Upon Examination

jun26“I won’t take any advise from someone unless I know their spiritual life.” Her voice was stern, determined, with an unswayable undertone that made my fingertips grip my mouse tighter. There were a couple of empty tables between the couple and myself, yet even with the coffee grinder whirling and the chatter of baristas, I could hear her words clearly.

“I won’t take any advise from someone unless I know their spiritual life.”

I don’t mean to be eavesdropping. There really is no excuse. As a writer who has taken several writing courses that encourages to observe the people, the stories happening in our ordinary spaces, I tend to ‘tune’ into conversations without a lot of effort. Mostly I pay attention to ‘sound bites’, clips of words that my imagination can expand on as well as voice inflections and speech patterns.

Sometimes though a conversation heightens all my senses.

I know I don’t ever get the full-story.

But the words, the clips can cause me to pause enough to grab my pen or open Scrivener on my lap top.

“She’s teaching about mindset and how most of our problems have to do with mindset…I won’t take advise from anyone unless I know their Christian….”

“Even if a doctor says it’s depression and gives advise how to deal with it but I won’t take advise from her unless I know her spiritual direction…”

Later asking the Mexican barista…”I’m going to Mexico and want to teach these people about God….”

Leaving the cafe, commenting to her companion…”well I don’t care….”

I don’t hear the words clearly, and could be mistaken, but the tone is dismissive.

And a story idea begins to form.

Christian fiction writer, Ted Dekker, teaches that our character’s journey in the stories we write can explore our own faith questions.

So I found myself typing out the questions…

What would happen if a Christian never took advise from someone they did not see as ‘spiritual enough?’ Is that obeying or disobeying God? Would our lives be richer or smaller?

Currently I do take advise from others that are not of my faith, my trust often secured by their expertise from academia, experience and/or referral. My physician, nutritional counsellors, professional fitness trainers to name a few.

However, it can be tough to know what information is really true, to take in and apply when it flies at us from so many directions like a snow squall.

Life can be complicated that way, can’t it?

Recently my bible study led me to Paul’s journey to Berea.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11

And I pondered about the teachings of Jesus– would I have listened and accepted this new view being presented? Or been angry? Even dismissive?

Or eager like the Berean Jews?

Although they did not just take in Paul’s word and believe.

These listeners also examined the Scriptures evaluating Paul’s sermons for themselves so they could trust or dismiss his teachings.

And, I imagine, the many that became believers must have been quite delighted to come to the conclusion that is was all true!

As a result, many of them believed, as did a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. Acts 17:12

To even listen in the first place to Paul and Silas, they would have had an open-mind to these two teachers that wandered into town and into their place of worship.

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They listened with eagerness AND discerning hearts, putting into practice Paul’s teachings that we read in Colossians.

So see to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world, rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8

Carefully they examined Paul’s words against the scriptures they’d been studying and knew to be true.  I imagine, too, being already very familiar with scripture, they would have had the word hidden in their hearts as taught by Psalms.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

We are taught well how to evaluate spiritual teachings .

We are to be open-minded and eager to listen. However, we are to verify and evaluate comparing what we hear with with what we know is true–God’s word in scriptures.

And the more we know the trust worthy source of The Word the more we are safeguarded against false-teachings.

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

As for never taking advise from others, even doctors, that do not share our spiritual believes like the cafe lady I eavesdropped on…? Hmm… I may just follow Ted Dekker’s advise and explore the concept through fiction! Do you think it would make a compelling story?

Lynn J Simpson, Author/Coach/Photographer at Inspiring Hope in You

Linking up this week with #TellHisStory

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Let’s talk about romance

 

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Love is not always agreement with someone, but it is always sacrifice for someone. Ann Voskamp, The Way of Abundance

Slipping on my headphones I stepped out into the sunshine of the spring day, leaving the paperwork behind for about an hour or so I presumed. I pressed the shuffle command, which I’d done many times before when taking these neighbourhood walks. But this was the first time (honestly don’t remember this song ever being part of my playlist) that Joshua Kadison’s voice graced my ears.

“You’re beautiful in my eyes…”

Memories, pictures of another time flowed through my mind. A time of a romance decades ago now, that was full of all those romantic things–flowers, poetry, songs, and stolen moments with Kadison’s voice in the background, amplifying the feelings.

The relationship wasn’t right for many reasons. Ended with a sadness. A sadness though, that was wrapped in peace. A peaceful knowing it was the right thing to do.

As I walk in singleness, these moments of jolted memories can tug my heart and I’ll wonder if my heart can even produce a sliver of romance anymore, it’s been so long.  In The Way of Abundance-A 60 Day Journey Into A Deeply Meaningful Life, Ann Voskamp questions what her husband is doing up on that ladder fixing the eaves and he responds “Loving you.”

Loving in an everyday romantic way.

I’ll see this in my friend’s relationships. This loving in the everyday romantic way. It’s shown in buying the right type of coffee, or carrying the passports while traveling, or typing the address into the GPS before their wives head out the door, alone. It’s in early morning devotions together (even though he’s not a morning person), in putting her dishes away in the dishwasher without grumbling, or placing her keys on the new key rack he just mounted (as he is hoping to eliminate helping her find her misplaced keys).

And I’m sure you can think of many more everyday romantic ways that say “Loving you.”

I do rejoice in seeing and hearing about these ‘Loving you,” gestures among my married and dating friends. Yet, sometimes there can be a tug of green envy at my heart, maybe even a little hardening too, to deflect the possible arrow of those unworthiness lies.

But I don’t want to grow a hard heart.

For from a hard heart, not only can one not receive, one cannot give either.

A generous person will prosper;
whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:12 

A friend reminded me the other day of the heart of Jesus. This man who was never married.

This man who’s every moment in his ministry said, “Loving you.”

“He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm resided and all was calm.” Loving you. (Luke 8:24)

“Daughter your faith has healed you.” Loving you. Luke 8:48

“Women you are set free from your infirmity.” Loving you. Luke 13:12

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Loving you. John 4:13

Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”  Loving you.  John 8:10-11

And the ultimate sacrifice. A life given. Loving you.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. Loving you. 1 John 3:167 

Everyday, know my friend, no matter your marital status, no matter the disappointments and struggles in your relationships, there is His Love Song that amplifies the message of Loving You more than any other can.

And you’re always beautiful through His eyes.

You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. Song of Songs 4:7

Linking up with #TellHisStory Visit other inspiring writers!

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Fly–Five Minute Friday Prompt

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Visit for other inspiring authors at FMF Link-Up at Kate Motaung

This post is part of #FMF link up–Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a freewrite, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write. 

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He sits perched on the floating branch fallen from one of the maple trees that line the river bank. I watch from my own perch, where I’ve come to pray in an attempt to slow, to ponder, to be still in His presence.

Decisions, possibilities swirl through my mind, and it is only when I gaze at the sparrow’s presence, the bird’s still wings while it sits upon its perch that my mind finally stills.

I watch and wait, light sounds of the river’s water, and the rustling of tree branches above me, from winds unseen, yet heard, grace my senses.

My eyes follow the sparrow as it takes it flight, flies from it’s unsteady perch in moving waters and rises up and up, finally resting in a Manitoba Maple tree’s branch that points west attached to a trunk that is sturdy and steady.

I rise from my own perch, steadying myself on uneven turf with the help of reaching a hand against the sturdy tree that resides beside me.

I steady with the knowing there’s Another that I can lean on that resides beside me, within me.

Always.

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Never Crushed

Each post this month of April will be a Devotional on the security we have in God. My hope is that God will use these words to encourage you on your daily paths.

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“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthian 4:8-9

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The delicate orchid flowers have adapted to grow in the cool tundra of the sub-arctic to the heat of the deserts in Arabia and Australia. Most bloom in harsh rainforest environments where the orchids large roots can quickly absorb nutrients and water, as well as store water to be resilient during potentially harmful dry periods. Orchids are also known to have symbiotic relationships with fungi to provide nourishment, protecting them from perishing.

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God has designed the orchid to adapt to environments that appear too difficult to survive. Yet He has given them all they need to thrive where they are planted. We too, can be secure that God has given us all we need to not be crushed, struck down, or destroyed. We are nourished with the living water of His words. He protects us from our enemies. He relieves us of our pressures when we cast our anxieties on Him. And we are never alone, secure in His love for us, and His promise of life eternal.

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I’m having Coffee For Your Heart with my friend Holley Gerth!

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An overwhelming promise

 

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is His faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

“I’ve been making major decisions on my own for 20 years now. Why am I so fearful right now that I might be forgetting something? Maybe even making this situation worse?” I pulled my knees up to my chest, stared at my phone pocketed in the white duvet of my bed, it’s speaker icon highlighted.

I had just finished a week where nights were sleepless tossing, and the days hours were dealing with the aftermath of a theft that had me gripped in a fragile vulnerability.

A fragile vulnerability that had left me awake with worry, fear and aloneness.

Worry that more misfortune was to come; fear that I may have forgotten to do something to get the situation under control; and feeling alone in dealing with it all, alone.

Later, my phone off and silent, I found myself drawn to open my Book to Psalms, resting on David’s story when he fled Jerusalem, from his son Absalom and his men.

But you Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. Psalm 3:3-4

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Even though David was fleeing for his life, and all seemed to be going wrong for him, he lifted his head high, and called out to the Lord in confidence that God was still with him.

I lie down and sleep, I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though ten thousands assail me on every side. Psalm 3:5-6

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Even with an army gathering, and his son rebelling against him, David chose not to fear and slept peacefully with the assurance that God was in control.

He did not worry or fear, give into the overwhelming feelings that can come when everything seems to be going wrong. Instead, he rested at night in the assurance of God’s promise of being a ‘shield around me’, always.

He rested in the knowing He was never alone in His battles.

He rested in the knowing of God’s unfailing love, that sustains and flows from Him no matter the circumstances.

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Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are God; may your good Spirit lead me on ground level. Psalm 143:8-10

May you know this Valentine’s Day, my friend, that nothing can overwhelm or consume God’s love for you.  No circumstances is bigger than the One whose compassion and faithfulness is yours, as His beloved.

Always.

 “You are altogether beautiful my darling, beautiful in every way.” Song of Songs 4:7

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making a Difference

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Lifeless leaves in colours of blood and coffee on a dusty foot path crush beneath my worn hikers. I pull my wool hat lower over my ears with one mittened hand, the other grips my camera. Ahead, I know, is a low lying bridge, over a cheerless pond, just four steps wide and seven steps to the other side. 

I’ve been here before, on this trail in this national park close to my home. Been here too, during the times of chirping frogs and singing sparrows. 

But today, under a silvery sky, the life sounds seem hushed. And this feels right. As my brother of only a few years longer in life than me, was recently stilled and silenced.  His path moved now beyond this world.

You can read the rest at Time with Tandy  where I had the pleasure of being a guest blogger! 

My apologies for not being at your places this week. I had technical security issues I needed to sort out for my online presence. God bless! 

 

Stepping the Way

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The wind was gentle on this particular late summer morning. It was a Saturday. My eyes cast downwards at grass clipped short, scanning for the entry.

My journal entry an hour later:

Walked in and decided the entry was not what was laid out. The path was wrong. The start was three steps in, passing two blocked paths on the right. Should not the opening to the circle been the first step in? Took a step clockwise in the direction the lines laid out and then decided to go differently for the heck of it and stepped over a line to start in the opposite direction-counter clockwise.

So I decided what was the right way to go, and then realized my mistake 20 minutes later.

The start point was right all along.

As I took each tentative step I wondered if the circular, meandering path really did lead me out eventually or would I get caught up in it’s loop forever? I wanted to step out completely a few times. I didn’t trust the design. 

Could I trust the designer? 

Do I trust the Designer? 

“I realized how much I still want to be in control. Crazy because if I would have just followed the path as it was laid out, I wouldn’t have been so anxious and enjoyed the walk and beauty all around me.”

The facilitator of our weekend retreat looked at me kindly. We each sat in chairs placed in a circular pattern–about 20 of us.

Each stepping differently on life’s meandering path.

Each stepping in either a choice of  holding back in fears that present as control, worries, and excuses, or letting go in trust.

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Jeremiah 17: 7-8 But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

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Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

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Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.


I pull the zipper up on my jacket, my eyes scanning the tree shadows that reach out like fingers upon the unicursal path. It’s early Saturday evening. The sun has begun is descent behind me.

I take three steps in and turn to the right-clockwise.

I enter the lines of the pathway, following as designed.

A fallen leaf lifts, the wind catching it’s stem, and skims the cropped grass. Five sparrows suddenly let go within a tree and flutter above me. I stop, watch their flight that leads them to another tree, and they rest on a new branch like it was designed just for them. It holds them safely. I tuck my hair behind an ear, the breeze light and refreshing on my face.

I take the next step.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expanding with every breath

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It was a door I had walked through many times, but all wasn’t as it was. To the right where once my eyes scanned a spacious place lit softly but brightly enough to highlight the displays of books, paper and household items–my favourite bling–wasn’t anymore. Plywood, popular in all construction spaces, walled the once Chapters store from the Starbucks where I now stood. Feeling a bit conspicuous (how could I have not known?) I walked past customers waiting for their embellished caffeine pretending I had to use the washroom.

I’d driven by the large sign on the shopping centre in my town indicating a new Indigo Store. It was just a block walk from the original Chapters store in the same centre. They were expanding and moving into the old Target store under the Indigo label. (For my outside-of-Canada-friends, Indigo is similar to Barnes & Noble, and the Chapters name under the same umbrella. And just in case you didn’t know–Target came and left Canada as quickly as a fox spotting a rabbit. It never made it.) Now it seemed the new store was open, and the old now empty and boarded.

I pulled my hood up, stepped back outside making my way to another door in the direction of the new sign I’d seen, the new home for the items of the old space I’d spent many hours in over the years, browsing, buying, and discovering.

Adventure being a top value of mine, I found myself light in step. Yes, it was just a new store, but adventure can be had in the smallest of activities….yes?

Adventures, though, can turn out the unexpected. And the unwanted.

Continue reading “Expanding with every breath”

Lessons I Learned from Skiing

It’s that moment, ski poles gripped in one gloved hand, other circling steel pole, body shimmering up to edge of chair, waiting, waiting as elevating and then levelling. Point ski tips up, loosen grip from steel pole, push off, disengage. Skis hit flattened snow, bend knees, lean forward, let pressure off right leg.  Empty chair circling right, poles pointing down, skis coasting left, stop, plant poles in loose snow. Skis point just slightly downward, hill trails ahead, signs with coloured circles of either green, blue, black.

And then that first interruption from complete engagement with the moment.

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Whenever asked when was the last time I felt completely in the moment, I don’t have a specific one time. Yet while down-hill skiing, that moment just coming off the chair lift, or navigating the turns, the bumps, the bare spots, and powder while skiing down the mountain, I can’t NOT be in the moment. Plant pole, turn, plant, turn, plant, turn, bend (for speed), lift, plant, lean right, wide right turn, plant, turn…

And then there is the wind that caresses my bare cheeks under googles and over my neck warmer, the swoosh sound of skis on snow, and my mind, my body, even my soul gliding in the moment feeling fully present and purposeful.

Aware and engaged.

Alive.

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Honestly, it has been a couple of years since I last pointed my feet into stiff ski boots, and snapped them into bindings, and then feeling that awkward body position where lower body is forced forward and upper needs to lean back for balance.

But, ah, I miss it!

However, maybe it’s more the feeling of my body and my mind needing to be fully present– focused– so to see the trees ahead, to move my body correctly to navigate the bumps, or to tune in my hearing to what is coming up behind–that I crave, rather than gearing up, bearing cold temperatures, and sliding down a mountain.

For it is in the missing of details, when my senses are dulled, when my mind moves away from the moment, that could lead into snow up my back, googles skewed on my face, poles lost up hill, bruised limbs, and a very sore behind!

When skiing those in-the-moment details of sounds, sight, and touch not only give me a bolder experience but also, I can see now, keep me safe.

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So what’s the trick? How can we be fully present, aware and  engaged, alive,  without needing a mountain to transcend? What are ways we can create a presence of ourselves that navigates the ordinary to boldly experience every moment?

We can….

  1. Stay Focused:  Focused on what is happening now, and navigating each bump and turn with no worrisome thoughts invading. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
  2. Be Content: Content in the moment, tot struggling against or wishing we were on a different mountain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, as we can take nothing out of it. 1 Timothy 6:6
  3. And Thankful: Thankful for our senses, alive and firing to fully experience the all in the moment that is a gift to us-now. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

   “The greatest moment of your life is now. Not because it’s pleasant or happy or easy, but because this moment is the only moment you’ve got. Every past moment is irretrievably gone. It’s never coming back. If you live there, you lose your life. And the future is always out there somewhere. You can spend an eternity waiting for tomorrow, or worrying about tomorrow. If you live there, you likewise will lose your life. This moment is God’s irreplaceable gift to you.” ~John Ortberg,“God is Closer Than You Think.”

Do you have something that has shown you how to navigate the ordinary to boldly experience each moment, engaged and alive?

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Good and kind

“You made it seem so…” Hannah’s voice on the cassette tape.

Clay pulls off the headphones. “Easy? Is she kidding me? I was s— myself. She’s not telling the truth about the way things happened.”

Tony. “She’s telling her truth.”

(SPOILER ALERT)

The above scene is from 13 Reasons Why, a Netflix original series about a teen’s suicide, Hannah, and the tapes she recorded before her suicide. Clay’s tape was number 11. However, the late Hannah’s voice on his tape tells Clay he doesn’t belong as part of her reasons why as he is “good and kind.” But he needed to be part of her pre-suicide recordings to help explain why she did what she did. “I didn’t deserve you,” her voice tells Clay through the tape. “I would have ruined you.”

Clay wrestles with his insecurities that stopped him from pushing in, finding out why Hannah aggressively told him to go away before she died. He pictures a scene where he does probe to find out what is really going on instead of walking away with an ego bruised, and hurt feelings.

This past summer I found myself the centre of a Circle of Trust. Based on Parker Palmer’s teachings, the circle is a sacred space where one can show up exactly as they are. At first I was uncomfortable with the idea of no eye contact when speaking, yet the freedom from not judging or trying to read others while I talked let me show up in an authentic way I had not experienced before. And when I respected the space of others by listening only, I allowed them the safe space to be open, vulnerable, and true.

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Continue reading “Good and kind”