Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Taking God at His Word

I finished reading Luke today.

I am overwhelmed with tons of ideas and convictions and hopes and fears and will try to skip over all of them for now to just say one point that stuck out for me in Luke:

We should take God at his word.

The first person to have an angelic vision in Luke was Zachariah, the high priest, and he questioned it, so he was struck dumb until what had been promised came to pass.

The next person was Mary, a righteous young woman, and she was frightened and confused by her vision as well. She asked how the angel's words could be true, but she accepted them in faith.

The next vision in Luke is an appearance of angels to some shepherds outside Bethlehem. These uneducated, low-in-status men were terrified, but when they were told that the promised Saviour and Christ had been born and was in a nearby town they went to see it. They took God at his word! And it was as they had been told, as nobody would have ever expected.

Sometimes people who think they know what to expect from God completely miss the point.

Including me.

But God's word says that it's never too late to make things right, and I am believing it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Why Bad Things Happen

I heard a clip from an interview with Rob Bell and he was asked whether God is all-powerful, or whether he is good, because he obviously isn't both given the state of the world (the tsunami in Japan was the example in the interview; there are countless examples). Rob Bell answered that it was a paradox.

So I was thinking about that tension that we face as Christians in reconciling beliefs that God is both all-powerful and completely good. But I don't think necessarily that it is a paradox when you account for God's gift of free will and for the reality of sin in the world. We know that God will restore all of creation after judgment day (which ISN'T marked on my calendar, by the way), but until then the world is not as it should be. There are times when God intervenes, and times when he doesn't, and in his sovereignty and goodness, that is allowed.

The problem for me is when people say that they don't believe in God or in a good God because bad things happen in the world. Because in addition to what I've already said, I also believe that nobody on Earth is innocent. First of all, we all participate to some extent in the broken systems that oppress or objectify people, and that pollute the earth. In our personal lives we sometimes make wrong decisions, selfishly hurt others and fail to be loving or compassionate.

when we see things that are wrong - injustice, natural destruction, death, abuse - we can wish that God would set it straight and make it all right, but when we wish for that we also wish for our own judgment and reckoning and that of our loved ones, family, neighbours.

God's love for the world causes him to suffer infinitely more from its brokenness than we do. Because we are part of the system, some of the bad things benefit us, and we are participants in the whole broken system even when we despise it. Where do our clothes come from? How much money is in our bank accounts while people across the world and in our own cities starve? God has no benefit in any of this system except that by extending his grace and allowing this world to continue allows us the opportunity to turn to him, to share the Gospel with others, to enjoy the goodness that this life has to offer, flawed though it is.

I was thinking about this after hearing a sermon that challenged the message of Rob Bell's book Love Wins. Rob Bell says that Christians do not have reason to believe that God's redemptive work though Jesus depends on us believing/accepting Him in this life. Eventually, even the hardest cynic will be softened by God's love and accept Jesus, even if this acceptance takes place after earthly death. Thus, Hell is not a place of eternal conscious torment where unbelievers are banished on judgment day, but it is a state of resistance to God that can be left behind in exchange for Heaven once a person chooses to believe in Jesus.

If Hell is not real/permanent, and if everyone will ultimately put their faith in Jesus before their eternal fate is sealed, then what is the purpose in the ongoing suffering of life on Earth? If Love Wins every time, why should God not let the world collapse, call off the failed experiment that is Humanity, and get to work winning souls without having to endure the suffering caused by sin?

One of the big misconceptions about Christianity is that it is primarily concerned with getting people into Heaven. Yes, as a Christian, I believe I am going to Heaven when I die, and I hope that everyone will believe in Jesus so they can go too. But I believe there is a lot more to this life than a bunch of us getting our feet in God's door - I believe this is a time of preparation, of personal formation, of learning about God and what it means to be human and how to live well, AND to share the message of God's love and redemption so that other people can also accept this offer of salvation and make the most of their time.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I have been having a hard time with church lately. There are tons of factors, but it has boiled down to a lot of bitterness that I'm not quite sure how to handle. Part of my frustrations are justified, but I know that I also overreact to a lot of things, so I basically repress everything at church, talk about it with Matt to try to sort out what if anything I should hold on to, and over all it's a great big struggle.

Being emotionally and spiritually drained by church has meant focusing more on personal time with God, not as a substitute but as kind of an anchor for my faith in the midst of confusion and anger and hurt. Something I started this week which I LOVE is downloading sermons to my mp3 and listening to them at work while I process cheques. It's great because I'm pretty ADD, so having something to do other than just sit and listen actually helps me stay more engaged and pay attention to what is being said. And for most of my morning, I'm just sitting and processing, so listening to mp3s doesn't disrupt my work either. After the sermon ends, my music starts again and I have stuff to think about :)

Friday I was reading my Bible on the subway home and read a passage in Luke that didn't make sense to me. Part of what I have been realizing in the last few months is that I don't know Jesus very well. I know what church says about Jesus, but that is often cliches or political manipulation. I want to know Jesus better, so I am trying to read the gospels. I am trying to avoid glossing over all the stories I know and read with fresh eyes. Happily for me, Mars Hill church is going through a two-year sermon series on Luke, which is posted online, so if there are passages I want to hear teaching on, I can find a sermon on it!

I'm not sure what to think of myself for being someone who listens to sermons on my mp3 player (okay, I think its really geeky), but since it's working for me for now I think I'm just gonna go for it. This week, listening to sermons has been such a motivation for me to get into the Bible for myself and learn and seek God, much much more than anything that has happened at church. Rather than label myself a nerd and try to avoid something that God is using in my life, I will be grateful for this provision of encouragement and help at the time when I really need it. (Oh, by the way, my mp3 player was lost for a year, and then when I found it I had misplaced my charger, so it is only in the last 10 days that I have had a functioning mp3 player. I see God in that.)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rouge Park

So, my resolution to keep living in Summer until October hasn't panned out very well. In general, I have gone from work to home to errands etc. even on nice days when I could have feasibly done something outside. This is why I never get tanned, because given the choice between being outside and sitting on my couch, I usually choose my couch. Or chores. Outside is boring when I'm by myself. (More boring than chores. Oi.)

But Thursday after work, Matt and I went on a gorgeous hike at Rouge Park, so I wanted to post some pictures.

These pictures are in reverse order of how I took them, but you weren't there on the hike, so you won't know any different, and wrestling with pictures in blogger is pretty frustrating. So enjoy :)

In real life, this picture was an explosion of colours, yellow, orange, green, red, purple, brown. But cameras-in-general can only capture so much, and my cellphone camera is even more limited. So imagine :)
Some beaver bit off way more than it could chew.
Find the chipmunk in this picture! (If you click on the picture it will open in a bigger size) It sat on this tree for probably five minutes while I tried to change the settings on my cell phone to let me zoom in, but it never worked out and finally the chipmunk dove off the tree and scampered off. So cute.

Now that Fall has officially begun, I am planning to enjoy IT on its own terms. No longing for strong Summer heat, no dreading bitter Winter cold, but soaking up Fall. Hopefully this means more hikes, making soup and bread, and cuddling Nimoy more than ever =)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fall Cleaning

Matt and I have been on a roll this week, de-cluttering closets, sorting clothes to give away or store for the colder months, and generally making our apartment awesome. Nimoy has faithfully observed us with short breaks to lie in his crate or snack on his dinner.

It's nothing too too special, but it has felt so good to make such visible progress making this space we live in cleaner and more comfortable. We still have a ways to go, but we are enjoying what is done without stressing too much about what is still to come. For example, we had a pile of stuff at the base of a bookcase in our living room. I emptied a few of the shelves that had stuff instead of books, and picked up everything that was on the floor around it and just put everything in a box in the corner. Now instead of waiting until I can bring myself to sort through odds and ends that might be garbage or might just need a home, I can enjoy a clean living room.

May my happiness be motivation to stop procrastinating dealing with whatever pile-of-stuff had invaded your living space :) It's worth it!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Feeling Old

Some days I feel more like an old person than others. This past Friday was one of those days, spending time with girls from our youth group as we decorated for a surprise birthday party. They had the radio blaring, which was okay because... I don't need loud noises to feel energetic, but sometimes it's fun, and they loved it, so I kind of settled in a happy place in my mind and focused on the task I had at hand.
My complacency was shaken though, when TGIF by Katy Perry came on. Radio overwhelms me sometimes because so much new music is SO skanky. And it's awkward for me to listen in on artists bragging about how drunk they were when they slept with so many strangers and how they can't wait to do it again. "It's a blacked out blur, but I'm pretty sure it ruled." Thanks for that Katy, please, keep sharing your "artistry" with young people. If everyone keeps acting like that's what grown-ups do, then eventually it will become self-fulfilling prophecy, and anyone who gets burned can just feel like losers for having regrets.
I remember a girl I used to work with who frequently had bad reactions to alcohol and would black out if she drank too much. Did she drink less? No, because what is the fun in partying without drinking? One day she came to in a strange part of town with no underwear and her pants on backwards. Proof of a great party, I guess.

So my happy place slipped away beyond my grasp when the girls started singing along to the next song, Give Me Everything by Pitbull. "Excuse me, but I might drink a little more than I should tonight, and I might take you home with me if I could tonight, and baby Imma make you feel so good tonight, cuz we might not get tomorrow... Can't promise tomorrow, but I promise tonight." I decided to make a compromise with the OLD lady that was freaking out inside my head and instead of lecturing these poor girls about filling their minds with trash I just said that if they ever get hit on by some guy saying he'd like to get drunk and take them home, then they should call me for a ride and I will come pick them up.

It's "just a song" I know. And I remember being 16/17, wishing desperately that I could be one of those girls who is sexy and powerful and desirable and in control. Singing along, dancing around my room, dreaming of the day when I could be a woman who gets noticed and wanted and isn't afraid or awkward about the attention.

But falling in love for real, growing up and finding yourself, becoming strong sometimes - this is all so much better in real life than in a shallow club hit. Why this is the music that makes billions of dollars while artists who tell stories and weave ideas and create beauty and improve the world are so often sidelined.

So I am officially an old person, I guess - grossed out by sweaty-sounding songs about bottles and bodies. If it's a true portrait of some people's lives, that just makes it more awful. And I hate that people I care about listen to this crap for hours a day and don't think anything of it.

And with my rant concluded, I will now blare some Taylor Swift while I clean my apartment :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September so far

Although I haven't written for two weeks, September has been a great month so far. Matt and I have been transitioning (back) into a routine and kind of figuring out how to pace ourselves for the upcoming (school/ministry)year. I decided this year that summer would not end for me until October since I don't have school to fill up my time. The summer weather has been kind of winding down though, and even though I am not in school, our youth all are, so youth ministry is morphing from retreats and mission trips and other summer events back to weekly events, small groups, and homework help.

The first two weeks of the month have been filled with fun though! We did a camping mini-retreat with the youth on the long weekend, and I loved my first real camping trip. We even had a huge storm Saturday night, but our tents mostly held up, and it was all a really cool experience. I was waiting to post anything about camping until I got pictures, but that still hasn't happened, soo... yeah.

The day after we got back from camping I turned 23 :) It was a quiet birthday spent lazing around at home, watching a movie with Matt and going out for dessert that night.

Since then we have sort of begun a big project to de-clutter and reorganize our apartment so that it can be even more enjoyable to live here and easier to share hospitality with others! After 5 years of storing my trumpet without ever playing it consistently, I finally decided to sell it, and it only took a week or so to post the ad online, find a buyer and trade my trumpet in for cash :) It wasn't the easiest decision to sell my trumpet, but I am glad I did. Other than that, Matt and I have started a bag of clothes to donate to Goodwill, and step-by-step, room-by-room we have begun to organize/clean/clear out the mess that has slowly accumulated over the last 8 months of being very busy. It feels great!

The emotional slump that I hit when we returned to Scarborough has lifted, and I have been doing my best to keep a good attitude about different circumstances as they come to keep my emotions on an even keel. Matt and I shared a sweet moment about a week ago when he had just come in from walking Nimoy. I told him that he has seemed a lot happier and more relaxed since our vacation and since his internship/second job wrapped up at the end of August. He said that on his walk he had just been thinking about how much happier I seemed to be lately and how great that was.

SO life is not perfect, but it is very good. Thanks to everyone who has been praying for me/us, and please continue to do so as Matt and I plan and share dreams for this next year of our life/marriage/ministry :)