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At church yesterday one of the things we talked about along with peacemaking was the verse in Ephesians where Paul’s talking about the Covenant and how in the old Covenant ever some people who were close and some people who were far away but through Christ and in the New Covenant we are all welcome to come close to God and we were discussing how time it was the Jews and the people who had known the Torah and study to God and have been sort of the encircle The In Crowd the whole time they had to make space for the people who were far away they had to give Grace and and give time and give understanding to the people who didn’t have the same history in the same understanding and the same culture in the same rules that they did it and you can see in the New Testament sometimes they were really good at giving space and Grace and understanding sometimes they are good at it at all and there were challenges and conflicts and new rules set up basically as we got talking about that and that whole situation is making space for the people who have been far away I realize that the church has been in that cycle and system again where there’s The In Crowd there’s those of us who are close and sometimes that means people who have been raised in the church and raised in Christianity and other times that just means people who whose lifestyle paired well with the church and who fit in easily and that In Crowd has making it very very difficult for the people that they perceive as far away because it’s all our perception the wall was already broken down and Jesus already died there’s already space in God’s Kingdom for all of us but the church is built a new wall and so there’s those of us we perceive as close and then the other as we perceive as far away because their lifestyle the things they do the way they dressed Appalachian ships they’re in their activities and habits and all of those things don’t really mesh with what we tend to think of as a Christian lifestyle and and the rules and ethics that we tend to live by and we need to make space we need to make space for the people who don’t know God yet who aren’t sure if they fit who are asking questions who are seeking who are curious who are angry we need to make space for them to be who they are and to be where they are and welcomed into the kingdom because that’s the truth that’s the reality that is from God’s perspective they are part of the body and part of the Kingdom just like the rest of us who have been doing it for years and know all the ins and outs just like the Gentiles after Christ’s death they are included so how do we do that how do we make space I think the purse part is understanding what what the boundary is this wall but we have erected the verse henna Fusion was talking about that wall and how it was destroyed and and talking about how the the Jewish people the Israelites were under this law this Covenant this these regulations and rules and Purity rituals and all of these things that were supposed to keep them distinct and separate and pure and that wall existed between the Israelites and the Gentiles everybody else they they were pure they were good that they did all these things and everything else was contaminant and wasn’t allowed in and Christ’s death remove that wall so there is no boundary need it all of those dirty awful simple Gentiles were welcomed into the kingdom as well so what does that mean for us what does that mean for how we has the body of Christ as Christ ambassadors on Earth as Kingdom dwelling people how do we respond to the people around us what rules do we require them to follow before they’re in before they’re safe before they’re allowed to be part of us what do we make people go through what standards do we set and by what right do we checked people and tell them they don’t belong if we truly believe that salvation comes through Christ Alone through his sacrifice then what right do we have to set any standard any rule any requirement yes Jesus called us to repent Jesus called us to to walk in his footsteps to follow him to love God and love others so you might make an argument for those as requirements but what does that have to do with all of these extra rules we put on people yes we want people to live transform the lives we want people to be free from the grips of sin and the consequences that come with it but that comes through transformation that comes with the inward working of the spirit that comes with the living out our salvation it takes time it takes interchange it takes healing and in the meantime we the church should be giving hope and support and love and compassion and understanding we shouldn’t be worried about being contaminated we shouldn’t be worried about what other people will think if we accept this type of person or that type of person or know that you know there’s this or that addiction or this problem and we’re standing with them anyway why is that while we were still sinners Christ died for us the other thing that stuck out to me on Sunday listening to the sermon was that what we receive from God we need to be giving to others we have received forgiveness so we need to be forgiving we have received love so we need to be loving we have received healing so we need to be there as people heal we need to offer Grace and acceptance and freedom because that’s what we have been given so how do we do that how do we make space I think the purse part is understanding what what the boundary is this wall that we have a wreckage the verse Hannah fusions is talking about that wall and how it was destroyed in and talking about how the did Jewish people the Israel lights were under this law this Covenant this these regulations and rules and purity rituals and all of these things that were supposed to keep them distinct and separate and your and that wall existed between the Israel lights and the Gentiles everybody else they they were pure they were good they they did all these things and everything else was contaminate and wasn’t allowed in and Christ death remove that wall so there was no boundary need it all of those dirty awful simple Gentiles we’re welcome into the Kingdom as well so what does that mean for us what does that mean for how we as the body of Christ as Christ and Busters on earth as Kingdom dwelling people how do we respond to the people around us what rules do we were require them to follow before they’re in before they’re safe before they’re allowed to be part of us what hoops do we make people go through what standards do we set my water aight do we reject people and tell them they don’t belong if we truly believe that salvation comes through Christ alone through his sacrifice them what right do we have to set any standard any rule any requirement yes Jesus called us to repent Jesus called us to to walk in his footsteps to follow him to love God and love others so you might make an argument for those as requirements but what does that have to do with all of these books room rules we put on people yes we want people to live transformed lives but that transformation comes through the inner working of the spirit it takes time it takes healing it takes change and we as the church as a bat Body of Christ as ambassadors of the Kingdom we need to be there in the meantime loving and accepting and giving hope giving compassion the other thing that was mentioned on Sunday was the the affirmation that what we have received from God we need to be giving to others we have received forgiveness so we need to be forgiven we have received Grace so we need to be gracious we have received healing so we need to be conduit of God’s healing of restoration of reconciliation we need to stand with people and give them Grace and hope and love as God works in their hearts and in their lives

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Poisoned Medicine

I had an experience yesterday. One of those moments of clarity where suddenly you understand it all and you don’t know how you could have missed it. Those moments are beautiful and wonderful and an essential part of growth. They also come with a challenge – you can not experience truth without acting on it. At least, if you want to continue to be healthy and grow you must act on it.

I’ve known for years that I’m messed up – my history left me broken and crippled and I’ve got a list of maladaptive behaviours and destructive coping mechanisms. These were things I needed to survive and adopted because I didn’t see any other option. Slowly, painfully, with the support of people who love me I’ve been untangling them, healing, learning, growing. Over the last few years I’ve become more than just a result of my past. It’s been exciting and difficult and frightening and exhausting.

One of the lingering things has been my difficulty with vulnerability. This can be seen in a lot of ways, but the one that is relevant here is my difficulty being vulnerable, being authentic. I can give information – even information about me, about my experiences, about what happened, how I felt in the past – but it’s so much more difficult for me to give myself. It’s hard for me to share how I am feeling right now, to admit my needs, to accept help, to show my weak points. It comes because in my experience, feeling “safe” is just another opportunity to be hurt, to be taken advantage of. Safety is another sort of vulnerability.

This has made friendships and relationships really difficult for me – I tend to either keep people out or get too close. I’m awkward and needy or I’m stand-offish and superior. If something is wrong I wall myself in or I lean on one person so hard I’m shocked they don’t break. I was vaguely aware that this was a problem and wasn’t good and was probably something I should work on, but yesterday in that moment of clarity, I understood.

I was scared of authentic intimacy, so I was content with creating false intimacy. I was happy living with counterfeit closeness – situations where I was in control and felt people didn’t know me as well as they thought they did, or at least not well enough to hurt me (not that it actually kept me from being hurt in relationships). I needed intimacy – closeness and friendships and to share like that – but I was getting a tainted version of it. Poisoned medicine in place of what my soul really needed.

So last night with a group of friends I confessed. I confessed how hard it is for me to be honest, how hard it was for me to feel comfortable and safe with them – even though I’ve known them and respected them and been “close” with them for years. I cried. They understood. On the outside I’m sure it was no big deal at all – what person hasn’t been insecure or had difficulty opening up –  but on the inside, I am changed. That’s one more piece of my soul that’s been set right, put back together, made whole.

Mercy, Not Sacrifice

Hosea 6:6, ESV

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Mercy, not sacrifice. Steadfast love, not burnt offerings. An act of the heart not just an act of obedience.

This verse is breaking my heart this morning, echoed by Christ in Matthew 9:13

Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.

The whole Church, the Body of Christ needs to ask – what are we giving, mercy or sacrifice? Where is our heart? What is our concern – showing love or saving our own skins? What is the purpose behind our actions, our legalism, our quest for purity, our understanding of forgiveness?

We have been forgiven, cleansed, made new, all by the work of Christ with no effort on our parts beyond acknowledging when the Spirit opened our eyes to see it. So what do we do with that? We offer sacrifice – time and prayers and money and ego – all in hopes someone will see and acknowledge and validate us, that our mansion in heaven might be a little bigger, a bit better furnished. Where do we show mercy? Where do we acknowledge that it is by grace we are saved – us and everyone around us.

Mercy. Not sacrifice. Grace, forgiveness, following the example of Christ to seek out the sinners and what – yell at them about how evil they are? Tell them they’re destined to an eternity of torment? No, that’s not how Christ treated the sinner. Mercy. Grace. Forgiveness. Christians should be active in the work of restoration – renewal and healing and the journey toward wholeness.

Mercy, not sacrifice. God give me strength.

And Then There Was Joy

I just had one of those moments where suddenly I understand things and I can’t believe how foolish I was for missing it in the first place. Some background:

  • my church has been going through the book Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas. A few weeks ago we finished looking at the Traditionalist pathway
  • We’re also, as a church, celebrating Advent with a reading and lighting of the candles each week. There’s also daily materials that I forgot existed until now.
  • I’ve signed up with my local multicultural association to help as refugees start pouring into my city – training starts tomorrow.

Now, I love the advent season, I celebrate solstice (in the sense of taking time to reflect on the darkness and celebrate the return of the light) and Christmas is both a cultural and a spiritual celebration for me. I understand the history, the richness, the excitement and the depth of this time of year – holy days and sacred times. However, this year it’s all felt really flat to me. Maybe I’ve been too busy, maybe I’ve been too distracted by the cultural rituals (shopping, wrapping, hearing my kids say they want a ton of things) – whatever it was, something was missing.

Then I read this post and suddenly my heart swelled and tears were in my eyes and I understand it more. It’s not just the rituals (spiritual or cultural) or knowing the significance of the celebration, it’s taking the opportunity to feel it. To feel the anticipation, the hope, to understand the longing and the fear that comes in the waiting – what if it doesn’t get better, what if the light doesn’t come, what if we miss the Messiah – and then choosing to hope regardless. Choosing to celebrate, to feel joy. Choosing to prepare and anticipate and believe that God is bringing something that will forever change everything and that you are part of it.

I have an extra special opportunity to understand Advent this year, and I almost missed it. I almost didn’t connect the experience of helping new people settle here with the excitement and anticipation of advent. Suddenly things feel different, I’ve got that anxious excited fluttery feeling and I can’t wait to see what happens, to experience what is coming. I am so thankful to be a part of it.

Abundance

A common theme in conversations and thoughts and in my heart and soul for the past few months has been abundance – abundant life and living in the Kingdom and all the good that we’re supposed to experience – now and for eternity.

What I’ve come to realize is that I don’t understand this concept at all. When I’m feeling cynical I blame it on the traditions I’ve been raised in and the culture of fear and shame that Christianity sometimes creates – how can I believe I can live abundant life when it’s so clear that I fail God over and over again, when I am obviously still a slave to sin, when I’m supposed to be humble and patient and gentle, when I’m reminded over and over again that I’m one choice away from losing my salvation.

When I’m in a more honest mood I can admit that my inability to understand abundance comes from fear. What if I’m not really saved, what if the promise of abundant life isn’t really for me. What if I am weeds and goats and bad trees. I don’t live in the Kingdom because I’m still scared that I don’t belong in the Kingdom.

The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.

Luke 14:15-24 has been in my head a lot. There’s layers of truth there, but the one that most often sticks out at me is the truth that I *don’t* belong in the kingdom. The banquet wasn’t prepared for me. I wasn’t invited based on my accomplishments or achievements or honour or status. Yet I am welcome. More than welcome, I am compelled. And there is still room for more.

I don’t need to hoard or hide away the good in my life. I don’t need to be afraid that any minute it could all turn to dust. I don’t need to be scared of being found out – and I don’t need to put on airs to try and fit in somewhere I don’t belong. I do belong, both as I am and as I am being transformed to be. There is no limit to GOd’s grace ,not for me and not for anyone around me. I can share it – all the oy and excitement and wonder and awe and blessings and good and mystery and everything else. I can share my questions and my (mis)understandings. I can share my strengths and my weaknesses. I can share my self and my time and above all I can share love. There is no limit to the love that I can share to those around me, in whatever form they are open to receiving it.

To live abundant life is to live knowing that there is more – more joy and love and wonder and more of God to know and experience and be in awe of. To know there is more and to be aware and experiencing what is in each moment. I still know that I don’t really understand the concept, but I’m trying.

Pain and Fear

Here’s the thing about chronic pain – or at least how I’ve experience chronic pain – it’s sneaky. It’s like a slow leak, just under the radar, slowly draining my energy and my patience and my ability to handle life. It’s not enough to keep me down, just enough to be there in he back of my mind. The human brain is an amazing thing and as long as I keep busy and have something to focus on, it’s almost like the pain isn’t there. Almost. I ignore the extra work it takes to stand up, or the slight limp because my muscles are so tense. I don’t dwell on how it keeps me up at night because I just can’t get comfortable no matter what. I push it to the back of my mind until I almost forget about it. Almost.

Part of me doesn’t think I have the right to tell people about my pain, or to give myself any sort of pass for needing extra support when I manage it. I sort of feel responsible for my pain – because I haven’t treated it, because I haven’t talked to my doctor. Obviously if I was really that bad I’d see my doctor or take something, and I don’t. So if I’m not going to fix the problem I have to live with the problem, I have to accept it. I can’t let it affect my life, or at the very least I can’t let it affect the lives of the people around me.

Most of the time I fail at that goal.

I fail to have patience with my kids. I fail to get everything done I want to. I fail to be a good friend. I fail to be there when people need me. I fail as a wife and a mother and a friend. I fail to be a productive member of society.

So why don’t I just get it treated?

The obvious choice with pain is to take pain relievers and get on with life. But those don’t work for me – taking enough to take the edge off the pain leaves me with that sluggish dopey feeling. At least through the pain I can still be up and moving, can still carry on a conversation, can still drive.

So why haven’t I talked to a doctor about the cause?

That’s been my struggle for the last month. After almost a year of issues and 6 months acknowledging the pain, I am trying to get treatment. I’ve gotten bloodwork done, but I didn’t tell my doctor about the pain – he’s already been dismissive of my issues and the day I was in to see him was so abrupt and short with me I already felt bad for wasting his time. Plus I don’t want him in my bits – pelvic pain is something that needs a certain level of rapport and he just doesn’t have it. I have plans to get into the clinic next month.

But the real reason? I’m scared. I’m scared of what it is – even though I don’t have bleeding or discharge or any other symptom besides the pain, I worry it’s more serious than just a pain issue. I worry treatment will involve drugs and surgery and risks. I’m a rational person, I’m aware that if it is cancer delaying treatment will only make it worse, but I’m still terrified.

I’m also terrified there won’t be a cause – that it’s not really there at all, that it’s all in my head. I’m scared that my body is perfectly healthy and there’s no medical reason that I fail at everything. Maybe I just can’t handle life.

Pain is sneaky – it doesn’t just affect your body, it affects your mind, your relationships, your sense of self.

Open Hearted

Do you ever feel like you’re walking around with your rib cage cracked open and your heart on display for all the world? Or like you need to wrap your arms around yourself to hold it all in so you don’t leave bits of your soul all over the place? Does it ever seem like there’s so much of you trying to be seen and heard that it almost aches because you don’t have an outlet for it?

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately and it’s hard for me to share because I’m well aware it sounds so over the top dramatic. I don’t have anything profound or life changing to share, but my heart is bursting and I’m vulnerable –  sharing these parts of me is scary.

I’ve been on a journey the last year trying to take care of my self – my heart and my soul. I’ve been intentional about journalling, about feeding my spirit, about sharing myself with people I trust. At the same time, I’ve been praying to be open hearted – open to people in my life, open to God, open to new challenges and experiences, open to offering and seeking help.

It’s honestly terrifying. Admitting when I am hurt, when I am insecure, when I think someone is wrong, when I think I am wrong. It leaves me vulnerable and raw and at risk. It means I’ve had to confront my self and my past and open closets and uncover wounds. I’m not always very good at it – sometimes I shut down and escape into the internet and try to ignore the fact that my chest is wide open.

It’s also been so very worth it. My past can’t come back to haunt me – no more mental ambushes in the middle of the night, because I’m not all alone. No more carrying hurts because I trust the people in my life to understand me and support me when I’m not my best. No more one sided conversations running through my head because talk things out. I’ve had the chance to open up to people, and to see the beauty of their souls when they open up to me. I’ve admitted my humanity and brokenness and found comfort with others who are also human and broken. We laugh and cry and bandage each other up and the journey is much less taxing.

Being open hearted is risk, is sometimes dramatic and emotional, but it’s beautiful. It’s breathtaking and honest and hilarious and joyful. I’ve learned to feel my joy as deeply as I feel sadness, to be open with how much I love the the  people in my life. I’ve learned it can feel natural – and so good – to be told you’re important in someone’s life. I’ve realized how silly it is that we don’t tell people the simple truths – “I like spending time with you”, “I’m glad we understand each other.”, “I need some time with you” – and how good it feels to hear those things.