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Welcome to my blog! Of course if we were visiting in person, I'd have the teapot out and we could sit and chat.
I'm honored you stopped by to listen to my thoughts and ponderings - and if you have a minute sometime, let me know you dropped by!

You can also find me on Facebook at Grace Notes, Thoughts and Prayers.

I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Living in a Divisive and Polarized World

Often when I am troubled, I need to listen.  I need to ask the question, why am I troubled?  These thoughts have come pouring out of me today and I pray they will encourage others.

I have been deeply saddened by the divisiveness and polarization of the world we live in. There is a lot of anger, fear mongering, and some of it (in my opinion) is very justified.

Deep divides are in our neighboring country, the United States (or not so united?), and this has spilled into our Canadian world and the whole world.  We cannot say we are not affected.  Not only does this divide occur on a global level, but it affects communities, and even families.

I realize we are deeply affected by what we see on a daily basis, and what we read.  Our news feeds are filled with opinions, and often we only read or absorb things that match up with our point of view.  We live in a biased world, and rarely do we have all the facts.

There are many things that divide.  I read an interesting dialogue this morning on vaccinations.  Now there is a hot topic, and people (rightly so) feel very strongly about it.

When I read letters to the editor in our local newspaper, there is a lot of discussion about traffic lights in certain places and crosswalks in others.  And people are passionate about sharing their viewpoints.

There are a few things I hate.  There, I said it.

When it comes to this subject of divisiveness, the two that come to the top of the list are these:

I hate bullying.  Please note I did NOT say I hate the bully.  But I do hate bullying, and have a strong urge to stand up for those who are bullied.

I hate arrogance.  The stance that I am right, and will not listen to your point of view or listen to your story.  This is so very wrong, in my opinion.

Oh yes, I can have an opinion.  And I shared an opinion just last week on this blog, something I felt strongly about.  But when I think about whom I follow,  a Jesus follower, I see Christ as someone who cared for the marginalized, who SAT with them, who listened to their stories.

I often encourage those I counsel, (myself included) to pray this simple prayer:  "God please show me Your truth.  Not my truth, not the other's truth, nor the truth that is biased through my own lens or interpretation, but God's truth."  I believe when we truly ask God for wisdom, without our bias, God will show us the way.

There are some things I believe are important, and I pray I can live my life within these standards:

Can I truly live my life with the lens of love?  How do I measure my actions and motivations and speech?  Is it measured with love?  Jesus spoke so clearly of this when he spoke of the greatest commandments.. the first is loving God, and the 2nd loving my neighbour as myself.  Who is my neighbour?

We have become a global community.  We are all interconnected through television, through the internet.  This is a large neighbourhood.  Can I truly love others as Jesus asked me to?  Without judging them first?

Can I be kind?  I often get teased that my favorite "mom" saying was "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all!"  Probably some double negatives in there, but you get the drift.  I don't know when I've seen so much unkindness, as in recent months.  Perhaps that is the product of social media.  I'm all for free speech and having an opinion, but how do I share that?  Can I be kind?

Can I listen?  Truly listen?  Listen without judgement, without a "I can fix you" attitude?  Week after week I meet people who long to be listened to.  Sometimes I meet people who have left faith or Christianity or church because they were not able to ask the questions, to tell their stories, to truly be heard.  This breaks my heart.  Can we be compassionate servants who truly listen?

I'm tired of sides, or polarization.  And perhaps there is no getting around it.  But I feel called to be someone who calls for peace, for moderation, for truly listening to one another.  I think of that favourite scripture of mine which I have quoted often from Romans 12:18:  "If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceable with all men."    

And when it comes to peace, let it begin with me.  And I pray we can join in that prayer, as we live in this broken world.  Prayer for wisdom to become peacemakers, to love those who need it most.

thanks for listening.  <3 Grace

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A "Good" Bye

You know the saying where there are two sure things in life:  death and taxes?

Well, I would like to add to that list.

I'd like to add the word: Change.  It is constant!  There seems to be lots of change!  And with some change comes loss, and sometimes we have to say "good-bye".

Now I have never cared for "good-bye", it seems rather final.  I've always opted for "see you later!".  But the truth is that things are not always the same when "see you later" comes, because life is not stagnant, but always moving; ever changing.

I looked up "bye" in the dictionary today, and one definition actually speaks of transition.  I liked that.  So how can I approach these transitions and changes and create goodness?  A "good" bye?

This past week the United States of America swore in a new president.  Many are uneasy with this change in government and governing style, and how it will affect our world.

Personally, I feel a lot of concern, but what has struck me about recent weeks is the class and style that the out-going President and his wife displayed.  They lived with grace and diplomacy as they said a difficult "good" bye, and helped to make the transition easier.  I respected that.

In our own church community we are facing our own "good" bye, with our pastor retiring; he and his wife, my dear friend, saying goodbye to our church family.  This is not an easy change.  They face a new way of living, different responsibilities, and they will be missed.

No, change is hard!  And I was thinking,  how do we send them off well... with a "good" bye?  A so-long that is affirming, thankful, and also prepares our church community for the changes to come.

Part of the work I do is being present to people and their families for those last good-byes on earth.  You might have heard of the phrase "a good death".  There is merit in that phrase, for I have met courageous people who face their death with dignity and have prepared themselves for what is to come.

There are no set rules, only some certainties.  Can I walk through life, choosing to face whatever changes come with a sense of thankfulness, creating "good" byes?

There is another certainty that I cling to.  I have become confident of this; that I have a God who loves me, who is with me through every transition and change in my life, who has promised never to leave me.

So death and taxes.... and change - are all part of our reality.  The best part is that we can have the assurance that it will all be well in the end!

Until next time!
<3 Grace

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

On the Subject of Healing - an Opinion Piece

There are times when I am compelled to write.

This is one of those times, and I am fully aware that not all might agree with my opinion.  I will respect that.

I speak from the point of a wounded healer.  I have experienced deep grief in my life, and some of my life story has been made more difficult by those who would convince me that physical healing is to be claimed.

I have prayed often for healing for myself, for various ailments, and found that God has helped me, but not always healed me.

How I have wrestled with this!  But I only tell my story.  When my first husband was dying there were a number of people who believed he would be healed.  They prayed that way, even to the point of putting time limits on it... he would be healed in three days.

Another wanted to take him to a Benny Hinn crusade, believing God would touch him,  My husband was in no condition to travel.  And we responded with the fact we knew, that God could heal anywhere, anytime, and didn't need to go to a healing service to receive God's help.

This was highly confusing for us.  Of course we wanted healing!!  He was only 41.  And it was a source of stress and even guilt when we questioned what was happening to us.  In the end, we had to put ourselves into the loving arms of God and trust Him for the future.

Years later, as I processed what had happened, I came to believe strongly in the sovereignty of God, that I can trust God with the whole picture of my life, and the timeline I and my loved ones have been given.

Do I believe in healing?  Yes.
Do I believe we all will be healed, or if we pray the right way we will be healed?  No.

We cannot control God.  Period.  Stuff happens.  To all, irregardless of faith.  We live in a messed up world, in a contaminated world.  Jesus himself said, "In this world you will have trouble, but I have overcome the world."  Is that a reason to say I claim this right now?  I don't think so...

This is a touchy subject with me.  Again when my mom fell ill, and was in hospice, very ready to go to heaven, there were some that wanted to claim her healing.  And it troubled her.
And it happened again with another close family member... to the point where those closest to him were deeply affected and even hurt.

The bottom line is that when people claim healing or force that kind of thinking... even if they are very kind and want the best for you... it becomes a kind of spiritual abuse.

I have seen this kind of thinking in my work as a hospital chaplain.   There are those who simply can't face their death, those who will claim healing right to the end.  And when it doesn't happen, their families are often devastated. There is hope, and then there is false hope.

Ultimately we all will die.  And I believe God is sovereign.

As I accompany dear folks through their last days on earth, I want to share with them a loving, caring God who is with us to the end, and stays with us through that journey of death to ultimate life.  There is assurance in the wonderful presence of a loving God, and we can rest in that.

And there are times where there will be healing.  And I do pray for that, as I feel led to.  But mostly I pray that God would be present, and that there would be comfort in resting in God's love, knowing we can trust Him.

I was triggered this week... triggered by those who would influence, and misguide the vulnerable.  To me it is false teaching and false hope.  Because ultimately we all need the best kind of healing of all, healing for our souls, and the knowledge that with God, we can fully trust any outcome.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Diversion Therapy - a Restful Escape!

I led a support group this week for New Hope, support for the widowed in our community.

The topic was grief and depression, and I wondered who would even show up on this frigid dark January day.  It is a documented fact that the bluest day of the year falls in January, and the rate of suicides spike.

Depression can have many contributing factors, but that matters little to the one in the depths of despair.  Usually one just wants relief in a world that feels weighted down with darkness and often hopelessness.

Depression can often be a byproduct of grief, not only grief of a spouse or loved one, but there are many forms of grief and loss that can trigger deep feelings of sadness.

Just like we take a pain reliever for pain or for a headache, sometimes we need ways to treat depression if only to bring temporary relief.  Temporary relief can bring much needed rest.

I'm not talking about "self-medication" methods such as alcohol overuse or drugs of any sort.  Those are easy-outs with high risks for addition and other afflictions.

But it seems to me that we can bring some relief to our tired brains by re-routing the circuits and I have to say I speak from experience, knowing bouts of depression in my life.

My earliest depression was in my teens when I experienced rapid hormonal change and other physical difficulties.  Before we understood the causes, all I knew that I was in a dark tunnel of despair.  Even then I read all I could on the subject, trying to understand what was happening to me.

As we looked for causes and answers, I remember two things that brought me a lot of relief.
The first was a jig-saw puzzle.

I kid you not, the act of putting together this puzzle, piece by piece, and seeing the finished product was a great relief for my tired mind.

The other was to practice gratitude. I drew about the word gratitude this week, but I remember back then that my dad, who had also experienced deep depression in my life assigned me a task of writing thank-yous of gratitude... ten of them I believe.  This task helped re-orient my mind, and gave me much relief.

As we chatted in our group at New Hope this week, we discussed about the many diversions to give our mind a rest from deep grief, or depression.  My list might be different than yours but here are a few ideas:

1.  Reading an novel... planting myself in another world, for me, is something positive and restful.  A good story is a great escape!  My favourites are my book collections:  Anne of Green Gables and the Mitford Series; both are delightful.
2.  Creating something.  A puzzle, a doodle, a piece of art, or tackling one of those popular colouring books.  It is well known that these activities can change our thought patterns and help us to rest.  Picasso said: "Art washes way from the soul the dust of every day life."  A good dusting might be a good thing!

3.  Exercising.  This is probably the hardest for me this time of year.  I don't like the cold.  But a brisk walk, some sunshine, or even dancing in the living room to something lively can literally help to chase off the blues.
4.  Creating a place of beauty.  I find clearing off my table and doing something as simple as placing a bowl of fresh lemons or fruit can lift my spirits.
5.  Taking care of ourselves can involve simple indulgences as buying a new kind of tea or coffee and enjoying a drink from a special cup.  Epson salt baths are soothing and remove toxins.  Allowing ourselves to rest, even when sleep is illusive is a great thing.
6.  Writing or journalling has proven therapeutic for many.  My word for the year (as stated in my last blog) is Joy!  I choose joy.  One of my girlfriends said she had a joy journal and I'm inspired to start one of my own... writing about something for every day that has brought me joy!
7.  Reach out for support.  This is not always easy to do when one is depressed.  Isolation is common, but if we can reach out to a trusted friend and share our hearts, that can make all the difference in the world.
And if depression lingers or becomes chronic, it might be time to turn to professional help.
8.  Encouraging scripture verses or inspirational quotes can be food for the soul.  I like to often write these down and have them where I can see them and think about them.

So, in this season of shorter and colder days, we can find diversions to bring us joy!  I brought out my seashells, dreamt of the sea, and I'm thinking I might pour myself a little pineapple juice and dream of warm climes.

As always, I'd love to hear from you... and hope this might have helped someone to chase those winter blues away!
 <3 Grace

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Word for this Year

Six days in, and the New Year has settled in, the newness gone, and reality come to stay.

Are you idealistic... like me?  I have to work at shaking it off, to embrace my idealism with a balance of reality.

And so I almost hesitated to share my word for this year.  In recent years I've picked a word... a word to think on, to live by, to motivate me, and learn from.

Even before 2017 rolled around, I knew that my word for 2017 was Joy.  I was quite excited about it, such a strong, positive, hopeful word.  I felt God had planted it right in my heart, to live out this coming year in a fresh way.

To be honest, the year didn't start off quite like I had hoped.  I had hoped for a peaceful, joyful, prayerful beginning, but that just didn't happen.... and as I processed how I felt about that, I realized I would need to make some decisions.  

Joy doesn't just happen, it is often something we choose.  

And I say that carefully, because I work with grieving people.  I myself have grieved this past year.  The Bible verse talks of joy in the morning, but first there is the travail of the night.

I love the verse quoted on this little piece of art:  "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." (Romans 12:12).  A great recipe for joy.

So how does one achieve a joyful heart?  How does one experience freedom from fear?  

Living gratefully is a key to joy, I think!  When I approach life with a thankful heart instead of a grumbling heart, my whole outlook changes.  

Choosing to trust is also key to joy.  "Radical trust" is an interesting way to look at it.  Radical trust is a choice to give our circumstances, our emotions, our heartaches, our pain, - and trust God to carry us through.  This trusting is a wondrous letting go... because I can't control it anyway.

And I'm learning - and it is a constant learning - that surrender, and letting go into the loving arms of  God whom I trust, believing God wants the very best for me; this is the pathway to freedom and joy.

So there you have it... my word for 2017!


Perhaps you have a word too?  I'd love to hear from you.

<3 Grace 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Prayers for a New Year

So I had two blog posts in my head... one a word I've been thinking about, a word I want to be my theme for this coming year.

But before I get to that... I was drawn to prayer, and praying for this gift of a New Year.

And so as I doodled the year 2017, I was drawn to prayer.

Years ago, as a little girl, our "Watch-Night" service, as we called our New Year's Eve Party at our little church always ended in prayer.

I remember those nights with fondness, church families gathering from young children to grandparents for a very fun night of games, and awesome food.

And then, a movie, of all things, a film reel, and we were all fascinated with this amazing technology that would allow us to watch a move in church, of all things!

And then as the old year came to a close we gathered in a circle, often little ones sleeping in their mother's arms, and we might sing a song or two, and then spend time praying.  And the New Year would be birthed in prayer.

I have to admit the long prayers often bored me, and I probably wasn't too engaged in the words.  But it was the Presence, the seeking of our God to give us wisdom and help us through the New Year that deeply moved me, and I remember it each year.

So as I drew these simple numbers which form our year, I thought of what I would pray for... and it isn't all about asking.    Part of prayer is just to acknowledge God's presence, to sit with God, to rest my heart.

As I think about this coming year, I pray for hope.  For many 2016 has not been an easy year.  We need hope to face an uncertain future.  And as our pastor spoke of this morning, we have a certainty that God is with us, even in an uncertain future.  That brings hope!

Our Advent season is complete, and I continue to pray for peace, for joy, for love.  Within my own heart, for those I love, for those I experience life with, for my community both local and global.

I pray for a life filled with faith, even when I might not fully grasp the mystery of it.

I pray for wisdom.  Wisdom that comes from the One who created me, not my own wisdom.

I pray for serenity.  I'm drawn again to the Serenity prayer, which I pray, often:
A good way to "pray in" the New Year:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference."
- Reinhold Neibuhr

Would you join with me in this prayer as we walk into this New Year?
with gratefulness,
<3 Grace