A Different Kind of Trust

 

I stabbed the unsterilized pin into my thumb, then squeezed it until I was rewarded with a small blob of blood. With a scrunched face and a small squeal, my girlfriend followed suit.

We triumphantly held up our bloodied thumbs, then pressed them together. We were blood sisters forever!

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As an adult, I cringe at the memory of the unsterilized pin and the possible exchange of viruses or whatever else we could have contracted that day. But we were only eight and we’d seen a similar blood ceremony in a movie. That day, however, was the start of a long sisterhood and a close bond that lasted through making forts behind sofas to giggling about boyfriends in high school. We trusted each other implicitly and would never have knowingly hurt each other. We would have sacrificed a hundred date nights than to have stood idly by watching pain enter each other’s lives.

I’ve since discovered even more of a trusting and protective relationship between my husband and I. Our soul aim within our relationship is to try and make each other happy and secure.

But yesterday I was reminded of the most important relationship of my life. I strode into my friend’s hospital room, and was greeted by the radiant smile of my sister in God. She had been in and out of the hospital for years with infections due to circulatory problems. Last year after a few toes had been amputated on her left foot, she lost her whole foot and ankle. Now she is facing more amputations on her right foot. But through it all, her faith remains strong. Of course there were tears, especially when she told me about her son who hadn’t visited for two years. God promised that there would be problems in this life, but He also promised He would never abandon us, and would always walk through trials with us.

Learning how to trust God through trials takes me back to another story, this time, from my teen years. I worked at a stable in exchange for riding lessons. One horrible night, I smelled smoke in the hallway of the barn. While a few people raced to battle the blaze in the feed room, others ran to evacuate the horses.

One horse refused to budge from his stall. There was smoke funnelling down the hallway and all his senses told him that his stall was the only secure place. I hauled at his halter, but when a thousand pound animal sets its feet against a hundred pound girl, there is no contest. It was only when I covered his eyes with my sweater that he allowed me to lead him through the smoke. When he arrived with the rest of the horses outside the smoky barn and I took off his blindfold, he immediately settled down.

Similarly, we have to relinquish control and walk ahead by blind faith alone at times of trials. When there is pain in our lives, we have to trust that God has a master plan for it all. If we could see our lives from beginning to end, we wouldn’t receive gifts like faith, and hope.

My friends earn my trust by not hurting me or allowing pain to enter my life. However trusting God is a different kind of trust. God isn’t interested in protecting me from all pain – he has a much bigger goal in mind. As a parent, I do understand that to shelter my kids from pain is to not allow them to grow stronger as adults. And unfortunately pain is often God’s tool to increase my faith in Him. Like the blindfolded horse that had to relinquish control to walk through the smoke, I too have to trust that His plan is the best, even if it hurts.

After all, this world isn’t our home, and God isn’t in the business of making us comfortable and happy here. If nothing else, pain is a reminder that I’m not meant to handle life’s trials alone.

Here is my gift to you! If you haven’t heard Laura Story’s song Blessings, you are in for a treat. Have a listen!

 

 

 

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The Best Pain

“No Mike.” I smiled at my older brother. “You don’t toss away your daily devotionals at the end of the year. You merely turn back to the first page again.”

Mike has had about 35 years of debilitating health issues, including deteriorating liver, liver transplant, stroke and more recently, constant seizures. Even though his faith has remained strong, Mike has become like a confused child again. But nonetheless, he is my spiritual inspiration and the reason I kick my own butt when I feel life gets tough.

I showed him my devotionals that had a few pencilled stars beside the text where I’d found some particularly appropriate points or scriptures. I explained that each year different things popped out at me depending on what I was going through.

“Oh… whoops!” He grinned at his own dog-eared leather-bound books that had parts completely highlighted and underlined, with notes written in pen in the margins.

“No worries, Mike. You can still use them. And here’s another I think you’ll enjoy! Merry Christmas!”

His devotion to his devotionals was inspiring. Every day he started out communing with God. No matter what he was doing or what day it was, he still made the time.

My devotionals had a conspicuously reduced number of pencilled stars from about November on to the beginning of January. Even though Christmas was the time I should be drawing closer to Jesus, I seemed to drift from my routine of pulling Him into my day.

But here I am once again, humbled, and seeking strength and guidance for upcoming projects and family issues for 2016. As much as I hate to admit, most of my growth doesn’t come from when I’m on the mountain tops where everything is going well, it’s in the valleys where I’m struggling.

My brother’s constant health issues have been the reason for his spiritual walk. He knows he can’t do it alone, and he knows God is between him and his problems.

Of course, this morning I put a star on my devotional that reminded me that my path will be of multiple failures and stresses along with some hopeful successes. But each failure is followed by a spiritual growth spurt and my increased reliance on Him.

So, the best pain? That’s easy, it’s when I am overwhelmed and at a loss of where to turn next. And I find Him there waiting for me as always. In addition, I seek out quiet places, turn on music, jump in my hot tub, go for a walk, and just rest in His grace.

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Can you tell me what you do when life dumps on you?

 

 

Lessons From a Seventy-Five-Year-Old Musher

… And a top skiing instructor, and an extreme landscaper, and a backcountry horseman (in the 1940’s when most women did NOT do that).

Yes, of course, this is one and the same person – my mom!

As mentioned, in the 1940’s, when most of my mom’s friends were learning the fine art of sewing, doing kitchen duties and catering to their husband’s every need, Mom was kicking around on her horse in the B.C. backcountry when she wasn’t teaching gym to kids. She wanted to visit family in Vancouver 300 miles away approximately, so off she went (in her twenties) on her horse without a second thought, with some grain for her and her horse to eat, beef jerky, and a general idea of how to get there. Did I mention there were no roads? Seven days later she and her horse wandered into Vancouver no worse for wear, visited for a few days, then turned around and went home again. No problem!

mom and horse

As a small child, I assumed that every kid’s mom was able to man-handle 100 pound slabs of rock from the hills surrounding our place to put into landscaping. (She was only about 5’4 ) We lived on three acres that contained barns, horse pastures, fish ponds, huge multilevelled barbecue areas, ravines, and lake frontage to romp around in. Normal stuff, I thought.

Then, I remember, when I was about seven, skiing with family while mom taught others to ski. She’d started skiing when she was about 50, but as her indomitable nature dictated, she excelled quickly then was hired to teach at our local mountain. She has been hailed as one of the best teachers to have hit the mountain, even to this day!

Later, my parents, in their seventies, lived in a cabin by a small lake above our town. No running water, outdoor biffy, and bears for neighbours. My kids’ earliest memories were of tobogganing by the cabin in the winter, and fishing on the lake in the summer. Mom owned two siberian huskies that pulled her around on a sleigh in the winter. These dogs were obstinate pullers by nature, but were as calm and obedient on the leash as any citified dog.

How?

Mom twisted their leashes over their backs, around their middles and through their hind legs. So… uhm, pulling for these male dogs was not an option on the leash. Ingenious, right? This allowed mom to take them on lengthy strolls through the woods by herself.

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Mom has always had a quiet, get-things-done nature with no negative thoughts on her situation or other people. Don’t think for a second that our family has always been blessed with good health and prosperity. We have had our share of tragedies with finances, health and relationships, but with everything she showed a humble determination to simply work through obstacles, and when you couldn’t, you worked with what you had left. Let go and let God, was her steadfast motto. She introduced me to my faith and showed me where her strength comes from.

She is now celebrating her 97th birthday and is going strong.
Elsie Wilson is the ultimate hard act to follow!!

Love you to the moon and back, Mom!!!

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Picking Weeds

Saturday my husband and I spent several hours working in our yard on the first really good weekend yard-work-day yet this year.2005-04-12 17.53.16

We breathed a sigh of relief to see the harsh winter and the mid-March four plus inches of snow and the several hard frosts that followed had not laid waste to the spring flowers that had bravely erupted from the ground in early March.

Many green shoots that promised beautiful flowers yet to come surrounded a few early bloomers.

2005-04-12 17.53.22The grass had finally escaped the ugly winter-brown dreariness and embraced the green-green that follows spring rains. By next week we’ll have to mow.

Then I noticed the weeds. Seriously?

And not just one. But quite a few. Not quite enough to be called many but still enough to be annoying. Certainly more than I hoped to see, and way more than I expected to find as it seemed far too early for their pesky presence.

“At least the weather’s nice,” I consoled myself as I got busy. As I lamented at how easily weeds—that no one plants or tends to—pop up, I resigned myself that even now, at the very start of the season, I’d have to give “weed picking” a plac2005-04-12 17.54.49e in my already busy schedule.

When my children were younger, they were afforded the pleasure of assisting in getting rid of the weeds. As my middle-school-aged son plucked weeds in an especially weedy section of landscaping, he sighed. “How much longer do we have to pick weeds?”

Laughing, I corrected his verb usage. “We pick flowers, but we pull weeds.”

“But how many more weeds do we have to pick?”

“All of them,” was my most unpopular answer.

2005-04-12 17.53.49Saturday, as I determined to rid the landscaping of weeds while trying to ignore the complaints from my bum knee and touchy lower back, my thoughts turned to how easily pesky habits and traits—just like said weeds—can creep into our lives.

Bad attitudes

Impatience

Wasting time

Overindulgence in any number of things

Selfishness

Priority shifts

I noticed the weeds were especially prominent in the places where the mulch had disintegrated to nothing, and my husband’s promise that THIS year we WOULD replenish the mulch pinged through my brain. Not only do I like the look of a heavy layer of mulch, it cuts way down on the number of weeds.

Hmm… kind of like how regular time spent in GOD’s word and in prayer covers our lives in a layer of protection, making us less vulnerable to the sometimes little, sometimes big things that steal into our hearts and minds. Bothersome stuff that jabs at our witness and pummels our resolve not to mention our effectiveness at being salt and light to this hurting world.

I learned the hard way that weekly “weed picking” is definitely the way to go as a few weeds are unquestionably easier to deal with than an infestation of weeds. Unless I don’t care if my plants and flowers are attacked, overrun and choked out by weeds. Which is not the case. Because I do care.

I care even more about how my life reflects the love of Christ. Does knowing me push people toward OR away from knowing HIM?

I’ve decided that as I tend in a timely fashion to the weeds this spring and summer, I’ll use that time to reflect on the bigger issue of the weeds in my life. As I “pick weeds” from the landscaping, I’ll be searching my mind and heart and life for weeds I can toss from my life.

Here’s to gorgeous landscaping and a life that reflects the fullness of GOD’s love and grace!

Hop aboard the Faith-Based-Movie bandwagon!

I guess you could say I’ve hopped on the support-faith-based-movies bandwagon and plan to stay aboard.

I’ve been so excited about the success of the faith-based movie “Old Fashioned” that premiered over Valentine’s Day 1531667_870090766371256_7520934718922429915_nweekend. Dubbed the “little film that could” by producer/director/writer and lead actor Rik Swartzwelder, the movie’s opening weekend broke box-office records for a faith-based film (under 300 screens). The movie continues to open in new cities weeks after its premier weekend.

While many assumed the multiple roles Swartzwelder took on had to do with a lack of funding, he actually auditioned for the lead role of Clay.

The mainstream media would have us believe Swartzwelder only recently bounced onto the movie scene and in response to the highly touted big screen premiere of E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Neither assumption is true.

As Soncee Brown Partida discovered while interviewing Swartzwelder

“Rik Swartzwelder is no stranger to the entertainment business. As a college student in Florida he created Studio 13, a live sketch comedy/improvisation show that ended up playing to exclusively sold-out audiences for the entire two-and-a-half years he was its primary writer, director, and featured performer. He has an M.F.A. in Motion Picture Production from Florida State University, and more than 50 major awards for his work as a Writer/Producer/Director. Nearly ten years in the making, Old Fashioned is clearly more than just another project to Rik Swartzwelder – it’s his labor of love.”

11035292_871610902885909_4700098698302888467_nOriginally scheduled to open in mid-2014, Swartzwelder nixed those plans when he saw the announcement that “Fifty Shades of Grey” would release Valentine’s Day 2015 as a mainstream, romantic date night option. He was stopped in his tracks and describes it as a “moment when the skies part and you hear the choir of angels singing in the background”. The realization dawned that “Old Fashioned” was made for “such a time as this.”

Having begun the project long before the existence of “Fifty Shades”, Swartzwelder never dreamed of the David vs. Goliath type drama he and his film would be embroiled in.

Ten years in the making… That’s a long time.

This fact caught my attention as I’m 5+ years working on a young adult Christian fiction series whose high school characters grapple with issues of love and intimacy, abstinence and renewed abstinence in today’s sex crazed world.

I so appreciated Swartzwelder’s comments

“…when it comes to issues of intimacy or sex, we are terrified of being perceived as judgmental. So we don’t want to make comments on anything, because we don’t want to be a joke on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. We don’t want to be a punchline or be written off as out of touch or just judgmental or condemning.”

I can identify with those feelings but agree with Swartzwelder’s conclusion—

“If the Church is so afraid of being laughed at, or having to bow down and have pop culture sort of affirm us, that we’re can’t even offer an example for that young girl to follow, or that young man who’s growing up, then what’s the purpose of us even being on the planet?”

Amen and amen.

Thanks, Mr. Swartzwelder, for not giving up… for believing in your story… for being obedient to GOD’s timing.

We’ve grown weary of perusing movie rental sites and the cable/satellite TV offerings for the rare less than “R” rated film. I’m praying that the response to “Old Fashioned” will inspire more faith-based films to pursue the oft-times long, rock-strewn journey to the big screen. And I vow to be more supportive of those that make it to either TV or CFDb-Banner-300-x-250the big screen.

I was thrilled to discover the Christian Films Database (CFDb) chock full of information on upcoming TV and theatre movies  including release dates, in-depth reviews and previews. Easily searchable by genre, category, even film format as well as month of release and TV vs. theatre, the site is a comprehensive source of information.

CFDb led me to ccinema_cfdb-2ChristianCinema.com offering plans for buying, renting or streaming faith-affirming, family-approved movies. It appears to operate similar to NetFlix. I will definitely be looking into the details on this great as faith-based films often are not widely released or considered popular enough to be stocked at rental outlets.

Let’s not give up on Christians making an impact on our world but rather get behind cinematic attempts to share truth and light.

What upcoming movies are you looking forward to seeing?

I’m Religious

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Little Gretchen in her Sunday best. Circa 1979.

There, I said it. I unashamedly call myself a Christian, an adherent to the Christian religion. I love the word religion. It ties me to something a faith, a tradition, a person, Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. And I love religious things – dressing up, wearing a cross necklace or charm that shows my faith, hymns, prayer, churches, stained glass, creeds, liturgy.

Growing up, church was a sacred event. It was a time to wear your Sunday best, sit quietly, and have a reverent attitude. We attended a mainline Protestant denomination church until I was in eighth grade. Typically my family attended with my grandparents at their small white church that looked like a postcard. My other grandparents belonged to a different church in the same denomination, and I sometimes went to church and Sunday school with them. Usually when Dad had to work on a Sunday. We sang hymns from the late 1960s red hymnal and occasionally pulled out the older black hymnal. Each service had order. There was “Gloria Patri”, responsive reading, silent prayer, a pastoral prayer, recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, “The Doxology”, scripture reading, and a sermon. For some, that would have been stifling. But for me it was beautiful. I was somewhere holy.

Since then, I’ve attended several evangelical churches over the years and various moves. All of them similar. Singing. Prayer. Sermon. While I still dress up, sing, pray, and enjoy the sermon, it’s harder for me to truly worship.  Something is missing. It’s the formality. Singing hymns all the way through. Reciting creeds or scripture. Saying The Lord’s Prayer. “Gloria Patri” and “The Doxology”. I know there are a lot of people who don’t get much out of responsive reading. But I do. It’s how I worship. Like saying the Pledge of Allegiance demonstrates my patriotism, saying The Apostle’s Creed affirms my faith.

There have been several articles about Millennials in the church spanning the spectrum of faith. One article on one end mentioned Millennials were drawn to the beautiful old churches, liturgy, and reverent hymns. At the other end, an article spoke about how Millennials aren’t drawn in by “hip” rock-and-roll churches. These are my interpretation, but I think I captured the intent. Maybe peppy praise choruses and full bands aren’t always what young people want. Some may want to step somewhere separate from everyday.

In an effort not to place emphasis on repeating words that may be taken as a “sounding gong” or considering religious jewelry and ornate stained glass as idols, the modern evangelical church has swung the pendulum to its opposite arc. We now have loud music, Starbucks, and blue jeans in church. I’m not saying this is wrong, but there’s a place for hymns, Lifesavers, and dresses. Recite the Apostle’s creed or Nicene creed and set the keyboard to “organ” and sing all four verses of a beloved hymn. As for pantyhose they can remain a relic of the twentieth century. And when there’s 6 inches of snow on the ground, I’m wearing pants and knee-high boots.

My favorite part of worship is responsive reading. What is yours?