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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

A Conversation with God--den Boer


Hi God,

What should I write about today?


Write about me.



You are difficult to write about. The words aren't big enough.

I can say you are amazing, divine, glorious, powerful, wonderful, majestic, awe-inspiring, good, full of love, truth and righteousness. But, somehow these words have been cheapened.

We call a game amazing, food divine, a sunset glorious, a smell powerful, music wonderful, a mountain majestic, a person awe-inspiring, a meal good, a house full of love, a colour true and a song righteous. You are far superior. You made the world and everything in it and the whole universe besides.

You just wrote about me. Thank you.


Marian den Boer is an author and latent writer. 

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

I Love Parties/MANN


Every summer, Doug and I plan a half-dozen BBQ’s, plus a few writing or business retreats. It’s a way we can pay forward and give back. This week we organized another Cousins-BBQ for my side of the family. At our age, you wouldn’t think many could come, but if five in their 80s and four in their 70s can have a whomping good time for a whole day, then we did it. Our time together resembled playing in the sand box as kids in many ways as we interrupted each other, laughed at our own jokes, finished each others sentences and one even had time-out for a sit-down snooze. Come early and leave late – lots of food – good fellowship - that’s the sign of a good party.
As not always happens in families, we are all people of faith. We talked about Sunday school days, baptisms, weddings, anniversaries and shopping days. Amazing how the threads of faith weave itself through our life stories.
One of our parents, from three different families were baptized in the local St. John's Anglican church. Tender reminiscing about how the family would come five miles into town in the late 1800’s through to 1905, with horse and wagon to say yes to God. There was probably some tea and crumpets following worship and a feeling of ‘well done, good and faithful servant’. These folks were second generation Canadian with English parentage – Ontario homesteaders in many ways. There would be struggles and heartaches that would test any faith, yet they persevered through circumstances to continue the tradition of their parents and to personally respond to God by being immersed in God’s love.
The following words are written as a welcome from the ancestral church in Aynho, England with a tower and structure dating back to the 1300’s.
“Young and old gather regularly to worship the same God that generation after generation have worshipped here. We hope one day you may worship with us.” 
 
Doug and I accepted this invitation in 2012 and were amazed and blessed at the ongoing faithfulness of the congregation. I write this not to emphasize the age of the church, but to remember ‘from whence we come’. Although I do not share the total experience that the Deuteronomist proclaims: “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm”, I do claim the latter part to look back and remember that in the mid 1800s when my fore-fathers and fore-mothers came to Canada, they came out of a peasant lifestyle of servitude with a dream of owning land and building a life for a family in a new generation in a new land.
They achieved this. They carried the faith with them and taught their children who taught their children. I am grateful that as the fifth generation of those immigrants who accepted that, the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm”, we can continue to share this rooted faith.   Thanks be to God. Amen

Donna Mann
Aggie Series, Brucedale Press, Pt. Elgin. 2007, 2010, 2013. (YA) The young years of the first woman elected to Canadian parliament.
A Rare Find: Legend of an Epic Canadian Midwife, 2013 (Biographical Novel)
WinterGrief - personal response to grief (2003) Essence, Belleville.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Open My Eyes That I May See - Tracy Krauss

Paul's blindness at his conversion holds special meaning for me. Like Paul, I too have been blind - literally. I was born with a congenital eye condition known as Ectopia Lentis or dislocated lens. The lenses and the lens sack are misshapen and in the wrong position. Besides that, I have bilateral amblyopia (lazy eyes in both eyes), mild exotropia (one eye wants to wander), myopia (nearsightedness), and astigmatism (wrong curve to the cornea). Pretty much everything that could be wrong is wrong! I could never see well, and in fact was diagnosed ‘legally blind’ once I went to an eye doctor, but for the first five years of my life, nobody knew!

How can that be, you might ask? Well, as far as I knew, I was normal, and the fact that I could always draw well (and spent hours drawing), probably threw people off. Mind you, the fact that I’d be an inch from the paper should have been a clue... 

When driving in the car, if someone said, “Look at the horses!” I’d go, “What horses?” which would be met with, “Quit being silly!” Or when I’d say, “Isn’t it cool how when you turn your head to the side you can see three of everything?” I think my family just thought I was a bit slow…or strange… or maybe as the fifth child, my parents were too busy to really notice… 

In any case, when I went to register for school, a nurse was there to do a routine eye check. At first she thought I was kidding when I said I didn’t see any ‘E’ let alone a big ‘E’. Soon after she was basically scolding my mother with, “This girl needs glasses!” And what a difference glasses made! My very limited world was suddenly so much broader – even though by everyone else’s standards I was still visually impaired at a best case 20/50.

I spent my growing up years going to specialists and undergoing every test known to man, all with the same outcome. After examining me, the doctor would inevitably look surprised and call in all his colleagues for a look. Apparently, my condition is a bit of an anomaly. I’ve done some research and most people with the condition have other genetic disorders as well, as in dwarves, giants and people with downs syndrome… (I don’t have any of these conditions, or at least not that I know of. *Smile*.)

When I was a teen I went to a specialist that told me I’d probably go blind by 40. Now if that isn’t something to look forward to! Mind you, when you’re fifteen, that seemed really far away, and life would be pretty much over at forty, anyway, right? So I didn’t worry about it too much. My fortieth birthday rolled around, and all was still stable. Then as I approached 45 things started to change. A rapid decline in my right eye meant I needed surgery to remove the lens which was dangling by a thread. I underwent a three hour surgery where the eye was opened, drained of its vitreous fluid and a new lens was implanted just under the cornea.

Technically, all should have been well. Except the brain is a funny thing. My brain would not accept the new information that was now coming into it through the revised eye. My left eye shut down as well, and I was now almost totally blind. I describe it more like a ‘white out’ than a black out. I could see light, and some colour, but there were no definitive shapes of any kind. If I closed my right eye and held a book about a millimeter from my left eye I could make out the words, but that was it.

My two weeks of leave from work stretched into five months; I was blind for two of them, forced to use a white cane and all to get around. During that time I knit a sweater by ‘feel’, listened to audio books including the Bible, and played the piano – a good way to stop relying on the notes or looking at the keys! It was actually a wonderfully relaxing, restful time where I just spend a lot of time praying and where I was forced to slow down. It made me so grateful for the things I did still have and it helped me to realize that even in blindness, God was good.       

After a second surgery and another three months of recovery I could see better than I ever could see before – 20/40 in both eyes. That’s still not as good as the average person, but for me it was a miracle.

I’d like to say it ended there, but I guess God is still teaching me. Shortly after my second surgery, I started experiencing extremely high pressure in my eyes, due to an allergic reaction to one of the drugs used during surgery. I had to implement a cocktail of three different eye drops to control these ‘glaucoma like’ symptoms. Another side effect took place about a year after my surgery. Because of the invasive nature of the operation, I developed a macular infection – a huge mass of swelling on the retina that acted like macular degeneration…

Are you kidding? Besides all the other things I had to contend with, I now had both ‘glaucoma like symptoms’ AND ‘macular degenerative like symptoms’?! The only treatment for the one is the thing that causes the other and so I went through a regime of treatments and counter treatments for about four years.

The result is that I am now almost totally blind in the right eye with little hope of the sight ever coming back. The left eye is still holding out, although my last visit to the specialist confirmed some movement on the part of the implant which needs to be closely monitored.

Am I concerned? Of course. On the other hand, I am not anxious. I am resting in the knowledge that God is good and He knows the course of my life. My agenda isn’t God’s agenda, but I know that in every aspect of my life – large and small – He is with me every step of the way. Like Paul, I have learned to be content in every situation.

Philippians 4: 11-13 says, “ … for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am, I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”



The above post is a short excerpt from Tracy's devotional book: LIFE IS A HIGHWAY: Advice and Reflections On Navigating the Road of Life

Tracy Krauss lives with her family in Tumbler Ridge, BC where she writes, teaches school, paints and enjoys life. Visit her website for more details. http://tracykrauss.com


Friday, 25 July 2014

Spying on the neighbours - Kathleen Gibson



A pair of Bushnell 7 X 15 X 35 binoculars hangs ready for quick use at our house - the better to spy on our avian neighbours. They don’t seem to mind the paparazzi, and appear oblivious to our inspection. (Then again, perhaps they’re watching us.)


One year a robin pair built their nest in the maple tree outside our living room window. I peered in often as the birds raised their three nestlings. 

In his role as fly-in provider, the male robin regularly coaxed his mate up to the edge of the nest in order to move closer and feed the chicks. His mate supervised - seemingly glad for the break.

The nest, an almost weightless, neatly swirled circle of grasses, rested in a crotch of bark two limbs up, about ten feet off the ground. I worried plenty about it during the series of severe storms that battered our area. An umbrella of leaves offers little protection, I thought.

During the worst of those storms, one that even threatened human life, I grabbed the binoculars and sat down in front of the window - to add a little watching to my worrying. There sat Mrs. Robin, stone-still, wings spread wide over her offspring. Drenched to her pinfeathers, her beak ran water-droplets like a leaky faucet. But when the wind lifted the nest almost at a right angle to the tree, she clung tight.

Every so often, the gale seemed to pause for an intake of breath before its next big gust. In those moments, in darted the sodden male, bearing take-out. To my astonishment, he first fed his mate. She ate, then lifted herself off the nest just high enough for the chicks to thrust their gaping mouths out from under her wings.

The deluge that accompanied that storm chased over a hundred people from homes nearby. Many of those homes were irreparably damaged, and later condemned. Yet the small circle of grasses in the maple outside our window remained intact, and so did the little family.
I'll never forget their song after the storm subsided -- clear and sweet, it soared to me, even through the glass.
These are difficult times to keep a home together. Marriages have never before collapsed at the present rate. Battered by sundry storms, partners flee commitment, sacrificing future joy for present relief or passing pleasures. I grieve the brittle spirits, the inevitable from-bad-to-worse years, the wounds festering in the bewildered hearts of children.

My parents, 90 and 95, celebrated their sixty-second anniversary last week. They remind me of the robins after that storm. Bedraggled, weather-beaten and weary. They’ve held hard to Jesus, fought storms together and survived formidable enemy attacks. They even survived raising me. But they have survived, and so have their values, reflected in each of their children's lives.
If I’ve learned anything from the Robin family, it’s this prayer, "Oh, Lord, give us robin-spirits. Our neighbours are watching."

*~*~*~*~*~

From the archives of Sunny Side Up.

Sunny Side Up has been published weekly since 2001, and runs in various Western newspapers. 

Find author, columnist and broadcaster Kathleen Gibson on the web at www.kathleengibson.ca
 

Friday, 18 July 2014

UNLEASHING OUR GREATNESS - by Heidi McLaughin

Graduating from high school was a defining time in my life. I remember comments like: “You’re going to do great things with your life. There is nothing you can’t do. Go for it; the world is your oyster.”  Then I waited for life to prove it to me.
But life was just plain hard. Many failures and disappointments later I was smart enough to know there had to be another avenue.  In 1978 when I made a personal declaration to accept God into my life, I started pursing more satisfying solutions.  I found a jaw-dropping answer in the bible in Ephesians 1:18-19: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,  and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
Wow, that’s a lot of greatness and power. Then how do we get it for ourselves and then pass it on to others? First of all to get it we have to believe and receive. Secondly, to unleash it we need to pass it on.
We are a family that loves basketball so I will use a great basketball player by the name of LeBron James as my example.  James is arguably the greatest basketball player of this generation. Over the past four years he has led his team, the “Miami Heat” to four National Basketball Association finals, winning two championships. Lebron has command of all the basic skills required for basketball including power, speed, shooting and defensive ability. There are other stars that possess equivalent individual skills. But the thing that sets LeBron apart is his ability to recognize and utilize the gifting and capabilities of his mates and deliver the ball to them when they are in the best position to succeed. For example: three point shots, a midrange jump shot or a drive to the basket.
We unleash each other’s greatness when we view each other as being team mates rather than competitors. When there is a mutual willingness with our friends, family and colleagues to “pass the ball” we can all succeed in unleashing and exercising the gifts God has given us.
Setting each other up for greatness involves the following:
1.         Observation and Communication-Notice the areas of life which are the best in a friend, family or colleague, so that when the ball is in their hands, they are most likely to succeed. Discuss the roles with that person so that they can have the greatest sense of joy and satisfaction.
2.         Patience-As in athletics the talents and skills required for unleashing greatness in your own life, and the life of others is sharpened and refined through practice and experience. Such experience may involve failure before success. As “failure” is not final, disparaging remarks to yourself or your friend have no place in setting up for greatness.
3.         Encouragement-This is huge. Words followed by actions have to power to unleash the gifts and glorious inheritance God has placed inside each of us.  When we feed them into each other’s skill sets, they are extraordinarily important and powerful.

4.         Co-operation and not Competition-First of all in co-operation of the working of the Holy Spirit to “enlighten the eyes of our heart” so that we can recognize the gifts God has given us. Then to pass the ball to those around us so that we all win this life game that we are engaged in.
5.         Greatness is an inside job-The greatness I am talking about is everything God placed inside of us when we received Jesus as our savior. The world will never give us the ultimate success we crave. The more we pursue God and His incomparably great power, the more we will recognize the greatness that has been placed inside of us. Hebrews 10:24 which says: “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”
Is the world my oyster? More than that!  Right now I can enjoy a glorious inheritance that will one day be unleashed in all its greatness when I stand face to face with my God.
In the meantime. I am all about discovering my own greatness and helping you with yours.

Heidi McLaughlin lives in the beautiful vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, British Columbia. She is married to Pastor Jack and they have a wonderful, eclectic blended family of 5 children and 9 grandchildren. When Heidi is not working, she loves to curl up with a great book, or golf and laugh with her husband and special friends. You can reach her at: www.heartconnection.ca




Thursday, 17 July 2014

Finding Friends - SUSAN HARRIS


 I don't quite remember how I stumbled upon an online game site for Scrabble players but I was excited. Except for a game with someone -anyone- now and again, I had no one with whom I could consistently play.

I clicked the link and spent the better part of a day figuring out the "Rooms." I was paranoid about my safety so I spent an additional few days mustering the courage to invite someone to play. The first person suddenly became "too busy" to play after I won three consecutive games. Interestingly, I'd still see her name in other playing rooms. The second woman did not play often enough.

And then I found her. If anyone loved Scrabble as much as I did, or maybe more than I did, it was Amy. Winning or losing did not jar her. We played in the wee hours of the morning, me in the northern hemisphere, she in the southern. Until then, I had banked over the Internet, shopped from vendors online, and worked as a tutor through distance education, but I had never made a friend from online communication. In 2002, this all changed with Amy. Like a slowly meandering river, we moved from being Scrabble buddies only, to adding one-liners like, "Hi, how are you?" in our comment boxes. We were both cautious, two women crossing the equator while our little ones played at our feet.

Gradually the emails grew longer, and the post offices in Canada and Australia received parcels. Gifts for a mother and children whose faces the other had not seen. As trust grew, photos arrived and telephone operators connected international calls. Amy and I advised and gave advice, laughed and exclaimed. Neither of us was on Facebook yet.

It was a sweet, beautiful friendship, a constant as I wove my way in and out of towns, cities and people. I was wary of social media, a laggard of anything that required putting my information "out there." Suspicious. Guarded.

It wasn't until 2011, after my first book, Golden Apples in Silver Settings, was published, that I reluctantly joined Facebook and Twitter. It was purely a marketing move and the only photo was my profile picture. Another year would elapse before I posted anything significant, and when I did, it was in relation to my new books, Little Copper Pennies and Little Copper Pennies for Kids. By then I was comfortable with an online presence, and Amy and I connected on Facebook.

Facebook re-defined the term "friend," a definition I scoffed at when I first heard it. How could I be friends with people whom I had never laid eyes on and didn’t know their backgrounds? I repressed my doubts when I remembered Amy.

I've met the most wonderful and resourceful men and women through social media. I enter their lives and they visit mine. They're like ice cream cones on a hot summer day, leaving their sweetness and refreshing behind. As with good ice cream, though, a few nuts may be scattered throughout, and thus I continue to exercise caution.

My new friends advise on outfits and covers, send birthday wishes and encouraging messages. They share my books and blogs, and offer feedback. I am so much better because of the people I've come to know through social media. I've found them on every continent, and when I'm not on the Internet, I look up to the sky we share and remember that a star twinkles above them as it does over me.  And I'm proud to call them "Friend."
I no longer play virtual Scrabble, but my online presence— and personal life — has broadened because of the individuals who have become real and valued allies as the ones I see in person.
Living Intentionally
On my wall is a quote: Your friend is the person who knows all about you and still likes you.
While I may not know everything about the people I've met via the Internet, I can infer about their personalities and character by the content of their posts, comments and photos. And they can do the same of me. Although I'm vigilant as to how I engage and interact on social media, in the past, I've put the proverbial foot in my mouth. A few times, in the heat of the moment, I've gone overboard and responded to a comment made by the friend of a friend, instead of keeping my focus on my immediate friend and the topic at hand. Or I may have been too blunt. Thankfully, these incidents are fewer and further apart, and may even be non-existent one day.
The old adage reminds that four things that will never come back are the spoken word, the sped arrow, the past life, and the lost opportunity. I'll add a fifth: the written word. I know now that  words texted, typed, tweeted, posted, published, blogged, emailed, and downloaded cannot be taken back. The history and record lurks forever in a digital world of cyberspace and hard drives and software.
This knowledge helps me to be discretionary when communicating through that forum. I'm thankful for my friends and the joy of sharing their lives. I continue to watch out for the nuts, too, conscious of the need to remain safe.  Meeting people and being Internet savvy require a mix of attention and intuition, something I'm mindful of anywhere that I am.
This article is published in July 2014 PAOC  'SAGE' Magazine. Copies can be ordered at https://paoc.org/canada/initiatives/sage.

(An excerpt from Remarkably Ordinary: 20 Reflections on living Intentionally Right Where You Are, Chapter 14, Finding Friends. ©Susan Harris 2014. New e-book available from any Amazon site. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JICVCQM
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Find Susan at:

http://susanharris.ca

https://www.facebook.com/SusanHarrisCanadianAuthor

https://twitter.com/SusanHarris20

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BIO: Susan Harris is a speaker and former teacher, and the author of Remarkably Ordinary, Golden Apples in Silver Settings, Little Copper Pennies and Little Copper Pennies for Kids. Her publication, "Smokey's Lock-out" will appear in the August 2014 edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What? and her children's book, Alphabet on The Farm will be released in the fall of 2014 in both English and French. Susan was born in exotic Trinidad but now lives on the Saskatchewan prairies with her husband, daughter and the gregarious cats.


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Monday, 14 July 2014

Help in the Battles We All Face




Reading:                                                                                                                Psalm 35
 (Verses 7-10)
Since they hid their net for me without cause
    and without cause dug a pit for me,
may ruin overtake them by surprise—
    may the net they hid entangle them,
    may they fall into the pit, to their ruin.
Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD
    and delight in his salvation.
My whole being will exclaim,
    “Who is like you, LORD?
You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,
    the poor and needy from those who rob them.”
(NIV)
Reflection
Paul the apostle reminds us that as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are engaged in spiritual warfare. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand (Ephesians 6:11-13).

The Armour of God

The conflicts that David experienced in the Old Testament, reflected in the words of this portion of Psalm 35, are mirrored in the spiritual warfare experienced by New Testament believers. Make no mistake—the Devil and his cohorts have dug a pit to trap you; they spread their nets to ensnare you in sin and degradation. But as with David, the LORD has also provided a way of escape. Once again Paul reminds us of this: No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The LORD has equipped us with the armor of God and He has provided a way of escape, so then with David we can rejoice in the victory the LORD will bring.
Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD
    and delight in his salvation.
My whole being will exclaim,
    “Who is like you, LORD?
You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,
    the poor and needy from those who rob them.”
 
Satan is a thief and a robber, who robs us of victory, peace and joy. But like David and Paul we can overcome. "Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:25).

David Kitz is an ordained minister and Bible dramatist with the Foursquare Gospel Church of Canada: http://www.foursquare.ca/ For details on his book and drama ministry visit http://davidkitz.ca/