2018 one-little-word reveal (Spiritual Journey Thursday)

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Welcome to the first Spiritual Journey Thursday post of 2018. Today I and my SJT friends are unveiling our one-little-word choices for the year. My trusty altar-ego Power Shot is here to do the honors in a storyboard sequence. Take it away, PS!

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Life is full of so many lovely distractions.

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But now it’s time to get to work…

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Write and tackle that “To-do List”

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Wait. I need to see what’s happening on Twitter…

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Aand Facebook and Instagram, and Pinterest, and all the social media hangouts I love.

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No PS. FOCUS!

So there you have it, folks. My word is FOCUS.

Frankly, I was loath to leave my 2017 word LISTEN behind. So I picked its cousin who is not quite so sensory specific.

The word FOCUS came to me as somewhat of a lifesaver over the last few weeks. On November 1st, my husband had hip replacement surgery. My broken hip experience of 2014 sure came in handy here as I knew what to expect. Still, on some days the compounding of caregiving and household responsibilities together with Christmas almost bowled me over.

When I began to feel overwhelmed, I would calm myself with self-talk like: “Just do the next thing” and “Focus.” That attention to the moment and refusal to give in to distraction helped me stay on top of things through the first weeks of hubby’s recovery.

He’s well on his way back to normal now and Christmas is over. However, I’ve decided I want to hang onto FOCUS a bit longer applying it to my work, my relationships, my leisure, and my spiritual life.

The Bible passage that I’ve chosen as my focus true north is Philippians 3:13,14:

“But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

To me this means living a life of purpose that will be effective in its trajectory because of its focus on the things that matter.

spiritualjourneyfirst-thursday-copyThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday, hosted today by Margaret Simon on her blog Reflections on the Teche. There you will find links to more 2018 one-little-word reveals. (Thanks, Margaret, for hosting and for making the swank 2018 Spiritual Journey button!)

 

Pivot night

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new-born-615751_640

“He gave up his divine privileges … and was born as a human being…” – Philippians 2: 7 NLT (Photo courtesy Pixabay.com)

 

Pivot Night

Under ancient curse
Ushered through canal of pain
Tiny, pink, squalling

History pivots, the night
Yahweh incarnates the Star

© 2015 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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The daughter of my friend is in labor right now. And so my mind keeps drifting, this Christmas Eve day, to the ignominy of God submitting Himself to the whole pregnancy / birth process that fell under the curse way back in Genesis.

I think the Apostle Paul explains best what really took place in Mary nine months before delivery, culminating with a squalling, pink newborn in her arms that first “Christmas” morning.

May the significance of that event, God’s gift of a Savior as announced by the angels, connect with us these many years later:

“The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!

Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.

Luke 2:11,14 – NLT

 

To all who read here I wish a Blessed and Meaningful Christmas!

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Join us each week at Spiritual Journey Thursday

Join us each week at Spiritual Journey Thursday

This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday, hosted by Holly Mueller.  The topic this month is GIFTS.

The gift of people

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HACwithCinnamonCoverSOne of the things I love about writing is having pieces accepted for publication. One of the things that I don’t love is the publicizing and marketing that’s needed when those publications are books. But I know I need to do my part. So when the newest Hot Apple Cider anthology (Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon) came out this fall with two of my poems in it, I decided to suck up my angst and pull my share of the marketing weight. After all, there are 61 of us and if we all do a little…

A virtual launch on Facebook was stretching! Each of us authors who signed up hosted a half hour—probably the most hectic half hour I’ve ever spent on Facebook as I tried to keep the conversation ball rolling even as I introduced a contest and answered questions. Let’s just say the refresh button of my browser got quite the workout.

Then one of the local anthology contributors scheduled an actual bookstore launch  for last Saturday.

My biggest fear for both of these book events was that no one would show up. That I’d be talking to myself on Facebook and the three of us authors would end up as our only audience at the bookstore.

I did all I could to publicize it—invited local Facebook friends and sent emails to family not on Facebook. And prayed!

Saturday came and hubby and I arrived at the store a good 15 minutes early to find the bookstore cafe, where we were to read, full of diners and nothing set up. (Maybe this would turn out even worse than I dreaded!) So we sat down and had a coffee along with everyone else. What else was there to do?

But the store person was on it. Eventually a table appeared. We got our books set up. A cousin I had contacted was there and she said more were coming. Several friends from my poetry society showed up.

When we were finally ready to introduce the book and do some reading from it, a healthy crowd had assembled. The hour and a half of the launch passed before we knew it—a success because family and friends did come out.

House of James book launch with Rose Seiler Scott and Bill Bonikowsky.

House of James book launch with Rose Seiler Scott and Bill Bonikowsky (Photos by Bill B.)

And so today I celebrate the gift of people in my life—my husband who’s game to go on these bookish escapades with me, my friends, especially the ones who know what goes into making books and appreciated the importance of a launch, and extended family who supported me by coming out and doing a little Christmas shopping too!

Plus I thank the Lord. I can just imagine Him, smiling indulgently down on me after one of these high maintenance episodes and murmuring: “O ye of little faith.”

Join us at Reading, Learning, Writing

Join us at Reading, Learning, Writing

This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday hosted by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning

Alert to blessings

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When my friend Laurel asked me to be part of her Advent blog, Toward Christmas, I was delighted to accept. On these 24 days of preparing for Christmas, six of us are reviewing the Jesse Tree characters of Jesus’ story. One of the characters I chose to write about was Jacob (I think it was the ladder that made me think this would be a fun poem to write). The challenge was also to write this in prose poetry.

I read and re-read Jacob’s story (Genesis 27 & 28) before getting an idea. It came when I saw THREE. Jacob was blessed, not once, twice, but three times. Immediately I thought of folk and fairy tales, where things always come in threes.

One thing I noticed about Jacob and these three blessings is that they didn’t easily sink in. He wasn’t any happier after getting them, at least the first two, and they didn’t change his circumstances for the better, at least not in the short term.

I imagine he felt guilty and distracted when he got the first blessing. After all, he had just manipulated his blind father and he knew how angry Esau could get.

The second blessing, spoken over him by his father as Jacob was leaving home, may have sounded more like a cruel joke than a blessing, seeing as how everything was going exactly the opposite to what his father was saying.

It was finally when he saw, in his dream, the angels ascending and descending to heaven and heard words delivered in the voice of God Himself, complete with the beautiful promise, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go…”  that Jacob realized he was blessed, and could go forward with a light heart (Genesis 28:15).

I think I’m often like Jacob when it comes to God’s gifts. Sometimes it’s circumstances, worries, preoccupations, even guilt if I’ve done some manipulating, that keep me from seeing them. At other times, those supposed-to-be blessings don’t seem like blessings at all but their opposite. What will it take to make me see God’s gifts, His blessings, that are all around me, the greatest of which is His constant presence (Psalm 139:17,18)?

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Isaac blesses Jacob – by Gerrit Willemsz Horst

A tale of three blessings

Once upon a time there were three blessings.

First Blessing came to Prince as he, sweating under goat skins and drowning in his brother’s clothes, knelt before his blind father. Despite bequeathing him earthy richness, grain, wine, and a promise of the servitude of nations, the stench in the tent of goat stew and lies kept Prince from hearing a single word.  Read the rest on the Toward Christmas blog…

Join us each week at Spiritual Journey Thursday

Join us each week for Spiritual Journey Thursday

This post is part of Spiritual Journey Thursday hosted by Holly Mueller at her blog Reading, Teaching, Learning.

SJT – Home (Missing Home)

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The farmhouse where I grew up - Photo © 2009 by V. Nesdoly
The farmhouse where I grew up – Photo © 2009 by V. Nesdoly

Missing Home

I remember squeaks and slants
in the floor of our last home
can picture the gouge
in paneling beside my desk
the crumbing rubber
on the patio-door seal.
In the shed I see
rust-freckled freezer top
shelf of garden powders and poisons
boxes of canning jars
tangle of camping stuff
all familiar—like loved homes are—
as my own hands and feet.
So the other day
when I couldn’t remember
if there was a slanted ceiling
and a south window
in my childhood bedroom on the farm
I felt as if I had taken off my sock
and found I was missing a toe.

© 2012 by Violet Nesdoly (First published in Picking Flowers – a Fraser Valley Poets Society project.)

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Top to bottom L-R: top two - Destroyed kitchen; 2nd row - We ate a lot of breakfasts and lunch on the balcony; The living room; Row 3 - Living room restored; Kitchen restored.
Top to bottom L-R: Row 1 – Destroyed kitchen; Row 2 – We ate a lot of breakfasts and lunches on the balcony; The gutted living room; Row 3 – Living room restored; Kitchen-dining area restored.

Thankful for Home

As you probably pick up from the poem above, I am a homebody. I love to travel but I love to come home more. I like a social outing but home is where I feel most comfortable, relaxed, and happy.

In the summer of 2014 we came home from holiday to a flooded house. All the main floor flooring of our townhouse had to be redone, along with much of the basement den. Witnessing the change of my cozy living room to a bare shell with a splintery chipboard floor, the devolution of my functional kitchen to cupboards stacked helter skelter in the middle of the room was almost physically painful for me.

And so my heart goes out to the refugees we see on the news, streaming across Europe—homeless because their homes have been bombed, their familiar towns and cities not safe to live in any more. I can only imagine how it must feel to have no home.

We eventually got our home back, better than ever. But since our flood I have stopped taking my home for granted. Often now when I sit in my cozy living room or work in my functional kitchen I marvel at how they were brought back and say, “Thank you, Lord!” And my prayer for refugees everywhere is that may they find homes again too.

This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday, hosted by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning. Today the theme is THANKSGIVING FOR HOME.

Join us each week at Spiritual Journey Thursday

Join us each week for Spiritual Journey Thursday

 

It’s time to see “God loves me”

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Photo © 2015 by V. Nesdoly

 

For the last few years, many of the clocks that I use—like the ones on my computer, ipod, kitchen stove, bedside, car, and digital photo album—display the time in a three- or four-number readout. Often when I check the time, I notice what one could call a lucky hand if playing cards—like 11:11 (four aces); 2:22, 4:44 or 5:55 (three of a kind), or 12:34 (a straight).

However, I don’t believe in luck. As someone who knows that God is present moment-by-moment in my life, I decided, a few years ago to interpret those “lucky” series of numbers as little love notes from God. So for the last few years, each time one of my digital clocks displays a good hand, I take it as a little nudge from God—His way of saying, “I see you, Violet, and I love you.”

It’s amazing how often I happen to glance at a clock at the exact moment it displays one of those times. And it’s amazing  too what a difference it makes in my day to be reminded that God sees and loves me.

 

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This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday, hosted by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning. This week the theme is “He calls you Beloved.”

SJT – Doubt (Captivated)

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Apple in a tree

Photo © 2015 by V. Nesdoly

Captivated

Puffy white lambs
in the sky.
Iridescent dragonflies. Furry bees.
Jewel birds flitting and fluting the forest
with warbles and calls.
A plush rabbit’s coat.
Moist velvet tickle of a horse’s nose.
He, smooth, agile, muscular
climbing a palm.

These globes just above me
hanging from this tree God has forbidden
their glossy roundness inviting
a caress, a pluck, a savor…
The intelligent eyes
of the beautiful chartreuse
creature suddenly beside me
taking my measure, his liquid tones
smooth, oily, almost fragrant
“Has God indeed said…?”

© 2015 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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In this little piece, I was trying to get at the wonders of the created world as Eve experienced them through her fresh-wax senses. Ah, but there was trouble ahead.

Every brand and iteration of doubt is, I believe, in some way begun by revisiting the words spoken by the serpent to Eve in Genesis 3:1.

spiritual-journey-framedThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday, hosted by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning. The theme this week is DOUBT.

SJT – Redemption (Midwife Openings)

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This week’s theme Spiritual Journey Thursday word “REDEMPTION” had me scratching my head at first. I know the traditional religious meaning of the word “redemption” is the rich concept of salvation from sin through the atonement of Christ. But one also hears the word redemption used in another way. I read or hear it used often as a theme in story or movie.

(The site ranker.com, for example, has a list called “The Best Movies About Redemption.” The opening paragraph describes the theme:

“Some of the most beloved movies of all time feature the theme of redemption. These are the stories that motivate us to hold on to hope, fight to survive, always believe in the best, and recognize that anyone can change. This theme reminds us that life is a series of choices, and for every act of injustice there is justice around the corner!”)

One of the dictionaries I consulted defines this type of redemption:

“the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.”

Many Bible stories include this theme. The story of Joseph comes to mind. Another much shorter tale is the one of the two midwives who defied Pharaoh’s command to kill the Hebrew male children as they were delivering them to help Pharaoh control the Hebrew population explosion. Bible commentaries suggest these two women, Shiphrah and Puah, were Egyptian overseers of a guild of midwives and that they were middle-aged. The Bible tells their story in Exodus 1:15-21.

Some years ago when I was writing a series of poems on Bible women, I wrote one about them. Here is their story of redemption:

Shiphrah and Puah (Artist unknown)

Shiphrah and Puah (Artist unknown)

Midwife Openings

Pharaoh said,
Kill each newborn boy!
Midwife code, training
each prospective mother cell
cries, Our lives, not theirs!

We will risk
raising Pharaoh’s wrath.
We fear God Yahweh.
To commit infanticide
means blood on our hands.

Hebrew boys
live despite king’s plot.
Yahweh smiles on us.
We grow great with fruitfulness!
Midwives may apply.

© 2015 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

spiritual-journey-framedThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday, hosted by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning.

What’s your favorite story of redemption? Have you experienced redemption in this way?

SJT – Mercy (In the DNA)

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Mercy is one of those words we bandy about so freely in Christian culture, it becomes almost invisible. I gained a fresh appreciation of its richness when I looked it up in the dictionary before writing this post:

Mercy:
1. Kind or compassionate treatment of an offender, adversary, prisoner etc. in one’s power; compassion where severity is expected or deserved.
2. A disposition to be kind, forgiving, or helpful.
3. A thing to be thankful for.

Mercy comes from compassion, kindness or other ennobling sentiments.

Opposites of mercy are harshness, severity, implacability, punishment, chastisement, vengeance. – Funk and Wagnalls Dictionary

It’s what God had for us when He sent Jesus and had Him take the penalty our sins deserved. It’s what I’m supposed to extend to others. And there’s the rub. For like so many Christian qualities, showing mercy is counter-intuitive. It goes against every atom of fairness to let the person who hurt me get off free. Look at how the crowds clamber for justice when a policeman has shot someone in the line of duty. Suggest mercy to that crowd and you’re likely to start a riot. It’s in me and all of us to want to get even, to make things right with our own style of justice.

I was pondering why we, or at least I, find that giving mercy is hard. I think it has something to do with feeling that I’m giving up control. When Christians extend mercy, we give up control to God. We’re saying with our actions that we believe He has the situation in hand and will sort it all out fairly in the end, better than our scolding, punishment, or tit for tat ever could.

The Bible story that illustrates this beautifully is David’s behaviour when his father-in-law and deadly enemy King Saul is hunting him. One day David finds himself in the cave with Saul. His men tell him, This is your chance.  Take matters into your own hands and kill him.

He resists them, and instead, just cuts a piece off Saul’s robe to prove how close he was. Later even that seems to bother him. 1 Samuel 24:1-12 where this story is told, ends with these telling words from David to Saul:Let the Lord judge between you and me, and let the Lord avenge me on you. But my hand shall not be against you” (emphasis added).

The challenge for me is to get to the place where extending mercy becomes my default position. I want it to be in my DNA.

Kale

“I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” – Job 23:12 (Photo of kale from Pixabay.com)

In the DNA

We bite into apples
bread, cake, meat
taste, chew, swallow.
They disappear, digested
become absorbed into muscle, bone
fingers, toes, skin, lashes
brain cells, our very DNA.

We bite off Your word
Blessed are the merciful …
   Be reconciled to your brother …
   Forgive up to seventy times seven …
meditate on these things
swallow them into the busyness of our days
Now that they’ve been ingested
are they being digested
becoming the muscle, bone, skin
of loving acts, kind words, patience
mercy, forgiveness
altering our very DNA?

© 2015 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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spiritual-journey-framedThis post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday, hosted by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning. Today the theme is MERCY.

Denominations–members of One Body

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At a Bible study class I attend, this week one of the class members bemoaned the existence of denominations. Her sentiment caught my attention, partly I’m sure because I was already thinking about the topic for this week’s Spiritual Journey Thursday. But partly too because I don’t agree.

Yes, I know we can look at denominations as a bad thing–a sign of disunity in the church. However, I think of denominations as another example of the diversity in the body of Christ. Just like individuals are parts of the body of their  congregations, with each member having its body counterpart role to play, so church denominations, with their various emphases, priorities and projects, play different roles in their communities and in the universal church.

I myself have benefited from three denominations.

CCMBC_logoI grew up in a Mennonite home (Mennonite Brethren to be precise). It was a rich culture of faith rooted in the Bible that expressed itself in foreign and home missions, with a strong emphasis on knowing what and why we believed as we did. Music was important. I studied piano and was part of many choirs. Social justice was a value. All our churches supported the MCC (Mennonite Central Committee), the relief arm of various brands of Mennonite churches. The MCC raised money to help in natural disasters around the world and aided third world entrepreneurs. My Mennonite community was also big on peace. Only one of my uncles participated in WWII and that as a medic. My dad and the rest were conscientious objectors.

 

C&MAThrough many years as an adult, our family attended Christian and Missionary Alliance churches. Again we were enriched by being part of vibrant congregations. Community outreach included wonderful Christmas and Easter choir productions. Sunday School and Awana programs were great for the kids.  A missions conference was the highlight of each year with slide shows and displays of mementos from snake skins and ebony carvings to Bibles printed in illegible scripts.

 

PAOCFor the last fifteen years, my husband and I have attended a Pentecostal church. We were attracted by the sense that the Holy Spirit was at work in this particular assembly. These years have built on all that I’ve learned and experienced in the denominations I was part of in my youth and middle age.

There are practices of other denominations I’d love to explore. The three I’ve been a part of do not use liturgy. In my minimal exposure to it, I’ve been impressed with the richness of its readings, creeds, and prayers, and the value of yearly reliving the cycle of my faith’s holy days.

I’ve also wondered what it would be like to live in community–as in having all things in common like the first Christians in the New Testament churches did.

When Christian denominations compete and tear each other down they can be a bad thing for sure. But when we view each other as partners, family members, even members of the same body with different gifts and roles, denominations are surely an asset to the gospel and the Kingdom of Heaven.

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This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday – hosted by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning. The topic this week is DIVERSITY IN DENOMINATIONS.