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Archive for February, 2012

Well, I can’t believe it’s already early Wednesday morning and I’m just now restarting my blogs for this week. Talk about non-perfection…it has not been the most perfect of past few days. I did not accomplish my house cleaning or packing goals. I did not succeed in cleaning the kitchen, though I got very close…but now we’re back to square one after the accumulation of dinner dishes tonight. And I did not read any more of Mark since Saturday, though I did attempt to today at one point. Lucy was chewing on my Bible periodically throughout playtime…does that count?

I fell asleep on the couch instead of cleaning up the supper dishes and yelled at my husband when he tried to wake me up. Our baby is now wide awake even though she’s dead tired. She’s currently talking to herself happily. I didn’t flip the load of laundry that’s in the washer…so it’s just sitting there wet and probably will stay there until the real part of morning that occurs after bedtime and sleep. Also, I’m wearing my nineties Winnie the Pooh gatsby-type hat because my hair is getting long and annoying and I have nothing else that will keep it out of my face.

I can’t really think of any useful conclusions to draw from the above ramble, except maybe that sometimes you just gotta go to bed and hope that when the sun comes up tomorrow that things will be somewhat better and more normal and less everything-wrong-all-the-time. And that is what I’m going to do…after I somehow convince our daughter to do it first. Goodnight for now.

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This was a crazy day. It was so crazy that it spilled over into the next day for two and a half hours…sigh…

So this is supposed to be Saturday, Feb. 25th’s post, but I’m getting to it a bit late. Oh well…like I’ve said before, there is grace for that. There is grace for pretty much everything.

And speaking of grace, in the tradition of Lent, I will be taking every Sunday off of my Lent commitments. So, no post for tomorrow, but check back in on Monday.

I didn’t even get to reading Mark 11 today, at least not all of it. I think I may have managed four or five verses before life got in the way as it usually does. The verses were about the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

I think it must have been really tough for the disciples at this point in their journey. I mean, everyone always gives them a hard time because they essentially abandon Jesus later on when things get scary…and yes, Jesus did warn them of it several times, his death and  resurrection…but I don’t think they really had any clue that he would be taken away from them like he was. I’m sure they half hoped (or maybe more than half) that this triumphal entry was the beginning of a triumphal reign too…and yes, of course we now see the truth of Christ’s eternal reign in that his death and resurrection marked the defeat of death and sin, etc….but I think the disciples might have hoped for something a bit more tangible and immediate than that. How could they not hope as they watched Jesus’ supporters rally around and try in all their poverty to give him the royal procession he deserved? No red carpet, that’s for sure…but palm branches nonetheless.

We often set our hopes in the same direction. We hope for victory in every day activities, in our work and play, in our ministries even. Sometimes we don’t want to face the possibility of life through death, or, in other words, victory that doesn’t always look so victorious at first…victory that is only achieved through suffering and much prayer and waiting. I am often reminded of this tendency when I sit around with groups of Christians and exchange prayer requests before a group prayer time. Most of the requests that come up (and not all of them, of course, but most) are of a very simplistic, need-focused nature. We ask for this silly cold we have to go away or for God to provide the perfect ___________ (fill in the blanks – job, car, or even someone to love). We ask that God would bless the events that are coming up and keep us all safe.

I’m really not trying to say that these are bad things to pray for…not at all. We should never feel like our prayers are too simple or too needy or too anything else to bring to God. But maybe we’re missing out on a whole other level of Christianity. Maybe we should be praying that the suffering we experience will bring about his victory and that he would grant us the perseverance and character we need to suffer well in his name. Maybe we should ask that he show us ways to “take up our cross” for lack of a less cliched term. And maybe we should seek wisdom and discernment to speak into the lives of others around us who may be suffering too…

Jesus had prepared the disciples for his death and resurrection, whether they knew it at the time or not, and with God’s grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit, they eventually got it and got going to accomplish his purposes in the world after he was no longer physically with them. They made it through the fire and came out stronger and more in love with Jesus than they ever were before. But they had many scary times first, I think…many doubts and many tears. So let’s remember, as we face the suffering of the world in our own lives and those lives we touch every day,  that true victory doesn’t come easy…and true triumph was found in the stance of the servant king – seated on a donkey – who resolved to suffer to make his victory complete and shunned the idea of an easy conquest.

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Tough love?

Well…this post won’t be nearly as long as its predecessors, since it is late and my daughter is less than pleased with her jumperoo right now. I won’t get into the whole chapter today, but I just wanted to focus on one part of it…one line really.

Mark 10:21 = “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'”

To give a bit of context, Jesus is responding to the question of a rich man who asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life…so Jesus asks him back if he’s kept all the commandments, etc. and the man answers yes, always…and then comes the above verse.

There is great depth of truth to this, that wealth can hold us back from the kingdom…but this is not the part that facinates me the most at this moment. I owe a great deal of credit (or all of it) to my husband whom I have heard talking on these chapters in the past recent weeks…and I think the idea that’s now floating around in my head is one that he was discussing not long ago. Did you notice how it says Jesus “looking at him, loved him”?

He wasn’t disgusted with this rich guy. He wasn’t bitter or angry, even though the guy was probably dressed ten times more extravagantly and had probably eaten better that day than Jesus had eaten in weeks. In fact, I’m guessing it was probably a challenge for this guy to even bring himself to talk to Jesus. I mean, Jesus wasn’t the most popular guy in the rich elite circles of the day – he was the champion of the poor and the downtrodden.

There is just such beauty to the way that verse is worded though, isn’t there? – “looking at him, loved him”…I guess I’ve always pictured this as one of the times where there were those few seconds of eye contact and the rich guy is feeling kind of exposed and desperate, and sort of nervous because he thinks he knows a bit what Jesus is going to say, but he can’t quite put his finger on it…that deep seated fear he doesn’t want to touch, that’s probably where this is going… And Jesus is just looking and thinking “Yeah, I know you’re afraid, but you know it’s only cuz I love you.”

It’s a sad story because the rich guy goes away disappointed and does not follow Jesus or give up his wealth…at least not at that time. And how many times have we done this too? I don’t mean that we’re rich and need to give up all our possessions (although, sometimes it does apply in exactly that way). What I do mean is that there is something or somethings for each of us that we are almost too afraid to get into. We just don’t want to go there, because we know it scares us to death and we might not be able to handle it. For me, this is my memories of my past work experiences as a nurse. That is a really really long story that I can’t hope to explain right here right now, but let’s just say there were parts of it that were very traumatic for me, and the thought of digging those experiences back up out of my subconscious is not a pleasant one. But sometimes I feel like that rich guy who is standing there before Jesus and waiting for answers, and Jesus is saying “You lack one thing…” And he knows it’s terrifying. He knows it’s not easy, but he looks at us and loves us all the same.

Let’s ask ourselves what it is that scares us and what it is that might be holding us back…and then let’s ask further for his love to bring us through it, deep seated fears and all. Because really, when has fear stood a chance against the blatantly extravagant love of Jesus for his people? And even though the rich guy said no to the challenge, Jesus didn’t give up hope on the subject, because he states later on in the chapter that “…all things are possible with God.” So cling to that when your fears make you feel like life is impossible. Cling to the love in his looking at you.

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Disclaimer: The blog posts for all the days of Lent will be Christian/Bible themed. I usually hate to use cliche Christian terms and phrases that are foreign to many, but since I am aiming for non-perfection (see last post), I can’t take a lot of time to screen what I’m writing. I appologize if I sound too pretentious or just plain annoying. 🙂

I read through Mark 9 this morning because I am trying to follow with our church youth group as they read through the book of Mark. I am a couple chapters behind, but will hopefully catch up soon since I’ll be posting here everyday.

I would challenge you to find another chapter in the first four books of the new testament (the gospel books) that contains more confusing facts and statements than this one. It starts with the transfiguration. Oh yeah, no problem. I totally understand what’s going on there. (obvious sarcasm)

In reality, I would probably do what Peter did (offer to set up tents? really?) or something equally as pointless. You know…it’s like when you get into one of those really awkward situations, you either shut up and make yourself scarce, or, if you’re like me, you say stupid things and try to help.

To top off this first story in the chapter, Jesus gives a confusing speech about how “…Elijah does come first to restore all things…” (verses 11-13). Is he talking about himself metaphorically? Is he actually referring to the Elijah that was just there in shiny white clothes….? And is it just me, or does anyone else not really get why Elijah gets so much attention compared to all the other prophets. I mean, he doesn’t even have his own old testament book! Anyways…

Then Jesus goes back to see the rest of the other disciples and they are having a problem because they can’t cast out this one demon in this little boy. Jesus gets frustrated (at who? I’m not sure…) then after he casts out the demon himself, he tells them that they couldn’t do it because “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” And yet, he didn’t seem to pray very long to cast it out. Also…what does he mean by “this kind”? But the best part of this story is what the father of the boy says to Jesus after Jesus tells him “All things are possible for one who believes…” and has not yet healed his son. The father says “I believe; help my unbelief!” Now there’s something to think about…

After this, Jesus fortells his death and resurrection. No surprise here, he does that a lot in this book…but then he moves onto discussing one of my favourite paradoxes of the Bible:

“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (verse 35)

I love this statement for many reasons, but let’s finish the synopsis before I get into my take on things.

Jesus then instructs them that “For the one who is not against us, is for us.” (verse 40) when they ask him about stopping someone who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name but not following with their group. (It’s a bit of a reversed order statement to what our culture normally quotes.) After this, the last section of the chapter is another speech by Jesus that contains many interesting tidbits, including:

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (verse 42) – really? betterto be thrown into the sea?;

“…if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…” (verse 43);

some interesting descriptive words about hell;

and finally some stuff about salt, losing your saltiness and how that’s irreversible.

Now…I am not trying to either explain everything above (essentially impossible for me to do) or to say that it’s all confused gibberish either. Instead, I’d like to suggest that sometimes being confused after reading the Bible is not a bad thing…and living in paradox is often the only way to live in real life.

You can’t explain why food that is bad for you tends to taste so good…or why you feel 100x better if you discipline (and/or deprive yourself of something for a while – i.e. Lent) and reap the benefits of health and wellness. Why doesn’t bad food just taste bad, right? Because paradox is all around us. It is the soup of our surroundings and the atmosphere that we breathe.

So anyways, I have run out of time in the day to delve too much deeper into all of this. I started this post at 11:30 AM and am just finishing it now about 12 hours later…but let me say this much: Mark 9 gave me some pause, but it also struck me deeply in a couple ways. The first shall be last; the last shall be first – it’s a comforting thought for someone who feels like they are always falling behind and coming in last…it’s a reminder that being first is not really the goal. Again…it’s not perfectionism that wins you any prizes. I have a feeling that Jesus was not much of a perfectionist, although I don’t like to make too many assumptions that I can’t defend…but maybe that’s why people got so annoyed at his seemingly haphazard way of telling stories to explain points or asking questions to inspire contemplation. The second paradox that is strangely comforting is the one mentioned in the title of this post. “I believe; help my unbelief!” You know you have felt that. You can’t explain it, but you understand it completely. So let’s make that a prayer for all of us this season of the year and of our lives:

We believe, Lord…but help our unbelief!

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I hate this day. Every year I dread it, and it comes and goes like any other day…except for the lingering sense of guilt and left-out-ness it leaves in its wake. It’s Ash Wednesday. And the world sure doesn’t wallow in ashes (or whatever else that name is supposed to imply), but it seems like everyone is getting back into the habit of doing or omitting stuff for Lent. Everywhere you go you hear about what someone is giving up or taking on. The most popular choices seem to be chocolate and facebook (for giving up, that is)…or people treat it like new years all over again and try to tackle a resolution or a new daily habit.

Now, by my tone, the implication is that I am bitter and that I think Lent is a waste of time. This could not be farther from the truth. I am not bitter. I am really impressed with those who are brave enough to stop eating chocolate or sugar or stop drinking, etc. (Although, as a brief bitter interlude, I WILL say that anyone who has ever been pregnant has had to give up alcohol, caffeine and many other fun things for NINE MONTHS…) And I also have a deep appreciation for Lent as an opportunity for meaningful spiritual exercise that can be life-changing if you participate with the right motivation and approach. My problem is that I don’t know how to make myself do that.

Chocolate has always been the obvious choice for me. I pretty much treat chocolate like my sixth food group…and I rarely go a day without consuming something that contains it. One time I tried to think of the longest time I had gone without eating anything chocolate or chocolate flavoured and I couldn’t come up with more than a few hours in the past 2-3 days. So yeah, it would be hard for me…so why don’t I just stop complaining and do that? Here is why.

I have a problem with stress. As if anyone doesn’t…but still. Hear me out. While eating healthier can be a good way to decrease stress, there are certain limits. For example, I have some chocolate cheerios in the cupboard right now. They are the only cheerios I don’t hate. They aren’t bad for you, at least not any more than any other boxed cereal. And I have a hard enough time making myself get out of bed on time and eat breakfast to get a good start to the day. I guess what I’m trying to say is that any unnecessary stress that I can eliminate, I do. And any sort of eating restriction has always seemed like a huge amount of added stress to me, because eating is such a huge part of life, and trying to control it anymore than I already have to (what with watching out for strange chemicals and oh yeah, did I mention pregnancy/breastfeeding?)  just seems like a lot of work for nothing. Then you also have to think about what you say when someone offers you something when you’re out, etc., etc. If the idea of Lent is to clear time and space for yourself to share in the experience of Christ’s waiting/suffering or to have a renewed focus on your faith, then adding extra stress to my life is not the way for me to do it. And like I said, I’m not saying it doesn’t work for others…this is just me.

So if giving up a type of food is out of the question, then that leaves entertainment or other activities to omit. This is probably more doable for me, since I watch a lot of online streaming of sitcoms and whatnot, but the reason I have been doing this more lately is because I haven’t been feeling particularly well and I have a young baby to care for, who insists I stay near by but won’t let me read or do much else productive when she is in that particular mood. I’m sure there are mothers out there who can confirm what I am saying when I say that a TV or computer that makes noise, no matter how stupid or pointless the noise may be, is still a very welcome companion when the only other alternative is silence with occasional baby talk and your own cursing at various cute but potentially deadly or very messy baby activities.

So anyways, there is an eventual point to this rambling post. I have realized by examining my life and even the opinions presented above, that one of my biggest problems is letting perfectionism and stress run my life. This is not a new revelation to me by any means. I know that I am a pathological perfectionist who often can’t commit to getting  something done because I’m afraid the end result won’t be perfect enough, so I end up with no result instead. And I’ve always thought about ways to try and give THAT up for Lent…or forever? But the temptation to change everything all at once is part of the very problem I have. So I’ve always cringed away from ideas to take on something impressive every day…I’m afraid I’ll get discouraged and give up if I once mess up or get a bit lazy.

I was sitting here trying to think of something to write, poetry wise, for the blog today. And of course, the very reason that I don’t post more often is the very same as the conclusion above. I want to write something impressive and perfect every time…and often my brain is only capable of mediocre. Hence this post. I just decided I am going to write something, and the hell with perfect posts that nobody will actually like as much as I think they will anyways. But I did have a little bit more of an idea than just that.

Like I said, I REALLY can’t handle adding any more stress to my life right now. But I am going to try and participate in Lent this year anyways, and show Ash Wednesday that it can’t get me down. If it doesn’t work out, then I am just going to drop it and assume that there is grace to cover that. But my hope is to post something here everyday. I don’t even know what, but something. It will probably be emotional drivel that no one wants to read. It will definitely have a spiritual Christ-centeredness to it, because that’s what Lent is for…Lent is not just a practice that Christian hipsters have revived because it’s cool to be liturgical again…

…and what I write will NOT be perfect…or even edited (more than the very bare minimum). And it probably won’t be poetry, at least not much of it. The reason I want to post it here is to keep me accountable, so if you want to follow along, feel free, but don’t feel bad if you could care less. This is my attempt at GIVING UP perfectionism (in writing at least) and in taking on something that I don’t expect to be an ongoing habit, but I hope will teach me something. Something about Jesus and why he came to live with such a crazy bunch of imperfect, broken people…and why he still perseveres and cares for his own church today.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” – Jesus, from Mark 8:34.

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This post has a little bit of a different flavour today. CBC Radio is hosting a contest for the best six word modern love story. Maybe you’ve heard of the six word story challenge? The most famous being the one written by Ernest Hemingway: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Sad, I know, but definitely gets to you, just like a good story should.

I wrote a few of my own and submitted them…hopefully they get in in time, since I submitted them about 40 minutes before the deadline…So here they are. Let me know what you think and/or respond with your own! Either way, you should really try the challenge out sometime (doesn’t have to be a love story, could be anything)…it’s actually a lot of fun and a neat way to explore telling stories…

 

1. Love stinks! Then again…maybe not.”

 

2. Be mine. He won’t. She would…

 

3. – “We’re pregnant…”

– “Not ‘we’ – just you.”

 

If nothing else, this exercise has confirmed something I already knew about myself: I am totally in love with the ellipsis as a literary tool. 🙂

Have a great week everyone!

 

 

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