Thursday, March 31, 2011

Psalm 136

I had some time to kill yesterday and decided to get a tea at Second Cup and read my Bible. I was kind of struck by Psalm 136 because every other line is the same: His steadfast love endures forever. So I wrote a psalm of my own - see above (you can click to make it bigger). Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Beautiful Day

Today was a beautiful day, and I spent way more time outside than usual walking to school for a meeting, walking to the plaza to get tea for my sore throat, walking back to school for class (in five minutes).
Yesterday morning I was the latest for class that I have been all semester (the problem with the 401 is the later we leave our place, the busier traffic is and the even longer it takes to get to school!), but I stopped in the seminary lounge on my way to class to fill my thermos with hot water. There was a man there about to use the hot water but he let me go because I had to get to class. As the thermos was filling up and I said thank you, he replied,

"You can only do the best that you can with the time you are given. Have a beautiful day!"

And that phrase stuck with me through the day and all day today as well, so I wanted to pass it along :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An "Easy" Yoke, 3/3

"For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Jesus is being sincere, but it often feels like maybe this is some kind of punchline. Easier than what, Jesus? Lighter how, now that I am working for what I cannot see or suffering consequences I did not anticipate? Submitting to the yoke of Christ can be physical agony and mental torment, and in those moments this verse feels like a lie. But this too is a promise, that we are never alone when we struggle, that even the terrible weight that we feel is only a small portion of the burden that Jesus bears with us. This is true of grief, fear, loneliness, fatigue, disappointment, betrayal, and loss.

Christian life is often not easy, but no life is, and in the grand scheme of all the yokes, Jesus' yoke is easy, and of all the burdens, his burden is light. Sometimes it doesn't feel like the truth, but we can only experience our own life, and this is why it is so important to have the perspective of Scripture's objective truth, to get beyond our feelings. We cannot know the life we could have had without Jesus, and it can be easy to fantasize about everything that could be different, but ultimately we cannot escape the fact that life is difficult and painful; our choice is not between hard or easy, but whether to devote the life we have to Jesus in faith that in Him our struggles are not futile, that help will come when we need it, and that our hope is a tangible promise that more than makes up for our sufferings.

Monday, March 28, 2011

An "Easy" Yoke, 2/3

"I am gentle and lowly in heart"

This is the first clue to life yoked to Jesus. He is the one we must follow and emulate and he says from the beginning that the pattern to follow is to be gentle and lowly. It is also a promise that he will not change us all at once or hurt us or humiliate us. It is uncomfortable to change, to adjust and to submit, but the One we are trusting with our lives is gentle and lowly, and he will help us to be too. He is not an impatient teacher, and he never forces, but as we live our lives yoked snugly to his side we see more easily when we are out of step, and with experience we see time and again that his way is always better. This helps motivate us to trust him more, to make bigger changes, to follow less flinchingly.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

An "Easy" Yoke, 1/3

Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me... and you will find rest for your souls."

When we take up his yoke, we are binding our lives to Jesus and submitting to wherever he leads. His work may not be the work we had in mind, but we are no longer our own masters, and his way brings rest for our souls. Rest doesn't always come right away - there are things we must learn, habits we must break - but it is the main promise of this verse. Maybe this is why Jesus invites those "who labor and are heavy laden," because they will recognize the rest that he gives them. This rest he promises is not a vacation but a redirection of purpose that builds up and bears fruit and allows us to persevere knowing our efforts will not be wasted. It is remarkable how generous this offer is, but also how difficult, for we are used to straining on our own, doing the best that we can and resigning ourselves to the consequences. But it is important to note that Jesus doesn't say that he'll come to us and help us, but that if we come to him he will set us free from our striving - we must leave our past work behind. Yes, he is the shepherd who goes after the lost sheep to bring it back to the herd, but this is not an endorsement for us to choose our own way - it is a testimony to his grace. When he calls us back to him or guides us back on the right path, we must submit to his guidance and obey his boundaries. THIS is the rest Jesus promises.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Finding Meaning in Pain

This is a post I wrote back in February but didn't publish because it's a hard topic. I didn't want to rattle off thoughts about suffering while I wasn't really going through any suffering and come off like a douche. I haven't gone through any suffering since then to justify publishing the post now, but having let time pass and still agreeing with what I wrote, I feel just comfortable enough to throw it out there. So here it is:

The sermon this week was about how Jesus is not a quick fix for our problems, a genie that we can make wishes on and then get back to life as usual when our needs are met. There was also a good bit about when God seems to fail and bad situations aren't resolved, broken hearts stay broken etc. and it is hard to explain without seeming trite. I think that giving meaning to suffering is something that has to come through the sufferer - someone on the outside who says "something good can come out of this terrible thing that has happened to you - God will use it for good!" very often make God out to be either very cruel or very heartless for subjecting us to misery "for his purposes." I didn't love the illustration our pastor used because it seemed to imply that God holds out on us sometimes so that we can relate to others who suffer.
But there is a nugget of truth somewhere deep in the middle of all the confusion and tension, that God does give meaning to pain. Suffering humbles us, reminding us of our weakness, and often makes us cry out for help. Sometimes it teaches us something, and that helps us find meaning in it. Most often it shapes us, whether we realize it or not, and affects our identity and our outlook on life.
No conclusion yet, just thoughts I'm processing... comments welcome.

Friday, March 25, 2011

March is Fickle

Thanks Dad, for offering to let me listen to your neighbour mowing the lawn. It's really comforting to know that somewhere in the world, things are as they should be. Here, however, they are not. We had a couple really great, mild days, and then Wednesday morning woke up to snow. My bus got hit by a car (no biggie, the car didn't even stay at the scene), and I saw two near-accidents waiting for the next bus to come. The ground has turned hard again, after I was so hopeful for Spring! I have muck-proof boots; I saw a robin; I wore pantyhose instead of tights!

Discouraging though the snow may be (and the cold temperatures, the biting wind), we in Toronto have seen a glimmer of hope and know that Winter can't last forever. Soon enough, we'll be complaining about the humidity I'm sure. In the meantime, I have been trying to enjoy feeling cozy and bundled up while I still need to wear a mile-long coat.

Monday, March 21, 2011

How I Almost Lost My Mind

So... This Friday at youth group Matt showed me this video. It is the worst song in the history of music. Cavemen farting makes more sense. Please watch it:

THEN watch this "lyrical analysis"!! Seriously, this kid is the only way I survived three hours of this song being stuck in my head at work.

Watching both videos to the end is a recipe for laughter.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Adjustment Bureau

Matt and I saw the Adjustment Bureau on Tuesday - a very cool movie! It was much more romantic than I expected, and it brings up ideas about free will and fate, so Matt and I had a big chat afterwards about what we think on those things. There were a couple internal problems with the plot and the concepts, but they didn't bother me too much, and I really liked that it was a very thought-provoking movie, even with its imperfections. Matt Damon is one of mine and Matt's favourite actors, and I thought he and Emily Blunt (the female lead) did a great job.
The movie is based on a short story, but I don't know if I'd read it or not... I recommend the movie for sure though! Tell me if you see it and we can talk about it :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I've had a post in my mind for the last week but never sat down to write it, and now Matt has the paper I wrote it out on earlier today because I also put a grocery list on the back, and he said he could pick the groceries up. SO you'll have to wait for that one.

It's been a good week! Some cleaning, some movie watching, a couple games of Settlers of Catan, I finally started the intro to my next (last!!!) paper, and Friday night the youth group went to a Raptors (basketball) game and watched them win! One of the players gave his testimony as part of a post-game program that Matt helped co-ordinate as part of his internship!

Also, the winter boots I bought in January are rocking my world as early-spring boots too! Muck-proof!

And Matt and I have a movie date tonight SOOO.... Life is good :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Would a Clear Coat Reflect Christ Better, Starbucks lady??

Matt had a hilarious encounter with a Christian woman at Starbucks the other day who told him that he should get a better car... because our current car makes Christians look bad!

I say hilarious because Matt thinks it's hilarious. I think this woman needs a Bible-smack to the jaw - I wonder how she thinks THAT would make Christians look, lol.

As you may or may not be able to see, our car's clear coat is missing in some places on the hood and roof, so our paint job is... uneven. And we have a couple dents here and there... most if not all of which came with the car. I think it's great because there is very little that could make our car look worse, so there's no pressure to keep it perfect - we can just enjoy it.

Not so, according to Starbucks-Christian-lady: our car makes it look like we don't take care of our things. Matt explained that we bought it as is a couple months ago. We should have bought a nicer car, she said, people might think we don't manage our money well if all we can afford is this beater. This is all we can afford, Matt said, because we don't make tons of money and have a bunch of debt from going to a private, Christian school. Apparently she wasn't sold.

I could care less... Matt and I are really happy with our car (and life in general, actually!), so it doesn't matter that this lady who doesn't know us was concerned. The only thing that bothers me is this attitude that Christians need to somehow be better than everybody to prove that our belief in God is valid. It's not Biblical, and it tends to just make Christians look like douche bags.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cell Phone Reflections

I typed this up on my phone on Friday heading home from a friend's house. I read the book of Ezekiel this week! I don't think I ever read that whole book before... and I started into Daniel. The verse that moved me the most, that kind of culminated a bunch of thoughts from the last couple days was Daniel 5:23b, from Daniel's speech to the king who wants to know the meaning of the writing on the wall -

"You have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored."

I am so moved by the depth of God's love, for me but also for much more than me, for his People, for the lost. His word drips with agony and passion; he wants to correct and draw in and enfold, but he will not force, and while the crucifixion is encapsulated in history, it is also ongoing in God's Spirit, yearning for people to be free and fulfilled, yearning to be recognized so that he can embrace, and outraged that so often people choose other things - success in a career, financial stability, beauty and popularity, "control" over our futures/choices. These things cannot see or hear; they do not respond to our devotion, our best efforts. God says, give ME those things - I not only see them, I desire them;I made you to fall deeply, satisfyingly, rapturously in love with me.