Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Speck Vs Plank

by Glynis M Belec 
It bothers me immensely when Christians judge other Christians in a mean-spirited way. Actually, it bothers me when anybody judges anybody negatively, because it isn’t in the ‘be nice to other humans’ job description. In Matthew 7:1-5 we read this:
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

            Excellent direction for those times when we think we are right and someone else isn’t.         
     Someone with a beam in her eye cannot see things clearly. She has little discernment. As much as is possible, and in all humility, we need to leave judging to God alone. Although I do believe this scripture verse does say – it is okay to judge – once you’ve removed the log from your own eye!
I believe we have a moral responsibility to judge ethical behavior of others—but only if we are humbly aware that we are not always right and sometimes we can be dead wrong. And the key to proper judgement is to do it quietly and in love.
Look what it says in Romans 3:23:
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard (NLT)
Our ability to judge is limited because we are sinful people. And we might want to remember
 hat one day, this will happen— 2 Corinthians 5:10:

For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body who will ourselves, one day, come under judgment.
I am thinking that it’s not so much the act of judging that is the issue, but from what I understand, it’s the attitude with which we do it that matters.
It’s okay to be discerning about someone’s character or teaching that seems askew according to God’s word. But when we address this we are not to do it with ruthless Bible-thumping, harsh words and threatening insults.
It’s okay to speak to a fellow Christian about something you believe is sinful according to what is taught in the Bible, remembering that interpretation is at play. Speaking in love, in private is the correct way to approach a person—not speaking about him publicly or behind his back, spreading gossip because you think others should ‘hear this, too!’
Check out Matthew 18:15:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.)
If I am jealous of someone and I criticize him, then I am not building him up. I am attempting to tear him down. Not nice.
If I think I know the whole story (facts, motives) but I jump to conclusions, then I judge wrongly – I am merely going on hearsay and opinion. Not right.
If I make up my own rules because I think I interpreted God correctly, mainly because I want things a certain way—as in distorting the truth to suit—then I need to look out. Bad move.
If I am not a nice person to be around and I consistently point out everyone else’s shortcomings but don’t bother looking at myself, then I have a whopping great log in my eye blocking my vision; which makes me arrogant, judgmental. Time to look within.
     If I share confidential information with the wrong intent (humiliation verse humility) then I am messing up big time, because I have no right to make someone look bad.
     If I am being self-righteous and critical over something that might mean one thing to me and something else to someone else, then I deserve to get pinched by God.
     And I think, most importantly, if I think I have the right to say that someone is going to hell (pronouncing eternal damnation) then who do I think I am? Look out for the thunder!
     It’s not my job to usurp God as Judge.
     I know the best thing I can do to resolve conflicts, or to stop judging is to submit to God by showing love and living the Fruits of the Spirits as best as I can (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.)
     Loving words don’t tear down. People can choose to react how they wish, but as a Christian I should speak loving and kind words even though I might be considered judging. I try to use kind words even if I am judging a contest or teaching children about right choices or working with writers to help them improve their work.
     If I am harsh and heavy handed with my words, beating others over the head with the Bible, then I am working on making myself look like I know it all and ultimately, I am loving myself more than I love others. Our words and deeds need to reflect God, not my own stubborn pride, thinking I have all the answers.
     Know what happens when I imply I am the one with all the answers? People get defensive and arguments ensue or they run away, not wanting anything to do with all that Christian hypocritical nonsense. Not a very good witness for the Kingdom.
     Resolving conflicts involves an operation—removal of the plank, and then healing—demonstration of God’s unconditional, non-judgmental love.

     I’ve got my surgery booked. How about you?

        Glynis lives, loves, laughs and does an awful lot of reading, writing, publishing and praying in her home office. 
        How thrilled Glynis is to be part of GOOD GRIEF PEOPLE (Angel Hope Publishing) - an anthology filled with stories that help readers recognize, honour and celebrate  the individuality of grief.                     www.glynisbelec.com 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Seasons of the Heart/Donna Mann

Sitting with a friend today, we reflected over the past twenty years. I find it interesting to talk about the importance we place on certain experiences and events at different times in our lives. In hindsight I understand how important it is to move on from certain perceptions and mature in others. These are seasons of life.

My earliest memory of knowing God’s love was nurtured in a small rural Sunday school. The first time I remember expressing it was when I made angels in the snow, looking up at a bright blue sky and feeling apart of it because God loved me. I probably had a song in my heart, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Some colleagues have talked about how they first understood God in their teenage years after coming home from their first youth retreat or summer camp.  As a farm girl, I didn’t have the opportunity to have either of those experiences, but I remember my first Sunday school teacher’s event at Five Oaks Christian Training Center. It was like fresh water on a hot day: refreshing, stimulating and inspiring. And a deeper meaning of God stirred in my spirit from the weekend.

I’ve sat in conversations with people who referred to their early years and confessed that they understand God’s love differently today.  I can identify with that. I think God’s love has remained constant from the times I took the cows to the back fifty after they were milked; through three academic degrees, family deaths and touching the new born grandbaby’s hand. That love has grown and is constant, refreshing, nurturing and comforting. It is like a warm blanket regardless of the situation I’m facing. And it is different than those early days.

I remember people saying, “When you go to seminary, your theological interpretation and definitions will be examined and severed.” Examined, but not severed! Seminary was a wonderful time in my life when my eyes were opened to interpretations that I’d never considered. In the late 70s, I was the only woman in some of my classes and that didn't take away from my desire to study. God’s love for me grew and became even more of everything it was previously, which gave me confidence to dig in and to do.

When I read some of the early sermons I wrote, I am always glad to feel that I could write it better now. I’d definately write with a different theological understanding of the scripture text which slightly nudges me into another season of the heart.

Another season of the heart!
 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good (1 Corinthians 13:11) The Message (MSG)

Check out donnamann.org

For your copy of Good Grief People, check with any one of the authors.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Story Jar by Carol Harrison

Each person has a unique story. The stories of our lives are filled with memory moments, happy times, tough stuff, and things we would rather forget or wish had never happened. Sometimes I think of instances in my life and the everyday occurrences that happened during that period of time and am sure no one would want to listen to those stories. Yet my children, grandchildren and even other people think it is unique, unusual and at times just plain crazy when they hear about some of our memories.

I have always loved stories, both to listen to and to tell.Over the last few years my family has encouraged me to write them down, preserve them for future generations and even share some with the public. I sit at my computer and my mind draws a blank. The stories that flow as I interact with other family members suddenly hide in the recesses of memory. I need a prompt to discover them and coax them on to paper or the screen.

  One Christmas, I received this story jar from my oldest daughter. The white tag is titled Recipe for My Life History. The recipe reads, "Combine a generous slice of your life history, add a dash of nostalgia, several cups of facts and feelings and deliciously interesting questions. Draw one slip of paper. Take a few minutes to enjoy the memories, then paste or write the question at the tops of a blank page in a notebook and fill in your answer."

The small brown tag reads, " This product was prepared to preserve your life story. Enjoy the scrumptious, home-made memories that celebrate something very important - YOU!"

The gift intrigues me and I eagerly opened the jar to find it stuffed with strips of paper. Each piece had a number and a question typed on it. She had thought of many questions she desired an answer to, in order to help her know more about me - not just as mom, but as a person.

Some examples of questions included in this story jar include:
1. Are there any family heirlooms in your possession? Tell about these and how ou came to acquire them.
16. Describe your wedding dress, bridesmaids dresses
31. Do you have a special school memory ( high school or college)?
35. Do you remember a special birthday party you've had, given or been to?
65. Tell about the changes you've seen in your lifetime: society in general, technology, fashion, fads, morality, politics, etc.
67. Tell about your family traditions: Christmas, birthday, graduations, Thanksgiving, weddings, etc.
94. What makes each of your brothers and sisters ( or i-laws) special? Be specific.
102 Write a description of your husband.

I have had several hard cover books filled with questions and spaces to write your personal answers. The end result is meant to provide a family history. I read the questions, thought of answers but never put pen to paper to record my thoughts and memories. I always thought they lacked something, but could not pinpoint what it might be. This story jar offered a greater variety of questions, covered more aspects of my life and that of my family, including places to relate my faith journey.  I appreciated the prompts.

But to be honest, the years have passed and I have not grabbed a pretty notebook  or begun to answer the questions in the fashion the tag suggested. I let the jar sit on the shelf, procrastinating while I waited for the elusive someday to arrive. I still told stories to the family. I even have begun to write a few of them which have captured the answers to a few of the questions. Photos and journal entries have occasionally been scrapbooked together to provide more of the family story. The task of preserving my memories is far from complete.

This unique little story jar offers one method of prompting the capture of memories to compile a family history. People's imaginations and creativity can provide many other ideas. 

What about you? Have you begun a written record of memories and family history? If so, how did you begin the process? What method(s) have you employed?

Maybe you still have parents and/or grandparents whose stories you love to hear. Consider encouraging them to share them, not only orally but to write them down or record them in some fashion.

This year I plan to continue documenting family history, compiling it in an accessible manner. I might even get around to reading each question in that story jar from my daughter and making sure I write some answers for her to read.

Have fun as you look at the memories which make up your story.

Storyteller, speaker and writer, Carol Harrison, loves to share from the heart in groups of all sizes as well as one on one. She is a wife, mother and grandmother who knows all too well about the twists and turns of life but also that even when life is tough there is hope.  She makes her home in Saskatoon, SK with her husband Brian. Carol has published one book, Amee's Story and a number of short stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul books and other anthologies

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Alligator’s Retreat by Carol Ford

“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

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