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Showing posts from 2009

spar

My vacation is turning out to be much busier than I had hoped. The lazy days, sitting by the fire reading a book, are still strictly in my mind. We are planning a mega birthday celebration for my mother on January 1, and last night after a day crammed with lunch at the Mexican restaurant, a trip to a few stores to exchange gifts that didn't fit and redeem gift cards, scouting out the celebration facility, a trip to the photo studio for family pictures, and a late dinner, I sat down to organise the program (I am the MC), work on my power point presentation, and get the door prizes ready. I went to bed shortly after midnight and still left a few things undone. This morning I awoke, tired and coughing. Not pleasant.

One thing that has been going through my mind this week is the following question: What am I mad at God about? In fact, he was the one that asked me this in the middle of worship in church on Sunday morning. And then he said..."Let's talk about it. Don't just …

matrix vs. avatar

We went to see the movie Avatar last night. Some tout is as the new Matrix of movies: breakthrough CGI, lush fantastical landscapes, and the epic story of two worlds clashing. I did enjoy the experience and appreciated the visual gymnastics and creativity, but something was missing: it wasn't about being human.

Avatar takes you to a fantasy world; the human earth pales in comparison. The blue people are at one with nature and each other, mystically and spiritually mature. There is nothing that they want from the humans; they find most of them ignorant and blind. Perhaps it was because they were virtual or virtually perfect, but I was not particularly attracted to the giant blue aliens. I did not want to live in their world or be one of them. Despite watching the movie in 3-D, I found the Na'vi two-dimensional and unreal and therefore, unbelievable and somewhat boring. Their eyes were not full of life. You can't draw that into a character's eyes. It is only present in re…

the list

What do you want for Christmas? As an adult, I don't get asked this question much, and when I do (mostly by Dean), I am a bit uncomfortable answering it. I don't like being greedy or needy. I do like being content. But I also know that I do not stretch my hope and desire muscles enough, and that is not contentment - that is complacency.

God asks me almost every day what I would like (after I have talked to him about all the important people in my life and asked him to provide for them with extravagance, he usually asks...and what about you?). I am getting better at giving him a response. I am getting better at expressing my real desires (not for stuff, but those things that add genuine richness to my life) and daring to live in that scary place between deep longing and sweet fulfillment. It is where I live every day, if I am honest: some days more on the longing side and other days, leaning more towards the fulfillment end of things.

Here, then, are the things that I would like …

trojan movie

I went to see Invictus last night. Good solid movie, nothing flashy, story simply told. Halfway through it, I realised it was a trojan horse (sneaky device to get inside at your vulnerable bits). The movie is the story of South Africa coming together over a rugby team and the leadership of Nelson Mandela who saw what could be instead of what was. The Springboks are the SA rugby team, not the best rugby team by any means, and they are painfully aware of it. But that doesn't seem to matter to Mandela. He does not see their dismal record; he sees an opportunity for the country to rally together and overcome their division.

I sat in the movie theatre and realised that I am all too aware of my limitations. I am only a timid, simple, fairly emotional and reactive woman who can't remember dates and facts very well because I live so much in the moment; I am often too slow to speak when it matters the most and too quick to voice my thoughts when I should keep quiet or at least think thi…

gun-shy

We all have them. Friends who have had a bad experience at church, people we know who have been hurt or judged by Christians, and acquaintances who have seen the freaky side of religion and don't want to get anywhere near it. I feel for these people, I really do. I have been on both sides of the equation, so I know what it is like. I have freaked people out and judged others who are not like me. I have also been judged and condemned and seen things done in the name of God that made me cringe. These things bother me.

For all those people who have had a bad encounter with the church, I am truly story. I wish you could see that Christians can be really cool people: full of life and love, genuine in their honesty, and relentless in their pursuit of truth and transformation. Above all, I wish that you could see that they love God. They really, really love him and everything that he is about, because they know he can be trusted. They are not perfect, and they need grace for their mistake…

one down

Today, during the first snowstorm of the season, I handed in one of my two term papers. For those of you interested in a glimpse into the subject, read on. For the rest of you...go ahead and grab a snack during the next few paragraphs.

My topic was the significance of Jesus' first miracle as recorded in the gospel of John: the infamous turning of water into wine, notably one of the most practical, compassionate, and life-changing miraculous works Jesus did. Okay, I am being facetious, but let me tell you what I read about how people interpret this story. Mostly, theologians hold one of two positions: 1) they decide that it is an unfortunate story, not really a fitting start for the saviour of the world and either dismiss it as relatively unimportant or try to explain how it really wasn't about people getting drunk at a wedding party, or 2) they symbolise and allegorise and analogise the heck out of it, saying the whole thing is all about the Eucharist (communion for you reform…

dead end?

Do you ever have times in your life when you just want to say, "Forget it?" Being pretty much an "in the moment" type of person means that I sometimes lack the long-term perspective needed to keep me from getting discouraged by one or two apparent setbacks. One of the places I feel this most right now is in my faith community. The numbers are slowly dwindling as people find that work and school and life-stuff are taking on a higher priority in their lives; their connection with us is being squeezed out of the picture. I can only pray that their connection with God is not suffering the same fate. The dynamics of friendships are changing as well as we become less present in each other's worlds and lives.

Another place I feel this is in a slightly more structured setting when someone hijacks a discussion in class or in a home group and we end up way off topic and focusing on the interests of one person. This makes me uncomfortable. I am hesitant to say anything bec…

one-day remedy

So, my one-day recovery plan didn't work. I have been fighting (everything short of screaming and kicking) this silly cold for almost 9 days now. It is a vicious bugger of a virus and won't give up its warm and cozy host easily. I had a pretty busy week with classes, assignments, dinner parties, and a day of fun activities with Dean on his day off. By Friday night, or rather, Saturday morning at 2:00 am, I was feeling pretty bad. I decided to take Saturday and do a one-day recovery. Sleep in. Not exert myself. Sit on the couch and rest. Maybe read a bit. Drink lots of liquids. Avoid sugar and milk products (which are Mr. Phlegms' favourites). Take a nap. Give my body everything it needed to kick the virus.

It was a good day. I got plenty of rest. I didn't leave the house. I drank plenty of tea. It should have been enough to get everything back to normal, or so I thought. I had high expectations for the next day. I was up at 8:00 am on Sunday morning to go to a visiting …

sick

So...I have a cold. It is not pleasant. I means that I dream about not being able to breathe. It means that there is a damp spot under my nose when I wake up. It means that my chest is tight and I get winded climbing the stairs to my bedroom. It means that my throat is scratchy and I am always thirsty. It means that everything seems like a bigger deal than it really is.

This morning, the doorbell buzzed while I was still in bed, sleeping the open-mouthed, sweaty sleep of the sick. I woke up, a bit groggy, but aware enough to know who it was. The mailman was delivering books which I had ordered. Yeah! I was waiting for this shipment and was happy to receive it before the Friday deadline. The mailman usually just leaves the package in the hallway of our condo building when I am away, so because I was feeling kind of rough and certainly looking like someone's nightmare (plus, I didn't want to infect the poor man with whatever I had, I reasoned), I decided not to answer the door. I…

decoration

What is a decoration? The dictionary lists it as "an addition that renders something more attractive or ornate." It is something you can do without, but it sure is prettier with it there. We have made a whole industry out of the art and science of decorating in our culture. These decorations are not necessary, but really nice. They make life more pleasant and beautiful.

I was typing a post for an online forum on Wednesday about some writings by Richard Rolle. The topic was the fire of love, and Rolle relates the first time that he felt this physical warmth and heat in his heart; he was taken aback and delighted at this sense of being internally on fire. It brought him unexpected comfort, fed his soul, spread an interior sweetness in him, and left a hunger for more in its wake. [1]
The last line of my post read: God is a consuming fire, not a decorative candle. And as soon as I wrote it, I was convicted that I myself often use God as a decoration in my life. I splash God on at …

awkward place

I don't like awkward situations. Like when one person in a group expresses an opinion quite forcefully and in a way that belittles any other position, and yet, you know that a number of people there hold to a different viewpoint. Like when a friend tells you that they are not sure they want you to meet their other friends. Like someone trying to uninvite you from a party. Like making a comment about how unattractive something is and then realising that your conversation partner is really into that particular thing.

The awkward feeling goes away after a bit, but that doesn't mean that it is resolved. These are the situations where I feel most inept, wondering whether to inject a comment, try to smooth things over, expose a misunderstanding, apologise, make light of the situation, or clarify by a few well-directed questions. I have let things lie and many times, that feels like the issue is never dealt with but remains lurking under the surface. I have tried to clarify and ended …

step in

I attended a seminar at the American Academy of Religion annual conference in Montreal on Monday. For those of you who don't know (like me before Monday), it is a "learned society and professional association of teachers and research scholars" boasting over 10,000 members who "teach in some 1,500 colleges, universities, seminaries, and schools in North America and abroad." My professors had encouraged us to check it out, so I perused the offerings and found a round table discussion on Monday morning that piqued my interest: Practicing Faith in Graduate School. They promised free coffee and snacks, so how could I go wrong?

There were only three of us that showed up for this particular session, and that was fine with me. I prefer a small group discussion to a person reading their paper to me from a podium any day. I grabbed a juice and a cinnamon pastry and sat down at the table. The facilitator was a pleasant fellow from Pennsylvania who worked as a pastor and ad…

that just don't sound right

There are things that I hear people say that just don't sound right to me, but sometimes I don't know exactly why. One of them is that "my Christian friends are not as much fun and way more high maintenance than my non-Christian friends." Hmmm. While there may be some element of reality in that statement, especially when you are viewing a small slice of someone's life, I believe at its very foundation, this is a lie. And here is why:

1. People who follow and love God are committed to transformation. This is a slightly more taxing goal than having fun and going with the flow (understatement), but definitely more rewarding. A friend of mine said that it was very easy to hang out with his old friends, drinking and passing around a joint, but much of the time it was to avoid having to do the hard work of taking responsibility for one's life and to numb the pain that inevitably comes from this bumpy road we all find ourselves on. Being committed to transformation i…

together

Yesterday I spent 3 hours at my university campus. It is interesting how one can be surrounded by thousands of people and still feel quite alone. I ate my supper in a large student lounge area and tried to prepare for a Bible study later that night. Nothing much was inspiring me and God seemed remote and distant. I have been living with a sense of displacement lately. I am not exactly sure where or with which group of people I belong. I enjoy my studies and my colleagues, but I don't feel totally at home there. I love the people I encounter in my faith community, but we are in flux right now as well, changing places and dynamics and comfort zones. Many of my friends are at a crossroads or on a bridge in their lives and that affects how we relate to each other.

So I was walking towards the library yesterday afternoon and talking to God. I began my usual litany and realised that my heart just wasn't in it. If I was going to be talking to the most powerful and interested party in …

coming out of the closet...kinda

I voted on Sunday. Montreal was having its municipal elections and we got to vote four times. Once for the mayor of Montreal, once for our local borough mayor (St-Laurent), once for the city councilor and once for the borough councilor. I am not all that up on municipal politics, so I decided to inform myself. In case you are not aware of the plethora of intricate and complex issues at stake when you vote in Montreal, here are a few of the things going on:

1. The current mayor and his party have been plagued by scandal. There have been numerous accusations about crooked contracts, bloated costs, Mafia connections, and political pay-offs. It seems to be the way we do business in this city.
2. The main opposition to the current mayor was from a woman who has spent 39 years working for the Parti Quebecois (the political party dedicated to promoting Quebec sovereignty and separation from Canada). She was one of the main forces behind the mega-city merger and wants to centralize power and ta…

hand off

Control freak confession #17: Lately I am realising that my style of leadership/friendship is sometimes too heavy-handed. I see things, I know things, I have some life experience and wisdom, of that there is no doubt. But does that give me the right or responsibility to try to steer other people's lives? I am beginning to think not. Trying to actively guide others has felt like the responsible and loving thing to do, but in truth, it primarily satisfies my sense of well-being when we are all going the same direction (MINE) and involved in the same things (WHAT I THINK IS IMPORTANT) and helps me feel successful. God is just not that one-dimensional nor that boring. Unity is not stuffing all the working parts into the same box and dragging them behind me. It is much more beautiful and strange than that.

Control is like my hand grabbing onto someone or something that I love, trying to keep them or it in line with my idea of godliness, and today I feel God prying my fingers off, one at…

I am her

I don't know about the church. I love her. I am frustrated with her. I am her. I have spent so much of my life investing in her, trying to help her find her hidden beauty, coaxing small steps forward out of her, and telling her inspiring, mesmerising, and often bewildering stories. At times, I have to admit, I have given her stern lectures about her disappointing behaviour. But there have been lots of good times, too. We have laughed at life's oddities and joys. We have gone on road trips that have changed us. We have eaten the best meals together, so much more tasty because of the hours spent elbow to elbow in the kitchen. We have strung flowers from ceilings and stripped off our clothes and jumped about foolishly and called it art, or worship, or both.

I am deeply committed to her as a part of me and a part of Jesus. When I am with her the human and divine come crashing together, sometimes painfully, but most times like a symphony being written by a group of gifted children w…

relapse

Someone must have rearranged our bedroom furniture during the night. I got up this morning , it seems, on the proverbial wrong side of the bed. After a month of blessed and undeserved contentment and gratitude in my heart, I felt the old brain start to go in negative patterns again this morning. The sad thing is not that this happened (and will occasionally happen), but that I allowed myself to go down that road, to stay on that track, and ended up saying things to people that I now regret. Yes, apologies have been given, and I have to trust that forgiveness and redemption are bigger than my blunders.

It started when I got irritated and annoyed because one little thing did not happen the way I wanted it to this morning. My prayer as I walked to the bank this afternoon was "God, I am a control freak. Please help me to be a lover instead." It is so hard to remain out of control of my life. I can do okay for a period of time and then WHAM I just get tired of not having a say in…

the zone

We are in an interesting place as a faith community, literally. The lease on the space we currently rent expires at the end of the month, and we are unable to renew it due to zoning issues. We found a new space that was smaller and much better suited to our needs (with our own private bathrooms!) and after we met with the landlord and signed a lease, that space also fell through due to a zoning ruling. The Director of Urban Planning suggested that we rent space from an existing church in order to avoid the zoning problem. Now we would be perfectly happy to share space with another church, but most of the congregations are housed in old, formal, cavernous, pewed buildings not conducive to our casual and interactive worship and teaching style. At Vineyard Montreal, we have couches and sit in a semi-circle and you are free to interrupt the speaker with a question or comment at any time. Plus, where would the drums go? Sadly, meeting as a church in a non-traditional church space seems a b…

bump in the road

It is Thanksgiving Monday. I should be cleaning my house in preparation for a half dozen people coming over to cook and eat and be loud and make it messy again (that's what a family does). Dean is still in China. I miss him, but life is good. God takes care of me and there is nothing to complain about.

Two nights ago I was on my way home from a dinner with friends when I decided to follow the suggestion of the GPS voice and take an alternate road to my house. It said it was shorter, so I decided to try it. I had not taken that particular route in a while and as soon as I did, I realised that I was in trouble. My exit was closed due to construction. Then the next exit put me on a side road with orange pylons and scraped pavement and still the exit I wanted was blocked off! I kept driving, not enjoying the bumpy, excavated driving surface, and too late, saw one of those horrible manholes sticking up a few inches out of the pavement with its sharp edges.
A loud noise came from the bac…

blessed

Dean left for China yesterday. I am at home alone for 10 days but won't be bored. Here is a partial list of things I want to accomplish.

1. Take Jazz to the vet this afternoon and have everyone come out unscathed. This is the first trip to a new vet, so hopefully we can begin with a clean slate and a better attitude (she has a record of violence at the old place).
2. Finish my application for a federal scholarship (SSHRC) which is a pretty intense process that includes writing a research proposal and bibliography. If I get it, it means I would be paid to go to school next year! I received the last important document in the mail today, so I will be handing the whole thing in to my department tomorrow.
3. Dust my house and clean the bathrooms.
4. Pay off all the visa bills.
5. Get together with friends on Thanksgiving and eat pumpkin pie.
6. Enjoy God's blessing in my life every day.
We talked about Matthew 5:1-12 a week ago at home group. It starts out with, "Blessed are the poor…

what am I looking for?

I just returned from our second annual Vineyard retreat in the Laurentians. There were 19 people sharing a 4 bedroom chalet (4 people were camping in the front yard), and I don't remember anyone really complaining about anything during the entire 43 hours we were together. No wait, the children rolled their eyes when it was bedtime and a few people sighed at the thought of going home. Amazing, when you think about it.

The weather was foggy and rainy and cold on Saturday, but we went out on the boat anyway, and others enjoyed books and walks and chats by the fire and everyone was content. We had a talent show on Saturday night which everyone was encouraged to participate in. A few people were reluctant, but that sentiment soon faded when I reassured them that it was by everyone for everyone, and we would love whatever they would do, no matter what it was. And every last person brought something for the rest of us to enjoy, wonder at, laugh with, or applaud.
The theme of the weekend …