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.

THUNK!

Image: Ray Miller — Pixabay

Tyrant Turnaround

Sipping coffee at the table with my back to the open inside door, I was startled by a sharp THUNK. I jumped up and looked out the screen door. Just as I suspected: a bird had hit the glass and was lying beside the Welcome mat, gasping. Our cat, Angus, was heading up the steps to see about a possible lunch. I shooed him away. He knows the rules here. No Birds!

The bird, an eastern kingbird, was all askew and definitely stunned; it fluttered a bit when I stepped outside. I grabbed a few tissues from the house for padding and gently cupped it in my hands. It offered no resistance as I carried it to the flower bed and tucked it in the shelter of a shrub.

Much against his will, Angus was forced to come inside.

The kingbird lie there gasping, head on the ground, tail straight up, feathers ruffled, for about fifteen minutes. When I checked again it had pulled itself together into a sitting position. Half an hour later it was gone. Since there were no other cats about, and no tell-tale feathers, I’m sure it flew away.

I thought of a childhood song:
“God sees the little sparrow fall; it meets his tender view.
If God so loves the little things, I know he loves me too.”

This was no tiny sparrow, no warbler or wren with a beautiful song. The kingbird, a.k.a. “Tyrannus tyrannus” is a bigger bird. An acrobat when catching his meals in flight. Lordly, top-of-the-tree type. One guide calls them pugnacious. The ones in our yard live peaceably enough; I’ve never seen them bother smaller birds. But kingbirds are famous for their aggressive attacks on hawks, crows and other predators – even humans – that invade their territory.

To me its reputation didn’t matter. Here was a bird – and I like birds. I was able to help it, so I did.

Helpless little birds, gentle doves; it’s not hard to take pity on them. What about the tyrants of this world, the bullies, the belligerent, the viciously defensive? But God – so the Bible says – loves all people. No matter what our issues, He’s ready to help where He can. When we don’t thrash around and fight him off.

We can’t always see hope for change, but God knows how a lion can make 180-degree turn and become a lamb, gentle and merciful. History is full of nasty types who turned around when they met God. I think of Saul, who became the apostle Paul.

“And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord…” Acts 9:1 But Jesus met Saul on the road to Damascus and Saul did a major turn-around. He became Paul – meaning “Little” – the one who later wrote, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10

A Place Prepared

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is SWIM. This is cheating, but in response I’m going to post a devotional article I wrote some years ago, back when I was keeping a betta fish.

Image by Rebecca Lehman — Pixabay

A Place Prepared

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Alphie was a millet-brained betta fish. What did he know? His one-gallon fish bowl was the only world he’d ever experienced and he was content there. He had no clue that there could be a better environment, or that I was preparing one for him.

I’d learned that betta fish deserve a better environment than a fish bowl, so I was setting up a proper ten-gallon aquarium where he could enjoy life to the full. He’d have a heater and filter to keep his water fresh and pure. Bliss, betta style.

But this preparation couldn’t happen overnight. An aquarium needs to go through a nitrogen cycle to develop the right kind of bacteria in the filter so it will purify the water passing through. Alphie’s new home sat on the counter for over a month as it went through this cycle; during this time I added driftwood and various ornaments that would make his new world so much more interesting. Meanwhile he circled round and round in his little fish bowl, relaxed in the world he knew.

Then one day his new home was ready for him. I set his bowl beside the tank, then scooped him out in a small ladle. Now he was really confined! And scared, too; he squirmed and fought this new situation. Just a little fish; he couldn’t comprehend the big picture, or imagine a place where he could swim to his heart’s content.

Though the transfer was uncomfortable and confusing for him, it was accomplished quickly. I placed him in his new tank and his delight was obvious. So much room! So many interesting things to explore. Constant warmth and pure water. For a little fish this was paradise!

Most of us are fairly happy in this world. Some content, some not so content in our little lives, but it’s the only space we’ve ever known. Like my betta, we’re not very willing to leave it. For sure we’re not enthused about being carried out in a small box! Our comprehension of what waits on the other side is so limited.

Unlike my little fish, however, we can know God’s plans for us. Jesus has revealed them to His followers; by faith we can believe His words. He has prepared a place for a people who have prepared themselves: those who have placed their faith in his promises and their lives in his will.

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14: 2-3

And we can rejoice like the Psalmist:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” Psalm 23:6

Blackbirds in the Lilac Bush

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today was LILAC. I’ve been doing some serious thinking today and decided to share my thoughts in a story of sorts.

Image by koala0815 — Pixabay

The Lilac Bush

One day a lilac sprout appeared on this earth and began to stretch toward the sun. Soon the sapling attained a nice size and sent out branches, attractive and green, with the promise of a heavenly lilac scent every spring. As it bore larger leaves and spread out more branches people found it a sweet shade from the hot sun.

However, blackbirds passing by discovered the shrub and began using the branches as a regular perch. I suspect they saw themselves as ornaments. Mingling among the blooms the birds even picked up some of the lilac scent. But they were not happy campers, those blackbirds; they tended to be a contentious bunch. Some were especially harsh, constantly picking at the birds on nearby branches.

In time the lilac seemed so dotted with blackbirds that folks hardly saw the flowers. Here and there people may see a purple bloom, or catch the lilac scent, enough to realize there was a bush there. However, all those squawking, squabbling birds definitely spoiled the beauty of the shrub.

People started to say, “It’s ugly! Cut it down.

Others protested “There really is a lilac here and it is blooming. Can’t we rather shoo away those dreadful birds? Why should the world be deprived of the beauty of lilacs because there are blackbirds?

“But they like it so well. They’re always coming back to this shrub. Let’s get rid of it and we’ll be rid of the blackbirds.”

“Are you sure?”

Jesus told his followers that Kingdom of God was like a mustard seed; tiny when seeded, it would grow and become a great tree. So great that the birds of the air would lodge in the branches. (Matt 13:31-32) Over the years many different birds have settled in the branches of this great tree and claimed to be residents of the Kingdom, bringing many different dogmas and and so much strife.

Some years back John Lennon wrote a song about how wonderful it would be if we’d wake up one morning and there’d be no more religion. He was definitely thinking of all those squabbling blackbirds. But really, how much would change?

There are and always will be blackbirds. All-wise and inclined to squabble, many will perch in the tree of religion because it’s a handy shelter. If that tree were to disappear they’d find a different shrub. Race. Ethnicity. Color. Nation. Education. Military might. There’s always some reason to lord it over your neighbors and squash them.

However, don’t most of the world’s religions teach their disciples to respect your fellow man, at least in principle? I can’t speak for any others, but Jesus taught his followers to help those in need, care for the weak, turn the other cheek and live at peace. In spite of the extremists that make the headlines, virtue and beauty still bloom. People do get glimpses of the real tree; a bit of loving kindness still perfumes our air. Take that away and what would be left in this world?

Rusty Nail

A verse reflecting on the death of Jesus

A Rusty Nail

I ran a nail into my hand,
The wound was hard to heal;
So bitter was the pain to stand
I thought how it would feel,
To have spikes thrust through hands and feet,
Impaled by hammer beat.

Then hoisted on a cross of oak
Against the sullen sky,
With all about the jeering folk
Who joyed to see me die;
Die hardly in insensate heat,
With bleeding hands and feet.

Yet was it not that day of Fate,
Of cruelty insane,
Climaxing centuries of hate
That woke our souls to pain?
And are we not the living seed
Of those who did the deed!

Of course, with thankful heart I know
We are not fiends as then;
And in a thousand years or so
We may be gentle men.
But it has cost a poisoned hand,
And pain beyond a cry,
To make me strangely understand
A Cross against the sky.

–Robert William Service