. Amen. "Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips." PS 141:3

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Significance by Susan L.

It's a very special day for me. This day in 2004 was the day I came to the Lord. It was a terrible time. A time of madness. Thankfully the Lord had placed people in my life who I could turn to that bleak and desperate day. That morning I found the amazing Something my heart and soul had yearned for my entire life. Houses, cars, work, hobbies, TV, books, the things I'd filled my life with couldn't save me that day. I confess it wasn't an easy choice. The devil spun his bleak and tuneless song: unworthy, guilty, prejudice, shame, ignorance, mistrust, doubt, suspicion...Eventually he ran out of words as the Lord waited patiently for me to accept His Son as my Saviour. I gambled on God. There was nothing left to lose. I had nothing left to enable me to face another day. Rock bottom. But my stumbling prayers of asking forgiveness and invitation to Jesus were honoured. Light swept away the darkness before my eyes. The sorrowful, heartbreaking burden of my ex-husband's infidelity lifted off my shoulders. Tomorrow seemed possible. I know I'd never have made it through the past nine years without Him. Yes, in the days and months swallowed by the depths of depression and suicidal thoughts I often lost sight of Him. The best part? Is knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that He never lost sight of me. I will never be alone again. "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide in you forever---the Spirit of truth...for He dwells with you and will be in you."Jn 14:16-17

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Discoveries by Susan L.

Every time I attend a PREFER training, it opens my eyes to view things differently. Most of yesterday's group was about resumee writing and cover letters. It opened a door that enabled us to look beyond the lack of "official experience". It showed us how to look into life experience and find the hidden skills and strengths benefitial to a potential employer. I have some homework, beginning my own resume. I just needed to take a few moments to ground myself. There are some feelings of being overwhelmed about writing it. The good thing is I can ask for Help. And I am! "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all we ask or think, according to the power that works in us." Eph 3:20

Monday, 4 November 2013

Training and Travel by Susan L.

I'm having a hard time focusing this morning. Never mind some technical difficulties. The next two weeks will involve commuting into the city at rush hour. That's a good thing because it means I will have completed my PREFER training. Blog posts may be sporadic as a result. "Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to the words of wisdom." Prov 23:12

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Born Again Virgin by Susan L

Someone asked what that was. Perhaps I can try and explain. It's all Christ's doing. First of all, virginity is far more than a physical state. Although I am sure God in His infinite power could mend that in a flash if need be. Secondly, what does a virgin look like, stereotypes aside? More importantly, what does it feel like to be virginal? This is where the "born again" comes in. In Christ, through His blood and grace, we are washed clean of sin; made pure and holy. He is the great Restorer. It's a question in keeping with the last two posts. For the child who had no say as he or she was introduced to adult experiences far beyond their years. For the youth who carelessly threw away that which is most precious, perhaps as a result of childhood lessons. For the person who is divorced, widowed, alone. This is God's gift to them through His forgiveness and our own ability to then forgive. Born again virginity is being able to capture an innocence which was lost or stolen. It is being able to approach new relationships in Christ without feeling "tainted" by past, worldly experiences. It is about being in the place where we can acknowledge the sanctity of the body, the precious gift of intimacy. It is the place where we can approach relationships in the full knowledge of our worth. It is the place of understanding that the uniting of a man and a woman is acceptable before God. It is a place of utmost high regard for God and our partner. Born again virginity means we have a chance to experience all of this with maturity. We walk unencumbered by our past. It's all in the head, the heart, and our spirit renewed. "By which you have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." 1 Pet 1:4

Modestly Speaking by Susan L.

I'm going to add another comment to yesterday's discussion about dress. In some cultures anything less than a Burka is coincidered provocative. Yet again, it places the onus on the woman to be responsible for the reactions of men towards their sexuality. I hear Adam talking to God, "I had to eat the apple...she gave it to me!" Nevertheless, God dressed both of them. Carefully and tenderly He wrapped them in clothes made of animal skin because they were naked and ashamed. Perhaps He had a tear in His eye at the loss of innocence. Therein lies the issue. Our sexuality, our gender, the fundamental foundation of who we are is objectified; sold down the river for a razor promotional. It's everywhere and does not discriminate between men or women or sadly, and increasingly: children. How do we restore the essence of chastity AND chivalry into our society? How do we instill a sense of personal value that empowers us to make healthy choices? The point being in North American society: we are all coincidered disposable. Something that is as easily tossed aside as the packaging around a pound of hamburger. Abuse in any way, shape or form simply confirms that concept and drives that terrible lesson into every fabric of our being. Just as hurting people hurt people, when we believe we're disposable, we treat ourselves and others the same way. We simply don't know anything better until the Lord intervenes and clothes us anew. "Jesus wept." Jn 11:35

Friday, 1 November 2013

Change of Pace by Susan L.

WARNING: THE CONTENTS MAY BE UPSETTING TO SOME READERS. I had written something this morning but had no time to post it. God's divine hand looking after my needs. I need to write or what happened will haunt me all weekend. The big guns were fired this afternoon. A comment was made about a young female trick or treater who was out last night with a group of boys. I gather her costume enhanced her femininity but what was said both shocked and grieved me. "She's just asking to be raped." I am struggling not to judge the speaker, a woman. God help me, please! Those hateful, careless words pierced my heart on behalf of all who have experienced sexual exploitation in any of its hideous forms. The devil's lie absolves abusers of their actions and choices. In fact it is actually a twisted stamp of approval. "Truly, they couldn't help themselves. Look at what she was wearing!" It's easier to blame the victim rather than believe a person could do something so terrible to another. I don't think I've ever heard those hurtful words directed at any of the brave men who have dared to come forward about their own terrible experiences. There are statistics. 99.9% of the time the abusers have themselves been abused.I try not to judge the choices they have made. Hurting people hurt people. It's sometimes that complicatedly simple. "Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven, and whatever blasphemies they may utter." Mk 3:28