This is the day?

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This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it?

It’s cold here. Bitterly cold but there are blessings to be found. The sun rises a little earlier each morning as a reminder that summer is indeed coming.  A sign that the dead cold of winter will give way to new life. We will see spring again.

These reminders seem appropriate during Lent. Death will give way to life. We walk through darkness to get to the light. We are a people of the resurrection and if we persist, if we push through those bleak periods we see it happen over and over again.

It may be cold but this is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Make time.

make timeThere are cars on the sofa and baby toys strewn across the floor.  The dishes aren’t quite done and the floor could use a good scrubbing.  My house is not perfect yet here I sit coffee in hand because my mother told me to capture moments of rest in the day so I’m attempting to listen.  Attempting is the key word in that sentence.  I’m not good at leaving things alone.  I’m not good at not tidying, not fussing, not doing.  When I let the desire take hold I find myself tidying and fussing and doing all my time away in the day.  That rest time when the baby rests.  The quiet time when my little one is in therapy.  Today I am sitting and ignoring.  Well not ignoring precisely.  Instead I’m choosing to set aside my instinct and take instead what is needed, a moment for myself.

That moment seems selfish, doesn’t it?  Whether you’re a working mom or dad, a single individual or a person who has responsibilities here unnamed we all feel guilty for taking moments, stealing time and just sitting still.  It is important to just exist.  It is important to steal those moments.  How do I know this?  Well I know it from personal experience as I feel so much better when I’ve stolen some moments but I also know this because of how Jesus lived.  He stole moments.  He moved into gardens and went up mountainsides.  When he needed a break he took it.  He saw value in silence, in stolen moments with God.  He knew how important it was to relax, to rest and listen.

When we are too busy to sit still we fail to hear the whispers of God.  When the rustle of paper and the clanging of silverware takes over our lives the voice we long to hear is muffled and faint.  We need this time.  We must make it a priority.

If you find yourself wondering what that muffled voice is saying take a moment and breathe. If you find yourself doing so much that you no longer even hear it, stop and sit. Steal a moment and reflect. This season of Lent is a time of contemplation, reflection and connection.

Make time in your day to connect.
Make time. It’s important.
Make time for God.
Make time.

And so it begins…

Lent begins today. It’s a season of contemplation, of preparation. A season where we think about the gift that has been given and attempt to really understand what the whole story of Jesus truly means for us, here in this time. I’ve decided to undergo some preparations myself and I know I usually say I’m going to add something to my life with the intent of impacting the world or even just my own life in a positive way but this year I’m giving something up. What am I giving up? I’m not going to weigh myself every day.

Big deal you think? It is a big deal for me. I’m a compulsive weigher. I think it started when I lost a considerable amount of weight a few years ago. I was absolutely petrified it would come back if I wasn’t vigilant. There’s something to be said for vigilance. Statistically those who stay on top of their weight loss are more likely to succeed or so I’ve read, don’t quote me on that. I know I need to be mindful and continue to make healthy choices. That said, the weighing myself daily is taking a toll on the way I see myself. I need to distance myself from the scale and embrace who I am separate from what I weigh. I have committed to weighing myself once a week at the same time. I still want to stay on top of things and continue to care of myself but I don’t want it to be something I obsess about.

What does this have to do with Lent and spiritual progress? I happen to have 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 hanging on my mirror in my bathroom. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” Before you jump all over me I know it’s about sexual immorality if you look at the greater text but I think it also applies to how we treat our bodies. We need to honour God by treating our bodies well. We need to honour the body not just in regards to sexuality but also in how we care for it. I’m not honouring God when I scarf down 1/2 a pizza and refuse to exercise nor am I honouring God when I feel my value lies in what I weigh instead of who God created me to be. There needs to be a balance somehow.  A way to enjoy our bodies while caring for them.  I’m seeking to find that balance.  I’m looking for a way to honour God and give thanks for the great things this body he’s given me can do while caring for it.  

My body was made by God, shaped for me.
I want to feel comfortable in it.

So this Lent I shall strive to feel comfortable in my own skin without obsessing about how much that skin weighs.  I’m going to make better choices and continue to avoid chocolate because it’s my own personal kryptonite.  I know it may not seem like a lot to you but for me, it’s going to be tough.

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