Thursday, August 18, 2016

Honesty or Dirty Laundry? - by Heidi McLaughlin

The month of August is historically very hot in Kelowna, British Columbia. The kind of heat that makes your glasses steam up when you open the oven door. Even though it’s cooler this year, there is a different heat steaming up the air. It’s in the form of a hot question in our mind that we might be afraid to verbalize. So here goes: “When do we cross the line from honesty to hanging out our dirty laundry?” 

I am drawn to authentic, honest people. As I watch the U.S. Presidential campaign and hear the deplorable balderdash, my heart hurts that we transgress from reality and honesty into verbosity and yes; at times lies.  So what is honest authenticity?

The World Craves Honesty
Wouldn’t it be fun to get an honest Christmas letter? Something like this:

“The family trip to Swaziland went off the rails when everyone got sick and the luggage and passports were lost. You're so tired of your children you want to send them to Antarctica or sell them at the next garage sale.”

How refreshing to witness authentic living. I’m not talking about hanging out dirty laundry for sensationalism or getting attention, but being honest about our sometimes messy and complicated lives. We all have them.

With all the deception and duplicity in politics, large corporations and even families, I know that more than ever we crave honesty and authenticity. But we pretend or exaggerate because we want people's attention. We want to feel important, different, admired. So sometimes we cross the line just to know we've been heard.

I want to be an authentic and contagious Christian author and speaker that is not afraid to speak the truth, who has no hidden agenda for self promotion and whose desire is to be honest about my relationship with God and others. So how do I do that?


The Hot Truth
First, I need to be honest to accept and admit my motives, mistakes and shortcomings. Sometimes this might mean talking to someone I can trust, a friend or counsellor. Someone who will listen but not judge me. Then I need to be honest with God because He made me and I know He can handle it. I want to be like David in Psalm 139:23, 24.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Point out anything in me that offends you.”

Hanging out our dirty laundry, perfection and bragging turns people off but I know honesty draws them in. To stand out from the crowd and reflect God’s love, I believe honesty has to be at the top of our list. Make our yes be yes and our no be no. Let it be truth that will stand the test of the refining hot fire.  During these hot summer days, let our hot topics be honest and authentic.

Heidi McLaughlin lives in the beautiful vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, British Columbia. She is married to Pastor Jack and they have a wonderful, eclectic blended family of 5 children and 9 grandchildren. When Heidi is not working, she loves to curl up with a great book, or golf and laugh with her husband and special friends. You can reach her at: www.heartconnection.ca

Her latest book RESTLESS FOR MORE: Fulfillment in Unexpected Places was released this July and can be purchased through her website or Amazon.ca; Amazon.com or Goodreads.com










Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Smokey's Redemption by SUSAN HARRIS

Today, my cat, Smokey, is a guest at a ladies meeting in Fort Qu’Appelle,  Saskatchewan. I am featured to share my books and since Smokey has been the inspiration for, and subject of, a few publications, he also received an invitation to the Christian Women’s Club. 

Our Invitation

In my June post, Messing Up Habitually,  described my angst at leaving out Smokey 
from my picture books, and my feeble attempts at redemption. Although he is immortalized on film on a CTV production (http://regina.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=895655), it did not bring me the same level of satisfaction of having his photo in the books. 

Smokey & family on CTV


Shortly after writing the June 17 blog, I decided to publish another children’s book that had been in the pipeline since winter. (The idea for Christmas A to Z was inspired by the success of Alphabet on The Farm [Borealis press 2014] ). Then the brainwave hit - put Smokey’s photo in the Christmas book!

Smokey at CTV, June 17, 2016

I was not going to miss another opportunity of featuring Smokey in print, no matter how far removed the subject might be. I refused to overthink the idea. This was the moment of redemption and there was no stopping me. All my creativity went into the how to fit Smokey in, not the “if he should be there”. And I became bolder. As to never regret the memories of the rest of the brood, I decided to include our entire furry family. Strawberry, Moka, Paris, Nice and Latte. Sadly, Latte is no longer with us at the time of this writing but she will live on in the book.  


My daughter created a simple collage with the cats for the back cover of Christmas A to Z. I am convinced that many will enjoy seeing the cats on a Christmas tree if Smokey’s visits to the television studio, school, and ladies group are an indicator of interest in our feline family.
 
Cat Collage for new book Christmas A to Z


"Once is a mistake. Twice is a pattern. Three times is a habitEleven must be for redemption." concludes the June blog. 

I'd say twelve is definitely redemption.



Susan Harris is the author of ten books. Her upcoming picture book, Christmas A to Z will be released in October. Stories about Smokey are featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul and in  10½ Sketches: Insights on Being Successful Right Where You Are. The story of how Smokey became a house pet and inspired Susan’s writings can be read in a free download of “How Not to Kidnap a Cat” at  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00RNV3P10

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Best Day by David Kitz

            Lately, I have been spending a lot of time in the Psalms. Throughout Psalm 84 there is a longing to be with God—a desire to be close to Him. So we hear the Psalmist declare, "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere" (Psalm 84:10).

            If you were to plan for the best day in your life, what would that day include? What would it look like? How and where would you spend your best day? Would the LORD be at the center of it all?
           
Choosing the path of love - Gatineau Park, QC
          Love is at the core of every special day. Think back to some of the best days of your life—days marked by joy and excitement. If you scratch beneath the surface of those days, you will find love at the core.

         We are in fact love starved people. We need it as much as the air we breathe. Experiments have shown that the unloved, un-caressed, unspoken to baby will die, even though all its physical needs are met. So when love comes to us, we celebrate it, frolic in it, and throw a party to announce it.

        Some of the best days of my life were falling-in-love days. To think someone loved me, simply wanted to be with me, well, it put a real bounce in my step. To be more accurate, it fried all my circuits. Thinking of her made me dreadfully forgetful. I would routinely forget what I was doing mid-task. I was noted for being calm and sedate. Now suddenly, I was doing outrageous, crazy things. Love has a special way of breaking down barriers, and freeing us from inhibitions. Real love is never rational; it doesn't make sense.

               We need love. We need to receive it. We need to give it.

            In Psalm 84, it was love that brought the psalmist to the House of God. It drew him like a magnet, pulled at his heart, tugged at his sleeve, and finally ushered him through the door. Love set him on this pilgrimage. It kept his weary feet moving mile after dreary mile. When he finally reached his goal—the object of his love—in wonder, we hear him exclaim, "How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God." 

            In reality Psalm 84 is a love poem. It's all about the psalmist's quest for love. These opening lines express it best. The psalmist is thirsting for a drink from heaven's Eternal Fount of Love. He yearns, faints and cries out for the living God. He expresses all this in what any poet would call the language of love. Here we see the psalmist as the love-starved lover in search of the Divine Love of his soul.

            As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:1-2).
Saskatchewan Sunset - Photo by Donald Adam

          This hunger and thirst for love, is in fact, a recurring theme throughout the Psalms, and indeed, all of Holy Scripture. Psalm 42 begins with these words.

        Best days are days spent in pursuit of love, with the one we love. We yearn for such times. This pursuit of love is what drives the sales of a thousand romance novel titles. It is the wellspring for a million songs. It powers a large part of the movie industry. It turns Valentine's Day into a global celebration.

            The psalmist was pursuing love with the one he loved—the LORD Almighty. Have you spent time pursuing him lately? Is a day spent with Him, something you yearn for? Or, are you embarrassed by the blatant language of love that the psalmist uses here? Do hymns of praise and worship choruses bore you?

            All true worship is an act of love. It extols the virtues of the one we love, and it delights in simply being together. It unites the worshipped with the worshipper.


            Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked (Psalm 84:10).

David Kitz is the author of Psalms Alive! a devotional study of the Psalms. 


Visit http://www.davidkitz.ca/


Thursday, August 11, 2016

In a Time of Drought—Carolyn R. Wilker




It’s August and very hot these days in our part of Canada. The rain seems to go around us instead of where we want it to, so that the grass and trees and all will gain refreshment and the air cools to make us feel better too.
We have rain barrels at our home to collect the rain when it does come, and we use that for the garden plants. We don’t worry about the grass getting dry. It will come back later as it always does. But the food we grow is quite another thing.


Nephew's farm


The farm crops in our area need rain desperately. I tell people, when they’re not wanting rain in the middle of their summer activities, that if the farmer’s crops don’t get watered, we don’t eat. Quite often city people don’t have it on their radar. But I do, since I grew up on a farm where my parents made their livelihood.
Prices of produce are higher the less there is, whether it’s grain crops or fruits or vegetables. Think of the $8 cauliflower last winter or the apricots that are quite scarce this year and thus more expensive. 





Our water barrels


 tomato plants affected by heat, but with water, they produce

Buying power is less if your crops don’t grow when they should. I remember years when the egg prices were down (since we had laying hens) and crops got hit by too much wind. We got what we needed that winter, but maybe not any extras. Our parents were frugal—not stingy, just careful with money—they learned to stretch what we had.
Another year the crops might fare better and the egg price goes up, then we might get something extra, such as new roller skates. I remember being excited about that conversation when I was about 14 years old.
            Just as our parents cared for our needs, fed and clothed us, and provided anything extra, so too our Heavenly Father takes care of us—through the good times and also the lean times too. Not just our physical needs, but also our spiritual ones, when we let him in, and maybe too when we’re not so aware of the care.
It reminds me of the late winter and early spring when my father was in hospice. It felt somewhat like a wilderness with us wandering around putting in time, unsure how long that would last. We’d asked for prayer, even when we were sometimes not sure how to pray ourselves.
Knowing people were praying for us helped on the sad days when Dad’s physical abilities declined with each day, or our energy flagged with the frequent visits and the rest of life that was going on around us. God was with us. Then on my father’s last day, when the pastor came and gave a bedside service in Dad’s room, I felt God’s care too.
In the Old Testament book, Hosea (13:5), we read, “I cared for you in the wilderness, In the land of drought.”  The earth is dry and desolate and we feel that way too at times.
God knows when we’re feeling sad, discontented and in need of a hug and he often sends someone to do just that, when we need it most. He knows about our wilderness experiences. God knew too that the church full of people come to pay tribute to our father would encourage us, because they cared enough to be there. The calls from others who could not attend have been just as welcome, like water in a drought, even after the funeral is over. It reminds me that people care and that God does too.

 
Carolyn R. Wilker is a writer and editor from southwestern Ontario, where she likes to spend time with family and friends. Having been raised on a farm, she has learned to conserve resources, such as water and to treat the earth with care.
www.carolynwilker.ca 




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