Sunday, February 26, 2012

Busy in a Good Way

I was wondering how this past week flew by without managing a post, because often that means I've been swamped with life or I've been overwhelmed in my mind or spirit and have nothing left to write about anything. I am happy to recognize that this past week has been very full, but not overwhelming.

Monday Matt and I spent the day skiing (me) and snowboarding (him) at Snow Valley, then had dinner with my Dad's side of the family. It was a beautiful day - I even got a bit of a sunburn on my face - and a really fun way to spend a day off together.

Tuesday was pancake dinner at the Anglican church. Matt got to meet the priest there, AND there were sausages! It was more than I hoped :)

Wednesday I went to my first Ash Wednesday service with imposition of ashes, and it was very moving. It was a beautiful way to begin the season of Lent (and yes, so far I've kept up with my readings!)

Thursday, Matt and I went to see one of our youth perform a play. She was charming and hilarious, so it was a fun night out.

Friday was youth group as usual, and I snuck a nap in the afternoon. Not that busy maybe, but when I have the chance to catch up on sleep or catch up on life, I try to choose sleep if I have to spend the next many hours with people - that's kinder to everybody!

Saturday I spent at Today's Teens Conference in Oakville and then fell asleep in the living room after dinner. It was an exhausting day but great to see tons of other youth leaders I know from across Toronto, and great speakers/sessions. I am looking forward to watching Cure for Love, a documentary that features the wedding of one of the speakers I heard yesterday, Brian Pengelly. His story is here, and I'd encourage you to read it! Here's how it ends:

Now people ask me to describe myself and I tell them that I am a Gay, Evangelical Christian Youth Pastor, who is married to a Lesbian. It always makes people do a double take, and some can't quite wrap their heads around it-but it is what best describes me. If I have learned anything it is that life is complex, and that people don't fit nicely into our boxes and labels.

I have embraced the complexity of my life, and integrated all the different parts into who I am today-.and I can honestly say that I am truly happy. I have learned through my journey that God loves me, and I am free to love Him back. I have learned to own my sexuality, and to make choices that fit what I believe and make sense to me. I finally feel like all the pieces fit. It's not that I have it all figured out, life is constantly changing, and there are always new pieces to figure out. People are complex, and life is weird sometimes, but God is Good, and He loves me. And the rest we figure out together.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Three Things Thursday [Vol.5]

I am planning to keep Lent this year - I think it's the first time ever. I have been attending an Anglican church since the new year began and am developing such an appreciation for the church calendar. I have often thought about doing something for Lent, but it usually doesn't occur to me until a few weeks into the season, and then I give up. Having had time to research and reflect on some ideas, today I will share three ways I am marking the season of Lent in 2012.

1. Pancake dinner!
Matt and I are going to the pancake dinner at the Anglican church on Shrove Tuesday. This is the first "thing" I'm doing there other than attending the service. I'm expecting the all-you-can-eat-pancakes factor will make me crave breakfast sausage! Alas.

2. Keep Fridays - no meat, fast on Good Friday
Not eating meat on Fridays during Lent is an old practice that I am interested to experience. It seems like a very simple thing and is only once a week, but I don't believe spiritual disciplines need to be an outrageous challenge in order to be effective.
I am also planning to fast on Good Friday, eating one full meal that does not include meat (per wikipedia). My only previous experience with this was fasting from English on Good Friday 2009, and that was great in so many ways.

3. Read the entire Bible
I wasn't sure about this last one, and to be honest I'm still not 100% convinced it will happen, but I'm gonna give it a shot! A group at church is doing this, and I have never read the entire Bible cover to cover, so I printed off a reading plan (there's two options) and am going to do my best. A number of times in my youth I attempted year-long plans to read through the Bible but never made it through. For this reason, I chose the balanced plan (reading from different sections of the Bible daily instead of straight through). This will help me avoid reading the psalms all in a stretch - I would have a harder time with that than Leviticus I think! I am hoping that the short time-frame will help me push through when I don't feel like it, and I am hoping that doing this for Lent will create space in my days that I can continue to spend with God after Lent, but in prayer or other disciplines rather than in intensive reading. I also chose to do it because it is a daily practice, and I wanted something to mark the season on a daily basis.

So wish me luck! Slash pray for me, since that is much more helpful :P

And I would love to hear your thoughts as always!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


During the sermon this week, while the pastor was making a very good point about why praying in Jesus' name involves submitting to God's will, he made an unfortunate side-comment about marriage. It went something like, "so many people in their marriage want to be happy, but sometimes God is not concerned about our happiness, he is concerned about our holiness." It sounded very pious, but it also gave me the creeps.

Part of that is due to this post and my fragility right now regarding spiritual manipulation and how a joyless God is very often the starting point of abusive theology. Part of it is also due to the fact that the first few months of our marriage were pretty unhappy for both Matt and I (I really need to write that post about the Pill), and I am REALLY GLAD to be happy in our marriage these days. And I believe God is happy for us to be happy.

To be fair, it is not always sunshine and smiles around here. Sometimes I am unhappy - because my attitude is wrong, because circumstances have disappointed me, or sometimes for no conceivable reason and I have to sing kids' church songs under my breath as a prayer (I've got peace like a river, love like an ocean, joy like a fountain in my soulllll). But deep down, our marriage is a source of joy and hope - a safe place to laugh, cry, pray, fall apart, and eat cereal for supper - and I don't take that for granted. We are partners, Matt and I, in happiness AND holiness: in laundry, youth ministry, learning second languages, eating ice cream, and cleaning up after the dog.

In the times when unhappiness lurks, and in hard seasons where joy is harder to come by, I hope nobody tells us that God just wants us to be holy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Three Things Thursday [Vol.4]

Things that save me so much time and stress:

1. Not watching TV.

Oh man do I not miss cable - even when we had it for free! There was always something on, and I'd watch it whether I was actually interested or not. Then I would suddenly realize three hours had passed, I was hungry, and I was on my last pair of clean socks. Matt and I still watch movies and TV episodes on Netflix, but we don't lose hours of our lives to it. Tuesday I was on the verge of a crisis over washing dishes, and what do you know but after watching an episode of Lie to Me with Matt to chill out, I found the emotional strength to do it! The thing with TV though is, it's always SO easy to just turn it on, whether you want to or need to or not. The Xbox, for me, not so easy. So I only watch when I really want to.

2. Making a meal plan.

I don't do this every week, but when I do it makes such a difference. It saves me time (and money) grocery shopping, less food gets wasted, and I know when I need to prep something the day before or right when I get home from work. I also avoid that ominous feeling of forgetting something that leaves me wandering around the house distracted and not accomplishing anything. I set up a spreadsheet in google docs so I can start keeping my meal plans in different tabs instead of wiping them out each week and starting fresh. I'm hoping that after a few months I will have accumulated enough successful menus that I can just choose one each week and shop for it. Bam!

3. Getting clothes and food ready the night before.

It is so much easier to make decisions at 10pm than 6am. It is also so much easier to scoop left over chicken sweet potato curry into a tupperware container. Growing up, when I graduated to the make-my-own-lunch phase, my mom always told me how much easier it would be to pack the night before, but did I listen? No. And did I eat a lonely Nutri-grain bar for lunch on many, many days? Yes, yes I did. But now I've finally learned :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

God's Parenting and Punishment

Beth at Red and Honey wrote a beautiful piece yesterday on her parenting philosophy that sparked a bunch of ideas in my mind. I love Beth's writing because I feel like even though we are different people in very different places in life, we share some heart loves, including making words tell our feelings, seeking beauty in the ordinary, and discovering that God's plan is bigger, deeper, harder and better than our own.

I love Beth's heart for her kids and have so many posts flagged in my mind to pull up in future times when my kids are eating play-doh and breaking their crayons. What challenged me most yesterday though was not her perspective on parenting so much as the connection of God parenting us. And all my thoughts swirling around are definitely too long to leave as a comment on her blog!

Beth says, obedience and compliance are inferior goals in parenting.
I totally agree, and I agree because I believe God's goal in our relationship is not obedience but rather fulfillment. Obedience is the path that God leads me toward knowing him and reflecting him, but it is not the final purpose. If it was, God could have made things a whole lot easier on everyone and left out the part where he gave us free will.

What I struggle with in Beth's piece is the dichotomy set up between Old Covenant and New Covenant, the idea that God used to punish us, but now he gently draws us back to what is right when we fall away. Of course, she is highlighting the difference between parenting philosophies, not theology. But it got me thinking...

Beth refers to a contrast between external controls (priests, temples, sacrifices) and inner controls (the Holy Spirit as conscience and guide) in two different paradigms of parenting, but I would love to talk about that grey area in between, where discipline happens, when something imposed externally changes the internal for the better. So I busted out my new favourite online tool - the interlinear Bible/lexicon! - to search up how "punishment" really looks in the Old Testament.

The word yacar means to chasten, discipline, or instruct. It appears 42 times in the Old Testament including
  • Leviticus 26:18 - 'If also after these things you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.'
  • Leviticus 26:23 - 'And if by these things you are not turned to Me, but act with hostility against Me,'
  • Deuteronomy 4:36 - 'Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you; and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire.'
  • Hosea 7:15 - 'Although I trained and strengthened their arms, Yet they devise evil against Me.'
Paqad is translated as punish, punished, or punishment 53 times in the NAS Bible (out of 297 uses of the word - to number is another common translation).
  • 1 Samuel 15:2 - 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel...''
  • Exodus 3:16 - "Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, "I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt."

From what I see in Scripture, God's heart toward the people he created does not change. His desire is for us to be all he made us to be, for us to know justice, faithfulness and love in this broken world, and to know it not only from Him but from each other as well! For this to happen, for God to make a people who are different and set apart for himself, discipline has to be involved, and it won't look the same for all of us! But I am not afraid to be punished by God because I believe Jesus took the punishment for my SIN, and God's punishment for my mess-ups (aka small s sins) will ultimately make me better.

Monday, February 6, 2012

It keeps happening to me that when I least want to take time to spend with God, pushing through and doing it is most rewarding. Suffice it to say that I had a good ol' chat with God this evening, and then I was reading some prayers from a book my mentor gave me at graduation (The Valley of Vision - I love it). I was struck by these lines and thought I'd share:

Thou hast struck a heavy blow at my pride,
at the false god of self,
and I lie in pieces before thee.

...Grant me grace to bear thy will without repining,
and delight to be
not only chiselled, squared, or fashioned,
but separated from the old rock where I have
been embedded so long,
and lifted from the quarry to the upper air,
where I may be built in Christ for ever.

*The bold emphasis is my own.
I typed up another prayer for a friend earlier this week and there too, I typed every thy as they. Thank goodness for proof-reading!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Phase 3/Off the Wagon

In case you were wondering how things are going on the Maker's Diet, it really depends. If you are a stickler, things are going medium-not-too-bad. If you are a free spirit, things are going great! Because Matt and I are at peace with our cheating :P

It started with us going on a youth retreat last weekend, which was awesome spiritually, but very out-of-our-control food-wise. So Matt and I had a chat on the bus up and decided to take the weekend off the diet. Of course, a whole month of different thinking about food can't be undone on a whim, and neither of us had much desire to gorge on all the carbs we've been avoiding. I personally greatly enjoyed the French toast fingers on Saturday! But I also got a salad at McDonalds on the way up, and I skipped a lot of bread/buns in the meals that were sandwich-based just because I wasn't interested.

At this point, I truly enjoy choosing vegetables/salad and protein over bread/potatoes/pasta. Of course, having the mentality that cheating was allowed slippery sloped into a couple cookies this week :) Oh, and I made a cheesecake! It was a little bit fail in that it's undercooked, and Matt is weirded out by the cinnamon flavour in the crust (I followed the recipe, and next time I will leave it out because it is weird) sooo I will be eating it all to myself :)

We haven't noticed any ill effects, although I realize how much cheating leads to more cheating! I crave cookies and treats way more when I've had just one than during the weeks when it was simply off limits.

If I were to do it again (and we've talked about maybe doing it once a year), I think I would do it similarly to how things have panned out this time around: I'd follow the first and second phases, then just go back to normal (normal being lots of cooking from scratch and healthy choices). I am even considering doing a fruit-grain-dairy fast for two weeks part way through the year as a mini-detox to see if the effects are as great as they were in January.

I'm not planning to post a meal plan for phase 3 since I'm only planning a day or two ahead right now, and it's just normal food. All in all though, I'd say this diet experiment was a success :)