Monday, 29 February 2016

Code of Virtue by Susan L.

  Our church's worship team leader approached me to write something for the final week's teaching on virtue. This is what was shared yesterday:

Chivalry is dead. Instead, it’s a dog eat dog world out there.
Human-it-y has left the human out, so all that’s left is an it-ty bit of the most precious piece of all:
The gift part.
The child, boy or girl, who was God breathed into the itty bitty speck of DNA that became us, in all the uniqueness, that makes
The eating dog does everything possible to make us lose it, deny it, hide it.
The eating dog chews us up and spits us out leaving nothing but
The broken, the maimed, and the lost.
But, the eating dog forgets
Christ can, and will, and has muzzled his snarling mouth.  
Then, in the silence, if we only listen,
God will whisper:
“You are My beloved, My workmanship” over and over and over again.
Until we get it.
And with that love, old ideas made new can be embraced and shared.
The once forgotten chivalry, chastity, honesty, forgiveness, grace, and compassion,
Will grow and come along side of sacrifice, and honour, and dignity,
To fill a life that can wipe away the strife of this world.
The Code of Virtue, once the domain of noble knights and round tables, dragon slayers and soldiers, queens and kings, and Disciples of Christ, will once again rule the earth
Because the Holy Grail is with us.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

It Has Begun by Susan L.

  I sat down and did a bit of writing for my little books of comfort rather late last night. When a calling calls, it's hard not to answer. An introduction and a potential entry took form. It's really hard not to use the word, "you" but it's worth aiming for. As I wrote, the idea of doing an illustration for each entry arose. I've often said that if a picture paints a thousand words, a thousand words a picture paints. Putting both together based on a common theme really simplifies what I am trying to say and will help keep the words at a minimum. That will stop them from overwhelming anyone who reads them. If they become a prompt to ignite the imagination, the image may encourage that imagination even further.
  It's nothing new to have art as a tool to help us draw nearer to God. Long before literacy was as common as it is now, paintings of scriptures were all there was. Hmm, it might be neat to do some of the illustrations like a stained glass window seeing as they were also used to illuminate scriptures.
  A size really needs to be decided on. I think letting the writing get ahead of the art might not be a good idea. Doing them together, one at a time, will help stop me from being overwhelmed by the whole thing. Hence the need to make that choice.
  Maybe later today I'll take a look at some publishing companies online to see what is standard and therefore less expensive to publish. It would make it more attractive to a publishing company as well.
  A sermon a couple weeks ago about God sized dreams focused on the tearing down the walls of Jericho. It was accomplished by prayerfully walking circles around the ultimate goal of defeating the enemy.
  Thank You, Lord, for bringing this idea into my heart. Thank You that it will utilize all You have taught me; all You have gifted me with. Let it be a celebration of those gifts. Help me Lord, walk circles around this project. Remind me to pray against words of doubt. Grant me the stamina to see it through. Help me find the right words of encouragement. In Jesus' Name I pray.
  "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days." Heb 11:30

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Fingerless Mitts by Susan L.

  The knitting kick is still going strong. The internet has proven to be a wonderful resource because not only are there free patterns but there's plenty of YouTube videos showing how to knit. I learned how to attach yarn when one ball runs out from a video posted by a yarn company. I learned how to create a gusset or a neat, clean way to add left hand and right hand stitches for a thumb hole. The fingerless mitts of my choice were done on straight needles and sewn together. Working with four needles was often frustrating because they had a habit of falling out. Oh, I learned how to sew knitting together so the seam doesn't show.
  I still get a bit confused about which side to cast off which means taking the knitting off the needle with a neat, clean edge. That's okay. It will come.
  It seems funny to knit mitts with no fingers but when I am working in the garden in the early spring or late fall, it is often chilly. The cheap, knitted gloves ten to fray at the fingertips because they were not manufactured for hard labour. There's a part of me that loves feeling the earth anyways. Even though fingers are exposed, having the glove cover the rest of my hand keeps it warm. So, fingerless mitts are ideal.
  Ahh, the garden. I can't wait!
  "You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance." Ps 65:11

Friday, 26 February 2016

Project Thinking by Susan L.

  I've shared my idea for the "little books of comfort" with a few friends. The response has been very encouraging. Part of me was concerned that there are downloadable apps that offer the same sort of idea at a finger swipe. But then, there's something grounding about having a tangible object to hold.
  One of my learned friends told me that having a book uses different parts of the brain than are used by simply swiping a finger across a screen. More senses are ignited holding a book. It helps in focusing when touch is a huge part of that process.
  It's an encouraging thought.
  Hmmm, I wonder if it would be possible to include a textural page that could simply be touched to help with grounding? Maybe the cover could be textural. I know the leather cover of my Bible has helped me on many occasions when opening it up was simply too much to handle. Financially, leather is out of the question, but perhaps a linen textured cover is possible.
  There's so much to think about but strangely, I am not overwhelmed by it all.
  I've been thinking too, about the writing part of it. Most of the books aimed at helping people contain words like "you need to do this" or "you should do that" as though the writer is lecturing, as though they know best. The "you" word can often end up being a burden especially when "you" can't! At least not at that moment. What I'd like to do is write it as though I was sitting next to whoever has the book. It'd be like sharing their burdens. There's something powerful in the "we".
  At this point, I also need to think about size. The illustrations need to be drawn according to that scale. The writing needs to be geared to page size, too. Small is good but not too small. It might be a good idea to wander through a book store with a measuring tape to get some idea of standard sizes. Using a common size would help in publishing costs if I decide to self publish. Scale could make it more attractive for a publisher to take on also.
  It also has occurred to me whether or not to gear these books to gender. Writing one for women would be easy seeing as I am one. Could I do another one aimed at men? I am sure God would give me the words.
  Like a stew on the back burner, everything is simmering away nicely.
  "And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified. Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross." Mat 27:31-32

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Sights bySusan L.

  I had an appointment with my psychiatrist yesterday who is about forty-five minutes away. I'd left early to run a couple of errands and to have a wonderful lunch with my daughter. It was a lovely day that felt more like the beginning of April than the tag end of February. Mild, sunny, a great day for a putter along the back roads.
  It was the kind of day that hints of growing things to come; a rich sense of life just waiting to burst forth at the first hint of lasting warmth. There were patches of snow in the deep shadows of trees and buildings but the rest had pretty much melted away. Gone to seed cattails stood sentinel at the side of the road, untouched by snow plow Humps. The sun shone brightly casting it's warmth into the car. I drove with the window cracked open to catch the fresh air. It was a hopeful day, an exciting day, affirming we are on the downside of winter.
  There was a full moon last night.  An aura of silver rainbow surrounded his laughing face. His companion, Venus, shone brightly by his side. The first clouds of a coming storm tore by, the cool moonlight gilding their edges. Dusky black silhouettes gathered together until the moon was no more. I was almost sorry to see him go.
  Some noisy Canada geese flew overhead, their whistling wings sliced through the night's tranquility. They were flying across the road to roost on the lake. That there is open water there shows how mild this winter has been. They've never been here this time of year before.
  The storm clouds that blocked the moon have also blocked the sun. A dreary gray sky greeted me this morning. Snow has been falling since I got up. The grass and driveway are fully covered now by a new white blanket. It's a book kind of day.
  Thank You, Lord, for such wonderful sights. Thank You, for giving me the time and opportunity to simply enjoy the day.
  "The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein." Ps 24:1

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Support by Susan L.

  I'd like to thank my readers for their ideas regarding yesterday's post. As I said, it is still in the thinking stage. Perhaps calling my idea a devotional might be stretching a bit. Perhaps it's more along the idea of a little book of encouragements. That way there's no pressure on the reader especially if they are struggling.
  I've done a couple of guided meditations with friends who were going through a rough time. One was imagining a backpack, opening it up, then placing all their troubles in it. Once closed, the backpack was laid at the foot of the Cross. The other was imagining the most spectacularly wrapped present. Once it was unwrapped, there was a gift for that person inside. God's gift.
  It would be nice to include them. Perhaps in illustration form.
  Something else that has come to the forefront of my mind is what if someone has difficulty reading? Or concentrating? How would a book of encouragement become something they could use?
  For the next little while, I think I'll just let the ideas bubble up then go from there. It might not hurt to talk with people about what could be helpful for them as well.
  Ground work. Research. Thank You, Lord, for stretching me.
  "Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death; to guide our feet into the way of peace." Lk 2:78-79

Monday, 22 February 2016

Ideas by Susan L.

  Quite some time ago a friend mentioned that I probably had more than enough material to create and publish a devotional via my blog. Yesterday in church, the sermon was about fulfilling God sized dreams. In a spate of frantically scribbled inspiration, an idea took form.
  As a Christian, I struggled with my, and I hate to use the word, illnesses because of my own religious prejudices. As a Christian, I know there aren't faith based resources specifically aimed at mental health. It is one of the great "not-talked-abouts". Thankfully that is slowly changing.
   I know from experience larger devotionals were rather daunting when I wasn't feeling well. A large devotional is a rather daunting project for me to take on.
  So, here's the thought: small devotionals focusing on various mental health challenges. Each one could contain various sections relating to topics such as finding hope or grace or coming to terms. I wouldn't hesitate to put a small chapter in to offer comfort in the midst of suicidal ideology. It is often the result of medication issues and more prevalent than we think. In place of all the writing, there could be a few simple, pen and ink, illustrations to meditate on or even colour, seeing as that is all the rage right now. It could also contain writings in the traditional devotional format. (That needs more research.)
  Perhaps they may be a key to unlocking an honest dialog with God about what is happening.
  There's a whole whack of questions regarding how to go about this. I'd hate to do my usual jump in and find the entire project fizzles after a short while. I think I need to view this as an exercise in gratitude as opposed to a work project. Gratitude that the Lord has unlocked the gifts to make this possible. Gratitude that I have been through everything I have been through because now those experiences can hopefully help someone else. Gratitude that I can speak with other published authors and find out more about what that looks like or how to make it happen.
  Help me, Lord, see this through. Help me Lord, find the stamina and patience to take it slowly and methodically. Lord, I ask that doors be opened. In Jesus' name, Amen!
  "Therefore the law was out tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith." Gal 3:24

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Labour by Susan L.

  Lately it's been a struggle coming up with ideas to write about. I've lost the eagerness that once had me looking forward to sitting down in the morning and spending time with my God and my the point that I've been thinking, "Why bother? Maybe it's time to pack it in."
  Hmmm. And a change of heart has exploded. I had forgotten the purpose of all this writing. It isn't about me and my desires or needs. It's about God's desire that I should do this. It's about feeling the fire He placed in my soul to write. It's about honouring the calling He has called me to.
  I've often said when encouraging others to explore their artistic abilities that "it isn't about the purpose of the art but that the art has a purpose". One of the biggest hurdles many budding artists have to overcome is the mindset that spending time with paper and pencil or brush and canvas is a waste of time. This isn't because of a lack of ability. It's a sad mark on our culture that we are unable to create beauty for beauty's sake. We are so driven by the mighty dollar that the idea is: everything should have a price tag, a monetary value, attached to it. What's the point if we can't sell what we produce?
  Maybe the purpose behind creating isn't monetary. Maybe it's personal like the opportunity to build confidence or to express what lay in our hearts. Maybe even it might be giving ourselves the chance to learn how to play again. Finger painting is one of the quickest ways to release our inner child!
  Still, it's a good thing to think about rewards. God's Word talks about them all the time only they aren't the kind of rewards we are conditioned to expect. Financial reward has no place in heaven.
  These daily entries come with a reward. Every morning I find myself reading God's Word to finish off the post. He is faithful in leading me to the right scripture. Every morning I am blessed when the Lord fills me with discernment about what to write. Every morning I can feel Him reading over my shoulder. I am not alone. Ever.
  I am blessed by my readers who share their own thoughts and experiences.
  You know something? These few words are more precious than silver or gold could ever be. Forgive me Lord, for my brief foray into despair.
  "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. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building." 1 Cor 7-9

Saturday, 20 February 2016

How Do You Tell? by Susan L.

  Even before our church began watching video teachings from the two churches currently up for selection, I had felt a strong conviction towards one of them. Now I am in a bit of a quandary because the one I believed the Lord wanted me to vote for has some things that have caused me to squirm a bit.
  It's a Baptist church. Which means I would eventually become a Baptist. They don't permit women to serve as elders however, they can serve as team leaders or committee members. Membership hinges on whether or not you have gone through a full emersion baptism. I have so that's a moot point. My concern is that others go through the rite of baptism for the wrong reasons. But then, who am I to say what is the wrong reasons. Who am I to assume that God doesn't have His hand on the situation and will use it to His glory?
  The teachings have been good although the lead pastor is rather strident. To give him credit they don't normally video the lessons so he pre-recorded it just for us to watch. Perhaps nervousness leant fire to his words. However, he won't be necessarily doing the sermon here. Currently, they are written in partnership with their other site. Two different people then deliver the same sermon, live, with differences that merely personalize agreed upon teachings. The plus is the lessons are fully supported by scripture throughout their entirety.
  It is a local church based a forty-five minute drive away. The other site is in a town the same distance apart. This means the ability to connect with each other because the distances are doable. They probably have a good idea of the issues facing churches in small, rural communities. If we vote to join, the three churches will form a triangle equal distances apart. That strikes me as a mighty powerful, unified force against the evils that plague this part of the world.
  They have a heart for the community and invest in outreach opportunities wherever they are. They also have hopes for us growing, for reaching non-believers, and can provide the tools necessary to make this happen.
  So my question, "How Do You Tell?" is aimed at trying to make sure this is exactly how God wants me to vote. Then, as I wrote, my conviction grew. There were far greater concerns that bubbled up surrounding our other choice, a non-denominational church that is further away.
  Lord, thank You that Your desires for our body of believers is far beyond anything I could imagine. Guide us, guide me, into the path You have chosen. Help us see clearly where that path lay. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen!
  "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? There fore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection." Rom 6:3-5

Friday, 19 February 2016

Documentaries by Susan L.

  As I knit away, the TV is on for company. I've watched a couple of programs that have both alarmed and disturbed me.
  Greece is struggling. They are in the process of negotiating a large, open pit, gold mine with a Canadian company. This mine will devastate pristine forests. This mine will force the relocation of people who live there. Greece is desperate for income and investment to help ease the financial woes of the government. No matter the cost to individuals or the environment.
  There is a huge outcry against this operation. No wonder. It's a shameful display of corporate greed.
  Will it have any effect? I doubt it very much. Not when there's billions of dollars at stake.
  I am finally getting an inkling of how the global economy works. It isn't anything I've thought about before. From a rather simplistic point, it's like this: Canada sells oil and diamond rights to foreign investors. We, in turn, buy mining rights in other countries to keep the wheels of finance turning.
  Then there is the growing disparity between the haves and the have nots. The invention of the credit card is a weapon used to keep the masses down. The more we owe, the less likely there are to be job actions or strikes. The more we owe, the more willing we are to work for less and simply get by. The more we owe, the more we are willing to do in order to keep our jobs as companies cut back and slash jobs to help improve their bottom line.
  Science fiction has a way of foretelling the future. Many imagined things have found their way into our lives. It's a grim thought that societies imagined in the Hunger Games or in George Orwell's 1984 are a foreshadowing of the future.
  Lord, have mercy on us.
  "Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore, the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Rev 7:5-7

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Love Your Enemies by Susan L.

  This last few days have been a struggling time. The lesson on Sunday's service was about forgiveness. I had a bit of a meltdown. God knows I've said the words. God knows I've asked Him to change my heart.
  Still, there were nightmares Monday night that left me ragged, anxious and full of fear. Still, there is the challenge of living with PTSD as a result of things that happened beyond my control.
  It speaks volumes of God's ability to heal all things that I do not hate those who wronged me.
  As I drove home from Bible study last night, the idea came to me that it isn't enough not to hate. We, as Christians, are commanded to love our enemies.
  "Well, Lord," I thought, "What does that love look like?" I squirmed a bit, dreading the answer.
  The love of God is an action word. We demonstrate that love through our actions. Love and trust are two separate entities. We can love someone but we don't have to trust them. 
  I have found it incredibly difficult to be in the same room as my ex, thankfully a rare occurrence. I don't believe this is a barometer of forgiveness. Prudence perhaps. Wisdom perhaps. Maybe it's even having healthy boundaries.
  What does it mean to act in love? A relational love such as a friendship with my ex is out of the question. At least at this point in my life. An offering of forgiveness doesn't mean being around him doesn't hurt. It means I've let go of all malice and ill will towards him...the hate. I'll say most of the time because it is a process.
  What God's love for me enables is the ability to love him from a distance. That love is voiced in prayers for his salvation. It's an acknowledgement that God's love for him far exceeds anything I could give or is even asked to give. It means asking the Lord to place people in my ex's life who can love him like Jesus; who have the ability to lead him into God's grace.
  Those prayers are the greatest gift of love I can give him.
  "You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Mat 5:43-45

Monday, 15 February 2016

Project Knit by Susan L.

  When I first started knitting the sweater it felt like it would take forever to get it done. With a sense of accomplishment, the last stitches were taken off the needle, the tag ends of yarn were carefully hidden away and last but not least, it was tried on.
  It's big. It's imperfect. Maybe it could have been knit a bit tighter. There's a couple balls of yarn left over that came with the kit. I have no idea why.
  There were a couple of mistakes in the provided pattern that thankfully I caught on to. Or maybe the mistake is mine in how it was read. Had I followed how I thought it went, the sleeves would have ended up hanging somewhere near my ankles. They are a bit long (not that long!) but rolling up the cuffs takes care of that.
  Still, there is a sense of accomplishment in learning how to use two new types of knitting needles: the attached ones and the ones that are pointed at both ends. The set of four pointy ones were challenging. Thankfully, there's a friend nearby who explained how to use them. There's some loose stitches where it was necessary to switch from one needle to another. Most of them are under the arm so they are nicely hidden. I like that. It's like grace.
  For someone who had been reluctant to learn how to knit because I felt there were enough creative hobbies in my life, God is good. He ignored my half baked rejections of the idea. He provided the opportunity to learn and, in order to encourage the teacher by attending, it turns out this is something I rather enjoy.
  It's helped to fill the hours since I am not up to doing much else.
  So now what?
  "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Lk 12:32

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Yuck? by Susan L

  The cold squeezed my cheeks like an old lady glad to see me. It left them tingling and burning. The rest of my exposed skin quickly felt the same. I wrestled the scarf, wrapped around my neck, up and around my face. Not too tight. I can't bear that. But loosely, so warm breath steam drove the frigid air away. Eyelashes and eyebrows quickly became coated in frosting.
  The gravelly rasp of shovel blade took on its rhythm: a scrape/bang mastered from years of practice. The three step dance, forward, backward is a pattern well known. Switch hands to do the other side: three step, forward, back. Bend and scoop. Flick and swish.
  Halfway up the driveway I looked up. It seemed to stretch forever, that remaining twenty feet. Still ahead was the Hump. The dreaded, heavy, packed snow at the end where the plow gleefully deposits my fair portion of what covered the road.
  Standing there, with shovel resting, the only sounds were the thump-thump of blood rushing in my ears and the air whistling through my teeth. As they faded, as breath and heart calmed, the silence rushed in. Usually there are some sounds of the highway a couple miles from here or some song of human presence. There wasn't a dog barking or a door slamming. Nothing. Except this all encompassing stillness that delighted my soul. I could have been the last living creature on the planet.
  A car purred slowly by, tires muffled by a layer of packed snow on the road, assuring me I wasn't.
  A couple of small song birds cheeped. They were out of sight, hidden within the privacy of snow packed branches. Everything was so incredibly beautiful, so new, so fresh.
  It grieved me to break this moment. The harsh scrape of shovel seemed to almost desecrate the cathedral majesty of the morning.
  Inch by inch, the driveway was soon cleared. The mailbox was made accessible, cleared of Hump. The job finished.
  Thank You, Lord, for blessing me so.
  "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer." Ps 19:14

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Out of Steam by Susan L.

  It's been tough these last few mornings to think of something to write about. This morning has me distracted by the snow and bitter cold that rolled in last night. The driveway needs a shovel again only this time it will mean putting on snow pants and a heavier coat just to stay warm. Yuck. But thank You, Lord, that I have them and that I am up to the task.
  This could be called getting steam...I bought a warm mist humidifier for the house. It seemed like a good idea to help with this cough. The furnace dries out the air terribly. The machine has a little cup for adding inhalants that slowly evaporate into the mist. The smell of Vicks is an old familiar; comforting even if it doesn't do any real good as rumour reports. There was condensation on the windows this morning so it might be a good idea to run it on a lower setting. The combination has helped loosen my cough. Woohoo!
  When I was sick as a child, I remember my mom setting down a bowl of boiling water with a bit of waxy Vick's Vaporub floating in it. The water would be streaked with a rainbow as it melted. Using a towel draped over head and bowl, it created a mini-sauna for breathing in the steam. I always hated having to do it but realize now it wasn't because of the steam or the smell, it was being claustrophobic and hating anything over my head.
  Even my bangs falling over my face in the middle of the night wakes me up gasping. A mini-panic episode explodes as my half-asleep hand flails around trying to clear them away. I know I can breathe through hair! Someone ought to inform my subconscious. I'd really appreciate it.
  It leaves me wondering, as it always does, where the claustrophobia came from. If the Lord could lead me to the core memory that started this, it could be the beginning of being set free. I wouldn't be averse to a Divine healing either.
  Lord, I am listening. Please, free me of this. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.
  "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope,. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning." Ps 130:5-6

Friday, 12 February 2016

A Bit More Investigation by Susan L.

  Instead of looking up the word "unworthy", which in the King James Bible only appears twice, I decided to look up the word "worthy". In previous posts, I mentioned that Christians should not call themselves unworthy because it negates the work Christ did on the cross. This attitude can rob us of all the good things He stands for: forgiveness, redemption, grace...the list goes on.
  As I read a few of the scriptures containing "worthy", it was often preceded by "not". Jesus is quite clear on who is not worthy. "He who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me." Mat 10:38
  Jesus is very clear. Those who follow Him are worthy.
  Here's the good part. Our Lord is a lord of second chances. And third. And forth.
  Broken. That's what we are. Living in a broken world. Acknowledging our brokenness encourages us to keep our eyes on the Prize, the Light of the World. It is an expression of humbleness, of being aware that we cannot go it alone but need Someone greater than ourselves to help us be greater than ourselves. A Rock. An Anchor. A Hope.
  One of my favorite sayings that I've shared before is in Christ, the ten commandments become the ten promises. The "thou shalt nots" become "you won'ts" because your heart and soul is full of the love of God. Brokenness falls away under the healing power of Christ and the Holy Spirit.
  "Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, an you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Mat 11:28-30

Thursday, 11 February 2016

More Snow by Susan L.

  Yesterday's dusting of snow was added to over night. Not much, just another half a dozen inches or so. Enough that I'll have to shovel the driveway today. The exercise will do me good. At least, that's what I will tell myself if I can get through it without coughing too much!
  It was my granddaughter's birthday yesterday. She turned the ripe old age of four. I called to wish her a happy day, leaving a message for her on the phone. When my cell phone went off at Bible study, I was delighted to hear her voice on the other end. With prompts from her dad, we had a short 'n sweet conversation. I hope to get down sometime soon to see them all.
  The snow is beckoning so this will be a short one today. It's time to throw on the outside gear and get stuck into it.
  May your day be blessed.
  "Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all the depths; Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word." Ps 148:7-8

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Knitting by Susan L.

  Once again I am on a tangent. The sweater kit and pattern turned out to be easier than I thought even though it uses never used before stitch markers and round needles that are joined together at one end. After four false starts trying to get the right size of needle, figuring out what the pattern meant was simply a matter of knitting and seeing what the instructions revealed. For me trying to unravel the complex list of letters such as K60, M, K1, M, K...was a bit like deciphering secret code. Thankfully the pattern included translations: K=knit, M=marker. As I followed these minimalist instructions, what actually looked like a sweater began to emerge. Whew! The pattern repeated itself so it quickly became habit.
   Most of the time I don't have to fully concentrate on what I am doing unless doing a stitch count. I've gotten used to using the different type of needles. It was easier than expected although I am sure many a master knitter would roll their eyes at my technique. It's working so why worry. As the knitting needles click and the yarn is wrapped, hooked and linked through the other stitches, it's been a great opportunity for me to think about the thinks that seem to bubble up from nowhere.
  It's mostly been things I struggle with. Second guessing is my biggest challenge. When I it right? When I speak...did I say the right thing? A decision that what it should be? There's had to be some letting go and forgiving to beat down the often repeated lesson that I don't have a clue; that my eyes and mind are not to be trusted. It's an ongoing battle.
  There's been prayers asking for confidence. There's been prayers asking for more grace.
  I've pondered relationships even to the point of musing what it would be like if the Lord placed a man in my life. This goes against the often said prayers said asking not to have one if it would interfere with my relationship with my heavenly Father. Maybe it's because there's been some loneliness that has sort of moved in. Being under the weather for so long doesn't help.
  Lord, I trust in Your plan for my life. I trust that You have my best interests at heart; that Your desires for my life far exceed anything I could possibly imagine. You are the Master who knit me together in my mother's womb. For that, I thank You.
  "For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge and the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Col 2:1-3

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Through the Window by Susan L.

  We had a dusting of snow last night. It's the first snow in quite a while that's amounted to anything. It's been an unusually warm winter. It's nice though. This ole Canadian isn't sick of the sight because I've only had to shovel the driveway once this year.
  The kitchen window view has rather taken my breath away. Every tree branch, every twig is adorned with icing sugar. The front yard hasn't had any bunny parties so the snow is pristine. It's a bit rumpled and bumpy like a linen quilt hastily thrown on a bed. It really shows that the ground underneath isn't very even.
  There's not a breath of wind. The tree sentinels across the road are as stiff and rigid as London Beefeaters.
  Small clumps of snow leap off their perch as the temperature slowly warms. They land with a  "thud" only heard in the imagination. A sparrow lands amidst a mini-blizzard fanned into life by its wings. I guess the squirrels are tucked into their leafy nests enjoying cuddles and hiding from this gentle reminder that, yes, it is still winter. They haven't really hibernated this year. It's been too warm.
  The sky is a soft gray, diffusing the sunlight so that everything glows as though it were twilight.
  The sanded, salted, unplowed road looks like a strip of beach stirring memories of ocean views and treasure hunts. Cars race by in a sudden flurry of flakes set free from the earth with no option but to fall once again. I wonder...are they disappointed because they can no longer soar through the heavens?
  I am thinking too, that each of these snowflakes is unique. There must be billions of them out there. What an amazing gift the Creator has given us!
  "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thes 5:23

Monday, 8 February 2016

Back to Worthy by Susan L.

 This matter sits at the throne of judgement. Not God's throne, but the one we often seat ourselves at quite willingly. It's a terrible seat of assumed power that has the ability to rob us of so much. It's a terrible seat of assumed power that can rob others of so much should we decide to rule from that hateful place.
  Even though there are great leaders in the Scriptures who judged themselves unworthy of serving the Lord, in each case, God is quick to point out otherwise. There's Moses who argued with the Lord about what He asked Him to do. He went on to lead the Jewish people out of slavery. Isaiah wept about his lips and the sinful words he spoke. A seraphim quickly anointed those same lips and made them holy. He then went on to write one of the most prophetic books in the Old Testament. Paul felt he was unworthy of his calling since he had been a tax collector before the Lord met him on the road to Damascus. Yet, God created in him a wise teacher in the fledgling Christian faith whose books still touch lives today, nearly two thousand years later.
  It seems that when we judge ourselves unworthy, the gift of redemption is close at hand because God has deemed us worthy of salvation and saves us from ourselves.
  My old dictionary defines unworthy as: Not deserving. Not befitting or becoming. Lacking worth or merit. Shameful, contemptible. Doesn't that smack of judgement!
  It defined humility as: the state or quality of being humble. Humble is defined as: free from pride or vanity; modest. Lowly in station, modest. Servile, fawning. Respectful. Except for the servile and fawning which is based in deception, the rest follows what a Christian heart should be like.
  We've all seen actors and athletes receive rewards for their efforts. Yesterday's Superbowl victory at the hand of the aging quarterback, Peyton Manning, ended with him saying to the press, and I paraphrase, "It's time to spend time with my family and in prayer so I can thank the Big Man Upstairs for this opportunity." There were other groups of athletes on the winning team who quickly knelt together as a group in what I assume were prayers of thanksgiving.
  So, I say again, yes, we are worthy of all the good things God has planned for our lives. We may not be star athletes or great teachers but in Christ, and with a humble heart of gratitude, we all can shine.
  "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." Eph 4:1-6

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Finished Projects/New Starts by Susan L.

  I had been working on a knitted shrug for a couple of years. It is basically a shawl with sleeves at either end that stop it from dragging through everything and help keep it on your shoulders. It was meant to be a graduation gift for my friend who went through the PREFER training with me. It's a good thing she wasn't in a hurry because it sat for a long time half finished. Much to my delight, I've been plugging away at it while fighting this cough by knitting a few rows at a time. So it is finally done.
  It appears I am on a knitting tangent now. There was a sweater kit containing sufficient yarn and instructions that languished in the cupboard until the shrug was finished. The sweater is challenging me to learn to read a pattern. It was a bit of a rocky, aka frustrating, start because it took four tries to get the right sized needles. The pattern did the size conversions from imperial to metric wrong. All part of the learning curve. I now understand the importance of doing a test piece to make sure everything is right.
  The sweater is supposed to be done on round needles that are attached together by a piece of smooth, plastic cord. They let you keep knitting round and round hence the name. I've never used them before so it will be interesting to discover how that will work. So far it's been okay to use the good old fashioned straight ones which I'll continue using until there's no more space. It's much faster for me.
  I had to buy some new needles for this project. There's a little wool shop just around the corner. The woman suggested getting a better quality set of round needles because the work wouldn't catch where the cord joins. It pays to talk to an expert once and a while.
  I was about to say that any form of work is as only as good as the tools used but realized that isn't necessarily true. Many great things have been done by the ordinary.
  "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Rom 8:31

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Rabbit Trails by Susan L.

  When it comes to investigating matters of faith it is best to proceed with caution. The scriptures have been used for millennium as a weapon of great evil, of persecution, of genocide and subjugation. I think of Maco and countless other cults that share just enough truth to be plausible. Fundamental truths are twisted by charismatic teachers who only seek their own gain. Many people have stood in the authority of the Good Book and have used it to destroy lives.
  "Jesus wept." Jn 11:35
  So how do we know what is true?
  First of all, we can assume that any human interpretation will contain flaws. We can't help it. But we can be alert and diligent. Blind acceptance is the pathway to disaster. We can, and are commissioned to as believers, educate ourselves on what the scriptures say.
  Secondly, and a quick test, is if any teaching doesn't have its foundation in love, and all the good things that Jesus opened the doorway to, it is probably not right.
  I'm not talking earthly love here. That particular gift is pretty broken by the hands of broken men and broken women. Divine love has no cost. It's free. There's no action required. It simply is by virtue of God's gift to us, His Son.
  Which has led me to feeling unworthy as so many Christians feel they are. I've heard it time and again in conversation, in worship music, and even said it myself, that I was unworthy of such a great Love. I really believe this grieves God's heart when we say such things. It was why He sent Jesus to the cross, so we may be reconciled to Him no matter what we may have done on earth. He deemed us worthy!
  It was the hardest part for me to wrap my head around because the concept of unearned reward is so incredibly foreign to our way of life. All earthly rewards are earned be it a paycheck, a diploma, a gold medal at the Olympics. I vaguely remember getting gold stars at Sunday school. There's nothing we can do to earn the love of God. It was already there from before the dawn of time when He planned our creation.
  Can you see Him smiling as He planned? "This one will have piercing gray eyes and a quick laugh that will delight all who hear. He will have a tender heart and be a healer of many. She will be kind yet determined, a leader. Let's make her eyes hazel, her skin a soft brown."
  How does this tie into the beginning of today's post? Guilt is a weapon of our enemy. Shame is another. God convicts us when we stray. He doesn't condemn us. Those are things to watch out for when we are reading anything relating to faith. Like I said, Love is the measure.
  "But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Cor 6:11

Friday, 5 February 2016

Stroke of Utter Genius by Susan L.

  It had been a busy day at work so last night, still on a bit of a sensory overload, I tossed and turned unable to fall asleep. It was just one of those nights when the brain can't shut down. At one point, I sat on the edge of the bed feeling rather frustrated as well as exhausted. In a flash of brilliant inspiration, an idea for today's post flooded in.
  Yah. It's gone this morning. So much for genius! It wasn't really a stroke. More like a smack upside the head.
  For curiosity's sake I had done a few of those free online tests to find out my IQ. An exercise of pure vanity that was quickly put in its place. It started off as a rather high score on one fairly easy test (woohoo!) then as I did a couple more, ended up coming in lower and lower and lower. It was the math questions that did me in. I remember struggling in school over the greater than,< ,or less than, >, symbols. It took a long time to figure out how they worked. Give me an anagram any day!
  My first job after graduating high school was at the Alberta Student Finance Board. I was a loan disbursement officer. Someone else calculated how much students would get for the year. My job was to break it down into payments spread throughout the year according to a math formula. The irony always struck me as funny. And I still remember the file colours assigned according to the first digit of the student's social insurance number. I have no idea why that utterly useless piece of information is still floating around in the ole gray matter. I did file a few thousand of them though, the other part of my job.
  Since then, I've mostly managed to avoid any math related jobs. One brief stint as a cashier in a grocery store did not end well. That was before the machines did all the math and counting change was done by the person standing at the till. Rarely did my cash drawer balance at the end of the day.
  Thank You, Lord, for Your provision. Thank You for placing me in jobs suited to my abilities.
  "Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?" Acts 20:8

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Distractions by Susan L.

  The antibiotics aren't working so it looks like I am dealing with a particularly nasty virus. My family doctor sent me for a chest x-ray just to make sure everything was physically okay. The technician said that there were some issues but didn't want to send me to the hospital. I panicked. After assuring me there were no lumps or anything of that nature, she placed my images on a priority list for the actual person whose sole purpose is to read x-rays.
  Needless to say, I had a bit of a rough night last night. Worry, even though I tried not to think too much about it, kept popping up.
  "Hospital? Who's going to look after Pumpkin? Is this a viral pneumonia? What then? How long is this going to last? What about work?"
  Yup, the mental hamsters had a great time.
  Good thing this cough has me so tired. I had no problem sleeping. Thank You, Lord, for small favours.
  The technician said I should make an appointment to talk to my doctor about the results which should be in his office first thing. Getting an appointment is nearly impossible. It's a busy office. When I explained why I needed an appointment, the receptionist asked me to hold. My doctor came on the line rather irritated at the technician for having said anything to me. Her job is to take pictures.
  Everything is fine. The x-ray was normal.
  Meanwhile, I'll try and eat better, take a multi-vitamin, drink lots and get plenty of rest. The good old fashioned way of taking care of me. Hopefully, I'll be better soon. Prayers would be appreciated.
  "He answered and said, "A man named Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to the pool of Soloam and wash.' So I went and washed, and I received sight." Jn 9:11

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Wine and Water and Miracles by Susan L.

  I've been pondering Jesus' first miracle, where He turned water into wine at the wedding. The water was held in large, stone vessels according to Jewish practices of purification. Previously, I've glossed over the story as simply being a testament to Christ's abilities as the Son of God but my recent thoughts on communion have given it much more significance.
  Bear with me as I think this through.
  Jesus says at the last supper, as He passes the cup around, "This is My blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for many."
  His sacrifice meant that sacrificing animals would no longer be required. In the old testament, God demanded blood letting for purification. The wealthy would slay perfect bulls. The poor relied on pigeons or other small animals.
  I've been musing on the idea that Jesus is like the water vessels, purified and holy. He often describes Himself as the Living Waters. He offers wine as His blood of the new covenant. The new covenant means we are forgiven our sins through grace, not works or any action we could do here on earth. His willingness to go to the cross, the final blood sacrifice God required to once and for all reconcile us to Him, transformed the rites and rituals of faith. It's no longer all about rites and rituals but all about relationship.
  Our own celebration of communion, the partaking of wine, is a reminder of all that Jesus has done for every single person on this planet who lived, lives and has yet to walk among us. Miracles and more miracles.
  As I was typing, the other half of communion came to mind: the breaking of the bread, Christ's body. I wonder if this was foreshadowed in the loaves and fishes story. Thousands were fed when He had given thanks and the bread was broken and broken but never ran out. Just like Christ's love for us never runs out.
  There is much to think about and pray about. Lord, be with me as I search for answers. Fill me with hunger to understand more of what You desire in my life. In Jesus' name, amen.
  "When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom." Jn 2:9