Tuesday, February 27, 2007

mosaic

Today we visited Saint Joseph's Oratory on Mont Royal. I have always loved the atmosphere of this large catholic church with its history of healing and the humble manner of its founder, Brother Andre.

My favourite part of the interior of the building is the mosaic mural at the front that rises in an arch to a great height. When you get up close, you can see the thousands of tiny coloured mosaic pieces which were hand-placed to form words and pictures. This has always reminded me of the creative nature of God. He knows the masterpiece he is creating and knows where to place each piece and what colour works in each part of the picture.

I am a small mosaic in the hand of the artist.

Monday, February 26, 2007

something I wrote to God

I don't understand how you are - how you intertwine yourself with me

How being together becomes one and one becomes many


Explosions and kisses

Solitude and big worlds crammed with souls

Near and far

Rest and work

It is all the same where you are


You come to me and I go to you

These hands of yours are bigger than I ever imagined
Can we be friends for a very long time?
Your company never gets old


I still have to much to learn and so much to tell you
Let everyday be a day with you
That would be enough to last forever


Photo taken in New Brunswick a few years ago in November.

lesson from Joash



I have been reading the story of Joash in the Old Testament (2 Chronicles 24). He started his reign when he was the 7 years old and did what was right in God's eyes as long as Jehoida the priest was there to mentor him. He was determined to renovate the temple and collected money from all the people who willingly gave what they had to restore it. I often heard this story in Sunday School and vividly remember the picture of a giant chest outside the temple with people tossing gold coins into it. One thing we were never told as impressionable children was the end of Joash's story. After Jehoida the priest died, things fell apart. Joash listened to some bad advice and neglected the temple, instead taking up with the cult of sex goddesses. When Jehoida's son tried to tell him this was a bad idea, Joash, had him murdered! It is no surprise that a year later Joash's army was wiped out and Joash was killed by some of his own servants. Turning your back on God brings one to a dead end, literally.


I was trying to figure out why Joash ended so badly when he started so well, and it seems to be quite clear that his reliance on Jehoida to guide him never matured past that into a relationship with and reliance on God. When Jehoida died, Joash listened to the strong voice of the people of the land and made all the wrong decisions because he was easily swayed by persuasive talk. He had always listened to the confident voice of his guide and mentor, so after Jehoida's death, Joash just replaced one guiding voice with another without exercising any discernment. He had not embraced the godly principles Jehoida demonstrated as his own. It is good to be mentored, but at some point, we must take responsibility for our own spiritual growth and stop placing our confidence in a person to direct us - we must learn to rely on God. We must also be able to recognise godliness from ungodliness and have the courage to stand up for the right thing, no matter how unpopular.


I want to be a true disciple and that means not always remaining a follower, but leading out when the need arises and being able to hear God's voice louder than all the rest.
This photo is an ice sculpture of an angel in Montreal's old port, February 21, 2007.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

the real thing

This is a picture of the dessert I ordered at Juliette & Chocolate on my birthday last year. I am not a huge chocolate fan, but this dish was absolutely one of the best I have ever tasted. Real chocolate, real cream, real sugar, real everything. No one at this place seems to have heard of carrageanan or milk solids or artificial flavouring or hydrogenated vegetable oil or disodium guanylate of any of the other additives and substitutes that most manufacturers put into foods to make them tasty and rich and thick and long-lasting and as close to the real thing as they can get without actually being the real thing.

Purity and wholesomeness are rare when low cost and limited time and shelf longevity and ease of mass production and the necessity of repeat business are your focus. But when something is good, you don't need to improve on it, market it, or repeat it. You just need to enjoy it and make sure you do not dilute its goodness.

And God saw everything he had made and behold, it was very good. - Genesis 1

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

again


This was the view from the skating area at the Old Port today. I went downtown with a friend who is here from Australia and it was a joy to see her delight in typical Canadian winter scenes and pastimes. It helped me see the familiar sights through fresh eyes again.

Mark Twain said, "Familiarity breeds contempt. How accurate that is. The reason we hold truth in such respect is because we have so little opportunity to get familiar with it."

Having grown up in a very religious community and having read and been taught the Bible my whole life, I find that sometimes the biblical words and stories and concepts have been heard so often before that I fail to wonder and marvel and embrace and search out anew the truths found therein. Just because you have seen it before doesn't mean you noticed everything there was to see. Just because you have heard it before doesn't mean you know what it really means. Just because you have talked to someone over and over again does not mean that you know everything about them.

Do not let repetition or familiarity breed boredom, disdain or contempt. You can choose to keep relationships and helpful disciplines fresh and alive by cultivating the attitude of a student - there is always something to learn. Love and the truth are always exciting, no matter how often they are encountered.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

moving

Don't stand still.
Keep on moving.
Let HIM move you.
Don't be a stick in the mud.
Unfurl your sail.
Let HIM move you.
Open wide.
Spread your wings.
Let HIM move you.
Be deeply moved, be stirred, let your heart be touched, let stone become warm flesh.
Let HIM move you.
He is unshakeable, unmoveable, unchanging.
He is a rock of depth and a point of navigation.
Let HIM move you.
Raise your hands and feet and mind and heart and time in surrender and let HIM move you.

Monday, February 19, 2007

things I want


This is a picture I took of one of my friends' plants beside the pool after a summer rain. I like pools and sometimes wish I had one so that I could learn to swim properly, but it is nice to have friends that let you come over to use theirs and offer free swimming lessons as well!
On Saturday, I spent several hours online and on the phone trying to get tickets to see The Police when they come to Montreal in July. It was something Dean really wanted to go to and another friend had asked me to get him a ticket as well, so I thought it would be a rather simple thing to call the box office or go online and purchase a few tickets of my choice. How wrong was I! The Police have not played together in ages, so the concerts were selling out very fast. After the first hour of not being able to log onto the ticket site, I realised that all my efforts might be in vain. However, I determined not to get all stressed out about it and continued to click and wait and dial the constantly busy box office number while doing laundry and tidying up after weekend guests. Dean had given up helping me after the first hour and said it was a hopeless case. I wasn't about to give up that fast and asked God to please help me secure some tickets because it would mean so much to Dean and my friend. I know God didn't have to do it, it was just a want, a desire, nothing necessary or even important like healing, but it was something that would bring joy to those I loved, so I asked God to release some tickets to me if he thought it was the right thing to do. I got through on the website not long after that and it offered me 3 tickets behind the stage. *Frown* Not exactly what I was hoping for. I ran downstairs to ask Dean if sitting behind the stage was acceptable and he told me just to buy whatever I could get. However, by the time I returned to my computer, that window was frozen and I could not get anywhere with an order. Sigh.
So I kept pointing and clicking and not too long after that, 4 tickets just to the left of centre, near the back, and at a very reasonable price, appeared on my screen. *Yes!* I proceeded to accept and order and give my Visa number and was very excited that nothing had frozen up on the overloaded website in the process. Then it gave me a screen to print, but as I moved the laptop to plug in the printer, the power cable came undone and the screen went black. *Noooooo!* Nothing I did pulled anything back up on the screen and I didn't know if I had successfully completed the process or not. I went to the other computer and checked my email, holding my breath and there it was, a CONFIRMATION of 4 tickets purchased. YES!
Unfortunately, the other friends that were also trying to get tickets that day were unsuccessful in their attempt. I have no idea where those 4 tickets came from when just minutes before the best available seats were behind the stage, and I don't believe that God likes me any more than any of my other friends, or that he always gives us everything we want, but I do believe that when you ask and leave the answer up to him, you will always get what he deems best. Thank you, God, for Police tickets and friends' swimming pools and 5 senses that can enjoy things like music and beauty and water.
Delight in him. He delights in you.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

the unexpected way


One of my friends was asked to speak at a local youth group meeting and she asked if I would be willing to accompany her to play for worship as well as tell a story about letting God guide me. I said, "Sure," and then she also mentioned that she would like to get a list of all the people in the youth group so that we could pray for them ahead of time and get some insight or words from God for them. It sounded like a great idea, so I again said, "Sure."
The meeting was scheduled for Friday night and as Friday afternoon wore on, that same old fear started to rise (my friend was actually speaking about fears that night, so it was apropros) that I would have no idea what to do and be of no help to anyone.
I had not spent any time praying for the youth until that afternoon and actually dreaded looking at the list of names. Finally, I overcame my procrastination and laid the list on the table in front of me. I stared at the words and wondered what I had been thinking in supposing that I would receive wonderful and special things for them straight from the throne of God. There were just letters that meant nothing to me and conjured up no images or thoughts. Just as I had feared, I was useless and had nothing to offer. As I placed my hands on the paper with names and dejectedly said, "God, I have nothing, I don't know what to give these kids, but you know them all by name and you think they are special and you..." And that was as far as I got before I began to weep with God's incredible love for these ones that I had never met. I kept running my fingers over the names and muttering, "God, you know, you know them." This feeling of being worthless and incapable of accomplishing the task at hand has so often become the time that God chooses to make an entrance and grab these weaknesses of mine by their droopy edges and turn them inside out into examples of his incredible capability.
Later that night at the youth meeting, I told the story of letting God guide me to lunch with Robert in San Francisco (see January 30, 2007 post) and then proceeded to tell them that I had prayed for them that afternoon and wished I could have come with a gift for everyone that would let them know how much God loves them and would infuse life into their souls and be the very thing they needed to hear, but instead, God gave me compassion. As I let the tears flow that usually accompany my heart when especially moved, I went to every person in the room, gave them a hug and told them that they were special and I liked them. Everyone freely opened their arms to me, looked me in the eye, and accepted my humble offering. All I had wanted was for these kids to encounter God in a way that was real for them, and instead of profound words, he asked me to use my arms and my heart.
Let me never be afraid to lay my weakness before Him, for often it is all I have to offer, and it is the very thing he desires.
(The painted sidewalk in Berkeley, California. January, 2007)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

sssnooooooooow


This afternoon, I spent 1.5 hours shovelling the lovely precipita-tion we know as snow. It was so windy that I could only shovel in one direction if I wanted to make any progress at all. My nephew insisted that this was a good workout and he is correct, though I prefer a warm basement or gym and not -20 degree (-33 with windchill) weather. After it was done, I couldn't help but look outside every 20 minutes or so, admiring the fine job I did that made room for 3 cars.
I spent most of my day in preparation mode today (we have weekend guests) and though everything I did will probably have to be done again within a few days, I try never to begrudge it, for one of the greatest privileges I have is preparing for people who come to my home. Jesus said he was going to prepare a home for us, and the least I can do is follow his example for those he brings my way.
What are you preparing for?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

clean teeth

This afternoon I had a dentist appoint-ment and all went well and I came out of the office with clean and bright and healthy teeth. Then I went grocery shopping. There is something about freshly cleaned teeth that makes you hesitant to buy any food that is bad for you, especially anything sugary and sticky. When I got home, lunch was chosen from foods that would not contribute to tartar and cavities.

There is something about being in the presence of God that makes the decaying and filthy tempations of this world just not that enticing. Being clean is a great feeling, and having your guilt removed and your sin erased is a state I want to stay in. Let me make choices tnat promote good dental and spiritual health.

This is a picture of a tree on the Cal State campus in Berkeley, California, taken in January 2007.

Monday, February 12, 2007

lesson from the cable car

January 29, 2007 (date of photo)

This is a cable car in San Francisco, the only USA National Landmark that moves. While I was taking my ride in one from the Powell street BART station to Fisherman's Wharf, I heard one of the brake-men explaining the technology to another train rider. There is a cable running underneath the street that is always in motion. The driver engages a clamp that grabs the cable when he wants the car to move forward and disengages the clamp when he wants to stop (braking where necessary and with all the hills in San Francisco, that is pretty much everytime he wants to stop). While walking any of the streets that still have cable car runs, one can hear the moving cable as a constant hum underneath you and it took me awhile to figure out what that rumble was.

To me, this is a somewhat rough but amazing picture of the Spirit of God. He is always moving and if you know what to listen for, you can hear his rumbling and humming, but you can't see him. However, when someone opens their life and hands and grabs onto Him and what He is doing, they start to move, they are propelled forward, and on the surface, it looks like they have developed great power to climb mountains and overcome obstacles, but they have merely attached themselves to a mighty God - there is no self-propulsion involved.

Look down, go deep, listen for the Spirit, reach out, and hold on for the ride of your life.

Friday, February 09, 2007

the tendency to lean


I need to go out and buy a shovel. It snowed a bit last night and the wind has been blowing, in fact it blew so much in the last few weeks that it snatched our last shovel right off the porch and into a parallel universe, at least that's where I assume it is since all my trudging through the snow and peering into neighbours' yards has yielded no glimpse of the tool.
Like cat fur, snow accummulates and if one does not stay on top of clearing it, things can get mighty unpleasant for everyone involved, including the cars. Today is also cleaning day where the aforementioned cat fur and dirt which have moved from their respective locations (on the cat or outside in the yard) must again be shown their proper places. I do not enjoy the constant maintenance and cleaning of things - it seems such a total waste of time. But other repetitive patterns like eating and going to the bathroom and working out and showering and sleeping seem altogether enjoyable most of the time. What is the difference?
While the second set of activities are natural and healthy, I believe the first ones are the result of our tendency to run from God. We don't want to stay close, to remain clean, accountable, always in earshot and sight of our Father, and ever mindful that he not only sees and knows us but wants to tell us what to do and who to be! The truth that he, in fact, knows us better than we know ourselves and sees the end from the beginning and places only the purest desires in our hearts, somehow manages to slip our minds so much of the time. Instead, like a 13-year-old sitting beside his mother in church, we lean away from our Father in heaven ever so slighty because sometimes he embarrasses us with his holiness, unshakeable character, or seeming uncoolness. The tendency of this whole world is to move away from God instead of towards him, and the further away we get, the less we experience the grace and life and healing that exudes from his presence and the more we try to clean up the ensuing messes with inadequate shovels and dusters and politics and healthcare systems and therapy, the bigger the mess gets, because sin is that way - it multiplies decomposition.
I have been reading about the kings of Judah and Israel and it is amazing, when you see things through the compression of history, how short people's attention span was, or how quickly they forgot that things go better when you choose to stand with God than when you choose to go your own way. After two generations, everything that David had stood for was in ruins. Staying close to God does require regular and concentrated attention, for my soul has a drifting, leaning, wayward tendency. Let me tend to the scrubbing and straightening up of my inner household today as I go about my outward tidying and cleaning.
Raise your shovel.
Oh, this is the clock tower at California State University in Berkeley.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

here is a poem I wrote in French class today...

Mon amour s'appelle le soleil
Il a chaud
Il est brillant
Il allume ma vie


Mon amour s'appelle la nuit
Elle est mystérieuse et se cache
Elle est mon repos et silence
Elle couvre mes secrets


Mon amour s'appelle le vent
Il me chatouille
Il me donne un petit coup de coude
Il me touche sans dérangement
Son souffle est toujours près moi, chuchotant mon nom

Mon amour s'appelle la nourriture de mon âme

And a little picture to go with the romantic mood...a doorway in San Francisco, January, 2007.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

irrational FEARS

I was thinking today about fears and how many irrational ones I have had and still sometimes let visit my brain for varying periods of time. -- Oh, this is a picture of one of the myriad of seagulls on the fishing pier in San Francisco on a rainy, overcast Friday (January 26, 2007) and has nothing to do with this post, unless of course you have a phobia about seagulls. -- Let me list a few of these irrational fears because doing that always seems to solidify their ludicrousality (not sure that is a word, but it sounds rather daunting so let me make up another one to go with it) and phantomise their power to grip me.

1. I will never have another creative idea after this one.
2. Some of my best friends will stop liking me for no particular reason.
3. I have no idea what I am doing and someday someone other than me will realise that.
4. I will go over to someone's house and the only thing they offer me to eat will be seafood and other things that make me gag.
5. When I get on stage in a play, I will miss my cues and not know my lines.
6. No one really likes what I write.
7. When people come to me for help, I will have nothing to offer - not a word, not any advice, not a prayer, nothing.
8. When a great opportunity comes by, I will freeze and not grab it just because I am indecisive or unsure.
9. Dean will die and I won't know where to go or be able to make a living.
10. Snakes will get inside my house and chase me.
11. I might choke on something when I am eating.
12. While traveling on public transportation, I will not have access to food or drink when I really need it.
13. Just because a room is dark, someone is probably lurking in it.

Okay, before I freak out totally, let me remind myself (and you) that I can trust God to take very good care of me and if I am worried about anything, I can ask him to help me and he always does. Amen.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

cold wind and thank you's

This photo was taken a few years ago on a cold and blustery winter day, much like today. It is minus 18 here now and the wind makes it feel much colder. However, I am in a thankful mood and here are some of the things I am thankful for:
1. All winter wear is on sale so I managed to get 2 pairs of warm gloves for $3.48 (great for me as I always tend to lose a glove or two every year);
2. The heating bill came and though it is outrageously high, it is less than last year (yeah!), our house is nice and warm, and we have enough money to pay for it;
3. My cold is almost gone. I caught the wickedest vile head congestion virus in California that affected my hearing and produced vast amounts of mucus, but the cough and kleenex count are way down today. Breathing is fun again, though holding my head upside down for extended periods of time is not a good idea yet.
4. Dean and I went to see a silly little film today, Night at the Museum, and enjoyed each others' company, popcorn, and some light entertainment.
In everything, give thanks.

Monday, February 05, 2007

driving

January 30, 2007. This is taken while we (my friend Lucy and I) were driving across the Bay Bridge on our way to drinks and a light dinner atop the Marriott overlooking the city of San Francisco before I headed off to the airport back to Montreal. Sigh. Life seems so much more exciting when you are traveling - each moment is new and unknown and for me at least, it is easy to have faith and great expectations for God to clearly direct you and show you new things and perhaps more importantly, I am willing to rely on him more! Back at home, however, the everyday grind seems to deflate some of my ability to be wide open to God as I just tend to get on with stuff that needs doing, which is no one's fault but my own, I know. Today a friend told me that the everyday stuff gets hum drum only when you do not love what you are doing. So, let me be a lover of whatever place, time, job (thing to do), and people that God puts in front of me. Yes, every day can be an adventure with God, because every moment is one where I can meet with Him. Keep on driving, don't stand still, don't look back, and open wide to what God is doing all around and in you! You never know what could be around the next corner.

Friday, February 02, 2007

sights of SF


There are 3 things of interest in this first picture: the sea lions, pier 39 and the city scape of San Francisco. This was taken from the boat as we were leaving the harbour for our cruise of the Bay on Monday, January 29, 2007. The sea lions get quite vocal at times and while some thought they were begging for food, I don't think they were addressing humans at all - they seemed to be talking amongst themselves. They like to hang out at Pier 39 because there are plenty of fish in the shallow waters and the harbour offers protection from rough water.

The second picture was taken on the one-hour boat tour just before we went under the Golden Gate Bridge. It was really the only magnificently sunny and clear day I had while I was in the San Francisco area, and I was grateful for a chance to remove my jacket and use my sunglasses. I did not complain about the wet weather as my friends said they really needed the rain so who was I to demand personal comfort instead of eco-balance? Nevertheless, many thank-you's were given by me on said Monday for the beautiful sun, mostly clear blue skies (it did cloud over in the afternoon immediately after I finished the cruise of the Bay, but there was no rain) and the ability to walk outside for 8 hours a day without encountering a speck of snow or a hint of frostbite.
The third picture was taken from the end of a cul-de-sac street that one had to climb a very tall set of stairs to access. The architecture of the city is very colourful and fairly new because most of the city had to be rebuilt after the majority of it was levelled in a major earthquake in 1906. The somewhat hostile hilly landscape and the recurring earthquakes have not deterred the people of this city from staying and making this a thriving and vibrant place to live. I admire that kind of perseverance.
Enjoy your view today, whatever it may be, because you will never see it exactly that way again.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

trees are important


This picture was taken on my walk through Cal State University in Berkeley on Tuesday, January 30, where there are a group of students protesting the removal of a section of oak trees in order to build a new gym facility. Some of them have built platforms and are actually living in the branches in makeshift shelters. It is amazing to me the various causes that people will get behind and pursue with a zeal that makes many of us uncomfortable. What is worthy of my public protest? What would I live in a tree for? What would I lose my so-called respectability for? I used to be quite the religious zealot (with judgmental tendencies often masquerading as zeal), going around telling people Christian rock music was an oxymoron and the celebration of Christmas by giving gifts might steal your soul (I even renamed it "Gift-mas"). Zeal without wisdom and love is a fire that can easily bring destruction to the very causes it means to spread and the people that encounter it. Thank God that he continues to show us his mercy and gracefully teaches us a better way.
Currently, I am a generally easy-going and fairly unopinionated person, so there are few issues I would sign up or go on record as being a staunch supporter or activist for, but when it comes to people I love, I believe that I have developed some fanatical tendencies. I want everyone to know that I am Dean's biggest fan and would do the silliest, embarrassing thing just to make him smile. I have no problem traveling long distances just to spend a few hours or days with the people God has put on my heart. I usually stop everything I am doing when a friend wants to talk to me on msn - because "stuff" can always be done later. My highest calling is to be a friend - of God, of Dean, of those Jesus points out to me as important in my life. Friendship takes time, and we all have equal amounts of that; it just depends who or what you want to spend it on.

Trees ARE important: Jesus did not think it beneath him to be nailed to a tree in order to make my (and your) friendship with God possible, so like Zaccheus, I will not think it too foolish to climb a tree to see God more clearly.