Saturday, June 30, 2007

the substitute



This is a picture I took while driving home yesterday. Totally amazing crazy sky! I just set the camera on the steering wheel and clicked away, hoping something cool would come of it.

After I got home from my interesting day yesterday, I stayed up till 1:30 am getting things ready for my house guest. The alarm went off at 6:21 am this morning for me to get him from the airport. We stopped on the way home to get cappuccinos and donuts. Bad move! I crashed hard a few hours later and decided that caffeine is more foe than friend, especially on an empty stomach and after you have been off it for awhile and should never be mixed with sugar....ewwwww.

I think perhaps it is a cheap substitute for passion and courage and maybe even commitment as well. Certainly it is a poor attempt at adrenaline (which after all is only meant for special occasions, or it ceases to be special or effective). I would rather work on developing and maturing these traits in my life than rely on artificial stimulus. Who needs it?

Friday, June 29, 2007

a day when things didn't turn out quite like I thought



Today was filled with things that did not go as planned.

1. I got a late start so didn't stop at the mall to do a few errands like I had planned to before heading downtown to pick up something from my doctor's office and a futon from my friend for my spare bedroom.

2. The traffic was horrible and a trip that normally takes 35 minutes took me 75. I decided to take side roads for half of the way downtown.

3. When I finally found a parking spot and took the elevator to my doctor's office, it was closed (despite hours posted that they were open on Fridays).

4. I spent 4 hours helping my friend move some of her stuff into a storage unit and an hour and a half after I had planned to leave, we spent 5 minutes loading the futon into my car.

5. I stopped at the mall on the way home to do my errands and went to 2 jewellers who refused to touch my watch (they said it was difficult to open). At the third bijoux repair place was a young girl named Chantal who just took my watch, popped off the back and flicked out the dead battery. The instant she did that, all the power in the mall went out. Chantal said, "That's not good," and I just laughed. We waited a bit and partial power came on so she was able to fix my watch and print a bill.

6. During the 30 minutes I was inside the mall, the bright sunny skies had turned into quite a storm and the sky was amazing on the way home. I stopped at the weather station and took this picture.

7. The thought that kept coming to me today as things veered off course was to be thankful in every circumstance. And I was. I was thankful that I was caught in traffic instead of in any accident that might be causing the traffic. I was thankful that I was healthy enough to walk away from my closed doctor's office and the only thing I needed there was a piece of paper. I was thankful that I was able to borrow a futon for my guest who is coming tomorrow! I was grateful to lend a helping hand to a friend in her move. I was utterly thrilled to watch the unsettled and changing dark/pink/bright/stormy/rainbow sky on my way home. And I am most grateful that my times are really in God's hands. I would not have things any other way.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

the green hairdresser



I went to the hairdresser today. Since my regular hairdresser was unavailable, I took an appointment with Veronique, the new girl, who was obviously the latest apprentice. By the end of the hour that I spent there, I was thinking that perhaps Veronique should be pursuing something else in life besides being a hairdresser. Don't worry, the end result was quite good, but I got the feeling that she really didn't like hair at all. She pulled and yanked at my locks, then gave them a rather warmer than usual (almost shockingly hot) wash, after which she attempted a scalp massage which ended up feeling more like an encounter in a vice.

I managed never to complain, yelp or exclaim and even gave her a small tip for her services (after all, she was just learning and charged me less than I normally paid), but I doubt how successful she will ever be in that line of work. You see, Veronique does not "get" hair. She treats it like a dead thing, something to be mangled and manhandled into an acceptable form. If you have ever had a good hairdresser, you know the feeling of being in the hands of an artist who sees beauty and life and endless possibilities in those strands of protein. She or he seeks to unveil the glorious halo of beauty around your head and respects the hair God gave you instead of trying to squeeze the last bit of life and body out of a fashion accessory that happens to be attached at the moment to your head.

I wish Veronique well, I really do, but unless she learns to love hair she will never be able to see, and thus release, its beauty.

Each person I find myself incapable of loving I will simply try to manage or control or use. I will never see their potential and appreciate their beauty unless I first respect and love how they were formed in the creator's hand. Let me never be a user of people, pushing them around and readjusting them and scrubbing them as if they were dead weight which happens to be attached to some more meaningful and important part of the body.

Love your hair. Love the ones you serve. Love the ones who serve you. Bring out their beauty.

This is an apple tree in Ile Perrot, ripening.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

timberrrrrrrrrr


Yesterday morning I heard buzzing noises outside my house. I went to the front door and saw that my neighbour across the street was having some trees removed by a man with a chainsaw. My heart leapt! I needed some trees removed as well but hadn't known where to start as I wanted someone who knew what they were doing to fell them. I ran outside in my workout gear and glasses (not at my most attractive, I admit) and asked the friendly neighbour if I could borrow her chainsaw guy for a few minutes. She asked Dean (yes, his name was Dean) and he said sure.
Ten minutes later he had felled my two dead birch trees and never left a mark on my lawn or hardly a footprint in my flowerbeds! Amazing what a little power tool in the hands of an expert can do! Now I shall plant something ALIVE in their place.
I have collected odds and ends of furniture throughout the past few years as people give me stuff and I can't bear to throw out an old chair because I think I might use it somewhere, oh and the cats like to sleep on it, you know. As I was reorganising my basement last week, Dean said to me (the Dean I live with, not the chainsaw Dean) that I should just get rid of stuff I am not using, stuff that does not work. What am I hanging onto it for? He is right. Get rid of the deadwood and make way for the living, growing things.
This reminds of my something my friend Carolle has been talking about recently, about not trying to resurrect or prop up our old nature, our flesh, our broken humanity, but instead, letting it die and grabbing hold of the pure, new life of Jesus which is uncorrupted and unlimited. These two things are vying for the same space, so you have to give up one to make way for the other.
So listen up my old self-willed and self-centred life: timberrrrrrrrrrr

Monday, June 25, 2007

4 steps to walking on water

These are the notes from the talk I gave at church last night from the story of Peter walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33).


1. Recognise Jesus. Often our tendency is to be fearful in tough or uncomfortable situations, but it is hard to recognise Jesus when you are afraid, because fear blinds us spiritually. Let us repent for living fearfully.


2. Desire to be where Jesus is. Peter did not ask Jesus to come into the boat, he asked to be were Jesus was, doing what Jesus was doing. Be available and willing to move. Jesus must always be our example, not what other people are doing around us. Let us repent for the tendency to stay where we are.


3. Wait for Jesus' invitation. Don't get ahead of God. Don't venture out on your own. Wait. Wait. Wait on God. Trust God's timing. Respond immediately when you hear him call you or feel the urging of the Holy Spirit. Do not hesitate. Let us repent for impatience and ask God what his invitation is to us today.


4. Step out on the word of Jesus. When God speaks, it brings things into existence. When Jesus says,"Come," his word makes a way, his word makes the water walkable. Jesus' words are the foundation of our actions; it is not dependent on the level of our faith. The goal of prayer is to be one with Jesus so that our words also bring things into existence and we can make paths for people to get out of situations. Being one with Jesus allows us to be under the umbrella of and participate in his authority.


Warnings: Don't take your eyes off Jesus. Don't give in to fear. Don't be afraid when you stumble - Jesus is right beside you. Don't hesitate to ask for help. Jesus want us to learn and we won't always get things right on the first try. Try again and try again.


What walking with Jesus looks like: It is often in a storm in the dark, but even though the wind was against him, it hardly mattered. Jesus affected his circumstances instead of letting them affect him. Do you want to be in the boat waiting for God to calm your storm as you tremble in fear, or do you want to get out and walk on the water with Jesus?

This is a sailboat on Lake Champlain in Vermont.

The first picture is of the Atlantic Ocean at Charleston (Isle of Palms), South Carolina.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

here, near and far

There are 3 elements in this photo I took in South Africa in January of 2006. It reminded me of life perspectives when I saw it today.

The field I am standing in (close):

I am in my office blogging while I wait for supper to cook. It is 11:15 pm, rather late, I know, but this is what the past few weeks have been like as I work on a long list of things to do before July 1, most of them home improvement related. Today I mowed the lawn, put together a new bureau for our bedroom (the assembly must be worth the same as the materials, I am sure of it), rearranged the furniture, and tidied up my kitchen which had been neglected for a bit. I still have a message to prepare for church tomorrow but I think that will wait til the morning.

The foothills (just ahead, close enough to see clearly): Beginning June 30, there will be quite a few people coming through my home, some just for a brief night between flights, some for a week to visit and tour Montreal, some for a month or two or more as they are in transition. I look forward to taking the time to spend with each of them, making new friends and appreciating old ones, laughing and playing and talking about deep things together and savouring each moment like the first bite of watermelon or the last lick of ice cream.

The mountains (hazy and not sure how far away they actually are): I don't know what the future holds - how long we will be in Montreal, how our job situations will change, or how our church community will develop. But I do know that God is a master writer and I need not fear how my story will turn out as long as I follow his skillful direction. He is not random, but he loves spontaneity. He is not legalistic, but he loves consistent character. He is longsuffering and patient yet not slow to act. Each day I hope to learn something new, to walk towards a higher calling, to be faithful to those God has placed around me right now, to build something worth remembering, and to never be afraid to walk towards Him and his light.

11:45 suppertime.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

deeee--lite

God has been speaking to me today about delight. My ponderances often turn to trying to sort out the mysteries of faith and life. Too often I trudge through my tasks looking only for completion. My prayers are frequently sprinkled with yearnings and cries and questions.

Let today be a day in which I delight in this God who has found me and makes every little thing about my life a joyous gift.

Here are a few suggestions to get in the mode of delight:
1. Eat something most yummy (see the picture of my homemade blueberry pie and ice cream), preferably something you took the time to make yourself.
2. Get into a room alone, turn up the music, and DANCE till feeling silly feels normal.
3. Make someone laugh.
4. Read Phillipans 4:4 (in the amplified version preferably) as loudly as you would yell at a soccer match.
5. Go up to several people that you know and whisper in their ear a secret about how you have always admired them for a certain thing.
6. Ask someone to tickle you and giggle away.
7. Look in the mirror and tell God what you like about yourself.
8. Lie down in your bed and list 25 things in the room that make you happy.
9. Sit outside in silence and just take in the slice of the world that God made that is right in front of you.
10. Stand outside a restaurant or a flower garden or a laundromat and smell wonderful smells.

Make up your own delightful moments.

Monday, June 18, 2007

it is a man thing

God is a Father. That is not too popular a statement in these days of inclusivity and tolerance. Some people like to refer to the ultimate deity as she or perhaps the politcally correct "he/she." Personally, I refer to someone in the way they refer to themselves. It is somewhat arrogant to do anything else, I think. Yes, God's character includes both femininity and masculinity, but he consistently refers to himself as a Father, the masculine family figure, so there must be a reason for this because God makes no choices lightly or randomly.

A few days ago as I was washing the bathroom floor, the following thoughts hit me out of nowhere.

God portrays himself as a male authority figure because this relates to us in a particular way, especially in areas of identity and worth. Girls get their sense of value from their father and further on in life, they look to men to validate and protect them (I am referring to a healthy validation here). Men look to their fathers to instill life skills and encouragement and strength. Their best male friends are the ones who accept them as they are, provide companionship without condition, and give good advice and support in times of crisis. I am not negating the roles of mothers or females at all, in fact I hope that all women find their true places of authority and realms of influence instead of trying to usurp or replace those of men.

In every case, I believe that God as a strong male figure is meant to encourage the best in us, provide strength where we have weakness, and be our provider. Let God be who He says He is.

This is a photo of Dean's new bug zapper which graces our back yard; it provides outdoor comfort for us and discomfort for mosquitoes.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

my habitat and me



I am listening to my bug zapper doing its work outside as I write this. We have a lot of mosquitoes in our yard due to being on the edge of a bush and having some standing water to the rear of our property. Some thoughtful friends gave Dean a bug zapper for his birthday and we installed it today.

The world is a friendly place at times for us humans, but at other times, it seems rather hostile and we must protect ourselves from it. Shelter is one of the primary needs of people in intemperate climates and we spend most of our income on our elaborate shelters. I am spending a month improving my shelter because we deem it a worthy investment.

What does God deem a worthy investment? What does he choose to spend himself on? Jesus spent himself on mankind, not because mankind is the central figure of history and had to be redeemed in order for the story to end well, but because God IS and his character will always shine through, no matter how we distort it or mar our godly image. God so loved the world not because we are lovable but because HE IS LOVE. He is building HIS kingdom, not merely a shelter for humanity.

I was reading some posts on a religion forum today and both atheists and religious people assumed that this world was created or evolved in order to accommodate mankind and his needs. How arrogant and Adamic of us to think that this world was and is here now in order to make things work out better for us. Let me never forget who the main character is in my story - the ONE whose character is at the foundation of the world.

This is my arm after a bout of sanding and a quick hand wash.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I LOVE THIS JOB!


Closet update: I installed the shelf today and now have a fully functioning small walk-in closet. Don't talk to me about the number of times I plastered and sanded and painted - I have discovered that I am not the best plasterer ever and will gladly hire a professional for any project that is not the inside of an unlit storage closet (a.k.a. people will actually see it in daylight).
Job Update: I am currently reading through the book of Job in the Bible and wow - I like it! I am sure the translation (Peterson's The Message) has something to do with it and also, I guess I am seeing and understanding and able to hear things that I could not at other times in my life. It really is not the wretched and pitiful tale that we have made it out to be: that of a man suffering while God stands back and encourages the devil to take his best shot. To me, at least at this reading, it is a story that calls for our idea of God to be enlarged. Job's trouble is not his awful circumstances - it is his inability to think that God is bigger than his situation!
Here are a few quotes...
"God is far greater than any human. So how dare you haul him into court, and then complain that he won't answer your charges? God always answers, one way or another, even when people don't recognize his presence." Job 33
"If God is silent, what's that to you? If he turns his face away, what can you do about it? But whether silent or hidden, he's there, ruling, so that those who hate God won't take over and ruin people's lives...Just because you refuse to live on God's terms, do you think he should start living on yours?" Job 34
"If you sin what difference could that make to God? No matter how much you sin, will it matter to him? Even if you're good, what would God get out of that? Do you think he's dependent on your accomplishments?" Job 35
"Oh, Job, don't you see how God's wooing you from the jaws of danger? How he's drawing you into wide-open places - inviting you to feast at a table laden with blessings? And here you are laden with the guilt of the wicked, obsessed with putting the blame on God!" Job 36
"No one can escape the weather - it's there. And no one can escape from God...Whether for discipline or grace or extravagant love, he makes sure they make their mark...As gold comes from the northern mountains, so a terrible beauty streams from God...Mighty God! Far beyond our reach! Unsurpassable in power and justice! It's unthinkable that he'd treat anyone unfairly. So bow to him in deep reverence, one and all! If you're wise, you'll most certainly worship him." Job 37
This is the fence at Kelsey's where we had supper on the terrace on Tuesday night.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

stopovers and such



This is the t-shirt my friend, Dan, was wearing yesterday. He had just flown back to Canada from South Africa and had a brief stopover in Switzerland where he picked up this fine souvenir for himself and some fine dark chocolate for me (well, his mom did, but I'll give him some credit here).
A lot of my friends are in transition of some sort right now. I personally love transition and get all adrenalised at the thought of entering some new phase of life or moving somewhere or travelling or well, anything new and different makes me jump up and down (unless, of course, it is a sad situation). Things for me are more about preparation than transition right now, which is not as exciting but very necessary. I will be having quite a few people in my home this summer and to that end, I am preparing and updating and furnishing the living quarters downstairs. It is just hard work, really, and the thing that keeps me motivated is that in 3 weeks I will be sitting down there with friends and it will be done and I will be able to enjoy their company in a fine and comfortable setting, completed and readied for their enjoyment and use.
Today's thoughts:
1. Sometimes the stopovers before we get where we are going are very enjoyable and we don't want to leave, sometimes they are less than pleasant, but stopovers are just temporary. Keep your eye on where you are going.
2. Preparation is necessary in order to fully enjoy the wonderful things God brings our way, be they marriage, jobs, other relationships, positions of authority, spiritual maturing, wonderful opportunities, service to others, broadening of ones horizons, or a change in community life. Don't shortchange your preparation, even when you think it won't make a big difference. Prepare your heart and mind to meet with and be changed by God.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

my unperfect life



Someone disappointed me this weekend. Somehow, after all this time living this life, it still shocked, surprised and offended me. I know my reaction was not a perfect one - silly how I can have an imperfect reaction to an imperfect world and think it is somehow justified or right or will work for me in some way just like expecting two wrongs to make a right. And oh yes, I feel somewhat excused from being part of the overall problem since I am only reacting and I did not actually DO anything.

Sigh. This persistent need for someone to recognise my value is so misplaced at times, and I don't know if the answer is to let it all go or to lovingly communicate to a person how their actions have hurt me and my ability to trust them. Any scenario I go through in my mind regarding the latter confrontation always end up in a mess, so maybe the best thing is just to let it go and realise that God is much better at teaching people and maturing them than I am since his motives are never personal nor vindictive and his lessons always pure and unselfish.
This imperfect picture was taken just a few minutes ago outside my house. The power line and the house roof throw the whole beautiful sky/flower/tree composition out of balance, but that's life. I will not let the unwanted elements subtract any value or beauty from the flowers, blue sky, whispy clouds or background tree in full leaf.

And to the left is another picture I thought was of some nice plants in front of my house but the centrepiece of the picture turned out to be a spider! (shaking my head and laughing)

Friday, June 08, 2007

homeless church


This is a picture of my newly renovated home...NOT! This is another view of the church in Ste-Marthe which is just beautiful from so many angles.


Well, patching and painting is still an ongoing project at my house and I am getting tired of it ( I hate sanding and I suck at plastering) as you can tell, so let's talk about something more interesting.


Wednesday night we had a homeless home group. The home where we usually meet was not available, so we hung out downtown. God has been challenging me to let go of my expectations of what church looks like and what constitutes a healthy and growing group of people who follow God. One of the things I don't like about what we do is that we hole ourselves up in a room and do all our spiritual exercises behind closed doors as if they were a secret. It is a comfortable yet not altogether healthy way of thinking. In the progressive revelation of the character and nature of God and his interaction with human beings (that would be the Bible), we see first of all in the Old Testament a central location, the temple, a relatively closed and restricted place where people came to meet with God. In the New Testament, Jesus took this model and interpreted it in a new way: he told us the temple was in fact US. We carry the presence of God. Most of what Jesus did was totally outside of the temple walls. You could find him encountering people in their everyday lives, at work and at home.


Too much of what I see today in the church still has the Old Testament mentality (don't get me wrong, the temple carries incredible imagery of the holiness and nature of God, but we are not to rebuild it or to model our church structure after it). Jesus clearly demonstrated that we are no longer a"behind closed doors" people. To develop wonderful programs and advertise and expect people to be drawn into our building and our meetings is just missing the whole point of the revolutionary ideas Jesus brought, I think.


So anyway, this week we did what we always do, but in different locations. We wandered through the arcade and worshipped - watching and listening for the character and voice of God in our surroundings and pointing them out to each other. Even the mall music seemed to be the best worship set I had heard in awhile! We went to Mcdonalds and read a story from the Bible and discussed it over some french fries amidst noisy families and teenagers. We sat in the subway walkway and sang and prayed for each other. We actually got evicted (no loitering allowed there, I guess) by a gracious security guard so we continued to pray (laying hands on people and talking and making gestures as we usually do) as we walked though the underground passageways. I expected to be distracted and uncomfortable, but instead, I felt the very real presence and desire of God to meet with us wherever we are and his delight at being invited into the middle of everyday life.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

do over


I tried something.
I did it as best I could.
I thought I was done.
Then I saw it in the light
and it was obvious that
I did not do a very good job.
So
I read instructions.
I got better tools.
I got more materials.
I will try again tomorrow.
Thank God for do overs.
This is a photo taken on a sunny autumn day in September 2006.

windy



I was inside all day painting and patching up the holes in my garage (finding studs can be a tricky business and the sometimes the only way to do so is to make a bunch of holes). I also finally got to an organisation project for the church which I had been meaning to do for awhile. It was a good day to stay inside as a thunderstorm and intermittent rain lashed against my windows for much of it. I finally went for a walk after 10 pm to get the mail and WOW found the wind wicked and cold!

I don't complain much about weather - what's the point, really? But if anything gets to me, it is severe wind. I guess I have too many memories of riding my bicycle home against a strong prairie wind which often rendered any attempt at pedaling against the stubborn invisible force slower than just getting off and walking my bike.

There is nothing as frustrating as being prevented from getting where you are going by some force that you can do nothing about, especially since you cannot see it, nor grab hold of it and yank it out of the way, nor even fence it in or relegate it to a corner so that its effect on you is circumvented. It comes and goes as it pleases. Jesus said the same thing about the spirit. God's invisible forceful influence comes and goes as he pleases and we cannot command him nor predict him nor set up borders for him to stay within.

When one of my friends was praying for me last summer, he saw me as a sail. I was limp and still, but the minute the wind came, I was full of life and off I went! I found it a very encouraging picture because I was utterly drained at the time and felt very lifeless and unable to move an inch on my own steam. Yes, let me remember to rely on the wind - the spirit - instead of my own power - so much less effort. Perhaps the problem was never the strength of the wind, but the direction I was heading.

This is a picture of the windmill at Point Claire in Quebec on a beautiful spring day in 2006.

Monday, June 04, 2007

the coming and the doing


Yesterday in church, while I was attempting to make the announcements while lying on the floor (don't ask, I do have silly ideas sometimes), I felt overwhelmed by God's presence and began to weep. I didn't know what to do except pay attention to what he was doing and not leave the place I was in, so I did just that and Dean managed to handle the announcements himself for the most part and I hope the visitors weren't too freaked out.

The thing God kept saying over and over to me was, "Come, come, come! You choose to do everything else first, you go lots of places, you turn to many people and things before me, but I am here, waiting. Come! I want you to come to me, I am here for you!" It is true. When I get a rather large list of things I need to accomplish or I am surrounded by activity, I start down the busy road and before I know it, the day is pretty much over and I have yet to connect with God.

Today, the day after God asked me to "Come," my tasks were many. I wish I could say that I heard and obeyed and spent the first part of my day sitting with God and getting his input on everything, but I jumped right into my job list and 11 hours later, I still have a few to complete before I can relax. I also don't take time for meals a lot of days and that is a symptom of the same problem: I think doing stuff is more important because it gives me a sense of accomplishment and I can point to it and say, "Hey, I am a useful member of society and I pull my weight, even if I don't have a recognised career or a handsome income!" But all of my efforts are worth little if I do not have the strength to carry on or the spiritual depth to give any of it meaning and true value and perspective.

God really is not all that interested in my hard work or tireless efforts: he wants my heart, my friendship, my company, and to go for a walk in the garden with me like he did with Adam. The hard work came as a result of sin, of not relying on God, of wanting to order our own universe instead of going with his well-established plan, of not coming to him but hiding in our doings and anything else we could find. Will I continue to live like that self-reliant Adam, or will I believe that Jesus somehow reversed this cursed substitute value system of labour and walk with him anytime he says come?

This is an insubstantial photo of my friend, Cathy, on a trail near Dundas, Ontario.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

the hidden places


I am in the middle of another home improvement project. Yesterday I was sanding the walls I had taped and plastered and ended up all white and powdery from head to toe. Hmmm...safety glasses might have been a good idea.

I am making a functional bedroom closet out of a miscellaneous storage space that houses ducts and an air exchanger. This means I have to finish the walls, paint, and install a hanging rod and shelf. Now I had never taped and plastered drywall joints before, but I thought that a small walk-in closet might be just the place to develop this skill. Sanding removes any mistakes you might make, right? I admit, it is not the prettiest plaster job I have ever seen, but after a quick second coat today, another round of sanding (does one just put on the old clothes you wore to sand the last time or do you put on clean clothes for every new work day? Where is that book on sanding etiquette?) and a coat of primer and paint, I think it will look fabulous.

I realise that hardly anyone will ever see the inside of this closet, and probably no one will ever inspect each corner or joint in order to point out the fine workmanship, attention to detail, and just plain sweat invested in it, but I will go into it every day for a week after it is finished and just stand there, looking around and smiling.

A hidden place is a good place to develop skills. I take great pride in my hidden places even though no one else might ever notice them, because the attitudes I have in my hidden places are the attitudes that will automatically come out in my public places.

These are the wonderful Webster's falls, hidden away near Dundas, Ontario. Taken May 27, 2007.