Sunday, 31 January 2016

Disconcerting To Say the Least by Susan L.

  There's been a new show released on TV and it has me concerned/sad and downright stunned that anyone would think it was a good idea. It's about the devil taking a break from hell and moving to Los Angeles. Whenever the ads for it come on, I quickly switch channels. I don't want his name being mentioned in my home.
  Years ago I had a cat named Lucifer, which is the show's name. He was pure black except for a flash of white on his chest. I named him after the evening star of the same name, not after the devil. At the time, I thought it amusing and clever. That was before I understood what evil truly is. That was before I realized saying the name opens gates and allows that evil entry into my home and life.
  Just as we can call on the name of Jesus for good, the reverse is true even if it isn't intentional.
  This fallen angel has one purpose: our destruction. He will go to any lengths to achieve it. His greatest weapon is temptation. He plays on our weaknesses, our desires, and our hearts. He uses anything and everything to stop us from having a relationship with Jesus.
  Anything that isn't love is his.
  Yet, anything that isn't love, God can use to draw us into a closer relationship with Him. God gets it. His Son experienced everything it means to be human yet remained sinless on His journey to the Cross. He carried the sins of the world to their death. In Him, sin can be slain and joy reclaimed.
  Which has me squirming.
  But then, I know what Grace is: that beautiful, wonderful moment when God says, "I forgive you." All we need to do is ask.
  Lord, thank You for Your love and Your grace, Your patience and determination. Forgive me for allowing sin into my life. Help me overcome the challenges You know I struggle with. Help me be better than I am. Protect me, Lord, from the sneaky ways of my adversary and his minions. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
  "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." Eph 6:12-13

Saturday, 30 January 2016

More on the Quest by Susan L.

  History has a way of taking sides. Depending on your resources, it can favor one truth over another truth that ends up distorting the real truth of events long past. Make sense? Although without the ability to time travel, we have no alternative. Still, God is able to use all things to His will and desire to have us come to Him through Christ.
  My journey began, although only in hindsight do I realize this, long before I reached the point where taking a chance on accepting Jesus as my Lord meant I would live. Seeds were planted starting with Dan Brown's fiction, "The Davinci Code". It filled a disillusioned and lonely woman with a hunger to learn more. I read non-fiction books about the Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland which is filled with still unsolved mysteries. I read about the Knights Templar and their persecution and eventual dissolution. I read about secret pilgrimages although I couldn't give you the source now. It may have been in the book on the Knights Templar. There were many hints and clues and mysteries regarding the Holy Grail, or Christ's cup of the Last Supper. There was even a documentary on TV about the Chapel at that time which fit in nicely with everything I had learned and only served to confirm what I had read. These things filled me with a yearning and desperate hunger for something beyond my desolate life. What that was, I had no idea.
  That's when I met a wonderful Christian woman who was hired to begin training my two year old mare. She never preached but, like a moth to the flame, I was drawn to the Light she had within. You know the rest.
  I have never discussed that early reading until I posted the blog a couple of days ago. I've witnessed what bordered on a witch hunt when Dan Brown's books were discussed so I am reluctant to share what a crucial role they played in my coming to Jesus. Since that time, God has often used secular things to reach me, to touch my heart and now that the Holy Spirit is my Constant Companion, thanks to Christ's sacrifice, I have a Teacher who will lead me in the way of truth.
  Still, I've learned to check and double check any understanding He shares with me. There are forces out there willing to lead us astray. God always affirms His truths when we go to the source by watching, listening or reading His Word: the ultimate Book of Truth.
  "If you love Me, keep My commandments, and I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." Jn 14:15-18

Friday, 29 January 2016

Passion by Susan L.

  If you ask anyone who has seen Mel Gibson's "The Passion" what moment in the movie stood out for them the most, the responses are as varied and individual as each of us. For me it was when the two Mary's gathered cloths and tenderly cleaned up the blood of the Lamb that had been spilt during Christ's scourging. It drove home just how much was shed for us so we may be forgiven of our sins once and for all. Every lash of the whip laid the mark of sin on Jesus' back. This was the burden He took to the cross.
  I know my own sins well enough. He carried the sins of the whole, entire world. A weight I cannot even begin to imagine.
  Whenever I take communion, although the shared ritual of using a communal cup is not part of the church I belong to, I am reminded of the price He paid. Holding the humble, little plastic cup gives me an opportunity to draw nearer my Lord in gratitude. It floods up from every corner of my soul because without Him, without the blood that was spilled, I would not be here.
  Jesus knows all the trials I have been through. He suffered through them even as He gave the gift of communion to His followers: betrayal, denial, rejection. It is His cup, the Holy Grail a baby Christian pursued, that I freely partake of. A cup that has grown to mean so much more.
  I have been forgiven. I will never be alone.
  If you don't know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, I invite you to ask Him into your life. There's no prep, no requirements, only that you ask.
  "Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for the remission of sins." (Mat 26:27-28)

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Quest for the Holy Grail by Susan L.

  When I first began my walk with the Lord nearly twelve years ago, this newfound faith was my lifeline. At the time, I described my eager learning as a quest for the Holy Grail, the cup that Christ used at the last supper. I had done some reading about the knights of old and their own quests prior to coming to Christ. Already the Lord had put a hunger in me to know more.
  The knights were just as hungry for a personal relationship with God. The powers of religion back then were reluctant to allow "lay persons" the ability to find faith and truth outside of their doctrine, religious practices and teachings. That's where the quest came in. The knights' pilgrimages were a journey of personal growth and in order to gain permission for these quests for truth and enlightenment, they made the Holy Grail their ultimate goal. With armor shining and banners flying off they would go to the Holy Land.
  I am thankful that in this day and age we have so much available at our fingertips, literally. Even if we don't have the paper versions of the Bible, internet and digital copies are there for the reading. Lord, let Your Word become available to everyone throughout the entire world.
  So where did my quest lead me? I slowly began to understand what it meant to partake of the Cup of Christ. As I imagined sitting down with the disciples at the Last Supper, it helped me become part of a community of believers. It helped ease my own suffering and pain because even that enabled me to relate to the suffering of Christ. It helped me come to terms with the betrayal that had so rocked my world. It helped me see that the Hands that held the cup were full of love.
  There's so much more represented by that humble vessel. I am still on my own journey towards the Holy Land. It's a quest that will last a lifetime.
  "Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, saying, "Drink from it, all of you." Mat 26:27

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Writing by Susan L.

  In a fit of joyous exuberance, I posted a link to yesterday's blog on Facebook. Horn tooting isn't something I do very often but yesterday's 1000th post was definitely something to celebrate! Later that evening, our worship team leader asked if I might be interested in doing some creative writing for the church services: short poems, skits and the like.
  I had stopped going to my writer's group after joining the team because it involved being committed to rehearsals and Sunday services. It was important that evenings out were balanced. Although, due to this nasty infection, my attendance there hasn't been great so far this year. Hopefully this new course of antibiotics will kick it out of my chest. I miss playing. (God's miracle!)
  Anyways, I agreed. As much as I enjoy writing, when it comes to the creative end of things it helps to have an idea prompt and a deadline that lights the fire under my nether regions. Already phrases are pouring out about "Virtue", one of the sermon topics coming up in the next couple of weeks.
  This all ties into having "God Sized Dreams", the concept that caused me so much grief over the last little while. As my friend, H, commented, our first calling is to have a relationship with God. Through the outpouring and embracing of His love, everything else will fall into place.
  So here's a different take on things. Being a mere mortal, I cannot have "God Sized" dreams but what I can do is embrace the dreams and plans God has for me even if I have no idea what they are. They are far greater than anything I could possibly imagine or hope for.
  In order to fulfill His dreams for me, all that is asked is that I heed His calling and do even if I don't think I can. It's an exercise in trust, especially when being stretched beyond what can be a life smothering "comfort zone". (Hmmm...I never thought about a comfort zone that way before. Thank You, Lord.)
  It's all about stepping out in faith and believing that whatever God has called me to do, He will provide the tools to make that happen. And if there is anxiety or fear or simply feeling unsure, I offer these things as sacrifice to Your Glory and lay them at the foot of the Cross.
  Your will be done. Amen!
  "But He said, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."" Lk 18:27

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

1000 by Susan L.

  Imaginary bands are playing. Fireworks light the skies.
  This my one thousandth post today!
  It's the milestone I alluded to last week but I tell you, working my way through the last half dozen posts seemed to take forever! The count seemed to turn over as slow as molasses. But here we are at last.
  Never in a million years did I think it would continue this long. Ha! In true Sue fashion, I didn't even think about the future of the blog. It was simply a matter of jumping in and starting. I had no way of knowing just how important this morning ritual would become.
  It has served to ground my day in prayer and the scriptures. It has helped me grow to understand God, the Son and the Holy Spirit a little bit better. It's helped me draw nearer to my Lord as I explore the role of faith in the everyday. It has given me the place to work through the hard days; to hear God's take on things as I kneel before Him. It's been a venue for celebration, praise and gratitude (and the occasional pity party!). It's provided the space to let go of the burdens that would steal my joy. It's also given me the opportunity to let in God's healing truths.
  It doesn't get much better than that.
  It's humbling, too, to know there are readers all around the world who pop in for a visit. It truly is a global village. There's only one thing that has tweaked my curiosity. Does the computer/internet automatically translate each post for different countries or is it only published in English?
  I am truly blessed as well by the many thoughtful comments readers have posted over the years. Much wisdom has been shared.
  Lord, I thank You so very much for giving me something I never knew I needed.
  To God be the Glory!
  "He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he." Prov 16:20

Monday, 25 January 2016

Dreams, As In Hopes by Susan L.

  God sized dreams are what the last few sermons at church have been about. They have been via video as we explore one of the churches on our list of those we may end up affiliating with. A good sermon stretches us and they've left me feeling stretched.
  I am thinking that the word "dreams" could actually mean finding our purpose in Christ, our calling in other words.
  And here is where the trouble lies. Dreaming about the future, as I've shared before, is mostly foreign to me. Even though yesterday's post was about a hoped for/planned for trip out east, it's a rare occasion that I dare to even think about the future. I know the reasons which have been shared before. Trauma has a way of suffocating tomorrow. As does betrayal and all the bad things in this world. They are powerful tools of the enemy, aren't they? Weapons whose sole purpose is to stop us from becoming all we could be in Christ.
  I've spent a long time simply putting one foot in front of the other when simply getting through the long, dark days was sufficient of itself. Maybe it's time to stop living like that. Or should I say existing. Maybe it's time to think about what the future could bring. Maybe it's time to pray about discovering what God's plans are for my life. Maybe it's time to let go of some fear (and there's grief there as well). The sermon left me incredibly sad yet, at the same time, seeds of hope have been planted that maybe, just maybe, there's something out there waiting for me.
  So what would I like to see? Deeper connections with people. That came through yesterday's post. It's a good place to start. Lord, I'll need Your help with that. Help me be less guarded.
  So what would God like to see?
  I don't have an answer yet but, Lord, I'll be listening with every fibre of my being. Help me discover my God sized dream. Help me let go of all the garbage that is stopping me from living out Your plan for my life. In Jesus' name I pray.
  "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." Mat 7:7-8

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Think, Think, Think by Susan L.

  So says that wise and sage muse in the form of Winnie the Pooh as he taps his head with his paw. But that's as far as it appears it's going this morning. Like the bear, my head feels rather stuffed with cotton.
  I have been thinking about the trip to Nova Scotia next fall. It's rather unusual for me to be planning this far ahead but I'd like to figure out what to see then make it happen within the timeframe.
  After having lived so long in the vastness of Ontario it seems strange to discover that most of the wished for sights are only a couple of hours apart. Distances are miniscule compared to here where, if you are heading west, it takes nearly a full day's drive to reach Manitoba.
  So Halifax and the fort at Citadel Hill, Peggy's Cove with her iconic lighthouse, the Bay of Fundy with it's extreme tides, the Cabot Trail, and a boat trip to whale watch are listed so far. I also plan on checking out the house in Dartmouth where I spent time as a child. I remember my dad building it for us. It's still standing because I Google Earthed it.
  That seems like a pretty good place to start. I am not sure if time constraints will allow much else. These sights bypass the southern half of the province altogether which, if memory serves, is a beautiful drive of its own. I guess that means I'll have to go back again!
  God's will be done.
  "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

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Matters of the Heart by Susan L.

  My brain is whirling this morning. Relationships, the joys of solitude vs. the threads of loneliness, work, teaching painting, concerns about this cough that is determined to hang on, my church's growing pains as we choose a new direction, and thoughts about the book of Revelation (from Bible study group) are all bubbling up at once.
  And I had a bit of a cry yesterday. When God uses someone to speak a truth into your life, it's hard not to. And I know it's a truth when a cascade of un-Godly beliefs falls away. It's a truth when something I didn't know was missing was placed within my heart. It's a truth when the tears are tears of joy and fresh understanding. It's a truth when it forces me to review my take on things, to set aside my fears and live even more for God.
  It's all about relationships. It's about being filled with love by being connected to its Source. It's about letting that love overflow in trust.
  That's where I have struggled terribly. A heart of God isn't meant to be guarded. Discerning, yes. Isolated, no. Fearful, no. The Lord knows just how fearful I am of relationships, of getting close to someone. I have even held back from my own family "just in case". I knew it was happening and the disconnect has grieved me.
  Losses, abuse, abandonment, divorce, and the keen edge of betrayal have built up mountainous walls around my heart block by block, stone by stone.
  It's time to bring them down. Forgive me, Lord, for trying to protect myself. Forgive me for believing I had to.
  God's heart doesn't hold back. Mine wasn't meant to, either.
  "When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desired to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it."" Mk 8:34-35

Friday, 22 January 2016

Noise by Susan L.

  My cough is on the run, praise God, but I am still feeling drained by it. It was Good Food Box Thursday so I had the late shift. Everyone came early so there was no need for me to stay open until six, much to my relief.
   After spending almost a week and a half at home with only Pumpkin for company, being at work was particularly draining. It's rather frightening how quickly I became unaccustomed to the normal sounds and busy-ness of being in town. Traffic, people talking, the radio playing, created a backdrop that caused me to become hyper vigilant even though none of these things was a direct threat to me personally. That's one of the challenges of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a hair trigger to the fight/flight response.
   I love my job and the people I work with but I think this is a good warning for me. In order to maintain mental wellness, it is important not to remain isolated for any great length of time. Isolation isn't good for the soul.
  There may be times in the future when physical health means I have to stay home like I have. Spreading germs is not cool! What would I do to help remove some of the cocoon effect being at home creates?
  Something to think about anyways.
  "I (Jesus) have come as a light in to the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness." Jn 12:46


Thursday, 21 January 2016

Visitor by Susan L.

  A couple of days ago, a roughly ten week old, pure black kitten was sitting by my car. He looked fat and healthy although a bit cold and shivery. I had assumed he was part of the newest crop of feral cats that live in the neighbourhood. They are all fed by another neighbour. My heart wrestled with leaving him out there but I knew Pumpkin has issues with other cats in his territory.
  As I half heartedly called to the kitten, he slunk away under the car. If he had come freely, it would have meant he probably was a dump. That's when people who have unwanted pets drive out to the country and toss their animals on the side of the road. They believe that they will be able to forage and survive in the wilderness. A terrible and cruel practice.
  And I felt bad.
  I got thinking about the scripture where we are called to entertain strangers. I wondered if a kitten fell in that category.
  Last night as I was driving home from Bible study, a pair of glowing eyes flashed from the ditch. They were small so I spun the car around and stopped. It was the kitten. A black blob in the night. I called to him but again, of no avail. He was hiding in some brush so even if I tried to chase him, chances are he'd have gotten away easily. Not only that but it probably would have meant a trip to the ER by the time he got though clawing my hands if I even got that close. Feral cats do not take kindly to being manhandled and I was ill prepared to catch him.
  When another car pulled up to ask if I was okay, (only in the country) the kitten sped away across a ploughed field towards a farm. There wasn't anything else I could do. Hopefully he will find shelter in the barn.
  Lord, watch over the little fellow.
  Note to self. Put a flashlight in the car.
  "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." Jn 10:3-5

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Phone Service by Susan L.

  My land line went on the fritz so I called Bell this morning to have them come and investigate. It rings when someone calls but when I pick up, there's nothing but really loud static. I forgot to call yesterday but thankfully someone should be here before noon.
  The woman on the other end of the phone was helpful enough although she was rather hard to understand due to her heavy, European accent. I had to ask her a few times to repeat what she had said. Although part of my fuzzy thinking could be because I hadn't had my first cup of coffee.
  Then there's the sales pitch. "For only $6.95 per month, Bell will guarantee free repair service for any phone issue which is inside the house."
   Outside, it's their responsibility. Inside is mine. I politely declined because in all the years I've dealt with Bell, long before I even lived here, there has never been a problem inside.
  The phone infrastructure is aging like the rest of us. Yet, I wonder if it is also on the way to becoming obsolete as more and more people rely on cellular service.
  The times they are a-changing. That's a phrase I am sure every single generation has said since the wheel was invented!
  "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." Mat 6:19-20

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Image by Susan L.

  During the cleanout of my art, this image somehow ended up on my kitchen table along with a pile of other paper. It was produced during one of my pen and ink lessons. I confess the rough outline was traced simply because of time constraints. I wanted to use the portrait to demonstrate the power of line to create form and dimension. This was also used to demonstrate cross hatching, the technique where layering lines in different directions creates shading.
  I am not against tracing when it comes to learning. It helps develop hand/eye coordination as well as the ability to see the shapes and shadows within the subject. Even the great masters copied others' works as part of the learning curve.
  This young girl has brought the name "Mary" to mind. It's used for three main female characters in the New Testament. Her pensive and  introspective pose has me wondering about the thoughts that may have gone through those three ladies' minds.
  Perhaps Mary, the mother of Jesus, looked like this before she went to see her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. She had a secret and until Elizabeth blessed her, did she wonder about the choice she had made? Did she take time to lay her fears before God?
  When I was expecting my own son, I had moments like this: moments of wondering if all will work out for the child. There were also quiet moments of tumultuous fear/joy/awe surrounding the miracle of creation. Mary knew she was carrying the Son of God.
  Perhaps Mary, the sister of Martha, sat for a few moments with her hands folded following the death of her brother, Lazarus, taking a quiet moment to share her grief with God.
  And last is Mary Magdalene. Did she look this lost before she met Christ? Did her heart yearn for an impossible escape from the life of a prostitute? It's a good thing God is a God of the possible. He sent Jesus her way.
  Thank You, Lord, for bringing me this image. Thank You, Lord, for the gift it has been.
  "As in water face reflects face, so a man's heart reveals the man." Prov 27:19

Sunday, 17 January 2016

More On Trauma by Susan L.

  As more and more research is done into the effects of trauma, there's more and more confirmation that coping with the long reaching impact isn't "all in our head". This is an amazing article regarding how our DNA is affected by traumatic events that may have taken place as children. It explains a lot. Especially for adults who are left coping with the fall out from traumatic childhood events.
  The only thing I'd like to add is the definition of trauma. In the Peer Support Worker training I took, trauma was defined as "circumstances that are outside the realm of normal human experience". This doesn't take into account the situations where violence or repeated trauma are, sadly, the norm. Judith Herman (Trauma and Recovery) adds that "Traumatic events are extraordinary, not because they occur rarely, but rather that they overwhelm the ordinary human adaptations to life."
  The first definition also leaves a big question mark about what "normal" is. Under the Peer Support umbrella, we disagree with someone else defining what another's "normal" is. What is traumatic can only be described by an individual within the parameters of their personal "normal". What might impact one person could have no effect on another. There is no scale to measure trauma.
  It's wonderful that the scientific community is able to affirm and prove what those of us who have experienced childhood trauma know. Even if these things happened a long time ago, they have the power to impact our lives each and every day.
  I know first hand that God can heal the hurts. In Christ, we can find the strength and will to forgive those who have hurt us. We can also forgive ourselves for the choices we made.
   I want to be clear with that. I am not saying we are responsible for the terrible and often horrific things that have happened to us, especially as children. Even as adults, these traumas have a way of twisting our understandings and limiting our choices. We make the best decisions we can with the tools we have at the time. 
  Thank You, Lord, for Your healing grace. Thank You as well that researchers are gaining further wisdom. Thank You, Lord, for bringing this article across my path. It has been very healing for me because sometimes, just sometimes, I feel shame for living with PTSD and depression even though I know better.
  "Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."" Jn 8:31-32

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Rumbly Grumbles by Susan L.

  It is difficult to stay home for such an extended period. I've only been out once since last Sunday's church service and that was to the walk-in clinic. It really drives home how crucial the centre is for my mental health and just how crucial having contact with others is.
  The jigsaw puzzle that's on the go is rather tedious. I've watched enough movies to keep me going for a long time. The knitting is a big project which is taking for-ever to finish. Grumble. Grumble.
  As my kids would sometimes whine, "Mom, I'm so bor-r-red!"
  Normally my response was to tell them to clean up their bedroom or find something else to do. It always worked. Not the room cleaning but they would find a way to amuse themselves.
  My bedroom needs cleaning. Grumble. Grumble.
  There was one long, rainy stretch when my much younger children were housebound. By the third day, they were starting to scrap with one another. It was the height of summer and warm outside so I told them to put on their raincoats and boots and go jump in some puddles. Excited grins filled their faces as they tore outside to make the biggest splashes they could. They were out there for hours having a great time.
  There's puddles of slushy snow on the driveway but probably a neighbour would call 911 if I was out there jumping in the sloppy stuff and barking like a Saint Bernard (from the cough, not at the moon. Not yet anyways.)
  It's too bad we outgrow such silliness. That is, when we think someone is watching.
  How come life gets so serious? Grumble. Grumble.
  Thank You, Lord, I have an opportunity to go out this afternoon for a couple of hours.
  "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" 1 Jn 5:4-5

Friday, 15 January 2016

Not Much Happening by Susan L.

  Never one to do nothing even when laid low, I've little groups of things to do as I sit on the couch. The TV is on for company as I work my way through my movies. There's knitting a project that's been half finished for ages although having enough yarn to complete it may be an issue. I've a jigsaw puzzle on the go. And a book.
  Most of all there's Pumpkin cuddles. He is rather enjoying having me home all the time.
  I've been slurping soup, pots of tea with lemon in it, juice...everything our mothers ever told us would help a cold get better. The cough is only bad when I try and talk for too long. Good thing I begged off playing in the worship team this week. I can't imagine trying to breathe deeply. Practice is tonight. Maybe I should ask for prayer.
  I've taken a sick day so I don't have to go to work. Again, something to be thankful for. There's places in this world if you don't show up for work, no matter the reason, it's grounds for dismissal.
  As I said, not much happening but I don't want to miss posting. Stay tuned and you will find out why.
  "For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." 2 Cor 5:14-15

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Winter Is Here by Susan L.

  The sky is that luminescent silver that speaks of volumes of snow held in the heavens. Giant tissue snow flakes are falling in random, graceful spirals. The naked trees on the other side of the road are barely moving. For the moment, the wind of the last couple of days appears to be stilled. Just enough snow has come down that the bunny prints (from their secret, midnight, dance party throughout the yard) are all but covered up. Only the deep, dotted punctuation marks of a squirrel's mad leaps to the safety of the apple tree are left.
  It's my favorite kind of winter's day that almost demands a walk outside. I won't though. A trip to the walk in clinic confirmed my suspicions of bronchitis. Once again, thank You Lord, for Your provisions of health care and antibiotics.
  I got in the illness fighting food supplies. Cough medicine, plenty of juice, chicken soup, and black licorice Twizzlers should do the trick. Well, maybe the last one doesn't have much fight to it but it is nice to have some comfort food. Lots of rest will help as well. The house purging will have to wait.
  I think I'll put the kettle on, have a cup of tea and watch the snow fall.
  "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us." Rom 8:18 

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The Purpose of String by Susan L.

  It's just one of those things that seems to come in handy. Specifically the string that ties up bags of potatoes or rice or sometimes pet food. Whether I am trussing a chicken or well, trussing a turkey, the white twine is the best.  
  There's a trick to unwinding the sewn seam that holds a bag closed. It can only be opened at one end. Which end is hard to describe, but usually it's the shorter end that hangs off the end of the bag. By pulling the end of the lead string back out of the last loop, both ends can be grabbed and it un-sews itself. You end up with two perfectly good lengths of usable string and a bag that's much easier to get in to.
  Good luck with those instructions. They are as clear as mud.
  It's one of my little idiosyncrasies.
  I suppose years ago, it would have been used for mailing parcels. Now, we simply order on line and have whatever delivered to its destination. Or if we do mail a package, packing tape or bubble wrap envelopes have replaced twine.
  What about kite making and flying? The string can either tether the kite if you have enough or be used to make the tail.
  Have you ever made a stick fishing rod with a safety pin hook? It needs the string, too. It may not catch anything but what a great way to enjoy a sunny, summer's afternoon.
  What about making a tin can telephone? Although, those of us who have done that realize we can actually hear what the other person is saying without holding a can to our ear! But what fun!
  Maybe that's why my little ball of string has a place of honour in the junk drawer. There's something delightfully innocent about it and it is a symbol of much simpler times. I can't wait to share them with my grandchildren.
  "So then, neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labour." 1 Cor 3:7-8

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Clean Out by Susan L.

  It may be a bit early to begin spring cleaning but with the weather snowy and blowy, it seemed a good idea to sort through some cupboards. It's not an overly strenuous job, just time consuming which is good since I am not feeling overly well. My closet and dresser has been ruthlessly purged. Anything not worn in the last three years went. There's a bag of clothes to be donated to the second hand shop and a bag full of rags for future cleaning purposes.
  Then I tackled my linen closet or at least part of it. It isn't very big but two entire shelves of much needed space were devoted to finished art pieces. A teacher told me a long time ago to never throw out your work but there comes a time when it is necessary. This is the time. Most of it consisted of pieces I'd done in art therapy. None of them were signed or dated so there was no way to file them in any kind of order. It felt good to tear most of the loose ones up and toss them in the recycling bin. It was freeing and a physical statement that I am past the emotions of whenever the piece had been done.
  I kept my sketchbooks. Perhaps one day I'll be able to go through them. It was a bit much. They are  more like personal, visual journals of my recovery journey than pictures to hang on a wall. Tying them in a bundle helped keep them together instead of them flapping all over the place. There was also something satisfying in containing the contents with a bit of pretty ribbon found at the back of the cupboard.
  Then came the toy box. Not that there's much in it but it needed cleaning out (and vacuuming!). It needs some new toys for when the grandchildren come to visit. Although, the doll house keeps them occupied for hours. Perhaps a couple of family type games would be a nice addition.
  Today's clean out list starts with the junk drawer in the kitchen. It's the one that holds bread tags, paper clips, pens that never seem to work and the bits and pieces you can never find when you are looking for them! Mine is particularly tiny so when I hear stuff falling into the cupboard under the drawer, it's a sign that it needs purging.
  It's amazing how much stuff accumulates. I swear there are elves who add to the clutter when I am sleeping!
  "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new." 2 Cor 5:17

Monday, 11 January 2016

Magical by Susan L.

  Sunday's worship playing was the first time I was able to completely lose myself in the music. The melody, lyrics, and instruments all came together in a unity of purpose, in a unity of song to please God. It didn't matter at all that there was a congregation out front or that I was battling a bark that would put a sea lion to shame.
  I wasn't the only one with a cold. The illnesses didn't interfere because a Divine Hand silenced the snuffles and coughs so all of us could play and sing as the songs required. The power of prayer...It sure goes a long way.
  I was supposed to play next Sunday but begged off because of the cold. It's better to give the team leader a bit of notice rather than cancel last minute especially since she now has me filling in for the lead guitar. I am not happy about cancelling but it will give me a couple of weeks to get rid of this bug because the next Sunday was an off week as well.
  Lord? Speedy healing please, for all of us! Speedy healing for anyone battling illness in Jesus' Name! Amen.
  "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold form those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You!" Ps 84:11-12

Saturday, 9 January 2016

'Tis the Season by Susan L.

  I think most of us, if we feel a bug coming on prior to the Christmas busy-ness, tend to fight it off or at least delay it. The extra adrenaline caused by rushing here, rushing there, seems to make us stronger. But it can't last forever. It seems each January is filled with a symphony of coughing, hacking, sneezing, and nose blowing no matter where you go. I don't know if it's because there's a level of burnout so our immune systems aren't as strong as they could be or if it's simply because there's that many more germs out there this time of year.
  Worship team practice had a counter melody of barks and gasps. At least half of us had some sort of bug. I'd started out okay but after playing for a while, my lungs decided to finally give in to my own borderline cold. It sure isn't conducive to the deep breathing needed to sustain a note. It might be wise for me to get some cough syrup before church tomorrow.
  Somehow my flute has taken over the crucial, lead guitar parts seeing as the lead guitar player is away at school. Missing the service would leave a huge gap in the music. No stress there...well, maybe a little.
  This is not what I had expected when I joined the team, to be "up front". (Ha! Another pesky expectation!) This is wa-a-ay outside my comfort zone! Yes, I play up front but this is a really "up front!
  God is so good. Whenever He gives us more than we can handle, He's right there beside us to encourage us and support us. Not knowing what the future will bring might be a good thing.
  After I had left my marriage, my home was a room in a basement. Going for drives was a way to get away for a bit. Often I'd park on some out-of-the-way side road to have some quiet prayer time and to enjoy the scenery. There was one time, a winding road disappeared behind a hill and into a forest. I could see the other end off in the distance before it, too, vanished behind a hill.
  The Lord helped me realize that life is a lot like that, too.
  I may not always be able to see the path the Lord has chosen but, like the road, even if I can't see it, I know it is there. He is the One who will faithfully guide me over the hills and though the woods or up front at church. He is the One who has me exactly where I am meant to be.
  "For our citizenship is in heaven from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself." Phil 3:20-21

Friday, 8 January 2016

Appreciation by Susan L.

  I've had experience with the three major government social assistance programs for people living with disabilities. (Thank You, Lord, that they are there for those in need!)
  Employment Insurance, which used to be welfare, is a support where a single person who is either unable to work, who is waiting for disability, or is in desperate straits may receive a maximum of $450 a month to live on. Next is the Ontario Disability Support Program where, if you qualify under a disability, will provide a little over a thousand a month. Then there is the federal Canada Pension Plan Disability program. They base their assistance on the amount you have contributed towards retirement into the Canada Pension Plan when and if you worked. It's automatically deducted from your wages.
  In some countries those would be staggering amounts. Here in Southern Ontario, where rent can easily reach four figures, it's tough to get by on. Food banks are flourishing. Homelessness is everywhere. For a country as rich as ours, the poverty rate is shameful.
  But that's not why I am writing about this.
  Once a year I have to contact CPP to let them know how I am doing; if there have been any changes to my employment or health. That was last May. I had a call this morning from a representative as a follow up to last May's call. Our government systems aren't known for speed.
  She's the second person at CPP I have dealt with over the years. Both were kind, friendly and most encouraging. Even though part of their role is to facilitate clients returning to work, because I work in an incredibly supportive environment focused around mental health, they are quite pleased with the status quo.
  It's a relief, really. My stomach always gets into knots when I get one of these calls.
  Lord, I am most thankful for the supports we have in place in this country and for the good people who work at what must be a challenging job.
  "You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance." Ps 65:11

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Of Nightmares and Restless Sleep by Susan L.

  I don't know what has been happening the last couple of nights but, man oh man, the dreams have been particularly nasty and lengthy. There's been a lot of running and hiding from the bogey man in full Technicolor. There's surround sound and vivid odours. Not that I remember too many details but the residual fear and discomfort has left me rather unsettled, nervous and fatigued as well as slightly depressed.
  Why can't my dreams be filled with fluffy clouds, rainbows and pink ponies instead? Or better yet, Jesus' smiling face. Looking at Him would be much, much nicer than an all night film marathon that has me crouching in terror or running breathlessly through unknown places.
  Forgive me. I am whining and a bit out of sorts this morning.
  Let's look at the bright side. They are, after all, only dreams.
  The thought crossed my mind, even as I slept, that these incredibly detailed, organized and sequential dreams would make an amazing thriller novel. Part of me must've recognized they weren't real.
  I wonder if taking notes and dreaming at the same time is possible. Could a person wake up enough to legibly (that's important) scribble down what has happened then drift back into the same dream to find out what happens next?
  I don't know...sleepiness and coordination somehow don't seem to go together. The occasional, half-awake stumbles to the washroom have often been accompanied by bouncing off the door frame. Holding a pen might be beyond human capabilities in the wee hours of the night. Never mind the necessity of turning on the bedside lamp only to sear the eyeballs with it's brilliance. That takes a whole whack of fine motor skills, too!
  And the ghosts of the night have vanished.
  "The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool." Mat 22:44

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Disappointment by Susan L.

  During my travels I got thinking about my comment a couple of posts ago about having been disappointed many times in my life.
  Where does disappointment come from?
  Usually it's when someone or something fails to respond or have the results we expected. And there is the crux of the matter. Living with expectations. They can be awfully heavy burdens for someone to bear. Trying to live up to how someone expects us to behave can really stifle, if not downright suffocate us, and who we truly are in Christ. In turn, our own expectations are a huge burden to others.
  It rules this world. We are expected to be thin and fit. (The rate of eating disorders in young men is on the rise.) We are expected to have the latest techno gadget. We are expected to have the nicest, fastest car, the highest paying jobs, the biggest house, the most education. (The amount of debt the average Canadian carries is staggering.) Advertising and cultural innuendo does a good job of helping us feel inadequate. It's all a ploy to get us to buy into their product. They expect us to!
  There's no room for grace in a life lived with expectations because they are all about control. There's no room for flexibility. There's no room for laughing at ourselves. There's no room for contentment. Perhaps that's why God has stressed how important it is that we forgive just as we are forgiven.
  I remember reading a long time ago about living with expectancy. It's a verb, an action word, that has fluidity. Expectancy opens the door to endless possibilities. That means living without the need to control situations, people or the future. Expectancy means turning everything over to God by letting go of things.
  I think about some of the greatest scientific discoveries. Experiment after experiment ends with starting all over again. Yet, the determination, the expectancy of success, has lead to many wonderful breakthroughs. And yes, there were often unforeseen results that have benefitted all of mankind.
  Writing this blog is an exercise in expectancy. I sit down at the keyboard and wait for inspiration. Same with the drafting table. I admit living with expectancy has taken some practice! I'd really like it to become part of my everyday existence.
  Expectancy's brother is trust.
  Thank You, Lord, for that little gem.
  "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than put confidence in princes." Ps 118:8-9

Monday, 4 January 2016

Laugh! by Susan L.

  It appears that all the fuss and kafuffle of Christmas made my mind do a bit of a time warp. January first I woke up in 2016, not 2017! It's good to make mistakes. It keeps me humble.
  I was down in Sarnia for the last couple of days with my two sons and daughter, their better halves, and the grandchildren for the last blast of Christmas celebrations. My folks made it as well so there were four generations gathered together.
  My stomach was sore from all the laughter.
  My travel days were a bit snowy. The drive down was a bit dicey in places. About an hour into the drive, just as the snow was starting to get serious, a large transport truck came up behind me. They are a lot more confident driving in bad weather so I pulled over to let him pass. His large tires acted like mini-snow plows in places where the road lay covered. This created a safer path for me in the much smaller vehicle. We travelled together most of the way. My heart bid him a thankful "Safe Travels!" as we parted ways.
  Coming home was a mix of a whole lot of stuff falling from the sky. Momentary blizzards, an icy drizzle followed by fat, tissue sized flakes kept things interesting. There's a lot of open country, farm fields, where whirling mini-tornadoes of wind driven snow tore across the landscape. Other places, the snow streamed across the road like a river. It made me understand why the Inuit people have so many names for snow.
  "You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance." Ps 65:11