Tuesday, October 30, 2007

worth - y


I have been rethinking my value these past few days and I realise that I do not agree with God on some things (and that is a bad thing). I do not think my voice is vital and important, so I stay quiet. I think other, more practical matters, are more worthy of attention than I am so I neglect my passions. I do not celebrate all that I am - the wonderful person God made in me - but believe I can find my value in making myself useful.
So much of sin is really sabotage. We negate the power of the Creator by stifling the potential of his creation and instead, try to cram it into some two-dimensional version of success or meaning. I am desperately trying to unlock this potential, this dynamite of God in myself and finding it a tumultuous and often frustrating quest. Would that one simple step or word or prayer or attitude adjustment or action could set me free. But I don't know how to get from A to B. Jesus, help me.
This yellow Land Rover screamed, "I am beautiful and worth taking notice of!" when I walked by it on the main street of Saint John.

Friday, October 26, 2007

is



I am trying to get back to some creative projects in my life and it is proving rather difficult. There are just so many practical and necessary tasks and of course, valuble time with people and occasional guests and oh yes ongoing correspondence and my part-time job and then the unexpected and usually welcome interruptions that I like being able to respond to. I find it hard to be creative on cue, but I think it is something I must start to do- schedule my creativity.

I have been taking a module in identity (those life lessons God enrols one in and then provides lots of learning opportunities and homework and tests, you know the kind) and today when I was praying for someone while cleaning the bathroom, I realised I was asking God to BE an advocate for them when in fact, he already IS our advocate. So I changed my prayer and it became a declaration of sorts instead of a plea. And I think my life reflects that as well.

I live like I am pleading for something more, hoping for something better, asking for something to work out for me. When in fact, I could be declaring all the things that are already true (but perhaps have not been fully developed). It is my identity, even if it is still being formed, and I am made in the image of the one who has no trouble stating who he is. He identifies himself as I AM. He is all. He is my all. It is true and I don't have to plead over and over again for it to be so - truth exists because He is truth. I just have to stand on it and live in it.

I am a creative woman who loves God and people and is ever-expanding her world of wonder.

This is a street sign in Saint John, NB.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

the book and the beauty

Today I started another blog. Don't worry, this one will keep on chugging away, but I felt it was time to bring some fiction out of the closet and see where I can take it. I hope to post the first chapter this week so check it out if you like. The link is on the right side of this blog under My Links, aptly titled, "my book."


These are some pictures taken today in my yard. Yes, it is a dreary, cloudy rainy day, but every day, even rainy days, are beautiful. On Sunday night during worship I was reminded that there is beauty in everything that God has had a hand in creating, even if it is tainted or broken or disfigured in some way. Unfortunately, we too often subscribe to the ideas of the world around us when we think of beauty and imagine models or California beaches or movie stars and movie sunsets. I was on YouTube today and the current rage seems to be videos of models falling on the catwalk, one of them quite dramatic as she plunges through a hole in the runway. As I watched these stumbles, I thought, "The models are falling." The image that has been held up to humanity to idolise and exemplify is crumbling. And that's a good thing as I believe it to be a very limiting view of beauty. Jesus is the originator of this thing called beauty and we had better get his take on it instead of buying the ad campaign out there. Photography helps me see this beauty rain or shine, old or new, colour or black and white. Where is the beauty in your world today?

Monday, October 22, 2007

late blooming



It seems that one never gets too old to deal with identity issues, in fact, I believe we will continue to develop and have opportunities to become more whole in who we are and how we see ourselves as long as we live. This past weekend I was playing poker with friends, and although I kept getting what seemed like great cards in my hand, they amounted to nothing over and over again and my pile of chips went into a steady decline, no matter what tact I tried. At one point I got really frustrated at another set of cards that failed to amount to anything, and I dishearteningly proclaimed, "So much potential, but nothing ever comes of it. It's the story of my life!" And at that moment, the mantra seemed to be true for so much more than poker that I was overwhelmed by the idea that it might really BE the story of my life.

I retreated to my bedroom for a few "freak-out tears" and asked God if this was truly the case: if I in fact had failed to do much with the great potential he had deposited in me. The answer came slowly. Yes, of course, every one of us does not measure up to the incredible potential that God has put in us; in fact, this is one of the reasons we need redemption. We fall short. That is no surprise. But it does not have to continue to be the story of my life. There is Jesus, there is grace, there is always a second chance.

Every time I respond to the nudging inside my spirit to be kind to someone, to be a faithful and true friend, to be honest and embracing when I would rather not be, to speak and sing extravagant words of encouragement to those in my care, and to take the time to create and write...these are the times I feel most alive and I know I am reaching for my potential.

I have learned that success cannot be measured in terms of outward accomplishments such as wealth or fame or laudable achievements. It can only be measured in faithfulness to the challenges that come across my path. How do I deal with the people and circumstances God has placed in my life and how am I developing those abilities that he planted in my soul through all of it? If I have spent some hours this day seeking his guidance and grace in accomplishing these things and then doing the best that I can, I am content. I am truly me. And I am a success.

This is a Stella D'Ora lily still blooming at the side on my house this week - it is never too late for beautiful results.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

underneath


The drain in my bathroom sink had been rather slow for a long time. Last week, I decided to do something about it. I removed the stopper and took a plunger to it, hoping to push free whatever was hampering the flow of water down the drain. I pushed and pulled and plunged and splashed and the longer I did so, the more black chunks of really putrid, unidentifiable scum surfaced in my sink. My solution to this was to vigourously plunge in and plunge more. The black chunks got bigger and lumpier and I was getting slightly grossed out looking at them, so I turned on the tap to rinse them away.
Oh oh! The sink began to fill with filthy chunky water and nothing was draining, not even slowly. I plunged and splashed and managed to filthify most everything within 2 feet, but all to no avail. The drain was now completely plugged. Hardly the results I had been looking for. I drove to the store and picked up my second line of assault: Drano. I poured half the bottle into the standing water in the sink and closed the door so the cats would not be tempted to sniff or paw their way to an early grave. An hour later, the air in the bathroom made my eyes water, but the black filth hadn't moved so I emptied the rest of the bottle into the slough. Another hour without movement and I was beginning to think that I should never have messed with it in the first place. Slow is better than nothing at all, right?
Wrong! Often I have seen a problem that needs working on in my life, like a relationship conflict, an over-reaction, a twinge of pain or jealousy, or a weakness of character, and so I jump in and tackle it, trying to make things clear and right. So many times it appears that I just muddy the waters and dredge up all kinds of stuff that make things seem worse than before. And short term, things are much worse. In fact, they often come to a standstill and it seems like I hit a brick wall or a big gross clog. But that is not the time to stop and walk away; that is the time to go to phase two and reach for the powerful stuff! Within 4 hours my sink was clean and clear and better than ever before. The stains from the struggle were easily wiped away and I no longer had to live just getting by, compensating for the hindrance. I could now turn on the water full force for as long as I wanted!
Where are you unable to go full force? Go ahead, tackle the problem. Don't be afraid when filth rises to the surface. Don't be discouraged by blockage. Get help: ask others to pray for you, confess sins to one another, live under the grace of Jesus, change your attitude and actions, realise that the blood of Jesus is more powerful than any filthy mess, and don't give up!
This is the underside of an umbrella on the terrase of a pub in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

what if?


Today I was sitting at Second Cup drinking a Chai Latte and reading another chapter in Velvet Elvis while my car was having its rear brakes replaced when a thought ran through my mind. What if everything I ever truly wanted is really available in Jesus? And what if that availability is not some future hope, but begins now? What if the only thing stopping me from living in this state of being is my denial of it, my refusal to believe it by refusing to live like it is true? My denial of the completeness of the act of Jesus becoming man and paying every debt I ever owed and erasing every consequence of sin? My insistence that my identity is an incomplete and broken individual instead of a new creation? What would happen if I truly believed and lived like God wanted to dwell with me, here and now, in my present state and that it is totally possible because of Jesus?


I am not talking about hype or utopia or great riches or instantaneous healings and miracles everywhere. I am talking about living in completeness, in companionship with God; where all he is and has is available to me. I, too, am like that older brother in the story of the prodigal son. I live in the same house as a generous, extravagant and compassionate father, yet I feel poor and overlooked and jealous so much of the time. Perhaps because I feel that the only things that can genuinely be called mine must be earned. And that is such a misrepresentation of the character of God.


"The parable ends with the father telling the older son, 'You are always with me and everything I have is yours.' The father wants the older son to know that everything he wants he has always had; there is nothing he could ever do to earn it. The elder son's problem isn't that he doesn't have anything; it's that he has had it all along but refused to trust that it was really true. We cannot earn what we have always had. What we can do is trust that what God keeps insisting about us is actually true." from Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell


I have a new identity. I am holy and complete, in Jesus. God, help my unbelief.
This is a cemetery near Grand Falls, New Brunswick.

Friday, October 12, 2007

unlock


This morning I had a revelation. An epiphany, if you will. A few days ago a group of us encountered a very disturbed man who managed to manipulate the discussion into a direction that none of us wanted to go. It was a learning experience for all of us, I think, and it took a toll on me emotionally, no surprise, for I tend to turn these things inward. In hindsight, I realise that I vacated my post as a leader in this group and instead, stood by feeling powerless. I knew something was wrong and should be stopped and yet I froze, feeling inadequate and wondering why no one else did anything.
This morning I realised that I acted out of insecurity instead of godly instinct. I usually do not have the strongest personality in a room and often defer to those who do, even if I have insight to offer and the authority to direct things. I often doubt myself and my thoughts, because if someone I like or respect disagrees with me, can my view really be right? I hate the feeling of being isolated and alone and unwanted and will do things to avoid these feelings. All of these motives are pitiful excuses and a bad foundation from which to make decisions. God has given me a certain discernment and wisdom that others need to hear. Not everyone will agree or see things my way, which is precisely why I need to speak up - to present a side no one might see otherwise. Do I trust that God has placed me in a position of leadership and authority in certain areas and that I am to exercise my instincts and character and insight in a lovingly assertive manner that will bring clarity and direction and an atmosphere of freedom in the place? YES!
Keeping quiet and being tolerant and patient and open minded and hesitant when everything inside of you is screaming, "There is something very wrong here!" will end in letting bad things happen to others, plus it will always lead to internal and personal turmoil because one is not acting on a God-given instinct or discernment. Of course, we should mature and develop in how we act on these instincts, but in order to do that, we must start to move the situation in a positive direction, and act before the suppressed instinct leads to turmoil and the turmoil becomes a raging storm.
This incident has opened my eyes in many ways, especially when it comes to asserting myself in a situation that God asks me to participate in. Now to put it into practise.
This is a fancy door handle and some crunchy fall leaves in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

road tripping



Whew! I just came back from my third road trip in 7 weeks and though I love traveling and driving, I am glad I didn't say YES to a fourth one to Nashville this week!

I am continuing to read Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in truth, reality, and embracing the constantly changing journey of faith in a refreshingly honest and accessible way. One thing he says that has stuck with me is how the reading of the bible has become a solitary practise when it was always meant to be read and discussed and wrestled with in a community setting where questions could be posed and multiple viewpoints, additional knowledge, and various insights could give one a more balanced and definitely more interesting reading experience.

In fact, I would daresay that many things that we do privately in our individualistic culture are meant to be done in a community setting, especially where matters of faith and character development are involved. You can't hide in a community; you can't isolate yourself in a community; you can't get away with bad attitudes in a community; your inadequate beliefs will be challenged in a community; your inconsistencies will be brought to light in a community; you have to be honest with yourself in a community; and you will learn to love your neighbour in a community. These are all good things.

Spending countless hours with others in a car or at a retreat is a small taste of community life and I can testify that I am a better person for it, because it challenges me to be open and honest 24/7. It also presents me with a bigger picture and a larger experience of who this wonderfully creative and multidimensional God is as I come in contact with many who are very different than I am yet nonetheless, totally made in his image.

This is a horse in New Brunswick hoping for a snack instead of a photo op. Sorry, buddy.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

fear not little children



I was driving home from an osteopath appointment yesterday and turned on the radio just for fun. There was a talk show going on and they were discussing how to make your kids more safety aware, especially regarding strangers. The guest was a police officer who had some interesting things to say. She dispelled a few myths and made some very good points.

1. "Never talk to strangers" is a bad motto to follow. It is normal and expected that children (and adults) will talk to strangers everyday. Instead, she suggested the guideline, "Never go anywhere with anyone unless you talk to us (the parents) first." She said kids should not be made to fear all strangers. Sometimes kids have become lost and the rule, "Never talk to strangers" kept them from asking for help.

2. Some parents say they would rather instill fear in their kids than have them get hurt. The police officer said that making your kids fearful is really a harmful thing, since someone who is fearful is more vulnerable to deception. Most children have an inherent instinct to be able to tell a safe person from a bad person and when they are made fearful, this instinct is tampered with and they are just fearful of everyone. In the long run, this makes them more susceptible to those who are predators as these offenders often are good at manipulation and offering a fake sense of safety, and since the child is looking for safety but is not sure what that looks like because his judgement is clouded by fear, he is an easy mark.

Wow! This was a big reminder for me not to let fear rule my decisions nor be a motivating factor in my life as it is a deceiver and opens the door to more deception. Yuck! Let fear go...let love and discernment in.

This picture was taken in Old Montreal on my birthday.

Monday, October 01, 2007

me my mine


Today as I was driving to the post office, I started to think about the word "my." The possessive pronoun is a small word, but powerful. I use phrases like "my house, my husband, my church, my job." And yet, these things are clearly not entirely my own to do with as I please. The house is significantly underwritten by the bank and should they desire to do so, that institution may repossess said property and building. The husband has a mind and will of his own and though he is kind, he acts in accordance with his wishes, not mine. The church is a group of people who also have individual free wills and both individually and communally are not subject to my bidding nor my possession. The job is currently done by me but may at any moment in time cease to be "mine" for various reasons. This "my" word is decidedly not all it appears to be nor all that accurate.
We assume to possess many things which are not ours for the taking, and in contrast, we cling onto many things that we would rather thrust far from us. For example, people speak of "my allergies, my enemies, my mistakes, my bad luck." They don't really want to own these things, yet they use the same possessive phrase as they would for something or someone they dearly love and desire to keep beside them forever. Strange.
The conclusion I came to before I reached Canada Post was that we really do not possess things on this earth. It all belongs to God and it is his good pleasure to let us enjoy and use certain things while we are alive here.
There was a quote in the movie, "The Kingdom" which I thought most profound when I saw it last weekend. A government official was threatening the job of a leading security agent, trying to get him to respond in a certain way to suit the official's agenda. The agent responded (sorry I don't have the exact quote so I will paraphrase) that when he started the job, his boss made them all write their own obituaries. Having faced and accepted their own mortality, they no longer feared their lives being taken from them. He said that he treated the job the same way. He knew his job would someday end and it was just a matter of how. He did not hold onto it with tightly clenched hands nor fear its demise and he suggested that the power-hungry senator do the same.
Wise words. This is a picture of some official building in Old Montreal.