Thursday, 30 April 2015

So Far by Susan L.

  So good as the rest of the saying goes. My med reduction is working out all right. Hopefully it will continue to go smoothly.
  I was watching one of many murder/mystery shows last night on TV. In it, a young man living with schizophrenia was the culprit. The reason? He had stopped taking his meds and became paranoid and murderous. I get a bit tired of it. Statistics show that more people with a mental health challenge end up being the victims of violence as opposed to the perpetrators of it.
  The fictional police team, as they were profiling the killer, made the comment that the young man had experienced a psychotic break which was causing his violent behaviour. Something else I get tired of. Pretty much every single person on the planet has, or will have, such a thing happen to them. Alcohol fueled blackouts, high fever, insomnia, traumatic events like being in a car accident, Alzheimer's or other brain damage like a stroke can cause our mind to check out for a bit. That's what a psychotic break is. True, these events can change us, and sometimes alter our personalities. Does it mean we would all commit violent crimes? Thankfully, no. Those situations are rare but are unfortunately well publicized when they do happen and only fuel the fires of suspicion.
  Which leads back to the medication issue. Not all people with a mental illness want to be on medication. The side effects can be terrible and ironically can include suicidal ideology. They can be very hard on the liver and kidneys. They often leave a person numb and unable to feel or think. They can cause psychotic breaks if the medication isn't compatible with a person's body chemistry. Even one radical and desperate treatment called electroshock therapy has the power to disconnect us from the present reality, never mind that it erases memories and destroys our ability to create short term memories. But that's another rant. It's scary stuff and doctors have no idea why one medication works for one person yet not for another.
  Personally, I am thankful for them. They keep my chronic anxiety and depression at bay which is part of Post Traumatic Stress. They have helped me as I pursued other paths of wellness such as talk therapy and art therapy. They helped free me so that the Lord could do His work in my heart. In saying that, medications are only one tool in my wellness kit. Without them, I couldn't have discovered other more holistic approaches to maintaining my mental health like walking in the woods and talking to the Lord when I am feeling stressed.
  Will I ever choose to be completely off my medications? At this point I'd say no but who knows what tomorrow will bring. God may choose to heal me completely.
  "For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly awaits for the revealing of the sons of God." Rom 8:18-19

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Peer Zone by Susan L.

  I am feeling better. Along with better, the need for some socializing began to creep in. A short trip to the centre for a couple of hours filled my need for some human contact. It was nice to get out for a bit. There was even enough energy left over to stop and pick up a few groceries.
  May's column for the paper hasn't been written yet so after I finish today's post, I'll spend the time to get it done. Usually it's done by the third week of each month. That's my own deadline, not the paper's. It will be about a new mental health program that has been imported from New Zealand called "Peer Zone".  ( New Zealand is often at the forefront of radical and beneficial changes in how people with mental health challenges are treated. It's wonderful that the two creators of the program have brought their ideas North America and Australia.
  I better stop there. Part of the deal with the paper is that I don't publish any of the column until they've had first crack at it. After that it is mine to share wherever.
  On that note and while the creative juices are flowing and while Pumpkin is content to sit at the window instead of on the keyboard, that's all for today.
  "He will speak to His people, to whom He said, "This is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest," and "this is the refreshing."

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Nepal by Susan L.

  What a horrific disaster in Nepal. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have lost so much in the powerful earthquake that shook the country. Hundreds of homes have been flattened. Many have loved ones who are dead or missing. May they find peace.
  My church supports a missions family there. I pray they are safe and uninjured and pray the aftershocks take no more lives.
  Lord, it is a poor country. Let the relief dollars flow from countries and people who are so much better off. I pray the international aid pouring into the country reaches those who are desperate for food and water, that the criminal element fails in its efforts to steal from those in need. Lord, let the soldiers and civilian volunteers be safe as they work to clear the rubble. Hold their minds in Your hands as they see things that are horribly unforgettable. Be with them at all times.
  These things I pray in Jesus most precious name. Amen.
  "Yea though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." Ps 23:4

Monday, 27 April 2015

Free Will by Susan L.

  These are probably questions that have rattled the brains of many a philosopher over the ages. If God is sovereign and all knowing, how can we have free will? If God knows our choices and includes them in His plan for us, is our will really free?
  I've heard many a non-Christian comment that to become a Christian means giving up too much. That's not how it works. Although, by inviting Jesus in to our lives, we can be freed, delivered if you like, from the shackles of addiction. That's not just drugs or alcohol but addictions to money, food, gossip, or anything we use to fill a void that only God can fill. It has nothing to do with unwilling or resentful sacrifice but everything to do with freedom and choice.
  From the outside looking in it must appear we have a demanding faith. Faith is not religion!  Nothing has to be done under our own power except make the choice to either let something go or hang on to it for a while. At the same time, God's grace is sufficient to allow us to evolve under His tender and loving care until we reach the point of decision making.
  There is an element of sacrifice in free will. It's nothing new. We do it all the time. Mothers and fathers with young children know all too well how their time is not their own yet willingly surrender it.
  I had a friend who would constantly rant about her ex husband. Her bitter hatred of him consumed much of her conversation. I asked her one time why she hung on to such dark feelings. I'll never forget her surprised response as she paused mid word. "Because it is easier than letting it go." After that, she never mentioned him again. You could see the peace in her face.
  An act of sacrifice is a choice for a better life, a happier one. It isn't meant to be punitive but freeing.
  Which brings me back to free will.
  I will choose to do God's will because, in Christ, I am free.
  "The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever." Is :32:17

Sunday, 26 April 2015

An Idea by Susan L.

  Just as I was waking up, an absolutely stellar blog idea flitted through my brain. In the process of setting up the laptop, teeth brushing and other bits of morning ritual, the idea has vanished like a comet sucked into a black hole. Whoosh! I have a pen and paper beside the bed for such moments of inspiration but morning grogginess interfered with remembering it was there.
  God is good. I can say with absolute certainty that if it was something that needed to be written about, someone out there is writing it now. If it is something someone needs to read, I am one hundred percent positive the Lord will lead them to it.
  Our God is not a God of coincidences. Look at the life of Jesus who's life and prehistory is documented in the scriptures from the dawn of creation. That took some careful planning.
  Look at our own lives, too. With allowances for our free will, what a wonderful, meticulous orchestration took place so that we might know the Lord as our Saviour; so we might know God as we knew Him before we ever breathed on this planet.
  I don't suppose I'll ever fully unravel the mysteries of the great "I AM" but every once in a while, I have to try. Then give up. He's simply too huge. Besides, that's what faith is for. It means I can accept what the brain does not understand.
  If you don't know the Lord as Saviour, please, take the moment to invite Him into your life and heart. It will be the best decision of a life time.
  "Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God." Ps 90:1-2

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Here's Hoping by Susan L.

  Let's hope one more course of antibiotics will rid me of this infection. At least my ears are clear, their soreness and the cough comes from the throat infection that is determined to hang on.
  I've been musing on the fact that not that long ago, such an infection could have been fatal. I suppose that tragically there are still countries where it still could be.
  It's alarming that the first two prescriptions of the same antibiotic didn't kill the sucker dead. The first time almost had it almost licked but it came back with a vengeance. Resistance to these life saving drugs is increasing at a terrifying rate. These failures are creating an urgent need to replace the ones that no longer work.
  There are intrepid explorers combing the jungles, the oceans, and every other environment to find a new source of antibiotics. Plants and animals with extraordinary healing powers are being scrutinized closely to unlock their secrets. Traditional remedies long held by aboriginal peoples are being investigated by the scientific community. I pray their quest is successful. There are lives at stake and the development of new pharmaceuticals is a long, long process.
  Meanwhile, I'll do the chicken soup thing and continue resting. Scientists have proven there is true healing power in the comfort food of generations.
  "In the middle of the street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." Rev 22:2

Friday, 24 April 2015

Waaah! by Susan L.

  I've taken another sick day today. Which is probably prudent because this morning has me cranky and snarly as a bear. Thankfully I am able to see my family doctor later this afternoon because my ears are still hurting and the deep, rib shattering cough just keeps on going...grrrr!
  I don't often feel the loneliness of living alone but not being well has stirred the pot a bit. Although as I think about it, it isn't a desire for companionship that is bubbling up. It's a servant: someone to make me a cup of tea or a bowl of soup, to tidy up the place and run the vacuum.
  I wonder if there is such a thing as a rent-a-mom...that would be perfect.
  No, mom, I don't expect you to come up! I am just being silly and whiney.
  When life gets you down, turn to gratitude. Thank You, Lord, I am able to look after myself. Thank You, Lord, for doctors and medicine. Thank You for Your provision. Thank You that I will soon be well.
  "Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!" Ps 27:14

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Behind Backs by Susan L.

  I have an issue with people who discuss other people behind their backs, who insist on sharing private details of someone else's life with anyone who will listen. They do this with no thought of the consequences their actions may have. They do this from a position of false authority, from the belief that somehow they are better than another person and therefore have the right to besmear another person's life or actions.
  God calls it judgement.
  It took me a while to get my head around the fact that sometimes we need to talk about someone else. Thank You, Lord, for this clarification. If something someone does or says affects you personally, it's okay to talk to a trusted councillor or friend about the situation. That doesn't mean it is okay to talk to anyone and everyone about what is happening.  It's okay to have someone help you decide on a plan of action if actions are needed. This is especially true in cases of abuse. Keeping silent about another's actions can be dangerous, even life threatening.
  I'm having a hard time being polite about this, I am that furious.
  Help me, Lord, understand why people gossip. Help me find the grace and tact to end any conversations that revolve around an absent third party. Especially when that discussion is not part of personal healing.
  "The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise." Prov 15-31

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Shocking Loss by Susan L.

  I'm writing about this today because I don't want to be complacent. I want this to hurt. I want this to make me sad. It's too easy to say, "What a pity." then change the channel on the TV.
  On the news last night was the story about the nearly one thousand refugees from Africa who drowned while trying to cross the Mediterranean sea to Italy. There were only twenty-three survivors from a fishing boat crammed with a mass of desperate humanity that had capsized. Among those survivors were people arrested for human smuggling.
  A thousand men, women and children...its a small town, a largish high school. A thousand lives may attend an eleven AM Sunday service at a big evangelical church. It's husbands and wives, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. It's, as the news reporter said, as great a loss as when the Titanic went down. Except there was no band playing. It's one of the worst single disasters in naval history.
  They were human beings, people, with loves, hopes, and dreams who only wanted a better chance in life. Like you. Like me.
  Lord, forgive us the harm we do each other in the name of greed. Forgive us our callous indifference to the plight of many of Your children on this planet. Forgive us our prejudices. Forgive us for simply sitting by while precious lives are persecuted for their faith, their gender, their nationality.
  Show me, Lord, what I can do to make a difference. In Jesus' most precious name.
  "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good." Prov 15:3

Monday, 20 April 2015

April Shower by Susan L.

  There's a delightfully soft rain falling out there this morning. It is desperately needed. We've had little to none since the beginning of March. The swamp across the road is already dry so there's been no chorus of frogs, the spring peepers, at night. They've had to find wetter ground to do what frogs do in the spring. It's a sound I miss, the end of winter anthem.
  The rain is the kind that washes the dust and salt off the roads, that caresses each new blade of grass and leaves the whole world shining and new. It's a rain that will make swelling leaf buds explode so a soft blanket of green will soon wrap winter gray branches. It's the kind of rain that begs putting boots and raincoat on and going for a walk amongst the trees. It's the kind of rain that makes the cedar's rich aroma flood your senses.
  I'm sorry to not be able to do that but walking in the damp air might not be a good idea until I am better. Although, I can hear the Red Wing Black birds singing away from my seat at the kitchen table. What a beautiful and welcome noise, their grating, upwards trill.
  It always amazes me how the world can recover from the bitter hardships of winter and this winter was especially hard. I went for a walk around the yard a couple of times last week to soak in the growing warmth of the sun and to see if anything didn't survive. So far so good. Signs of growth are everywhere: the sharp spears of the peonies, the bubbling nodules of the rhubarb, the tiny, wispy leaves of the Black-eyed Susans. They are all a rich, purplish, burgundy colour that stands out against the colour of the earth.
  The Lord has clothed these new signs of life in a royal colour. It's no wonder spring is a metaphor for hope.
  "For lo the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; The time of singing has come." Song 2:11-12

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Reflections on the Harvest bySusan L.

  Three hundred and sixty-five days ago I turned fifty. At the time I had a feeling it was going to be a year of harvest. I'm fifty-one today. What better time to put on a gratitude hat and reflect upon the year past even if it feels a bit odd having thanksgiving in April!
  Was it really a harvest year? I say yes.
  Building the shed in the garden utilized all the woodworking skills amassed during my marriage as well during all the home renovations I've done to my little house. It also forced me to add to that knowledge which always is a good thing. Who knows when I'll need that knowledge again? Although I am definitely not going into the construction business, the shed was a fruit of labour.
  I've shared about the piano and having the ability to play a harvest of hymns and worship songs at home. To have joined the worship team as well. A harvest of confidence seeds perhaps? Practice makes perfect.
  To know that a small column in a rural paper has the ability to touch people's lives is truly a reward beyond measure. The blog has helped by teaching me to say something within a small amount of space. The blog has also prepared the soil of writing and enabled me to reap many seeds of confidence. Thank you, readers, for helping water the soil.
  This is taking way too much brain power. Not being well stinks. Maybe what I'll do is keep a pen and paper handy for the day and add to this list as the ideas come.
  "And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, "Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her." Ruth 2:15

Friday, 17 April 2015

Gratitude Times A Thousand by Susan L.

  After yesterday's post was completed, I got thinking. I thought about the options that were available to me in regards to this most annoying and persistent bug. Trying to see my family doctor was one although any appointment probably wouldn't have been until late next week. Too long to wait even though I'd procrastinated seeing anyone in the hope the cough would go away by itself. There's a walk-in clinic for people who don't have a family doctor because there simply aren't enough to go around. And of course, where I ended up, at the ER.
  What incredible wealth!
  Then I got thinking of the medicines: an antibiotic, a steroid to boost its effect and an inhaler to open up my lungs. All it took to get them was to turn in a piece of paper at a local pharmacy, there's more than one. Voila! I walked out with two of the three.
  I must remember to write down the antibiotic that doesn't mesh well with my other meds because I believe it was the same one the doctor had  prescribed back in February. I didn't get the antibiotic until yesterday morning because the doctor had to change it just like before. It took some time for the faxed request to be answered. But that's okay, the ER has other, more important matters to tend to some times.
  I know Canadians whine a lot about our universal health care system. Yes, there is a lot wrong with it but you know something, there's a whole lot right about it!
  Bless the people who have done the research and discovered these most appreciated medicines.
  And bless the young pharmacist who caught the conflict and patiently explained the risks. I learned something. Different medication combinations are graded A,B,C for potential side effects. C being the most likely they will happen. Then there is X. Under no uncertain terms are particular drugs to be combined. The first antibiotic was an X. The combination could have caused heart palpitations or worse. At fifty, I don't want to start messing around with the old ticker, that's for sure.
  There's so much to be thankful for: the car to get me back and forth. I can turn a tap in my kitchen and have clean water to take the pills with. My house has more than one clock so I know exactly when a dose needs to be taken. Then the house itself is a warm, dry place to recuperate in. There's Pumpkin snuggles to help take the whines away. I have sick days I can use to miss work with no repercussions. This is a list that can keep on growing. Like Jack's beanstalk, may it touch the clouds.
  "Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever!" Ps 136:26

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Sick Again by Susan L,

  The deep cough came back. Think sea lion. It's created very sore lungs, inner ear dizziness, and a raw throat. The sore lungs are what drove me to the Emergency Department at our local rural hospital. I figured if an x-ray was needed, I may as well be where the equipment is. Sure enough, bronchitis, both ears are infected and so is my throat. Another course of antibiotics was prescribed along with a steroid and anti-inflammatory to help ease the pain.
  They've done a lot of work at the hospital to speed up the process. It's a two tier system where less urgent cases are streamed in one direction and more dire emergencies go in another. It meant I was out in less than thirty minutes. Our little well equipped hospital is said to have the second smallest wait times in the province. With our burdened free health care, that says something.
  The nurses were awesome. The initial intake nurse was kind. As was the doctor. They wished me a speedy recovery as I left.
  I'd like to hope that kindness exists with those coming to the ER with mental or emotional troubles. I've had good and not so good experiences myself. The new CEO of the hospital was part of the Canadian Mental Health Association prior to coming to Alliston. Hopefully, his influence will help the numerous people who end up at the hospital as a last resort.
 I have heard he wants to make some changes. There's a building directly behind the hospital called Mary McGill. It was set up to help people struggling with mental health many years ago. The only people who go there are those with these challenges. They get a staggering 800 referrals a year. The CEO wants to change that for a number of reasons. Not everyone wants to be seen entering the building. It segregates a rather, and sadly, large segment of the population. His plan is to bring Mary McGill into the hospital and possibly move the hospital's imaging facilities out to it. We'll see what happens. The building is rather old.
  So I've taken a sick day today and may take one tomorrow. I need to give my body the rest to lick this bug once and for all.
  "He has delivered us form the power of darkness and conveyed us in to the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins." Col 1:13-14

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Swallows by Susan L.

  A friend told me yesterday that Barn Swallows are now on the endangered list. She has had a pair nest in her garage for a number of years. Last summer she kept it closed so they couldn't get in because they made a frightful mess of her car. This year, she is moving her car outside and is leaving the garage open so these lovely little birds can make their home. Helping these beautiful birds begins one nest at a time.
  There was a man many years ago who took on reviving the endangered Eastern Bluebird. It's a brilliant blue bird with the colour of golden sunshine on its breast. He built birdhouses specifically designed for them so the starlings, not a native species, couldn't steal them. He installed and monitored hundreds of these racoon proof houses in farm fields. They are now a species at risk, a huge improvement.
  The swallow is different. They don't use holes to raise their young instead they build mud nests one beak full at a time attached to the rafters of barns and other buildings. Wood barns, their favorite nesting site, are slowly vanishing, crumbling into the forgotten pages of history.
  I never see them around my place. I'm in the trees and swallows like open fields for hunting insects. They devour mosquitoes at an astounding rate. One more good reason to let them nest in our garages or outbuildings.
  There were a couple or three pairs at the farm. In the spring, I would stand in the middle of the yard with a fluffy duck feather held up high. A nest building swallow would swoop down and take it from my fingers almost faster than the eye could follow. If the summer was long enough, they would raise two or three broods. I never tired of watching them fly, the fighter jets of the avian world. To lose them would be a crying shame.
  Lord, forgive us for not being the stewards of this planet you called us to be.
  I do have a question though. Before we colonized North America and built our barns, where did the barn swallows nest? Does anyone know?
  "Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it." Gen 1:15

Monday, 13 April 2015

Fire by Susan L.

  It  was a lovely spring day yesterday so I spent a bit of time puttering around the front. I didn't do much except relish in the sunshine and think about what needed to be done. A fire truck went roaring past, sirens screaming. It stopped just north of here. Shortly after, another raced past. I could smell smoke but couldn't see where it was coming from. At least five more trucks flew north from three different fire departments. A large number of pick up trucks and other vehicles joined the race north, their green lights flashing: volunteer fire fighters.
  Finally, I could see smoke billowing up into the sky.
  A large corn field was ablaze. The dried stubble was rich fodder for flames. I hopped into my car to see what was happening. It had been caused by someone burning brush to clean up the dead branches from winter winds. The fire leapt into the dried grass surrounding the burn pile then quickly ignited the field. There was a stiff breeze blowing so the fire spread faster than one fire crew could handle.
  It was on the local news. Nearly thirty acres had burned. A local farmer plowed up a firebreak risking tens of thousands of dollars in equipment. The combined efforts of fire fighters and volunteers were then able to bring it under control. Had it continued, houses would have been lost.
  It is grass fire season. The ground may be wet but the brown, dried grass on top is incredibly flammable. There were two other grass fires yesterday. One was from a burn barrel placed too close to long, dead grass. The heat alone ignited that blaze.
  So those of us who live on rural properties where fires are allowed, please be careful. If possible, put off burning until the grass is lush and green.
  Lord, bless the men and women who are firefighters. Bless the volunteers. They do so much more than fight fires. Keep them safe. In Jesus' name.
  "Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward." 2 Jn 1:8

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Rabbit by Susan L.

  There's a rabbit sitting in the middle of my front yard enjoying the morning sun. It's the first time I've seen one in the area in all the years I've lived here. Throughout the winters I've seen bunny tracks in the snow on the driveway but no actual animal. It surprises me that there is one. The land is low and swampy and wet under foot. He wouldn't be able to dig too deeply either before hitting water.
  It's not like I have a beautifully manicured lawn full of rich grass to attract him. I guess the clover and the new, tender shoots of dandelions are a better meal for him. Of those, there is plenty.
  What a nice way to start the morning.
  The air is filled with birdsong, too. More and more birds have returned adding their voices to the chorus. There's a woodpecker who insists on tapping his beak on my neighbour's metal antenna tower. The metallic ring must be heard for miles. It's a bird internet dating site. "Newly arrived in the area. Looking for company. No long term commitment required." Clang! Clang!
  I've only seen one of the turkey vultures who nest across the road. Perhaps its mate is yet to arrive. They are older birds, if it's the same pair who have been my neighbours for the entire time I've lived here. Migration south and back again must be exhausting.
  Thank you Lord, that I live in a place where nature is at my doorstep. Thank You for the joy it brings me. Thank You for the incredible diversity in Your creations. But most of all, thank You that winter is finally over!
  "Praise the Lord, call upon His name; Declare His deeds among the peoples, Make mention that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for He had done excellent things; This is know in all the earth." Is 12:4-5

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Learning Curve Pep Talk by Susan L.

  Why is it a curve anyways? Shouldn't learning be in a straight line?
  I took my flute to practice on Thursday and sort of fuddled around with some of the accompaniment. Fuddled is a good word. Now Susan, be fair. I hadn't ever seen some of the music and didn't know the tunes. The leader wasn't well and you only had two days advance notice of Sunday's music choices. There simply wasn't enough time to learn five songs.
  Perfection doesn't come overnight. Neither does the ability to improvise counter melodies. Throwing four sharp notes into the mix only made things more complicated!! I forgot how to play one of them. Relearning how to read music, to follow along all of its twists and repeats and jumping around will also take some time.
  Maybe the learning curve is all about getting lost and following the Lord until I find my way again.
  Patience. It will come. Practice. It will come.  It wouldn't hurt to ask the worship team leader for some more guidance. (Stop squirming, you can ask for help!) You can ask her to write out any music she would like played. The ability to improvise will grow with the knowledge of how to pick out such things from the music. Perhaps we could get together so I could learn more of what she wants from a rusty flautist and to give her the opportunity to assess my ability.
  Or maybe playing the flute is jumping the gun a bit. It might be wiser to simply learn the songs vocally and gradually introduce the instrument. Or maybe I am expecting too much of myself. Again!!
  Susan, there is no need to get stressed out about this. God, in His sufficiency, will make sure anything and everything you need will be there. God knows your heart, He knows you only want to be the best you can be. He will honour that and provide the grace until you reach that point.
  Praise God!! And that is what worship is supposed to be all about. Even the wrong notes!
  "Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance. In Your name they rejoice all day long, and in Your righteousness they are exalted. For You are the glory of their strength and in Your favor our horn is exalted." Ps 89:15-17

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Cigarette Papers by Susan L.

 As I've been playing my flute, I noticed some of the keys are a bit sticky. They open with a small "click" which means they are dirty. The internet can be such a wonderful resource for almost anything. Sure enough, a solution was there: cigarette papers. Place one in the hole minus its adhesive strip, press down the key and it will absorb grease as well as remove the dust and dirt that causes sticky keys.
  I went into Giant Tiger, a smaller, more modest, Canadian version of Walmart. On a quest, once at the tobacco counter, I asked if they sold cigarette papers. They did and I felt so incredibly naughty because these papers are mostly used for smoking products other than tobacco. As she calmly and with a somewhat bored voice asked what brand, whether white or blue, the blush rushed up my face to the point of being nearly purple. Utterly uncomfortable and after blatting out "Whatever is cheapest!", I launched into a justification for the legal need behind such a questionable item. The poor cashier probably learned more about flutes in my two minute bluster, fluster, panicky, stammered explanation than she ever wanted to know!
  Silly me.
  Apparently the cashier would have known right away by my request that it wasn't for nefarious purposes. Those in the know call them rolling papers.
  As for fixing the sticky, they didn't work so good. I may need to take the flute to the doctor.
  "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Mat 5:16

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Med Reduction by Susan L.

  I've begun the long, slow process of reducing one of my medications. I pray it all goes well, that the lesser amount still does what it is supposed to. It's a bit scary. This particular one is for anxiety and to help me sleep. I'm hoping by taking it a small fraction of only a few milligrams at a time with a period of at least three weeks between reductions, it will all go smoothly.
  This decision is because this med is extremely hard on the liver and kidneys. It also has contributed to weight gain because along with easing anxiety, it creates a craving for sugar and carbs. Taking two different medications with that side effect makes the desire to lose weight doubly difficult. I can pretty much time the peak cravings: one hour after taking them.
  My psychiatrist knows what I am doing. Changes wouldn't be made without his knowledge and he approves. We tried weaning me off this one a couple of years ago but I reached a point where I could go no lower. Anxiety became a constant companion so we bumped it back up a bit and there it has stayed.
  I've shared before that anxiety is the fight/flight response on overdrive. It's a physical thing not an imagination thing. The automatic response gets triggered by absolutely everything. Even making the decision to go to bed can trigger an avalanche of panic. Yes, it has happened. That's why we increased my last attempt at reduction. It makes it a bit difficult to sleep. Even making a change in meds is causing a level of stress that has me second guessing this choice to reduce which causes the needling fingers of anxiety to prick at my chest...aaargh! I hate hamster wheels!!
  So, my Lord, I lift this change up to You, that it will reflect Your glory. Grant me the perseverance and patience to continue on this path. Help my body adjust and function as it should. Help me be aware of what is happening so I don't get caught up in feeling anxious because I am feeling anxious. Help me acknowledge the source and bring to mind my invisible tool belt of wellness tools. In Jesus Name, amen.
  Tool belt? It's an imaginary thing. Mine looks like an invisible Batman belt with lots of pockets and gadgets. In it are the things I can use to maintain my equilibrium like running my hands under water or creating a collage, a visual prayer, or playing the piano in worship. It contains an arsenal of wellness tools to keep me balanced and grounded when and if things get rough.
  "So that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God." Prov 2:2-5

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Tootin' Flute by Susan L.

  Remaining faithful to my offer to the worship team, my flute was exhumed from its tomb: the bottom drawer of the guest room dresser. The mouthpiece is a bit tarnished after laying dormant for so long. Note to self: pick up some silver polish. The rest is chrome and isn't marred by time.
  The cat hid under the bed as I ran through a bunch of scales, did some jaw training exercises and played a bit of music to test my memory. A few snatches of Pachelbel's Canon in D from way back in grade 11, as performed by a flute septet, were there. It sounded okay although Pumpkin may beg to differ. I flubbed some of the high notes but after something like twenty odd years, it is to be expected.
  There may also be a bit of an issue with the pads and corks on the keys having dried out. Hopefully playing will correct that or it might be necessary to find somewhere to have them replaced. One step at a time.
  Waves of remembering: how to hold the instrument, how to breathe, how to support my breath with my diaphragm, (no, I can't hold a note as long as I used to) and how to finger the notes washed over me. Like singing, I'd forgotten how physically demanding playing is. It didn't take long for arms, neck and jaw to get tired. By allotting a daily practice time, that should soon improve.
  When I paused to literally catch my breath, memories of high school and the hours upon hours of involvement with the music department came to mind. There was something five days a week: early morning sectionals, band practice after school, plus my own practice time.
  That huge investment is paying off. My old music teacher would be pleased. To be able to pick up my flute after all these's amazing, really.
  Hey, I just remembered, the piano has a digital recording feature. Just for fun, I could record a string orchestra or grand piano or organ or harpsichord! How cool will it be to play my own duet!
  Thank You, Lord, for Your encouragement to join the worship team. Yet another blessing is being restored.
  "Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!" Ps 150:4-6

Monday, 6 April 2015

Going South by Susan L.

  I went down to my mom and step-dad's for Easter dinner yesterday after church. She lives about an hour and ten minutes south of me. It's not only directionally south but it's also down hill most of the way. My ears pop all the time from the change in altitude. Coming back it's the same but the car has to work all the harder to get me uphill and home.
  The night was rolling in as I left but at least the snow flurries had stopped. It was the hour, just as the sun goes down, when deer get on the move. There are favorite paths they take so a lot of the drive had me scanning the shoulders of the road for any sign of them. I am thankful the larger than normal volume of traffic kept them away from the roads because I didn't see any. The only wildlife was a brown rabbit that crossed in front of me just outside the gate at my mom's condo. Could he be called an Easter bunny?
  When I arrived at my mom's, there was an East Indian family standing inside the vestibule. As I opened the inside door with the electronic fob, they came into the building behind me. Suspicion tickled my mind as one of the building's security protocol was broken. No one is to be let into the building unless they are known.
   They shared who they were visiting and jokingly commented about "following" me as we waited for the elevator. I laughed and said it might throw my mom for a loop if we all showed up for dinner! We laughed and chatted for the few moments it took to reach the seventh floor. It was one of the most pleasant elevator rides ever. As I got off, they wished me a Happy Easter.
  A whole whack of assumptions got flushed down the toilet.
  They weren't pretty, I am sad to say.
  They very well could have been brothers and sisters in Christ but me, in my quickness to judge and to stereotype automatically assumed they were not. Shame on me.
  And if they weren't, more shame on me for not truly portraying Christ's love for all people. In voice, I was friendly enough but my heart is another matter.
  Forgive me, Lord. Help me grow. In Jesus' Name, amen.
  "For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests of our God; and we shall reign on the earth." Rev 5:9-10

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Oh, Holy Day by Susan L.

The Roman guard appointed,
To appease the Pharisees,
Spewing doubt,
Profaning God,
Pilate, once more, did please…

Soldiers, four… stand watch,
Guarding immoveable stone,
   By “Powers High”:
                Satin cord and wax.

Polished armor gleams,
          Tiny suns, glaring. 
             Noonday heat punishes.
      Sweat         Beads
            Streaming along creases
               Of craggy, weatherworn skin.
                                                 Dusty riverbeds
Cleansed by their passage.

      Swarm, pester, buzz with intent
        To partake of these salty waters.
                                      Hot winds
                   Stir clouds of grit;
            Dust devils
                           Fill eyes watering… to blindness.

Restless, puzzled, simple men mock
Order’s folly.
 He, whom is guarded,
                    Is Dead.

    Contempt drapes its fabric
             On their hearts,
             On their minds,
     Whispering foul words.
        Coarse humor
Spews forth
Ridiculing those who mourn,
Watching, waiting, hoping.

The moon invades: heatless light,
     Hidden creatures,
   Men shiver,
                                     Rough robes held tight, pacing
    Back and forth endlessly.

 The light of torches
                         Unveils macabre images,
                  Keeping fear… Alive.

New faces, somehow the same,
Crude jokes, duty,
Exchanged.  Groaning, mumbling
This onerous task received,
Sleep heavy minds clouded and dull.

                  Are viewed warily, askance.
                      Eyes       flick      about,
   Nervous in this hour.

                                                 Birds chatter hesitantly,
                                                 Testing a hope of day.

Eastern heavens labour
        To birth the dawn,
        Torches sputter…smoke
      Blending with mist.

A pair of shadows, entwined,
                               Emerge from the ethereal haze.
     Mother and friend
     Against the chill.
     Sorrow, anticipation,
     At war in their countenance

                    This Third Day.

The sentinels sneer, eyes roll, dishonoring
This early vigil,
     Haughtily they ridicule the likes
        Of foolish women.

Beams of light
                     Tuck straggling stars to bed,
                Blood reds reclaim the purple sky.
           Golden Glory
      Peers over the horizon.
                   Silent witness
                                 Of events to come:

The Earth snarls;
         Bewildered guards
          To stay afoot.

        What should be solid,
            Now treacherous
               With Wrath.

               The Angel of the Lord appears,
       Blinding white sun-fire,

         The seals, the might of men,



Pride, arrogance, vanish,
    Battle veterans
                 Weeping in terror at the sight
Of this mighty being.
                             Arms flung overhead,
   In futile efforts to shelter…
           To hide.

The Earth Stills.

Shocked… immobile…

     Soldiers humbled, listen;

       The Angel’s voice,
 That of running waters,

 Declares the message from God, 

                “HE IS RISEN!

The ladies’ dedication is blessed.
Quick, delicate footsteps fade……. away…….
Profound silence pervades,
    Broken only by staccato birdsong: 

    Rejoicing, rejoicing.

Cautiously, heads lift from their place
             In the dirt,
        Sand embedded cheeks flushed,
        Surround wide open eyes,
                         Reddened by tears.

        Stale air drifts from the open tomb.

                            They rise:      Four now united.
                                                 Brothers-at-arms….close rank,
 Tentative, quivering, ashamed
  As one…..they enter the gloom.


Irises expand quickly,
  Turning eyes black as the grave.
        Ghostly outlines reveal:


        What they heard:


                  Falling to their knees,

                                    They believe!

Pharisees and silver,
The language of their kind,
Bought the Watch,
The soldiers’ lips,
Did it change their mind?


"Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen me and yet have believed."" Jn 20:29

Saturday, 4 April 2015

The Garden of Gesthemene

  I wrote this many years ago. Although I have taken some licence with the location, the poem seems appropriate for the season.

Alabaster walls aglow
Against the backdrop of night
Embrace the Treasure within.
Her entry, a graceful arch,
Caressed by moonbeams silver,
Easy passage for those desiring tranquility.
Carefully laid pathways, liquid gold
Flow here, flow there
To meander past
Lively quicksilver fountains,
Whose murmurs invite quiet contemplation.
Flowers, plants: monochrome,
Flash steel sparks,
Chanting wordlessly
As the breeze draws out their song.
A heavy perfume: exotic
Swirls about, illusive.
Hovers thick, tangible.
Where the wind takes her fancy.
Sweetness offset by musk, the rich, mortal aromas
Of earth and life.
Stately olive trees reach out, fellowshipping
One with another.
Building cool oasis when the sun strikes hot.
Content for now to abide,
To pray,
Releasing freshness into the cool night air.
Fluted columns rooted deep.
The sentinels
Encircle the lawn: the Lady’s heart.
Icy marble, iridescent under the lunar rays
Casting into the glade
An unearthly, tentative glow…
In her bosom, Jesus, all alone,
A sorely frightened child,
Finding sanctuary
Lies prone.
His careworn face buries deep into the grass
Unconscious of the dew.
The Hour of hours drawing closer, ever closer.
He knows what is to come.
He knows the trials ahead.
He knows…He knows...
And He cries out, desperate,
Satan whispers, almost audibly,
Jesus writhes in pain,
“The flesh…the flesh…” He weeps
As the reeking polluted tide tries to sweep Him away.
The devil’s rush of bitter words beating…beating.
“Too much. Too hard.  For what?
Stop it now!  End it.
…and God says He loves you!”
Relentlessly flood back and forth trying to erode
His heart,
His soul,
His spirit.
Powers, principalities poke and prod
Repeating, repeating, repeating.
Twice the Lord seeks men,
Their aid obliterated, enthralled by a disquiet sleep.
The Messiah, at last, stands tall,
 His birthright ablaze, coursing through His veins,
Fervently loud and clear,
 Resounding in the Heavens,
The Voice of voices cries out,
“Thy will…Thy will…Thy will be done!”
Surrendering fear, surrendering humanity,
To His Father’s desire.
 The last rank and foul things scuttle away.
In their wake:
Strength: inhuman,
Peace: incomprehensible,
Desire: to see this through,
Glory, Glory Halleluiah!
           His truth goes marching on!       
    "Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him." Mat 26:48