Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Predictability of Change - Donna Mann

I recently overheard someone refer to the fall colours as 'God's bouquet of colour.' I couldn't agree more. 

This year has been a splendid colourful year especially for the Ontario reds. It has been like a pageant with the various trees changing frocks when the sun shone from different dimensions. 

The trees have gone through a process of fully submitting to reds, yellows, and oranges. Complete hardwood bushes changed before our eyes as if a master painter had taken a broad-brush stroke and spread multiple shades across its branch tips.
But, there is still another surprise. As bare trees stand tall across the horizon, splashes of deep green have begun to protrude across the landscape: single evergreens, here and there, perhaps not as conspicuous as they grew among the tall colourful trees, but now they gain a natural recognition. What a find!
The seasons teach us wonderful lessons of life. It is in the dying that the leaf takes on the vibrant colours of beauty. It is experiencing the bitter frigid frost that the soft summer greens surrenders to the luxurious artwork of the fall.

It is in letting go of one season that trees can totally enter into another. It is in the loss of one splendour that another beauty is discovered. Changes in the seasons bring about changes in the scenery. Transformation only happens as one life cycle lives out its purpose and is open to the next one.

In some ways, my life is like the leaf. Some area of it is constantly dying so that new life may happen in another area. Predictable changes bring about transformation. Unexpected circumstances create indelible marks on life. Expected flows of life create colourful results. Seasons of grief birth goodness of life. There is balance, there is beauty, there is hope that the world is unfolding as it should and there is a loving Creator at work in nature as well as human nature. (Revised from Seasons of The Soul, DJM)

(Today, I attempt to post on my roster date. Resting my broken right hand on the arm rest, I am aware that the change in my daily life is predictable as well. Action and consequence teach many good lessons.)


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Curiosity - Tracy Krauss


a) the desire to learn or know about anything; inquisitiveness.
b) a rare, or novel thing.

c) a strange or interesting quality

Writers are curious people by nature, I think, and I don't just mean inquisitive. I'm referring to the 'strange' part in the third definition.

Think about it. Who else but a 'curiosity' would willingly admit to the following?

1. I shut myself off from reality in order to create a different reality of my choosing.
2. I 'hear' voices in my head.
3. I carry on conversations with imaginary people.
4. After months or even years of pouring myself onto the page, i allow other people to pick it apart.
5. My hourly wage for labor would be in the fractions of a cent.
6. The odds of making enough money to actually live on are astronomical but I keep trying anyway.
7. Sometimes I feel tired and discouraged and stuck and sick-to-death-of-writing-so why-bother-because-I'm-no-good-anyway... but I keep going back to it like a dog with a bone.

The list just gets curiouser and curiouser... I could go on but I think I've made my point. All hail to the curious breed known as 'writer'. May you never give up your dream. (Because you really couldn't, even if you tried.) 

Tracy Krauss continues to 'live the dream' at her home in Northern British Columbia. Visit her blog for more about her curious writing habits, or see her website for her extensive list of published novels, plays, short stories and non-fiction. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Negotiating Uncertainty - Gibson

When you read this, Canada’s general election will be over. But since this is a newspaper column, I'm writing it a few days, live from the state of Uncertainty. As it often does in other circumstances – health, relationships, transitions, for instance, it has opened its gate and summoned our country in. Me, too.

For over four years, at my workplace in town, I have had the privilege of serving a good man. An honest politician (and, thank God, there are many of those). But after twenty-two years on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, he has come home to stay. A new Member of Parliament will serve our riding. That means we all begin new chapters; our country, our riding, my boss, my co-workers and me. Like a previously unread book, the pages remain as unfamiliar as the current look in the offices we’ve worked in all these years. I barely recognize the local one.

As have many political staffers across the country, we’ve sorted, shredded and packed. Vacated desks and emptied bookshelves. Moved everything out, flipped off the lights and turned the keys one last time. The place echoes now, all evidence of its most recent occupants erased. No big desks or ringing phones. No maps on walls or flags in corners. No plants flourishing in the windows. And no more constituents calling or visiting to ask for help.

There’s a funny thing about the state of Uncertainty. On sunlit days it seems fairly negotiable. People smile. Say hello. Wish each other the best. Even pray together sometimes. In sunshine, in Uncertainty, happy endings feel almost certain.

But Uncertainty has a seamy side. Shady characters walk its streets at night. Gangs of negative thoughts cluster like vermin and twist their knives in the gut of worriers. Neck-craning anxiety patrols thought trails, shooting fretful darts and firing unanswerable questions. Sleep is banned. In my previous visits to Uncertainty, I’ve faced all of that. Likely you have too.

“What’s next for Canada?” people ask each other. “What’s next for you?” friends ask me. By the time you read this, we’ll all have some answers – and many more questions.

My earlier visits to Uncertainty have taught me something, though. When I stop pouting, cowering and conniving and start praying, I remember that though I am only one small person, I have one big God. He has unfailingly proven himself trustworthy, even when hovering on the jagged escarpment of bewilderment and despair.

As I said before, I’m writing live from the state of Uncertainty. A frightening place, where faith in God is mandatory to maintain the keeping of inner peace. Because for those with faith, the state of Uncertainty becomes a corridor to great opportunity. A place to shuck fears, take action and grow stronger in our faith. A place to remember that the God is bigger than any state, especially the state of Uncertainty. That all authority over government (add disease, finance, relationships, life…) hoped for or not, rests on his shoulders alone. For His “is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”



Kathleen's books, columns, essays, and radio spots have found homes in hearts and media outlets worldwide. She prays some of those words have made a difference. This Sunny Side Up column was previously published in various Western newspapers.


Saturday, October 17, 2015


For years it did not matter when Thanksgiving took place. Living in North York and Calgary, even on the small-town prairies, celebrating Thanksgiving was not about its origin. As a Christian, it is desirable for me to give thanks, so the official holiday season was welcomed with all the ardour and trimmings of the festivity – colourful decor, mouth-watering food, great company. But this perspective changed in the last few years when I married into a farming family, more specifically, to a farmer. Now my eyes were truly opened to the underlying reason for celebrating Thanksgiving– to give thanks for prosperity and a fruitful harvest. Literally bringing to the storehouse (church) the physical produce of the land. 

 Each time I drive on grid roads, mud trails and highways that bound our fields, I breathe prayers for God’s blessings on the land. Each time I stand on the soil as it was cultivated, seeded, harrowed, land-rolled, sprayed, swathed and combined, I thanked God for what He entrusted to us. Each time I checked for green or took grain to determine moisture content, I thanked our Father for the perfection of the harvest that would reaped. Each time the much-needed rain failed to fall I reminded my husband of the dews of Mt. Hermon that rose from the earth to water the land. “God can water  the earth from below. We need to thank Him by faith.” was a quiet reassurance as I gazed at the parched land. Then when the rains fell a bit too much and threatened the ripening, it took intention to thank God for the promise, to not be ungrateful. 

Each time I prepared a meal, or transported others from field to field, or stood by while repairs were done, or picked up parts, or rode the equipment, accompanied to sales or other occasion, I’ve invited God in the process. I only do simple, non-laborious things on the farm. My role is intermittent cook, encourager and pray-er, “thanker” for the things asked by faith, giving gratitude for the things we’ve prayed for but which we have not yet seen (also finding homes for the cats). 

 And so in the last few years I’ve become convinced that if Thanksgiving is a celebration for the harvest, then it observed too early in the year. We have never finished harvesting by the second Monday of October. History records that Thanksgiving was once celebrated in late October or early November but it was changed to its current date because of Remembrance Day. Those dates would have worked just fine.

This year - when the harvesting team representing five families could not be in their homes to celebrate Thanksgiving because we were in our fields feverish to get the flax reaped, and a number of other farmers were in their respective fields - my husband and I acknowledged that the US had got the date for Thanksgiving right. We decided that we would celebrate on their date (and posted it on Facebook), for by then the crops would be in the bins and we’d have the bounty. 

 Not that we need an occasion for giving thanks. It has become a moment-by-moment lifestyle, one that is far more potent than a traditional observance. I draw from Jesus on the road to Emmaus with the “two of them” . In Luke 24, Cleopas and his friend were in Jesus’ company, the three walking to the village and talking about the works of Jesus, His burial and resurrection, and the Scriptural fulfillment. Although the men had lively conversations and were excited in their spirits by the discussion and fellowship, they did not recognize Jesus.  When they invited Him to eat supper with them, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and distributed it. 

And the lights came on for the men…

Perhaps they had sat in the crowd when Jesus took five loaves and two fishes, gave thanks, broke it and handed it to his disciples to distribute. Maybe they had heard that at the Passover He took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave the disciples to eat. The same with the cup – He gave thanks and they drank, attaching the spiritual symbolism of the sacraments to the bread and the drink. Maybe they had witnessed, or heard, that Jesus had stood at the tomb of Lazarus and gave thanks then called the dead man’s name and he lived. Or that He commended the leper who returned to give thanks

Now here was the stranger, taking the supper bread and giving thanks, breaking it and handing them each a piece. GIVING SIMPLE THANKS. 

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” (Luke 24: 30-31 NIV)

 If I had to create a trademark for Jesus it would be “Giving Thanks”.  He gave thanks in the simple and it became the miraculous complex. He did not wait for a certain day or for the masses. He gave thanks before the thousands, the twelve, the two at Emmaus. In the open air, at the graveside, in private rooms. It was His lifestyle, and one that I strive to emulate and imitate.  I invite Him in the business. Partner with Him in the fields. Not only when its harvest but when the land lay blanketed and bare under white, in dormancy before the next seeding period. And throughout the agricultural season.

I want thanksgiving to flow from my mouth moment by moment, for gratitude to be my identifier, whether I cook the turkey in October or November, or never. I desire to be a giver of thanks. I want to be known as belonging to God by my lifestyle of thanksgiving, being grateful for the simple things. A thankful heart is grateful heart, and I am forever grateful to God.

Mark me. Brand me, Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Reading:                                                                           Psalm 100
A psalm. For giving grateful praise.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
  Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations

I am glad that we celebrate Thanksgiving in early October here in Canada. I cannot imagine waiting until late November to celebrate this holiday as Americans do. It puts Thanksgiving too close to Christmas, and it delays it too long after the harvest has been gathered. By late November, harvest time is just a distant memory, and much of the country is already in winter's icy grip. Thanksgiving is after all a harvest festival, signalling our thankfulness to God for the bounty of the earth.

When you grow up on a prairie farm, as I did, you appreciate the traditional aspects of Thanksgiving all the more. You are reminded each day that the food on your table does not simply come from a store. You are actively engaged in producing the nourishment that sustains your own life.

As a youngster I sat down to many a Thanksgiving feast, and almost all the food found on that groaning table was home-grown. I watched those vegetables growing in our garden in the hot summer sun. I even pulled the weeds from around those peas. And those mashed potatoes, I helped my mother hill those tubers in the spring and then dug them up after the frost hit in the fall.

My brother loved growing pumpkins, and mom would turn his favourite into the best pumpkin pie east of the Rockies. And how can you eat pumpkin pie without a mound of whipped cream on top? Well let me tell you, it tastes even better, when just that morning you milked the cows that produced that sweet rich cream. Oh, and that huge turkey—we'll miss that pompous strutting gobbler out by the hen house. But I'm sure we'll get over it, somehow. For now, let's just dig in.

Let's all dig in, and give thanks to the God, who made all this possible. This sumptuous feast has been brought to you by Him. Now that's Thanksgiving!

The great God in heaven has been kind to us. He has answered our prayers. He brought the warmth of spring and the rain of heaven. He caused his face to shine upon us. The rich earth responded to his touch. It brought forth its bounty, and now around this table we have gathered together as a family to celebrate God's great goodness to us.

As the psalmist declares, "It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture." So today with joy-filled hearts we enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. We give thanks to him and praise his name.

Response: Heavenly Father, thank you for all your kindness. You have been so good to us! Help us to maintain an attitude of gratitude all year long and not only on Thanksgiving Day. Amen.

 Your Turn: What blessings from God's hand are you most grateful for?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Lifting Praising Hands by Ruth Smith Meyer

As I drove to the Lake Huron shore to join my family for our annual trek down memory lane and a time of thanksgiving for ongoing blessings, my heart echoed the psalmist’s words, “I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain.”

My hubby and I have had a few difficult months when our usual routines were totally disrupted, our days filled with new challenges and foreign confrontations. Even our time for quiet contemplation on God’s Word was at a bare minimum. My energy to meet a different way of life and adapt to a new normal was at low ebb. The knowledge that I held in my heart, the surety that God would see me through, had not seeped into the far reaches of my brain.  That orifice was still searching the files of past experiences trying to come up with a solution of its own.

 As I drove, a few splashes of brilliance in the autumn landscape brought brief pleasure before I once more mulled over the changes in our lives. I wondered how my writing life would fit into the new scheme of things or if it would be pushed aside. I hated to think that would happen, for writing has become a satisfying part of who I am and brings me sustenance as well as joy. It brings me delight to serve my husband and care for him, but my aging body is no longer capable of doing all I used to do.
My attention was again, drawn to the scarlet, orange and yellow maples. The changing colour of the leaves is thrilling in their beauty, but that same colour signals the end of this year’s foliage.  It’s the autumn of my life too.  How can I make this time of life bring joy to myself and others as I cling to the branches and yet acknowledge I must also learn to let go? How is that going to change the landscape of my life? The thoughts kept churning through my mind.

Up ahead, against the blue, blue autumn skies with their purple lined clouds I espied a few of the much maligned wind turbines. (In spite of what others think about those towers, my heart as usual lifted at the sight of them. I love their grace and silent movement.) 


Suddenly I almost saw Psalm 134:2 visibly written on them. “Lift your hands in prayer toward his holy place and praise the Lord.”  Those long blades were turning at the merest whisper of winds--winds of which I had been totally unaware in the hurried racing of my mind. But their blades turned because they were lifted toward the sky, ready and willing to move in the breeze.


 It’s as though God was whispering to me, “When you’re in need of power, my child, lift your hands toward me, too. You’ll see that although you thought you were alone; that nothing was moving positively; that you were at the end of your strength; if you lift your hands toward me, things will change. You, too, will notice the winds of the Spirit moving the circumstances of your life. You will see the work I can do in and through you. But you need to raise your hands toward me.”


Those thoughts lingered with me throughout the weekend and speak to me still. In the celebration of Thanksgiving, can I move toward lifting my hands to praise God and let him do the turning?


Psalm 134 does indeed urge me to lift my praising hands to the Holy Place and bless God.  In turn the God who made heaven and earth will bless me.  What more could I need?

Ruth  invites you to join her at www.ruthsmithmeyer.  You may also be interested in reading her latest book, the story of her life, Out of the Ordinary. 



Sunday, October 11, 2015

Giving thanks—Carolyn R. Wilker

 After our opening hymn, “We plough the fields and scatter,” this morning, our pastor asked the children what they are thankful for. One said “family” and his little sister said the same thing. And that’s okay, because those things are important too.

When Pastor Claudine mentioned farmers and harvest, it occurred to me that city children do not have the same understanding of harvest that I would have had as a child, or even children growing up on a farm today. City kids don’t see the crops growing, as I did, unless their parents take them to see family in the country. They don’t see wheat in the field being cut, threshed and loaded into a barn for later use. They wouldn’t see all the time and energy or even understand how much the sunshine and rain affect the crops or see the worry in parents’ eyes when too much rain flattens a good stand of grain or hail beats down the corn.

We took our children to see their grandparents on the farm, so they learned some respect for that way of living, yet it's not the same as growing up there and living and farming day in and day out.

My brother is home for a visit from Calgary. On the way to our parents’ place today, he noticed the crops and how they had grown since his last visit in June. By that time the seeding had been done and the crops were just beginning to grow. There’s something about growing up in the country that never leaves you.

                       Dad driving an old rebuilt tractor in the hometown fair

My siblings and I, having grown up on a farm, perhaps understood more of this than children who live in town. I learned the meaning of a difficult year when the crops weren’t as good, and when the egg price was lower and how that affected what we could buy. Granted, we lived mostly on what we grew and we never went hungry. We had what we needed and we were cared for and loved. We also learned what it took to manage a farm, all the work involved when both Mom and Dad were on the tractor at harvest time and we took on the other chores as we were able. Helping with younger siblings, making meals and gathering eggs.

It wasn’t just about what was in the fields for Mom. We had a large garden, and after a full day of regular chores, she did her canning and freezing in the evening after small ones were in bed. When we were old enough, we helped and she no longer had to stay up late to get it done.

 Living in the city, I  have a small garden, but I still go to market for fresh fruits and vegetables and can and freeze food too, but not nearly as much as Mom put away.

And so today, I give thanks for the work of farm families who produce food that eventually shows up on store or market shelves to feed others. Long after I’m off the farm, I still understand how weather affects crops and how summer is such a busy season for them. I hope their efforts bring them enough to live out the winter and much more. That they can provide for their children, give them an education and pay the bills. I wish them good health and joy. Like Murray McLauchlan in his song to the farmer: “Thanks for the meal…
From a kid from the city to you.”

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