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Archive for July, 2013

Smiles from Heaven

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I am so not a morning person. Ask anyone who has known me or lived with me for any length of time. I now live farther from downtown than I ever have and the commute was something I dreaded as I set the schedule for the youth mentorship program and day camps that I have been running. Add to that my increased war against insomnia, averaging on 2-4 hours of sleep a night and I thought that needing to leave home by 6:30 would be something I would come to dread and even loathe.

But I have been surprised. Each morning, I have walked by the lake as the sun has come up. It has been a peaceful and prayerful way to start the day. But more than that – I have always loved looking at the sky and always longed to watch the sun rise with its beauty.

Each morning that I have had to get up early, I have been greeted with an incredible masterpiece in the sky. And as the sun makes the cool air warmer, I honestly feel warmth and love from God…. the God who knows me better than anyone else and knows what will speak love into my heart. 

This may not be the best theological piece that I have written – but I feel God is smiling at me in the mornings. I feel God is saying He loves me and is pleased with me. It’s daily and a lovely way to dive into the deep waters of my days.

Reminds me of when the heavens would depart and God would say – this is my son, in whom I am well pleased. Life is difficult. But each morning, this short walk by the lake has been enough to empower me to continue throughout my day with all its challenges and dreams. And I feel God’s love as I envision him looking down at me and smiling as I bask in his love and creation.

Here are a few pictures from my walks:

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letting go

ImageIt’s been awhile – but I have not dropped off the face of the earth. It just happens to be a very busy and intense time in my life. I haven’t had the energy or desire to write on here. I’ve always had a rule when it comes to writing – if it doesn’t come naturally, now is not the right time. Typically, my writings that get posted on here are effortless and when I feel forced in anyway, I try to put away the thoughts and wait for a time when they are clear. Sometimes time brings clarity, sometimes time puts those ideas in the trash bin. Today, on the subway, I was listening to a song and felt inspired to share one of the challenges that I am facing.

We are in week four of our nine week youth mentorship program that I have headed up. I am very grateful for the support, encouragement, coaching and help that I have received from so many people over the past 6 months. The task has been large – grant applications, fundraising, publicity, advertising, web designing, hiring staff, networking, program design and execution. The skills that I have learned/worked on through this program will be ones that I will use in so many ways in my life I am sure – but it has been a lot of work. I have put in long hours… and then some.

I have learned to take Sabbath. At first I thought this would be impossible – I mean there is so much work to do!!! How could I think to take a *whole* day off work? And then it became a necessity. By Saturday, I was so exhausted that I needed to sleep, rest, and not think about work or school. I began to take Sabbath not because I wanted to so much, but because my body wouldn’t let me do anything else! And now… I look forward to Saturday. I do not respond to emails, check phone, update facebook or the website, or even think about work. Well, sometimes I admit that I worry. But most times, I just enjoy the day. I do not usually go out and I am not available for anyone except my cat! Sounds selfish perhaps – but I need to recharge my batteries and the other six days of the week are jam-packed with being available.

Working late one night, a friend challenged me, asking why I am so intent on making this a success? I kept justifying. And his questions persisted and he challenged me to let go.

Let go? this program is my baby! I have put way more into this program than into anything else in my life. I have worked hard and the program is becoming known. There have been pressures in all directions and I *need* to be successful. Moreover, I love the youth and love God and ministry. How on earth can I let go?

My friend’s challenge is a hard one. As much as I would like to dress it up as a faithful response to God’s love for me and the world, there is sin and brokenness in my life that spill into my motives for this program. Oh how discouraging sin can drive one away from God and trusting His sovereignty, love and grace – even in ministry! It is humbling. Actually, this whole experience has been humbling on many levels. I think to lead is to be vulnerable. I have warts and rough edges and pain and insecurities. It’s a lot easier to hide all this when you sit quietly, and unknown in a group.

I don’t know. I don’t have an answer to this. But I cling on to this program to tightly. Somehow I need to let go. I need to trust that God is at work and – as much as he has been looking after me and providing for me – he will provide and care for the youth and the program that he has called me to lead.

On the subway, I was listening to a song by Robin Mark that reminded me that I need to perch myself at the foot of the cross. I need to let go of everything there and find my strength at the cross.

I’ll come to the wonderful cross-

And my whole life I lay down.

My whole life I lay down.

 

Is violence the only answer?

ImageI haven’t been following the Zimmerman trial that is now flooding the media so I cannot speak much to the facts. All I can say is that I am sad.

I work with youth. Some of the youth are the same age as Trayvon. I read a story like this and it raises so many questions.

If a young boy was ‘up to no good’… I can’t help but wonder… why following and killing was the proposed solution. My role as a mentor for youth is to be on the look out for those who are struggling – as well as those who are excelling – and to come alongside them. To encourage them to think about life differently. To have them step on the path of meaning and belonging. To encourage them that they can get up to a lot of good! Was following him and shooting him the only possible way?

So where were the supports for Trayvon? He was so young… and had so much time to have his life turned around. The bullet – interestingly one bullet successfully aimed to his heart – ended any chance of this. What was going on in this boy’s life that would make him wander the streets up to no good.

Ok, maybe Trayvon attacked Zimmerman. Even with a piece of heavy duty concrete. You know, if some strange guy followed me I might do the same. But as the adult – shoot the boy in the heart? I’m sorry but I cannot accept that that is ok.

Dear adults – it is our job to guide and care for the young. If they mess up, we are not granted license to do anything we please. If a kid hits me, I cannot hit him back. We need to be the “bigger” person. We need to model for our young ones how to behave. Killing someone who threatens me sends a sad message to the world. Someone needs to be the better person.

And that is all assuming the worst. It’s hard on the outside as an onlooker to know what happened. And it seems that there was not clear evidence to convict him. I understand this. Oh how I understand the weight of evidence required.

But at the end of the day, the news article show a happy accused, and a young boy is no longer, thanks to the accused killing him with a single gunshot to the heart.

I greatly respect the Martin family attorney’s words:

he urged them not to resort to violence.

“For Trayvon to rest in peace, we must all be peaceful,” he said.

 

Tonight, I pray for the family and friends as they grieve once again the loss of Trayvon. As they deal with the pain and unfairness of the justice system that delivered an answer that is painful and no doubt dismisses their pain. I pray that though they are hurting, that they will rise above what they and others claim as racism and show that love and peace can prevail even in times of darkness, even in times of sorrow and anguish. I pray that they might model what it is to be the “bigger person”.

I pray for troubled and misunderstood youth which speaks of most of our youth I believe. I pray for the brokenness in them to lead them to life giving mentors and friendships who can help them stay on a path that leads to wholeness and life. I pray for adults to understand and come alongside youth.

And I pray for those who think and use violence as an answer to their problems. I pray that they will be touched by your love. I pray that a spirit of non-violence will overtake them.

And I pray for Zimmerman. That through this whole process – whether guilty of second degree murder, manslaughter or misjudgement – will soften his heart and enable him to come alongside youth and support them.

I pray for all who are outraged by this situation. And I pray for God’s peace to flow in the hurting and angry hearts so that violence does not beget violence

 

It was a dark and stormy night

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Indeed. It is a dark and stormy night. Tonight, Toronto is flooded in many areas. The subway system is down in many parts, street cars are not working, and our mayor has declared the roads unsafe. Basements are flooded, roofs are leaking. Tons of people are stranded tonight, many without power. And the rain continues.

On this dark and stormy night, I am thankful for the warm church basement office that is dry and secure. For the shelter manager who dropped by with a pillow, blanket and toiletries to make it through the night and offers of food. I am thankful that although the power went out, it did not last long. I am thankful for friends who have written to check to see if I am safe. I am thankful that my youth and staff got home safely.

But on this dark and stormy night, I think of my friends on the street, without shelter from the rain. I think of the shelter workers and street outreach workers, some of whom I know, who are caring for those who have nothing to protect them from the downpour. I think of the shelters that will be full and the people who will be turned away this night.

On this dark and stormy night, I think of the many people who are stuck in the subway system, either seeking shelter from the storm or unable to travel. I think about their loved ones.

On this dark and stormy night, I think of home owners and renters who will have property and belongings damaged, whose financial expenditures will be drastically increased by the flooding. I think about those without power.

On this dark and stormy night, I think about the places that require staff overnight and who may be short staffed. I think about the many emergency vehicles I have heard in the past few hours pass by.

And on this dark and stormy night, I think about those around the world who face flooding, famines and other natural disasters that make the Toronto flooding this evening so small in comparison.

And so on this dark and stormy night, in the basement of an empty church, I pray.