Tuesday, 31 January 2017

More Than We Can Handle by Susan L.

  The paraphrase from scriptures is "God will never give us more than we can handle" based on 1 Corinthians 10:13. It's an expression often used in an effort to comfort someone going through difficulties. The few times I'd been on the receiving end had left me feeling inadequate, lost, and guilty because it sure felt like I'd failed to be "strong enough to handle it." Whatever "it" might have been. It also had me wondering about a God so cruel as to test our strength and faith through terrible trials.
  Didn't the devil have fun with that!
  So I'd argue and question the validity of this concept because I felt that the Lord frequently gave me far more than I could handle. That way I'd be encouraged to lean into Him even more.
  I decided to test this idea.
  First of all, the actual scripture is about being strong in the face of temptation. It has nothing to do with hard times...Mind you, hard times are full of temptation: finger pointing, blame, hating, judgement, and self pity come to mind. I talked with a friend once about why she was angry all the time. Her response was, "It is easier." I bumped into her not long after and was amazed at how God had brought her peace once she decided to let go of the anger.
  The scripture also makes it very clear that God will make a way of escape so that we (or you, as Paul says) don't fall into temptation.
  I did have my eyes opened regarding this often used phrase thanks to someone else's dissertation online. "We" is the key. God will never give us more than we can handle.
  "We" is community, partnerships, relationships with our fellow humans and our heavenly Father. "We" is followers of Jesus. "We" is prayer for each other, a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold. "We" is grace and encouragement. "We" is uplifting one another, bearing one another in all longsuffering.
  "We" is love in action.
  So, yes, God will never give us more than we can handle simply because we were never meant to go it alone.
  "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape that you may be able to bear it." 1 Cor 10:12-13

Monday, 30 January 2017

Inclusivity by Susan L.

  Part of the teaching style of The Meetinghouse is to put up a wide range of quotations prior to beginning the lesson for the day. They do a wonderful job of illustrating and enhancing our understanding of the lesson. However, it struck me that they are made available based on a whole whack of assumptions: language, literacy and vision.
  Afterwards, I mentioned this concern to my pastor and added, "It would be nice to have someone read them out loud."
  The quotes are included in the week's handout so if anyone has difficulty reading them during the service, they can be taken in at whatever pace suits the reader. Even then, that assumes literacy and an ability to read teeny tiny type. Reading out loud is also based on an assumption that people can hear.
  I think churches in general make these assumptions.
  So, the question is: How do we, as a church body, enable anyone with challenges to be included without making a big deal or singling them out? Would having someone translate the service using sign language be of help? I wish I knew how but only a fraction of the alphabet remains from childhood lessons. It is something I could learn.
  There isn't a cost factor in providing these services. Warm bodies with the skills will suffice.
  I live in a predominantly white, English speaking community. The demographics are changing. There are a few Christian, Syrian refugee families living here. For those who balk at having refugees in our country, many are Christian. Many have become Christians because they are finally free to do so without fear of being killed for their faith.
  How could our average, white, English speaking Sunday service serve them? Could a translator use an earphone/translator system like that used at any meeting of nations? I have no idea how that technology works or the cost involved. Perhaps a simple walkie-talkie system with earphones would suffice if someone was able to do the translations.
  This is about breaking down barriers. This is about making Jesus available to everyone. Isn't that what we are called to do?
  "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen"  Jesus in Mat 28:19-20

Saturday, 28 January 2017

New Skills by Susan L.

  It is something to be most thankful for: teaching videos online. I am tackling a child's knitted dress with an absolutely adorable bunny pattern on the front. It also has a single stitch motif along the edges. Working with two colours is something new. Reading a grid pattern is also new.
  I got the motif nailed although my technique is uniquely my own. I am sure there are knitters out there who would cringe watching me. But that's okay, it got the job done!
  My first practice run to knit the bunny on its own before beginning the dress failed miserably. There were holes. It scrunched up. When my knitting mom called last night, I picked her brains but since I am a visual learner, only a fraction of what she said made sense.
  That's the great thing about knitting. Ripping things apart and starting over is easy. Nothing is wasted.
  Mistakes never are.
  Although, having to start a baby sweater over for the fifth time was seeing red frustrating. I am definitely NOT a saint.
  The sixth try succeeded. Woohoo!
  I had translated the pattern into my own knitting lingo. (Apologies to those wonderfully creative designers out there.)
  As my needles click away, I often think of the first person who decided a couple of sticks and a string could make warm clothes. Who was the first person to look at a sheep, a llama or an alpaca and think, "How can I get their wool onto my back without killing the producer?"
  Shearing. Spinning. Weaving. Knitting. Crochet. All because a few brave souls decided to make some mistakes.
  "How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver." Prov 16:16

Thursday, 26 January 2017

God is Love by Susan L.

  Part of our homework for church is to ask people what they think "God is Love" means.
  It's a tough question. Human love is broken, imperfect. It's hard to wrap our head around perfect love because, let's face it folks, the devil doesn't want us to.
  He wants to keep us apart and squabbling because relationship  and community are the devil's enemies. He wants our wounded love to embitter us. He wants broken hearts to stay broken. He wants nothing to do with trust and honour and loyalty and devotion. Kindness, compassion, empathy, and caring have no place in his vocabulary. Generosity and giving are choked by fear. Fear keeps us boxed in and isolated which takes me back to relationships and community.
  Before I came to know Jesus as my saviour, I always threw back the question to believers who were trying to share their faith, "If God is love, why does He let such terrible things happen?"
  Adam, Eve and the story of Eden is often held up to enforce judgment on the sinful ways of men. Women in particular bear the brunt of having eaten the apple first. This story has been used to enforce male power and women's subjugation. Again, it's the devil breaking relationships that has created such chaos in society.
  Eve made a choice but so did Adam. God gave us free will to choose our path. Choices come with consequences. God doesn't punish us for our sinful ways, He merely allows the consequences of our choices to unfold.
  But the best part of the story, once Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, was a special and incredibly tender act of God. He clothed their nakedness, covering their shame. He taught them how to do this for themselves by killing an animal. And so began the journey to Jesus, when God came down in human form to restore our relationship with Him.
  As for the terrible things of this world, it isn't guns killing people. It's people killing people. It's the result of choice: the choice to make a weapon, the choice to aim it at someone, the choice to pull the trigger.
  Still, there is love in this world. It's everywhere. Once in a while, we get a glimpse of the type of love God has for us. When someone holds open a door, it is love in action.
  I encourage you embrace Jesus as your Saviour. Open the door to "God is Love." It will never be closed again.
  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." Jn 3:16-17

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Wondering by Susan L.

  The moment my son was born, the nurses whisked him away. He was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his chest and over one shoulder. I shudder to think of the consequences this might have caused. Thankfully, everything was okay.
  They wheeled him beside me in one of those transparent hospital infant beds. He was wrapped in a blue blanket, a tiny hat on his head. I remember lying there, looking at this beautiful bundle. The nurses bustled away doing what nurses do. No one thought to give him to me. I didn't know enough to ask to hold him. I thought I needed permission. (Wow. That's sad.)
  I was in the hospital three or four days which was normal for the time. Also normal for the time was keeping baby in the hospital nursery, not with mom. I woke up one night, looking to feed him. As I wandered into the nursery, the nurse curtly informed me that he had already been fed. A pang of grief and a sense of failure swept through my heart. I should have been the one to feed him.
  They weren't particularly kind. Any questions I had were answered with abrupt, almost rude responses. When needing help to nurse my son, I was treated with utter contempt. I've talked to several women who also had babies, pre-marriage, around the same time (1980's). They, too, found the nurses to be harsh and judgemental in dealing with them.
  Now dads, moms and babies are encouraged to spend time together in those crucial first days. Post-birth bonding is recognized as extremely important to a child's welfare, confidence and stability.
  I have to wonder if this separation is why my son never slept even as a newborn. Did he experience separation anxiety because of the small amount of time I was "allowed" to spend with him in the hospital? At home, trying to get him to sleep anywhere but in my arms was impossible. Eventually exhaustion would win and he would fall asleep only to wake up when I set him down. That is definitely a sign of trauma.
  Sigh. There's a lot of the next three months I don't remember. Sheer exhaustion, the responsibilities of home and children is all a blur. I was completely on my own, scrabbling along, doing the best I could. My ex worked the first six weeks of his son's life doing twelve hour shifts before finally taking a day off. I have to forgive him for that. At least, I will try.
  I am thankful hospitals have changed their practices regarding newborn babies.
  I am even more thankful both my sons are committed and dedicated fathers.
  I hope the medical profession treats single moms better. I hope the stigma of having a child out of wedlock has gone the way of the dodo bird.
  "May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble; May the name of the God of Jacob defend you; May He send you help from the sanctuary, and strengthen you out of Zion; May He remember all your offerings, and accept your burnt sacrifice. Selah" Ps 20:1-3

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Choices by Susan L.

  Yesterday's post about how the doctor offered abortion in the 1980's as a first option has caused me to do some serious thinking about the matter. I've done some research into the adoption practices of the 1960's to try and understand the circumstances surrounding my own birth.
  The two are related. At least, the mindset is.
  For decades, right up to the eighties, a woman who found herself "in a delicate way" was most likely shipped off to a home for unwed mothers once the pregnancy became visible. The treatment these "fallen" women received in many of these places was cruel, brutal, and punitive. The belief was that they were sinful and needed to be redeemed. The belief, once the baby was born, was they could be "restored" to society as a new person, innocent and ready to take on the proper role of a woman. This meant getting married, having a family and so on.
  There is no mention of the accountability of the father to care for his unborn child or the fact that he played a crucial part in the first place to create the baby. Most birth certificates of these children don't name a father in order to protect his reputation. The blame and shame rests squarely on the mother.
  In some homes, these poor women weren't allowed to talk to the other women or even call home. Life revolved around chores, the clock, penitence and silence.
  There was no education regarding pregnancy, birth, or what to expect in labour. In some cases, labour was done in isolation with no one to help, encourage or support the mother. Pain relief was only offered to "honest" women with a ring on their finger.
  These babies were taken and put up for adoption before the mothers had a chance to hold them. In some cases, there were homes that would tell them the baby had died when in fact, it hadn't.
  There are reams and reams of stories about these institutions for unwed mothers available on the internet. It's enough to make me cry.
  Many of these women will never marry or have another child because of the trauma they experienced in these Godless places. Christian homes didn't live the love of God for the sinner. That's enough to make me cry even more.
  I don't necessarily understand the doctor's motives for suggestion an illegal abortion (probably under the disguise of a D and C). He would have been educated while this barbaric treatment of single moms was accepted as the right thing to do. Perhaps he regarded an abortion as a way of escaping the judgement of others, the stigma of having a child out of wedlock, and the archaic idea of a child bearing the weight of the mother's sinful ways.
  Mary would have been stoned to death according to Jewish law.
  That is where my stand on abortion lay. Who are we to deny God's plan for all children? She could become prime minister. He might find a cure for cancer. Either may raise a child who has a child who's potential reaches the stars.
  Adoption has become much more open. The prospective parents have the opportunity to be involved with the mom throughout pregnancy. The mom can have the opportunity to see their child. It is a viable, although far from perfect, option especially with the increasing number of women unable to bear children. (Lord, forgive us for poisoning our environment.)
  Abortion should not be used as a form of birth control in the day and age when it is readily available. In most cases, it's free at the local family planning clinic.
  I need to do some serious thinking about my stand on birth control. No. That's easy. There's too many countries in the world where unwanted babies are left at the side of the road to die. There's still countries where unwed mothers are stoned or beaten to death. (God forgive us.)Yet, if an abortion saves the mother's life...
  This is a complicated subject with no easy answers. I am reluctant to force my personal beliefs on anyone. Isn't that what started this post in the first place? Having someone else's ideas forced on another human being?
  "Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he though about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream." Mat 1:19-20


Monday, 23 January 2017

Tiny Joy by Susan L.

  It was a brief visit but filled with awe and wonder. My newest grand-daughter is lovely. I'd forgotten how small a new born babe is. Her head nestled into the crook of my elbow while my hand cradled her little bottom. She slept the whole time I was there making little baby noises and scrunching up her face.
  Memories of motherhood.
  It brought me back to the moment I found out I was expecting. I was in my early twenties, in a committed relationship, but there was no ring on my finger. The doctor shocked me by his first statement.
  "We can take care of this for you."
  I gasped and wrapped my arms around my belly, protecting the new life inside me. I don't remember much else about that life changing appointment except wanting to get away from the man who gave me death as a first option.
  This yet unborn son helped me solidify my future. It wasn't only about being in a relationship with his father but being a mom to his two children as well.
  His father did make an "honest woman" out of me.
  When we chose the engagement ring, I had two small diamonds installed on either side of the larger centre stone. One for each of the children I embraced as a son and a daughter.
  Are there things I would change? Of course. Still, I did the best I could with the tools I had at the time. Tools that were woefully inadequate.
  Lord, even though I didn't know You personally at the time, You helped me make the choice of life. For that I am grateful. It makes this newest addition to the family even more precious.
  "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name." Lk 1:46-49

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Day Trip by Susan L.

  I'll be going to see my new grand-daughter today for the first time.
  It hit me yesterday with a bit of a shock that my baby has a baby! It seems like only yesterday that he was toddling around and getting into mischief. The mischief part is still around.
  Hmmm. I guess this means I am getting old(er)!
  I've done some knitting for the new arrival. A baby sweater takes about as much time as knitting a couple pair of mittens and oh, my goodness, booties have to be the cutest thing on the planet! I saw a pattern for a teddy bear hoodie, complete with bear ears that I'd love try.
  It's not something I did for my other grandchildren when they were babies because they lived in New Zealand. Oh. Right. I didn't know how to knit either.
  My ex mother-in-law was a copious knitter. The click-click of her needles was a constant background noise during the years she lived with us. A sweater for the boys was whipped up in no time. She's gone now but I would have liked to have asked her why she never knit anything for the girls.
  Before my aunt passed away, she gave me a couple of baby quilts for the time when little ones would begin arriving. When I pulled one out of the old dresser last night, fond memories came to mind.
  There's something special about hand made.
  I also have a couple of thick flannel sheets, the kind that are always too short for the bed. They have been washed a gazillion times and are soft and cozy. Someone gave me the idea to cut them up for receiving blankets. It's always handy to have something to drape over a shoulder come baby burping time. Just in case.
  I'm bringing my phone to take lots 'n lots of pictures!
  "The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all." Ps 103:19

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Quiet Day by Susan L.

  Between the mild ice storm that coated everything in a half inch of ice and the melting snow that freezes at night, the sidewalks in town are as slippery as a skating rink. It meant for a quiet day at work. Which was okay.
  I'd started creating a set of posters a while back but had forgotten all about them. They are our mission, vision and values statements. It would have been easy enough to only type them out so they could be posted for visitors to see but I wanted to make something pretty out of them. They have some elements like an illuminated manuscript. A simple, graphic, vine and floral panel runs down one side. The panel is painted in watercolour washes then outlined in coloured markers to give the artwork some punch.
  When they are done, I'll make some photocopies for the other centres to have. It might be wise to only hang a copy at ours as well so the original artwork is kept safe. Copies only cost pennies at the local copy store. The final product would also have a glossy finish. This will make them stand out even more.
  It's a pleasure to be able to utilize my creativity as part of my job. Making these posters doesn't even feel like work!
  I also switched the rugs at the front door around. There was one that had a curled corner creating a tripping hazard. As the health and safety rep, I am all about injury prevention. My boss had no idea she was creating a monster when she gave me this role as part of my job.
  I asked her to buy a new, double-stepped, stepladder for the kitchen: one with a handle to hold on to. The old one was a rickety, ancient (probably from the 1950's), wobbly, falling hazard that had more dents and dings than a bumper car! Seeing as our kitchen cupboards are hung unusually high and most of the staff is short, a decent step ladder was a necessity. The new one is a Cadillac version designed with the latest anti-slip, anti-fall technology. It cost about $20 on sale but it is priceless.
  There are many places in this world where worker safety is ignored. Job scarcity means employers can dictate working conditions. Poverty breeds desperation.
  The belief is that when less is spent on injury prevention, the greater the bottom line. This is a fallacy.
  How much does safety cost? It could be a few moments of time spent training and teaching awareness. Diligence has no detrimental financial impact. It could mean providing safety equipment like ear plugs or safety glasses that cost pennies.
 To those employers who put their workers at risk: safety improves the bottom line.
 To those employers who treat their workers with utter disregard, did you know an employer who looks after their employees gains an enthusiastic, dedicated team? Production increases. Quality increases. Cost saving ideas are shared. Staff wants the business to succeed.
  With that sort of support, a business can't do anything but grow.
  "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more." 1 Cor 9:19

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Diagnosis Confirmed by Susan L.

  I met my new family doctor yesterday. Going in to get the fact I had an ear infection confirmed led to him sending me for a whole battery of tests: blood work, mammogram, stool sample, and at some point a pap smear. It's only maintenance stuff to make sure there's nothing wrong with the works.
  He gave me a prescription for eye drops to use in my ears. The pharmacist called to confirm that this was right. He told her that they had anti-inflammatory properties as well as an antibiotic. He'd had good results using them for ear infections that are in the ear canal as opposed to the ear drum. This is my issue.
 Before hearing his response, I was a bit concerned. A new doctor messing up the very first prescription wasn't going to go over very well. Instead, it appears he knows what he is doing and isn't afraid to look at treatments outside the box. The pharmacist was a bit rattled about it all and wrote on their records in huge letters, "Confirmed". She called afterwards to ask that I remove any references to eye treatment from the bottle.
  It's a sad reflection of the increasing frequency of law suits that she was so concerned about any possible liability issues. That is a whole other blog.
  I will say trying to put four drops in my own ears is a bit difficult so I am having to guess at the amount. Not being unable to see what I am doing is hard enough. Trying to get the drops into that tiny hole is a bit like Luke Skywalker bombing the Death Star. Hmmm, he trusted the Force...Lord, help me get the right amount where it is supposed to go.
  "Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience' sake; for "the earth is the Lord's, in all its fullness."" 1 Cor 10:25-26

Monday, 16 January 2017

More Art by Susan L.

  The woman who puts together the monthly bulletin approached me and asked if I'd be willing to do some cover art for it. It's a small piece, roughly 5"x5". I don't have to do anything until March. She had no idea what to do. The Lord quickly blessed me with the idea of the Lion and the Lamb simply because of the old wives tale that if March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb or vice versa.
  They are also frequently mentioned in scriptures. Jesus is the Lamb of God.
  Whenever I think of Him this way, it reminds me of my last summer as shepherd on the farm. There was a coyote that had decided our flock was a dinner buffet. There were many losses.
  Mid-afternoon, while in the kitchen, I heard the cows kicking up a fuss. Looking out the window, it was obvious something had got them upset. They were milling around and bawling. In record time, I flew up to see what was happening.
  The frantic cows were attacking a lamb who was bleeding copiously. The coyote was circling a few feet away trying to figure out how to get back its dinner. It quickly fled when I approached.
  Chasing the cows away from the lamb, who had been mistaken for the coyote because of scent transfer, I scooped him up. Between a ravaged throat and the crushing blows from the cows, the little guy didn't stand a chance. I wrapped him in my jacket before he died in my arms.
  I knelt there for a long, long time, utterly devastated. It was the final blow.
  Even though the Lord wasn't part of my life at the time, I know He heard my prayers. I was tired of death. Tired of the hard, merciless ways of nature. Tired of the responsibility, the work. It was probably the first time the words, "I can't" crossed my lips. I simply couldn't do this any more.
  This story has been shared a few times. It still chokes me up. I don't know if I feel guilty for not protecting my flock better but whenever the word "lamb" appears, this is what comes to mind.
  Jesus has redeemed this traumatic event. The lamb's blood soaked my jacket; a tangible, very real connection to His blood that also covers me. So, yes, I am thankful but it's a bittersweet gratitude.
  It wasn't long after the prayer that wasn't a prayer was honoured and I was set free.
  "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." Jn 15:13

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Celebration! by Susan L.

  My newest grand-daughter was born on Wednesday. She's a healthy, beautiful bundle. Mom, dad and baby are doing well.
  My son was telling me that on Wednesday, even though no one knew mom was in labour, they had received an unusually high volume of texts and emails. Family (myself included) and friends let them know they were being thought about.
  It was a Holy Spirit moment.
  I am eager to go see them but have developed a cough. (Lord, don't let me go through a winter like the last one!) I think it's because of an ear infection so I plan on going to the doctor's on Monday. The last thing they need is a sick relative visiting!
  Something else to be thankful for in this county. Workers can take maternity leave or it can be divided between moms and dads. My son is able to stay home for the first couple of months to help out.
  We had a quick discussion yesterday because I wondered how he'd handled the birthing process. He'd seen many baby animals born on the farm and often helped out with bottle babies. I asked him if it was different since this time it was his wife and not a cow. He laughed and said no. He appreciated that farm experiences had prepared him for the messiness of bringing new life into the world.
  I am thankful the Lord keeps finding ways to redeem the awful years on the farm. I am thankful that He keeps pulling little jewels of experience out of the mud.
  "The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein." Ps 24:1

Friday, 13 January 2017

Third Try by Susan L.

  It would seem today's post is going nowhere fast.
  Oh well.
  "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Ps 27:1

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Decision by Susan L.

  A friend stopped in last night to fill in some time between appointments. I enjoyed cooking a light supper of fried spuds, scrambled eggs garnished with cheddar cheese and toast for both of us. My eggs were slathered in sautéed onions. Breakfast for dinner. One of my favorites.
  I've been wrestling with making a decision about returning to Singing Waters for further healing. I bounced a few ideas around: concerns, objections, reasons for not going, etc. In the end, I feel led to go back. It was nice to have a sounding board.
  Even as I am typing, the Lord reminded me about my reluctant obedience in joining the worship team. It was so far outside my comfort zone. I dreaded rehearsals. I dreaded Sunday's service even more. Sometimes the anxiety was so bad I could barely read the music.
  All of this is now a memory. It's now a joy to play and sing.
  Reluctant obedience is walking in faith. It's like Peter stepping out of the boat.
  My biggest struggle around the whole idea of returning to Singing Waters is allowing myself to be vulnerable and open. Not just with God, but by placing trust in the people who run the healing ministry.
  I think I can let this whole thing become a Peter moment. Me, of little faith, need only to stretch my hand out to Jesus and He will raise me up.
  Forgive me my fears, my Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen!
  "And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm." Lk 8:24

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Seasoned With Gratitude by Susan L.

  The last couple of posts have come down hard. Full of judgement. Full of my own ideas about how people should live and behave based my own personal standards, upbringing and life experiences. Although yesterday's post about winter was meant to poke fun at Canadians, myself included, I doubt the humour came across very clearly.
  Criticism is easy. Seeing what is wrong is easy. The hard part is finding solutions. The hard part is overlooking the negative and finding the positive in any given situation.
  This is a good country, taxes or not.
  I am safe to live on my own, shop on my own, travel on my own.
  I have a passport that grants me the ability to go where I might want to go.
  I have access to medical care and medicines as needed.
  I have adequate emergency services in my community: police, fire and ambulance who are well equipped to do their job.
  I am allowed to wear what I want.
  I can worship where I choose and speak freely about my faith without fear of arrest.
  I can go to school, read whatever I want, discuss ideologies, theologies, and any other ology that might arise.
  I can blog and have access to the internet.
  I can have a job and, as a citizen of this country, pay taxes. I can whine about it if I choose. ;)
  I have rights as an employee.
  I will have access to a government pension when I reach 65.
  I can own property: a home, a car, a cat.
  I have clean drinking water, lights that work, heat when the thermostat dips, and electric fans to ease the blistering heat of summer.
  I live in a country with incredible beauty where massive tracts of land have been set aside to forever preserve that beauty. There's one right across the road.
  This exercise in gratitude could go on for a long time. Each sentence has stirred up even more things to be thankful for.
  Forgive me, Lord, for taking these gifts for granted. Forgive me for looking through a critic's microscope.
  "But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days." Dan 12:13


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Another Rant by Susan L.

  A Colorado low has moved in. This means snow. Pictures of southern Ontario, emblazoned with red, clearly marking the areas to be hit are posted again and again during the news. The forecasters get all excited and cry out their warnings. One of them even said, in an ominous voice, "THIS IS A SNOW EVENT!!!"
  Pfffffff! Really?!
  Depending on where in Ontario you live, snowfall amounts will range from ten to twenty centimeters. In open areas, there is a possibility of white outs and drifting. Par for the course of most snow storms.
  Correct me if I'm wrong. When I was a kid four inches of snow, now known as ten centimeters, wasn't anything to get all up in arms about. Why is there such a difference now?
  Is it because the amounts are now measured in metric so it seems so much more?
  It's no wonder the rest of the country laughs at us southern Ontarians. There are many areas in this country that snowfalls are measured in meters. Why, even half an hour north of me gets way more snow than I do. A few weeks ago they were hammered by blizzard conditions. The sun was shining all day here.
  We squawk mightily when our roads aren't plowed quick enough. Yet, years ago, after another Colorado based storm, the mayor of Toronto called in the army to help clean up. He was laughed at for a long time afterwards. Political cartoonists had a hay day even though the mayor only acted in response to complaints that roads weren't cleared fast enough following a previous storm.
  We moan and groan about driveway shovelling. We complain about the compacted Hump at the end of the driveway that's left by the plows who work so hard to keep our roads safe and open.  Often we are snuggled safe in bed while these intrepid men and women work around the clock.
  For those with snow blowers who are quick to complain about "all the hard work", there is much I could say to you but I won't. (Yes, Lord, I am thankful they are so blessed...at least I am trying to be happy for them!)
  I confess, by the time I've already shovelled 75 feet of driveway, Hump is a lot of work. I also need to cut back a couple meters of Hump along the side of the road. It needs to be cleared away from my mailbox so the postman can access it from his car. If I don't, I don't get mail. It's simply part of what needs to be done because of where I have chosen to live.  
 I think that's the problem underlying all of this. We've gotten so used to the government doing for us, we forget that sometimes we have to do for ourselves. Placing more demands on our governing bodies, municipal, provincial and federal, only means one thing: yesterday's blog about taxes.
  In the meantime, it's Canada. It's winter. There will be snow.
  Do you want to build a snow man?
  "Fear not, O land; Be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done marvellous things!" Joel 2:21

Monday, 9 January 2017

Tax, Tax and More Tax by Susan L.

  A new carbon tax was added to the cost of fossil fuels on the January 1. Or rather, the manufacturers of fossil fuels were taxed which was quickly placed on consumers' shoulders. This means driving our cars and heating our homes has become even more expensive. Anything that is shipped by truck or boat or rail will also become more expensive which is pretty much everything.
  The demands placed on food banks is already at record highs.
  Just before Christmas, the news was filled with stories about people who had their hydro cut off because they had to make the choice to either eat or pay the bill.
  The government wants us to convert to electric heat and electric cars to reduce emissions and help the environment. It's a touchy-feely platitude to make us feel better about being shafted once again.
  I thought that's what emissions testing did? This is a mandatory test to make sure there your vehicle runs "clean". Without doing this test, you cannot renew the licence plate. (Hmm, is that yet another tax on a tax? I know we pay sales tax on the renewal sticker price.)
  Electricity is not cheap in this country. I know people who have electric heat in their homes and when the thermostat dips, they end up paying hundreds of dollars a month to simply stop the pipes from freezing. A lot of them have wood burning stoves to offset the expense.
  So, I have a question. Why are wind turbines shut off? If these costly monstrosities are supposed to help keep energy prices low, shouldn't they be the main source of electricity all the time? The wind rarely stops blowing where wind farms are planted yet time and again, I drive past only to see a fraction of the turbines actually working. How and who penalizes the energy companies for making "too much" power?
  Yet, there are times when we end up buying power from the US or Quebec.
  I don't presume to understand the politics in all of this.
  So, back to my original point: the cost of having a vehicle in Ontario has just gone up. Again.
  A person buys a used car. They have to pay sales tax on the same vehicle, when purchased new, was already taxed. This is not calculated on the actual purchase price but through the carefully guarded "Black Book". Even if you only paid a dollar for the car, you have to pay the taxes according to the book. (I guess this stops people from trying to avoid paying yet another outrageous tax grab by hiding what they actually spent.)
  Our driver's licence is taxed. Our annual plate sticker has taxes buried in the cost. Not just sales tax, but a road tax is in there as well. Gas prices are mostly made up of a half a dozen taxes. One of which is supposed to go to road improvement and maintenance.
  It seems it isn't because the city of Toronto just voted to add tolls (read: tax) to a major highway leading into the city.
  I'd be in a lot of trouble without a car. It isn't a luxury. I live in a rural area with no public transit. To move into an area with these services is beyond my means. Even if I gave up the car, I couldn't afford to live in a major city. The property taxes would bankrupt me.

  So. This rant is about accountability. Where is all this money going?
  But, when a vehicle is a necessity in such a vast country, they've got us over a barrel: an oil barrel.
  Thank You, Lord, that You have blessed me with more than sufficient to live on. Thank You that I have a car and a warm home. Thank You most of all that I live in a country where I am free to criticize the government.
  "And Jesus answered and said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they marveled at Him." Mk 12:17

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Yet Another by Susan L.

  There's been an explosion in men coming forward regarding childhood sexual abuse at the hands of one man. The perpetrator, an ex priest and boy scout leader, has already served time because of a 1994 conviction. There was an agreement made at that time regarding future discoveries of any further crimes against boys. He could not be tried for similar allegations.
  This was part of an arrangement to get him to plead guilty to the charges against him. He served a twelve year sentence.
  So far there's been an additional 150, yes, one hundred and fifty, men who have come forward. More are speaking up each day, seeking help. A support group for the victims of this one man has been formed.
  These recent allegations will never go to court if the agreement stands. Lord, I pray that one of these men doesn't take the law into their own hands.
  I don't pretend to understand the motives of a pedophile. I know that 99.9% of the time they were victims of sexual abuse as well. Not that this justifies their choices. Or excuses it.
  It's hard to find grace for men and women who target vulnerable children.
  It's hard to find forgiveness for those who breach our trust.
  It's hard to find love for those who make the choice to abuse our most precious resource.
  Lord, help me find compassion for those who abuse, who steal and crush innocence. Help me find a prayer in my heart for them.
  Lord, be with the victims. Wrap their brokenness with Your love and acceptance. Help them find healing through each other and through You.
  These things I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
  "And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." Lk 5:30-32

Friday, 6 January 2017

Health and Safety by Susan L.

  Being the health and safety rep at work is something recently added to my position. It's not like working at a factory where safety violations could cause major injuries but there are a surprising amount of things that can happen even in a home-like environment. I've always been safety conscious so this is simply an extension of what I do naturally.
  I suppose my brain's habit of catastrophizing makes for a good watch dog.
  There are companies out there that are not so conscientious. In a conversation over the holiday, I was told about one, hugely successful, and global company that only hired recent immigrants whose English wasn't very good. They were intimidated into working overtime for no pay. Anyone who didn't was deemed redundant and let go. That's against the law but the company took advantage of the people most unable to speak up for their rights: those who didn't know they had them!
  Thankfully, this one company has amalgamated with another that quickly put an end to this practice and many others that were illegal. They have begun to educate these workers on their rights according to North American law.
  This has me wondering how many other major corporations are doing the same thing?
  It's not something we affluent countries think about very much. We only demand cheap goods without taking into account the ethics, the human cost, the safety and welfare of those who are forced to work in the factories simply to put some food in their mouths.
  There was a brief hullabaloo after the fire in India at a factory killed so many people but, like most news blurbs, it quickly faded into the background. I wonder if Walmart and the other retail giants made changes to prevent this type of disaster from ever happening again? I wonder if they placed demands on the manufacturers to provide a safe workplace for their employees?
  Why haven't I put pressure on the retail and manufacturing giants to do just that? God forgive me for not watching out for the most vulnerable in this global village of ours.
  Hmmm...Instead of hanging up the next time a telemarketer calls, usually someone who speaks English as their second language, I'll ask what country they are calling from. If they are based in North America, imagine what will happen once I let them know their rights! The word will spread like wildfire!
  Can you imagine the difference we'd make if those of us "in the know" all did this? Being a telemarketer has to be one of the lousiest jobs on the planet. They are more hated than tax collectors.
  "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" Lk 2:14

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

A Better Result by Susan L.

  The painting began afresh yesterday. Sometimes it's necessary to begin again. I don't view it as failing but rather it's part of learning and honing skill. "Practice, practice, practice." At least that's how I see it in my own creative ventures.
  A friend of mine once said that imperfections in anything hand made are okay because perfection is the sole realm of God. I think she's talking about grace.
  I think, too, it's human nature to look for flaws. Perfectionism is judgement's partner isn't it?
  Yet, the do-overs are perfectionism in action. It's not really a pride thing, this wanting to create perfection but, for me, it's wanting to utilize hard earned skill to the best of my ability.
  For the longest time, I have struggled with the back handed compliments of others wishing they could do what I do. It's usually followed by a smack down of self..."I'll never be able...I couldn't...I can't do what you do..." I used to feel guilty for making others feel bad about themselves. Sometimes I struggle with it still.
  But actually, these people are right. They can't do what I do because they aren't me but they are unique, wonderful, and with a creative voice that is especially their own. It's simply a matter of finding or even wanting it and "practice, practice, practice".
  Maybe it's not that simple. I had to walk a path of forgiveness for the people who damaged my creative spirit. I had to forgive those who taught me directly or indirectly with subtle put downs, "You'll never be good enough. You'll never measure up." I had to forgive myself for believing them.
  I don't know if I've written about this before but I'll say it again. One of the most common statements I hear is that "I can barely draw stick people." In a burst of insight (thank You, Lord), I realized that stick people images are actually a universal language. No matter what country we are in, when the walking man sign pops up at an intersection, everyone knows what that means! They are everywhere, stick men and stick women. They are incredibly powerful images that guide us and keep us safe.
  So, stick people artists of the world unite! Celebrate the messages that can be conveyed by a couple of crooked lines and a circle.
  "The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both." Prov 20:12

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Painting by Susan L.

  I have a vision. It's a view from a balcony that is airplane high in the sky overlooking pastoral fields. A start was made yesterday but I am not happy with it. It needs to be bigger. The sky needs more room because it is vast and blue and beautiful. The fields fade into the horizon. They are multi-coloured like in July where some plants are in full and glorious bloom like sunshine yellow canola, lavender blue flax and acres of sunflowers. The fields far in the distance fade into pastel colours. They butt up against golden grains, lush hay meadows, apple orchards and plantings of immature corn.
  There's no fences but where the fields meet it's wild. Long grasses dotted with flowers provide shelter for unseen life. In some places, a row of trees lines the field edges. There's no houses in this vision of idyllic, rural expanse.
  This painting is going to stretch my patience because it's far more detailed than my normal slap 'n dash race-to-get-it-done. It's a strange way to work. Because it's in acrylics, I need to paint fast to take it slow. A spritzer bottle of water helps the paint remain viable longer. Paint extender would help but that isn't in my supplies.
  The image in my mind is so vivid I can feel the breeze wafting across my face and blowing my hair across my eyes. The fragrances of warm earth, blossoms, and ripening grain fill my nostrils.
  Help me, Lord, capture this wonderful and magical place. Help me with patience. Help me be less critical. In Jesus' Name I pray.
  Off to the drafting table that doubles as my easel.
  "Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water, or a path for the thunderbolt, to cause it to rain on a land where there is no one, a wilderness in which there is no man; to satisfy the desolate waste and cause to spring forth the growth of tender grass?" Job 38:25-27

Monday, 2 January 2017

Lifted Up by Susan L.

  Lord, I am so grateful You are in my life. I am grateful for the way You take care of all of my needs even though I tend to worry about things like aging, health, money, my car, the furnace, the ever present sump pump, flooding, the cat, the plumbing, redoing the bathroom, redoing the driveway, playing with the worship team.
  Worry about being in crowds or social situations is a constant.
  Lord, I feel so socially inept. I can't do small talk. Living on my own, I confess, has made me rather strange. Who am I kidding? I've always been a bit weird. Different.
  Why do I need approval? "Fitting in" is a societal lie to keep us apart from each other.
  Then there's making the decision about going back to Singing Waters. (It's where I went just before Christmas to learn about God's love for His children. Some stuff got stirred up so I feel there's unfinished business there.) Should I go? What if...Maybe? Money worries creep into that decision even though the opportunity to go at no charge is available. Having to get the car's muffler fixed just before Christmas chewed up the budget a bit. Although, I could go for free then, when the money is available, send a donation.
  Potential catastrophes tend to pop up like a toothache. Things like car accidents, house fires, natural disasters, trees falling on the roof or worse: chunks of an airplane. (What's with that, Chicken Little?)
  My biggest worry is being vulnerable and it's cohort: trusting others. Which brings me back to the decision about Singing Waters.
  I know You say to cast all our cares upon Your shoulders. It's not that I sit and chew over things or play the "what ifs". My mind knows You will provide and so does my heart. Everything I've written about doesn't leave me paralysed or wringing my hands but they are an unpleasant presence just beneath the surface.
 You also tell us to be anxious for nothing. That's hard for me because I have an anxiety disorder. I am betrayed by my own body's response system. So, are my worries because my body tells me to worry or does my worry feed those responses? Or does it go both ways? A chicken and egg dilemma.
  Abba, I lift all of this to You. There's a lot of fear and anger in what was just written down. I honestly had no idea it was that bad or all encompassing, touching every part of my life.
  It's hard not to beat myself up about it. The judge in me can be harsh. Forgive me, Abba. Forgive my pride, my bull headedness, my blindness. Forgive me for still thinking I need to do it all by myself.
  Help me grow but most of all, set me free. These things I pray in Jesus' Name. Amen!
  "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Jn 16:33