Saturday, 30 April 2016

If You Build Susan L.

  All the necessary wood for the deck rebuild was delivered yesterday. It's a beautiful day out there so I am itching to get stuck into it. An early start was postponed so the "grrrr" of power tools won't wake up the neighbours seeing as it's Saturday, a sleep-in day for most.
  Ha-ha, that's only half true. I am not so much of a early morning person anyways despite the fact that Pumpkin thinks I should be. That's my own "grrrr"!
  So. Plans for the day:
  Finish ripping out the old deck floor.
  See how tired I am.
  If that's as far as it gets today, that's okay.
  I'd at least like to start putting the new floor on but we'll see (we: as in me, myself and I will come to a consensus). I've said before that fatigue and power tools are not a good combination.
  It's going to look great when it's done! It gives me tremendous satisfaction doing any sort of renovation project. Although, in reading my blog, there's a lot of projects that sort of fell by the wayside and are sitting half finished or are still on the back burner simmering away. Oh, well, it happens. The inside ones can be reserved for a rainy day.
  That's part of it too. It's been such a dismal spring that it's been hard to get motivated. I will say that a pile of new lumber is a great motivator!
  So that's it. The morning's wasting away!
  Thank You Lord, that everything will go safely. Thank You for blessing me with all the skills needed to do this project.
  "Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul. I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue." Ps 66:16-17

Friday, 29 April 2016

Upload by Susan L.

  Apparently there is a downloadable program from Yamaha that will enable me to upload music recorded on my digital piano to a laptop. If it's possible to figure it out, maybe there will be a grand reveal of the piece I've been working on for the last couple of weeks. Maybe.
  It's a great feature. The built in recorder that is. It enables me to listen subjectively to the music being played without uploading it. It means a piece can keep being recorded until it's note perfect. Melody aside, it takes practice to hit all the right ones anyways.
  Isn't that generally true of life as well?
  Hearing helps with the writing. What sometimes sounds good when it's being played ends up being neither graceful or cohesive. By stepping back and outside of the physical connection playing the melody creates, and listening with a discerning ear, I can hear where things went wrong or could use some polishing.
  I do the same thing with all my creative ventures: take a moment to step back and simply study the work in progress. It's nice to recognize that my inner critic is now far more constructive than destructive. For a long time it was pretty harsh, echoing other criticisms (lies) I'd learned about these abilities. Praise God!
  Melody aside, listening to myself play helped me realize I tend to attack the keys. Soft 'n sweet needs some work as do gradual volume changes that add so much to music. It's a coordination thing, learning to control how hard or soft the keys are struck. It will improve with practice focused on developing that ability.
  Practice. Practice. Practice...and more practice. The way to mastering any skill.
  Still, playing as loud as possible is a great stress reliever. Let 'er loose and let 'er rip! Oh what joy!
  "Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us should joyfully to Him with psalms." Ps 95:2

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Stratford on the Avon by Susan L.

  It was nice to have a weekend in the middle of the week as well as the opportunity to see a play. Stratford is over a two hour drive away. The trip follows the rush and push of a couple of major multi-lane highways. Smaller roads pass through the rolling hills of well kept, and prosperous farmland. Tiny villages, with nothing more to mark their presence than an intersection, are scattered here and there.
  Here in Ontario, just like it is in England, Stratford's main industry is live theatre. There are several places devoted to performing all types of productions. Everything from one man shows to Shakespeare's timeless writings grace the boards.
  A huge park follows the wide, slow moving, Avon river that divides the town. Swans, ducks and geese make it their home. There is a little island in the middle of the river with a bridge inviting strollers to come and picnic. Too bad it was too cold to take up the invitation.
  There are many shops and restaurants dedicated to serving theatre goers. Most of the retail area on the main street is original, its architecture harking back to the 1800's. That's old for Canada! Any new builds are carefully designed to look historic in keeping with the rest of the town.
  Big, old houses in tawny yellow, brown or deep red brick, or a combination of hand cut granite and brick crowd the one-way, side streets. Some of these stately homes are decorated with gingerbread trim or have deep, just-right-for-sitting-on-and-watching-the-world-go-by front porches. No two are alike which is a refreshing change from the cookie cutter, assembly line housing being built by modern builders.
  My folks treated me to the musical "A Chorus Line" for my birthday. I wasn't familiar with the story but had come across the music many times. It's about a group of singer/dancers trying to get a job in a musical production. The "director" asked them to share something of their personal life or why they wanted to dance. Sometimes it was heart wrenching. Sometimes it was funny. Sometimes it was harsh and crude.
  The play was based on a book of actual interviews done to find out about the people behind the glitter of Broadway.
  It truly is a comment about our humanity, that behind the fa├žade each of us wear every day, there is a story.
  "And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." Jn 6:35

Monday, 25 April 2016

Tearing It Apart by Susan L.

  There is something satisfying about stripping the front deck down to its foundation. I stopped by the hardware store yesterday and was advised to rip up the floor. To simply put something on top only traps moisture so everything would rot out that much quicker. I had already figured this was the case but was trying to take some shortcuts. Oh, well, it was worth looking into.  
  It's cause for celebration that the right tools for the job are at hand. This means the thick boards can be cut before trying to wrestle them loose. And wrestle it is! For the most part, they are solid. The exposed ends and the first half inch are all that is squishy. It's too much to have simply sanded it off. That leaves an inch and a quarter of solid to challenge human muscles. Only half is done because it takes a lot of strength, even with a pry bar for leverage I got tired. The nails used to attach the floor to the supporting joists are ridiculously long!
  The foundation is still strong, having been protected from the elements by the floor. I am so glad there's something left to work with.
  There's something philosophical about that. Corny maybe, but philosophical.
  So many of Jesus' teachings in Scripture refer to cutting away what is bad in order to encourage new growth. Submitting to the process isn't always easy. Like the four inch nails holding the deck together, they groan and scream as they are pried loose. We're the same, I suppose, when we are called to let go of things we feel are important (Groan! Scream!) but interfere with our relationship with our Lord.
  I've heard many who don't follow Jesus explaining their reluctance because it means giving up too much. Maybe we are called to give up some things but somehow, when Jesus is invited into our life, they no longer seem so important after all. Besides, He will never tear up the foundation of our identity that was created uniquely for us at the dawn of creation. He only wants to uncover it, build on it until we are the beautiful, shining beings we were predestined to be before the hurts and woes of this world wore it away.
  If you don't have a relationship with Jesus, I invite you to take a chance and invite Him into your life. He will never ask you to give up anything until the time is right.
  "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, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." mat 11:28-29

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Submission by Susan L.

  There's been plenty of time to do some more thinking. Submission has been at the forefront of those thoughts. I've often wondered why the capital "H" has been dropped off of the word "He" or "Him" or "His" when referring to Jesus in most modern, faith based writing. Maybe that isn't so much about submission but respect. is about submitting to His (capital "H") authority in all aspects of life.
  Here's where the problems lay.
  It's in human nature to rebel. Adam and Eve had rebellion in their heart so it's been around a long time. It is part of what God gave us. Perhaps it's simply a part of free will and the ability to choose. Unless, of course, free will has been suffocated by those who would violently or otherwise abuse a position of authority. In those instances, it is more than right to fight or flee.
  That's not what this is about.  Rebellion is an attitude. A selfish one. North American culture has been great at fostering rebellion, the "get ahead at all costs".
   I watched a documentary on TV last night and the word other countries used to describe North Americans was "lonely". The two go hand in hand. The show also pointed out that we have half as many friends as we did fifty years ago.
  Is this because of rebellion? It takes commitment to set aside differences. It takes commitment to grow relationships. Yet, time and again, the media portrays infidelity and betrayal as actions that have no cost.
  They do.
  A rebellious attitude can only be wiped out by embracing respect.
  When I worked in the hardware store, I served an Asian gentleman who spoke no English. With the help of pen and paper and some rough artwork, it was easy to figure out what he needed. He smiled, his face beaming in delight, pressed his hands together and bowed to me when we were done. It was the most respect anyone had ever given this often invisible hardware store clerk who happened to know what a tractor hitch pin looked like. (Once again farm life served a purpose.)
  And maybe that's what it's all about: being a willing servant whether your position is one of authority or not. And maybe if we have authority, it would be good to remember we are in that place to serve those who have placed us there. If we served each other in all things, as opposed to waiting to be served then having a hissy fit when we don't get what we want, wouldn't our world become a better place?
  Lord, grant me a servant's heart. Bless me with discernment so I know how and when to serve. In Jesus' name I pray.
  "Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Mat 20:28

Saturday, 23 April 2016

It's a Stretch by Susan L.

  Last night, needing a diversion and not interested in what might be on the TV, I spent some time reading earlier blog posts. It's not something I usually do. The practice has been to mostly forget about the day's previous post once it's put online. What amazed me was the documentation of prayers fulfilled time after time. Little things, big things, all answered and I only went back to February.
  Gratitude and awe washed over me at being able to look back and see the hand of God working so clearly in my life.
  He's still at it. Again, in answer to prayers.
  Right now, seeing as I asked that God grow me to be better than I am, He is encouraging me to speak candidly about issues that bother me with those involved. It's really hard for me. Why? It's rooted in self-doubt. It's rooted in an ingrained need to people please. It's rooted in a reluctance to be vulnerable. It's rooted in fear...yah, that's the biggest because, once again, conditioning is my enemy.
  Help me, Lord, uncover the lies.
  "Don't rock the boat because things will get ugly really fast!" (Yes, they did, until I "smartened up" and shut up...but, that was then, this is now. Praise God!!)
  "It's your job to make others happy." (Really? That's taking on a whole lot of responsibility for something that isn't mine to bear.)
  "Just who do you think you are anyways?" (Nobody special, just a child of God. Oh. That is special!)
  "You don't know anything!" (Thank you Lord, for the ability to receive genuine correction with grace. Although, I confess I don't take correction from people very well, only You.)
  "You are not allowed to speak at all no matter what." (Oh, dear. To my grade one teacher, Mrs. Hagar: being banished to the corner for telling the girl in front of me where her eraser was was so unjust. It was the birthplace of this lie which the devil gladly reinforced time after time. Boy, those roots are deep!)
  All of these beliefs were nurtured and grown by circumstances, by relationships, by a life lived without the Lord as my cornerstone. I am so thankful He is in my life now.
  Forgive me, Lord, for believing these lies just as I forgive those who created them. Please replace these lies with Godly beliefs and responses. Mostly, help me let go of them once and for all. Continue to help me root out the evil in my life, the sin, in fact, anything that is not pleasing to You. In Jesus' name I pray.
  Forgive me, Lord, as well, for having taught others the lies I believed as truth through my own actions and responses. This, too, I ask in Jesus' name.
  "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height--to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." Eph 3:14-19

Friday, 22 April 2016

Feeling Better by Susan L.

  Some of the issues I so emotionally blogged about yesterday have been resolved, clarified, and put to rest. For that I am thankful. Incredibly so.
  Meanwhile, the mundane has taken precedence this morning. Hydro is finally back to finish off the new connections so the rumble of the generator is drowning out the morning's calm. It's easy to tell when the sump pump kicks in because it develops a throaty growl while the pump is running.
  On Wednesday, the deck out front got stripped to the bare bones. It is in sore need of an update. Not just for appearance, but the railing was definitely not to Canadian safety standards.
  The floor will stay. The plan is to go into the local hardware store and check out options for covering it. Pulling it apart is out of the question because it was really, really solidly built and even though the surface is rather weathered, it was good to see that the boards are in fairly good shape.
  I've figured out how to do the stairs so they come down at a forty-five degree angle. It means moving and reconfiguring the garden, something that was planned anyways. This also means shovelling a whole whack of dirt out of the way. That had to wait until the hydro guys came and cleared away all the safety fencing from their work zone so there was a place to put it!
  There's a boardwalk at the foot of the stairs which will need moving hence the dirt rearrangement. It won't be long enough to reach the driveway at the new angle so there's a bit of thinking about how to finish it off nicely. It may mean investing in a couple of patio stones.
  As I wrestled with taking the railing down, it wasn't hard to be thankful. This ole gal still has some strength!
  As I was looking for today's scripture, the Lord led me to Mathew 6:19. "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal."
  This made me pause for a moment wondering about spending the money on this reno but I realized this is more about stewardship, taking care of what is needed so my home is safe.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Heavy Hearted by Susan L.

  I just drafted a couple of the toughest letters I've ever written. My heart is heavy because they even needed to be. One was to the elders of the church. The other to my Bible study group.
  My church family is experiencing some growing pains. Since the sudden passing of our pastor nearly two years ago, we have been rudderless and somewhat lost. Recently, a new direction was chosen by a member majority vote which has created a terrible rift. Some have elected to stay while others feel led to go elsewhere.
  I am terribly grieved by the animosity this has generated. Perhaps I am a bit of a dreamer because in a perfect world, we could all shake hands and wish each other well. We could continue to greet each other in the streets with an enthusiastic "Hi! So glad to see you! How are you? Haven't seen you in a dogs age! Do you have time to grab a coffee so we can catch up?"
  Isn't that how it's supposed to be for followers of Christ anyways?
  A place to worship is just a building. We are the body of Christ. We are the church.
  Far too much of my life was spent in a hateful, malicious environment. It's ugly. It's heartbreaking. It's sucks the joy out of life like a bloodthirsty vampire that is never satisfied.
  Maybe that's why I expect so much from this life with Christ as my cornerstone. Maybe that's why I hoped it would be different, being surrounded by those who follow Jesus. Yet religious differences have a way of tearing us apart.
  Oh, humanity. It always gets in the way.
  There is only one person to blame. The devil is absolutely delighted by all this. Divide and conquer is his motto and the greatest weapon against us. If we cannot overlook our differences, if we cannot be filled with grace and love towards each other. He has already won.
  I am not willing to let that happen but then, it isn't really up to me. Despite a brave attempt to shine a light in the darkness via a couple of candid yet troubled letters, I can only hold myself accountable for my own choices. God willing, they are the right ones. God forgive me if they are not.
  "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, endeavoring 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

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Have to? Not! by Susan L.

  Yesterday evening granted the opportunity to sit down and have a quiet heart to heart with my Lord. Some of it was about the music and trying to write worship lyrics and melodies. Those attempts have taken some of the joy out of playing the piano and my other love, creative writing. I suppose part of my logic was that if the Lord has placed these gifts in me, I felt they must be utilized to His glory. Talk about pressure!
  Here's the thing: they already are.
  Maybe playing the piano isn't a grand performance in front of a crowd (whew!). Maybe it's only being heard by my neighbours if the window is open. (I wonder if they get tired of me playing the same bit over and over until the next few notes fall into place or until I get them written down accurately.) Maybe it's part of building confidence in my abilities as a piano player. Maybe all this doesn't matter.
  Maybe it is about simply being in and of the music where the whole hurtful, ugly world vanishes for a few breathless, wonderful, magical moments. Maybe this is yet another form of prayer.
  What has emerged so far is a celebration of the natural world God created. I've always felt a close connection to nature. The visual artist in me has spent hours simply looking, absorbing what I see until it's set in my mind forever. The natural flow is that the melodies paint pictures in an attempt to capture motion and light and shadows with sound.
  There's a short sound track for a flock of starlings as they gather for their annual, fall migration. Most of my pieces are short but that's okay. They "paint" a complete picture. There's been one for a storm, one for the sunrise, one simply for beauty's sake and other fragments that may end up being elaborated on or simply tossed aside. The current work in progress aims to illustrate the ripples on a sun lit pond as it is caressed by the wind. For the most part, the end results have left me happy even if what is written sometimes has me tripping over my own fingers. (I really should practice scales for a while!)
  The rules have been tossed aside when it comes to following the music in this free form of composition. It's freeing. It brings joy, a joy that is almost painful, to create something built upon a single note or series of notes that catch my interest. In that moment, I know that within me lay a far greater Composer than I could ever be on my own. For that I am eternally grateful.
  "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide in you forever--the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him or knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you." Jn 14:16-17

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Lyrics by Susan L.

  This poet/musician is attempting to write and compose worship music. Being exposed to modern songs and growing more familiar with their structure, has created a bit of a box. It's very hard for me to write in that format yet it feels like I must persist. The biggest issue is working with the repetitious lyrics so common in worship music these days. Sometimes that irks me. I have a fondness for old hymns and gospel songs.
  It's so much easier composing classical style music that tells a story without words!
  What has come out of these attempts has ended up being along the lines of folk songs that tell a story of faith. The verse, chorus, verse pattern keeps popping up. So far anything I've written is a bit sketchy and needs polishing. Snatches of ideas for both words and melody keep bubbling up but don't seem to go anywhere. I bounce from idea to idea. It's frustrating. A sense of inadequacy leaves me sitting on a judgement pedestal, criticizing what is taking shape.
  "Now, Susan, you know better!"
  If these compositions are being forced into a mold, it means I am not allowing the Holy Spirit to do all the work for me. That's a much easier way for creativity to flow. Forgive me Lord, for ignoring that Inner Voice!
  And I am having a good laugh at myself. So much of my creative ability comes from many hours of practicing listening to that Voice so being challenged is a tough pill to swallow. Although I think the challenges are all in my head because of how I am addressing this new expression of the voice God gave me.
  Which begs the question: who exactly am I writing for? Who am I trying to impress? Why am I even thinking of the future?  Why do I feel that this is leading to a need to perform? Why am I so concerned about possible rejection? Why am I asking all these questions?
  Oh, my goodness, so much baggage!
  My humanity is getting in the way.
  So, Lord, I lift this enterprise up to You. Help me place my trust in Your abilities to fill my heart and soul with song. Help me let go of doubt. Help this stubborn need to control stay out of the way so that Your will for the music becomes my will. In Jesus' most precious name, I pray.
  "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him." Mat 6:7-8

Monday, 18 April 2016

A Little Trip by Susan L.

  After church I went to my mom and step-dad's for a visit. We spent some time sorting out where we might like to stay in PEI. My daughter is getting married there next year so we wanted to make sure we were at the head of the line for a rental. We picked a cottage right on the ocean or should I say on one of the red cliffs that are the hallmark of the province. There's stairs going down to the beach.
  Our plan is to drive down together then I'll fly home. My folks will leisurely wind their way back to Ontario.
  My own drive home northward on the back roads was lovely. With worship music playing, the pavement before me straight as an arrow for miles and miles, and the cruise control set at the speed limit, I was able to enjoy the setting sun.
  It was a feast for the eyes. Streaks of butter cream, mango, and tangerine stretched across the western sky. It was painstakingly adorned by the hand of a Master with fanciful swirls of birthday cake icing in mauve, pink and baby blue. Easter egg turquoise gradually deepened into a rich plum with the fading light.
  The window was down to enjoy the balmy, evening air. It's a real treat and a great antidote for cabin fever. Choruses of spring peeper frogs announced every pond or wetland the road passed by. Their whistling calls wove a counter melody to the worship songs.
  Red-winged blackbirds, starlings, a cardinal, a blue jay sang lullabies to the sun as it went to bed.
  It was the hour for deer so it meant paying particular attention to the side of the road for safety's sake. Sure enough, as I drove through some meadowlands ideal for grazing, a pair of scrawny does were quietly nibbling some of the new, sweet grass that has begun to make an appearance. They were a delight to see. I stopped for a moment to watch them but the watcher was watched with a great deal of suspicion so I left quickly. They needed this feast to put on some weight after the long winter's scant dining.
  I am so thankful that the Lord has asked me to slow down because in the rush to get from here to there, so much beauty is missed.
  "What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord." PS 116:12-13

Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Last of It by Susan L.

  Spring finally got here! It's going to be a lovely day and I am bursting to get outside to finish the last of the branch clean up. Burn, baby, burn! It has seemed to take forever but a couple hours here and there made a whole lot of difference. There's only a half dozen larger branches requiring a chain saw. They are piled to one side of the driveway for when that opportunity arises.
  There's a good sized stack of wood beside the shed for future bonfires when a summer's evening beckons.
  I can almost hear the crickets chirping and see the stars overhead. A gentle breeze plays with the sparks and swirls the smoke around.
  "White Rabbit! White Rabbit!" A charm that is supposed to push the smoke away. My thought is that somebody came up with that to distract you from the fact your eyes are burning from a snoot full of smoke. Or maybe by the time it's finished, the wind has changed direction anyways.
  I'll try not to think about the mosquitoes' piercing whine.
  It's funny, for someone who is rather averse to goal setting, future plans have a way of sneaking up anyways. Little things like the wood pile or putting gas in the car are an expression of faith that those things will be needed.
  I may not know what roads will be travelled but it appears there are to be some.
  "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake." Ps 23:1-3

Friday, 15 April 2016

Ups 'N Downs by Susan L.

  Things had begun to get a little wonky. I was having a hard time falling asleep, then woke up early. The angry bees of anxiety were starting to swarm around my brain. Noises were starting to bother me a lot. I couldn't sit still. Irritable and cranky moved in. These are all warning signs that things are not quite right but there didn't seem to be any reason for it.
  One of my medications is in two bottles to make up the accurate dose. The smaller dose is the one I've been breaking up in order to slowly wean myself off. I'd accidentally filled that half of the prescription even though it wasn't needed. The bottle sat in the cupboard behind my other meds.
  For well over a week, it was this smaller dose being taken with the broken up bit; a fraction of what I was supposed to be taking. It's a good thing this mistake was noticed when it was. After two days of my regular dose, minus the broken up bit, I am feeling much better.
  It seems advantageous to take this opportunity to do another small reduction since it had already started to work its way out of my system. Now it's a matter of waiting to see if there are any noticeable issues.
  Too much, too fast is a dangerous way to work with mental meds. To have continued with such a drastic reduction would be like playing with a loaded gun. I am glad the mistake was noticed when it was because sleep has returned and has lasted a decent amount of time. (At least until Pumpkin came in demanding breakfast!) It makes a whole world of difference in everything.
  There seems to be a bit of a war going on regarding medications and mental health. It's tricky to find what works and an extremely difficult process to go through. Side effects can even include suicidal ideology! (Been there.) Often multiple meds are being taken to offset the side effects of the other.
  I just had a small taste of how much good they do for me and am extremely grateful to have them. It was a difficult journey finding what suited my unique chemistry. Doctors still don't know why one works for one person but not another.
  Medications aren't the complete answer. The medical system is beginning to understand that. There's many who live with mental health challenges choosing to go medication free, relying on a natural, holistic approach.
  It should be a matter of choice not an arbitrary decision made for us.
  "Grace be to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Cor 1:2

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

For Thine is the Kingdom by Susan L.

  There’s something humbling and fantastical about those moments when we get what the Word is truly saying to us! Occasionally, those blessed moments of insight are as deep and as broad and as wide as the ocean.  It floods our entire being. My own words are most inadequate to describe how I feel as I begin to grow in the understanding of what it really means to be Christ’s bride.
  There is so much I want to say further to the comment I made after my last post. I  will repeat: this is about more than just speeding.
  Over the last few weeks, there have been many hours spent in quiet contemplation or merely resting in God’s presence. Every time I open the Bible it is with new eyes. Even familiar worship songs are being heard with new ears. There is love everywhere!
   “You are My bride. I am the Bridegroom” is sweeping away hurts I didn’t know I carried. There is new and tender growth in my soul.
 This greater understanding of His love is calling me to be better than I am in many ways. The speeding may be a little thing but if I don’t allow my Bridegroom to change my attitudes about the little things, I’ll never be the person He wants me to be.  We’ve also had a heart to heart about running yellow lights, parking longer than two hours in a designated zone and many other issues that, I believe, as a Christian, I am called not to do. It is about the sin that is in my life.
  I know that changes cannot happen without His help. I pray that I will be able to follow His lead. I pray He will help me make better choices.  In Jesus Most Precious Name, AMEN!
  "Say to Him, "Take away all iniquity; Receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips." Hos 14:2

Speeding by Susan L.

  For those of you who may not have read the recent post where I mentioned being corrected, this is what happened: the Lord had asked me why I felt it was okay to speed through other people's neighbourhoods yet wanted to take action to stop those who sped through mine. So, properly convicted, I've slowed down out of respect for my Father's wishes and others. Obeying the law of the land is part of it as well because slowing down when a police car is visible means I know what I am doing. It is wrong.
  It isn't easy. It makes me nervous when people race past unless it's a multi-lane highway. Having a car directly behind me where it feels like it wants to climb into my back seat makes me nervous. Should a deer or something else create a need to suddenly stop...crunch! Then the others following so close to them would crunch, crunch, crunch as well!
  At one point there was quite a line up behind me.
  (As Will Smith said in the movie "After Earth", "Fear is rooted in the future." Wise words from a bit of sci-fi entertainment. It's about battling monsters that smell our fear. Sound familiar?)
  My speed increased a little bit after convincing myself that doing the posted limit wasn't safe. There was even a struggle about the other drivers' anger directed my way. I could almost hear them swearing and name calling. Even so, those half dozen kilometers per hour over the limit were expensive.  
  Compromise felt like betrayal.
  Maybe that's because it is.
  Pointing fingers and saying "They made me do it" doesn't hold water. Whining about how much longer it takes to get anywhere isn't a valid reason to go against my word or break the law either.
  I am in good company though. It happens time and again in the Bible. Yet the beauty is that God used these compromising men and women to bring all of humanity into the place where we, you and I, can say, "Forgive me, Lord."
  And we are forgiven without fines or penalties.
  "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father and He will reward each according to his works." Mat 16:26-27

Monday, 11 April 2016

Clean Up by Susan L.

  Between the unusually late snows this spring and other obligations, yard clean up ground to a halt. Spending a couple of hours here and there means most of the yard is cleared of broken branches. There's only a dozen bigger pieces that would be easier to cut with a chain saw. The ditch is mostly organized into little beaver hut brush piles except where the branches are buried in snow, frozen together or frozen to the ground.
  Roll on spring! Please! 
  Between huffing and puffing over the bow saw and pruners some time was spent looking at the front deck. Since the patio was put in the back, it isn't used very often. The front door has only been a portal for moving in large items because it opens directly into the living room. Still, it isn't very welcoming or pretty.
  Now comes a need for learning. I'd like to have the stairs come out at a forty-five degree angle which I don't know how to do. There's a couple reasons. Having the new hydro meter at the front means installing a garden and some bushes for camouflage. Hiding the meter means moving the walkway. To do that means moving the stairs. It would also make the front of the house more welcoming. As for the rest, the skills are already there thanks to other build/reno projects.
  Note to self. There will need to be an access door to get underneath because of where the pipe for the septic system runs. That's also why the stairs can't come straight out from the door.
  These are only preliminary musings but a pleasant change of pace. Other thoughts need some time  but those are a different type of steps.
  "Clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart." 2 Cor 3:3

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Character by Susan L.

  I had an interesting conversation yesterday. Someone asked me if by thinking of myself as being a warrior means that I see everything as being a battleground. Far from it. From what I understand, being a warrior, a soldier, means a whole lot of waiting around for something to happen.
  Perhaps this is a bit of romanticising but, for a me, a warrior is more than a job, it's character. Integrity, honesty, loyalty, determination, patience, the ability to take orders...being thankful that, in Christ, I am permitted to discern where those orders come from and am given the choice about obeying. Blind faith is a dangerous one.
  As for being a keeper of the keys, part of it is my love of teaching, of facilitating the development of new skills in others. I simply open the door. It is a position of trust because it is so easy to crush a fledgling ability. There's more to it but again it is another aspect of character. The same integrity, honesty, loyalty, determination, and patience are part of that identity as well.
  But the greatest of these is love.
  I know this is where I stumble. The Lord is working with me on that.
  In a fit of frustration I drafted a letter to our town council about the speeders on my road. There's a plan to go door to door and get signatures asking the council to lower the speed limit.
  On the way to worship practice, I got corrected. Big time. Why do I feel it's okay for me to speed past other people's homes yet get angry when they do the same to me? I no longer speed. Point taken.
  "Love does no harm to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." Rom 13:10

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Start Small by Susan L.

  My friend H has caused me to do some deep thinking after her response to yesterday's post about daring to dream. This is a good thing but there's something scary about writing anything down. Especially when it comes to personal dreams. It means the need to be vulnerable. It means risking being shot down.
  I don't know where to start........who am I?
  The first thing that came into my mind was "a warrior" which is in keeping with a recent desire to own a shofar, the battle horn that was used to bring down the walls of Jericho. It needs to be sounded again to break down the walls of darkness. Can you imagine if everyone who had one blew it at the same time on the same day all around the world what effect that would have?
  Mustard seeds.
  It's taken over an hour to write those few lines.
  I think of the struggle that went on for months after joining the worship team: the panic attacks, the anxiety, the ensuing exhaustion that rolled in after practices and Sunday services. Through it all, there was the absolute confidence that this was where God wanted me. Nothing, no one, could shake that resolve.
  I have been given so much in return: deep wounds have been healed and many things restored. It has brought a joy into my life unlike anything I could have imagined. It would be nice to think that this small journey has blessed others and encouraged them, too.
  And Moses comes to mind. As a new Christian I remember standing in a dripping shower trying to stop the last trickle of water without touching the tap. I remember laughing that Moses could part the Red Sea but I couldn't even stop a drop. Wiser now, I know it wasn't Moses that did God's wonders.
  So there's the dream. The only one that matters. That I will hear God's calling and respond without a doubt. That I will be faithful to His commands and desires for my life because what He has in store  will be beyond anything I could imagine.
  It isn't a cop out.
  It is a desire that rises up from every fibre of my being.
  Prepare this humble warrior, this keeper of the keys, O Lord, to do Your work. In Jesus Name I pray.
  "Bless the Lord, all His works, in all places of His dominion." Ps 103:22

Friday, 8 April 2016

Step One by Susan L.

  Of a nicer deck at the front of the house. Re-doing the landscaping around it. Re-paving the driveway. Re-doing the bathroom. A new counter top and back splash in the kitchen. Building a mud/coat room at the side door. A garage for the car. Spring (it's snowing hard enough that the plow just roared past to clear and salt the road).
  But that's all just stuff. Except for the mud room and garage, it's a response to replace things that are worn out. Winter has worn out its welcome but that's a bit out of my control.
  What do really big dreams look like?
  Hold on...I'm having a bit of a screaming, heebie-jeebie moment seeing that question in black and white.

  "Dare to dream!"

  The very first thing I wrote after God unlocked my mind was:
"I am but a seeker.
With His hand holding mine,
I can do great things.
I will do great things.
Glory be to God!"
  I pray for those words to be fulfilled.
  Lord, thank You for all You have brought me through. Thank You that You deemed me worthy to be Your servant. Grant me the courage to walk in Your calling. Grant me an obedient spirit. Help me be wise and on guard for anything that would lead me astray. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen!
  "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

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Duck Day by Susan L.

  It's growing.
  It's recognizing that I am a bit of an odd duck and being okay with it. (Perhaps eccentric might be a kinder word but that doesn't create such an amusing visual. Waddle. Waddle.)
  Last week at worship team rehearsal, there was a great conversation about songs and groups from the past. Not all of those mentioned were worship songs. Some were. I mostly sat and listened, feeling the familiar feelings of the outsider. My background is classical/big band music. A great number of the songs I like are from the 40's and 50's (waaaay before my time!). It's what I grew up on. As for worship music, except for the golden oldies, it is mostly unfamiliar although the Lord has turned some of my favorite love songs into an opportunity for praise and worship anyways. It's the heart that counts.
  The music I've been writing lately has no lyrics. It's a hybrid of organ technique and piano that strives to paint pictures with notes. It has yet to be played for anyone so I have no idea if it does what it's supposed to do. Is it any good?
  Does it matter?
  It's different.
  There's been many hurts from those who preyed on my belief that different made me an outcast. I can smile about that now and even find grace and forgiveness for those who did the hurting. God has forgiven me for the things I've done to try and "fit in. There was a lot to repent of. There's been much healing on all fronts.
  The longing for belonging has vanished because I finally get it.
  I am God's child, ducks and all.
  "But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, "Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well." And the woman was made well from that hour." Mat 9:22

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Fascination and a Bit of a Rant by Susan L.

  Work crews have been plugging away at getting our little row of houses rewired. The different equipment being used for different aspects of the project has me amazed at the ingenuity of inventors.
  There's the big auger and crane for installing hydro poles. A vacuum truck that uses high water pressure to dig then sucks up the slurry made the holes by the house for the electrician to work in. Another truck showed up this morning with long pipes. It's going to bore the holes underground from the pole to the house for the power line casing. That's a big black hose which is currently wound around a giant wheel waiting for the next step.
  The crew with the vacuum truck had to tear up some of the boardwalk that leads to my front door. That's a tough old job. (I'd forgotten to warn them there was cement underneath.) Whoever built it did the job right and it's still mostly solid even after all these years. The young man who was delegated to clearing the way was using a short, hammer/pry bar combination. I watched him struggle for a bit, being ever so careful not to damage the wood, then offered him my own longer pry bar that has both a straight end and a hooked end for extra leverage.
  I also let him know that if he couldn't save all the wood, that was okay. When all is said and done if the only cost to me is to replace a couple of boards, well, praise God!
  It's wonderful how something so simple can make someone's day.
  I've been rather grieved because there's others out there who have done nothing but heap abuse on these hard working men and women, especially on the hydro crews for not working hard enough or fast enough. Oh my goodness, perhaps following them for a day might be a good exercise in awareness. I know one fellow only had six hour's sleep before putting in another eighteen hour day of hard, physical slogging and that was the most he'd had all week!
  Yes, your basement may have flooded because the power went out. I am sorry. A small, portable generator isn't that expensive: a couple of popular video game's worth. Yes, your house got cold. It was cold outside. Yes, the lights didn't work. Powerful LED flashlights are readily available at the dollar store. Yes, some repairs are your responsibility. Don't most home repairs fall under the owner's domain?
  There's a culture of entitlement running rampant in North America. It's an expectation that the government should pay for our unpreparedness. If we have the ability to own a house, we should be aware that comes with responsibility. Nothing is guaranteed.
  Except Jesus.
  "Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You." Rev 15:3-4

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Bit By Bit by Susan L.

  Most of Saturday was spent outside chopping branches, burning brush and raking the grass to get all the little twigs up. They will play havoc on the lawn mower if left lying. Clean up was a priority. It was cold though, with flakes of snow drifting down. The heat from the fire was most welcomed.
  It took some major decision making about where on the driveway to build the fire. It couldn't be too close to any dead grass. April is notorious for grass fires and there was no way I wanted to start one. It couldn't be in the middle because of needing to get the car out past it. It couldn't be near where hydro marked the spot for the new pole in case they came.
  Gee. This sounds a bit like a Goldilocks' dilemma!
  Eventually a place was picked that was ju-u-st right. It took some huffing and puffing to get the sap filled, black willow to ignite but once it got going, it quickly burned down armful after armful of brush. It sizzled and hissed and groaned but the moisture content meant there were no sparks to keep and eye on. Yay!
  A friend came over to enjoy the taste of camping experience. We laughed about sitting at the end of the driveway in our comfy chairs, tea in hand, watching the world go by.
  It was a successful day. Nearly half of the fallen branches are done away with. There's the beginnings of a future bonfire wood pile in the back for when warmer days arrive.
  The snow kept falling so that put an end to clean up for the weekend. When I ended up shovelling the driveway yesterday morning I wondered what the new arrivals from Syria thought of it all. This is really an unusually late snow!
  Hopefully the snow will be gone by next weekend so some more clean up will get done before the grass gets growing. Or not.
  "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." 2 Cor 4:17-18

Monday, 4 April 2016

Calling by Susan L.

  In light of recent conversations, the creative heart in me was inspired to write. I hope it will give some insight into my understanding of gratitude.

Gratitude’s an attitude.
The “what do you say?” sing-song, rote, response, “Tank yo-ou”.
First words drilled, instilled, become a ritual, a victual that misses the feast.
Give thanks grace before meals? Habitual.
Its beginnings faded into mist, when Holy whole hands broke the bread and poured the wine knowing that time was short.
“Do this in remembrance of Me.”

Gratitude’s an attitude.
It was never meant to be a platitude, a band-aid, a guilty reflex.
It was never meant to be a weapon for shame and blame,
“Be thankful you’ve got yucky peas! There’s starving children in an ignored corner of the world who we never think about or plan on doing anything for but who’d be glad to have ‘em.”
Or missing the mark well meanings,
“Be thankful, things could be worse.”
“I dunno... it’s pretty bad now.”
Or not knowing what to say silence filling,
“Be thankful, it’s all part of God’s plan for you.”
“But I don’t see Him right now.”
“Thank you” was never meant to punish sorrow or pain.
‘Cause some days the cup is half empty.

Gratitude’s an attitude.
It is having faith that a half empty cup will eventually overflow.
It’s enjoying wacky, wonderful moments of weeping and laughter snorts and hiccups that start it all over again...
It’s celebrating everything from traffic jams to Christmas pajamas to harvest raspberry jelly.
It’s seeing answers to prayers that weren’t even being prayed.
It’s laughing about the day peas actually start to taste good then giving more than vegetables to those who have need.
It is honouring that which was lost.
It is embracing redemption, forgiveness, and grace because it is freely given.
It is sharing forgiveness and grace with others at no charge.

Gratitude’s an attitude.
Pay it forward.
Because the sound of “Thank You, Lord”, uttered from the depths of a grateful soul, rings through the heavens.
"Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms." Ps 95:1-2

Saturday, 2 April 2016

It Isn't Always Complicated by Susan L.

  There's few things better than having to laugh at myself.
  After turning on the work laptop, it fired up. While it was doing its thinking, gear grinding warm up exercises, I went to get a coffee in the kitchen. When I came back to the office, the screen was black. The machine had no life. Mouse clicking, pressing random keys, pushing the power button did nothing. Unplugging the cord from the back then plugging it in again did nothing. That's about the extent of my skills when it comes to wayward computers.
  It wasn't a big deal because we have computers available for visitors so they served for what bit of work I needed to do. I emailed my boss to let her know.
  That was Wednesday.
  Yesterday, just as I was leaving, I noticed an unplugged plug underneath the desk. Oops! It was for the laptop. The machine must have had just enough battery life to disguise the fact it wasn't plugged in which is what fooled me. This is the same sort of genius that had me struggling to fire up the generator without turning it on!
  My goodness, it's been a week of lessons! Some are so deceptively obvious I blush to think they weren't thought about. Others have had a deep, profound impact on my understanding of life and faith. Those ones are still being processed as layer upon layer is being laid down before the Cross. Even the songs we rehearsed last night have been touched by this new, incredibly delightful, world view: there's a Bridegroom waiting for us!
  Also, this is a gentle reminder that life doesn't need to be so serious all the time. I don't need to be so serious all the time! They reminded me that it's okay to live in the lightness of being.
  "And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!" Mat 28:9

Friday, 1 April 2016

Clarifying by Susan L.

  Yesterday's post wasn't meant to be one of ingratitude but rather one of honest revelation. Anxiety can be such a huge stumbling block for me so realizing what I thought was anxiety was actually anger is a wonderful lesson and an opportunity for me to grow. Anger is an emotion that challenges me: how to recognize it, how to show it in a healthy way, determining if it is can all get a bit confusing at times.
  Most of my life I lived with a depressive disorder called Dysthymia. It's basically like having a wool blanket over all emotions. Feelings were gray and monotone. It always baffled me how someone could weep with joy because I'd never felt anything that intensely. In my ignorance I confess to judging such outbursts as a sign of weakness. Forgive me for that, my Lord.
   A huge part of my journey has been learning about emotions. Faith and medications have enabled me to connect to my inner self, to explore and discover the wonderful tapestry of the human experience. I have grown to appreciate my emotions because every single one of them is a gift from God even if they are a bit complicated. I am merely human.
  So many prayers have been answered over the last little while. Too many to mention. When I wrote about tossing things in the trash a couple days ago, God heard my prayer in those few words. Yesterday's outburst was simply getting rid of something I didn't know I was hanging on to.
  It has brought me great peace and cause for celebration.
  Tears of joy flow.
  "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." Jn 7:38