Monday, April 30, 2007

L*O*N*E



This photo was taken by my friend, Greg Beaudoin, on his trip across the Namib desert. I have obtained his permission to share a few of his pictures on my blog because I think they are striking photos and I would have taken them myself, had I been there (at least I hope I would have).

I need people. Dean has been working a lot this past week and weekend so I have spent a fair bit of time alone. I don't mind that, usually, but I realise that I need other people to motivate me, to challenge me, to spark ideas and conversations and laughter and love, and to generally be a productive person. What good are wisdom and knowledge and kindness and generosity and beauty and faithfulness (all those things I try to cultivate in my life) if there are no people to share these things with or learn them from? But on the other hand, if I cannot stand by myself when I need to, be strong when everyone around me is heading in the wrong direction, or make it through a dry, dusty and barren spot in my life, then I have little depth. I have observed that these profound parts of my character are most often birthed in solitude, but they are matured in the presence of others.

Let me not waste the often short window of seeding time (spoken from experience on a Manitoba farm). Let me seek out the ones who encourage my maturing and growing process. Let me not be always longing for the other (to be with someone when I am alone, or to be alone when I am with people) but instead, learn contentment and patience in all seasons.

"To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1.

Random fact: My cat Jazz likes Old Dutch Crunch Mesquite BBQ potato chips and has spent most of the time while I was writing this trying to wrestle them out of my hand as I write and have a light snack.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

on the subject of HELL


This is a visitor that camped out on our deck last summer. A pregnant praying mantis, I think. She moved awfully slowly which is why we were able to get quite a few good pictures.
I don't like bugs, I don't like worms, I really don't like snakes. I don't like frogs or fish much either. I suppose being tossed in a pit filled with all those animals would be a pit of a "hellish" experience for me, to use a hyberbolic, colloquial term. I have nearly finished my book on hell (a rather weak segue, I know, but it's all I got) and while I still don't know exactly what I believe about it (the Bible is not that clear, so I don't think we can be that dogmatic about it), I believe that hell, just like heaven, might be a slightly different experience for everyone. I do think one can conclusively say that heaven is where God is and hell is where he is not, but even the terms, heaven and hell, are relatively ambiguous in this day and age as so much myth and folklore has been attached to them. Most of the questions about hell, like "How could a loving God create a place like hell?" or "If someone sincerely follows a path to truth, but has not encountered Jesus, do they still have to go to hell?" are not the right questions. They have already assumed the Western Christian view point of the afterlife, which draws on tradition probably more than scripture.
The Bible is a progressive revelation of the character of God as pictured through the setting of many different cultures. Hell and heaven and the afterlife are a relatively late addition in this big picture, yet so much of the message of the current gospel is one of salvation from eternal damnation. That is totally the wrong emphasis, I believe. The invitation of Jesus is not one to escape punishment, but to walk with and know and become a friend of God. The question is not where will you spend eternity, but do you know God, for eternal life is to know God.

Friday, April 27, 2007

can you see it?


Wednesday night at home group, we were assigned a square of a dingy dirty back city alley and were told to find beauty and take a picture of it. These are the photos I came up with. This first picture is of the back of a car driving down the alley.

The second photo is of the inside of a temporary carport .
The third is the shadow of a circular staircase on a wall. Truly, beauty and life and wonder are to be found anywhere, you just have to look. Where is the beauty in YOUR world today? Look past the garbage and you will find it...



Wednesday, April 25, 2007

sompthings not right


I have not been feeling quite right for a few days. I don't know what it is, but my chests feels like Tea is standing on it and I am hit with unexplainable fatigue at about 5 in the afternoon. Yesterday it was pretty bad and I was afraid it was pneumonia again (no no no don't want to do that over), but I realised I was missing the key symptom of fever, so I resisted the urge to let the fear become the sickness, and decided a bit of rest and good eats should get me over whatever it is.
In other areas of life, things are just a bit off and I can't put my finger on exactly what it is. That makes it really hard to do anything about it. In our little church, something seems to be lacking or changed or not done with the same intensity or focus. I talked to someone recently who had the same feeling about their work. Last night I watched an episode of "House" while waiting for Dean to get home and as always, the doctors were confronted with a mystifying case - unrelated symptoms and no idea what was really going on. One doctor said it was most likely cancer so they radiated the woman. Shortly after that she developed further symptoms which made it clear she was fighting a bizarre infection and by giving her radiation treatment, they had wiped out her immune system which she needed to fight off the infection and in the end, she died (sorry about that depressing story, but there is a point). They were so desparate to do something that they did the wrong thing and harmed her instead of helping her. Now I love medicine and doctors and wonder drugs and all the rest, but they only help the body with the healing process - they cannot be the healing. God designed the body to heal itself and if we can just get the obstacles out of the way that are stopping it from doing just that, the healing will come.
When you don't quite know what's going on, I think the best thing to do is ask God and wait. Nobody likes waiting. We would rather be flailing our efforts about and doing something, even the wrong thing, rather than waiting for the situation to clarify or God to intervene. But our good intentions (or shall I call them guesses?) can wipe out the very thing God is bringing about to rectify the situation. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait on the Lord.
This wonderful dog was caught enjoying the water on the quay at Ste-Anne's last summer. Andy, Emma and Dean's feet stand watch.

Monday, April 23, 2007

mystics

This is a church in Point Claire right on the St. Laurence River.

mystic - n. a follower or an expounder of a mystical way of life.

mystical - adj. 1. having a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither appparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence. 2. of, relating to, or resulting from an individual's direct communion with God or ultimate reality.

Dean said, "You are such a mystic," to me this weekend. I took it as a compliment, as I try to take most things that people say to me, even phrases like, "You are odd," and "Did you mean to do that?" But then I looked at the last few listings under the definition of "mystic" and they are: "unintelligible or cryptic." Hmmm. I don't like to be unintelligible. I suppose one of the most frustrating things is to be misunderstood. I said something to a friend last night and they totally misunderstood my intention and were offended by it. Oops. Fortunately, we know each other well enough that she brought it to my attention quite quickly and we were able to clear it up and laugh about how silly and sensitive and moody we were being. But still, misunderstandings suck. Most people will not give you the benefit of the doubt, they will just walk away and think bad and sometimes inaccurate things about you without giving you a chance to explain yourself. That's just not fair nor fun.

I guess God knows very well what it is like to be misunderstood and misrepresented and misinterpreted and mistaken for someone or something else. I have done it to him as have most people I know. I love understanding things, but I love mystery as well and when you are talking about human beings, there is always a lot of mystery involved. Relationships are not a science and too often I hear people express the desire to be able to disect and understand God before they believe in him or get to know him. Sorry, it does not work that way. Part of the beauty of relationship is the mystery and wonder of it and I wouldn't have it any other way. Let me be a beholder and wonderer of mystery instead of a judger and critic with what few and limited observations I have.

mystic - n. 4.c. inducing a feeling of awe or wonder.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

fire from heaven



I have been thinking about how to teach people to be leaders, to think for themselves, to be independent and dependable and forerunners in their own way. There is no foolproof formula for growing people from those who are needy and insecure and primarily followers into those who mentor and mature others and contribute significantly to their community. In the past few months I have begun to realise that my main method of doing this (being an example and role model) is not that effective. Simply seeing something does not transfer ability. You can watch talented dancers all you want, but that will not make you a dancer, no matter how inspired you are. On the other hand, talking about something is not the best way of imparting ability either. After listening to hundreds and thousands of messages and sermons, how much have people really changed and matured?

I was thinking about the ultimate teacher, Jesus, and noted that though he was the best role model and spoke with great authority, using words and deeds as well as they have ever been used (and don't forget those incredible miracles), not many people wanted to become true followers and stick with him after the bread and fishes ran out, and of those who did, their maturity level was sadly lacking at many times. So what turned these sad, few, often clueless disciples into fathers of the New Testament church who fearlessly plunged into a new era?

Today as we were driving across the Champlain Bridge on our way to Brossard to help a friend lead worship in a church, it struck me: the Holy Spirit came. Jesus, the leader whom the disciples were lost without, left them stranded and alone (at least that's how they probably felt). And then they waited. And waited. And then God sent the Holy Spirit and they were forever changed.

It is becoming more and more apparent that my efforts at changing the world are less significant than I had thought, and God's willingness to dwell with us, unfathomable as his desire for us often seems, is at the very core of any real maturity. Let me be the first to respond, "Come over here, Jesus!" and in doing so, be the best leader I can be.

Another sunset photo from Ste-Anne, beautiful and fiery at the same time.

Friday, April 20, 2007

the green


This picture I took 5 minutes ago of the bottom of my wheelbarrow outside is pretty much the greenest thing out there right now. The weather has finally turned warm but the brownness remains - one warm day does not qualify as a turnaround in seasons, it seems, or at least the plants don't see it that way.
I talked to one of my friends today who is just finishing up a degree that he started way too long ago. This afternoon I finished a book by a friend of mine that has taken me months to get through. Last night I got a letter from the government that finally opened up an avenue for sending funds to Africa which has been a process we began to pursue oh probably a year ago only to encounter many deadends. This morning I had a dream that Dean showed up with all the furniture pieces we needed to complete our house and guest rooms.
I do try to pay attention to the lessons that I believe God is trying to teach me, so here are the ones I am getting today:
1. Finish the things you have started; don't give up.
2. Don't be disheartened that results are not immediate but know that seasons are changing, things are moving forward and growing, and it just takes time for the fruit and beauty to be evident.
3. Stay on the path, don't change midcourse.
4. Everything you need will be there when you need it, don't worry about it ahead of time.
5. Finish one thing well before you move on to the next thing.
6. There is always some green; you just have to look for it.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

sans visual

For some reason, blogger won't let me load pictures right now, so while you are reading this, you might want to gaze out the window occasionally (ah... the beautiful sky) or spy the colour orange in your room (is it red? is it yellow? NO, it's orange! how cool!) or look at your hands and wonder, "Who ever thought 5 fleshy sticks coming out at the end of a spindly arm could do things like play concertos and make bread and hold things tightly?" Or you can just stare at the computer screen and read - your choice.

I feel like I am holding my breath or waiting for a bus. There are many places to go (in real life and in becoming myself) and much to accomplish, but here I sit - in some sort of limbo - with time resting in my hands and no urgency in my spirit for any specific thing and not clearly being able to answer the question...what's going on? Perhaps I am waiting for something to happen in order to begin a series of events. Perhaps the time is just not yet. Perhaps things are wrapping up as I transition from one thing to another. Perhaps waiting and holding IS what is happening right now. I don't know. And I am okay with not knowing. Life is never business as usual, but there are times when you must simply put one foot in front of the other and inhale and exhale and eat and excrete and work and rest and after all that, the place you are walking towards still seems no nearer than the day before. But your vision must not be your primary guide, not being able to see something cannot disorient you, and trust must be the undercurrent that is never silent.

What's going on today? I am making a cup of tea and waiting for Dean to come home and asking God what he is doing. The tea will be ready in a minute, Dean will be home within the hour, and God will answer me when he is ready, or perhaps, when I am ready.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

my desk


Here are all the essential ingredients for spending countless hours writing and reading words, sorting pictures and numbers, gathering somewhat relevant information, and staying in touch with friends and strangers all over the world:
1. a keyboard (attached to my trusty 6400 of course) to tap out all those encoded messages, some of which actually mean something.
2. LAYS salt and vinegar. Need I say more?
3. Water to keep the creative mind hydrated and also give you time to think when you need to head to the bathroom.
4. Various writing utensils because I still love to put things on actual paper and have mounds of stray bits and scraps of scribbled notes all over my desk which fortunately, I managed to cut out of this photo.
5. The telephone which occasionally rings when people who are not on msn or facebook or are not using one of my email addresses or not on neoseeker want to contact me. Um, usually that is just Dean! Or, wait, it might be an actual business or church-related call - those are always exciting!
6. Some things you don't see but are vitally important as well: the comfy chair, the calculator, the cd's, the AA batteries, the stapler, the candle, the white-out, the yellow stickies, the webcam, the map of the world, the chair that the cats sit on, the printer, the article on solitude that I have been meaning to read for nearly a year, the coaster which I never use, the picture of me and Dean in Punta Cana, the dictionary, the thesaurus, the Bible, the mouse, and the desire to communicate and love more clearly instead of hiding behind cultural and social mores and my own insecurities.

Monday, April 16, 2007

inside my winter house

1. It is snowing and/or raining again - I can't decide. We got hit with a nasty storm called a Nor'easter last night and this morning Dean almost got stuck in our driveway because there are 6 inches of wet slick white muck on it and the city snowplow had made that more like 18 inches of solid vanilla slurpee sludge at the end of our driveway. Today I am thankful for a house that keeps out cold wind and wet falling things. I am tempted not to venture outside, but I do have to mail something. By the way, this is not a picture of my house (though it feels like it today), it is a tent on the ice of Baie de Vaudreuil, taken February 28, 2007.

2. My ideas of hell are being challenged (not that I actually had really firm beliefs regarding this topic, I just avoid it mostly and try to focus on God). Interestingly enough, I wrote my thesis on this topic back when I graduated with my B.Th. and was commended for my good research but did not receive top marks because I failed to come to any real conclusions. The truth is...I don't know. The Bible is not conclusive on this topic and the glimpses we see of death and the afterlife and punishment and judgment have been too mixed with centuries of religious systematic theories for most people to be able to separate the two. I do know that hell has never been the point, but I also know that what I believe about hell will reflect what kind of God I believe in.

3. There is nothing like a good ole' Annual General Meeting to make you thankful and more aware of God being active and present and very much involved in every person's life in our modest church group. Last night the theme came through quite strongly that God is challenging us to trust him. Two men spoke of having their job security taken away this past year and realising it was God calling them to put their trust in him instead of their abilities. Two women spoke about making bad choices in relationships and realising that their value must come from God, not from how men treat them. I agree with Stephane wholeheartedly: not trusting God tires you out.

4. I dreamt about my cat, Tea, last night: One morning, I decided to put her outside and leave her there. She was out all day and returned home in the evening. The next day, I dropped her off in an unknown place and left her there (in real life, she NEVER leaves the house). We were driving around in the evening when we saw her coming towards our car from the side of the road. She had managed to find us and track us down even when we were driving! I let her in the car and I could see she had been in a fight as her ears were nicked and her fur matted and missing in places, but she seemed in good spirits and happy to see us. I realised that she would alway find her way back to us because she had a very keen sense of smell or whatever it was that allowed her to track us - she recognised where we were or had been. I thought it was a silly little dream until I started to write this and realised this also is about trust and being able to recognise and see God wherever he is and always make your way back to him.

5. I am drinking lemon and pear juice as I type - hmmmm, not my favourite combination of flavours, but a nice change.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

horrible...



We just returned from a wonderful supper at Philinos and a horrible movie called "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" about the beginnings of the IRA. I mean horrible in the sense that though the movie received awards for its craftsmanship, the horrors on the screen totally undid me and it was all I could do to stop my weeping after it ended and compose myself enough to get out of the theatre and walk back to the car. I don't know exactly what in this movie affected me so much, and frankly at this point, I don't want to think about it right now, but it was all just wrong, wrong wrong followed by more wrong. I still feel incredibly sad, no not sad - there is this cry of NO NO NO NO in my heart and there is nothing to make it right.

A good sleep, lots of hugs from Dean, and talking to Jesus are needed: that always puts things in better perspective for me.

This picture is of a GOOD thing: the entrance to the North Brooklyn Vineyard Down Under Room where we joined them for a profound look at Jesus' sacrifice and suffering on Good Friday.

Sacrifice and suffering are not worthy things in and of themselves: the cause or motivation must be pure and right and lovely. Let me think on things pure and right and lovely tonight.

I am going to bed.

Friday, April 13, 2007

who are we?


I just had the most interesting phone conversation. A lady from the Gideons called me to ask whether they could come to speak at our church. Somehow the conversation turned into her trying to define who I was and exactly what type of church we were. She wanted to know if we were apostolic, baptist, charismatic, believed in the five-fold ministry, in the fullness of the gifts, in prophecy, in healing, and whether I spoke in tongues. I said of course we believe in Jesus and the Bible and that God speaks to us today and wants to heal us. And I told her that I didn't know why this last bit of information about whether or not I spoke in tongues was relevant. Then she said it was obvious that I didn't and I said, hold on, you have just made an assumption that is not true, so she said...Oh, you do speak in tongues, so I again reiterated that she was assuming things and I still did not think that the question was relevant to our conversation. I explained that I don't like to define myself in those terms because people have different ideas of what those things mean and it ends up causing misunderstanding instead of clarity. She got flustered at me, uttered a "Bless you, dear," and hung up the phone.
After a brief shaking of my head (what just happened here?), talking to Dean about it and getting some perspective, and asking God for help to be clear and truthful, I called her back. I told her we would be happy to consider their request at our next leadership meeting and that due the diverse nature of people's backgrounds and understandings in our group, we really avoid using this type of terminology to define people. She told me she did not understand why I was being secretive and she just couldn't handle me not answering her direct questions which were were all scriptural terms anyway. I encouraged her to check out the Vineyard Canada website and said it could probably explain things more clearly than I could. She thanked me and the second conversation ended, somewhat more pleasantly than the first.
I know I tend to freeze somewhat when people demand that I tell them exactly who I am and what our church is about. How can you adequately describe a person, a living relationship with Jesus, or a community family in metamorphosis? Sigh. I guess I must find some words that will at least give some idea of the journey we are on, but I refuse to let something living and breathing be stamped simply as "apostolic" by someone who most likely means something quite different by the word than I do, and we both probably lack the proper understanding of the whole idea behind what Paul meant in the bible when he talked about apostles.
I suppose if we had both been better listeners instead of one person trying to slot another into their pre-defined categories and the other balking at this attempt, the conversation would have gone a lot better. I still don't think it is vital to know whether I speak in tongues or not (and Paul would back me up in this in 1 Corinthians 12:30) in order to know the depth or breadth of my relationship with Jesus. So here is my attempt to answer...who are we as a church?
We love God. We believe Jesus is the ONE and invite him everywhere: not only into our gatherings but into our everyday lives and into our intimate places to be our friend, our mentor, our Boss, our Healer, and the one who receives our worship. God can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, in whatever way he chooses and we want to be a people where he truly can exercise this. The Bible gives us an idea of those things he loves to do: change people for the better, make broken things whole, bring diverse people together, spread rightness and truth, be near us, and in the end, make us one with Him.
And for the record, I speak English, broken French, some Low German, and sometimes make odd noises when I pray.
This photo was taken from Mykonos restaurant, looking out at the Trash Bar (where the North Brooklyn Vineyard meets) on April 7, 2007.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

food to grow


I think I chose this picture for today because I am hungry, so let's make this blog a quick one so I can go eat lunch. This was taken at a New York Deli just off Times Square on April 7, 2007.

I have been thinking a lot about what exactly church is. I have many friends and online discussion acquaintances who admit they are disappointed at the state of the church today and have chosen not to be there anymore. They say they find fellowship in other places, like having dinner or coffee with good friends, being honest and real with each other about their states in life, and finding support and acceptance there that the church sadly does not offer. While it is great to have friends like that, is it church?

Last night I came up with a definition of church that so far seems to work when I look at the Scriptures and the words of Jesus: It is a community where I am being challenged to be a more mature disciple of Jesus and where I am making other people disciples of him as well. I think the trend in the contemporary Western church setting all too often is to forget about the deliberate maturing process that is supposed to be happening, and we become more of a social club where we are comfortable just being ourselves and stop at that. Disciples never stop until they are made into the image of Jesus and along the way, they make a point to pass on all the lessons they are learning so that others around them can mature and become people who serve others (leaders) and are living examples of Jesus as well.

Tell me your thoughts on what church really is. Just click on Comments below.

And now...LUNCH!

Monday, April 09, 2007

inside : out


I just returned from a weekend in New York. It was a rather quick trip but we managed to squeeze in most of the essential experiences: getting lost in Brooklyn, being honked at by impatient New York drivers, eating fresh bagels (and having a lady tell me Montreal bagels were not real bagels in comparison to the New York variety), gawking at Times Square, getting serenaded on the subway, taking the elevator to the 45th floor of the Marriott, and haggling for bargains on Canal Street.
By far the most important thing we did (I went with 3 other females) was hang out with our friends, the pastors of the Brooklyn Vineyard, and their co-horts during their weekend church meetings and in their home. They most generously let us stay in their basement apartment and fed us a brilliant meal on Saturday night complete with several bottles of wine and after-dinner cigars. I have not been a city-dweller for most of my life and have always said that cities are isolating places. Not so. This time in New York was different than any other time I have been there. I expected to be embraced and included by our friends and their church community, but it went beyond that.
We met people on the street who were friendly and and considerate; we encountered some of the most helpful and personable staff in a store called Sephora; people on the subway actually talked to us; and our hosts are living proof of how you can make friends with everyday people in your life like restaurant and bar owners and invite them into your community. I admit I do not know how to do community all that well. We are trying to do that in Montreal, but I have a lot to learn in the areas of opening my life and home and time to people when honestly, some of the time I would rather just be left alone. But I am getting better. Every waitress in the restaurant, every guy behind the counter at a gas station, every bus driver, every bank teller, every hairdresser and fellow student is someone in need of community and I am learning to drop my guard and stop looking at them as strangers and service providers and instead see real people with real situations and real needs.
Yesterday on the way home, I stopped for gas at a little out of the way place on interstate 87 and started to talk to the man in the small store. He was from Turkey and asked me where I was from, what my ethnicity was, if one of the other girls was my sister, etc. In all likelihood, his Easter Sunday had been quite a lonely one as he spent the whole day by himself with an occasional visiting motorist. I was happy to chat with him a bit and wished him a Happy Easter as I left.
Mike T said some very cool things in his sermon yesterday morning. He said that God is changing the world from the inside out. You will most likely not see the power of God evident in miracles and dynamic changes in world situations first - you will see it in the hearts of people and then it will begin to work its way through the rest of life and the world. This was what Jesus did - he brought the reality of living according to the principles of life instead of death, he stopped the effects of death and sin in our lives. God is putting this world back into proper working order, but it has to start from the inside out.
Check out this video about our friends: http://www.northbrooklynvineyard.org/trashbar/
This photo was taken on April 7 in Times Square, Manhattan.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

while I was yet...


A group of eleven people that I didn't know came to my house last night. They were young (a youth group from Saint John) and just needed a place to spend the night. I thought, sure, how bad can that be? As I was praying for them that morning, I started envisioning our house being wrecked so I reminded myself that this place is really God's gift to us and it is for people to use, and asked him to take care of the details. I spent most of the afternoon cleaning and preparing the basement for their arrival.

The group arrived just after 9 pm and I went outside to direct them as to where they could park. They didn't really seem to be paying attention, so one car just drove up beside the garage and kept going. Oops!! I walked around the garage in order to ask them not to park on the lawn but it was too late. Normally, this would not have been a big deal, but it had been raining all day and the ground was very soft. This is also a new lawn that we had just seeded last fall so it is still pretty fragile and sparse. When I got to the car, there were a bunch of people trodding all over my baby lawn, the car's front wheels were spinning and throwing mud, and several people were pushing. I could see this was not going to turn out well. I asked everyone to get off the lawn that wasn't pushing the car, and after a few heaves, the car came out. My mouth dropped opened as I saw the deep gashes in the lawn that I had spent good money on and laboured hard over and I heard , "My Lord!" come out of my mouth.

Things did not improve as several muddy people tromped into my house with all their stuff. To their credit, they managed to leave most of the muck in the foyer and offered an apology for the lawn. We showed them the basement where they would be staying and left them to it as they were tired and heading to bed after a long drive. I had planned to feed them a light breakfast at 6:30 am but by the time I arose, they had all left.

I was not as upset as I could have been about the whole thing and God did give me grace to brush it aside as an accident and not obssess about it, but I have to admit that I did begrudge the clean-up I would have to do and wondered if I would invite the group back if they asked.

This morning as I was driving across the bridge on my way to French school, I was praying for the visiting youth group and asking God to encounter them in a meaningful way this weekend as they attended a youth conference in Toronto. I confessed that although my heart had been open when the kids arrived, I had pretty much shut them out after the unfortunate incident and though I was polite and hospitable, I did not want to spend much time with them. And as I drove over the bridge, this verse came into my mind: "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
God made a perfect world and along came a man and women and tore a huge hole in it. They wrecked what he had spent his best creative energy on. But while they were unreformed and immature world-wreckers, he loved them. Before they offered to fix anything, he loved them. While they were still muddy and unaware of the pain they had caused another, he loved them. While they continued to drag the filth into other places, he still loved them. He did not withdraw from them - he reached out to them. His primary desire was not for the world to return to its state of perfection and tidiness, but for the dirtied and sullied people to become clean and the friendship to be restored.

This grace is a big deal. And I don't have nearly enough of it. We have a lot of people through our home and just like real life, not everyone that passes through treats us or our home the way I think it should be treated. God does not remove us from all negative experiences or people - in fact we are to become mature as we encounter various situations and learn to respond like he responds and see what he sees. I am not saying that I should not be wise in whom I allow into my life and home, but when God allows something across my path, he does it for a reason and I want to learn the lesson.

So far, I know that grace goes way beyond tolerance and I am not there yet. Let grace become a bigger deal for me. And now I have to go clean up some mud...

Romans 5:8 But God shows and clearly proves His love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This photo of a gate with the MAKER imprint was taken a few years ago in Cambridge, Ontario.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

those other people


This is a photo I took on the street in New York City a few years ago.

Yesterday I was standing in line at the movie theatre to buy my $10 popcorn when a young guy just stepped right in front of me. I wondered if he had not known I was in line, or perhaps did not see me (I do have a certain invisibility factor), but in all honesty, I think he did it deliberately. He chatted with the people in front of him so I thought, oh he's just waiting with them, but after their order was filled, he stepped up and placed his own order. I was dumbfounded by his rudeness (he never acknowledged me or said excuse me or nothing!) and was starting to get a bit annoyed at him, huffing and sighing and shaking my head, when I remembered I once did the exact same thing and joined my friends in line, ignoring the person I was cutting in front of and got an earful from her - how embarrassing! So I let the frustration go and hoped that I had indeed learned something about letting others go first in all these years. I can't judge people for doing the very things that my unsurrendered heart has desires to do sometimes as well.

Tonight I have 12 people that I have never met coming over to my house to spend the night. They are a youth group from a church in Saint John, New Brunswick on their way to Toronto for the Easter weekend. I have been cleaning and tidying and rearranging furniture most of the afternoon and finally feel ready. Part of me cringes at the thought of a dozen strangers invading my home, but the better, less fearful part of me, knows that this is why we have a home. May my heart and my voice and my body language learn to say "Welcome" more often than "Get Lost" for I do remember what it is like to be a stranger in a strange place and need a friend or just a kind word.

Monday, April 02, 2007

T R U S T



I spoke at church last night about TRUST. It is not an easy or instant thing to trust someone, especially God. You have to get to know them, and as you do, you can trust them more.

Last week I felt God challenge me on trusting Him with my time. There are many things I like to do with my time and when someone or something threatens to take those away from me...well, I get protective of my time. And I know that whenever I get frustrated or annoyed or anxious about something being taken away from me, it is probably because I am in some way using it to fill some need instead of going to God - it is an area I have not given over to Him. The bottom line is, whose time is it anyway? Who has given me this life and every breath and every moment on earth? My time truly is His and the more I realise it, the more I will do the right things with my time instead of just the things I selfishly desire to do. Here are a few notes from my talk last night...

What happens when I don’t trust God?
– He will appear untrustworthy
– When I try to “help” God instead of trusting God, I sabotage His care for me
– I end up opposing what He is doing in my life instead of co-operating with Him and things become difficult
– I get tired
– I do not accept discipline or learn the lessons God has for me and thus, am not equipped for future tasks and responsibilities

When I do not trust God, I am trying to play by my own rules. This negates the rules of the kingdom of God that he has set in place to protect and prosper and grow me into everything I am supposed to be. I end up fighting against Him instead of co-operating with His incredible purposes for me.

What happens when do I trust God?
– I change my perspective: God takes me to His realm instead of my trying to fit Him into my realm
– I mature into my purpose
– I can be at peace; no stress
– Every day is an adventure

“I believe that God is good. No thought I have ever had of God is better than God actually is…I have never overestimated how good God is because God’s goodness overflows far beyond the limits of human understanding.” - Brian D. McLaren

This photo was taken in Guadalevaca in Cuba on March 18, 2007.