So I Skipped Church… Part 2

I had not more than taken that glimpse into young love, when a family happened by. Two energetic teenagers soon climbed up the railway track–or whatever you call the structure holding it up–as mom stood by reminding them to be safe.

I smiled. Boys will be boys. And sometimes girls will be ‘boys’ too… ‘tomboys’… I would have been the first in line to try the shenanigans one day. Too old now, but not too old to remember catapulting from on top of the stable in the barn, as a pre-teen and young teen.

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Mom said something about wishing she had brought a camera just as I offered to take some pictures and we stood there, with our cell phones, exchanging emails to make sure we could connect and get the pictures to them. I took a few of them as a couple, and heard a little tidbit of their story. They told me the pictures would make it all the way to Australia, where he was from, as he would definitely want to share them with his family.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI continued on then, to my car, where I sat a while just watching the creatures and the people. An elderly couple, whom I had met on my walk, sat under a tree, resting. (People with their backs turned don’t really count, when it comes to rules about taking pictures…) Though older, he reminded me much of Steve Masterson, and I found myself missing Steve and Jackie who, like Howard and Alice, had a powerful impact on my life, and on Tim’s. They were most delightful conversationalists, and I thought how bitter-sweet it is, to meet people only once and never to really know them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI snapped a shot of the view we shared, then packed up my camera and headed back to Elmira…

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Tim–who went to church with our boys–texted and asked if I would pick up a coffee at Tim Hortons. A double-double. As I pulled in, an Old Order gentleman walked out, carrying his tray of coffees. Across the parking lot, two friends waited–one on a buggy, one on a bike. I make exceptions about taking pictures of people where there are horses and/or buggies involved. Or bikes. (Okay… I just made that up, but hey, it works.)

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After picking up Tim’s coffee, I did the final jaunt home. Nicole had baked the ‘Potato Flake Sourdough Bread’ that I had put in pans the night before. (An outstanding ‘friendship bread’ type recipe that I was given starter for this week, and we all love. I wish I didn’t… I’d rather stay away from bread.)

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My heart was full. I met God in ways and places that are as beautiful as worshipping Him in a traditional church service. I value and believe in the importance of believers gathering together to worship God, as a God-family, but maybe salvation and ‘measuring up’ are not so closely linked to the ‘where and the how’ as we might imagine.

I’m not like the pastor who proudly announced that he never missed church a day in his adult life–not even when his wife had given birth the day before. I’ve missed church when nobody in my life gave birth and nobody was sick… I just played hookie. And not only once. I’ve done it  a few times for no reason at all. Quite a few. And I’ve done it because church was too difficult when hard times caused me to struggle and I didn’t feel safe with people….

And that thought takes me back to the beginning of my little escapade…

Just off of our street, shortly after Barnswallow Street turns to Whipperwill, is the most gorgeous apple tree. I had stopped there on my way out, to capture the apple blossoms. As I contemplated how life, with all of its bumps and scrapes, seems at times to contradict the promises of God, I thought of one of those photos, and that is the extent of my ‘morning sermon’ that I would like to leave with you, in the form of this picture.

God's PromisesGod does not lie. His promises are forever. And, as some of my dreams are coming true, I remember the many times I doubted and struggled. Times I was sure God used me as a pawn in a giant chess game. But always He has carried me through–sometimes kicking and screaming–but always with purpose and destiny.

Wherever you find yourself in your journey with God, and no matter how difficult it is to keep believing in Him and His purposes, hold on to the truth of His promises.

© Trudy Metzger

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So I Skipped Church… Part 1

I reckon this post is going to make a few people want to scold me… (Feel free… my email is trudy-dot-metzger-at-rogers-dot-com… or post it in the comments.) ….Going for a walk on a beautiful Sunday morning, when I should/could be sitting in church. Especially with being in ministry and all.

But, to be perfectly honest, I had no inclination to go sit anywhere for any length of time, listening to anyone, no matter how gifted, how eloquent, how sincere…or, perhaps–though far less likely–completely broken.

It is broken and quiet I long for these days–if not broken, then quiet. Sit me down with a struggling Christian, the homeless, a prostitute, even a murderer, and suddenly my heart is at home. (Yes, I have sat with murderers. Very nice ones, too, who in a moment of desperation killed someone because they snapped. One of them has slipped into glory and, I have no doubt, is dancing with Jesus… or waiting for that dance in some ‘intermediate state of sleep’, depending on who is right on that ever-debated theological  view. (Not that either one is of great consequence… if she’s sleeping, she needed a rest, if she’s dancing and singing, she is in everlasting wakeful bliss. Either way God isn’t much going to ask our opinions on the matter.)

But that is just the kind of thing I was in no space to listen to, or even some neat and tidy sermon or good Christian testimony, when I could go walking with God, enjoy creation and perhaps meet some of His children, out on that same trail.

It isn’t that I don’t love a good sermon. I really do. In fact, having attended the Gospel Express fundraiser on Saturday evening, I already had a wonderful message to contemplate.  Two, really.

Chaplin Rosemary Redshaw spoke first, sharing stories of how God works in prison. One young man, in segregation on charges of murder, wanted to meet with her. When she went in, she took a Bible and prayed for him, at his request, after hearing his story. The young man could barely read, but she left the Bible any way. She didn’t see him often, after she was replaced in that department.  Eighteen months later she was asked to go see him again, and to her amazement, he had taught himself to read and had accepted Christ. The fearful young man who had greeted her that first encounter, was no more. He had grown strong and confident. What was most amazing, to me, is that he was innocent of the crime, and acquitted. Now that’s a testimony! An innocent man, goes to prison to be set free from bondage.

She told other stories of how God moved among inmates, and encouraged the audience to continue to support Prison Ministries.

Melvin Kuepfer was asked to share next and, as he did, the Holy Spirit moved powerfully again. I don’t know the man. Not more than who he is. But I know some of his children, though not well, and have met his wife and find myself always drawn to her.  He shared an overview of a seminar they teach in prison, offering four 2-hour sessions.

I found myself wishing he could launch into all four, right then, and give us the eight hours of teaching. I would have sat there a long while hearing the kind of truth he shared. The kind that is direct, gentle, Holy Spirit-filled and life-changing.

But it was a bit like that friend who lets you ‘taste’–meaning one little lick–their lollipop or some treat, when you’re a kid and that’s all you get…

As they walk away, leaving you with the desire for a lollipop of your own, all you’re left with is that bit of sweetness, and the awareness that there are more, somewhere, just beyond your reach.

And that is just what happened… I dreamed of ways to get him to teach these sessions… Maybe in our home… Rent a room in a church… I thought of the many people I know and work with, who would drink deep from that well of truth.

My heart was challenged and filled as I left home at 10:30 for my walk on Sunday morning. And, at the Mill Race, the world was peaceful. Few creatures scurried about at that hour. Maybe they had gathered for their own service, and only a few rebels, like me, played hookie.

I met Howard and Alice, the couple who took me in when I was a hurting twenty year old. We spoke for a few moments, and parted ways. I walked to my favourite place, the bench where I spend time with a little chipmunk every time I walk the Mill Race. I had different shoes on yesterday, and he wasn’t too sure about me…. Sniffed my shoes and took off like a bullet, but returned after a bit and joined me on the bench again. Only one chickadee showed up. The rest must be more religious about services.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a bit of quiet time, just sitting in the sunshine watching a few critters and all the people walking by, I wandered back toward my car, leaving seeds on various tree stumps, as I walked along.

I stopped at the railway track to put down some seeds, when a young couple walked by. I hadn’t planned to–because I mostly don’t take pictures of people, out of respect–but as this young couple walked away, their sweet young love drew me in, and I found myself sneaking some shots. Later, when they returned, I made a confession and told them where to find the pictures. That assuaged my conscience quite a lot, and I didn’t make any silent promises never to do it again.

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The first picture was a bit blurry. How appropriate. It is just like life and love. We start out with slightly blurred vision, when it comes to relationships. Some go so far as to say Love is blind, but I disagree. It’s only blurred vision. And maybe that is just as well, or most of us would be single for the rest of our lives. None of us are perfect and if we focused too much on it before being madly in love and deeply committed, we would never make it. I hope this couple never loses that closeness, even if, now and then in life, they drift apart for a moment as in the third picture.

To Be Continued

© Trudy Metzger

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An Unusual Friendship

I didn’t intend to do a blog so soon… and not a picture blog… But this morning I went for a walk while my family was still asleep. I thought about our walking path, right here in Elmira, but it is the trees and the river at the Mill Race in St. Jacobs that draws me back. So I packed my camera in my car and headed out to my favourite place.

When I first arrived, the trails were mostly empty. I met one or two in the first fifteen minutes or so. And that’s the way I like it, when I want to listen to the birds and watch the little creatures, scampering here and there.

I do like the people on the trail…  They are a very friendly bunch. I even observed a poster inviting ‘friends from the Mill Race’ to a memorial service for a gentleman who frequented the trails.  I’m not a ‘regular’ and didn’t know him. For me it is a sporadic thing, and mostly it’s in the spring when I find myself drawn there, with a camera. And I’m not really a photographer either, even as a hobby. That’s a bit of a spring thing too.

I love critters of almost every sort, and spring is the perfect time to capture them. The woods are not too overgrown with leaves, making them easy to spot. And at the Mill Race the critters are pretty friendly too, I discovered, first thing in the morning.

It took me off guard, at first, as I’ve seldom been out so early. First I spotted a cardinal. Unfortunately I couldn’t get close enough for a clear shot, but managed to get a reasonable one at a distance.

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I hadn’t wandered far, before I came upon a friendly little chipmunk. Of all the little creatures in the woods, they are my favourite. If it were an option, I would have one or two as pets. Or maybe a whole family of them. The one I met this morning was unusually friendly, almost as though it was pursuing me, rather than the other way around.

I spotted it first by a stump, as it scurried to the top, as if posing for a few shots, before scampering back down. I tiptoed closer, until I stood right in front of that stump. To my surprise it didn’t run away. It peeked around one side, then ran to the other, before disappearing behind the stump again, only to reappear at the top. It was a delightful little game of hide-and-seek, and I couldn’t tell who was having more fun. Little did I realize, as I would discover in moments, that he expected me to serve breakfast.

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I was leaning in for a nice close-up, when I was startled by a little bird, trying to land on my camera. I’ve never walked the Mill Race that early, as I said, but I have walked it many times and have never had little creatures try to befriend me. Thanks to the little bird, I missed that shot of the chipmunk, and focused on it instead.

A little chickadee. I’ve always loved them. They are such happy little birds and friendlier than almost any others. As a youngster I managed to catch one, and bring it home as a pet I put it in our basement for safe keeping but didn’t account for our one cat finding its way in. I watched in horror as the trapped bird became lunch. I took me a long time to forgive Tiger for that.  I’ve never held a chickadee again, since that day…. until this morning.

I couldn’t get a good picture of it, so I walked a bit further, to a bench, where I intended to sit a while, just to watch and listen. Before I got there, several chipmunks caught my attention.

Behind me, on the trail, two women walked slowly. I assumed they were trying to be polite, so as not to disturb whatever creature I was trying to photograph, so I motioned–without really looking at them–that they could continue walking. When they didn’t seem to move, I looked up to tell them not to worry about noise. Instead, I saw one woman holding out her hand, with a chickadee in it. They were still a distance away, so I zoomed in. 
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIntrigued, I walked closer and took another shot. We chatted for a few minutes and one of the women wondered if I would post the picture on the Mill Race. I told her I could do one better and share them on my blog–which is why I am blogging again so soon, about photos–and they could see them here. After I gave them my blog address, they posed for a picture then, offered me some of the bird seed, and with that we parted ways. (And, if you lovely ladies do stop by my blog, please drop me a line. I’d love to hear that you found your pics.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy pocket filled with bird seed, I returned to the bench. I perched my camera on my shoulder, zoomed in for some close shots, and then, with my hand stretched out and filled with bird seed, I waited. And I didn’t have long to wait.  The pictures tell all…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA jealous little chipmunk scurried up the bench beside me, and almost before I knew it was there, I had it eating out of my hands.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe chickadee stayed in a tree, only a few feet away, while the greedy little chipmunk finished off the rest of the seeds, then ran off again. I reached in my pocket, filled my hand with seeds again, and soon two chipmunks peeked around corners again, as chickadees fluttered around me, each trying to work up the courage to come back for more.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe chickadees came first, and took turns eating. They were all quite polite about it, other than spitting out the corn. When they left, I filled my hand again, and the little chipmunk returned one more time to stuff its cheeks.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy battery, which lasts for days at a time, decided at just that moment to die. My back-up pack only lasts a few minutes, so the fun was over.

It is the beginning of an unusual friendship… one I intend to invest in, as I am able. In my pocket I had a few more seeds. I placed them on a stump and headed for my car.

As fate would have it, with a dead battery, I missed the best shot of the morning. I blue-jay landed not far from my car, perched on a branch out in the open. A perfect shot.  But before I could snap the picture, my back up batter pack died. I was bummed. Blue-jays are not much to speak of, when it comes to personality, but they are so beautiful! I replaced the dead back up pack with the main battery pack and noticed it has a bit of life again.  By this time the blue-jay had moved into a tree. Not as clear, but still decent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was nothing left to do but to head home and recharge. And, speaking of recharging… I needed a little energy myself, so I slipped over to Tim Hortons for a little recharging of my own…

© Trudy Metzger

To Donate: Generations Unleashed, and Help Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Church
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