Thursday, September 23, 2010


One of the youth led Bible study at Chazown this week, and it was great! We read about Peter denying Jesus in Matthew 26, and something new stood out to me - in verse 73 a bystander comes up to Peter and says, "Certainly you are one of [the men with Jesus], for your accent betrays you."

Peter was a Galilean, and the way he spoke made it obvious, even when he was trying to blend in with the crowd outside the courtyard. I don't think Christians should try to keep their faith a secret, but there are many times it may not be possible or appropriate to preach and evangelize. For those times, I hope I will live with an ever-strengthening accent: a humble attitude, gracious spirit, and integrity of character - all testifying to the work God has done in me, so that no matter what my words happen to be, bystanders will recognize that I belong to Jesus.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Matt and I were chatting with an atheist friend of ours who grew up in the church and is now done with God. It was a really good conversation even though he didn't decide to convert at the end. One of the things he said got me thinking though - that IF there were a God (which he denies), he is either not all-knowing or a jerk. Our friend didn't say jerk, but it was a four-letter word that ends in k.

God's a jerk, he says, because he gave humans free will knowing we'd mess it up, and then he punished us for messing up.

A few months ago, Matt and I had a great conversation with friends of ours about God's sovereignty and free will, and whether it's possible for them to coexist, or whether one has to be a lie... We didn't come to any conclusions, but I thought of it the other night when our friend talked about how much of a - jerk - God would be if he existed. Because I think maybe punishment is the link between God's sovereignty and human free will that allows them both to be complete.

I memorized Hebrews 12 last year - it is full of great stuff including "God disciplines those he loves" and "for the moment discipline is painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." I don't think that punishment is just God being angry with us for messing up like he knew we would - it is meant to be corrective. My parents tried this line on me a couple times when I got in trouble as a kid: "we are punishing you because we love you. If we didn't care then we would let you be rude and misbehaved, but we care, so go to your room."

God's discipline is even wiser and more effective than that of good earthly parents! John Eldredge talks about this in Desire, that futility and failure, loneliness and heartache are included in God's curses on Adam and Eve not as a vindictive slap in the face to disobedient children but as limits to earthly happiness that will leave them longing for the Paradise he wants to give them.

It is hard to talk about God's punishment because a lot of painful things happen in the world, and it's not always something from God. Sometimes it's pure evil; sometimes it's just flying debris from the world's brokenness and nothing supernatural is to blame. Nothing is beyond God's redemption though, and everything on earth that falls short of glory just emphasizes how great God's promises will be when they are fulfilled. The hard things that do come from God as punishment when we sin are designed to train us and shape us to be more Christ-like so that our free will will not conflict with God's will.

God's not a jerk. He loves us (human beings) so much that he thinks we're worth the whole effort of human history, and he has invested his entire self in the redemption he knew we'd need from before the beginning. Such love!

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I gave my testimony at our church picnic this year, which was great! I was happy to share the great things God has done for me and in me, and it helped me to connect with some new people so I am making more friends at church :) I said more than I wrote down, but here's what I had written:

Hello, I want to say first of all how happy I am to be sharing my testimony with all of you. I hope that you will be encouraged in your faith to hear how faithful God has been to me in my life.
     My father is a pastor, and I grew up going to church and learning about God. I believed in Jesus when I was very young, and I was baptized when I was 7 years old. It was always important to me to be a good Christian. I tried to be kind to everyone at school, even if they were unpopular, I memorized Bible verses in Sunday school, and I volunteered at my church’s programs.
     When I was 14 I found a lump in my neck. There was a cyst growing on my thyroid that grew bigger and bigger, so by the time I had surgery it was bigger than my fist. There was cancer in the lump, so I had radiation treatment, and after the radiation treatment I had another even bigger surgery to make sure that there was no cancer left in my neck.
     This was a very difficult time for my family because my parents were very worried about me. My church was praying for me, and even strangers from other churches who knew my story prayed for me and my family. It was frightening for me too because I felt very young to be so sick, but whenever I was scared or sad I would pray and ask God to help me be brave and to make me better. God helped me and everyone in my family to trust him, and finally my cancer was cured.
     Gradually as time passed I started to drift away from God. I knew that he had helped me a lot when I was sick, but I was tired of all the rules to being a good Christian getting in the way of things I wanted to do. I started going to parties with friends and drinking alcohol on the weekend, but I always went to church on Sunday too. This went on for about a year – I still tried to be a good person, and I worked hard in school, but I rarely thought about God and it didn’t seem to matter very much.
     Finally one day I was sitting in church hung over and realized that I had become a huge hypocrite. There wasn’t anything in particular happening during the service that convicted me, but there was a stillness in my mind and a very clear understanding that it was time to choose whether I was going to obey God or choose my own path, and I knew that the decisions I was making were not leading to the kind of life I wanted to have.
     I prayed and asked God to help me begin a new relationship with him, not just keeping rules so people would see what a good Christian I was, and not just going to church so that I wouldn’t feel guilty, but getting to know God and becoming more like his child. I started going to a mid-week Bible study to get a more solid grounding in my faith, and I started living with more integrity and honesty. It wasn’t easy, and I made a lot of mistakes. I had bad habits, and most of my friends didn’t understand why I would want anything different. I was afraid that I would give up and walk away from God again, but one day when I was reading my Bible I realized that God has made an amazing promise:
     Jude v 24 says that God is able to keep you from stumbling and to bring you into his glorious presence faultless and full of joy. When I read that, I memorized the promise so I could remember it in any circumstance, that no matter how much I fail, no matter how weak or vulnerable I am to sin, I can remember that God is able to hold on to me.
     What I have learned in my relationship with God is that he loves me more than I can understand, and he cares about my life. He matches all of the effort that we put into our relationship with him, and he helps us to understand and do what is right and to become people who are pleasing to him, who want the same things as he wants for the world.
     This past week I was reading in 1 Peter and was struck by chapter 2 verse 10 – “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
     It’s not that God wasn’t merciful before I gave my life to him – he totally was! Merciful by the family he gave me, merciful that things didn’t get more out of hand than they did when I was drinking, merciful to be ready to forgive me before I asked and merciful to convict me, to speak gently to me when I was hungover in church. Jesus died for us while we were still his enemies – Romans 5:8, so what does Peter mean about receiving mercy? I think that before we are saved, it is there for the taking but we don’t accept it. Now that we have accepted it, how fully it is ours! We cannot allow ourselves to question God’s mercy toward us – no amount of backsliding or frailty or lostness can keep us from God’s mercy or disqualify us from forgiveness. It is God’s will to keep us from stumbling and we can claim that promise! God is faithful not only to forgive us but to gently, mercifully shape us and change us – not that we ever get past the point of needing forgiveness, but he makes us able to rejoice in our salvation free of guilt or shame or fear!

Monday, September 13, 2010

a Car (Pt. 1)

Matt and I were talking last night about how it is making less and less sense for us not to have a car. Financially it makes all the sense in the world, but spiritually there are so many ways Matt's ministry is stifled by his lack of mobility. Sometimes we are both overwhelmed by our financial situation, but in the spirit of faith that God knows our every need and is able to do more than we ask or imagine, we have decided to pray for a vehicle and trust that God won't give it to us until he also has a way for us to run it.
I look forward to part 2 of this post, when I can share however God has done it :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010


God is so funny. For weeks I have been meaning to knock on my neighbour's door and just say hello and that Matt and I would love to get together for a visit some time, maybe invite her over for tea or a smoke on our balcony since she is 83 and her balcony is under construction, so she is forced to smoke in her apartment. This last week specifically, I have been meaning to every day, but each day I had some errand or chore take up time so I excused myself from going by. We have chatted in the elevator and said hi in passing in the hallway, so there was really no reason for my hesitancy and procrastination, but there it was.

At work on Friday I was thinking about how this was my last day before yet another week had passed of my fruitless intentions, and I prayed for God to help me, to want to go by even more than I already wanted to, and to get over whatever hangup was in my brain. I knew I wanted to make muffins and do a load of laundry, but there would be time to just stop by and say hi and hopefully make plans to get together within another week or so.

I stopped at No Frills on the way home to pick up sour cream for the muffins, got home and took Nimoy out, then began to mix my butter and sugar. My plan was to get the muffins in the oven, then take the laundry down, then put away dry laundry that was hanging in the office, then hopefully the muffins would be done and... it was pretty unlikely that I would actually make it down the hall to say hi to Dorothy. Rats.

As I continued to beat the butter and sugar, I realized that I hadn't thought to make sure we had eggs, and I had a sinking feeling we were out. How could I forget eggs? And I had already been to the grocery store... I didn't have time to make another trip and I didn't want to anyways. It occurred to me that Dorothy might have eggs, and what a perfect excuse to go by and say hi. "Perfect" might be an overstatement... but I had the sinking feeling that God had set me up in answer to my prayers and that ignoring the opportunity would be a lame move. So I shuffled down the hall in my baking slippers (okay, they're just regular slippers) and knocked on her door.

She had the eggs I needed, and we ended up chatting for about an hour - it was great :) She has a huge family and has traveled all over Canada, and it was really nice to just get to know each other a bit better.

Laundry didn't happen, but I did make some delicious muffins, and I am thankful for such a silly kick in the pants from God.

P.S. When I googled the egg picture, I got SO distracted reading about eggs!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

a Comic

I printed out this comic and taped it up at my desk, where it delights me every day:

If only I had thought to post this instead of my sappy anniversary post! I am happy to say that Matt and I have not yet resorted to this tactic to solve our issues :)

To satirize religion instead of relationships, I like to imagine this comic with just a slight variation:
  • Comic title - White Ninja saves a soul
  • First frame script - "forget the counselling, I've figured out how to solve all of your life issues"
  • Second frame - "the gospel"

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Our preacher this Sunday spoke on Psalm 23, focusing on verses 5 and 6. In the sermon he also commented on the parable of the ten virgins - five wise and five foolish. The only difference between the wise virgins and foolish virgins was whether or not they had enough oil, and the preacher used OIL as an acrostic to describe what it represents in terms of believers being prepared as we wait for our bridegroom (Jesus!) to return. This is one of the few acrostics I have heard/seen used in a sermon that actually enhanced my memory and understanding of the preacher's point, so I thought I'd share:

O - obedience
I - intimacy (not waiting for death and eternal life in heaven to participate in the intimate, personal, real relationship we can have with God through Jesus)
L - love (I prefer longing here, because it is less vulnerable to cliche. We must truly long for Jesus to come back because we love him)

It was also a pretty sweet sermon because it was a communion Sunday, and he reminded us that communion is not only a remembrance of the Last Supper, but an anticipation of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

All in all, God was very generous with himself to me this Sunday =)

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I was reminded this Sunday of how meaningful it is to worship in one's own language. It is easy to forget in Canada, but it was something I learned the hard way in Brazil, where it was often very lonely and unfulfilled to stumble through worship songs in Portuguese, focusing more on phonics than God. I could sing or pray or cry to God in English any time, but communal worship is an integral part of Christian practice, and I missed it. One week Joyce (the missionary who hosted me) took me to an English-speaking church in Brasilia, and I loved it so much. I soaked in the announcements, sang from the heart, took notes during the sermon, and read the bulletin as if it was the 67th book of the Bible (youth group to play board games at the Walkers on Thursday? Amazing!).

Church is always in my language now, and my heart has been lazy to appreciate it. I have been struggling on and off to really worship God at church this summer, but I loved this past Sunday because we had someone sing special music in Tamil. The English translation of the song was printed in the bulletin, so everybody could read the words, and the words were beautiful, but they weren't what struck me. My heart was touched when part way through the song and again at the end, I heard the Tamil people in the pew behind me humming and singing along under their breath with the singer. It reminded me of my longing for English worship, and I was humbled to remember that these people participate every week in our English service without complaining that the language of their hearts is not represented.

(We) English speakers find a lot to complain about in our church services - too long, not enough time spent on a certain aspect, wrong type of music, hating that we repeat a chorus 9 times, wishing people were "more spiritual," wishing people would mind their business about our spirituality - what a miracle that in heaven we will still have our differences but without any division - "a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all trives and peoples and tongues, standing before the throng and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches [in] their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." (Rev. 7:9-10)