Absolute garbage…

Fan

I spent the last two days writing 1000 words on Lent, grace and Jesus. It doesn’t usually take me two days to write that many words and the awful truth is they were absolute garbage. I kept trying to edit and adjust but I knew there was no hope when my husband got lost reading it after he got home from work today. He very kindly tried to find something constructive to say but I knew it was bad and I told him so. He would not admit it but did not discourage my moving it to the trash.

Why was it garbage? Well I suspect it has something to do with the fact that industrial strength fans have been blowing in my house since Friday. The noise is deafening. I cannot think with the fans on. The carpet men told me today they could hear the noise as they were coming up the drive. I would leave and go write at Starbucks if not for the fact that I must be in attendance all day for the various insurance people who come in and out to check, fix and make arrangements.

Noise really prevents one from finding their centre. As I sit here in the basement with a little peace (as I negotiated some quiet time with the kind insurance man today) I can say I have found out why quiet time is so important. When we don’t set time aside to be still we can never truly find peace. Stillness is not just about being still physically, it is also about finding stillness in spirit. Finding a moment in the day when you can truly disconnect from the world and exist as you are. In those moments we find God. In those moments we connect with something greater than ourselves.

My noise right now comes from industrial fans but each one of us has noise, don’t we? There are obligations for work, family and friends. We have bills to pay, chores to accomplish and other things to do. The stress piles on, overwhelming us and we collapse into bed at the end of the day never having truly taken a moment to ourselves to connect with God and find peace. Quiet time is important. It’s essential. It’s life giving.

This time is absolutely essential to one’s spiritual and emotional wellness. Take it from me, you need it! Grab a moment today and spend time in prayer, meditate on a quote if you’d rather or crack open your Bible. Do one thing, anything that helps you find calm and peace. You’ll be amazed at how much of a difference it makes to take a moment to yourself and connect with something beyond your present worries. It’s very nice to find space in your day for God.

Take it from me as one who has had peace ripped from them, you want to do this for yourself. Lent is a season of preparation and transformation. Help this process along by making moments of peace and connection part of your day.  You won’t regret it!

When dishwashers attack.

Dishwasher

This morning started out like any other day. I got up and brewed myself a decaf Keurig coffee. I drank it pretending it was fully caffeinated and then set about making breakfast. The boys then went their way while I went mine and as I was making the bed before my shower I walked into a large puddle of water. I wondered if I had walked through the room with water and spilled it. Then realizing that I had not in fact done this I started searching for the source. It was water from the dishwasher seeping into the bedroom.

We live in a bungalow which is great except in cases of emergency. This will be the second time in 8 years that my bedroom has been completely ripped apart due to water damage. This time I’m quite pregnant and not at all looking forward to sleeping on the couch. At least I won’t have to move out. They can contain the dust and mess by shutting the door and opening windows. There won’t be cutting and stripping and fumes which would run me out of the house. I’m pleased with that but I am not really looking forward to putting everything back together.

Just when you start to feel sorry for yourself, life has a way of putting everything into perspective as it did this afternoon. The insurance adjuster showed up and told me his next call after ours was a fatality due to fire. I realized in that moment that our problem isn’t that big a deal.  So our life is a little messy for a little while, who cares? We are lucky to have one another. We have not lost a loved one. We are blessed to have a God who cares and is invested in us. We are fortunate to be covered by insurance. We are able to replace the appliance that caused us trouble in the first place. Things could be a lot worse.

I’ve never been one who believes that ‘everything happens for a reason’. I find that poor theology. It takes away from the choices that we make in life and doesn’t account for the truly horrible things that happen seemingly just because. What I have always believed is that things happen and we can deal with them through strength we find in God, in one another and in ourselves. God goes with us in our lives and supports us as we live them but things happen and not always for a reason. How we deal with those things makes us who we are.

While the cleanup is happening and we are moderately inconvenienced I shall endeavour to remain positive.  I will remind myself it could be worse and I will not waste time wallowing in self pity or despair. After all Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians,“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT)

If everything we do is to be done for the glory of God than people should see the light and glory in everything we do. Our actions and reactions should reflect the grace and peace that we are offered. Over the coming week I will try to shine light in this world and with as messy as our house is going to be I anticipate being in the world a lot more than usual for the next little while.

Poke the bear

Panda

For some unknown reason my son has started getting up between the hours of 2 and 3 every morning. He sneaks into our room quietly and then stares at me until I wake up. It’s kind of freaky. He doesn’t want to wake me as he knows he’s supposed to be asleep but he wants me to wake up so I can give him a hug and get him settled again. Waking up to someone staring at you is unsettling and I suspect my mother would say it’s payback as I remember doing this to her.

In some ways I think he’s afraid to ‘poke the bear’. He wants to engage but doesn’t want to wake me because he knows that when I’m awake actions will follow. He will have to go to bed but he wants that hug, that assurance in the dark night. He’s not sure what to do. It’s a difficult dilemma for a little boy so he does what we’ve all done at one time or another and just waits for me to make the decision for him.

As I lay in bed last night waiting to be certain he was asleep and not sneaking back down the hall to get my attention again, I realized that this is often how we engage God. We stand at the sidelines, watching and waiting to see if he will engage. We’re uncertain of whether we should move in and poke. Do we really want a response? If we get one we know there will be consequences and do we want to live with them? We know that engagement with God means being present and when we are present we need to notice, listen and respond. We cannot just stand still once we’ve engaged.

Do you find yourself on the sidelines of faith? Do you find yourself unsure of engagement and what it means?

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 7 that there are no easy roads in faith and connection with God. That connecting means commitment and commitment means action and attention.  Are you ready to poke the bear or will you just stand and stare?

“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.  
- Matthew 7:13-14 The Message

We rise again

sign
Ash Wednesday brought with it a lot of statements on my Facebook and Twitter feed reminding me that I was going to die. I know this. I also know that meditating on the fact that from dust we came and to dust we shall return can be a good exercise. None of us should believe we are immortal. Being aware that life is finite forces us to live. Regardless I found some of the comments to be a bit lacking. The grace that is offered, the fresh starts that are given, the resurrection that we hear of and experience time and again are important images in our faith. We cannot forget these things in the midst of contemplation.

As I’ve lived lately I’ve witnessed signs of new life all around. It’s not yet spring, but there is about an inch of grass peeking through at the front of my lawn underneath all the snow. Our doves have returned to their roost and are planning a nest I’m sure. The time has changed and everyday I see the light linger in the sky a little longer. I feel my son within me twisting and turning, yearning to burst forth when the time comes. The dormant period has come to an end. The season of quiet hibernation will soon give way to growth and opportunity. Life happens when we push forth. Life happens when we embrace this beginning.

I was surprised this week when I saw the message on our neighbourhood Roman Catholic Parish’s sign,We rise again from the ashes to create ourselves anew“. Usually it just lets us know when Mass is but it would seem the Priest wanted to remind us that from death comes new life. When things burn it looks terrible but soil can be rejuvenated and life can burst forth in a fresh, unique way. Destruction and devastation can bring forth great things. Life’s challenges are not pleasant but sometimes when we look back we can see when we felt most burnt out and hollow how our life changed, how we sought renewal and rebirth in that moment. I’m not suggesting these trials are part of a greater plan, more reflecting on how we react to the things that happen to us and around us.   

Renewal comes at unexpected times. It is something we all need, crave even. After a long winter we pine for spring. After the time change we long for sleep. Today as we step into the unofficial first day of the week we find ourselves contemplating the hours and longing for the weekend. As we live this, let us not forget the possibilities that lie within this period. In the burned out, broken down moments of our lives we can find hope for tomorrow and a promise for the future. After all winter will not last forever. Sleep will return once more. Our struggles may continue but we will persevere and if we look there will be others to help us carry the load and push us past this moment in time.

Today we possess the power within to create, to rebuild, to renew. Today we can choose how we will live this moment. Will we remain as we are or burst forth into something new? With God’s help this is possible. Will we allow ourselves this opportunity? Will we break free from the past, burst forth into newness and find hope in what is to come?

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
    scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
    set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes,
    give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
    shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
    or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
    put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
    so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
    and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
    I’ll let loose with your praise.

                                                       Psalm 51:7-15 the Message

Preparations for Lent

It seems funny in a way to prepare for Lent as it is a season of preparation itself. Nevertheless we prepare to prepare. We think of fasts or projects to participate in. We dream of pancakes or packzis to devour. We think of what is to come and hopefully plan ways in which to dig deeper and delve more fully into our faith.

In my planning this year I contemplated preparing another Lent Project similar to the one I did last year. I decided against it as I found myself in a different space this year being very pregnant, tired and perhaps needing more than I could give. I decided instead to do the original Lent Project again. It’s been a full year since doing it and I find myself wondering if my notes this year will say something different, if God will use my studies this year to teach me something new. That is of course my hope!

Lent is a difficult season. Jesus is a man filled with passion and promise. He provokes thought and confusion within us as we see him sacrifice so much, as we watch him surrender when he could have triumphed over all. Triumph he does, just not in a way we could have foreseen if we had been there. Jesus is full of surprises and wisdom. It is my hope that in participating in this 47 day study that I may be surprised once more, challenged in new ways and find a different sort of Lent than I might otherwise have experienced.

I invite you to join me. Bring your Bible and any other necessary comforts you require. Some chocolate might be nice as lets face it, there’s no fasting happening here! Instead of giving something up, you’ll be adding God into your everyday and that is a very good thing. It’s not about what you’ve sacrificed so much as what you’re doing for your relationship with God and how you’re building yourself in faith. It could be a very interesting experience!

You’re welcome to join me and journey through Lent on this project. You can find the study here in a downloadable PDF format.

P.S. If you’re in the mood for pancakes can I suggest one of the following recipes.  They are all delicious!  

The definitive healthy whole grain pancake
Whole Grain Pancakes
Buttermilk Pancakes

An oven baked loaf, Paul Newman and Jesus.

photo (17) 2

 

I’ve spoken before about ‘Wonder Bread’ Jesus and my wish that churches would move to a heartier selection.  I’m not altogether certain if I’ve mentioned my loathing of communion wine though.  Having travelled a lot in the last 3 years to give communion to various congregations I can say that generally speaking I’m not a fan of the wine selections at most churches.  I blame this on my parents who taught wine appreciation to us kids when we turned 19.  This week when I was given the freedom to select the elements of my choosing for Maundy Thursday I was ecstatic.  Enter a hearty hearth baked loaf and Paul Newman’s grape juice.  Tonight Jesus will have substance.  The bread will be firm and moist and chewy.  The juice will be full and rich in your mouth.  Tonight when we dine together at the table of Christ we will not hate the elements but instead enjoy the experience.

I think enjoying the experience is so important.  To truly sink in and celebrate the occasion means we must enjoy it with all our senses.  The words we hear, the things we see and the people we are with are all important in their own way. I hope you enjoy your experience tonight.  Tonight we begin to understand where things are going.  Tonight we start to see how far God was willing to go to be close with us once more.

May your night be blessed and your weekend full and rich with God’s presence.  May you find Christ at the table, wander with him in the garden and meet him on the cross.  In doing so we find ourselves better equipped to understand the empty tomb, to truly appreciate what it means.

Blessings and peace as you set forth on your own Easter journey.

The Prodigal returns…

I read a story on the Huffington Post this morning about a Dad writing a note to his gay son about how he had over heard his son talking on the phone with his friend about how he was going to come out to him. There was section of the note that really struck me as beautiful and that section really brought me back again to the story of the prodigal son.

“I’ve known you were gay since you were six.  I’ve loved you since you were born.”

This acceptance, this love is beautiful. The son was scared and uncertain but his Dad made it alright with his note. As the son prepared to come forward the Dad ran to him with open arms and loved him. We should all love like this. Loving unconditionally. Loving people for who they are as that is who God created them to be. Imagine if the Church let go of judgement and just loved. Imagine how the world would see us if we followed Jesus decree and just loved one another.

Let us be known for our love.
Let us be known for how well we love one another.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34-35 – The Message

Things I know to be true

There are a few things I know to be true this week.

I know that the time changed.
I know that there is a new pope.
I know it’s still cold out and that Reggie Bush is a Lion.
I know that grace is given freely to us.
I know that it’s hard to give it out ourselves.

This week I’ve been swimming in the notion of grace, of forgiveness and love freely offered.  Since Sunday when the story of the Prodigal Son was read and mulled over I’ve been sitting in the midst of the story. Wondering if I would be found walking the long road home or pouting on the back porch. I wonder, would I be able to celebrate with a brother who returned home?  Would I be excited or resentful?  At times it can be hard to overlook past wounds to offer grace.

I would love to live a grace-full life. A life that flows with grace because of the grace I’ve been given. At times it is hard to look past those wounds and wrongs to what is happening and good around us. In today’s world we are told that we should put ourselves first and strive to achieve what is best for us. We are told that we deserve things, should desire things and I suspect we are more like the brother pouting on the back porch than we would like to admit to.  I think in some ways I am anyways. I’d like to offer forgiveness more freely and be the person who accepts and loves people well.  I want to throw more parties and celebrate with people when things go well.

There are a few things I know to be true this week.  One of them is my desire to live a grace-full life.

In death, a resurrection.

Yesterday was grey here.  The kind of grey that looms over you and has you wondering if spring will ever come. Our city has been in mourning as our summer music festival was cancelled. The outpouring of grief that flooded the newspaper was unsurprising to me. For a generation it has been the thing that brought this struggling place to life and reminded us of what was possible. Each summer the downtown core was resurrected and we bore witness to life and vitality. As I read and listened, it wasn’t the music people were mourning but the loss of community, of connectedness. It was a place people would gather, would come home to.  It was more than just the music, it was the people.

Yesterday was grey here. The kind of grey that hangs heavy in your heart and as I walked from my car towards the hospice death was on my mind. But in that moment a burst of noise shot forth around me.  As I walked towards the place where life intersects with death I saw glimpses of what was to come. The honking grew loud, I turned to look up and I saw the Canadian Geese coming home. Together they flew in two groups, majestic and proud.  The song of their flight brought hope for the spring, remembrances of resurrection. For as they return, so too will the color.  Soon we will see green shoots on the ground.  Daffodils will dance once more.  The leaves will shoot forth and new life will be seen. The world will once again bear witness to the resurrection.

Even on the greyest of days there is hope.  Easter is coming.  New life will come.

The Lord’s Prayer

For the Lent Project today we were supposed to pray the Lord’s Prayer. Personally I find this a great technique when I’m distracted like I am on days like today.  Right now, I’m pooped. It’s Sunday and that means I’m essentially a zombie. I walk around grunting and nosing about for food. I steer clear of brains and go straight for the dessert I’ve got tucked away in the fridge for my Sunday afternoon snack.

The Lord’s Prayer gives us an outline, a guide on what to pray for.  It’s for those days when we are lost or confused, for those times when we think we might be praying more for what we want than what God wants. This prayer is a beginning.  A place to start and we all need somewhere to start, right? If I were to pray the Lord’s prayer it might go a little something like this…

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name.

You are so great God.  When I think of everything you do and are I am amazed and astounded. Thanks for being part of my life and investing in this world.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Lord on the one hand I’d love for your kingdom to come, for there to be peace and justice but on the other I’m scared of what that means.  I want to follow you, to do what you want me to do and go where you want me to go.  That’s scary and big and not always clear.  Nudge me and if that fails push me onto right paths so I can be where you want me to be.  Help me to share your light with those around me. Also I really need some help with surrender but I suspect you know that. 

Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our debts
as we have also forgiven our debtors.

I have too much bread Lord and I haven’t been sharing my blessings as I should. Help me to give more to my community. Help me to share with others the blessings and gifts I have been given. Also if you could, cultivate within me a forgiving spirit.  You have forgiven me so I should extend that grace to others and somedays I find that harder than others.

And lead us not into temptation, 
but deliver us from the evil one.

There are things in life that are so tempting.  It’s easy for me to desire more, to wish things were different and wonder about the choices I’ve made. Help me to see that the path that I am on is the right one, if it is not please correct me. Deliver me from evil in this world and keep those things that would distract and draw away far from my presence so I may stand firm in faith and love for you. Amen.

If I’ve gotten off track, I find this is a great way to re-focus and be present in prayer. I usually throw some prayers for people I know and some extra thanksgiving for good measure. On days like today it really helps.

I’d love to know what you’re thinking.  How do you pray and stay focused?  Did you pray the Lord’s Prayer today and find it impacted your prayer life?

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