Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What Mama Forgot To Tell Me-by Heidi McLaughlin

“Don’t use baby oil for sun tanning lotion.” Today as I scrutinize my face in the mirror, I wish my mother had warned me about all that ridiculous frying in the sun and the possibility of skin cancer.  But how would my mamma know? She didn’t have the luxury of loafing in the sun; she was too busy tending the garden, ironing our clothes and canning vegetables for the cold winter months ahead. Thank God I don't have skin cancer but I wish mama had taken the time to share some practical truths.

I wish my mamma had taken the time to share some practical truths.
For example:
1.         Marriage is hard work. Many parents think they are protecting their children by having heated disagreements behind closed doors. Guarding children from conflict and not modeling resolutions does not prepare them for future disputes and strife. Consequently, I did not know how to resolve conflict. In my first marriage I allowed my volatile emotions to dominate all disagreements which always ended in anger and unresolved power struggles. It was through God’s word that I learned to communicate with love rather than anger, followed by quick forgiveness. “Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Colossians 3:13 NLT).
2.         Don’t harbor resentment. Pasting a smile on my face when my heart is cut in half is a dangerous and toxic habit. Most of my life I thought I was being noble by “stuffing” hurt feelings. But apparently “stuffing” is not a fruit of the spirit. In fact, it builds resentment and is like drinking poison hoping the other person will die. Today I will not allow any resentment to creep into my heart. As soon as I recognize it, I confront it and do whatever it takes to release its grip on me. “The fool who provokes his family to anger and resentment will finally have nothing worthwhile left. He shall be the servant of a wiser man” (Proverbs 11:39 TLB).
3.         Happiness in my choice. Oh the pain I could have avoided if had known that no one can provide my happiness. For years I looked to my husband, children, friends and extended family to make me feel happy and fulfilled. Through the painful and disappointing encounters I discovered that only God’s love and the enriching fruit of the Holy Spirit could fill the empty craving of my tender soul. I let my family off the hook and gave them incredible freedom when they no longer had to keep this mamma happy.
4.         Don’t allow your feelings to rule your life. This one has been tough because I feel things deeply and react quickly. Through God’s spirit of “self control” I have discovered that in the midst of my impulsive or volatile feelings, I have the power to stop and make a wise choice to be kind, forgive or extend grace.

There are more.  Invest your money on a consistent basis. Tell people you love them. Don’t sweat the small stuff. De-clutter your closet.

Contentment is learned.

Moving into the winter season makes me reflective but also passionately determined to live more like Christ. The fields are ripe for us to pour love and wisdom onto this generation that needs authentic, loving words to guide them through the minefields of this complicated life.  There is not enough power and wisdom in 140 characters on twitter, quick text messages or intriguing posts on face book.  As writers and speakers who influence the world, we must do more than model a nice, pleasing and fun filled life. We have to speak words of wisdom and be authentic and truthful in our encounters with those people God places in our lives. I believe that is what the “Lord of the Harvest needs us to do.”
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 (Including a FREE downloadable Study Guide) is now available at Amazon.ca; Amazon.com, Goodreads.com or her website: www.heartconnection.ca

Monday, October 17, 2016

Ode to Conservative Catholicism BY SUSAN HARRIS

Education Week kicks off today in Saskatchewan, and I am privileged to be a visiting 
Staff and fish keepsake given by Ecole St. Henry's Jr. School

author to a few schools. Author visits are not new to me, nor is the classroom for that matter, since I've had a teaching career that spanned a dozen years. What is significant about this week is that three out of fours days (I begged Thursday off) I'll be at Catholic schools.  Again, this is not new as I’ve visited several schools of this faith, even launching L'alphabet à la ferme at one back in June. Part of the significance is that I am an author of evangelical faith going to schools of the Catholic faith, and only days ago, these two major groups were the target of mockery.  

The faith that so effectively educates and prepares our children to be responsible citizens has been spurned by a group that would love to be defined as responsible.  Conservative Catholicism has had its beliefs bashed as “backwards”, and as “an amazing bastardization of the faith”, where “rich friends wouldn’t understand it if they become evangelicals.” https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/4364

The demeaning statements sadden me, but it also spurs me on. As authors, we have a voice and an audience. We have at least one person whom we can influence, and I will use my voice to applaud the schools that chart a moral compass for their pupils. God has opened doors for me and given me great favour in both the public and separate systems, (but I emphasize the separate school here because it’s the one that has been attacked,) and I will lend my voice on their behalf.

 This afternoon I will present Little Copper Pennies to the older students and Little Copper Pennies for Kids to the lower grades at Ecole St. Michael’s School in Yorkton. Tomorrow (Tuesday) I will read Alphabet on The Farm and L'alphabet à la ferme at the same school. On Wednesday I’ll be launching Christmas A to Z at Davison School (a public school) in Melville, and also read Little Copper Pennies for Kids. On Friday I will launch An Alphabet of the First Christmas: A Christian Alphabet Book at Ecole St. Henry’s Junior School in Melville.

When God brings together Catholics and Evangelicals as partners, people dear to His heart, He is already setting in motion the mechanism that would turn around mockery aimed at His people, and He is counting on us to stand up to it. Who will you influence?

SUSAN HARRIS is an evangelical who loves Catholics, and the author of eleven books. She is ever-grateful to God for the continual favour she finds in both the public and alternate school systems. Her new books highlights Christmas from the perspectives of mainstream readers and Christians. She was inspired to write "An Alphabet of the First Christmas: A Christian Alphabet Book" because of her welcome to the schools of Catholic faith. www.susanharris.ca

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Turning the Other Cheek with a Smile

Recently a friend told me about a person who, when they are together always says things to deliberately hurt her—especially in faith matters. He shows no respect and seems to enjoy making her uncomfortable. This friend was dreading that Thanksgiving forced the two to share the same room and celebration. I could readily identify with her.  Don’t we all have such people in our lives?
Even though Jesus told us in Matthew 5 that we are to be “happy about it when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers,” and even promises us a blessing, it’s hard for us humans to rejoice when it actually happens.

     My first reaction to such put-downs is apt to be hurt. Then I begin to think of all kinds of come-backs, most of which are not the kind of thing I really want to say. To say them would put me on the same level as the one who is throwing such denunciations at me. I bite my tongue and try to keep quiet, but my self-esteem takes a beating. The whole ambiance is quickly turned to discomfort and a wish to escape and lick my wounds.

     How quickly words can change attitudes and feelings.  A few words can build up or tear down in a matter of seconds.  I, myself, need to be conscious of this and use words carefully so as to do the former rather than the latter. I have control over what I say if I heed the warning that James has for me. He reminds me that an unruly tongue can set my whole life afire!

     So what if I am in the presence of someone else who wants to set my life on fire? How do I act or react?  It’s especially difficult when it’s my faith, or my Lord that is being ridiculed. What can I do to make the circumstance a positive rather than a negative?  Proverbs tells me that a soft answer turns away wrath, but how often can I think of an appropriate soft answer when I’m under fire? 

     It seems to me the best antidote to such situations is to try to see these people through Jesus’ eyes. What do I speculate Jesus’ thoughts to be when he sees this happening to a beloved child of his?  How does he see the person who is so insecure in his own feelings that he needs to belittle someone else?

     Ah-hh!  He loves us both.

     I can rest secure in God’s love for me, his support and assurance even in the face of unkind remarks, because he loves me so much.  He is right there with me, ready to take the barbs meant for me. Instead of resentment, I can feel pity and love for the person who feels he needs to be putting me down.  I can quietly ask God to see behind the insecurity this individual feels.  I can ask the Holy Spirit to whisper words of kindness to another child he loves. I can offer a kindly smile, knowing that he still hasn’t found the grace of God.

     And if he wonders why I offer that smile after unkind words, maybe it will help him pause to think again!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Amazing Thing about Autumn—Carolyn R. Wilker

Fall display at the Farmers'  Market in St. Jacob's

The poem I memorized in school, when we did memory work, comes back to me each year at this time. “Along the line of smoky hills, the crimson forest stands…” William Wilfred Campbell must have been standing outdoors taking in the wild colours of autumn, watching the birds fly south. His poem, Indian Summer, remains one of my favourites about this time of year. I can see it as I say the words, and I can almost smell the change in air. Unlike the steady greens of summer foliage, the whole landscape changes with the coming of the cooler air. There’s a gradual changeover from summer to fall and sometimes we barely have time to see it when all of a sudden the cool days come sneaking in and we pull out sweaters and warmer jackets and tuck the sandals in the back of the closet.
black-eyed Susans still blooming
the sedum that was green all summer is now in colour

We’re past the hot, hot days we’ve experienced in the summer, and yet many days are still comfortable with cooler nights and mornings. Tonight my husband and I covered our garden plants, particularly the tomatoes, for there are small ones yet to ripen though many of the branches have withered that once bore fruit.

It’s amazing, when you think of it how such a glory of colours should come  just before the earth goes to sleep for winter. The summer flowers are shrivelling but the chrysanthemums burst into beautiful colour and stay with us a little while longer. My morning glories are nearing their end too. There are still some blooms in the morning but the numbers dwindle and now I’m collecting seeds from the plants as the leaves shrivel and drop. I save the seed for next year’s growing season.

Mums showing off their fall colour

When autumn comes to an end in this part of Ontario, we see brown earth and the trees shed their leaves leaving skeletons as silhouettes against the sky. The air grows much colder and soon we’re wearing warm coats, hats and mittens against the cold.

Why the beauty just before the end of the season? I’m glad of it though. It just seems like such a contrast. Winter is often equated with death and dark times of grief when we’re not so productive, but those seasons of growth are embedded in our memories to reappear sometime later, just as spring comes again and the earth comes back to life. 

Just as the philosopher in Ecclesiastes wrote: “A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant and a time to reap.” We have those seasons in our lives too and a Creator who built in those possibilities. Let us give thanks for the times of beauty, for the times of productivity, and know that God is with us all of those seasons, when we dance and when we weep, when we celebrate and when we refrain from festivities. For now though, I’m going to enjoy the colours of autumn and watch the birds fly south just as Campbell must have done that inspired his poem.

Carolyn Wilker is a writer and editor from southwestern Ontario

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