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.

And If It’s Half Broke?

There’s an old saying that “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Leave well enough alone.

But what if it’s only a little broke? Still works, sort of? There are folks who fix the leaky faucet before it becomes a flood under the sink. Fix that oil leak in the car before the motor seizes up. If you ask, “Why worry about it when the problem’s so small,” they’ll tell you, “Procrastination only leads to disaster.”

And there are those of us who tend to hobble along with things as they are, hoping for a miracle, until the thing breaks down totally and becomes a real nuisance. When the drain pipe is totally clogged and the sink overflows, it’s time for action. When the tire’s almost flat, it’s time to have the leak repaired. There are those who go to a doctor while the problem is still small, while others have a health issue they hope will resolve itself. When they can hardly drag themselves out of bed in the morning it’s time to see the doctor.

A friend of my folks, a prairie farmer of Scottish birth, was fearful about the odd bulge developing on his hip. He ignored it and carried on, half fearing that if he saw a doctor, he’d hear the dreaded C word. Finally it became so big that he did visit the doctor, who sent him straight to the hospital. “That bulge is an aneurysm! It could burst any moment and you’d be dead in minutes.”

Sadly, we procrastinators are apt do this with relationships too. It’s risky to ask exactly what he/she meant by that comment. They might tells us exactly what they think of our behaviour and their words will likely be painful. So we tell ourselves, “Just let it go.” Yet the comment digs into us and festers. Usually more verbal exchanges happen and finally we’re pussyfooting around each other. The times we brave it and talk the thing over, we find it was only one point they objected to, not our whole personality. Or we completely misunderstood their remark. I can recall times when I’ve said something just as a joke, thinking the other person would get it, only to find out later from a third party that they took my comment seriously and were quite upset with me.

Image: Robin Higgins — Pixabay

What led to my musing this morning is my issue with WordPress. WP isn’t working 100% for me, but it still functions well most of the time. At times, though, the program won’t recognize my e-mail address so I have to give my username and log in anew. Especially for some blogs, while others I can leave Likes and comments no problem. So I just carry on and hope the problem will disappear. Will it, do you think?

Developers with their many “improvements” have made life so complicated for us simple minds! Sometimes I gripe that if the engineers at WordPress didn’t fix things that were working just fine, blogging would be simpler. However, I realize they were trying to accommodate a wide range of bloggers with other interests than mine, so I’ll hush it. I’m still very grateful to have this platform where I can ramble to my heart’s content. 🙂

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!

The Coming Storm – Part 1

In an earlier post I said my husband and I have been following a writing course given by best-selling author Jerry Jenkins. The last lesson I did covers how important the first sentence and the first paragraph are. No time for rambling here; that opening scene has to grab the reader. Even if the story doesn’t start out with a bang (on someone’s head, in some building or some universe) the reader must get a sense of a fascinating storm just ahead.

I’ve tried to do that in my response to this week’s Six Word Story prompt over at GirlieOnTheEdge’s blog, where the prompt word is BAND. I’m cheating on the prompt, though, since this isn’t a complete story. 🙂

BETTER NEVER LATE

Herb glanced out the window, checked his time again, then snapped the band of his watch in frustration.

“If she isn’t here in three minutes, I’m leaving,” he silently vowed. He had an important meeting with one of his shareholders and he dare not be late.

A moment later he heard a knock and rushed to open the door, snarling, “What…!”

“What am I doing here, you were going to ask,” Jonathan said, shoving his way inside. “Can’t you guess, Herb?”

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!