Monday, May 22, 2017

The Alligator’s Retreat

“It’s a beautiful view, isn’t it?” she said.
I was looking out a picture window that overlooked a Florida lagoon. Lush palm trees and a variety of vibrant flowers skirted the water’s edge.
I was waiting for a friend after a bible study, and the window was located at the front of the church I was visiting.

“It must be hard to concentrate on the sermon with such a lovely view,” I said.
“Yes, but it also is a peaceful and inspirational setting,” she replied.

“We have an alligator in there too,” she continued.
“Yes, I saw the warning sign at the front of the church,” I said.
“Funny thing, when he hears the grand piano playing on Sundays, he swims over and lies just outside on the grass. However, when our pastor, John, starts his sermon, he retreats to the other side.” She chuckled.
Are we more like this alligator than we would like to admit?
How many of us are engaged in the lighter parts of our Christian worship such as the music and socializing, but when the sermon starts, we retreat into a plethora of thoughts....

Where will we go for lunch today?
I think I’ll get the car washed this afternoon, before the game comes on TV.
I’m dreading going to work tomorrow; maybe I should look for another job.
I’m really upset with the way he/she talked to me this morning; is our marriage in trouble?
That child behind me is kicking my seat and talking too loud; why don’t people put their children in the nursery?
Look at the number of people texting on their phones. I should probably check mine too.
I wonder if she made that dress.


Or... because we have stopped rushing around for the first time since last Sunday, we nod off.

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:22-25New International Version (NIV)”


I write in a notebook as I listen to the sermon. This activity keeps me focused and I often paraphrase the content to apply it personally. How do you concentrate when the sermon starts?

Hope you laugh a little at the vision of this alligator, and it reminds you to ‘listen to the word’.

btw, For a writer, blog topics are everywhere we look or listen. Thank you for this privilege of writing monthly.


 

L-R - Claudia Loopstra, Carol Ford, Glenda Dekkema, Melony Teague,  Marguerite Cummings Authors of As the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian Writers & Speakers. The book has been shortlisted for 2017 Word Awards.  To learn more about Carol Ford go to: https/carolfordassociates.wordpress.com

Our book can be found at: https://www.amazon.ca/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=as+the+ink+flows

Thursday, May 18, 2017

6 Way to Stay Youthful-by Heidi McLaughlin

My grandson Ryan and I have been in a fierce crib competition for the past fourteen years. This past weekend he came to visit his Nana, and the crib board came out of its dark hidden place ready to trounce this handsome young lad. In the midst of shuffling the cards his brows furrowed and he questioned me. “Nana, when I was young how come you never let me win?” I smiled and explained: “One of the most hurtful feelings in life are disappointments.  The sooner we learn to overcome unmet expectations in a healthy environment, the quicker we grasp the concept that disappointments are part of life. We have to embrace them and move on.”  I continued: “Furthermore, you don’t want to become jaded and end up a critical and grumpy old man.” Ryan nodded and smiled; he got it.

Spending a weekend with my grandson invigorated and reminded me how important it is to have an open mind in order to stay youthful. Here are 6 ways to stay youthful.
1.         Hang around with young people. Things are not “the way they used to be.” We have to open our minds to different ways of thinking and stay current with the lifestyle and needs of our young people and millennials. Thinking young keeps us young.
2.         Cultivate a thankful spirit.  Instead of feeding on disappointments and being grumpy that life didn't turn out the way we thought it would, be thankful for the many good things in your life. Ask yourself: “Whom would I rather hang around with, a scowling and critical person or someone who
expresses appreciation and gratitude for the every day things in life?” Being thankful keeps the smile on our face and makes us enjoyable to be around.
3.         Forgive quickly. Over time, unforgiveness harbours anger and causes us to lash out in ways that can make our faces turn ugly and bitter. It controls our emotions and stops us from being vulnerable and joyful.
4.         Remove stress.  We live in a stressful and demanding generation. But we have to realize that stress is a dangerous enemy that releases cortisol in our bodies and make us sick.  It can cause us to lose sleep, stomach ulcers, panic attacks, heart diseases and many other physical and emotional illnesses. 
5.         Get off the couch. Energy begets energy and if we want to stay healthy and keep our muscles strong, we have to move our bodies.  Exercise not only keeps our bodies vibrant and flexible, it rejuvenates our brain and keeps us alert and focused.
6.         Read good books. Older people’s conversations are too focused on illnesses, medication, and their aches and pains.  Yes, this is part of life, but wouldn’t you rather hang around with people whose conversations are filled with meaningful stories, current affairs and tending topics?

We don’t need to be reminded that we all need to do is drink lots of water, eat healthy and get plenty of sleep.  I am so grateful for this wonderful life God has given me and I choose to live it with gusto and joy.  We are all getting older but I agree with the Bible that says: “Therefore do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day,” (2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV).

Heidi McLaughlin lives in the beautiful vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, British Columbia. Heidi has been widowed twice. She is a mom and step mom of a wonderful, eclectic blended family of 5 children and 12 grandchildren. When Heidi is not working, she loves to curl up with a great book, or golf and laugh with her family 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




Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Gowns, Growing Up and Newton's Law by SUSAN HARRIS

Amusing reminder in Monaco 2016


Three days ago we celebrated Mother’s Day. My first such day welcomed me with an 11-day old baby, helpless and loud. This one,  with an 18 year-16-day old teen, assured, but still loud.

Both these mother’s days serve as the bookends of my responsibility in the role of equipping her for life on her own. I feel satisfied that I’ve done my part, and the ensuing years are a bonus for us. My daughter is now an adult and I care as much as the first day I held her, though now I’ve distanced myself from the goings on of her everyday life. No more censoring of books and movies. No more urging to hand in assignments. No more checking the browsing history.  

She looked great in every dress she in spite of alterations needed.
No more shopping – except for the graduation gown. Her confidence in my taste remains intact. For hair colour too. The texts and calls come fast and furious on varied subjects.


"Mom, did you speak to your hairdresser?
Did you take the picture of the hair colour?"

So many no-mores.

Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The website Physicsclassroom.com explains that the statement means "in every interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects. The size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object. The direction of the force on the first object is opposite to the direction of the force on the second object. Forces always come in pairs - equal and opposite action-reaction force pairs." 


Pic 1 and 2 are the front and back of the same dress.
White was never in the running yet...
I disclaim any expertise in Physics (unlike her who passed it well, I did not.) When the law came to mind, what caught my attention was “pair of forces”, and it was not physical connection. I can think of many pairs…good and evil, night and day, infancy and adulthood, and a fine set in Ecclesiastes 3.

To me, the most obvious pair is God and the Devil.  Spiritual forces that run counter to each other. As God moves, so does the Devil. Sometimes in imitation (the Devil of God, that is), other times in direct contradiction in the opposite direction. Not that Newton was heeding the spirit or the imitation. 

21 dresses to try. The blue and
gold were in the top 3


Letting go is agonizing. Yet strangely, I find relief in my new-found freedom, in being child-free and carefree. Perhaps it’s because  the physical parting took place last summer and I’ve had time to adjust. Maybe it’s my own selfishness, being able to do as I like when I like.  Maybe it’s the new home in God’s wide open land where her prints have not been made and there is no reminder of her room.  Maybe it’s the texts and calls that come fast and furious, indicators that distance does not define or sever relationship.

Too many pics to post. Tried on 14 but the choice was obvious
So many maybe’s.

The no-mores juxtapose the many alternatives that lie before me.  These alternatives have the potential to bring fulfillment and grace similar to what the “no-mores” brought. Grace for both His children, she and I. God always compensates, always has a redeeming factor. Be it for sin, for good marks in physics or for graciously blending childhood into adulthood. Always when seasons change.

So many no-mores. And so many alternatives. One can look back wistfully or one can look forward in anticipation. Graduation looms and she will be gowned in our mutual pick. The hair I’ll see then.
The One. 

 I think I like this growing-up-into-adult-and-going-onward stage for I am assured which “force” works for us.

SUSAN HARRIS is officially child-free but will continue writing for children. Her newest release, the ABCs of Compassion/L'ABC de la compassion, is releasing on May 25. It is a bi-lingual book and a joint publication with École St. Henry's Jr. School. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

When We Call Upon God by Claudia Loopstra




            Have you ever experienced an answer to prayer whereby God gives you an additional measure of His grace? Nothing can fill your heart more with pure Christian joy when this happens.

            My friend, Carol Ford, and I had booked to go to a dinner theatre in Fort Meyers on the Saturday before she headed back to Canada from her visit with me in Florida.  By the time I made the reservation, there were only two seats left. I was told we would be sharing a table with six others. Mmm. I booked it.

            It had been an inspiring and exhilarating ten days as we read the bible, did devotions and spent time on our respective writing projects.  


Saturday morning, we did our devotions and prayed.  At the end of my prayer, I made this request, “Lord, please, when we sit with strangers tonight, may they be kind people.”

            That evening we arrived at the theatre and were seated with four others. Two people hadn’t yet arrived. We sat down across from one another at the far end of the table and left two seats vacant on either side of us. An envelope had been placed near us with the names Joanne and Mike written on what looked to be envelope that contained a card.

A short time later, two elderly people were escorted to our table by the server. The older woman looked anxious. The older man was holding her hand as she directed him to the table. After we introduced ourselves, the woman spoke.

 “My husband is blind. I will need to sit beside him so I can cut up his food.” Carol immediately rose up from her seat, came over and sat beside me.

            “Thank you…thank you. My name is Joanne and this is my husband, Mike. We’re celebrating our 63rd wedding anniversary.”  Carol handed her the envelope and Joanne smiled as she leaned over to read the card to her husband.

            Over the course of the next thirty minutes, we chatted. Mike told us that he had a rare disease that had rendered him blind as an adult. Married to Joanne at the time, she became his caregiver. Throughout our conversation, I marvelled at the positive attitude that both Mike and his wife exhibited.

 I wondered whether or not if I would have maintained the same positive outlook on life that Mike exhibited if I had I become blind.  Two months prior, I’d had a mini-stroke and was left with double vision in one eye. My condition lasted seven weeks. At the time, I felt much gratitude for the prayers that were prayed on my behalf.  I felt the prayers had taken the worry away and an acceptance of God’s will filled me with peace.

            After they finished dinner, I walked with Joanne to the dessert table. It was then I asked her what gave her strength as she took care of Mike.

            “I say my prayers everyday…that’s what keeps me going.”

            As we said our “good-byes” to Mike and Joanne after the performance, Joanne thanked us for being such kind people. Mike nodded in agreement. It was a humbling moment.

             The following day, I reflected on the highlight of the evening. Although, the musical had been enjoyable, the highlight had been meeting Joanne and Mike.

Later on, I recalled the prayer I had said the previous morning regarding kind people. I was overwhelmed with gratitude to God for reminding me what I needed to remember.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness …Gal. 5:22


 Claudia Loopstra is a wife, mother of two and grandmother of eight.
She is the author of  Redemptive Love: Living With an Alcoholic Father and co-author of As the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian Writers and  Speakers.






             

           

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Robin's Song by Ruth Smith Meyer


I like sleeping with my window open, but a few mornings ago, I got more than the fresh air I had anticipated.  It’s astonishing what unexpected revelations an open window can bring.  The sky was still almost dark when a robin began singing close by.

Immediately my mind went back to my childhood and I remembered my mom reading a story about a little boy whose mother had asked him to do his usual morning chores. 
            
   “Why do I always have to make my bed and help with the breakfast dishes?” Teddy grumbled. “I wish I were a robin!  All they have to do is fly around and sit on a branch and sing.  Yes, I wish I were a robin.”
His mother heard his mumbling but said nothing. 

The next morning, just as the sky was turning from dark to gray, mom shook Teddy’s shoulder.  “Wake up Teddy!  Today you are going to see what it’s like to be a robin.”

“Wha-a-at?” Teddy asked as he rubbed his eyes. “It’s still dark!”

“Yes, but the sun will be up soon and the robin is already singing.  Do you hear him?   Come, get up and get dressed.  For the next hour, you can sit on the porch and sing along with the robin.”
Mom wasn’t going to take No for an answer.
If Teddy’s singing stopped for more than a few minutes, Mom would gently remind him to keep singing. Finally, when the robin’s songs slowed down, Teddy’s mother brought him a small garden fork.  “It’s time to look for your breakfast now,” she told him.
“Look for my breakfast?  What do you mean?”
“See the robin?  He’s hopping around, listening for worms and then digging for them. Your breakfast is in the vegetable garden.  You won’t be able to use your ears, but your eyes will show you where to look.”

Teddy couldn’t believe his mom would do this to him, but he was hungry, so he went to the garden and began to dig.  He dug and dug before finally finding a jar. 

“Yay!  I found my breakfast!” he thought.  But when he finished digging it out, there were only a few bites of toast in it.

“Mom!” he called, “There was hardly anything in the jar!

“Oh there are more jars,” his mother assured him. “Keep digging.  That’s what the robin does.  He needs a lot of worms in a day to get all the food he needs.”

After a while, Teddy noticed fresh dirt throughout the garden and that’s where the jars were. But each time, there were only a few small bites.  After a while, his mother brought a pail of water and a little dipper so he would have something to drink, but soon the sun was hot and Teddy got tired and sweaty, but he still was hungry.  His tummy still rumbled wanting more food.  Dragging his feet, he shuffled to the kitchen door.

“Mom, I don’t think I want to be a robin any more.  Their lives aren’t as easy as I thought.  Making my bed and helping with the dishes might not be so bad after all.”

As my mind reviewed that story, God whispered to my heart.  

“When you look at other people’s lives and think they have it so much better than you do, you don’t understand any more than Teddy understood a robin’s existence. 

My plan for your life is just as special as those you envy. I will give you the strength, the ability, the wisdom to meet each day and I will be with you always.  Take your eyes off of those couples who are still enjoying life together.  Forget those who have kept a youthful figure into old age.  Stop envying  couples who are travelling to the sunny south, or those who have been gifted with immaculate house-keeping skills and all those who cause you to be jealous or resentful.  Be joyful for what I have given you, the opportunities that are yours and the many ways your family and friends bless your life.”

The sun was peeping over the horizon. I rose from my bed, breathed in the fresh air from window and joined the robin in singing a song of thanksgiving. 

Ruth Smith Meyer keeps learning about life and God's ways. She is part of the newly released book Good Grief People where she shares learning from her walk through grief. You can visit her at www.ruthsmithmeyer.com
 

Past Easter: New Growth--Carolyn R. Wilker





Easter Sunday is past yet we’re still in the Easter season in our church, a time we consider growth and renewal. It’s fitting that Easter occurs in springtime. At least that’s my take on it, though it may not match in other parts of the globe, with climate and different seasons.

I love watching the garden come to life, with leaves opening, buds on trees and then the early flowers appearing. First the crocuses and later the tulips and daffodils. Cheery yellow daffodils and pink tulips are among my favourites. After the white chill of winter, I’m ready for colour in my garden again. And ready for the season of gardening all over again.

This past week I took some new photos of my flowerbeds and posted several on my Facebook page. Friends say, “Already?” or “Is that this year already?” and I can reply, “Yes, it is.”






Mind you, there are weeds to contend with in spring, shrubs to be cut back and some clean-up to do, but it’s all part of the package of gardening. The lawn got its first haircut, and I’ve pulled some weeds from places. My husband gave the shrubs a seasonal trim; quite a trim, I might add. Lots of room for growth there.

After rooting out the plants that are overgrown or done and replacing them with new ones, I can sit back and enjoy the refreshed garden and watch it grow further. Perennials are the easiest to grow and tend, when the plant is matched to soil and conditions. They flourish in the right place, just as we do.

Making some changes for this year, I’ll dig out a few plants where ants have built a new hill. Those busy little insects have transplanted their home across the sidewalk after we rousted out the old one last year. We have sandy soil, and ants like sand. We may not rid the garden of ants entirely and that’s okay, as long as they don’t take over. My garden will never be perfect lines and precision, only pleasing to the eye and colourful. After all, it is nature which is sometimes a little wild around the edges, just like its caretaker.

I look forward to planting the vegetable garden later this month, hopefully with the help of our two oldest granddaughters who like to dig the holes and water. We’ll have a conversation about the plants we want to grow. They’ll come by to help plant the garden and then, from time to time, for a visit and help to tend the garden—mostly with the watering can. Then we wait and watch until it’s time to harvest whatever we’ve grown.





Think of Jesus’ resurrection and the opportunity of grace that we may start fresh each day in our Christian walk. Like spring and the promise of new growth, like the routing out of things that don’t serve our purpose anymore. Maybe not a brand new purpose, since we may have already believed and hoped in the risen Christ, but a renewal of sorts, like the earth giving forth new life.










photos by C. Wilker

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