Saturday, 31 January 2015

"Selma"by Susan L. (this missed being published yesterday!)

  H and I went to our local theatre to see the movie "Selma". It's part of Martin Luther King's story: the pivotal point where African Americans got the their right to vote unencumbered by the obstacles white politicians had put in their path. Obstacles not placed on white voters. It was a powerful and moving story.
  Racially motivated injustices continue to take place all around the globe.
  I believe there is a school in Toronto that was started within the last few years. It's an all black school by choice because they felt they weren't getting enough racially or culturally relevant teaching in the public school system. I wonder how Dr. King would have felt about this because he fought so hard for de-segregation. Could they not have petitioned to have their history and culture included in the curriculum instead?
  When I was in school, our Canadian military history wasn't taught. It is now because we need to honour what our soldiers did for us in the two great wars. Curriculum can change as the need arises.
  When my oldest son was in public school, they banned Christmas celebrations as being discriminatory. One of his teachers had a brilliant way of getting Christmas into the classroom. She had all her children do a project in December about the most important holiday in their culture. Two thumbs up to her!
  Us and them. It's an attitude that has its filthy claws wrapped deeply into every society. I confess, at times I am guilty of that line of thinking. It's so subtle, so interwoven in to the fabric of my middle-class, Caucasian thinking that it sneaks up every once in a while. Which is why I am so thankful for last weeks conference about poverty and the anti-oppression training that was part of PREFER.
  Being aware is half the battle.
  "I (Jesus prays) do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one." Jn 17:16
 

 
 

Wondering Thoughts by Susan L.

  I came across the story I wrote just before Christmas for writer's group. It's the one where the shepherd speaks about his life with the sheep and the events of Christmas eve. The angel told them to go and share all what they had seen and heard.
  I don't think shepherds were held in very high esteem as far as employment status goes.  It is such a humble way to make a living. Perhaps shepherds were regarded with the same sneering distain we often treat farmers with today. Having walked that path as an amateur I tell you it takes dedication and wisdom to eke a living from the land.
  That's most likely why Jesus called Himself a Shepherd for God's people. It is a place of humility yet filled with tender care and compassion towards a human flock.
  Reading the story again has me wondering who the shepherds shared the good news with? Were they laughed at...or mocked? Were they believed? The scriptures don't say if they were Jews or Gentiles but it might be a safe bet to assume they are Jews because they knew about God and angels. Or if they were Gentiles, they had knowledge of the Jewish faith and their beliefs, perhaps gleaned in their travels. The Bible doesn't say very much about that. This is merely guessing.
  It's hard to say how I'd react to a lowly shepherd sharing the Good News of a Saviour born for all mankind. Would he be scruffy and dirty? Did he smell like sheep? His clothing might be threadbare, his sandals worn from travelling. Would that have led me to disregard his words because of what he looked like?
  Unless the Lord opened my heart and enabled me to see beyond the physical appearance of the bearer of Truth, I would probably not spend two minutes listening to the shepherd. I would turn my back in disgust at his open and honest sharing of all he had seen. Simply because of who was saying it.
  It is what it is. Forgive me Lord for my snobbery, my prejudices, my ignorance. Forgive me Lord for my own lack of humility. Forgive me for not sharing the Good News because of my own fear of being rejected or marginalized. Thank You, Lord, for Your grace and forgiveness. Help me be bold as a shepherd. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
  "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbour, and none his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them." Heb 8:10-11

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Being Single by Susan L.

  As much as I am content with my situation of living alone, at times it has its downside. Trying to figure out major things in life is difficult when it's a one sided conversation. I'm thankful for the blog where I have a chance to formulate what is rolling around in my head. I'm thankful for the comments and emails from friends who have given me some insight into these discussions with myself.
  Its easy to get off track when you are a lone navigator. Yes, I know the Lord will guide me. He also uses people to help.
  Jesus called Lazarus from the grave but He called on the people gathered around to remove his graveclothes. That's one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Lazarus' sisters, Martha and Mary, have also played a huge role in discovering my identity as a woman. They helped me merge the duality of the roll-up-your-sleeves-git-er-done part of me (Martha) and the softer, emotional, feminine side (Mary) that for the longest time I resented believing it to be weak. It's not.
  There have been some fundamental shifts in my understanding lately; a shedding of graveclothes if you will. These are deep things, core things that lay within my heart. Its difficult to articulate them and many are very personal. I just feel a shift, a lift towards something better, more whole.
  What this has to do with being single I have no idea.
  I'm still reeling a bit about what came out of my mouth on Sunday night at the meeting about wanting to join the church. But then, sometimes we can't see the road ahead. We trust it's there, it's simply hidden from view. All we need to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other to get there.
  Maybe this is a reminder that even though I am single, I am never alone.
  "But with the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you." Jn 14:26

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Not Sleeping Well by Susan L.

  In a jolt of connection this morning I realized the past week of broken sleep started with taking a multi-vitamin at night along with my other meds. It's worth trying to take the vitamin in the morning to see if that helps because it's something that needs to be taken. My eating habits aren't the best. Vitamin C can interfere with anti-depressants. Perhaps there's enough in the One-a-Day to mess with how the others are supposed to work. I need them to work. They are what keeps me well.
  There's been dreams, too, although not as harrowing as the nightmare of a week or so ago.
  Last night's was really strange. I was a man who was flying over where my son was stationed at a desert military outpost. (A combination of Bette Midler's "Where the Boys Are" and the old movie "Zulu".) I could feel and hear the roar of the twin props on the small plane (Raiders of the Lost Ark). The plan was to land and surprise him.
   Circling over the fort, circa 1890, (Yes, I know there were no planes then. It's a dream.) "I", the father, looked down through swirling dust and clouds. There was military action taking place: guns firing, tiny troops scurrying to defend themselves from an unseen enemy. The thought went through "my" manly head that they must be doing a training exercise. How proud "I" was of my son. How excited to see him again.
  But it wasn't a training exercise.
  Pulling away with my connection to the father's mind, I remember thinking how sad the man would be when he realized this was an actual battle he was witnessing and that his son was probably dead.
  I sort of woke up, my heart grieved, and kept revisiting the view from above for the rest of the night as both the father and the spectator.
  I've been skeptical about dreams being prophetic but believe they are sourced in our day to day experiences. The subconscious tries to make sense of what's happening. Although, where ravening dogs trying to tear me apart fit into that I have no idea. As Scrooge says, they were probably a bit of undigested beef or a smidgen of undercooked potato. However, this dream really captures my feelings about what is happening at church.
  The enemy we are fighting is ourselves. How this must grieve our Father's heart.
  Lord, have mercy. Let Your will be done. In Jesus most Holy Name. Amen!
  "But the Lord is with me as a mighty, awesome One. Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper. Their everlasting confusion will never be forgotten." Jer 20:11
 
 
 

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Decision Indecision by Susan L.

  Whenever  a decision is made, there's always a flurry of second thoughts. I keep thinking of things I would have liked to have said at the meeting on Sunday night. Things like: "It doesn't matter who is at the front, the point of church is fellowship and the opportunity to grow alongside like minded people." or "I want to stress that we need to pay attention to the elders' decisions and direction. That's why they were elected because the congregation felt they would do what is right for the church."
  I also wished I'd said that there is no wrong or right decision. No matter the path we choose, God will be there. The issue is how we choose that path.
  I don't think most of the people realize that a vote of "no" is a vote of no confidence and the elders would resign. That would be a huge loss to the church and could spell its demise. That's a sad thought. Who would be willing to take the reins of a pastor-less church in light of such results? The words "rebellious children" come to mind.
  One of the elders asked the group at the meeting to vote "yes" regardless of their own feelings. They asked for the votes to be placed according to the greater need, not just an individual's. Isn't self sacrifice part of being Christian? I'm sorry they didn't stress that this would be an act that honoured God, not men. They need 75% in favor in order to proceed.
  Maybe I'm saying this because I trust in the Lord to teach me what I need to learn no matter the source. He's done it time after time. He is able to use anything and everything to help us grow and mature as Christians.
  This situation has me worried but I prayerfully submit those worries to the Lord.
  Still, my willingness to join the church hasn't changed. That would give me the right to vote. Who knows, one vote may tip the scales.
  "Oh that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people, and praise Him in the company of the elders." Ps 107:31-32
 

Monday, 26 January 2015

Leap First by Susan L.

  And like a frog, ask questions later.
  There was a meeting last night regarding the future of our church. It was an opportunity to ask questions and have them answered by the elders. I'm not sure if everyone is truly aware of the precarious position the church is in right now. Not having a pastor, declining numbers, insufficient funds are all pointing in one direction. It isn't a good one.
  Which is why the elders are strongly encouraging us to go with a video teaching and hiring a person to do all the other things pastors do. Growth is desperately needed and we need to be different than the other churches in Alliston. I believe in the vision they have for our church.
  I had prayed before I went: that the Holy Spirit would guide me in anything I said. Towards the end, what came out of my mouth surprised me. I am not a member of the church and technically I had no right to speak but couldn't help myself. Being a "card carrying" member of a church is a concept I've struggled with in the past. I questioned why, if I am already a member of a greater church, is there a need to sign up with a particular body?
  Now I get it.
  It appears I am to become one.
  At least, that's what came out of my mouth last night. I want to be part of this church's family no matter where the future lay. Although, I do like Bruxy Cavey's teachings which is a bonus. I realized after I thought about what I'd said that joining up it isn't about signing on a dotted line. It's about belonging; about being part of something bigger than myself. It's about relationships and trust and growing in community. It's about accountability.
  Lord, I pray that the church will continue. I pray that people will trust in the leading of the elders. In Jesus' most precious name. Amen.
  "I say, "Keep the king's commandment for the sake of your oath to God." Eccl 8:2
 
 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Blast From the Past by Susan L.

  It's been a busy week. Work, an appointment and yesterday was a one day conference "Bridges Out of Poverty" that was held the next town over. It was eye opening, mind opening and heart opening.
  As people were leaving, I had a chance to talk to one of the main presenters. She works at our local OW, Ontario Works, office which was previously known as Welfare. She had shared that there had been some changes made in procedures that made it more client friendly. I wanted to tell her how glad I was that they had.
  As I shared that I had been a consumer, someone who had been on Ontario Works, an upwelling of emotions threatened to utterly derail me. It's the first powerful flashback I've had in a while.
  I have had a rich life. It's been a middle class existence and rather sheltered from some of the difficulties others face. (Thank You, Lord, for Your provision.) It was really hard to go into the OW office and ask for help. At that time, I was terribly sick and needed some help to bridge the gap during my application process for disability. Up to that point, I'd mostly survived on what was left from my divorce settlement. That was gone.
  It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It was a shattering blow that drove home just how sick I was. For me, it was a traumatic experience. The flashback affirms that trauma.
  My mom helped me go to college, a middle class sign of wealth. Otherwise, I had worked pretty steadily to support myself since I was a teenager. Being unable to work at a job I enjoyed was a tough pill to swallow. I battled my own feelings of shame, guilt and anger about needing government assistance, about the internal and external circumstances that had brought me to this place. Those are some of the emotions that swamped over me yesterday like a tsunami.
  My mind slipped into the past and nearly obliterated the present like flashbacks do. Briefly, I became that broken hearted, desperate woman who was struggling to get out from under the oppressive, life smothering illnesses of major depression and PTSD.
  The biggest part of the flashback was being mentally transported to the office. I sat across from someone I had just met and answered countless personal and financial questions. I could smell the office smells: stale coffee, photocopies, someone's lunch. I could hear the sounds: voices, phones ringing, the fax machine twittering. At the time, I felt ravaged and inconsequential and utterly helpless in the face of government t crossing and i dotting. Those feelings rose to the surface yesterday with a vengeance.
  All this happened in a matter of moments.
  I know it showed on my face.
  Lord, help me forgive myself and others so I can be free of this scar on my soul.
  "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them." Mk 11:24

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Holy Spirit by Susan L.

  Part of small group is winding up with a check in around the table to request prayer for whatever is on our heart. My request was for more discernment and wisdom, and to be more aware of the leadings of the Holy Spirit. I also asked for courage to speak the words that may need to be spoken.
  I did smile a bit about something someone said: that new Christians are fed on milk before moving onto meat. My walk was very different. It started in battle, in spiritual warfare, against an enemy that was continuing to rail against me. Because of my brokenness, there was no way I could have received the lovey-dovey stuff of God's Word.
  Maybe that's why I am enjoying the teachings of Bruxy Cavey. He gets down to the basics. In some ways I am young and inexperienced in my faith. Understanding is being given the opportunity to catch up to my heart. How often are the simplest ideas the most profound and life changing? It's wonderful to feel the Spirit within me leap up and point out what is pertinent to my walk with my Father.
  The last decade with Christ has been more about survival, getting through, getting over and letting go. There's still lots of warts; things I'd like God's help to change. Self-absorption being one of them. Forgive me for that, my Lord.
  Mind you, without it, there'd be no blog. (Ha! Ha!) Never in a million years did I imagine I had so much to say. That probably comes from the years of enforced silence. There's a lot of catching up to do! Thank You, Lord, for giving me this gift. Thank You, Holy Spirit for giving me the words.
  The self-absorption is probably rooted in being wrapped up in survival and emotional torment for so long. In coming from a place and time when I believed I was invisible, disposable and unlovable perhaps the pendulum may have swung too far the other way. Perhaps, along with discernment, I'll ask the Lord for balance as well.
  In saying that, my heart floods with gratitude. There's a confidence in my soul that is seasoned nicely with humility. I can't help but be humbled because I wouldn't be writing this without the revelations, growth and changes that have happened with the help of the Holy Spirit.
  "When He saw their faith, He said to him, "Man, your sins are forgiven you." Lk 5:20
 
 

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

On Taking Notes by Susan L.

  Part of this exploration our church is going though is being asked to spend the time in our small groups discussing the previous Sunday's sermon. There are some who resented this intrusion into the group decisions about what to study.
  The word "autonomy" has been tossed around in both group and at church. Should that even be a word that's used when we are supposed to be all members of the Body of Christ? Just a thought.
  Right now we're doing a section on the Holy Spirit that none of us wanted to set aside. Some are also reluctant to place their entire quest for knowledge and truth into one person's hands. That, too, seems wise to me as well.
  Someone came up with a brilliant compromise. We'll spend half an hour discussing the sermon, the rest will be spent with the subject and teacher we have chosen.
  That works for me. I think it's a good idea to talk about what we heard or interpreted. Everyone hears something different. Sometimes what we hear or how we interpret what we heard is not quite right. It's not the pastor, it's our version of truth that may need clarifying, expanding or even correction. This is also a great opportunity to cement a lesson into our heart, mind and soul.
  Before the service everyone is given a handout regarding the sermon and are supposed to go online later to look up the question sheets about the topic for our study groups. I've tried to take notes on the hand out. It's not working for me.
  I went for lunch after the service on Sunday with a woman who is in my small group. It was a great opportunity for us to discuss our feelings about what was happening in the church. She teased me a bit because she had taken copious notes throughout the sermon. I had only done a few scratches before giving up and began concentrating totally on what was being said. I realized a small sketchbook needs to come with me to do visual note taking instead of simply trying to write my impressions or questions. Not that note taking is graded or anything, the Lord will help me remember what He wants me to remember!
  "Jesus spoke these words, lifted His eyes to heaven, and said, "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."" Jn 17:1-3

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Another Rant by Susan L.

  Or maybe not a rant. I'll try and form it into questions and words of warning.
  It's about drivers who follow too close behind. It's dangerous. Especially at night for both the follower and the followee. The headlights in the rear view mirror partially blind the front driver. I've had drivers whose headlights were so close I couldn't see them in the mirror. That was scary! If a deer jumps out, there's no time to stop. It's been known to happen in rural areas. The deer are out there.
   I've noticed this impatient tail-gating more and more. Which leads to a question: when did we get to be in such a hurry? Most of the time we already speed at least ten klicks above the posted limit if not more. Being pushed from behind to go faster than that is frightening to say the least especially when the roads are long and winding and unlit. There's a lot of those in a rural area, too.
  I've slowed down and pulled over to let these people pass. It's the safest way to deal with the situation. Occasionally, I've flashed my brake lights if there's no safe place to either pull over or pass. That sometimes helps, too.
  I don't know if this behaviour is intentional or simply being distracted. Either way it creates an unsafe situation for both vehicles and their drivers. Toss in a blanket of snow or icy patches and the potential for an accident grows even more.
  We all need to drive according to the conditions of the road. That also means leaving a safe space between vehicles not just at night but in daylight as well. Please, for everyone's sake, slow down. Your job, your family, your life is far too valuable to lose.
  "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near, let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." Is 55:6-7
 
  

Friday, 16 January 2015

Plugging Away By Susan L.

  The illustrations for the book are coming along nicely. I take my sketchbook into the centre and work on them there because it's nice to have a bit of company while the images take shape. I'll share them once the book is in my granddaughter's hands. Until then, shhhh! It's a secret!
  I still have to choose the type face and lay out the text. It shouldn't take too long to do. I'm not doing any illustrations on those pages except for the possibility of kitty footprints. It'd be nice to make a stamp instead of having to draw and colour them. The idea just struck me: maybe that would be a good place to put sketches of brick making equipment instead.
  That's been another mental exploration simmering in the back of my mind: how to make a stamp. I'm thinking of gluing cut out foam onto a piece of wood. It'd have to be with rubber cement or some other sort of waterproof glue. Wouldn't want the ink to cause the toe shapes to fall off. I could even do more than one foot print so there would be a bit of variety in the ornamentation.
  I need to do a front and back cover too! Almost forgot about that! And a dedication page and a title page. There's still lots to do. Hope it comes together when it needs to.
  What paper to use for the book has also been rolling over in my brain. It might not hurt to wander around the local office supply store and see what they have. If I decide to colour the images, it would need a heavier stock paper. Keeping the initial drawing in black and white would mean I could copy them over and over. It might be nice to do some copies for my granddaughter to colour for herself. That might be fun for her.
  Okay, I can feel the fingers of overwhelm starting to tickle. Let's get the pictures finished first and tackle the rest a bit at a time.
  "Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah." Ps 62:8

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Letter by Susan L.

  The Ontario government is proposing yet another tax to add to the burden of an already taxed to death population. The Carbon Tax will add seven cents a litre to the price of gas. These funds are supposed to go directly into projects for the environment. Sure, gas prices are the lowest they've been in years but sure as anything, they will go up again.
  I don't know if it will affect heating oil or not.
  I wrote a letter to Jim Wilson, my Member of Provincial Parliament, MPP for short, against this tax. It will affect every single aspect of our lives. Anything that utilizes transportation will be hit with an increase in cost to cover the added tax. That's pretty much everything.
  It isn't cheap to live in Ontario. Our poverty rate is disgraceful and growing. Homelessness and the demand on food bank resources has sky rocketed. This will only make it worse.
  We already pay sales tax on new and used vehicles. We already pay a road tax, licence taxes, tire taxes, and I am sure there's something I am forgetting. E-testing is a cost already incurred to help eliminate greenhouse gases.
  We pay environmental fees already on a slew of items from paint, to tires, to electronics. They are misleading by being called disposal fees. It's a tax, don't kid yourself. Where does that money go? Hmm, I forgot to add that to my letter and only thought of it now. I might send another quick note to him.
  I posted a petition on Facebook and hope to get people to like and share. It's time we stopped being apathetic and accepting of the idea that the government has the right to rob us blind!
  I suggested to Mr. Wilson that the government look to its own wallet to find the funding for environmental projects. Mine has nothing left in it.
  Please, take the time to contact your MPP about the proposed carbon tax. If we do nothing, we have only ourselves to blame when it shows up on our gas receipt.
  Lord, I know You say to us to render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to honour our leaders. I'm simply having a bit of a struggle with that when Caesar's pockets have holes in them. We can never do enough to fill them.
  "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Mat 22:21
 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Research by Susan L.

  My Bible study group is tonight. We were asked to prayerfully investigate and contemplate on the Meetinghouse and our elder's proposal. The plan is to have a discussion about their suggested path for the future. Personally, I like what I have read and like the idea of becoming affiliated with an organization/church who calls themselves the Brethren in Christ. Isn't that what we're called to be anyways?
  The Meetinghouse may not be perfect but what thing of man is? It may be controversial, but how are we to stretch and grow? Yes, Bruxy Cavey, the lead Teaching Pastor, dresses in baggy jeans and flannel shirt, his hair is long, his beard longer. Jesus didn't wear Armani did He? Right off, Bruxy challenges us by his appearance alone. It means we have to set aside our preconceptions and prejudices about who and what a man of God is.
  I am still very disturbed and grieved by the lack of respect shown our elders on Sunday. I regret not speaking up at the time. Yup, master of conflict avoidance. Lord, I pray for Your grace and wisdom tonight. I pray that my words be Your words. I pray for the courage to speak them. Lord, help me be the voice of peace. In Jesus' Name, Amen!
  As far as Sunday's angry and suspicious rant by one of our congregation goes, in all my reading of both the Meetinghouse's website and the Brethren in Christ's website, there wasn't a single thing to back their accusations up. It reminded me of another meeting at a different church where a discussion of Dan Brown's "The Davinci Code" stopped just short of everyone grabbing torches and pitchforks and marching on the man. That controversial book fanned the flames of my hunger for truth as I unknowingly drew nearer to the pivotal, life saving, life altering moment when I received Jesus as my Saviour. My own quest for the Holy Grail: the cup of Christ, had already begun thanks to that book.
  Lord? I pray for Dan Brown, that he may come to know You. Lord, I also pray for the pitchfork wavers, that fears be set aside so Your truth and desires for all our lives can settle in our souls.
  We forget that God, in all His infinite power, His infinite wisdom, His infinite love can use all things for His purpose. He's the One who probably put The Davinci Code into my hands! I know He made darn sure I had a Bible!
  Lord? I also pray a hedge of protection around everyone who is called to examine the proposed future of our church. Help us be aware of the Holy Spirit and His guidance. I bind the imps of Satan who would tear our community apart and command them to be silent. They are not welcome. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
  Lord, I am anxious. You know I don't do well in potentially volatile situations. Grant me the strength to go tonight. Help it not be as I fear it might be. Amen.
  I am not going to  close with a scripture today but with a motto that has deeply touched my life. It was a treasure gleaned from the movie, Apollo 13:
  "Ad Astra per Aspera"...a rough road leads to the stars. AMEN!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Upheaval by Susan L.

  My church is going though some major upheaval since the passing of our pastor. Yesterday there was a meeting to discuss an option the church elders had come up with. They put forward the idea that we align ourselves with the Meeting House in Oakville. It's a modern church whose main goal is to take the "church" out of church. Faith without religion, what a concept! Our sermons would be podcasts of their main pastor, Bruxy Cavey.
  The fact that he got everyone to laugh on Sunday speaks volumes about his ability to teach.
  We would format our youth groups and our small groups based on the Meeting House's structure and teaching materials. Instead of independently choosing a bible study program, we would take the time to analyse and explore further the lessons of the previous Sunday. I think that's a neat idea personally. How many times have I heard a sermon and forgotten the lesson the moment I left?
  Should we decide to go this route, our elders would re-define their pastoral search to look for a pastor who's sole job would be pastoral service. It would free them from having to do the teaching every Sunday. That had been one of my biggest concerns, that there would be no pastor for us but the one on video.
  The elders have temporarily suspended their search for a new pastor and have asked the congregation to continue with the Meeting House teachings until the end of February. There would be a vote at that time to decide which way everyone wanted to go.
  The meeting got ugly. Leaked misinformation had already created feelings of anger and suspicion long before the elders presented this.
  On Friday, a woman from my church approached me. The first words out of her mouth were, "I've been told to keep this secret but I think you should know..." She then proceeded to tell me about what the elders had in mind. What she told me was not what the elders said.
  My mistake was not stopping her. By listening, it encouraged her to gossip and slander the church elders. I won't make that mistake again.
  Thank You, Lord, I was able to listen to the presentation with an open mind.
  The elders are elected by the church people. Are we not supposed to trust their leadership?
  "Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine." 1 Tim 5:17
 
 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Window Shopping by Susan L.

  I had a lovely day yesterday with my friend H. We went to the mall in Newmarket for a bit of a wander around. She had a purpose. I was there because, miracle of miracles, I actually felt like going for a bit of a look around without actually needing anything there.
  We went to the fabric store first which was down the road from the mall. That was my only objective: to get some fabric for my quilt. The store was packed because they were having a huge sale. That's a bonus! I found what I wanted and left pleased with my purchases.
  We ate lunch at the food court in the mall. H's choices were far healthier than my own burger and fries. The mall was busy too, so it was a rather noisy dining experience.
  I was surprised there were so many people there because January is usually a lean month for retail. No one has any spare cash after Christmas. It's possible the delightfully low gas prices means everyone has a bit extra in their pocket. It's made a difference to me, that's for sure.
  We went to her house for supper and began investigating our proposed trip out east next fall. The plan was to rent a RV/camper for ten days. There was an early booking special on but it wasn't that great a deal. We decided to wait until the fall specials come in before making a decision. The other option is to simply rent a car and stay in B&Bs or hotels. September is a few months away so there's no hurry.
  The company, CanaDream, had a special on if you wanted to rent one of their RVs and drive it one way from Vancouver or Calgary to Whitehorse in the spring. It was dirt cheap with all the bells and whistles included. You pay them to shuffle the camper rather than them needing to pay a driver to move their inventory. It's a great thing for a retired couple to do but because there's no choice as to what kind of RV you get, H and I decided we better not take advantage of it. A camper van with only one bed wouldn't have worked for us.
  So there it is. Wow. Making plans for the future. Having goals even. I never imagined it would be possible. (Shhhh! Don't tell anyone!)
  "For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall my covenant of peace be removed," says the Lord, who as mercy on you." Is 54:10

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Orchid by Susan L.

  It must be spring! Well, somewhere in the world anyways.
  Two and a half years ago I treated myself to an orchid. I'd never owned one before. It flowered constantly for two years before taking a break. It might have been forced by a lack of water. Even a plant that needs little can't do well with next to none!
  I left the old flower stalks on, not really sure if I should cut them off or not. The orchid grew a new leaf in that time and when I went to water the sadly neglected plant this week, I saw that a new flower stalk has started to grow where the new leaf meets the core of the plant. The old stalks are also showing new signs of growth.
  It must be happy where it is with the eastern exposure and the rather sporadic watering. It's also an in-your-face mockery of the winter that lay outside the living room window. Seeing green things grow does this Canadian heart good!
  I don't have as many plants as I used to. Reorganizing my living room after painting meant getting rid of some of the bigger ones that took up too much space. I've a few favorites: a variegated Hoya. It's a vine that when it gets root bound, it will bloom. The tiny, white, waxy looking flowers throw off a beautiful fragrance. Mine has a way to go.
  There's the traditional spider plant, an African violet, and an English ivy adorning various window sills. There's a small palm type tree sitting on the floor that was in a planter I got when my son was born. It's hard to believe it survived this long. I also still have my lemon plant, started from seed. I got rid of the grapefruit tree because it had very nasty, two inch thorns.
  I can hardly wait to get back into the garden come summer. It feels like such a long way off.
  "What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord." Ps 116:12-13

Friday, 9 January 2015

Progress by Susan L.

  Two illustrations down for the Cat's Paw story, a bunch more to go. At least, the pen and ink part is done. I haven't decided if I am going to colour them or not but a splash of colour against the black and white is always effective. The illustrations are roughly six by nine so they don't take too long to do.
  I chuckled when I blogged about doing thumbnails and all that prep stuff. It wasn't going to happen. That was the part that used to frustrate me to no end when I was in college. Jumping right into the thick of things is my nature. The pictures are taking shape in my mind anyways. That's good enough for me.
  I might have to sketch Pumpkin a fair bit to use as a cat model for the story. That is if he'll sit still long enough! Thankfully the internet is also filled with pictures of cats if he won't.
  I'm pretty sure I posted the story last year some time after writer's group. The basic story line is about a cat at a brickyard in the late 1800's. It was inspired by a brick at the centre which is in an old, rambling house. The brick is near the front door and actually has a cat's paw print imbedded in it. I am going to include a photo of it in the story.
  I did a bit of research into brickmaking and the clothing at the time. They did have steam run machines which totally messes with my story. In it, they make bricks by hand. Which might have happened in a smallish brickyard. I could always do an educational blurb near the back. The idea was to draw all the equipment but in this day and age, I could simply add a few internet links to the information. Hmmm, anything to get out of drawing a straight line!
  Okay, one step at a time. There's a few more illustrations to go before I reach that point. I don't want to bite off more than I can chew or the whole thing will fall to the wayside like it has for other big projects. Overwhelm means stalling, procrastinating, and eventually not doing anything. That too, is in my nature.
  Could You help me with that my Lord?
  "O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. O Lord, correct me, but with justice; Not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing." Jer 10:23-24
 

Thursday, 8 January 2015

News by Susan L.

  I was horrified to hear of the attack on the magazine in France by Muslim extremists. The murder of artists, the political cartoonists, who are so adept at pushing buttons with their often controversial depictions of those in power is very shocking. It's also very scary. However, the resulting huge demonstrations where pens, instead of candles, were held aloft to defy those who would silence the freedom of the press was astounding.
  It grieves me terribly when my Lord and Savior is part of one of these political cartoons. It upsets me when the Christian faith is mocked. But then, we obviously have done something to earn the rapier edge of the artist's pen. We have a long way to go to be like Jesus!
  Part of the Muslim practice is to never use any depiction of a human form relating to their faith. That's why their temples are adorned with complex arrangements of pattern and colour. Is there any way for the political cartoonists to get their point across yet still respect this fundamental part of the Muslim life?
  On the other hand, we don't often hear of the countless Christian missionaries and followers who are being killed in Muslim countries. The persecution of people trying to share the gospel appears to be invisible in the media. Somehow it doesn't seem to matter.
  Maybe what's wrong with Christians is we are too passive about protecting our own fundamental beliefs. Perhaps we need to stand behind those who have the courage to go out to try and conquer the world with love. Maybe instead of demonstrations where pens are held aloft, they should be crosses.
  Or perhaps the press isn't as free as we think it is.
  "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Mat 5:11-12
 
 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Nightmares by Susan L.

  Each time I woke up and fell back to sleep, I faced hoards of rabid, hairless, demon dogs. The dreams were in glorious Technicolor, complete with smell and sound. I could feel their breath at my heels. The night was spent running for my life in an eerily deserted landscape that the dogs had cleared of human existence. It was like something out of a horror movie. "Hancock" with Will Smith comes pretty close.
  Needless to say, I am not very well rested and am feeling rather disturbed this morning. It made me very thankful for Pumpkin's purring wake-up call. He got some loving ear scratches because he wouldn't let me go back to sleep after I hit the snooze button. More often it makes me frustrated but definitely not today. His furry love assured me it was only dreams.
  I'm a bit rushed this morning. There's a staff meeting at nine so I've got to cut this short. Don't know how much I'll be able to contribute. Hopefully by nine the worst of the nightmare shadows will have fled.
  "He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge." Ps 91:4

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Prayer by Susan L.

  I went to church on Sunday. Because we are still without a pastor, the sermon was delivered via DVD. Bruxy Cavey was the pastor, a favorite of my youngest son. He delivered an extremely thought provoking sermon on the love of God. Part of it was about how we, as Christians, should love our enemies. It's left me feeling rather guilty and confused as to how I should behave.
  Just before Christmas, my ex-husband sent a me friend request on Facebook. After some thought, I deleted the request. This is what's causing the turmoil in my soul.
  Yes, I've chosen to forgiven him, at least vocally. The Lord is still working on my heart. I don't hate the man and the desire for revenge and punishment has been surrendered to the Lord. I do pray for him. Those are good things.
  I simply don't want him in my life.
  Yes, I know that forgiveness doesn't mean an acceptance of the status quo. I know that being Christian doesn't mean being a doormat.
  I am afraid of him. That's it in a nutshell. The crank call at two in the morning last spring from his buddy only served to cement that fear. He's the one who wasn't hired to cut down my tree for strictly financial reasons...I heard my ex's voice in the background laughing and egging him on. Childish games from men spurred on by alcohol. It's sad really. They probably don't even remember doing it.
  Love your enemy. Hate the sin.
  Lord? Maybe this decision is all self-preservation.
  Am I not worth protecting?
  I pray Your love and grace for him and his buddy will come into their lives. I pray they may come to know You as I have come to know You. I pray they will come to know Your forgiveness just as You have forgiven me many, many things.
  Forgive me, Lord, I simply can't be the one to do it at this time. I place my fear in Your hands. Amen.
  "Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance and saw Him saying to me, "Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me." Acts 22:17-18
  (Thank You, Lord!)
 
 

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Birthday by Susan L.

  My granddaughter's third birthday is coming up soon. For my grandson's third I wrote and illustrated a little book. I'd like to do the same for her but where to start? I've a couple of children's stories already written like the one about the cat's paw print in the brick. It 's a true story, the actual brick is near the front door at the centre.
  Let's think about this for a minute. The illustrations for that one are perhaps a bit more than I want to tackle. Hmmm, they could be simple black and white linear drawings with a pop of colour on each page. That would work.
  I'd need to do some research on brickmaking in the early twentieth century. There's the clothing the workers would wear that would need to be checked out at as well. Good thing for the internet.
  Pumpkin could serve as cat model although the cat in the story is female and someone recently told me there's no such thing as a ginger girl cat. If the image is black and white it wouldn't matter.
  The story itself has passed quality control. I read it to my grandson a while ago and he enjoyed it even without the pictures.
  I should talk to my daughter. She uses Shutterfly to do a calendar for us every year. I've seen wedding photo books done by the same company. It wouldn't be too difficult to scan and upload the pictures and text. Or I could do like I did for my grandson's book: colour photocopy the pages, laminate it and bind it with the plastic spine thingy.
  It wouldn't hurt to do a layout of the book with some thumbnail sketches of ideas. Planning has never been my strong point but it would help break this somewhat daunting task into manageable pieces.
  There was a medium sized sketch book in my stocking this year. It's paper with some stone in it that would be ideal for doing pen and ink final drawings. It's a nice size to work with.
  Now, where did I put that story?
  "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Mat 6:34

Friday, 2 January 2015

Round and Round by Susan L.

  I'm not getting anywhere this morning with the blog. Three false starts and growing frustration means it might be wise to give it up for today. The brain is not totally present because it's my painting group today at the centre and I need to get a few things.
  The plan is to do a still life: a bowl or some sort of collection of fruit. We've painted apples and oranges on their own so this seems like the next step. That is if it even happens. Depends on the turnout.
  I need to swing by the grocery store on my way in. There's far more interesting fruit than apples that we could paint. It'll take a bit of time in the produce section to pick up a few different items. I was thinking a persimmon or even some nuts might add a bit of visual interest.
  There's also a need to go to the dollar store for some paint. We're out of browns.
  Don't know why I am stressing so much. Lord, I give it to You.
  "Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah." Ps 62:8

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Happy New Year! by Susan L.

  The old calendar comes down, the new one goes up. It's hard to believe it's 2015, that another year has come and gone. It was a good year despite the hiccups in the spring with the anxiety issue. Glad that got fixed.
  It was a year of accomplishment for me: building the shed, painting the living room, the baseboards installed, the newspaper column, being well and graduating from the PREFER program. The high point was being able to spend more time with my grandchildren.
  Doing the DNA test has brought a great deal of peace. It's nice to know where you come from even if I don't pursue anything further. It's helped me appreciate the gift of being adopted by a loving family and a heavenly One.
  Being adopted means being accepted, not rejected. Funny, I never realized that was an issue.
  It's been a harvest year. Not just in physical accomplishments, but there's been emotional milestones reached. Confidence like I've never felt before has been building and at the same time settling into my soul. It's a strength based in faith and humble gratitude towards the One who has enabled me to reach this place. I wouldn't be here without it or Him.
  There's a deeper appreciation for the gifts and abilities the Lord has blessed me with. I am better at speaking up when others try and compare their skills to mine. It used to be a source of guilt. I can thank my co-worker for the answer. My abilities in art, writing and music require hours of dedication and a deep desire to hone those skills. It didn't happen overnight. (Thanks Mom, for urging me to practice!) Yup, more confidence.
  Although I am still not one to look to the future or to plan very much ahead, the fear of the future has eased. Which basically means the fear of my mental health collapsing has faded. I'm not sure if it will ever be gone completely but it's far better than it was.
  I can dare to dream.
  Turning fifty has meant an end to being in my forties, the most difficult decade of my life. Yay! Like I said, harvest time! Praise God!
  And a Happy New Year to you all! May you be richly blessed.
  "Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is shattered, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the well. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it." Eccl 12:6-7