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Archive for September, 2018

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If we are growing and maturing, our definition of love changes as we grow older.

From when we are children and love could be defined as who makes us feel secure by meeting our needs, to when we become teens, then young adults and love could be defined as who makes us feel unconditionally accepted, special. Then, as adults, it is all about is he/she meeting my needs.

Hum … no change there really, as it would seem to be defined by what have you done for me lately.

At the mid point of life, if love is still part of your life, if marriage is still part of your life, it starts to change (ever so   g  r  a  d  u  a  l  l  y ).

It becomes more about maintaining each other, caring for each other.

A number of weeks ago I came across this quote by Ann Voskamp:

“Love is always
inconvenient
inefficient
indestructible” 

Not a quote one would expect to hear at a wedding ceremony! Yet, for those who have persevered through love, for love, that quote is real, truth.

We have persevered, hubby and I. Not just hubby, not just I, but both of us, in little and big ways. It has been twenty-nine years (tomorrow) of persevering through love, for love.

Twenty-nine years of inconvenient love. Love that has gotten in the way of our individual interests, love that has been daily overriding individual interests, as we each bend and sway to the other, for the other. For the individual cannot survive in love without sacrificing for the other.

Twenty-nine years of inefficient love. Love that is not slick and polished, but often unproductive and amateurish. Love that doesn’t often work like a well-oiled machine, but often one that requires time adjusting, adjusting, adjusting. So many kinks to work out … and usually, they are not his, but mine.

Twenty-nine years of … how does one say, until at the very end, that it is indestructible love? Though the definition of what love is may change, it is proven only in it’s longevity, it’s indestructiblity. Grit (a determination that is strong-willed and to the end) in love is the major ingredient determining whether or not it is indestructible.

Though it is not flowery or romantic sounding, I’d take the real thing … inconvenient, inefficient, indestructible love … twenty-nine years and counting.

“Love is never wasted, for its value does not rest upon reciprocity.”
CS Lewis

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moving.JPGThe boxes and wrapping paper are gone!

It has now been over two and a half months since we moved to our new, smaller home. Our new house is about one thousand square feet smaller and we have gone from about a third of an acre of property to a townhouse with a three hundred and sixty square foot garden.

Once our offer on our new place was accepted we knew that we would need to pare down our belongings, for both the interior and exterior of our new place.

We gave away, threw away, sold and donated many belongings that would not fit, or would be unnecessary in our new home. Even after we moved there was a regular purging of items that simply did not fit or suit our new, smaller digs. Just this week, yet another box was delivered to the thrift store!

It has been interesting to me how we do not miss our excess ‘stuff’. As a matter of fact the  absence of it is fantastically freeing. Less to see, to maintain, to move around. It is as though our purging has made space in our home, our minds and our lives for what is of more importance … people, a book, a conversation.

2 Corinthians 4:18 gives us a good reminder, “… we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

It is amazing how, ridding ourselves of things has cleared our schedule, our minds. We have more margin in our lives for ‘other’ things to invest our time and energies into. We have opportunities to see what is of eternal value.

May this recent and continuing process of purging the unnecessary stuff from our lives continue to impact us in this way.

Hubby announced the other day that the garage storage is maxed out … more purging yet to come.

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As I walk through the high school I work in I pass dozens (hundreds) of faces each day. When I am cognizant, when I am not so wrapped up in my own thoughts, I see the faces more clearly.

I see the big smiles, the laughter, I see the eyes that resist making contact, the faces that are hidden by their downward stare, the eyes that look right through me …

and I wonder, what is their story? what are they dealing with?

During these times when I am alert to those who pass by in the hallways, I am reminded of how significant the insignificant can be, for those who might have a story that is hard, heavy.

To step aside, so they can pass, to hold a door, to smile, to say good morning, to pick up the pencil that fell from their laden arms …

these are the wordless ways we can whisper to another,

you matter

someone cares

someone notices

someone has empathy for you

In Romans 12:15, Paul reminds of a profound teaching, that we are all expected to practise:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” 

We are to not just co-exist with one another, but we are to share life together. We are not just to share life together, but we are to experience, to feel the joys and struggles of each other.

empathy

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Screen Shot 2018-09-22 at 4.52.03 PMThe leaves are changing, falling.

The sun struggles to come up, rushes to go back down.

The birds fly, no longer lazily on their own, but determinedly with others.

Air is not longer stifling, motionless, but moving and with a chill.

The season of harvest is coming to an end.

Autumn has fallen onto our laps.

It is a season of change.

About a year ago I sat in a coffee shop, sipping a warm drink with a woman of great character, reputation and heart. We shared stories of our children, our hubbies, ourselves. We listened, we laughed, we shared what God was teaching us.

It was then that I shared a secret that I felt that God had been whispering to me. I told her of how for days, weeks really, I had a sense of change in the air. Not just change, but a sense of foreboding, that what might be coming might also not be desired, good, or pleasant. That was not all, I also had the most unexpected sense of peace.

Change, whether in the form of seasons of the year, or seasons of life, is inevitable and carries with it both anticipation and dread. Change means our normal is no longer our normal.

There is something interesting in the falling of leaves. Their falling is ultimately caused by lack of daylight, which signals change to the trees. The minerals in the leaves travel to the branches. Eventually the leaves change color, then fall, leaving the tree naked and lifeless … just what it needs to be as it enters the dormant winter season. Then, as winter comes to an end, those stored minerals do their work, and buds form on the branches, heralding new life, a new season.

Changes in our lives can also seem to usher us into dark, lifeless, or dormant seasons. Yet, we can be assured that there is always a spring that follows the darkness, the cold of winter.

“For You have tried us, O God;
You have refined us as silver is refined.”
Psalm 66:10

 

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yes
We live in an anxiety-ridden society, with stats on people dealing with anxiety-related disorders only climbing.

It would seem that in my fifteen years of working, primarily, in high schools, anxiety has become a regular conversation among students and staff.

Anxiety does not express itself the same in all individuals. There is no more a stereotypical sufferer of anxiety than there is a stereotypical female, for it manifests within the strengths and weakness, the experiences and voids of the individual. It has many faces … sad, fearful, gregarious, kind, angry, happy … as many faces as the individuals who live and struggle to live their best life.

I do not know of a ‘cure’, I am not a certified counsellor, I am no expert, nor even scholar in the field of anxiety. I do know it … first person, professionally and through living vicariously through individuals who I love. None of that makes me an expert.

Something we can do, when helping to love people through the reality of anxieties, is to build them up. Specifically, we could remind them (gently) who God says they are, if not in words, through our care of them, redirecting, reassuring and refilling their dark self-thinking and self-talk with the truth of who they are, in the eyes and heart of the Creator … their Creator.

1 John 3:1a tells us that we are so loved by the Father that we are his children.

1 Corinthians 3:16 tells us that we are God’s temple, where his Spirit lives.

Romans 8:37 says that we are more than conquerors!

1 Peter 2:9 says, “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Truly, we are worth the world to Him!

Perhaps they could relate and be encouraged by the Lauren Daigle song You Say, which might help them to hear the encouraging reminders of the overcomers they are through Christ.

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity,

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours

And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
Oh, I believe

I am not an expert, and I am not saying that this is the cure for the very real, very complex struggle with anxiety. Yet, if someone we care for is unable to think and see things clearly, perhaps reminding them of the positive, pure and powerful identity that they are in Christ, wouldn’t hurt.

 

 

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Early Sunday morning I read the quote (above) by Saint John Chrysostrom. Hours later, as I lifted the communion cup to my lips, his words remerged in my mind.

do I see Christ in the beggar at the door? in the homeless in the park? in the addict standing in front of me?

Typically I would say yes.

I am one who has given money, smiles and run to the store for a bag of food for the beggar, the homeless, the addict. I have included and encouraged our kids to do the same. I have felt a peace that passes all human understanding as one of our daughters has worked with women in addiction and is now on a committee in her community regarding the opiod epidemic.

I am not saying all of this to pat myself on the back, for what I am about to share with you I do so with head bowed low, humbled by my inactions, paralysis of body, mind and … soul.

It was just over a year ago that I was on the Lower East Side of Vancouver. An area rich in the history of Vancouver, BC, and poor in almost every other way. It is a community of contrasts with tourist shops galore, trendy and expensive shops, and tasty eateries alongside the homeless, the beggars, prostitutes, and addicts shooting up right before your eyes on the sidewalks.

As I walked on the sidewalks that day I chatted with a homeless man about his gorgeous, well brushed dog, a toothless woman with a generous smile and a man who I made eye contact with, who said, “God bless you” to me. For balance I also said “sorry, I just gave away my last coin” to a man who was begging, who told me to “F–K off.”

Gotta love when people are real.

It has always been easy for me to see people … all people … as children of the King of Kings.

Then, late in the hot afternoon, walking down the crowded sidewalk, I came face to face with her. She was a bit shorter than my five foot, three inch height, with wild and unkempt hair. She was wearing a romper with spaghetti strap strings draping it over her skeletal frame.

As my eyes met hers …

I repelled.

It was as if something deep inside of me recoiled. It wasn’t fear, for I think that if I had blown a whiff of air towards her she might have collapsed. It wasn’t disgust, or pity, or even sadness.

When I looked into her lifeless eyes I saw a lack of life looking back at me, it was as though I was looking into the eyes of death, but what caused me to repel was my own reaction to our ever so brief meeting … for I did nothing, I felt nothing for her.

I did not see her soul … and I recognized no Christ within her. Something in that moment kept me from seeing her a who she is … a child of God, and I still ache for the missed opportunity to whisper hope in words, or a smile, or …

After we continued to walk in opposite directions, I looked back, wondering if I should seek her out, offer to buy her a sandwich, a bottle of water … inspired by my guilt for feeling no life connection with her. But she was gone, as if she vaporized into thin air.

Over a year later, and I am still agonizing over that brief interaction (lack of interaction) with the woman. I have found myself wondering if God placed her in my path, for some greater purpose, to teach me something.

That interaction has taught me something about myself … that my heart is not yet soft enough, that I do not love everyone, that I am not full of compassion … that I do not, naturally, see everyone as a child of God.

But, what I have also learned is that one poor interaction has caused me to lift that woman up to God, begging that she might find peace from her addiction. I have also learned that I now see her as that chalice cup, contained within her the blood of Christ which gives eternal life.

And, because of her, my communion will never be the same again.

“ … in your journey you will meet broken people, hateful people and people who have lost the sight for their glory. And the beauty of it all is this: I will tell you to love them, to love them deeply and show them how some of us still care. Never give up on them, for to give up on them is to destroy a reflection of ourselves.”
Robert M. Drake, Black Butterfly

Those who give to the poor
will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them
receive many curses.”
Proverbs 28:27

 

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go to church oftenAs hubby and I visit a different church each week in our quest for a home church, we are now asking different questions, harder questions.

Questions such as:

if we enjoy the preaching, is that reason enough to choose a church? For there is no guarantee that the regular preaching pastor will stay.

is what we see and experience at a worship service what we should base our decision on?

should we find a church that is a good fit for us, and then commit, or just make a choice, commit and then make it fit?

Recently I took a Sunday off, and didn’t go to church. Stayed in my pjs until noon, got a few things done around the house, and just enjoyed a quiet house to myself. Though this was not my first time playing hooky from church, though I have had beautiful and memorable times of Sabbath at home in the past … this time was different.

This time I kept thinking about much I wanted to be part of a church, to be part of a small group, to walk in the doors and be greeted by familiar faces, to serve where there is a need that we can meet, to sing, to learn, to grow with others. To be fed with fork and knife (not from a bottle).

We are not going to find the ‘perfect’ church, for, if such a place existed, it would be tarnished as soon as we entered it’s doors. We aren’t going to always love the songs that are sung, or how, or by whom. We aren’t always going to relate (or even like … did I just say that?) everyone we meet … pastoral staff included.

But,

if there is warmth in it’s walls,

if there is welcome to the imperfect,

if there is a joy in the worship

generosity in the giving

humility in the praying

Good News in the preaching

and invitation to serve …

then we will need to go, and go every week.

For it is in the going, every week, that the church becomes not just a habit, but a healthy dependency.

 

 

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