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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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

An Invitation

Last year I was inspired by my sister Cathy A.J. Hardy to draw this picture to illustrate her song "Come to the Table".

And today, Shrove Tuesday, can be a day of feasting, and many think of the traditional pancake supper!  We fill up before we fast!!

One of the precious things about my own faith journey in the last few years is that I have paid more attention to the rhythms of the church calendar.  Anything can become rote or meaningless, but I have found that as I pay close attention to these cycles, I am also drawn to the life of Jesus, whom I desire to follow.

So my take on Lent is a little different this year, perhaps not that traditional, but I have also searched to find meaning in these weeks leading up to Easter.  

I thought about how we focus on words over the four weeks of Christmas... Hope, Peace, Joy and Love...and because I love to focus on words, thought about which words would draw me into this coming season of Lent - preparing my heart for Easter.

So it is about invitation, and using the words of Jesus, He is the One who calls, who invites.  Some of His first words in his ministry were "Come, follow me!"  

And then in His beautiful words in his sermon on the mount, He says: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."    (Matthew 11:28)

So this God who loves, who became one of us in human flesh, invites us into relationship.  I always find this amazing.  Perhaps as we enter into this Lent season, instead of giving up something, we can focus on entering in, of accepting this invitation to relationship.

This is the gentle voice of the Shepherd, a picture Jesus uses to describe Himself, calling the sheep, wanting to care for them.  

So the first word I have chosen in these reflections is "Invitation".  I want to enter into this faith journey in a deeper way in these next weeks.  And if you care to join me, I'd be delighted!

Cathy's Music:  You can explore her music and work at http://cathyajhardy.com
or listen to her song here:  Come to the Table YouTube

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Politics and Religion

Politics and Religion.

I'm not a fan of either of these.

I probably should qualify that, but I am weary.  And I have a feeling I am not alone.

These are the topics that we joke shouldn't be discussed at a family gathering, and for the sake of all, this is a good point.

However, if one is connected to a news source (or a fake news source) or a news feed, or in everyday conversations, it seems that we are fed daily doses of both.

Much of the conversation is partisan...  and there is this constant draw to "take sides"... and even those in the Christian community are deeply divided and this saddens me.

I've been pondering these things often these last weeks, and this came to me... that God does not need our protection or our defense.

This is nothing new, of course, but I believe there is this urge for self-preservation, and to protect what we believe, what we hold dear.  Sometimes those beliefs are grounded more in tradition and in the values we hold on to.  

I am convinced that when we take sides we dull the real message that Christ proclaimed, which was to love one another.  Christ broke down barriers, he spent time with the disadvantaged, and he questioned the "religious right", who wanted to make sure everyone else did it right too.  They were called Pharisees in his day.

Many of us have grown up in a faith culture that is based on fear not love. I see the need to protect our own self interests, which we can begin to interpret as "God-interests",  and really that is where the splintering of the church begins. No wonder so many... and I meet them every week... are turned off of institutionalized church.  When I think of the glory of heaven, which we can only imagine, there will be NO denominations, no fracturing, just sweet harmony. 

Before I point any fingers, I know I am guilty of the same.  Trying to protect my faith, the way I practice my faith,  my values, and focusing energy on defending my position.

I've been wondering what God sees in all of this... somehow I don't think God would be conservative or liberal, republican or democrat or any other label.... God looks at our hearts.  How do we treat one another?  Do we show respect?  How do we care for the poor, the sick,  the marginalized, the disadvantaged?  Are we busy protecting our own self-interests rather than protecting the those who are persecuted and defenseless?

I was drawn to the word "Protection" this week, and as I've pondered it, I realize that the safest place I can be is close to God, hiding under those feathers, as the Psalmist so picturesquely describes it.  I need protection from myself at times, from falling into the trap that I've found the "right way"... that my interpretations of scripture and of God are the correct ones.

God cannot be put into a box.  When I think with awe about the supremacy of God, the majesty of creation, I am small indeed.  God does not need my defense.

Instead we receive an invitation... to follow Christ, to enter into the rhythms of grace and forgiveness and love.  I am again inspired to change my focus.

In the weeks to come, I hope to spend some time on the journey of lent... not so much a giving up, but a fresh entering into a spiritual life that enters into the life of Christ.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Power of Words

Recently I was excited to go have a spa treatment and receive a pedicure. I had never visited this lady before and hoped I would be feeling terrific after some foot pampering.

The visit didn't go so well.  After telling me how young I looked (that was a bonus!), she proceed to find a number of challenges with my feet.  I won't bore you with the details.  It went downhill from there... she started to massage my feet and informed me she was practicing reflexology... something I had not asked for... (and suspected she was not licensed for), and then shared with me the various parts of my body that were toxic... it was quite the list.

I was then informed that I would likely feel ill after this "treatment" because of the flushing of the toxins, and I was dismayed... I had dressed up, looking forward to going out, and hoping to feel like a million bucks.

Instead I left, feeling more like two cents worth....

I had to process that.  And tell myself some truth.  And I did not get sick.

As well-intentioned as she might have been, her "words" were devastating to me.

I was reminded again, (and this was a very good lesson for me) how the words we speak are powerful and can impact others.

I recall in recent months someone coming up to me and telling me how tired I looked.

Immediately, I felt tired.  And started to evaluate how I really felt....

On a brighter note, there are so many who are encouragers.  I received a beautiful note today, thanking me for something I had done.  I was touched by the fact they would take time to write me, a relative stranger, and bless me with their words.

The words "I love you" or "I appreciate you" are precious words, and when I hear them my heart is blessed!  And I hope I bless others with encouraging words that bring life and lift the spirit.

I think about this, as I visit many who are sick and discouraged.  My words can be powerful, for good or bad.  When one is sick or depressed, it is challenging to look one's best.

But one can always find truthful positive things to say... like admiring one's smile, or cheerful attitude, or something about the room that is cheery.

Our whole physical demeanor can change when we are fed positive information.  It can feed those positive hormones like serotonin that help us to be calm and peaceful.

As I thought about this further, I was reminded about the awkwardness of words after a bereavement.  I have experienced this first hand, and have talked to many people who have experienced awkward conversation or even worse... no conversation at all.  "I know exactly how you feel" is one response that is NOT helpful to one who is in great pain or grief.  "They are in a better place", while it may be true, is very painful to hear.

Others don't know what to say, and avoid the griever all together.  As one who has heard these painful stories, I want to encourage people to not be afraid to have those conversations.  One can always be honest and say "I don't understand your pain, but I want you to know I care."

Words do matter.  The old saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." is a lie.  We all have a choice of how we receive what we are told - acknowledging that there might be very good intentions, and to receive words with grace.  I was reminded that I often have to sift through what I am hearing, and ask, is this true?  Do I receive it?

So a challenging experience for me really turned out to be a good thing.  I'm taking better care of my feet, for one!  :-)

I am also reminded to use the filter of love when I speak.  Is it thoughtful?  Is it true?  Is it kind?  Is it necessary? Will it lift up or bring down?

I like that thought.  To live life through a filter of love.  Good words...

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Everyday Joy

Everyday Joy

Joy was the word I chose for 2017. Now 39 days in, it is something I'm choosing to practice, everyday.

Melancholy was a word once used to describe my personality, I'd rather go with thoughtful and sensitive!

I've long admired those sanguine types, whose happy countenance seems to spread joy wherever they tread.

And I know that having an Eeyore type personality while wishing to be Winnie the Poo is not productive!

No, joy comes from a deep acceptance of how God has wired me, with plenty of grace for those who are different.

So how to practice joy, in the everyday?

My girlfriend inspired me to start a joy journal, and each day I write down three moments of joy. I also write down joy quotes from what I've been reading.

Which sets me on a joy quest every day!!

Yesterday the joy was lovely, for we spied a hummingbird fluttering just outside the patio of the home where we are holidaying. And then it settled into the tiniest nest I'd ever seen!!

I recognized that the hummingbird bird had been there all along, and us here a week!  But I had not noticed. It spoke to me again of the presence of God, our Creator, always present. But am I attentive enough to notice, to be aware?

I also came across this verse from an ancient prophet, Habakkuk, this week, about joy. The word that stood out to me was "YET". No matter what the day holds, I can choose joy, and look for those joy moments.

"Yet I will be joyful in the Lord, I will rejoice in God my Saviour". -Habakkuk 3:18

Saturday, February 4, 2017

On being a woman, thoughts from the Heart ❤️

I've been watching.

I've been listening and reading and observing.

I have felt great sadness and I know I'm not alone.

As I watched women march, and men march with them in solidarity, all over the world, I thought about why they were marching. I knew that my beliefs and convictions would not line up with some of them, particularly the more militant.

But I am learning to use my voice. And if women would not have spoken out over the last century, we would not have a vote. We would not have had the opportunities to work and serve along side men.

Not every one is a leader, however I have known I am, and others have affirmed this, for many years. Coming from a culture where women didn't lead, particularly in the church, I found other ways to use my gifts.

Then came my own awakening, if you will, and an amazing spiritual journey where I first had to become broken; to see my own humanity, my faults and weaknesses. It was only in accepting myself as I was and embracing all that I was, seeing myself through the loving eyes of God, could I begin to truly follow my calling.

It would be easier to be silent. I know that my words must be motivated by love.

But as I see the oppression, and the falsehoods, masked as truth, as I see the protectionism of keeping things that are not truly ours, I want to cry out with passion.

Back to the women's march. Some I know, believe this was a march against the pro-life movement.   For some who marched this might have been true.

But I believe the majority marched for dignity of women, women who don't want to be degraded. We have reacted to the words of one who bullies, who calls down, who makes fun of. Someone who shows no respect for women, for the refugee, for those who might think differently. At least THAT is what disturbed me greatly.

Oh I am very pro-life. But that being said, I want to be pro ALL of life, to care for those who are disadvantaged, for the poor, for the refugee. To listen to the stories of those who struggle. To be compassionate. And I believe with all of my heart that this is biblical, following the example and teaching of Jesus.

It is not easy to be a woman in leadership.  Never in my dreams did I envision doing what I do.  And I do it with a feminine voice. I don't need to be a man. And my male friends and colleagues support me and challenge me and encourage me.

The days leading up to my ordination were peppered with my own self-doubt.  But the word I believe God impressed upon my heart was YES!  Yes to the Creator I love, the One who wired me, who called me to have a voice.  And the day came with joy-overflowing.

 It also came with a real sense of commission, there is work to be done.

I've often thought of the words of Queen Esther in the Old Testament. Now there was a woman of courage who lived in a repressive patriarchal culture.  She too was called, and her response was that she had been created for times like these.... and she became the catalyst to save her Jewish people.

I've often thought, this is the world I have been born into, the time God has allowed me and you to be part of history. How will we live our lives?

I believe we are all called, and as I feel urged to put down words, and even share them, (which scares me at times), I want to be true to that calling, to the God I love.

Part of that calling is to live thoughtfully, listening to and respecting others around us. It is to live prayerfully, asking for wisdom and discernment, listening to the voice of the One who loves us. It is to live a life of love, also seeking justice and mercy for those who do not have a voice.

May God help us all!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Night Watch

It is overrated

At least I tell that
To my tired body
When my mind refuses
to shut down.

Oh, I've tried all the
Chamomile tea
hot milk
essential oils
I have an arsenal!

I know I'm not
I've heard the stories

But in the dark hours of
The night
It's just me
And my thoughts

Night sounds
Drift through
I hear traffic
The distant howl
Of the coyotes
And the quiet
of the wind.

I play games
In my mind
Working through
The alphabet
Finding words of gratitude

And then I think
What a better time to

I pray for those
In hospital
Those in pain
physical or mental

I pray for the helpers
working through
night hours
Nurses, paramedics
And others who take care of our world
In the night.

I pray for those who rise early
Truck drivers
Newspaper carriers
Those we take for granted
In our daily rhythms

I pray for my grand babies
And imagine them
Heavy in sleep
Curled up in their little beds
And pray for their parents
Who wake with them
At moments
(Too many I often hear!)
Through the night...

I give thanks for my warm bed
My slumbering husband
My safe house

And often
I find myself
Awake from sleep
I did it!
Grateful another day
has begun.

"I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel, 
and in the night watches he instructs my heart. "
Psalm 16:6