Friday, 31 March 2017

Day 8, I Am Adequate by Susan L.

  There was another point which came to mind moments after publishing yesterday's post about having access.
  I imagined Jesus standing, waiting, with a smile on His face, and a universe full of "admit one" tickets. There's one for every person present and for those yet to be born.
  Because this final bit of mental imagery came after clicking the "publish" button, I couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed in myself for having missed it while writing. Maybe that's why it came late! To give me a reason to examine what being adequate means.
  I feel this is also tied into my dread of setting a goal. Despite a fearful avoidance of the concept, they have a habit of cropping up anyways.
  Honestly, there was zero hesitation to begin a three hundred day commitment to exploring affirmations. That's a pretty big goal! I know I am more than adequate to do this because I've already got several years of blogging under my belt. There's room for grace because I've given myself permission to take a year to accomplish this task if needed.
  Adequacy is fully enmeshed in grace.
  I've also shared about wanting to lose weight. My meds have the terrible side effect of creating carb and sugar cravings. I recently found out anti-depressants turn off the brain chemical that tells me when I am full. A ravenous hunger comes exactly thirty-five minutes after taking them. Am I able to resist the physical impulses to eat falsely generated by meds?
  No. Not by myself.
  The good news is, in Christ, I can be adequate to the task of taking authority over this false hunger cycle..
  My more than adequate part in this for now is making better choices when the hunger explodes. There's a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter. Eating apples is better than feasting on toast slathered in peanut butter.
  Adequacy is fully enmeshed in an active prayer life.
  Adequacy is fully enmeshed in humility, too.
  Adequacy is fully enmeshed in community...there's a need for others to offer encouragement and  help us succeed.
  I realize now that goals are expressions of hope. Hope is more than adequate to enable the impossible become possible. Forgive me, Father, for having squashed hope and expectancy.
  "And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency comes from God who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." 2 Cor 3:4-6
  I hadn't looked up today's scripture until I'd finished writing. Thank You, Lord, for showing me I am on the right track. AMEN!

Thursday, 30 March 2017

I Have Access by Susan L.

  I missed not doing this first thing this morning. It was an early work day because it was my turn to cook for our community lunch: roast beef, gravy, mashed spuds, fresh green beans, mmmmm. It was enjoyed by all and helps me not forget how to cook!
  I had a chance to take a quick glance at today's affirmation of "I have access" but there was no time to look up the Scripture reference before heading out the door.
  Thank You, Lord, for this...
  Imagine a rock concert of your choice. You're the first person to enter and as a result you and your friends are handed a back stage pass. How exciting!! To meet the band you've loved, like, since forever!! Nothing this amazing has happened to you, ever!
  This thought kept rolling around my head throughout the day, "Jesus is the Back Stage Pass". Because of Him, we can go behind the curtain and are personally, intimately, connected to His Father, the Holy Spirit and even angels. He is admittance to mystery, amazing things and untold wonders. Through Him it's possible get up close and personal with others who share our passions and with whom we are connected all the time!
  A concert is decked out with flashing lights, laser beams, smoke and fireworks. It's all about the awe factor and the experience. The musicians up there dancing carefully choreographed, extremely athletic manoeuvers aren't singing all the time. Mostly they are mouthing the words to pre-recorded copies of their work that is blasted out through carefully placed speakers. Understandably so. Singing takes a lot of lung power. Jumping up and down does funny things to the voice box.
  It takes a huge number of people to pull off an excellent show. Sound, make-up, special effects, set-up, organizing, security, and a whole bunch of people I have no idea what they takes a hundred to make one person shine.
  Our own little worship team takes a crew behind the scenes to make sure we sound great, too! (Thanks, everyone!)
  Jesus shines all on His own, this Light of the world.
  And awe fills my soul. For all He had done, is doing and will do.
  The best part of all is the Jesus Pass is free for the asking.
  "And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father." Eph 2:17-18


Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Accepted!! by Susan L.

  There's one thing about being accepted. I had to know rejection first. The enemy was so good at using the world to make sure I wasn't good enough, that I even rejected myself!
  Isn't that the idea though? If I am isolated from community, friendship, and trust because of the fear of not being acceptable, then there's not much room for receiving the unconditional acceptance of Christ.
  To even embrace the idea of unconditional acceptance is challenging because it is so incredibly foreign to my experiences.
  This isn't to say, now I am a follower of Jesus, that everyone will like me. That's okay. I don't like everybody either. This is not the same as rejecting them. Jesus has shown me that it is possible to act out of love regardless of like.
  He's shown me, but it's sometimes hard to live out. What's the old saying? When I point a finger at someone, there's three pointing back at me.
  The last several days have been spent in wrapping my soul and spirit with positive affirmations. Behind the scenes is a huge awareness of my flaws. The challenge is to acknowledge those flaws without condemnation but rather with a willing heart, an eagerness to change, grow and become a better person. I hunger for being the woman God predestined me to be.
  I really, really want to know her.
  The biggest struggle is listening to anything that even hints at criticism. Perhaps it's because most of my life was lived according to someone else's framework. The judgements and criticisms of others trapped me into trying to live up to impossible expectations.  All this did was feed into self-rejection. I simply wasn't the person they wanted me to be. Yet, I judged myself because I was inadequate to the task. (Forgive me, Lord.)
  The other side of this is living up to the worst that was expected and falling short of my full potential. (Forgive me for that, my Lord.) Hmm, yet another part of the rejection spectrum: not succeeding because success also means rejection. Boy, the devil sure can spin some webs.
  It's safe to acknowledge that I can never be adequate enough to fulfill all the needs and desires of others; an outward projection of want.
  Critical language is toxic when it is simply used to criticise. Even if the criticisms aren't directed at me personally, hearing someone rant about the inadequacies of another person or business or clothing or the car they drive or how they live fills the very air with darkness.
  It must grieve the loving heart of Jesus.
  I also want to make it very clear that when we are seeking healing, talking about the bad things isn't criticism but the first step in letting them go.
  Correct me, Lord, when I view others with a critical heart. Grant me awareness so I let critical words go unuttered. Renew my mind with a blanket of grace and acceptance for all Your children. In Jesus' name I pray. AMEN!
  "To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound towards us in all wisdom and prudence." Eph 1:6-8

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

# 5, I am Abundant By Susan L.

  The first place my mind went was to my waistline. Yup, plenty of abundance there! Which I've decided to do something about. Peanut butter has been banned. I bought gum to curtail after dinner snacking. The improving weather means making myself go for walks. It's a start.
  I digress but I have to ask the Lord to forgive me for turning to food for comfort.

Image result for cornucopia
  "Abundant" is a word of harvest.
  The cornucopia, a horn of plenty, overflows with the goodness the earth produces. It's a symbol of thanksgiving, a successful season, as well as family and feasting. It's a regular ole party hearty. (Gee, turning away from food didn't last very long did it?)
  So what would the "Cornucopia of Sue" be filled with? Better yet, what does yours have in it?

  In mine I'd find:
  1. Abundant faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
  2. Experiences which have served to deepen my faith and draw me closer to Jesus. They have also enabled me to connect to others with the intimacy of commonality. None of us are alone.
  This is when I start to struggle because listing attributes always feels like boasting. Therefore, I will give the glory to God for having freed me to embrace the abundance of everything He has given me.
  3. Intelligence that is tempered by moments of being slow to understand. Wisdom is not necessarily part of intelligence. :)
  4. Curiosity and wonder. Those encompass the ability to learn. Learning comes with admitting that I don't always get it right. Now that's wisdom!
  5. Emotions. That's all of them, even anxiety and sadness because when I feel these things it means I am connected to my heart. This has helped me turn to prayer in times of need when sometimes, I think I have to cope all on my own.
  6. Laughter and play.
  7. Courage to follow the darkest paths in order to glean God's truths about life, love and community.
  8. Joy in everything, even in the sadness.
  9. Vulnerability and strength.
  Nine and ten explore and celebrate our duality. They are entwined and inseparable like Paul says about being full and suffering need at the same time. (Phil 4:12)
  10. Determination. The best part of determination is I truly want to be better than I am.
  11. Honesty although sometimes it takes a while to figure out what is really going on.
  12. Humility. Shame is NOT humility. Humility is the offspring of gratitude and surrender.
  I know there are riches to be uncovered still so the last two items for today are:
  13. Jesus is present in all things, at all times, in every aspect of my cornucopia.
  14. Rest.
  "I (Jesus) am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." Jn 10:9-10
  I have to add that I was rather taken with the idea of going in and out of the Jesus gate. Having been a shepherd, I know sheep need times of feasting as much as times of rest in the safety of the barn. They never spent all day out on pasture but would return several times throughout the day to digest and chew their cuds.

Monday, 27 March 2017

I Am Abraham's Offspring by Susan L.

  This one has me searching the corner's of my brain to try and remember who Abraham is!
  This is as good a time as any to add a short disclaimer. Only spending a couple of hours studying a short piece of scripture makes me aware that I fall far short of uncovering the nuances, the limitless gems of truth each of these contain. Most of these short affirmations could be the title of a book! 
  What I can do is place this entire process in the hands of the Holy Spirit and trust in Him to reveal what the Lord wants known to both my readers and myself.
  So, thank You Lord for Bible scholars. Thank You that there are many wise teachers who can help us understand Your Word. Thank You for helping me, us, during this time of exploration which every day points directly to Your heart.
  I went to the beginning and landed in Genesis 22 which contains part of (now I remember!) Abraham's story.
  There's another piece of gratitude today for the teacher who shared that everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus.
  The gist of the story goes: Abraham, two of his young men and his son rode for three days towards a particular mountain because the Lord had commanded him to offer Isaac, his only son, as a burnt offering. Because Abraham obeyed without wavering, just before the fatal stroke was taken, the Lord provided a perfect ram lamb to take Isaac's place. And not only did He provide the lamb, He also blessed Abraham.
  "By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son--blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the starts of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." Gen 22:16-18

  So ages later, God, the Father, sacrificed His only Son when the people chose not to crucify a different lamb, a thief named Barabbas...

  Abba, forgive me for not having walked according to my Divine inheritance. Forgive me for not walking in the victory You predestined me to have. Open my heart to understanding where sin has kept me from fully embracing this gift. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen!
  "And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Gal 3:29

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Affirmations: Day 3 by Susan L.

  "I am abounding in hope" Rom 15:4 & 13
  Where does hope come from? Is it an innate part of our emotional makeup? A baby cries out of need but does this want, borne of necessity, begin the installation of our hope software? I cry. I am answered. My needs are met.
  When the baby spoon of some questionable new food does the airplane towards my mouth, is there a newfound explosion of hope that it will be something yummy?
  Is that first taste of pretty, pink grapefruit a breach of trust?

  Is hope tied into the ability to ask for good things?
  "Good things" are entirely subjective and chosen according to our social status, finances, age, where we live, our beliefs and so forth.
  I'd like to think I've moved beyond hoping for a Ferrari. Nice as it would be, having one would take a whack out of my finances. I'd worry about it being stolen or worse, wrecked in a car accident. They aren't so great to drive in the winter either. Let's shelve that burdensome dream but I wouldn't mind driving one around the block some day.
  I'm not one for daydreaming about the future. Never have been. I wonder if that part of me is broken. Or maybe my life experiences have squashed that ability. Getting through each day has been a challenge for so long. To consider what tomorrow might bring is a stretch of my abilities.
  Oh, here's the hope part! For now. (Maybe I could practice?)
  Hope doesn't have to be big, does it? It's the little hopes that have enabled me get through the days spent on the Black River. Very few of them were ever spoken. It was an internal longing for something better and no matter how bad it got, I knew better would eventually come. Everything always turned out OK and more often than not, far better than just OK!
  Anticipation is hope in action. Anticipation and its partner expectancy breathe life into the yet to happen tomorrows.
  I like that. It takes away the idea of needing to ask for specifics and places the future firmly in the Lord's hands. That's the only vessel I want my tomorrows in.
 Yet, we are called to be proactive when it comes to faith. In this I can be very specific about my hopes in that regard: I hope for a deeper faith and a richer understanding of my Lord Jesus. I hope that my giftings will continue to unfold and that they will be a blessing to others. I hope that the Lord's grace will enable me to have more grace, patience, kindness and that I am filled with all the good things He embodies.
  I hope these mental meanderings today will make a difference in someone's life or at least, and hopefully, generate a smile.
  "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Rom 15:13
  I have to add a rousing, "AMEN!"

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Who I Am In Christ by Susan L.

  It is my hope while I am exploring Biblical affirmations about my own identity that you, my readers, will be able to find something that connects to your own lives and self. These blessings are meant for all followers of Jesus. Yet, in true Jesus form, these affirmations are also meant to touch the lives of those who may not know Him, to instill hope that there is a better way. We only need to walk through His open door into a life of love and acceptance.
  "I am abounding in grace." 2 Cor 9:8
  What is grace exactly?
  I blew the dust off my ancient, yellow paged dictionary, laughing at myself because it would have been faster to open a new tab and look it up online. That, to me, is practicing grace: laughing at myself because I can't help being old school sometimes. It's okay to be old school.
  The definition takes up a good chunk of the page of Funk and Wagnall's tome so I won't write out the whole thing. The part that stands out is, "Any divinely inspired spiritual virtue or excellence."
  What are the virtues of the Divine? Forgiveness. Hope. Faith. Love. Peace. Patience. Redemption. Restoration. Mercy and grace=zero judgement. Acceptance. Encouragement. Strength. And something not often included in the list: the mystery that is a God beyond human limitations.
  As I wrote out the list, my heart felt the times that I hadn't allowed these virtues to express themselves because, in embracing Christ as Lord, they became my divine inheritance.
  Even so, there are many instances where these virtues have shone brightly despite my human experiences and limitations. It always leaves me feeling rather surprised when it happens. Mostly they make themselves known when I make the choice to forgive. I know, without Jesus, making that choice would be impossible.
  Forgive me, my Lord, for not allowing these gifts to unfold. I will forgive those who taught me prejudice, hatred and suspicion. I will forgive those who have judged me or tried to make me into someone I am not. Forgive me for passing judgement on others or for trying to force them into my idea of who they should be.
  (There's a slight pause as I get personal with Jesus about this. Maybe you, my readers, can take a moment as well to give the Lord space to share His heart with you.)
  Humility or being able to admit I am far from perfect is a big part of grace. Being okay with the thought of not being perfect is, well, perfectly fine because I don't have to get all this good stuff right away. It is a process of growth through a relationship with Jesus. Pruning encourages new growth.
  So, I think there's a further step besides simply reading these blessings out loud to my reflection in the mirror (I forgot to mention this is how it's to be done.) The next step is to claim them, to own them for my own like an explorer placing a flag in a new found land.
  Lord, I claim an abundance of grace that will overflow like a life giving river. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
  "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written, "He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever." 2 Cor 9:8-9

Friday, 24 March 2017

Journey by Susan L.

  Much has changed. Much has been healed. Much has been forgiven. Much has been celebrated. It's humbling and inspiring when so much "much" can be accomplished through a few short hours of prayer. My time at Singing Waters left me clearer in understanding Jesus and what His relationship with me looks like. It has also given me a direction for the blog.
  Over the next year, I will be exploring the three hundred scriptural affirmations that were assigned as homework.
  So, the first one, "I am able" Phil 4:13 is easy.
  Not to boast but anyone who has been following my blog knows that there isn't much I can't do. My capabilities range from deck and shed building to plumbing and home repairs. My creative abilities, as much a part of me as breathing, touch nearly every aspect of my life. There isn't much that scares me because, praise the Lord, I am able to make mistakes and start again. I am also not afraid to explore and learn new skills.
  That's the "doing" aspect of being able.
  In matters of the heart, through the love of Jesus, and even though mental health challenges are part of life because of past events, I have been able to find the ability to forgive both others and myself.
  So, how does, "I am able" challenge me?
  Choices are a stumbling block. Mostly it's because of doubting my own ability to make decisions. Forgive me for that, my Lord. I'll choose to forgive those who enforced the idea that I am incapable of  making the right decisions. Thank You, Lord, that it is Your guidance I can lean on.
  Making the choice to ask for help is always tough. Being so darned capable and self sufficient doesn't mean I don't have to ask for help once in a while. Oooo, doesn't that smack of pride! Forgive me, Lord.
  So, how does making the choice to reach out to others for help in making major decisions sound?
  I think that's a good idea seeing as Pumpkin isn't much of a conversationalist and his sole focus is either food or cuddles.
  This was a rather light hearted start. But that's okay, I don't have to be so serious all the time. Being able to find the funny side of trials and tribulations is a gift from God. Thank You because laughter is a great teacher.
 "Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content; I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phil 4:11-13

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

BIC by Susan L.

  The more I am learning about Anabaptists and the Brethren in Christ, the more I am finding that this is a faith home that aligns with my own ideals. My church has been exploring their doctrine with the idea that our currently non-denominational church will move into becoming a church of the Brethren in Christ.
  There's a number of reasons for this potential move. Mostly it's because it will give our independent church a community. With that community comes support, accountability, and greater resources to help our church grow.
  We've just finished a ten week video teaching about what BIC believes. It's an older one from the Meeting House where we follow the teachings of Bruxy Cavey via video. This series may be older but it has blown through my heart like a breath of fresh air.
  From what I have understood, BIC is all about being a community of believers. It's not a community of "believe what we believe or else" but is about coming together in grace and love. The lessons were more about sharing different ideas and allowing us the space to make up our own minds. If anything the aspirations of the church are anti-religion especially when religion is used to divide God's Church.
  To come to a place that is willing to draw wisdom from the wise regardless of doctrinal differences honours God, the source of all wisdom.
  I don't have to agree with everything the BIC believes. In fact, they encourage questioning and more importantly, will facilitate answer finding. Many times Bruxy has stated that if you aren't growing spiritually or as a child of God by attending the Meeting House, they would be more than willing to help you find a church home where that would be possible regardless of denomination.
  This is my favorite image that Bruxy used to illustrate an idea. The three circles represent the doctrinal practices of Catholicism, Protestantism and the Anabaptists. The shaded part is where our own beliefs are part of the other faiths. In the middle, as it should be, is the Cross of Christ. In the grand scheme of things, this is all that matters. At least, it is all that matters to me.
  My own walk has taken me to many different churches for a season and a reason. My Anglican upbringing has played a role in shaping my own personal faith and beliefs. This variety of experiences has shown me that Protestant style dancing and singing for joy are as much a part of worship as Catholic quiet moments of contemplation. It's wonderful to be free to celebrate and partake of the beauty found in the practices of all who follow Christ.
  By keeping the circle of circles in mind and remembering the jagged line I blogged about the other day I can become a better person. I can find the ability to love others unconditionally because I don't want to break the circles apart or allow a jagged line of judgement to be a barrier to God's love. He loves every one of His creations regardless of where they attend a Sunday's service. He even loves those who don't!
  Not that this will be easy or even if it will be something I can do all the time. I am only human after all. Yet, with Him leading me, it will be possible.
  Thank You, Lord, for Your forgiveness and grace. Thank You for personalizing our faith and for meeting us where we are at. Thank You for helping me grow in this journey of acceptance and grace.
  "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you." Prov 9:10-11

Monday, 20 March 2017

Hike by Susan L.

  H and I went over to the Gibson Hills yesterday to enjoy the sunshine, the warmth and a bit of the outdoors. The leafless treetops were adorned with songbirds and my first official spring Robin. The ground was muddy and downright slippery as we struggled to walk down a couple of the steeper hills. Thankfully, neither of us did a face plant or ended up falling. We'd both brought hiking sticks that helped us thwart gravity and treacherous footing.
  Since we won't be going camping this summer, we've taken on the challenge of hiking the entire Bruce Trail. It cuts through our area on the way north so there's plenty of places to pick it up and hike without having to travel too far.
  The trail is 885 kilometers long, starting at the Niagara River and ending in Tobermory. We won't do this in one summer (if ever!) but plan on breaking it down into shorter hikes. We'll take two cars, dropping one off at our ending point then head to the start so there won't be any need for doubling back.
  If we were to tackle it in one fell swoop, we would have to hike eight hours a day for thirty days. That's not happening either!
  Every once in a while, I get amazed at just how big this country is. I know there's places in Europe where having a car is a considered a luxury. Here it's a necessity unless you live in a large, urban setting with public transit. Even if I wanted to visit a city, I still need a car to get to public transit because the only buses feeding them run along the main highway corridors. It's a forty-five minute drive to the nearest bus station.
  As the nicer weather rolls in, I'll have to start walking again. Couch potato winters mean out of shape springs. Keeping the Bruce Trail in mind will hopefully inspire me to regain the fitness level I achieved before heading to Nova Scotia last September.
  Tackling the Bruce Trail and celebrating the beauty of this country seems a great way to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday.
  "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge." Ps 46:7

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Journey of Waiting by Susan L.

  I've always been a good waiter. Not the kind that serves tables although I have done that in the past and was pretty good at watching and waiting to meet the diners' needs. There was one middle-aged couple who came every week and asked for my section. The restaurant was a quasi-fast food, chicken slinging franchise. For the brief time they were there, enjoying a half litre of wine apr├Ęs feast, it was wonderful to provide the space for a romantic dinner for two. They only ordered their meal after the wine was gone and didn't like to be disturbed before that point. I don't think my boss liked it that much because a table used for longer than the allotted 35-45 minutes meant no new people buying a quick meal.
  Too bad because this couple had a palpable love for each other and this love was a gift to witness.
  My goodness! That was thirty years could have been yesterday.
  It served me well on the farm when hours were spent in the barn anticipating a new life. Quiet patience, slow movements, and the knowledge that the birthing process couldn't be rushed. It was a rare place of peace for me in the midst of chaos.
  Waiting is part of the human experience. Traffic, appointments, paycheck deposits, the busy Saturday grocery store weave a pattern of "take five" in the busy-ness of life.
  I will confess that sometimes I don't do the wait very well. Hmmm, usually it's because I'm busy judging whoever is holding up the line. Now that's a bit of insight regarding my own behaviour and attitudes! Thank You, Lord!
  So. A journey of waiting. For what, remains to be seen. All I know is that these moments of not being able to do anything to hurry things along are incredibly precious. Being okay with that inability is even better.
  "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." Ps 91:1

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Jagged Edge by Susan L.

  My church has been following a series,  "Christian Theology, Learned, Loved and Lived". It's a series outlining what The Meeting House, a church of the Brethren in Christ, believes as Anabaptists.
  In this older series, Bruxy Cavey uses a chalk board to illustrate what he is talking about. I don't remember the exact subject matter of the day but he wrote down two opposing viewpoints on how Christianity is practiced.
  His chalk squeaked and broke as he drew a jagged line between the two. The line represented the break in community over religious differences. Differences, even if it's only over one or two points, cause the biggest rift between brothers and sisters in Christ.
  The sad thing is that it is our different viewpoints that sever any sort of relationship we might have with others of faith when in fact it should be our similarities that unite us. We, who follow Jesus Christ, are the church.
  Each Sunday, the lesson is opened with quotes. Jesus, John Calvin, John Wesley, St. Augustine, and a diverse array of many people fill the page with wisdom. It is a good thing, this wisdom that surpasses religion because the lesson exemplified in each of the quotes is the same.

  If we can't love our brothers and sisters in Christ, how can we love the world who does not know Him? Or why do we love the world so much yet cannot love those of another faith?
  I hope and pray, my Lord, that You will bring the jagged edge to mind whenever I meet with a fellow believer. Help me be gracious, kind, and loving. Most of all, help me be open to learning! I ask also, for discernment in knowing what is true and right and holy and what is not. In Jesus' name I pray. AMEN
  "And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."" Acts 1:7-8

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Peace by Susan L.

  I've been doing a lot of art lately, collaging the cares and concerns of my soul. It has soothed the anxiety as I lift my troubles to the Lord. It's better than the little worksheet I designed because the worksheet requires thought when thought is a struggle against the overwhelming power of "RUN! NOT SAFE!".
  My ironing board has been set up in the living room as a temporary desk. It's ideal because of the length and its adjustable height. It gives plenty of room for the pages I am working on. There's space to flip through the rather tattered magazines used for inspiration. My scissors are always in sight although my pens and markers sometimes hide for a while.
  The floor ends up littered with scraps and bits of paper: the waste of accomplishment. These tiny, cast away remnants are only there because of grace and patience and discovery. The garbage is a celebration of success and achievement. They are symbolic of what is happening within my heart and mind.
  I find a page often starts out dark and full of angry images or cut out words. Sometimes the words are assembled from cut out individual letters like a kidnapper's ransom letter. Sometimes I feel like a hostage of my own emotions. In some ways, I guess I am.
  I don't censor the process because few people, if any, will ever see this journal. It's between God and I. Over the space of a few hours, the dark and angry images evolve. Layer upon layer begins to cover them, redeem them, release them without doing harm. Understanding replaces raw emotion as the Lord encompasses the darkness with His light.
  I'd cut out a small crucifix a few days ago but only used it yesterday. I partially tore it down the middle before gluing this broken, holy image onto the page. All I could feel was the Lord's pain for the damage we have done to each other. I could feel His heart grieve over the brutal practices condoned by His church in the name of religion that went against and, sadly, continues to go against, everything He stands for.
  Sometimes, we have the right to be angry because anger creates action. Action, through the guiding hand of Christ, is love in motion.
  "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave--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 20:25-28

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Life Changing Experience by Susan L.

  Several years ago I had the pleasure of spending an extended time in New Zealand, one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Towards the end of my stay, I decided to check out the Ruakuri caves or should I say, the Lord placed the desire in my heart.
  I am claustrophobic. This was the last thing on earth I would ever want to do.
  My arrival was divinely orchestrated so there was only an hour to spare before the tour started. Just enough time to check into the local hostel. Just enough time that there wasn't enough time to think about backing out.
  The four hour tour I chose was their most intensive one that included rappelling down 150 feet through a small opening in the earth (barely wide enough for my shoulders). There was black water rafting which was sitting in an inner tube and drifting lazily down the underground river. A zip line was used to get down another massive cliff. It was a leap of faith into the pitch black.
  It was black. Our miner's headlamps barely pierced the sunless nether world that pressed in all around. Glow worms gleamed like underground stars.
  The group was small consisting of the guide, a newly wed couple, a single woman on a "freedom trip" as well as a teenaged girl. Most of the time I was in the rear of our expedition. Being the eldest, being a mom, made it a natural fit because it enabled me to help the guide out as needed. This also helped me fight against my own fears of enclosed spaces.
  There are a few things that have remained as vivid as the day I went on this definitely out of character adventure.
  After abandoning the inner tubes, there was a spot where the river ran within a few inches of the cave roof. To breathe meant holding your head at an angle as you swam through the deep water. The guide gave me option B that bypassed this particular area. I took option B.
  Another small, bowl-like cave had a roaring waterfall in the centre. It hammered at our feet as we perched precariously around the outside waiting for our turn to climb up and out of the bowl. The noise was deafening, drowning out any possibility of conversation. The anxious claws of claustrophobia shredded my calm. What seemed like molasses hours was probably only a few minutes. It was the only spot I couldn't be last to get out of.
  There was a fairly long area that involved swimming. This time the cave roof was so far overhead, our headlamps didn't reach it. The tour company had fastened ropes along the cave side so we could pull our wet-suit hampered bodies along against the current. The young girl lost her grip. She started panicking as water filled her lungs. The guide and the rest of the group were far ahead so I reached out and grabbed her, pulling her to the edge where the rope was. She grabbed hold, coughing and spluttering before finally catching her breath.
  We would meet later at the hostel where her aunt was waiting for her. She introduced me and told her aunt that I had saved her life.
  Maybe that was why the Lord insisted I make this journey.
  Or maybe it was because, after more than four hours of exhausting exercise, climbing, swimming, and ducking under the weight of the earth we came to the end.
  Coming around a smoothly sculpted corner of the tunnel, utterly exhausted, my spirits soared. The sunlight danced a water ballet on the walls and ceiling of the cave as it streamed in through a barely big enough exit hole. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.
  That heavenly vision of an earthly place has come to mind often. It has comforted me when life has been at its darkest, when the weight of the world presses down. It has encouraged me to keep going because I know that eventually I'll see the sun again.
 "He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no on can find out the work that God does from beginning to end." Eccl 3:11

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Nor' Easter by Susan L.

  My thoughts and prayers are for those who live in the northeastern US where anywhere from thirty to ninety centimeters of snow are expected to fall. I'll raise these prayers as well for Canadian neighbours to the south and east who are also in line for this wintery blast.
  A vicious winter storm with high winds and a significant snow fall make for dangerous conditions. Keep safe. Keep warm. Drive carefully or not at all. Be patient with travel cancellations and airport closures. The airlines can't do much about Mother Nature.
  I was afraid it was going to be another Terrible Tuesday today. Named so because when we've had bad weather this winter, it fell regularly on a Tuesday. This meant small group got cancelled several times. Not today. We only got a dusting of the white stuff.
  Lake effect snow can be a doozy. Arctic air passes over the deep, and much warmer, Great Lakes. It scoops up a ton of moisture. Once it hits the cold land, the moisture condenses. Voila! Snow falls anywhere downwind. Because the winter has been very mild, the lakes are even warmer.
  I watched a show about weather yesterday. There's an experiment I'd love to try although I think it needs two people. It uses a large, plastic pop bottle with a bit of water in it. I'm not sure how to temporarily seal the mouth of the bottle because there needs to be a bicycle pump attached to it. By one person using the pump to fill the bottle with pressurized air then the other suddenly opening it up, an instant cloud was made inside the bottle. It was really cool to watch!
  There's something amazing, too, about the idea of holding a cloud in the palm of your hands...
  "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." Gen 1:1-2

Saturday, 11 March 2017

A Bit of This and That by Susan L.

  The temperatures plummeted. Last night was bitterly cold after the unusually balmy days of February and early March. There's a rumpled quilt of snow on the lawn that wasn't there at bed-time. The trees are dusted with snow like God sprinkled them with icing sugar. Occasional mini-avalanches drift down. The songbirds are all puffed up as they perch in the branches of the lilac bushes. Landing, they create more mini-avalanches.
  Once in a while, one of them flits down to grab a crumb from the bread crusts I threw out yesterday.
  There's a gray squirrel huddled into himself at the top of the ash tree. I guess he's hoping that the watery sun has some heat in it.
  There is someone coming shortly to install a satellite dish and all the hookups for the TV. My antenna was starting to act a bit wonky. Thankfully, it comes in a bundle with my home phone. The additional cost is about what I spent on buying movies in a month. This will stop. It will be nice to have access to more of the documentary and educational shows I enjoy so much.
  None of the songs chosen for Sunday's service have flute parts. Being able to sing for a change is nice. There were some adventures in harmonizing last night. Most of the time, I hit the right notes but there's a definite need to practice some more today.
  I have been struggling with the microphone while playing the flute. The way it was positioned was off to the side so it couldn't be seen unless I rolled my eyes nearly out of their sockets. There was only a small area of reception. Unless the flute was held perfectly still, it would move in and out of the range of the mike.
  There are specific mikes for flutes so it was worthwhile approaching the worship team leader about perhaps getting one. She did her own investigating then sent me a video link about using regular vocal-type mikes and the best position for amplifying a flute. I learned something: the noise comes from the mouthpiece, not from the body. Hmmm, there's truth in that. Although a body does, embarrassingly enough, make some rather unusual noises! (I couldn't resist the chuckle.)
  The next time I play, we'll see how it works. At least I'll be able to see the thing because it will now be in front of me. This should also get rid of the stiffness from having to stay so still!
  Thank You, Lord for new opportunities, for learning, for the life that exists outside my back door. Thank You, Lord for the joy found in all of them.
  "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 2 Thes 5:16-18

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Break by Susan L.

  I might be taking a few days off from the blog. The artist in me is making herself known with a physical craving for the need to create. That means I need to spend some time in prayer, that I am craving the Lord's insight into everything that is going on.
  My hope is that it will help me disassemble some of the underlying causes of the anxiety. I now know "anxiety" is a massive cauldron of overwhelming and often conflicting emotions. By turning to the art, it will help me break it down into manageable pieces. It will also give me the chance to listen to my Lord and Maker for His take on things as they stand.
  Writing is challenging for the moment even though it is one of my great joys. What's the old saying? A picture paints a thousand words. Art, for me, helps when words fail or when the vocabulary isn't readily available to articulate what is actually going on. Especially when the powerful and primal fight/flight is going full tilt all the time.
  I found an incredibly powerful image in another colouring book. (Lord, bless those who create them!) It's a young girl entering a building through an old fashioned, exquisitely crafted, arched double door. Inside the building is a large, handless clock with its inner works exposed. The clock is surrounded by interlocking gears. The girl's dress is decorated with the same gear pattern. Talk about an appropriate visual metaphor! I couldn't have done it better!
  It's a starting point.
  Thank You, Lord for starting points. Thank You for Your grace, wisdom and insight. Thank You for understanding my need to figure things out. Thank You for providing the opportunities to do just that.
  The only note I made at church on Sunday was "I may not know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future." My apologies to the author for not writing down where that quote came from.
  "He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." 1 Pet 3:1-12

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

? by Susan L.

 It's an all over the map sort of day.
 Gray skies, rain, decisions, second guessing, insecurity, loneliness, overwhelmed, depressed and, yes, anxious.
  A rather unpleasant stew of emotions.
  I had a vivid dream last night about the intensive agriculture farmer a group of neighbours took on years ago. We worked with the township to stop further expansion of the existing 3000 head operation in our community. What initially began with esthetic issues due to the smell, noise, etc. quickly became an environmental one. These massive farms use the same amount of water and generate the equivalent waste of a small town. Because it's a "farm", the impact isn't included in any water studies. We were crucial for the drafting of some of the first sets of bi-laws regarding these types of operations that have since been adopted by other townships in the area.
  Sometimes the little guy wins.
  In the dream, for some reason, I was there to buy cattle from him but ended up seeing a secret underground stable of horses. Was I being a spy? Looking for inside information? If an evil mastermind had a perfectly hidden lair, this would have been it.
  There was a tiny, square doorway to crawl through which took some wrestling to get my back end clear of. This led to a cement tunnel that wound its way to the immaculate and sweet smelling stables. Looking up, there was a canopy of trees over the entire operation instead of a roof. I fell in love with a two year old, unbroken gelding he had. When I heard the price of $500, I woke up. My waking self realized that was a really low price for a horse.
  A random thought had crossed my mind the other day that there are few small farms raising cattle in the area. What used to be a common sight has been replaced by acres of cash crops. Not having open and often "weedy" pastures has had a devastating impact on insect life like bees and monarch butterflies. Song bird populations have also taken a hit.
  Okay. What can I do? Plant native species of wildflowers like milkweed in the garden. Repair my birdhouses. I could even build a bat house. They love mosquitoes.
  I feel a bit better now. Maybe it's because that even if I am not in a great place, I can make a difference in some small way.
  "Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls--Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." Hab 3:17-18

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Peace and Quiet by Susan L.

  I spent most of yesterday absorbed in the life of David Copperfield. It's probably why, in true Charles Dickens manner, there are so many commas in my own writing. He does have a knack for run on sentences. I often immerse myself in his stories to get away from the graphic murder and mayhem so prevalent on the TV. Not that his stories are without violence and brutality. "Oliver Twist" is a far cry from the musical that makes Fagin out to be a loveable old criminal.
  Dickens was quite the advocate in his day: a human rights activist before there was such a thing. He used his writing, both fiction and non-fiction, to speak out against slavery, the incarceration of people for debt, the workhouses, and especially the maltreatment of children in schools or after being sold into servitude. His rapier pen shredded the morals and values of the rich when those morals were self serving.
  It's disturbing to realize that many of the attitudes of the 1800's are still part of today's culture. There are still great inequalities between men and women.
  There's a pair of toilet bowl cleaner ads on the TV right now. They are an animated depiction where "powerful clean" is chanted by either football players or military types. "Fresh clean scent" is chanted by cheerleaders or Barbie doll style girls in 1950's era outfits. They hold hands and leap into the toilet bowl. Weird but I had to ask myself, why isn't the women the one who can be the "powerful clean"? Or are men really that averse to fresh fragrances? Is male sexuality somehow threatened by lavender or lemons?
  I know it's only one commercial but time and again these types of ads enforce the stereotypical roles both men and women are supposed to fulfill.
  And the children...there are places on this globe where a life of brutality is purchased for a few dollars.
  I was going to end this post with a description of being snuggled up on the couch with a purring cat on my lap. Somehow, in light of how today's blog evolved, it has lost its delight.
  God forgive us for the injustices we commit. Forgive us for our complacency and greed. Forgive us for burying our heads in the sand when all around us are hurting men, women and children.
  "Your shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria; Your nobles rest in the dust, Your people are scattered on the mountains, and no one gathers them." Nah 3:18

Friday, 3 March 2017

Day Off by Susan L.

  Last weekend's delightful travels to spend time with family, then working three days including cooking yesterday's lunch for a crowd, makes me happy about not having to go anywhere today. I was starting to feel the effects of "busy". Combined with broken sleep I was rather shattered by the time the car pulled into my little sanctuary after work yesterday.
  Worship team rehearsal is tonight. It will be nice to go and make some music. Even if I don't feel like going out, it will be good. There's a new song this week, a new flute part. While it isn't that complicated, I can feel the sharp talons of anxiety clawing away. That's nothing new. It's the norm when it comes to either rehearsals or playing on a Sunday.
  Getting there is the biggest battle when it would be so much easier to simply say, "I am not going." Today, it's terribly tempting to back out but I've cut back playing in the team to only two Sundays a month. That is doable. Besides, once there, the joy of worship replaces everything else. I could use some joy.
  The worksheets are revealing a lot. There's much more going on than simply being anxious. It's a cluster of other emotions creating what I've labelled "anxiety". Nervousness, irritability, being overwhelmed, and not feeling safe are the four that seem to be the most common.
  There's also a lot of anger and frustration coupled with plain ole sadness in having to cope with all of this.
  Fatigue plays a huge part as well. That's another vicious circle: being anxious is exhausting, exhaustion creates anxiety. Sigh.
  I can also add in noise sensitivity. Being tired makes the world seem awfully loud some times. Too much noise gets the adrenaline flowing. Fight/flight kicks in. Another sigh.
  Thank You, Lord, that I am beginning to understand what is going on. Thank You as well for times spent with family. Thank You that laughter, being silly, and celebration are also a huge part of my life.
   It ain't all bad!
  Most of all, I gives thanks from the bottom of my heart that You are part of my life.
  "He has sent console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." Is 61:1,2,3

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Lion and the Lamb by Susan L.

  The old wives' tale says, "When March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb or vice versa."
  It's not particularly lionish out there. It's overcast with a sun threatening to shine.
  The uppermost branches of the trees are barely moving so it's calm out there, too.
  The weather forecasters are calling for a risk of thunderstorms and torrential rain later today. They've been wrong before...actually, they seem to be wrong more than they are right. It's the only job where mistake after mistake is perfectly fine with the boss.
  I like using a weather rock better. It's far more accurate. If it's wet, it's raining. If it's white, there is snow on the ground. A stick works as well although it tends to break down.
  Back to old ladies' thoughts on the subject of weather.
  Are the thunderstorms the lion's roar? Is the lamb-like peace of this morning simply the calm before the storm?
  I beg to differ with the old wives' club because actual lambs, unless they are sleeping, can't simply walk. They bounce and leap and jump about in celebration of the life force that flows through their veins. Does this personify or animalify the weather for the day? Is today going to be like a leapy, fleecy, bouncy lamb whose little hooves will skip across the heavens? Or perhaps the next twenty four hours will be all over the map with a year's worth of weather crammed into one day: lions, lambs, and the odd mouse thrown in for variety.
  Can the first of March for this year be considered starting like a lamb but ending like a lion? I guess it depends on the violence of the yet-to-happen thunderstorms. A couple of rumbles doesn't make a lion. A purring kitty-cat maybe but that animal doesn't figure into the old wives' tale. Actually, mice don't either.
  Fluff and nonsense for this morning. Made up words for the fun of it. Poetic licence freely taken because I can. :)
  "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him." Prov 26:12