Friday, April 17, 2015

You Are Here

I was reading an article this week in Faith Today magazine -
Building a better Lego car it was called.
Naturally, it had to do with Lego, so I was enticed into reading it further.

It talked about watching children build Lego cars at Boston's Legoland Discovery Center.
Their creativity was endless;
they built, and raced, and then remodeled to improve their designs.
The author writes, "Neither success nor failure seemed to bring unhappiness in these young engineers as they joyfully continued to engage in the building process."

They were in it - 100% -
and continued to be in it no matter how the races went,
no matter if their cars fell apart,
with eyes eager to look for improvements and other options.

I also read an article on calling this week - this one in Relevant Magazine -
the author talked about calling not necessarily being your job,
but rather who you are.
It can be expressed in your work,
but that doesn't necessarily mean your job is your calling.

And putting these two together got me to thinking.
I always felt called to be a teacher -
aside from short blips on my high-school radar where someone told me I was too smart to work with 7 year olds all my life (unpacking that statement is a whole other blog post...),
where I wanted to have a black Jeep and so thought being a pharmacist might be all right and would give me the cash for said vehicle,
and that killer whale phase.
Yeah.
Anyone else want to train and swim with orcas until thinking it through and realizing there would be a lot of science courses involved in that (in pharmacy, too), and for someone who didn't love the sciences, it might not be the right career path?
I digress.
I always felt called to be a teacher -
from playing school with the neighbourhood kids,
to my early babysitting days,
it seemed like a natural fit.
And for the 11+ years I taught,
most of the time, I can say that it was.

Fast forward a little -
marry a pastor,
resign from teaching position,
move to a new community,
have a child,
and somewhere along the way that call to be a teacher got put to the side.
And let's be honest for a minute -
I miss it.
A lot.
Well, most of it.
I don't miss marking long writing assignments and projects,
or the crunch of report card time,
or late nights of preparing that often left little time for other things,
or the confrontations and conflicts that come with any job that involves working with people -
but even with all of that,
I miss it.
In many ways,
it defined me.
And I think I miss that, too.

But the reality is that the place I am right now,
is the place God has asked me to be.
And it's not all bad.
I'm pretty fond of the pastor I married,
and am getting to know people and making friends in my new community.
I still have connections with good friends who aren't so close by,
opportunities to do some small bits of education work,
and a pretty cute little girl who is cheerful most of the time.

In this place, where I am now,
I have the same responsibility to develop the gifts God has given me;
the same need to find ways to be creative and to look for improvements and other options in regards to what my gifts are or how to use them;
I can still be a teacher -
of how to walk and learn and obey (perhaps even without the marking?);
I can be the "me" God has designed and called me to be -
without the definitions of me that I identified with before.

As the author of the second article put it:
"This isn't to say that it will be easy.
On the contrary, good work is hard work."

But good work is what we are called to -
no matter where we are on the map when we see that "You are here" pointer -
and if we seek to fulfill that calling,
we will be blessed,
and likely even find joy in the process.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Thomas the Twin Revisited

Been reading through some old blog posts - which has gotten me thinking about maybe blogging again. We'll see. In the mean time, we had a sermon about Thomas on Sunday and it got me looking back to this entry from 2007. Thought I'd share...

Thomas the Twin

Have you ever thought that we're pretty hard on Thomas?
He has gone down in history as the doubter.
That's how he is remembered.
No one speaks about him as the guy who wanted to be sure of the truth.
Nobody tells stories about how he was speared to death in the interest of spreading the Gospel.

Think about it a minute.
One of his best friends had gone from being welcomed into Jerusalem with Hosannas
to being arrested and crucified
in a matter of a week.
You want to talk about an emotional roller coaster?
Up, down -
confusion, sadness, helplessness, guilt for leaving Him with the guards -
He knew how Jesus had died.
I'm not sure if he watched the crucifixion or not,
but it doesn't really matter.
It was the talk of the town, I'm sure.

Either way, if I put myself into his sandals for just a short moment
and imagine where I would have been at
I can't come up with much more than
"emotional wreck".

I'm a skeptic with simple things
like if Grenadine syrup is really made from pomegranates.
And that won't really affect my life.
It won't change my emotions
or put into question what I have devoted my life to for the last 3 years.
I didn't leave my job
to walk the country side
learning the truth
and then sharing the Good News of what I had learned.

But Thomas had been in the inner circle.
Not only did Jesus know him,
but he knew Jesus.
He loved Jesus.
And, just like you or I would have,
he doubted the reality that Jesus could really be alive.
In fact, if anything,
I think we should commend him for his honesty.
He said what I'm sure some of the other disciples were thinking.

And that gets me to "Thomas the Twin".
I learned today that the name Thomas means twin.
And I think there is some incredible irony there.
Perhaps it is God quietly putting His sense of humour
into what He knows is generations of people who just don't get it.

We single Thomas out as someone different.
He is remembered all on his own
as the guy who didn't believe.

In truth, he is probably the disciple that many of us are like.
Our "twin", if you will.
If I am honest with myself,
there are a lot of things I doubt.
I know that God can heal cancer.
I know that God can bring reprieve to those who suffer from depression.
I know that God loves me even though I mess up over and over and over.
I know that life is better when God is control instead of me.
I know that God holds each one of us in His hands
even if it seems that He lets us go from time to time.
I know a lot of things.
But do I really live in a way that demonstrates that I believe them?
Or maybe the better question is,
"Do I really believe them?"
Because if I do,
there are parts of my life that should be different;
Parts of my life that should demonstrate this faith just on their own.
I shouldn't have to remind myself what I believe
if I really believe it.

Sometimes we say that we are the biggest critics of the characteristics of others that we hate in ourselves.
Thomas, I would like to say,
is my equal.
Instead of singling him out,
perhaps I should join him
and acknowledge my lack of faith.
He brings out that part of me that doubts;
the part of me that knows the answer
but doesn't act on it
because feeling it in my heart
and allowing it to transform me
takes more than just knowing.

It takes believing.
And it means surrendering myself to the Spirit of God.
I'm not really good at surrender.

Perhaps a good place to start
is with Thomas' words of greeting for Jesus
"My Lord and my God"...
humble me, that I may truly believe
and so live the joy of the resurrection.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lemons...

They say when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.  But I'm curious if anyone ever thought of that logistically.  For some people, that's a lot of lemonade.  What if you don't even like lemonade?  What if you like it at first, but then it just tastes sour, or you get bored of it, or maybe you run out of sugar.  Or ice.  Who likes warm lemonade?  And there's still the question of all the lemons.  And the peels and the pits.  What do you do with all the waste from making the lemonade?

I've been struggling a little recently with what to do with some of the lemons.  Sometimes, I think it's important to get beyond painting a pretty picture, necessary even.  In truth, I think I've often looked at lemonade as putting the lemons into perspective; getting the bigger picture if you will.  God has blessed me richly, and with that, ought I to really complain about lemons?

However, God also gave me wisdom and a heart, and sometimes it hurts, or I feel overwhelmed with the need to get to the source of the lemons.  Where are they coming from?  If the lemon delivery service knew I had all the lemons I needed, could I request a change in the contents of my deliveries?  Could I have strawberries or even bananas sometimes?  Maybe they don't know that I'm getting a surplus and don't have enough lemonade pitchers to make something good of all the lemons?

What if I gave them some of the lemons back?  With a little sugar and ice, of course, so that they, too, could see the lemons, but also have the opportunity to turn those lemons into something good?

Just a little food for thought.
Literally.

And hopefully a productive week of both lemonade production, lemon returning, and a little bit of fruit salad.

Friday, December 09, 2011

A Thrill of Hope

I was reading an article last week from Relevant magazine all about Advent.  It quoted a couple of Christmas carols, one of which was "O Holy Night."

I'm sure it wasn't supposed to be that part of the article that caught my attention - the whole thing was good - but for some reason the words of "O Holy Night" stood out like they haven't before.

I think it's that word "thrill."
"A thrill of hope..."

I don't think I express extreme emotions very often.
Emotions, yes, but not the absolutely miserable or completely ecstatic kinds.
Like a thrill.
When I think of being thrilled, I'm thinking of things in the marriage proposal category.
Or someone having a baby.
Or bungee jumping off a bridge.
Although that's more of a rush and not really in the same category.
But it's that kind of crazy excitement.
I'm pretty sure I say I'm thrilled sometimes.
Thrilled to have my report cards finished.
Thrilled to be able to be a part of something big.
Even thrilled to beat all the Angry Birds levels.

But I'm not sure that's what this thrill is about.
The coming of the Christ-child -
"the weary world rejoices!"

A weary world I can identify with.
Too busy to rest, to relish in the simple joys of creation, family, and community.
Too caught up in the rush to really revel at the mystery and incredible gift of Christ.
Overworked, scrambling to make ends meet, bogged down by realities of sickness, brokenness, insecurities, and fears.

And wondering why.
Why the hurt?
Why the exhaustion?
Why the discontentment and lack of peace?

That is why He came.
To offer hope to a broken world.
That we may see Him and know Him.
And know the peace that only He can give.

May you find His joy this Advent season
and be thrilled because a baby WAS born,
and may you wait, with eager expectation,
for the return of the One who grants the hope and peace that this "weary world" needs so deeply.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Irony

Less than a day after posting about all the time I had, I was with a group of friends and we were talking about how I only had 4 and a half weeks left before our time in GR would be up.
I had just been feeling so refreshed.
And suddenly, it seems like it's back to a list of things to accomplish in 4.5 weeks (almost 3.5 now!)
and knowing that most of our weekends are planned,
and that we have to start thinking of how to use up the food in the cupboards,
and all that not quite as fun stuff.

I had a quiet afternoon when I got home that day.
I even took a nap for the better part of the afternoon.
And then I stayed home instead of going to hockey,
and just enjoyed having time with us.

No agenda - just time.
(It may have resulted in the purchase of an updated version of Angry Birds - it is important for one who has trouble with science to invest in practical ways to build scientific skills - like the physics of the trajectory :)...)
And once again, good.

I am learning how important rest is.
It's something I've known - and realized often -
but I am reminded again and again.
One of these days, I just might get it.

So, this week has been more rest.
On Thursday, before heading to Toronto for the weekend, I enjoyed an hour of singing/strumming with Picking and Grinning - banjo, mandolin, guitars, horn, harmonica, a little piano, a fiddle, and some singing - bluegrassy music like "I'll Fly Away", "This Little Light of Mine", and "This Land Is Your Land."  Good stuff.

Then we headed to Toronto and have spent  the weekend with my grandma - chatting, playing games, playing guitar, eating the goods that Grandma's place always has, and visiting with my aunt and uncle, and some cousins.  My dad even managed to make it in for some of the visiting.

Today we're off to meet with some of Ken's cousins en route to home - and then get organized to have his folks visit for a few days.

In light of American Thanksgiving, I'm reminded again of how much we have to be grateful for.
So much.
We are blessed.

And filled with opportunities for rest.
And this might be a good time to point out that I don't have to do report cards this week.
That in itself makes me feel quite rested!
Although, I have been thinking more about being back in the classroom.
It's good to put my head back into that space and think about the rest of the year ahead.

"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength..." Isaiah 30:15

Be rested and refreshed - and thankful.
Happy American Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Gift of Time

When I had a wedding shower a year and a half ago, my friends gave me the gift of time.
It was brilliant.
We were given gift cards for movies and dinners of all kinds, a night away, and a clock.
Brilliant.
We enjoyed every piece of that gift.

It seems this fall, we have been given that gift all over again.
It looks a little different this time, but it is SO good.

I don't think I have heard my own voice say, "I can do it.  I've got time," as often as I have in the last 3 months.  It has been such an incredible treat.
Time for cooking.  And baking bread.
Time for exercising.
Time for reading.  (Although I haven't read nearly as much as I thought I would.  It's amazing how quickly time passes, even with "nothing" to do!)
Time for reflecting and writing.
Time for us.
Time for serving others without having to set aside special time to make sure it happens.
Time for friends and just stopping to chat as opportunities arrive.

I love it.
The question is, how to make this a reality when our time here is finished.
Because that really is something I'd like to achieve on some level.

Time for life - for loving, and laughing, and really living to the fullest.
It's so wonderfully refreshing and good for my soul.

No rush for now;
I have been given the gift of time to figure it out. :)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Possibility...

So I'm not re-committing just yet.  Although I did do some writing last week and realized just how much I enjoy it, and how great of a means of expression it is for me.  I think I learn a lot about what I'm actually thinking when I write, so I just may have to get back on this bandwagon.

For now, however, a short thought about community.
In my writing last week, I commented on how blessed I was to be part of a pastor's family.
Strange thought, I know.  Often there are a lot of negative images and phrases that come to mind when someone talks about being a pastor's kid or pastor's wife.
I realized how much of a blessing it is to walk into a church and be known by others.
People know who you are, say hello, ask about your week, and take the time and interest to know about you because they know who you are.
As a result of this, I've had the blessing of quickly getting to know others in the church.  Because of conversations they often initiated with me, I got to know who they were.

We've been in a different community for 9 weeks now.
Granted, we haven't been to the same church more than once.
There are over 120 CRCs within about an hour radius of where we're living.
Ridiculous, really, but another topic all together.
What I've come to realize once again is the importance of community.
We've found community in different ways here - soup night, fellow classmates, Bible study, sports teams, and neighbours.
However, there is a community which we are familiar with and appreciate on Sundays.
A group of people who know our names; whom we feel free to worship with; whose style of worship is familiar.  People who ask about our week and care to hear the answer.  People who know us, and who we sometimes don't have to say a lot to in order to know that we belong.
In the churches we've visited, we have yet to find one that is similar to the one we worship in at home.
We have yet to find one where we've quickly said, "Let's go there again next week!"
We show up, shake hands with strangers, share Lord's Supper with strangers even, but I have felt a distinct emptiness upon coming home.
It's not home.
And we miss it.
Not to say we're not enjoying our time away.  We are.  It's good.  So good.
But it's not home.
It's a healthy longing.
One that was created deep within us.

A desire for home.

6 weeks to go.  That's crazy.
But when it comes, it will be good to be back in Winnipeg.

There's another deep longing for home.
It's different.
And hopefully much farther off.
Because I'm enjoying my time here.
God is good.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Do Not Be Afraid

The angels making visits in the year before that first Christmas had important messages to give.
They told of John the Baptist’s coming,
of the birth of Jesus;
they assured a man who feared for his own reputation and the integrity of the woman he had committed to marry,
and they announced to a group of tired, lowly shepherds the arrival of a baby king who was to save the world, and could be found in the town nearby.

The angels knew they were messengers of God. They knew that what they had to share was real and true, but they also knew something of the people they had come to visit. Whether it was their own appearance, the shock of the sudden presence of a stranger speaking, perhaps the messages themselves, or even the pieces of the journey that each recipient found themselves traveling; the angels’ messages were the same: Do not be afraid.

“Do not be afraid, Zacharias. Your prayers have been heard.”
“Do not be afraid, Mary. God loves you dearly.”
"Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife!”
"Do not be afraid!” the angel said to the shepherds. “Listen, I bring you glorious news of great joy which is for all the people.”

To each the message was really the same: God is bigger than you, and He’s asking you to join Him in celebrating, in carrying out a part of His story, in walking in faith. Don’t be afraid – He knows what the journey ahead looks like.

A new year is ahead and we have an opportunity; a chance to step forward acknowledging as the old English hymn writer did that “this is [our] Father’s world” and “God is the ruler yet.”

We step ahead knowing that the year past held many reasons to celebrate and praise God for His faithfulness and enduring love in our own lives and in the lives of our families.

We also step ahead knowing that the year past held details of brokenness that we don’t always like to talk about.

In all of this, both the joys and the challenges, the truths of God and His unfailing promises have been constant. Deeper than just in His promises, God has been sovereign and He is faithful.

So as we move into the year ahead, may we be reminded not to be afraid.
May we be reminded that God is bigger than us, and He asks us to join Him in celebrating, in carrying out parts of His story, doing so by walking in faith.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thanks.

I was humbled yesterday
by a middle aged
regular lady
who took a moment
to make a point.

I was in line at the check-in counter at the airport.
Ahead of me was a soldier in his traveling uniform.
He adjusted his hat more than once.
I even watched him as he put on his dog-tags.

Out of nowhere, a woman came from behind us,
interrupting the conversation he was having with his girlfriend.
She simply stopped,
put out her hand,
and said, "I just wanted to say thank-you."
He shook her hand,
and she turned and walked away.

It was so simple,
yet so clear.

Thanks.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Attitude Check

Seems funny to write about an attitude check when I think for the most part, my attitude has been very "in check" these days.

God is good.
And the visual dance moves I displayed at a worship practice a couple of weeks back may be proof of that.
I don't generally exhibit dance moves.
However, they seem to be becoming part of my reality and the fun that goes with reminding myself that joy is real and joy is good has removed the shame from demonstrating my lack of skill in the rhythm department. (I'd like to offer kudos to my high school youth friends for this recent revelation.)

However, about the attitude check...
A huge piece of my life as of late has been one of those pieces where a forced response of "good" seemed to be the answer when anyone asked how it was going.
And it was good,
only I was letting the not-so-good be the reigning voice in my head.
I've been frustrated and so coming up with the very diplomatic, politically correct responses that sometimes go hand in hand with trying to be "proper" and pretending to be real at the same time seemed the only good response.

I had a chance to sit and reflect for an afternoon this week.
A treat for anyone,
but I took it as a gift.
I had a number of hours to step back and find the good in what has only been "good".
And I found a lot.
Many reasons to see the gifts,
to acknowledge the hearts,
and to see what really lies beneath the surface.

It seemed more than complete irony, then,
when I opened my evening devotional only to discover that the focus of the day's reading was on attitude.

The writer talked about how difficult situations have the opportunity to harden us or soften us.
We can respond to "heat" as clay,
and let it harden us and make us brittle,
or we can choose to be wax,
inviting the heat to mold and shape us.

It was then that I realized how necessary my afternoon had been.
How God was reinforcing in me the need to trust Him with the tough stuff;
to know that He wants to mold and shape us
and that He wants us to find Him in each piece of our lives.

Because He's there.
And when it seems like He isn't,
it's because I'm choosing not to look for Him.
Or letting myself be convinced that I can figure it out on my own and so I don't really need to invite Him to step toward me and identify His presence.
Sometimes it means just re-evaluating the way I'm praying.
Perhaps not asking for what I think is needed,
but simply allowing Him to mold me and make me what He wants me to be.

Because when I'm open to it,
and really trusting,
and really seeing each part of my life
as His and not really mine at all,
my perspective changes
and brings the joy
that lets me laugh
and really, truly answer that indeed,
it's very good.