Sunday, September 18, 2016

Why I Love My Church-by Heidi McLaughlin

I hated church.  I suffered through boring, guilt-ridden sermons, hard wooden seats and everyone telling me, to, “Shush”.  The endless rules left no breathing space for me to explore a world filled with adventure. I was sick of the hypocritical phonies with their plastic smiles on Sunday and then listening to their swearing and gossiping on Monday. Teenagers are observant and I found it hard to stomach that behaviour and at seventeen I mustered up the courage and told mom and dad, “I’m never coming to church again.”  It just about broke their hearts, but I stuck to my declaration and I became the prodigal daughter until I was thirty-two.

RETURN OF THE PRODICAL DAUGHTER
No I didn’t end up eating with the pigs, like the prodigal son, but my life ended in the ditch and on the brink of divorce.  Whether we believe in God or not there are times where we cry out “God help me.”  He always does and in desperation I responded.  After beginning my personal relationship with Christ I came to a crisis of belief.  Would I go back into a church, revisiting those stifling memories?

Whether we believe in God or not there are times when we cry out “God help me.”

With pounding heart I walked through the church doors and stepped back into my perceived demons. This time it was different.  I guess I had to end up at the bottom of the barrel to understand that we are all imperfect people.  In fact, I accepted the fact that we are all hypocritical...including me.  Now I understand when Jesus said that church is not for perfect people, but a hospital for the spiritually sick. That was me; imperfect, sick and looking for hope.

I LOVE MY CHURCH
September is a nostalgic time for me.  As the leaves turn into brilliant orange, umber and shades of yellow, I reflect and am grateful for my colourful seasons. Today I love my church.  In my regular Sunday pew I look around at an audience of people on a journey struggling to find their way in life. Many people are in a horrible season and are lonely, addicted and looking for love and hope.  Now, instead of judgment I look into people’s eyes with compassion.  I am so grateful that I am connected to an authentic group of people seeking to learn how to live like Jesus.  To have a sense of belonging and ownership in my church, I took intentional steps to connect. My joy overflows when I teach the Bible to groups of women, when I mentor, instruct on leadership or am encouraging people in the prayer room.
 
WE ARE ALL CONNECTED
I realize that our greatest power comes when we are connected to God and “one another.”  That connection takes place when we make a choice to step inside the door of an imperfect church. Maybe this is your season to make that bold choice.


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.
Her latest book RESTLESS FOR MORE: Fulfillment in Unexpected Places (Along with a FREE Study Guide) is available at Amazon.ca; Amazon.com, Goodreads.com or her website: www.heartconnection.ca



Saturday, September 17, 2016

Where goes the Comma? BY SUSAN HARRIS

There is no diminishing the power of floods, their waters savage and raging, merciless to anything in their paths. I’ve seen too many floods and their devastation in the countryside where I grew up. I saw flooding overtake towns and highways in Saskatchewan with the same results, and recently in 2014, my city went under a state of emergency as flood waters besieged it.

City of Melville under flood
 Years ago I was vacationing in California with my brother. He had recently read a book that expounded on Isaiah 59:19 and the placement of the comma, and we discussed the implication. Commas indeed change the meaning of sentences as the well known “Let’s eat Grandma.” v “Let’s eat, Grandma.” illustrates.

The KJV places the comma after the word flood – “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” This version renders the enemy as the subject that comes in like a flood.

The book my brother had read stated that in the original Hebrew, the comma was placed after “in”, rendering the reading as, “When the enemy shall come in, like a flood the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” The emphasis here is that the Lord’s power comes in like a flood.

Our discussion was a healthy one which only served to reinforce how much our Lord wards off the torrents of the enemy against us. Since the Bible has placed the comma after the word flood I will use that as my default. My stance is that whether it’s the enemy or the Lord who swells like  a flood, the more crucial part of the verse is the promise that the LORD SHALL LIFT UP A STANDARD. I am solid in the fact that the devil’s power fades in light of God’s might, so no matter what force he comes with, the Lord will overpower him.

Whether one eats Grandma or not isn't a function of punctuation (but rather what impels one to cannibalism which is beyond the scope of this blog). In the same vein, where the comma goes in Isaiah 59:19 will never affect the power of the Lord who has already defeated the enemy of our souls. 

Susan Harris is the author of eleven books. Her upcoming Christmas picture books are being released in October. www.susanharris.ca



An Alphabet of the First Christmas: A Christian Alphabet Book explains why and how Christians celebrate Christmas. The story of Jesus’ birth is brought alive by using each letter of the alphabet to explain a different word relating to the biblical Christmas narrative. It includes a letter to your little one and a couple of lovely prayers.


Christmas A to Z is a delightful book for little children. It gives a word which we associate with Christmas for each letter of the alphabet and explains it in a friendly and conversational way. Simply and gently written, little ones will find great enjoyment in the words and pictures of this book, thus gaining more knowledge of the many symbols of Christmas in our world.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Reevaluating the State of Affairs by Ruth Smith Meyer

Ever since January when my second husband skipped off to heaven, there’s been a sneaky specter hanging about.  It doesn’t actually let me have a good look at it, but it keeps gleefully whispering, “You’re getting old!”

My body gets in on the taunting disparagement. My blood sugars become unpredictable. My hip gets bursitis, making me begin to waddle like an old___  --No, no, it’s just my hip! It can’t be because I’m old! My doctor, as though I’m going to need it for the rest of my life, sets up an appointment with a specialist to make sure the walker that I’m using is right for me, and when asked about a dark spot that has appeared on my hand blithely tells me, “Oh you’re just getting rusty from old age!”
What?  Me old?
“Yeah?  You’re next!”  is the murmur from that ghostly shadow. “After all, how many years can you have left?”
Then in August, my second last baby turns 50!  The nerve!  That’s just about five years younger than I feel on the inside, but facts are facts.  I must have been older than five when she was born.  I write a poem, to the tune of Mocking Bird Hill, for the party she throws to celebrate. The first few verses went thus:
Meri Mary Beth at Fifty

In the year sixty-six to the Smiths, Ruth and Norm
A bright–eyed Mary Elizabeth was born
Bringing warm happiness and excitement galore
For she started to climb, walk, and run and much more.

And at only eight months and a half, it is true,
She fractured her skull—causing quite a to-do.
On the wee children’s ward, the nurses in shock,
When this little kid proved that she really could walk.

“Put the child on the floor, with the pen upside down,
To keep her contained,” said a nurse with a frown.
Just perhaps ‘twas advice her parents should heed,
For she kept on a climbin’ no matter our pleas.
  
                                                          and I laugh along with the rest.



That evening is however, the impetus for some reflection during the quiet moments of night.  At first I want to fight back.  On further contemplation I decide to face that specter, make friends with it and walk along in companionship.  Yes, I am getting older, but that doesn’t mean I have to succumb in docile or compliant surrender and sit back waiting to die!  If I can’t skip along the way, I  can walk briskly—give that menace apparition a run for his/her money!



I ask the doctor for referral to a physiotherapist and begin a twice daily exercise regimen. My hip drastically improves.  I renew my commitment to my quiet time that has been disrupted by the changes in my life and I realize that God loves me and has plans for me right where I am in life.  I begin to dream of other things to write about. I work on incorporating a regular painting day to nurture another part of my creativity.  I make plans to pay regular visits to my wonderful, enlarged family who also foster my inner spirit.  I even toy with the idea of using duolingo to learn a new language. I’ll  first renew my acquaintance with German then try to enlarge my knowledge of French—something I always thought I’d do sometime in my life. I’ll do as my grandfather said—wear out instead of rust out—in spite of dark areas on my hands!


 Eventually, when the good Lord is ready for me, I too, will sprint off to heaven, but meantime I’ll stay busy with the delights that he provides here on earth.









Ruth Smith Meyer thinks you may as well laugh as cry! And that's what she's doing as she tries to keep up with the changes life brings her.   She's also still involved in her speaking ministry and giving opportunity for people to read her books--the latest being her life story--Out of the Ordinary.
Come visit her at www.ruthsmithmeyer.com



Sunday, September 11, 2016

Going Home to the Fair—Carolyn R. Wilker




On Saturday, the 10th of September, my husband and I followed a tradition, returning to our home community for the annual fall fair. It always runs the first weekend after Labour Day. A time of anticipation after children have gone back to school. Sometimes we wore wearing jeans and sweaters for cool weather and other times shorts and t-shirts as people wore this time, when it’s hot and humid. We prepared for rain outdoors, but the parade went on.

As a young school child, I remember walking in the parade with our teacher. Two students carried the school banner. Much later the parade changed from students walking in groups to costumed walkers and bikers and tractors.And the old firetruck tooting its horn.

I looked forward to the midway rides, especially the merry-go-round, and later more adventurous rides, but also the games where we’d try to win a prize. At the end of the afternoon Dad always bought one more bag of caramel corn for the ride home. We left early enough so that we could get the cows fed and milked and the eggs gathered at our farm. Those are early memories. Later I would learn how much work it takes to put on that event.



The Fair Ambassador several years ago cuddling my great niece


Dad and Mom were both members of the Tavistock Agricultural Society. It took many hours from many volunteers to get things ready. Dad left home on the Friday morning to go to the fairgrounds to set up bleachers and prepare the area for the horse competitions. Once we were all in school, Mom joined in with the preparations. She worked with other women to set up the exhibits in the arena and one year she was director of the Women’s Division. When she was leader of our 4-H club, we worked together to prepare our entries of sewn goods or crafts. I don’t remember much about putting in vegetables and fruit on display, but perhaps we did that too.

As an adult and mother, I, too, have served as a judge for parade entries and for exhibits in the arena, but I also entered sewing and canned goods in other categories. It was competitive but fun too, when I had the time to devote to it.

Our children entered into the parade, too, with high excitement—two dressed as clowns one year, walking the distance, and another year our youngest, an enthusiastic gymnast, cartwheeling through the route, with gloves on her hands to protect them from the rough asphalt. When the air band began, a group of young people from our family participated and won the prize for their category with the YMCA song. Now the fair has a talent show on the Saturday evening and that's been held indoors, either in the hall or the  nearby school gymnasium.

  a past year's pic of the silent auction table



This year, I helped my sister with the silent auction. She’s been organizing the event for a number of years now and always needs plenty of helpers to make it work. Social media has been part of the game plan, with posts to Facebook the last few years, showing what will be up for bids. Businesses and individuals have donated items that people bid on. The auction helps to attract people to the fair and keep the fair going.



In the auction this year is a memorial donation to my father—a tree, bird house and seed—to remember his love of nature and his many years of dedication to the agricultural society and the fair.



How does all this relate to our faith? Perhaps not a lot, except that some traditions are worth preserving, adding in new activities and alternate ways of accomplishing them. What I think it shows well is the willingness of a community to work together toward a common positive goal with gratitude for what we have.

www.carolynwilker.ca


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