Recent Comings & Goings

Hello everyone!

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a journal post so I decided I’d do one this morning. We have another bright and sunny morning coming down, one of very many. Yes, we sometimes have clouds, but I can’t remember the last time it rained right here. This is indeed a dry and thirsty land: lawns are brown; roads throw up dust clouds.

Thankfully there was rain in the summer; I’ve heard that the crops have been okay here – and better some other spots in the province that got more rain. We seem to be in a pocket right here; due to the general flow of air currents above us, the rain clouds pass us by. Grasshoppers are growing long and brown this fall.

I suppose this is a common complaint of mankind, but the days seem to fly by and I get so little accomplished! Though my white cell count hasn’t gone up that much in the last few months, my energy level has dropped. I was rather wiped out in July, so I’m thankful the doctors discovered that I’m diabetic. I’m now on pills to treat that, and they definitely help. My oncologist is holding off on treatment my CLL and I’m okay with that.

I finished my casual cooking job at the Villa at the end of August; You could say I’m footloose and fancy free now. Wanting to do more painting. Wanting to do more writing – though you can’t tell from this poor neglected blog! Sadly, wanting isn’t doing. I get pretty depressed about that sometimes; seems my attention deficit syndrome gets worse every day. 😦

I’ve been visiting Critique Circle again and offering my two-cents’-worth to writers who post their stories on that website, hoping for feedback. It often takes a few hours to read a story and leave comments. I’m intrigued at the differences in North American writers and writers from India. Writing “by the book” maybe? Seem much more formal. No, “Hey, you. Whatcha doin’?” And different words: “He was relishing his meal of curried chicken.”

Bob’s taking a writing course and we’re told readers these days “have the attention span of a gnat.” In other words, no patience for a lot of loopy or formal wording. We’re learning to cut out EVERY unnecessary word. No double adjectives, like “an interesting little story.” No unnecessary adverbs like “he jogged slowly down the trail.” “A very good time was had by all” becomes “They all enjoyed themselves.”

Most of my flower pots are still nice, but the temp is supposed to drop to -3 C tomorrow night. According to the weatherman, we’ve come to the end of our mild fall and our nights will be frosty now. I’m still up every morning letting the cats out and filling water basins for the birds. Deer started coming in August and often drink them dry in the night. A lot of our birds have gone, but we still see mourning doves and oodles of sparrows. A flock of grouse have been foraging nearby; I saw them across the field Sunday and yesterday they were in our side yard, a dozen or more of them.

When I cooked at the Villa, I often worked on Sunday and could invite company to join us for dinner. That opportunity is gone so I’ve decided to get with it at home. This past Sunday we invited Ron & Laurie, friends who’ve just moved/retired here from Quebec, as well as Ray & Sandra, whom we’ve known for almost fifty years.

Two Sundays ago we had our children come for dinner. This was right after the terrible hurricane in the Maritimes so we discussed the clean-up work that would be needed after that. Our oldest grandson had to leave for Roblin, MB, soon after dinner; he’s working for a farmer there during harvest. Our oldest granddaughter was missing, too; she’s gone to teach school in Carrot River. You like to see them grow up but they tend to fly away on other adventures and their chairs at the table are empty. 😦 Last weekend the youth group from here, including our youngest granddaughter, went to Cartwright, MB for a youth rally. Since the Roblin youth went, too, she got to see her brother there – if that matters at all to teens. 😉

I’ve just started reading Drawing Near* by John Bevere and am finding the first chapter thought-provoking.

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Maybe this is enough musing. I’ll end by wishing you all a great day.

*Copyright 2004 by John Bevere
Thomas Nelson Publishers

It’s All God’s Fault!

Warning: Seriously long musing on the question,
Is God really the cruel, heartless being Christians sometimes unwittingly describe?

Job’s Comforters

Imagine: A psychotic teen filled with anger, bent on revenge, waiting outside a small school. He’s carrying an AK-47; when the children pour out of the school at noon, he opens fire.

That evening two dozen sets of parents are overwhelmed with grief. John and Jane have lost two children in this tragedy, so acquaintances come to sit and grieve with them. Some offer what they hope are comforting words:

“It must have been their time to go,” said one.
“No it wasn’t,” John protested. “They were murdered!”
But it’s all according to God’s will,” said another. “The Bible says ‘All things work together for good,’ so He must have some plan for making this good.”
“This loss will haunt our family all our lives,” Jane whispered.
“God could have prevented this tragedy, but He allowed it to happen and His ways are always perfect.”
“What’s perfect about MURDER” John retorted.
Jane was thankful when their wanna-be encouragers left. She sighed and told John, “At least they weren’t quite like Job’s comforters. They didn’t tell us it was because of some sin in our life.”

Imagine: Some drunk gets into his car, thinking he’s okay to drive home. On the way he veers into the other lane and smashes into an oncoming car. Pearl’s son, daughter-in-law, and two of their children are killed instantly.”
Later a friend offered the much-repeated words of comfort: “They say God never gives us more than we can handle.”
“Then they lie,” Pearl sobbed, “because this is a lot more than I can handle!”

Beware Quick Pat Answers

In his devotional booklet, Every Day With Jesus, Mar/April 2018, Pastor Selwyn Hughes writes: “Time and again I have sat before a weeping man or woman in whose life something tragic has happened and heard them say, “If God loves me, why did He let this happen?”

He goes on to say how Christian often struggle with the fact that God allows bad things to happen to good people, and they prefer to rationalize the issue rather than face it.
“I must have done something wrong and God is punishing me.” Or like Job’s comforters, “You must have done something wrong and God is punishing you.”
And if nothing else makes sense, then, “It was their time to go,” Or “It’s all in God’s will.”

The above examples of comfort offered to the grieving demonstrate ways we tend to rationalize the inexcusable, but what sort of a God are we then portraying? He could have prevented your twelve-year old daughter from being kidnapped, raped and murdered – but He didn’t.

How cruel is that? If I stood by and did nothing while some crazy killed a child, wouldn’t I be guilty of complicity? Yet we have no idea how much and how often has God spoken to this person, urging him to turn away from evil thoughts and deeds. God has never adopted the policy of striking sinners dead — or Earth would be an empty planet!

In cases of a sudden heart attack or other non-violent death, it’s easier to find comfort in the thought that “His/her time was up.” Or “Their work on earth is done.” These thoughts do work sometimes. The world’s been saddened these past few weeks by the death of the beloved Queen Elizabeth. At age 96 and in relatively good health up until her death, I think we all feel that it was her time to go.

But can you imagine the guards at Auschwitz herding their prisoners into the gas chambers, saying, “It’s just your time to go.” Or worse, “God’s allowing this, so it must be His will.”

He Gives Us the Right to Choose

We read in the Bible that God id love, that He wants to be our Father, to guide and protect us. However, He wants to be a chosen parent, not one who forces His will on us.

Going all the way back to the Garden of Eden, when Eve reached out to pick that fruit and opened the door for sin, God could have slapped her hand. “I told you, ‘Don’t touch!’” But He didn’t.

God made his will clear then and it still stands: Mankind shall have the choice to obey Me or not.” Otherwise, in his Court of Justice, He must bring every one of us into account because we have all made wrong choices – and did it knowingly. I believe the verse that says, “God calls all men everywhere to repent,” but His kingdom is not a physical kingdom that citizens are born into, but a spiritual kingdom where all are subjects by choice.

Rather, just as He allowed Eve the choice to reach out and take something she knew was forbidden, so He allows us, all through our lives Christians and non-Christians, to reach out and take the thing we know is wrong, or harmful. To say the words we know we shouldn’t say: the lies, the scathing criticism, the accusations.

Looking back, I think of many times I wish God would have reached down and given me a slap before I said, or did, something. Yes, there was that tiny voice saying, “Don’t” but it’s so easily ignored. He allowed me to make my own choice – and suffer the consequence, the loss, the tears.

At times He does actually intervene and counter man’s will, upsetting the plans of evil people. Usually they happen when He steps in to protect His children from some harm, or lets His child know that the loving Father does care. We often call these miracles and they are happening all the time; I believe every Christian can tell you of an instance where “something told me” or they’ve been prevented from some action or heard a voice giving a clear instruction or answer.

Just one example: A Christian woman in the southern US was standing in her back yard during a wild storm, the tailings of a hurricane, when an inner voice told her, “Get out of this yard.” She obeyed, and a few minutes later a huge limb of a tree came crashing down right where she’d been standing.

Not to say God’s children will never come to harm, but sometimes we are supernaturally protected. Likewise instances like this happen to non-Christians: some little voice says, “Don’t go there.” or “Don’t do that.” The choice is left to them, to listen or to ignore.

Sadly, Christians who feel their Father forces His will on mankind, are inclined to carry this even farther. His way is right/best, so His will should be enforced on everyone, Christian or not. They may carry out personal acts of punishment – my next post will touch on this – or they get into politics and start making laws, Prohibition being the most notable fiasco.

This is our human way of keeping our fellow man in line – the legal hand-slap or lash – and it’s the only way the governments of this world have of preventing evil because they can’t speak to or change hearts. However, through the ages God has worked through the still small voice of conscience, a voice every person in this world hears.

The Coming Storm – Part 2

Powerful Opening Hooks

After reading how important a novel’s first page is, I decided to check out a few. Using Amazon’s “Look inside” and Libby’s, “Download a sample,” I checked out half a dozen opening paragraphs in various genres. Some piqued my interest enough that I’ve borrowed the book.

I’ve never read anything by John Grisham; my impression from reviews is that his books are thrillers, and definitely on the darker side. However, the title, A TIME FOR MERCY, sounded fairly hopeful. His first page starts with a such a compelling hook that I couldn’t quit! He’s layered a number of issues into his first chapter, all with powerful hooks.

The writer starts with a picture of domestic abuse – something I’m familiar with. My birth mom was beaten severely at times by her father; she and my dad led an Andy Capp & Florrie life. My one sister got many beatings from a drunken spouse; when he started choking her, she finally left.

Opening scene:
Almost 2am, Josie’s waiting for her boyfriend to come home. Stuart’s a sloppy, violent drunk so she needs to be awake; she may need to protect her two teens who are upstairs, barricaded in the girl’s room. Brought up rough herself, living in an old camper before Stuart took her in, she knows she and the kids have nowhere to go if they can’t stay here, so she puts up with the escalating violence. But she won’t have him hurting 16-year-old Drew–who’s small for his age – and 14-year-old Kiera.

Finally he staggers in, angry that she’s up. She tries to placate him; he accuses her of cheating, starts slapping her around. She tries to keep things toned down for her kids’ sake but she really has no chance. Stuart’s been a street brawler all his life. Finally he gives her a pile-driver punch that shatters her jaw and knocks her cold.

Then he thinks of the girl upstairs and fancies a sexual encounter. (He’s abused her before–and threatened to kill her if she ever told.) But they’ve barricaded the door well. After several clumsy attempts to force his way into her bedroom, he gives up, goes downstairs, and passes out on the bed. After awhile the teens creep downstairs and find their mom out cold; they’re sure she’s dead. Drew calls 911, says, “Stuart killed our mother.”

Drew checks on him. Passed out now, but if he wakes up they know he’ll beat them for being downstairs. He has no use for Josie’s kids – nothing but white trash – won’t buy them food, treats them like slaves. He’s Somebody in the community; his family’s big here; he owns a house and land, has lots of friends. When sober he’s Mr Nice Guy; everyone likes him. Stuart’s a deputy sheriff, the officer with the friendly wave and cheerful smile who gives talks at schools about the dangers of drugs.

When his violent side shows, his fellow deputies cover for him. He’s been involved in drunken brawls that never get reported. Two other times when Josie called for help because he was beating her, his buddies came and settled him down; no other action was taken; if reports were even filed, they disappeared.

So Drew knows they’ll get no real help from the police. He’s at the end of his rope emotionally. He goes into the bedroom and takes Stuart’s police gun, always kept loaded, from the holster. Terrified that the man will wake up and start abusing them, filled with hate for this murderer, he sees no hope ahead. A few minutes later Stuart moans, shifts on the bed – and Drew shoots him.

Cops arrive; an ambulance comes and takes Josie away; the teens are taken to jail – for their own safety as much as anything. Now Sheriff Ozzie learns about Stuart’s domestic violence. “Why wasn’t I told this,” he asks his men. “Where’s the report on those incidents?” (Later he learns that Stuart’s blood alcohol content when he died was 3.6. Raging drunk.)

The sheriff, a newly-elected black man in this redneck Alabama community, is basically a good guy but knows he had to tread carefully. Drew’s under arrest for murder, but he asks Kiera if she has any family she can go to. Josie and the kids have gone to church a few times though Stuart didn’t like it at all and was rude to Pastor Brother Charles when he came to call. But Kiera asks Ozzie to call Brother Charles. He comes and takes her to his home.

A kind young man, Brother Charles is also fairly new in the community. He doesn’t notice the spiteful looks directed at him by the deputies present. He’s here for the killer’s family and in their minds their buddy was the innocent victim shot by this young punk. Stuart’s family likewise is gathering together, murmuring about revenge. Sheriff Ozzie will have his hands full controlling their reaction. And he’s up for re-election next year, a good time to show himself tough on crime.

Jake, one of the main characters in this drama, being the only reliable defense lawyer around, knows this will be a very unpopular case. He believes that everyone has the right to a fair trial, but the last time he’d defended someone in a high-profile, controversial case like this, he got nasty looks everywhere he went, was harassed by phone calls, even threatened, for up to three years after.

As he attends church that morning he senses the mood among his own Presbyterian church people. A minor or not, he’s killed a cop. And for sure the fundamentalists down the street, Baptists and Pentecostals who favored the death penalty, will be out for blood. This boy has no chance to escape the gas chamber. And if Jake acts as this boy’s defense, he’ll be universally loathed. As word gets around that he’ll be defending the boy, he starts getting threatening phone calls. “If you get that kid off…!” His wife even gets one at her job.

At the jail Drew curls himself into a fetal ball, wrapping the thin blanket around him. In the eyes of friends and family, Stuart has become a hero, a martyr almost. The media, with no official word, is distorting the picture big time: “Officer killed in the line of duty!” Folks are talking of skipping the trial, dealing with this cop-killing thug right now. Meanwhile Brother Charles and his Good Shepherd church rally around Josie and her family.

You can just see the thunder-heads building in the sky! Grisham has put so many issues on the plate, all compelling hooks:
Is there justice and a fair trial for the poor in America?
Will the defense be able to prove the threat Josie and her children were facing?
Will the relatives take justice in their own hands?
How will the family and predominantly white community react to a black sheriff if he allows the truth about Stuart’s violent character?
Will the area’s fundamental churches attack Brother Charles’s group for standing by the killer’s family?
Will the community lynch the defense lawyer?

Atticus Finch, where are you?

Warning:
I’ve no clue how this will end and can’t give it a rating at this point. But if you choose to read this book, don’t start it later in the evening like I did!

An Avian Paradise

Here’s my response to Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt...

How Will They Manage?

Our yard’s an avian paradise. Birdseed liberally sprinkled, water bowls, even a sprinkler on hot days. Cats trained to ignore birds. However will they manage in the real world?

Patiently waiting for lunch
Image: Peggy_Marco — Pixabay

This is no fiction tale. The noise in our yard can be deafening at times — like when I go out with my birdseed first thing in the morning. As I have written before, the birds aren’t the only ones taking advantage: in the past few weeks I’ve often seen a doe and her fawn drinking from the basin between us and the woods. A few days ago I was up at the crack of dawn and saw a jackrabbit hopping around my front yard water dishes. And I’m amazed how bold the birds are around my cats. Hummers will feed at flower pots right beside where the cats are lying!

Exercise One: The English Bride

This week my husband signed up to do the Your Novel Blueprint course from Jerry Jenkins. Because we’re both writers – and because it costs an arm and a leg – I’m doing the course along with him, sort of. Listening to the instruction videos, as least. The first few are more motivational: carving out the time to write, finding your goal(s), the real reason(s) why you write, committing yourself for the long haul.

In one exercise we were to imagine someone – I’ll call him Joe – getting off a bus. Who is Joe anyway? Where’s he coming from? Is this his final destination? Is he going to visit someone, or some place? Is he running away from something, or someone? Is someone meeting him here? Who is the most important person in Joe’s life, and why isn’t that person with him? As he looks around, what expression is Joe wearing? Many questions for us to answer, constructing a scene. Then the story: what trouble will Joe have to face now? How will he react, or deal with the trouble?

I really enjoyed this exercise, and soon had a tale-in-the-making…

The English Bride

As the train pulled into town, Annie’s eyes swept up and down the single street. Howard had warned her that Fox Bluff was a small place, but could anyone actually call this a town? It wasn’t a quarter the size of her English village, and they’d all thought that was tiny.

Bone-weary after four days and nights of trundling across this vast country, Annie was ready to throw herself down and kiss the solid earth. She stepped off the train ready for a hot bath and a good meal. She was anxious to go home – their home! – and begin their new life together. For the last hour she’d held his picture in her hand, trying to recall every detail about this handsome soldier she’d been married to for three weeks.

But where was he? She’d expected he’d be here on the platform, anxious to see her again.

Annie walked up and down the platform to get her bearings, waiting for Howard. A few minutes later she grabbed her two suitcases, now sitting beside the train baggage car, and entered the depot. She approached the wicket and spoke to the agent. “Excuse me, sir. I’m Mrs Howard Hendry. I was expecting him to meet me here. Has he been?”

He gave her a puzzled look. “Has he been what?” Then the light dawned. “Oh, you must be Howard’s English woman.”

Annie bristled. “I’m Howard’s wife. He was to meet me here.”

His eyebrows rose. “Well, Mrs Hendry, you may have a little wait, unless you want to walk out there. It’s haying time, you see, and the men don’t take time off for just anything.”

“For just any…” Annie closed her mouth. Least said soonest mended. She looked down at her two heavy suitcases. She was not about to set out walking across this dusty country carrying those. “Is there a tea room here in town where I can wait? I’m sure he’ll be here soon.”

“Tea room! This isn’t England, lady.” His tone softened. “There’s a few tables down at the hotel and you could probably get a cup of tea. Mabel may even have a bit of baking on hand, if you’re hungry.”

At this point in my tale Annie’s trouble is still small-ish. Howard could still show up any minute. So I’ll send her another big problem…

Annie spotted a fly-specked mirror and decided she’d better tuck in straggles of hair before heading for the hotel. She was straightening her hat when two women rushed into the station. Probably mother and daughter. Possibly her new neighbours? Annie would have greeted them but they never glanced her way.

“Millie here needs a ticket to Donahue,” the older woman said. “She’s off to teach school. Frank’s putting her luggage on the platform.”

“Teaching school, eh? Well, good for you, Millie.” The agent wrote out the ticket. “Here you are. One ticket to Donahue for the new schoolmarm. Hope you like your new job and don’t get too many rowdies to wrestle down.”

Her mother paid for the ticket and handed it to Millie. “It’ll be better than sitting at home pining over that lost beau. He’s not worth it.”

“Oh, mother! I wasn’t pining.”

“Yes, you were! And when I see Howard again, I’m going to give him a piece of my mind, that’s for sure. We all knew he’d pop the question after he got home…and then that English floozy got her clutches in him.”

Annie froze. Her Howard? Surely not.

The mother turned to the station agent again. “I’ve heard say those English girls just hung around our army base bold as brass, begging our boys to marry them so they could get away from all that war mess. Can you imagine?”

The agent waggled his bushy brows and swung his gaze meaningfully toward Annie. “Now, Selma, best not believe everything that’s said. You know how some folks exaggerate.”

Millie sighed. “He probably forgot all about me once he got over there with those stylish English girls with their peaches & cream complexion and all. I hope you’ll snub her good and proper when she gets here, Mom.”

“I’m sure every woman in town will snub her good and proper. They all know you and Howard Hendry had an understanding.”

The agent cleared his voice in a gravelly sort of warning that finally caught the older woman’s attention. Annie saw him arch his brows and shoot a meaningful look in her direction.

Selma spun around. “You! You’re the one that stole our Howard.”

Annie flushed. She summoned all her courage for a response. “Yes, I’m the ‘English floozy’ Howard married. And no, we certainly did not hang around the base and beg the Canadians to marry us. I was working in a shop the soldiers came into now and then. Howard and I fell in love. That’s all.”

“Oh, for sure,” Selma retorted. “Why, you’re not half as pretty as our Millie here. I can’t believe he’d take you in her place without a little…coercion.”

Annie’s eyes stung. Millie was a pretty girl; she could see that. She knew she’d be called “plain” by comparison. Still… Her temper rose. “Howard married me because he loves me,” she said firmly. “Besides, so many men were killed in the war. You had no idea if he’d even come back to marry your daughter.”

The station agent intervened before any more could be said. “Selma, if Millie wants to get on that train before it pulls out, she’d better hustle along.”

Her mother took Millie’s arm and guided her toward the door, adding a loud comment in parting. “Well , Millie, you can be thankful for one thing: you won’t have Eloise Hendry as your mother-in-law.”