May 28, 2017

We All Must Start Sometime - Bruce Atchison

Though I'm not an ordained minister, a local pastor gave me the unparalleled privilege of preaching my first sermon at his church. I accepted the challenge eagerly, though I felt considerable trepidation.

Friends from his congregation drove me to church an hour before the service started. As they set up the Power Point song lyrics and the choir practiced, I kept reading the notes I jotted down the day before. I wanted to make sure I knew what I was led to say to the congregants.

As the service began and the songs were sung, I did my best to quell the fears pestering me. Standing and giving my testimony was one thing but giving an actual sermon gave me pause.

The pastor introduced me to his congregation and then it was my turn to speak. I was on.

Listening to the recording I made with my cell phone, I did fairly well. There was one point where I read the wrong scripture and got lost. Even so, nobody complained.

I also discovered later that I had too many "umms" in my sermon. Having been criticized by my mother and others when I didn't speak to their satisfaction, I still find myself dreading the usual, unsolicited corrections given to me. "Get to the point," they complained. "Don't say 'umm' when you speak to people," others drilled into me.

It's easy for others to quote Jeremiah 1:8 (KJV) which says, "Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD." Likewise, 1 Timothy 4:12 (KJV) is easy enough to read to nervous preachers. "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou  an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in  spirit, in faith, in purity."

But the way we become confident is with continuous practice. We all have experienced that with our writing. The best way to begin is to start and never mind what clueless, amateur critics say. What do they know anyway?

May 26, 2017

Construction Zone Ahead by Marnie Pohlmann

living the dream
A few years ago, my husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary by taking a 30-day motorcycle trip. We started by riding from British Columbia through Alberta to Saskatchewan for our son's wedding festivities. Then we meandered down to the United States, through Montana, across Idaho, along the Oregon Coast, up through Washington's Okanogan County and back into Canada's Okanagan Valley. We then headed over to Vancouver Island to celebrate the wedding of friends, and back north to home in the BC Peace Region.

We saw beautiful scenery, encountered both sun and storms, rode in highway traffic and secondary road serenity. We experienced good days and bad days - just like 30 years of marriage has ups and downs.

stop light in the middle of nowhere
Another kind of encounter we had on our trip which is like marriage was traveling through construction zones. On busy highways, traffic was reduced to one lane. In the middle of nowhere temporary stop lights directed the sporadic flow of vehicles over a single-lane bridge. 

Road to the Sun
On top of Montana's "Road to the Sun" in Glacier National Park, workers were repairing the twisty, narrow highway, and with the heavy fog and rain of that day, it appeared they were hanging off a cliff on the edge of the world. Some day we need to do that Road to the Sun in the sun so we can see the grand vistas that were hidden by the weather.

slip sliding along
Closer to home, in the Pine Pass, we road through slippery, deep mud. Thankfully, the flag person waved motorcycles to the front of the line, just behind the pilot car, so we did not have to contend with the flying mud and wheel ruts left by the trucks in the long line of impatient vehicles.

There are not many trips we have taken when we have not come upon a construction zone. Funny how we remember those short times of inconvenience more than we appreciate when the road is clear and smooth.

When I think of construction zones I see a picture of the out-of-my-comfort zones of faith, writing, and life in general.

Construction zones seem to be everywhere throughout our travels. Out-of-my-comfort zones also seem to be everywhere. Parenting, healing, moving, new jobs. My whole life has been filled with uncomfortable times, often when I am in a construction zone of faith. Like construction zones, out-of-my-comfort zones can be found during the quiet and the busy, in the lows and the highs, in the light and the dark of life. I seem to notice them more than when I’m traveling along in a comfort zone.

motorcycles use extra caution
With all those areas of discomfort, I wondered if I have ever actually been in a comfort zone. What is a comfort zone, anyway? Perhaps there are no rules to comfort zones. No boundaries, no limits, no timelines. A comfort zone for some is being alone, for others, it is being with people. For some, it is being Martha and for others, it is being Mary. Each one is different. So, if comfort zones are so varied, can we really be out of a comfort zone? Perhaps comfort zones are just good roads with a few cracks starting. So when we feel out of our comfort zone we are simply in a comfort zone that is undergoing construction.

Construction zones may be a delay, a short detour, or a rough and muddy section. The delays of construction indicate better roads ahead so our future travel will be smoother. Being out of my comfort zone is also a time of construction, building in me a skill and a will for something still to come.

Many years ago, part of my Administrative Secretary Certificate college course included a class on public speaking. Why would a secretary need to learn to give speeches? Yet each week my classmates and I prepared and presented Toastmaster-type monologues. Years later, that time of skill building provided direction for me to navigate some of the expectations of being a pastor's wife - giving a devotional at a baby shower, speaking at ladies’ meetings and a retreat, or leading communion and impromptu prayer times. And these out of my comfort zone times are preparing me, perhaps, for a future adventure of author readings.

The journey from shame-filled young woman to introvert but stepping out in faith woman took much construction, many delays, and more than a few detours. When I think of times where I felt out of my comfort zone, in hindsight I was not truly out of my comfort zone, because God had already paved the way, preparing and training me for the next section of road.

As a meme on Facebook said, "Sorry for the inconvenience - I am under construction." Still. My life is a never-ending out of my comfort construction zone. Praise God! The adventure of my ride in life continues.  How is your adventure? Do you trust God to pave the way?

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light on my path.
Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

Writer-biker Marnie lives her life under construction in northern BC. Travel the road with her at Phosphorescent, her blog about absorbing and reflecting God's light on the adventures of life.

May 25, 2017

Finding Comfort By Vickie Stam

Proverbs 3:24  "When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet."

I find comfort in the places where I feel safe and secure. The places that provide some sense of certainty, familiarity and  inner peace. Whether I'm basking in the light of day or sleeping soundly beneath the shade of the moon, I long to feel comfortable. Find a place where I am the most relaxed.      

In December of 2016, my husband, Tony and I moved off of our farm. We sold the operation and retired from raising pigs. With that change came a new construction. We had a house built and moved our belongings to the beautiful shores of Lake Erie.  

But, everything here is quite different from the farm life that we were once used to. Gone is the familiarity of our daily routine. No more early mornings. No more wretched smell of manure wafting in the air. 

We're now looking out our windows at the vast expanse of a lake and not looking across the fields of corn, wheat, or soybeans. We're now living in close proximity with our neighbours. The noise of the water pressing closer and closer to shore is much louder than the gentle whisper of the corn stocks as they brush against one another in the breeze. Still, I am enjoying the transition. Our new surroundings are breathtaking!   

Having moved a great number of times throughout the years, I have experienced the fear of the unknown, lost my sense of security and was forced to step outside of my comfort zone. Establish new friendships. Learn to meander through new territory. Yes, I've done it in the past, but it wasn't always easy. I think the repetitive packing of my belongings as many times as I have done it, definitely made the moving process less traumatic for me - easier to embrace it. 

"You could make a home out of box," Tony has said on more than one occasion. He means no disrespect when he says this. In-fact, he is complimenting me on how well I've handled each of the moves we've made during our marriage. I take comfort just knowing that the home is ours. The pictures on the walls capture the essence of our lives.    

Moving wasn't always easy for me. As a child, it was disruptive to me. Difficult! I was shy. Making new friends, took some time. They usually had to approach me first. Of course I never had any say in the matter. I was simply forced to accept the decision my parents had made. 

After a considerable amount of conversation and prayer, Tony and I chose to leave the farm and move to the lake. A decision we did not make lightly.

The walls here in our new home are much like the walls in our old house, except that there's a little grumbling going on - a shifting that's taking place. Every now and then after the walls have spoken, I discover a dreaded nail pop. A sign of stress.  

I trust that the builder did everything he could to minimize the risk of such stress, ease the pain of the home settling, yet the builder could not totally eliminate it. But it's nothing that a putty knife and some patching compound can't fix. 

Ah yes...even the walls of my house seem a little fragile these days, somewhat like the walls of my heart. God is all powerful and loving. He is my builder. He tries to minimize the risk of uncertainty in my life by giving me a free will. Even so, bad things still happen to me. I still suffer. My heart still aches. I'm not always comfortable! A putty knife and Pollyfilla can't mend these walls. Only he can. But, he never promised me a smooth ride.     

I can't always see God's will in the face of trials. I have to look back when the pain is less burdensome. Try to see him at work in my life. Search for the blessing in the storm. I hear the words of advice from my earthly father who always tells me to, "keep putting one foot in front of the other." 

God offers me a sense of comfort among the stories that I write. My words are the stepping stones, the ones that I use to describe every twist and turn, every bridge I cross and every mountain I climb. In my time of joy and sadness, I write in hopes that my stories might resonate with others.  


May 22, 2017

A Comfort Zone Without a Comforter by Alan Anderson

I love the writing prompt for this month. I want to give it a big verbal kiss! It has made me think deep and to choose my words with caution. The ghost of my “comfort zone” is looking over my shoulder as I write this autobiographical post.

The theme for this month’s blog is, “Out of your comfort zone.” Here are the prompt questions I will cover. “When has God nudged you out of your comfort zone, either in your faith life or your writing life? What fears did you face? What steps did you take (or not take) to leave your comfort zone? And what were the results? (Or perhaps God is nudging you now…)”

Please allow me to set the scene a bit for you. I lived my childhood primarily in a fantasyland of my own making. From my early years I tried to escape real life and what it confronted me with. I was shy, quiet and just wanted people to leave me alone. I took each day as it came. That was life. I didn’t expect anything special to come my way. As long as I could stay within myself it was okay. My life at this early age was my comfort zone. It was a comfort zone without a comforter.

When has God nudged you out of your comfort zone, either in your faith life or your writing life?” When I became aware of God’s love for me things changed slowly. I had to be sure God was real. That too would come slowly. My early thoughts of God were He was a big Meany! He was a Judge and I didn’t need another judge.

What fears did I face?
At first I didn’t face my fears for the most part because there were too many. I hid from them. They were bigger than me. I began to use humour to help me hide from me. In time, in years of time, humour would help me form a relationship with the world and myself. Humour slowly helped me face my fears by not allowing them to rule me anymore.

“What steps did you take (or not take) to leave your comfort zone?” I always took slow and small steps. I guess somewhere along the way of supposedly growing up, I wanted to have a less fearful relationship with life. My shyness pretty well stayed part of me into my teen years. I still much preferred my own company to that of having other people around. I worked hard at my self-awareness, at finding out about myself. That is still part of my journey today.

“And what were the results?” I began to come out of my comfort zone and saw the needs of others. To this day I resonate with those who hurt. I seem to naturally come alongside those in need of an ear and heart to listen to them. I guess in some way, I am a comforter to some.

 Even today I still have lots to learn about people, other God and myself. I think even with my last breath I will be amazed that God ordained me for good works. He ordained me? Me? I am thankful He knows what He is doing. I have a Comforter who is in the business of looking beyond my “comfort zone” and accepting me for who He made me to be. I’m cool with that now!


May 21, 2017

Comfort-Another Setting on the Dryer? by Jocelyn Faire

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Anaȉs Nin

My life has been turned upside down and inside out for the past twelve years. The word comfort seemed contradictory to the reality of life. How do we even define comfort? As a nurse the term comfort measures is one of the options for end of life living. This designation indicates that the patient has lived her life and death is near; a miracle is needed to bring back life.

There was not a comfortable moment in the writing of my book Who is Talking Out of My Head-Grief as an Out of Body Experience, other than knowing I had to do it. I had been given a story, I had had to live through a story, and I knew that I was supposed to share it. In many ways, I became the reluctant author.

What were the hurdles faced?

Fear of the outcome, fear of vulnerability—why would I put my struggles of grief out there for anyone else to see or to judge? Why? Because, when I was in the darkest of places, I wanted to hear from someone else who had gone through such pain and lived. The biggest hurdles were to believe that I could do it, to believe that I had been called to write it and to relinquish the outcome to God. The next big hurdle was to start. I knew God had asked me to share my story, but what did that mean? Obedience was the motivator to get me moving. And so I began typing. I started to take writing courses. Some days the words flowed, and many days the tears flowed more heavily than the words. It took three years to get to the point where I felt I could begin to think of publishing. And then I asked for professional help to edit the manuscript. If I was going to put the book out, I wanted it to be well done. I began to understand the need to be comfortable in my own skin, in my own story of loss. Most importantly I also experienced the comfort of a God who walks alongside.

“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” ― Brené Brown

What were the results?

As I wrote my way through the experience of the sudden loss of two beautiful children, God and I wrestled on the Big Issues. I became a student of The Meaning of Life 101, following the journey of the questions. My appreciation for the bigger picture of life and its beauty increased tremendously. The most impactful results were the connections with others who had also experienced significant loss. A most recent affirmation came last month when an aboriginal woman, who had been a foster teenager in my sister's house some forty years ago, asked if she could meet me. Doris had lived through many horror stories herself. My sister had given Doris a copy of my book for her 55th birthday. Doris wanted to thank me personally for writing. She was very nervous to meet us, waiting outside in her vehicle until her grandson, who had driven her told her she could not stall any longer. We welcomed her with hugs and coffee.

She looked at me and said, “I have to tell you, that I have not read a book since high school, and I could not put your book down. Even when I went to Bingo I took it along, and in between the calling of numbers I continued to read. I think I have had this sadness for so long, that I had forgotten how to laugh. Your words brought hope.” Her words moved me.

You have all this evidence confirmed by your own eyes and ears. Shouldn't you be talking about it? Isaiah: 48, The Message

How do I continue to step out of my comfort zone? Life gets busy and I am private about my story, but when the spirit nudges me to share my words with people, I want to be open. One thing I hope to do is to end the six month hiatus I have taken from my Wordpress blog site. I'm still learning to be willing to share things I've learned along the way, to be sensitive to the journey others are on, to be willing to enter into their pain, and to be a walking reminder that there is much beauty and joy in this world.

Jocelyn is the author of Who is Talking Out of My Head-Grief as an Out of Body Experience. She is a seeker of beauty, a grandmother and world traveller-wanna-be.