Thursday, December 28, 2006

Blips on the radar...

So, Donald Miller has been set aside for awhile.
He's at home.
And I am not.

However, I've had the great pleasure of reading "Velvet Elvis" by Rob Bell.
And although I'm not a convert
I like that he gets me thinking
and asking questions
and really
doing what it takes to learn
and to grow.
Being challenged
and disagreeing
and agreeing for that matter
but being reminded of what it is to not only read and think,
but to do.
To be.

"'Your job is the relentless pursuit of who God made you to be...'" (114).

"God doesn't just want to reclaim things; God wants to see them move forward" (161).

"[The first Christians] saw it as their responsibility to put Jesus' message on was less about proving and more about inviting people to experience this community of Jesus' followers" (164).

And lastly, perhaps my favourite at this point:
"Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn't as bright as it could be" (166).

So what are we doing?
What am I doing?

I recently saw "The Pursuit of Happyness".
Great movie, for the record,
but I like the "relentless pursuit of who God wants me to be" even better.
It's not over.
It's relentless.
And it's not about "happiness"
(or "happyness" as it were)
But it's about that nudge that God places in your heart.
And it's about joy.
Joy that sticks when happiness isn't a reality.
And it's about becoming
rather than arriving.
Something I've mentioned before.

Rob Bell talks a lot about how it's a journey
not a destination.
And I like that.
It means I'm not there yet.
And I won't be.
It means others aren't there yet either.
We're in this together.
And living.
And stumbling along the way.

Invite people to really, truly experience this community of Jesus' followers.
And hear their excitement at discovering Jesus.

Perhaps you'll hear your own excitement at discovering Him, too.
I'm anticipating a little of my own.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

So I may get kicked out...

...but I think it's worth a thought anyway.

Yeah, it's Miller again.
Really, I do still know how to think for myself.
I think.
I'm pretty sure.

So he's writing about the gospel of Jesus.
And how sometimes, we tell the whole story --
all the facts
the "five steps"
and what it all means,
but we leave Jesus out.
We forget the part about Jesus being alive and at work in our lives.
We forget that even though the facts are important,
it's the stories the deliver the heart of the message.

The stories of a Miracle Worker.
The stories of hurting people
who found grace and solace in a Saviour.
The tales of lost who were found.
Of real people,
with real experiences
who have come to know God
by being in a relationship with Him.

Miller talks about how our experience of Communion -
"sitting quietly in a large building that look[s] like a schoolroom or movie theater, to take Communion" -is so different from how the early church celebrated this same meal -
"sitting around somebody's living room table, grabbing a hunk of bread and holding their own glass of wine, exchanging stories about Christ, perhaps laughing, perhaps crying, consoling each other, telling one another that the Person who had exploded into their hearts was indeed the Son of God, their Bridegroom, come to tell them who they were, come to mend the broken relationship, come to marry them in a spiritual union more beautiful, more intimate than anything they could know on earth."

And I think to myself,
(see, I do still think!)
I know it's different.
And I know there are reasons for all the formality,
but there is something unique and sacred
about really sharing Christ in a way that actually feels like sharing.
Really being an active and alive part of a body of believers.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

"Friend" of sinners...

I've had a page bookmarked in my latest Donald Miller read for the last 6 days and decided it's finally time for me to sit down and share this fine thought with the rest of you.

The chapter I'm reading is looking a little bit more deeply into some of the characteristics of Jesus that are evident as we read the gospels. One of the characteristics that has meant a little more to me is that Jesus liked to be with people.
Don't get me wrong.
He also went up on the mountainside to pray on His own
and to have that down time/quiet time/ time with His Father.
But there's a little piece of what Miller said that got me to thinking.

"Jesus built our faith system entirely on relationships, forgoing marketing efforts and spin.

Not only that, but one of the criticisms of Christ was that He was a friend of pagans. Not that He hung out with pagans, but that He was their friend."

And I think to myself,
It's all about people.
He has called us to love one another.
And that's it.
That's the clincher.

Someone did a solo of "O Holy Night" tonight.
And it struck me again.

"Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace."

His law is love.
A good friend and I were discussing this a few years ago
and our conversation still sticks out in my mind.
He kept going on about how complicated we make it and how simple it's supposed to be.
Not that really, truly loving someone is simple.
But that the concept is so straight forward.
And in that we are answering God's intense call for obedience.
Loving Him means loving others.
It means living a life that's not about me.

He didn't just hang out.
He befriended them.

He befriended me.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Peace. Peace?

Funny thought. Funny question.
Are there things in your life you wish you didn't have peace about?
Things you wish would be different, only you feel called to be in them the way they are?

Generally we talk about looking for peace.
And finding it when we know we are being obedient to God.
Trusting that He holds all of the details our lives in His hand.
Which is completely and fantastically true.

Only it leaves me with a bit of unsettledness.
A lot of asking God why.
And a lot of learning to love and trust Him because I know that He has my best in mind.
We sang a few songs tonight that made me chuckle.
I chuckled because God has this uncanny way of giving me what I need at the most opportune (or sometimes what seems to be the inopportune) moments.
Following a long conversation with someone about trusting God -
even when in my head certain things make no sense,
but there is an immense amount of God's peace surrounding them -
I arrived at church and was greeted by a time of "favourite hymn selection."
I didn't pick one.
Even though I am always ready to call out 489 at any moment.
(Hmm. There's an irony that just made me chuckle...489 is about peace - and being well in one's soul...)
Anyway, the first 2 songs were "If You But Trust In God to Guide You" and "Have Thine Own Way".

Now, riddle me this.
Is there a better set of songs to follow a conversation on not "getting" God,
but knowing that we have to trust and follow whatever the call -
whatever cross we've been asked to carry -
whatever it is in our lives that God is asking us to push aside in order to be obedient to Him?

I'm glad that God gives me the grace to chuckle at me
and at the way He reminds me of what I need to hear
and at life itself.
Is there a better way to end an evening at church than with a shoulder shrug,
a shaking of the head,
and a good laugh?
But that seems to be the pattern as of late.
And so far it seems to be doing well for my soul.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Benedictine Monks...

A group of us engaged a challenge over the last few weeks:
to spend time in silence
simply acknowledging the presence of God.
Not thinking.
Not praying.
Just being.
And being in awe.

It's not always an easy thing to do.
My brain takes over.
I start to think
even about how I need to think about how aware and silent I'm being.
It's ridiculous.
But a good challenge.

Miller (some of you my be sick of hearing about him, but I'm only on p.61, so that's just too bad!) was talking about a book by Kathleen Norris and how she talks a little about Benedictine monks and how they would stay up late at night to study the Bible by candlelight. And I think to myself, yeah. Sigh.
There is something about darkness that makes the presence of God seem much more powerful -
or I'm simply more aware of it.
Perhaps it's the glimmer of light in the dark.
Perhaps it's simply the fact that it's dark so there are less things to distract me.
Either way, it's a powerful image.
And one I thought I'd share.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Little Sermon in a Nutshell...

I feel somewhat lacking in wisdom.
that there ought to be something deep going on in my life that I should be able to reflect on.
And the truth is that there's a lot of "deep" going on in my life.
Maybe too much.
And I don't really feel like reflecting on it.
I want things to go back to being a bit more simple.
You know - easier.
I was enjoying those days of being full of joy all the time.
And really seeing all of life's twists and turns in a positive light.
And deep down that hasn't changed.
It just seems that God is grabbing my heart.
Which is a good thing.
It's just that it's challenging.
And frustrating.
And stretching.
And forcing me to be aware of myself
and at the same time
be full of prayer-filled attempts
at making the details of life "not about me."
It seems that every song, every book,
every Scripture, every sermon
is giving me a reason to be affected.
Part of me thinks this is how it's supposed to be.
This might be the closest to a living faith journey I've been on in awhile.
Not that I haven't had some incredible moments of living faith prior to the last 6 or so weeks -
but the challenges -
the roadblocks, the potholes, the chips in the windshield, the U-turns,
and let's not forget the asking for directions -
are what make it a journey - a road trip as it were.
That's when the maps,
the company
the music
and the snacks
make it great.

So, friend, thanks for sharing dinner.
Chris Tomlin - indeed "You and I Were Made to Worship."
Go Dutch Meatball soup, orange water, and frosted mini-wheats.

And for the map...
I picked up the Phillips Translation of the Bible that used to be my Grandpa's off the floor beside my couch a few moments ago. It was the contemporary version in his day. Much like our Message.
In reality, I picked it up thinking there had to be a gem worth sharing as I felt very much lacking something to share.
Funny how God does His thing.
I opened it up to the end of 1 Corinthians and found the heading, "A Little Sermon in a Nutshell," and this is what it reads:
"Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, live like men, be strong! Let everything that you do be done in love."

I needed to hear the "stand firm - be strong!"
God is good and God is faithful.

I also needed to be reminded to do everything I do in love.
That's not always an easy one.

Roll down the window.
Enjoy the road trip.
And find the joy in the journey.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Finding beauty in truth

I picked up Donald Miller again today.
I decided that after a day where I came home in "one of those moods",
I needed to get my head back in the game.
I will also note that a nap was needed and taken.
However, before I got to napping, I got to a nugget.
One of those pieces that just hits you where you need to be struck.

In this journey we call life
or faith
or perhaps an intertwined combination of the two,
it seems that we often have high expectations of God.
And don't get me wrong.
He is good.
He wants to bless us.
He takes care of our needs.
But it's like we forget how blessed we are and take it all for granted.
When things take unexpected turns,
or we are let down
or people hurt us
or we feel alone
we fight to really live what it is we say we believe.

If "the joy of the Lord is my strength"
than why do difficult circumstances have such powerful control over my perspective on life?

It's not that the truth about God has changed.
There is something, however, about how I view what I know to be truth.

And in walks Donald Miller.

"The truth is that there are a million steps, and we don't even know what the steps are, and worse, at any given moment we may not be willing or even able to take them; and still worse, they are different for you and me and they are always changing. I have come to believe that the sooner we find this truth beautiful, the sooner we will fall in love with the God who keeps shaking things up, keeps changing the path, keeps rocking the boat to test our faith in Him, teaching us to not rely on easy answers, bullet points, magic mantras, or genies in lamps, but rather in His guidance, His existence, His mercy, and His love."

For the record, the piece about "His love" was in italics.
It needs emphasis.
God hasn't changed -
even if the way He's getting me to where I am going has.

We have sung "Guide Me O My Great Redeemer" the last few Sundays in church.
And it's quite fitting, I think.
It's a journey.
The travel route is different for each one.
But the Guide is the same.
And in that there is joy.
And a beautiful truth.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Musings as of late...

Yesterday someone gave me a pleasant reprimand for hosting people at my house all the time. They were referring to people who aren't good at being served. I think it was well-intended, but got me to thinking about the why and the how and all of that.
I enjoy it.
Serving, that is.
It feels good to bless others and to see them smiling.
And since I enjoy it, it makes sense to use it in a way that benefits others, not?
It doesn't feel like work or like hard-fought obedience.
Rather, it just is.
And it's good.

This afternoon I was reading a piece out of "Tuesdays with Morrie" and I came across a piece about giving; about making life about others instead of about oneself. It went like this:
" to other people is what makes me feel alive. Not my car or my house. Not what I look like in the mirror. When I give my time, when I can make someone smile after they were feeling sad, it's as close to healthy as I ever feel.
Do the kinds of things that come from the heart. When you do, you won't be dissatisfied, you won't be envious, you won't be longing for somebody else's things. On the contrary, you'll be overwhelmed with what comes back."

And I thought to myself, "Amen!"

The key is ensuring that the giving is done for that reason -
the reason of loving my neighbour as myself -
considering others better than myself.
It's not about me.
It's not about my car
(those of you who see my beauty on a regular basis may have pre-determined that part of my philosophy... :) )
Or my house -
Or the frizz and the glasses -
or even the straightened look.

Giving feeds into life.
Into feeling alive.

One of my favourite proverbs has always been:
"A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."

And I think it holds true as long as I'm not trying to do it in my own strength.
Then I simply get burned out.
But it comes back to that Psalm 29 business.
"The Lord gives strength to His people;
The Lord blesses His people with peace."

Indeed He does.
And in His strength, refreshing others
is an incredible source of refreshment.
Of giving life, even.

"...take hold of the life that is truly life..."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Getting "All Fired Up"...

So it's still kind of a cop-out because it's not really me,
but it's something I love and have been challenged by.

I mentioned awhile back that I found another Linda Siebenga poem while looking for the one about getting on our knees in the berry patch. And I know that this one is more directed at Pentecost, but really, I think it's directed at everyday. I think it's often our everyday fear that if we pray for God's Spirit to work in our lives, it just might happen.
Anyway, it's worth a read.
And a think.
Even a thought or two.
Thanks, Linda.

A Mighty Rushing Wind

What if today the sound
of a mighty rushing wind
would fill this building
and flaming tongues appeared
above each head
our tongues becoming loosed
and eloquent
to bring the good news?

Perhaps we fear this mighty
rushing wind.
Fear that it might blow
through us.
demand our lives
our souls
our all.

Wanting just a little of the Spirit
to keep us through the day
but not a great mighty amount
rushing through us
with a surge of emotion
upsetting our conservative poise.

Wanting a little of the Spirit
to warm our lives
but not a flame hot enough
to sear
to cauterize
our sinful soul wounds.
Not so hot that we will be
compelled to share our fire.

Dare we sing “Come Holy Spirit”
with more than voices
knowing that he might come
filling us with exuberant praise
that needs to be shared?
“Come Holy Spirit
Lover of my Soul.”

~ © Linda Siebenga from her book - “Windcatcher”

The 7 minute lull...

So they say that every 7 minutes
there is a lull in conversation.
And people have to decide
if they're comfortable with the silence.

It's been a 15 day lull.
I'm not really comfortable with that.
7 minutes?
I can handle it.
In fact, I kind of like it.
It's good to be in silence with people.
To just be.
And to know that you are in a safe place.
A comfortable place.
Where your mind isn't spinning.
It's just "being."

15 days, however...?
I apologize.
I'm back.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

So, it's settled then...

It sounds kind of final.
Sometimes I'm good with final.
Other times I'm really not.
Every now and then,
it ironically makes me feel completely un-settled.

Settled reminds me of coffee grinds
in the bottom of my cup
and how that means that I won't get them stuck between my teeth.

It sounds like an arguement that's over.
Or a decision that's been made.
It sounds like the pioneers
(or the people of Catan :) )
going into unchartered territory
and making a place for themselves.
A place to call home.
And home is a good thing.

Settled can be kind of a dangerous word, though,
when it makes us feel too safe,
too unwilling to step out of our comfort zones,
too afraid to stand on a desk for our "Captain",
or to forget that it's not about what we don't feel capable of
but rather of what we believe
that God is capable of.

Let it not be, "Oh you of little faith,"
but rather,
"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine..."

May we feel settled enough in the grace of God
to be open to
and even to invite
some un-settling within;
evidence of His Spirit
taking up a settlement in our lives.

And most fittingly,
following a settlement
ought to come a bit of development.
An ore, a sheep, and a wheat anyone?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

And on that note one more time...

Three posts in one day.
God must be trying to teach me some things.

I heard "hang in there" in two different contexts today.

The first left me feeling hopeless
as the response given to me when I offered those words
was disheartening and non-committal.

The second didn't leave me feeling much better, to be honest,
but more because of the way I responded to them.
The words were spoken to me
and I answered with my self-pitying acknowledgement
of how that seems to be one of those gifts that I have,
but sometimes wish I didn't.

Until I went about "hanging in there"
and realizing how it's not really me who "hangs in there".
I opened my phone on the way home from the second conversation to check the time.
And noticed the verse that I never notice on my display screen:
Ps. 29:11 -- which says, "The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace."

I am not a rock.
I can "hang in there" because God gives me the strength to do so.
Not because I am strong and immovable.

One more quote for today.
This time really, truly in the spirit of it being Thanksgiving.
It comes from a song by Caedmon's Call
and it goes like this:

"I am thankful, that I'm incapable of doing any good on my own."

It's in His hands.
He surprises me often
and provides for needs I didn't know I had.
They're good hands to be in.
And I think the second "hang in there" had more to do
with trusting those promises and His provisions to be true.

Monday, October 09, 2006

On that note...

On that note of community,
I would like to share the simple joy
of sitting at a table in Tim Hortons
with good friends
eating donuts
and drinking hot beverages.
Although I love the drive-thru
and I really do
there's something delightful about
sharing Tim's with friends
and not just enjoying it on my own.

An Island Chain...

So perhaps the fact that it's Thanksgiving - a time when a person is inclined to be with family, or "family" as it were,
(thanks for so many dinner invites, "family") -
and that a large number of people have asked me in the last 3 weeks how I feel about living in Winnipeg,
and the fact that the youth want to have our Sunday morning worship time on the island at the cabin,
I have done some thinking about this "island" vs. community business.

First, a thought from "About a Boy"...

"In my opinion, all [people] are islands. And what's more, now's the time to be one. This is an island age."

And a thought from Simon and Garfunkel...

"I am a rock
I am an island
I've built walls
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship
Friendship causes pain
It's laughter and it's loving I disdain
...If I never loved I never would have cried
...I touch no one and no one touches me
...I am a rock
I am an island
And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries"

That thought of being an island.
A self-sufficient being that is capable of existing alone.
Of not hurting.
Or having emotion.
Funny how it's not really possible.
Sometimes we pretend that it is.
And some of us pretend pretty well.
But deep down,
sometimes really deep,
I (and I hope "we")
know that it isn't possible.
Made in the image of God means we hurt
and have emotions
and need both to love and to be loved.

There are truths in my life that could have scripted that song from Simon and Garfunkel.
And truths in my life that put me and Will from "About a Boy" on a very similar page.
And yet other truths that make "community" a word that my students get sick of hearing by the 2nd week of school.
And that get people wishing they hadn't asked why I loved Dordt so much.

And that, perhaps, is what draws my attention to how incredibly I wrestle with these concepts on a very regular basis.
It's a conflict between who I'm called to be, the things that have shaped who I am, and the admission that being a "rock" is not always something to be so proud of.

God reminds me of these things often.
I am convinced it's not simply a coincidence.

And it brings me to a few other thoughts from "About a Boy"...

"Suddenly I realized - two people isn't enough. You need backup. If you're only two people, and someone drops off the edge, then you're on your own. Two isn't a large enough number. You need three at least."

"Every [person] is an island. I stand by that. But clearly some [people] are island CHAINS. Underneath, they are connected..."

We've been created for community.
It looks different
on different days
and with different people.
But the truth is that it's who we've been created to be.
And as much as we may try
We can only avoid the reality of it for so long.

I might still be a rock.
Or mostly a rock.
But here's to being an archipelago.

Monday, October 02, 2006

God asks...

What do you do when God asks you a question?
Or maybe someone else asks you a question,
but deep down,
you know that God has allowed the question to be asked.

How much of you
answers the question?
How much of God
answers the question?
How much of you is aware
of how God is at work in your life?

If it's me,
I am forced to think a little.
Reflect a little
And get back into the heart of me.
It's not always an easy process.
It makes me aware of the masks that I put on
for others
but even for myself.
I have to ask what I really need.
And what I really want.
And if what I really want
Is what God really wants.

And it's enough to make a person nauseous.
Me, anyways.

And I have to be reminded
that God's hands are big enough to hold me.
And that His peace is very real
if I slow my mind down enough
to make room for Him to place it in my heart.

And a part of it has to come back to being simple.
Knowing what God wants isn't always an easy answer.
But what He needs
is a different story:
What He asks of me
is to give Him a willing heart
a humble heart
and to trust that He will walk along-side me
wherever and whenever
all those other little details
come together.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Few Words from the Berry Patch...and then from me

Strawberry Patch
- by Linda Siebenga

My mother knew
strawberry patches.

She knew
that the weeds
grew better
and faster there.

She knew
about transplanting
on a cool rainy day
with boots
that weighed in
ten pounds heavier
on days like that--

and the never-ending watering.

But she also knew
about the gift

the rewards
of successful
treasure hunting.

To find under
a mat of leaves
those big red nuggets.

And she knew
that you can't
get that close
to the ground
without kneeling.

I have been thinking about this poem a lot in the last number of days.
I'm not really sure why.
It has always been one of my favourites.
It was written by a good family friend of ours.
I found another poem of hers this evening while looking for this one online.
I'll share it another time.

Anyway, this one has been reminding me of what I learned from Levente when I was in Ozd.
He talked about humble and human both coming from the same Latin word:
humus - meaning "ground".
And how important it is that we recognize their interconnectedness.
Human - Humus - Humble.

It says much about who we were created and are called to be.

I talked with my kids about humility today.
We were reading Eph. 4 where it tells us to be "completely humble."
Not just " a little" humble.
Or "a lot" humble, as one of my students put it,
but rather "completely" humble.
What does that really look like?

Well, He became human.
His feet were covered in the dust of the ground
as He walked from Jerusalem to Nazareth
and His servitude brought Him to die for the unlovable.
Sounds pretty complete to me.

Maybe there's a reason that being "grounded" is a good thing.
(Not grounded like when you were late for curfew,
but grounded like evidence that's based on something.)
It keeps us humble.
And keeps us bruising our knees
kneeling to give thanks
asking for guidance
and knowing that weeding, transplanting, and watering are part of the process.

Her mother knew more than strawberry patches.
She also had the "dirt"
on living humbly
before the face of God.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ah, the NHL...

So the NHL was back in Winnipeg
for one night.
And it was good.

Part of me is sad for the dedicated folks in Winnipeg who lost their team.
Because "loyal fans" doesn't really describe the commitment these folks have to the Jets.

I think "Go Jets Go" broke out 3 different times in the 3rd period.
The first was the loudest
and I shook my head
and joked in reply,
"Go Home Jets"
But the truth is that would be here.
Which would be good.
Because there's something great about NHL hockey.

Reality is the folks here are hockey fans.
To the core.
Jets, yes.
But hockey.
They cheered loudly when the Oilers were introduced.
And gave the same welcome to the ex-Jets from Phoenix.
Truth be told,
if Doan scored the place would've erupted.
And that would have been kind of fun.
But he didn't.
In fact, even though the Jets fans in the picture are beating me up,
Let it be known that the Oilers (and Craig MacTavish - note his head :))
won 5-0.
But it would have been fun even if they didn't.
I like the way the fan beside me put it,
"Go Hockey Go!"
Let the season begin.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

atypical posting...

So I finally watched The Lord of the Rings.
Took me long enough.
Like a few years.
And I liked it.
So much that I didn't even wait 24 hours between movies 2 and 3.
I wanted to see how it ended.
And I might even read The Hobbit again.
Just to put it all into perspective.

Whilst watching The Return of the King,
I had my hair straightened.
The pictures show the final results
And the good friends who I got to share the evening with.

Not really a normal posting for me,
but thought I would share these anyway.

Monday, September 04, 2006

So long summer...

Sad to say, but summer is really over. I struggled greatly with bringing my boat to shore at the end of the last few strokes on the last lake.

When I left for camping and canoeing on Friday,
it was about the last thing in the world that I wanted to do.
My house was a mess,
I felt overwhelmed by way too many details that still need taking care of before my new kids come,
I was tired
I was loathing in self-pity
And I just wanted to stay home
and loaf on the couch.

However, guilt got me to go
and the fact that I know I love camping and canoeing.
I was sure I would have fun once I got there.

I drove out with a good friend
and along with good conversation
we played some humbling and heartfelt songs
acknowledging our imperfect humanness
and the depths of God's grace.
"At the top of our lungs" hardly describes how we sang.
It was what my heart needed.
And as we drove along the gravel roads
around corners and over crazy rocks that don't belong on roads
between lots of trees
watching the sun go down
I couldn't help but remember why it was that I was heading out for the weekend.
It was amazing.
The sun
the known silence outside the confines of the Toyota
and the feeling of release
just by being there.
In a matter of an hour
my whole focus shifted
and I was excited to be leaving
every care in the world back in the city.

We slept under the stars -
on the rocks and in the moss -
we portaged and paddled
and swam off random rocks
we shared good conversation
we set up camp on a non-site
we sang and read and prayed
and found solitude
in the greatest church "building" there is.
I learned to kayak
and canoed by myself
and took time to journal
and watched turtles and a hawk
and a snake and listened to the loons -
who by the way are out both at night AND during the day -
and reveled at the expanse of the sky
and at how awesome we decided we are -
this was seconded by 2 men and a boy who paddled by
so we're pretty sure it's true -
and just enjoyed being.

I haven't done that in awhile.
Left every care behind.
It's incredibly refreshing.

And I only left my cares in the city.
When I returned,
sadly they were there.
The mess -
the laundry
the dishes
the school work -
the stresses and worries
the reminder that my "real" life starts again tomorrow.

For a few moments,
as I wrote in my journal
and sang in my car
and read and prayed by headlamp
in the darkness and the silence
and paddled in the quiet
God was so very present.
And I didn't consciously ask Him to come.
He was just there.
And He took all those worries and anxieties
without me consciously handing them over.
And I was at peace.
Content, relaxed, refreshed, and confident.

He knows how to do that,
God does,
to take me and mold me
when I'm unwilling and unready.
To remind me of His grace,
of my significance in His plan,
of the simplicity of life and love,
of his power and infiniteness,
and of the joy
that comes from trusting
and casting my cares on Him.

Imagine if I invited Him to come
and be where I am all the time
or if I left my worries at His feet
instead of just back in the city.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Affirmer...I wish.

So I was at this thing last night that is part of the training for the Franklin Graham Festival.
I won't be here for the festival, but it's good stuff to listen to.
And we got a bunch of youth to come out as well.
It's good to talk with them a bit about sharing their faith.
And good to recognize how hard it can be sometimes.

One of the pieces the guy was talking about last night was how we can either be affirmers or evaluators.
That's a tricky one for me.
In fact, very contradictory.
I know that I am an affirmer.
In fact, I really think that encouraging others is something I do well.
Something I enjoy,
And maybe something that I would even call a gift.
The awkward part
is that as soon as he said what he did,
I felt very guilty for my evaluating.

Really, truly, I'm an evaluator.
I wish I could turn it off sometimes.
Not all the time,
because I know that evaluating and discerning are both good things.
Valuable and important.
When it comes to ideas and beliefs and understanding what the Truth really is.

However, when it comes to people,
being an affirmer is much more important.
And it's here that I run a little stuck.
I am incredibly judgmental.
And quick to criticize.
And to recognize areas where someone "doesn't measure up",
sometimes before I've really had a chance to get to know them.
And my pride stops me from offering grace when I know that's exactly what I'm being called to do.

I'm pretty sure I know which is the higher calling.
And certain, as well, that I've got a lot of work to get there.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The five people you meet on earth...

The last weeks of my holidays have come and gone, and there is indeed much to say about a trip to Iowa, to Holland, and then to camp. However, what I want to write about is one of the books I read on one of my inbetween days - "The Five People You Meet in Heaven."

Essentially, for those who haven't read it, it is the story of a man who, after he dies, meets five people whom he encountered at some point in his life. They explain different aspects of his life to him and help to make sense of details that put the "big picture" together. Pieces of it caught my attention in different ways, but needless to say, it's a good story.

And it got me to thinking.

Who are the random people that I meet or have met along the way who remember me for reasons or incidents that I have never thought twice about?

Who are the people in my life who have had an impact on who I am, but whom I've never told?

What are the little pieces of the puzzle that I have never fully understood, but just went along in stride, never knowing the "why"?

What are the little pieces of the picture that I didn't even know about, but happened along the way and contributed to who I am?

All very interesting things to think about.
I found out during my week in Holland how much I messed up my parents' plans.
I mean, I know I messed them up along the way.
And I know that plans are just plans and life has a way of never really going according to plan.
But apparently we were going to move to the States before I turned 10 and my dad had all these great plans to go back to university and then I got sick and their went the family finances.
And thus, there went the plans.
To be quite honest,
it kind of shook me up.
And I felt a little sick.
And then I read this book.
And I thought,
indeed, make the most of every opportunity.

Of all of them.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A foothold...

The truth is that it's time for a quick cat nap before leaving for Holland for a week.

The other truth is that I've been confronted by this concept of needing to be able to offer grace.
My own need for grace and the incredible gift of grace that I've been given has recently been played out in front of me quite blatantly.
And a number of times.
There may be a good reason.
It is engaged in a serious battle with my own ability to offer grace.
Somehow there is a big part of me that just can't.
It sounds ridiculous when I go over it in my head.
But part of my heart just isn't there.

I've been promised grace and forgiveness.
However, my need to extend that grace in return is crucial.
And I'm stopped in my tracks.
I can't.
I can pretend.
But my heart isn't there.
And so really,
I'm not sure that's grace at all.
And if I can't offer it,
why should it be offered to me?

I know the right answer to that question.
But that right answer is in my head.
And although that's a start,
it's not where that answer needs to be.

It's not an easy one.
But a tough reality.
And it humbles me
More than I like to be humbled.

It gets to the heart of what grace is really all about.
And it gets to my heart.
And it reminds me how skewed and selfish I am.
And stubborn.

And thus, in need of grace.
I just can't.
Not on my own.

I'm going to need a little help
to not make that foothold so easy.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


I like the spare kind.
And the leave kind in the fall.
And the kind that lets me put on a hoodie and jeans
at the end of a long day.

I like the kind that gets me away from talk radio and back to the music.
And the kind that gets me from a red light to a green light,
that gets rid of a flat tire,
and that puts me in a new place with new people every now and then.

It's the kind that happens on the inside of me
that I seem to have a bit of trouble with.
Don't get me wrong.
I like that kind, too.
After the fact.
But it's not always easy while it's happening.

I've been reading Donald Miller.
He might show up here a little more often.
I'm only on page 81.

"Everybody has to change, or they expire. Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons....Only the good stories have the characters different at the end than they were at the beginning....Leave....Don't worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed."

I'm not saying that I'm planning on going anywhere big -
leaving that is.
Not at this point anyway.
But I like the concept.
And I think I know it to be true...
in many regards in my own life,
and in at least some regards in the lives of others.
Not leaving, like running away.
But changing.

And even though it might be something that can be tough for me
I also know it's something that's good.
Change is good.
It lets us become.
If we don't change,
We just stay the way we are.
And that goes against who we're called to be.
Always changing.
Becoming more.
Becoming better.
And knowing that it happens
within the story of grace.
The story that shapes us.
The story that we are a part of.
The story that has characters at the end that are different from who they were at the beginning.
Except for one.
He never changes.
He who promised is faithful.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sweat the small stuff...

...not my overall philosophy on life --
I try not to sweat too much stuff at all --
but I've concluded that it matters.

I think it goes back to a piece that I read in college.
A piece that identified "noticing" as a gift.

I kind of chuckle at that one sometimes.
Because sometimes I miss a lot.

Recently I saw a card that said,
"Some people make things happen.
Some people watch things happen.
And some people say, 'What happened?'"

Sadly, I saw myself as the last of the 3.
Missing details.
Missing the goings on of what's around me.
Ask our family friend who put a beautiful arch over her front sidewalk.
I walked under it -
leaves and branches all around me-
and when I arrived in the backyard
she asked if I liked the archway.
My honest response was, "What archway?"

Perhaps I'm simply not a superstar at noticing stuff.
And, although embarrassing, humbling, and quite humourous at times,
It's not the end of the world.

Noticing people, however, is where I think
"sweating the small stuff" matters.

Things like a few weeks ago when someone remembered
that sugar-free ice cream was a better choice
and picked some up,
just for me.
Or someone quietly offering me driving directions
Or chuckling aloud, offering me directions to the stadium store
Or bringing a large, 2 milk and a sweetener over
when I am having a rough day.
Or giving me a hug
when I'm frustrated that I need a puffer
in the middle of a good shift at Ultimate -
Or remembering that I don't have all I need for a canoe trip
and bringing what I'm missing,
without me even asking.
Or sending me an email after I called
and couldn't talk because I was crying.
And knowing that I just needed
that little nudge of encouragement.

And I guess I could go on for a long while.
It's the small stuff.

No one bought me a new car
or paid my mortgage
or wrote my history paper
(even though I offered a good bribe :)...)
no one convinced me it was all going to be okay
(even though I'm too stubborn to be convinced of lots of things --
maybe they knew that and didn't want to try...)

But the small stuff makes a difference.
It's the little things.
Like trying to understand a person for who they really are.
And not being so self-focused
that I forget what's all out there -
not just on the outside,
but what's going on on the inside, too.

It really matters...
or so I've noticed.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Granola Bars and Blue Doors

So I was talking to a friend yesterday
about love
and what it really is
and how we express it.
And how as a culture we're scared to express it,
and yet we need to know that it's there.
And that it's real.
How parts of it are very intentional -
letting people know that you love them, that is.
But how we're not always comfortable with
how to say it
or how to show it
because we're afraid of what kind of response we'll be given.
Or maybe because we're afraid
that there won't be any response at all.

And then I got an email from someone wise
who quoted someone else wise
who said,
"Never look down on anyone,
unless you are reaching down to help him up."

And it reminded me of the man on the corner
who put a smile on my face this week.
He was asking for money or food.
I rolled down my window and handed him a granola bar.
For which he thanked me and smiled.
And then he paused and said,
"Nice blue doors."
It was a friendly chuckle.
Not a mocking or judgmental chuckle...
(who would mock my car? :) )
But kind of one that said,
"You don't have it all together either."
Almost like he was impressed by them.
And glad that I left them blue
instead of painting them to match everything else.

And then my thinking went back
to the conversation I was having with my friend.
About how love works.
And how often love is expressed by mutual trust.
A shared willingness to show weakness.
And a shared acceptance of who we are as imperfect people.

It seemed so simple for the man on the corner.
He looked down on me...
to help me up to a different understanding.

Sometimes it seems so difficult
with the people whom we really love.
Or who really love us.
Why is it so terrifying?

It challenges me to be honest.
It challenges me to be vulnerable
and not pretend like I have it all together.
And it challenges me to listen.
To really listen.
And to keep working on the invaluable need
to notice.

And it reminds me how important it is to
thank those who have shared their "blue doors" with me.
And have let me share mine in return
(both pre- and post- functioning handles...)
And for that matter, those who have helped me work on the glitches.
Like making the "blue door"
actually work the way it was designed to.

And so I can drive on,
roll down the window
on my blue "door"
and hand over some Quaker Chewy bars.
Want a ride?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Typhoon Parties...

So, I know it's late, but I just hung up the phone with my friend in Taipei.
She is having a typhoon a snow day she says.
The office is closed and no one is working because the wind is crazy.
So she went out for lunch
and now they're planning a"typhoon party".
People over to hang out and play games.
and not work.
Sign me up for one of them.

So, she's great.
And says that she misses life here.
And wants you all to email her.
Even if she is a slow responder.
(That's like an EMT, but the opposite...)

And I'd like to share my delight at the fact
that she kept talking to me even though her floor was covered in puddles from some weird moisture thing in the wall or the ceiling or near the window.
On a fourth floor dorm, you shouldn't have puddles on the floor.
But she did.
And she stayed on the phone.
She did try to clean it case some of you think she is irresponsible and just leaving it, or leaving it for someone else, but she tried whilst talking.
to no avail.
But we chatted on...
into the wee hours of the morning.
actually it's like 1:30 in the afternoon for her now.
Just like the old days.
In front of the yellow canopy.
Ah, the yellow canopy.

Good times in the community car.
Which for her sake I will mention...
is no longer a community car.
the door handles are all fixed.
I took some tools and another friend to the wreckers
and we figured it out.
We took off the old
and made them into my new.
It was cheap
and we felt pretty smart.
So she and I?
We went for ice cream...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

One is never enough...

When I was a kid
and we visited people's houses,
my mom always said we could take "two".
2 cookies, 2 glasses of juice, 2 hand-fulls.
Less was okay, but never more.
We of course figured out the system.
2 bowls of chips, 2 of each kind of cookie.
We were so smart. :)

So, 2.
I was going to write 2 things, but I guess that story is kind of one.
So the other one will have to wait for another day...

Thought #2...a comment in an email with a friend awhile back got me to thinking.

The intention in describing the person we were talking about was to say that they definitely put God first.
Only it came out differently.
The message came to me saying that this person "defiantly put God first."
And although funny,
and undoubtedly a typo,
I have to admit that it challenged me quite intensely.
I know that I strive to "definitely" put God first.
And sometimes I really do.
Sometimes I surprise even myself
at how God can work in me to make something possible to hand over
even when it seems like humanly speaking
I want to hold onto it even more tightly.
However, more often than I'd like to admit,
I "defiantly" put God first.
I give Him everything except for the last detail.
I give Him everything...kind of...
I have to give it back
again and again.
I give Him everything
when that's what He's forced me to do.
Not just nudged me
or whispered in my ear,
but shaken me up good
or knocked me to my knees
because He knows that sometimes
I learn the best that way.

Ah, typos... :)
I like that God uses the small stuff.
I also like that my brain is taking time to be pensive about this stuff.
Ah, summer.

Friday, July 07, 2006

"Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes -
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries."

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Yeah, I wish I could take credit for that one,
but I can't.

I do like it however.
It goes back to that delights thing.
But not so much as noticing the blessings,
as simply noticing God.

When talking to some youth group kids about "quiet time",
a friend shared with them that they don't have to fill the space.
It's enough sometimes to just be
and know that God is there, too.
In His presence is a good place to be.

And it brings me to another good quote.
This time from Clive Staples...
(aka C.S. Lewis...)

"A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the walls of his cell."

God's glory is all around us.
Whether we choose to notice it
or acknowledge it
is a totally different matter.

Not that I'm opposed to "plucking blackberries",
(I think raspberries would be better...)
but maybe when we do,
it wouldn't be a bad idea to be barefoot.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Two stories.
The first happened in college.
Okay the second one did, too.
Oh, college.
Oh, learning...but the not the kind
of learning you think happens at college.
Much better than learning about the stuff that is
"beyond the ken of both victor and vanquished."
Yeah, I had to ask what it meant, too. :)

The first.
I was telling a friend how writing was an "out" for me.
She chuckled and said, "No, it's an "in".
"What?' I asked, giving her my scrunched up face.
She laughed at my face (only because it was scrunched...)
"It's my totally honest me," I told her, trying to explain what I meant by "out".
"I know," she assured me.
"It might be an "out" for you, but it's an "in" for the rest of us.
That's when we get to see your heart.
You're honest and real when you write.
So for those of us who read what you write,
and who you write to,
We get the "in".
We get to know you."

Ah, good friend.
She taught me how to be honest more often than when I write,
and for that I thank her.
But she was right.
And so I write.

Story two.
In my challenging, but fantastic writing class my last year of college,
we were assigned a "delight".
At the time, I wasn't really sure what to write about.
Our prof talked about finding that $5 bill
in your winter coat pocket
the first time you pull it out in the fall.
And about holding his first grandchild.
I couldn't relate.
What I wrote about is immaterial at this point,
but I like the idea of "delights".
It's a great way of acknowledging the simple moments of joy in my life.
Some are things that make me smile a little.
Others really "get me" and it's really joy.
And so, although I am not planning to dive in to the real ENG301 style,
with adjectives and metaphors and great descriptions,
I think I see my own heart (refer to story 1)
when I'm really honest
and take the time to enjoy the little blessings.
Cause there are lots.
Need I say it again?
He is good.

Recently -
**I got a scrape from diving in Ultimate.
It's from diving for a disc (which I missed,
but let's ignore that point for now).
I gave my best effort.
And it reminded me of the other scrape on my leg
from playing beach volley-ball.
I dove a lot (the sand was soft and it was fun...)
But someone on my team said I was a hard-worker.

**My friend gave me a serious tutoring session
on how to find my way around the UofM.
She even printed out a picture of the building I needed to find.
And on my first day there, I only got honked at once.
And I didn't get lost.
I was quite excited.
(I got lost in the library on day 2, but let's ignore that part...)

**I was riding in the car with a friend tonight.
We passed someone riding a bike.
She turned around towards the biker,
clapped her hands
and said,
"Good job! Good job!"
I chuckled to myself.

That's all.
Not all.
But enough for now.

Friday, June 30, 2006

better thing about honesty...

So, funny thing about trust.

When it's there,
you know that your friend is real.

And that whole thing about trust meaning that you can be really real, and honest...

It means you have to be honest
when you feel like you've been un-trusted.
And honest that you've been hurt.
And you have to trust that the supposed un-truster
Can handle your honesty.
Otherwise you've un-trusted them.

And honestly, if all that trust is real,
Then the truth is okay.
No matter what it is.
That's a friendship grounded in grace.
And truth.
And in something deeper than me.
It's about honouring someone else.
And accepting their friendship as a gift from God.

Sounds hokey.
But it's real.


Monday, June 26, 2006

funny thing about trust...

Funny thing about trust.
It grows
and sometimes
you don't even see it happening.
It just does.
And suddenly, you realize that your walls are down.
And honesty isn't work.
And being real is really real.
And hearing things that stink are okay.
And saying things that stink are okay, too.

Until your heart is questioned.
And in an instant, you feel untrusted.
It might not be a word - untrusted.
But it's a feeling.

And it doesn't matter how many times
you explain it away
and tell yourself that it's okay.
It's really not.

And you don't take falling asleep for granted.
You actually consider getting up at 4:45
in hopes of making something productive of your alertness.

Funny thing,
that un-trust.
It hurts.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Trust...and obey

I've been challenged to think a lot in the last while.
And thinking a lot also puts into question where my heart is at.
Sometimes I think I can keep the two separate.
But really, I'm learning that I can't.
What I think about is what's on my heart.
And what's on my heart is what I think about.

And the consolidation of them (thanks, Margaret)
Has brought me to that age old chorus of
Trust and obey.
I know they are supposed to just go together nicely...
trust and obey.
The thing I've come to realize, however,
is that sometimes it's easy to say, "I trust."
God is faithful.
God is good.
He cares for His children.
Sounds simple, doesn't it?
The funny part is that it's not that easy.
The trust part - it's a head thing.
Mind over matter.
That I can do.
But the obey part - it's more than a mindset.
It's a following through.
It takes action.
It asks me to check in on who God is calling me to be.
And the truth is that's not always an easy answer.
It goes back to that verse in Ephesians.
"Find out what pleases the Lord."
Again, simple?
I think not.
Obedience isn't just something I can decide and do.
First I have to figure out what obeying God really means.
And it's not always the same thing.
Sounds like a lot of reasons to throw my hands up.
Or sighhhh.
Sort of...but I'm not in it alone.
He's promised to help me understand what I need to.
(Not necessarily all that I want to...)
And to walk alongside me through the entire mess.
And to bring me blessing through my choices.
Not necessarily to agree with all my choices.
Or to make them hurt-free.
Or to have them turn out the way I think they should.
But to be there nonetheless.
And to hold me in His hands.
They're big hands.
Steady and full of grace.
Good thing.
And He won't throw His up at a loss for what to do next.
He is constant.
And is holding me tightly.
Gripped in His grace.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ah, rest...

I have the unfortunate experience of not having a voice.
Funny thing, not having a voice.
At first I thought it was unfortunate.
My friends laughed at me.
And told me how awful I sounded.
And I couldn't really communicate very well.
But, it has landed me a day at home as I can't teach without one.
And other than the voice, I feel pretty good.
And you don't really need to talk to anyone when you're at home alone.
Except telemarketers.
I had one ask me if I was okay today.
He thought I was on oxygen and perhaps dying.
Then he asked if I had the flu.
It was a good transition and he didn't spend 20 minutes trying to convince me to buy his product.
So that was good.
I can't sing, however, and that's a bit of a challenge.
But it means I have to listen.
So I did.
I listened to music.
And didn't sing.
And then I listened to 3 sermons from Brian.
Haven't done that in awhile, but it was good.
I think it would be fun to call my mom to chat, but alas, back to that not chatting thing.
And I could call the university to find out about parking for my summer course.
Only they wouldn't understand me on the other end.
Okay, so it's not all sunshine.
But I'm getting work done.
And that's a good thing.
Yay me.
Only 2 weekends left until all procrastination must be finished.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Home Sweet Home...

We had a children's choir in from Uganda today.
20 orphans and their "aunties" and "uncles".
Their energy and enthusiasm was inspiring.
They were singing and dancing and smiling the whole way through.
And I was tapping my toes and (trying to) dance, and also smiling the whole way through.
Contagious joy, really.
I couldn't help but reflect their joy.

And then it dawned on me.
No one misses them.
They don't have parents to call to say they are having a good time.
Or that they arrived safely.
Or who will greet them with open arms at the airport upon their return.
They are gone for 6 months.
And they are with all the family they have.
They share their stories with each other.
And that's good.
But there is this crazy delight in arriving home from a trip and sharing tales of the adventures you've been on.
And knowing that your mom or dad waits eagerly to hear exactly that.

I wanted to hug all of them.
And to suddenly put an addition onto my house.
I'm pretty sure I could hold 20 kids in the backyard in tents for now.
Almost positive.

Prayers for the children of Uganda.
Is there a reason they are tugging at my heart strings?
Suddenly they aren't Invisible Children anymore.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Humming and Hawing...

After many attempts at this, a blog has been created. All in the name of posting on someone else's blog.
Ah well, probably a good thing.

Today a crew of us went to the snake pits in Narcisse, Manitoba.
A lot of snakes.
Like 5000.
In one place for mating season.
Crazy business.
Relaxing to hold them.
Fun to catch them.
Intriguing to see the spaghetti noodle piles of snakes falling off the edges into the pits.
How do they all know to come back to the same place every year?
For enough years that it's a tourist attraction with signs and everything.
Really, that's all there is to say.

It's time for me to get back to work.
Or sleep.

The silence of post-midnight is good.
Fitting, even.
It's like the world is supposed to be quiet and be okay with that.
Sometimes the world doesn't get that you can be quiet during the day, too.

Be still and know that He is God.