Tools

Tools

My son broke the baby gate this morning.  He stood on it, leaned back and the whole thing came crashing down.  The baby gate is not designed for a nearly six year old to stand on it.  It’s meant to deter tiny ones from attempting death defying feats as they navigate through the house.  It wasn’t a crisis though, as I had the tools to fix the problem.

We’ve been talking a lot about tools around here lately as I try to explain how things work in our lives to my son. We’re covering hard topics involving laundry machines and their use, microwave ovens and what they do and how utensils can be harmful as well as helpful.  As I’ve been teaching him about tools and their uses I realized today that I’ve overlooked one important tool that I use regularly, my Bible.  The Bible is a tool for me, a navigation map of sorts to help me figure out who I am in this faith that I live.  Each morning I strive to open this tool and dig into the story of those who went before me.  Each morning I hope to glean a piece of information which will help me on my day.  This tool is essential for living a light filled life for me. This tool is perhaps the most important tool I use.

As I continue my discussions with my son I think I will introduce the Bible as a tool to him. I will encourage him to continue reading his own and help him when he stumbles across something that’s confusing. When you think about it, that’s another tool we have in faith.  In faith we have each other. This community, the collective, the engaged if you will are another tool we can use if we recognize it as such. Together we can learn and grow, be healed and transformed in our faith if we access the tools we’ve been given, if we band together as one and serve one another on the journey.

Tools are important in our lives for many reasons. We build houses, cook food, keep clean and move forward all with the help of tools and the things they create. All things in our lives need tending, tuning and maintenance.  It’s important for us to remember it’s not just the physical, but the spiritual as well. How are you using your tools? Are you maintaining and repairing your life and faith as needed?

Will we serve God or serve ourselves?

Can I lock my kids up forever?  Ok maybe not forever, perhaps just until 30ish?  I’ve been doing some preparations for the coming year.  We are homeschooling my son while he continues therapy so I have to get everything ready for Grade 1.  The curriculum has arrived and we are in the process of seeing what he knows, what he needs to know and trying to determine the best schedule for him.  It’s going well I think and I’m excited to see what and how he learns over the coming year.  It’s been wonderful to watch him grow and learn, expand and discover.

Why would I want to lock him up then?  He and his brother truthfully?  It might have something to do with the fact that in the last 48 hours I’ve learned more about people than I wanted to know.  I’ve heard from mainstream media sources that Ashley Madison was hacked.  You know the site I’m talking about, the one where married people go to find others to have an affair with.  Yes, that one.  I found out via Facebook that Josh Duggar allegedly has an account there.  Too much information for me and so devastating for his wife and family.  Then this morning I happened upon an article from Vanity Fair exposing Tinder and the Hookup-Culture of today.  It’s all too much for me.

Before you think I’m naive, or a prude or judgemental I’d like to say I’m not. Oh I guess we’re all a little judgemental but that’s not what my reaction was to any of this.  My initial reaction was relief and horror at the thought of a society built around easy hookups and no true connection. I kept imagining myself in this kind of dating world and breathing a sigh of relief that my husband and I are friends and partners. I know these things happen in our world but I don’t want to participate in them. I question a culture that values the needs of the individual at the expense of the other. I wonder where love, service, devotion and faith fit into a world that tells us we can have what we want, when we want it with no expectation of connection, relationship or true knowledge of the other. It’s terrifying to me that my boys may grow up in a world where relationships aren’t valued, where there is no desire to know another, where everything is about the self and how you can please that ‘self’.

I’m old fashioned I know but these attitudes about sexuality are not just about sexuality, they have permeated more aspects of our lives than we care to admit. It’s becoming acceptable to be selfish. It’s normal to proclaim that we deserve happiness or money or whatever the flavour of the month is. Selfishness is acceptable now. In fact I think it’s almost expected. This concerns me. I see it permeating every aspect of life and find myself fighting it. I fight back against the idea that I should not serve others. I fight back against the idea that I should always come first. I fight back agains the idea that I deserve anything and I try to remember that what I have is a gift from God to be used in service to him.

As a follower of Jesus I find myself turning to him as an example for how to live life. He placed others ahead of himself, shared stories of grace and love and taught his followers to go out into the world living as he himself lived. He didn’t say go out and take care of yourself before others. He said get out there and share this great thing that you know. Get out there and give what you’ve received to others.

That’s what’s missing in this world today. The give what you’ve got to others mentality. We’ve built a society around the idea that we can acquire, accumulate and control what is on this earth. We must let that go. In order for us to be healthy, for our Churches to thrive, for our people to be cared for we need to let go of what we want and move forward with what God wants.  Our selfish ambitions and desire for success, for comfort and control are preventing us from truly living the light sharing, Gospel spreading life that we are called into.

We need to fight back. We need to fight against the notion that we serve ourselves over others. We need to remember who we serve and live as Jesus lived. It’s a fight, no doubt.  It’s a constant struggle against what we hear but when we do it, when we live this way we see great things happen through God.  Are we ready to surrender our desires and expectations for God’s vision and purpose?  Are we ready to serve God or will we serve ourselves?

I have a voice.

I have a voice.  It came out in a spectacular way yesterday at Church.  It has been months since I felt I had something to say and yesterday I found there was so much to say, so much to share that we were terribly late leaving and I am most grateful for their graciousness at the door.

I’m not sad about it though even if they perhaps were. I found my voice. I have something to say. I am so relieved. It’s been months; months since I felt like I’ve left it all behind. It’s been months since I had command over words. Not for lack of trying of course.

Thank you God.  I have a voice.  It is not gone.  You have been kind.  I have a voice.

10 ways to help a family living with Autism in your congregation

Footie PJs
This is my son.  He has Autism.  He is also a sweet, funny, delightful child who never ceases to amaze me. In honour of World Autism Awareness Day I thought I would put together a list of some things that might help a family with Autism feel more comfortable in the Church. Because of my nomadic existence in ministry we have as a family travelled to many congregations and there are some things I’ve noticed about Churches that might make things challenging for families who have children with Autism or special needs in general. These may not apply to every family and it’s written from our personal point of view but I think it might be a good starting point for discussion and inclusion in our families and communities at large.

Number One: Please don’t tell me you feel sorry for me.

Also included in this would be a request to not tell me it’s a waste of a life or that he could’ve been so much more.  Sure sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes I wish life was easier for him. Sometimes I wonder why it all happened. In all of that wishing and wondering though there is never a point at which I think his life is wasted or that I feel hard done by.  Life happens.  Sometimes things happen unexpectedly.  My son is a joy and a blessing.  While I might wish to make things easier for him I would never wish for him to be someone different.  I do not feel sorry for myself and I don’t want you to.

Number two: Think about moving a few pews up so families with children who have special needs can sit in the back.

This one is especially for you Presbyterians out there. I know everyone loves the back as I’m often up front alone. I know you want a quick exit so they can be the first to hit the brunch line at the Holiday Inn. For our sake however I would ask that you consider surrendering the back pew for us and families like us. Our son has some sensory issues which make loud music at times hard for him to handle. Somedays he’s just fine and on others it’s tough. We don’t want to disrupt the service so leaving us with the quick exit would be very kind. I assure you should we run into each other at the Holiday Inn I will be glad to let you go first in the buffet line!

Number three: Please don’t tell me he ‘should’ be downstairs.

There are some people who think all children should be in Sunday School. I know that’s how it used to be. I also know that you’re running a wonderful program and many children would love it. Unfortunately for our son who struggles with communication and social interaction it can be overwhelming for him. We are working together as a family to make these things easier for him. There are weeks where we can power through and others where he needs space upstairs. It’s not that we don’t appreciate your program or value what you offer we just need to listen to his needs and do what’s best for him.

Number four: Include many different types of learning styles and engagement in your Sunday School Program.

If we manage to convince X that Sunday School is a good idea we’ve found many learning styles keeps things moving nicely.  This one really benefits all children when you think about it! Incorporating physical, listening and visual learning styles into the Sunday School Program helps more children engage. Each child has different strengths and weaknesses. By including a variety of activities and means of engagement you’re more likely to catch the attention of each child and find ways to include them all. This keeps things moving and fresh which allows for less downtime and reduces the potential for meltdowns. Also please don’t feel bad if a parent happens to stay downstairs with a child who has autism.  It’s not that they think you can’t ‘handle’ it. It’s that they are there to support their child as they navigate a potentially tricky situation for them.

Number five: If you want to chat with him following the service be sure to pause a little while you wait for his answer.

Each person with Autism is different so this may not apply to them all but one thing I have noticed is that children with autism may need a little more space in the conversation to process the words and craft a response.  If my son takes some time answering after you’ve spoken to him he’s not ignoring you, he’s thinking. If he doesn’t seem to grasp what you are saying after a few moments try a different way of phrasing the question. This would help a lot with interactions. Often times I see people come up to X. and start to talk then leave quickly and miss his response. He wants to engage, just give him the time necessary to do so.

Number six: Don’t stare.

If a meltdown does occur please don’t stare. While we try to avoid them sometimes meltdowns happen unexpectedly. We are lucky that our son loves church but he’s five. Any child who is five has moments of great drama. Add to that a communication deficit and sometimes you have to work hard to figure out where the drama is coming from and why. A ‘shh’ or ‘be quiet’ doesn’t always work and these meltdowns happen unexpectedly. When you stare we feel more awkward than we already did. We are aware it’s not ideal but want to worship with you. Please understand we are doing our best and sometimes things happen without rhyme or reason.

Number seven: Recognize he’s an individual.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘When you’ve met one child with Autism you’ve met one child with Autism’.  This is very true! He’s an individual. He is not an autistic child. He is a child with Autism. Aside from the Autism he has a personality of his own. There are definite likes and dislikes that he has the same as anyone. Ask him about his cars. Talk to him about his favourite movies. Take time to really discover who he is. He’s a sweet, funny boy. Don’t be afraid of the differences. Embrace him for who he is, Autism and all.

Number eight: Don’t side-step or avoid us. 

We want to feel like we’re part of the community of faith. Don’t avoid us because you don’t know what to say. Just treat us the same as any other family. Ask us how therapy is going. Ask us what we did on the weekend. We would love to hear how you’re doing as well.

Number nine: If you are curious, ask! 

If you don’t know what Autism is and would like to know more, ask! If you’re curious as to why X. isn’t in school, we would love to engage you and help you understand how we are trying to help him. Things might be different for our family and we know that to some it seems odd. We are happy to point you to resources and explain our situation so you might better understand.

This leads me to the bigger point. If you are curious or wondering how you might make the church a more inclusive or welcoming place, ask. Families with Children who have special needs would love to help you understand what might make the church a more welcoming, helpful place. It’s hard to know what’s needed unless you ask.

Number ten: Love him and share God’s love with him regularly. 

He is a child of God. He loves church. He wants to be part of things and feel like he’s part of the community. The best thing you can do for him is to shower him with love. Show him he is welcome here. Show him he matters to you and to God.

And that about sums it up for me.  Is there anything I’ve left out?  If so, leave a message in the comments and keep the conversation rolling!  

Promised peace.

I was the first up in the house this morning.  While that used to always be the case I’ve found in the last few months more often than not one of the boys is greeting me before dawn demanding action and adventure.  When you’re young life is always an adventure and where there’s adventure there is sure to be action.  Anyways I had peace this morning.  So much peace that I was able to catch up on some reading and meet Jesus first thing.

I needed this time today. Lately I’ve found myself pulled and tugged as we work through some difficult programs in therapy.  I have been struggling with doubts and worries about my abilities and strength.  I am at times consumed with thoughts of the future and what it might hold for my son.  I’m also working this weekend so I’m really having to fight to find good moments in which to prepare.  It can be a less than peaceful existence if I don’t stop and take time to meet God, to remember that I am not the one who holds it all together.  To remember that he carries me through and provides me with strength.

In my morning reading I came across a verse that was a great reminder those very things. Jesus gave peace to us freely and reminds us to lay our troubles and worries down. His peace is always there, always available if we look for it and listen for him.  As I walk through today I find myself looking for moments filled with that peace and I know I am not the only one this Holy Week feeling overwhelmed and frazzled. Whether you’re cooking dinner for 15 or leading worship multiple times this week my prayer for you is that you find the promised peace and meet God in the journey as we travel towards the open tomb.

His Peace

Proof there is a God…

…or at least that we were created to worship?

Yesterday the internet broke when news broke that Zayn Malik left the band One Direction. Horror! How could it be? How could one young man decide that he might want to leave and live a normal life?

1D1

Truthfully I’m blown away by the intensity of the reactions. I was part of the NKOTB era and when they ceased to exist we just moved on.  These reactions did make me think though. What we spend our time and energy on is in fact the focus of our lives. This ‘worship’ of celebrity is just a substitution for the worship of God. Can you imagine how the world would change if we invested as much energy in faithfully following Jesus as our society tends to invest in celebrity idol worship? How much love we could spread, time we could invest and people we could serve? It seems to me this is a good time for all of us to think about how we use our time, how we invest our love and energy.

If you’re a a 1D fan I’m sorry for your loss but take heart, Zayn is not dead he’s merely chosen a different path. If you’re not a 1D fan I feel you. I’m not either. It is however a good time to think about the idols in your own life. Have you shifted focus away from God? Are you pointed in the right direction?

It’s a sad day for many 14 year old girls out there.  I hope it gets easier for them…

What if he wasn’t famous?

A few years ago I met Jian Ghomeshi at a book signing in Toronto. He seemed like a nice enough fellow, a little shorter than I imagined but there’s nothing wrong with that. He was publicizing 1982 and women at the blogging conference I was at were going mad for him. The reaction to him was akin to Bieber Fever. It was highly entertaining and his presentation was very engaging. I’ve always enjoyed his radio program Q and as a stay at home Mom is is nice to have culture to connect with at 10 am when dishes were being done. I guess you could call me a fan.

Yesterday afternoon as I was getting ready for a disappointing afternoon of fantasy football I discovered that Jian Ghomeshi had been fired by the CBC. Upon hearing the news I turned to my husband and said “He needs Olivia Pope.  If he’s been fired, that can’t be good and he needs Olivia Pope.” You all watch Scandal, right? No? Well here’s a quick backstory. Olivia Pope is the fixer. She’s the person you call when something goes catastrophically wrong and you need good press, some good fixing. Olivia Pope washes away your sins and crafts a better story, a better tagline for the blogs. Jian Ghomeshi needs Olivia Pope.

Over the past 24 hours statements have been released. He said he was innocent. That the behaviour was consensual. He claimed everything was on the up and up as far as he was concerned and his reputation was being tarnished by a venomous ex-girlfriend.  I heard his story and felt a little played. He is in the business of crafting words and these words were crafted perfectly.  Upon reading those words I knew he’d found his Olivia Pope.

I hate this part of nasty business. The getting people on side part. I suppose it’s necessary to save face and all. If what he said is true then he’s lost his job due to a smear campaign and that’s not good. His confession did exactly what it was supposed to. It encouraged people to side with him, to stand by him. As of this moment there are 102 032 likes on his Facebook post. These likes are people who can take his statement at face value and in many ways I admire that. They believe in him.

I want to be that person. I want to jump up and say without a doubt that I side with him. Truth is I’d love for Jian Ghomeshi to be back in the chair at Q knowing everything was a big misunderstanding but there is one question that eats away at the confidence in his statement. What if he wasn’t famous? Would everyone side with him then or would they listen to the women who claim abuse? Would they be willing to hear the other side of the story?

Regardless of right or wrong, this mess shows us how public a private life can become. Sometimes what you think is private becomes public all too quickly. This is especially true in today’s world of internet and instant media. Every decision we make has consequences and we need to be able to live with them should it ever come to that. Would we be ok if our lives were thrust into the public eye? Would we be able to accept the consequences?

I wonder what the response would be if he wasn’t famous? How many likes would be on a Facebook confession then?

Random thought: I feel like I should be writing a post about how Jesus is our own Olivia Pope. That he cleans up situations and makes everything sparkle again but that’s really not how it works, is it? Jesus forgives us and we’re all clean but if we’re honest about it we always remember and carry our past with us. Instead of hiding the nasty business Jesus helps us face it and makes it better because he accepts us regardless. Got to love that Jesus. He’s the crisis consultant we all need, isn’t he? 

He knows…

I think of my Dad when I hear the news about Ottawa. I call him almost instantly. They could be his friends. In days past it could have been him.

Tucked away in the corner of my bedroom it seems surreal. How could this be happening when life is so peaceful?  Soft breath rises and falls from the tiny one as he sleeps in his corner of the room. Giggles work their way through cracks in the house as my eldest works away at his task. This is ordinary life.

News breaks through the peace. There is violence and fear, terror and dismay. Articles are shared, news spreads and people comment on what’s happening instantly. Theories and ideas, suspicions and details move quickly. Some true, some not so true.  Everyone wants answers. Everyone wants to know the ‘why’?

I think back to my morning reading. I think of the mystics and their belief that if we dig deep, if we push past our sin we will find God. I wonder how deep we have to push to find God in this mess. I do not understand it. I do not understand this intentional wounding of others.

I turn to my prayer book. I open to the chapter on peace and find myself looking for words, looking for help on what to say, what to pray to God. I find a piece of a psalm. I read an intercessory prayer. I read it again.

O Christ of the poor and the yearning
Kindle in my heart within
A flame of love for my neighbour,
For my foe, for my friend, for my kindred all.
From the humblest thing that lives
To the Name that is highest of all
Kindle in my heart within
A flame of love.

J. Phillip Newell, Celtic Prayers from Iona

I think of this love.
I think of the love that is required of us.

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

Matthew 5:43-44

I am reminded of the need to pray.

Not just for our country and the safety of it’s citizens.
Not just for peace and resolution to the crisis.
Not just for justice that satisfaction be known to those who seek it.
Not just for families of those who have lost and for the protectors which face danger to keep us safe.
We must also pray for those who would wound and destroy.

I pray for them that they might know a new way, a better way.
I pray that God would open their hearts to peace and understanding.
I pray that they would stop, they would think, they would see the people whom they are wounding.

It’s not fun to pray for one’s enemies.
It’s really hard to think about loving them but love is a choice and Jesus tells us to make that choice.
Sometimes I wonder about Jesus.  Does he know how hard this is?

Then I remember that tree.  I remember those moments where he hung dying, stripped bare and exposed to the world.

He knows hard.
He knows.

The margins

Yesterday at church a kind man took me aside after the congregational meeting and told me he thought I would benefit from building margins into my life.  He said he had done it as he needed some down time in which to really live and he thought I could do with some of that time. I laughed and said he was right but walked away without thinking too much about it. The day stretched on and I found myself bouncing from child to child, from the laundry basket to the dishes and trying to squeeze a few moments in to read my book of the week. It was not a Sabbath. It was another work day. I had things to do. I didn’t rest. Looking back I see that this is not good.

He was right, I need to build in margins. You know who else talks about margins, God and I should’ve been listening to him too.  I need margins. I need to build some breaks into my days. It’s in the margins of life that God is found. God can be heard there, embraced there, experienced there. When life gets over scheduled it can be hard to see what is happening, to embrace the miracle of the moment.

I’m going to work on building those margins in. I know that it’s needed. I cannot maintain this pace and expect God to keep up. God has asked me to slow down. God has asked me to take a rest. It’s time I stopped and listened to that. It’s time I stopped and listened to him.

I may be losing it…

I am tired. Really tired. My son is teething. I’m not sleeping. I make it through the day but find myself falling asleep on my poor husband every night while watching TV. It’s not a season for rest in this house. It’s something else altogether and in the midst of it all I’ve found myself thinking that I’d like to write a book. I think I’ve lost it, gone off the deep end. With everything that’s going on I don’t know that I have time but the thought keeps entering my consciousness and I find myself wondering how I could make it all work.

Pray for me will you? I may be losing it or I might just be starting something. Who knows but whatever winds up happening I must ask you to pray because I think that even if I don’t write a book, I’m stepping on a path to somewhere. I don’t know where that is yet but I have a feeling it will be an adventure.

 

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