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Archive for April, 2015

Another birthday

Today is the birthday of another special person to me – my brother James. He’s 20 years old.

It is a very strange thing to realize I have three siblings now in their twenties. And that I am old enough to have three siblings in their twenties – and still be older than them!

Ten years ago today I left home – and it feels like so much longer in some senses, and just like yesterday. I was looking at pictures today of James – pictures of him going cross-eyed, making silly faces and doing goofy things. I remember those moments like yesterday.

And now he is a grown young man – coming into his own and discovering adult life.

Ten years ago I was 20. Hard to believe too. He will have a different journey than me – different things to discover, learn, heal and grow.

Happy birthday dear James. I love you more than I can express in words.

Happy birthday Hope

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Today a very special person turns 17 – one of my beautiful little sisters – Hope.

I had the privilege of being able to witness her birth. I was only 14 myself but I knew that I had witnessed a miracle. I remember exactly how she looked the moment I first saw her face. I remember the thrill of being invited to cut the umbilical cord. I went with the doctor for the quick examination they do and got to pick out a knitted hat and hold her when she was only minutes old. That was one of the best moments of my life. And birth IS a miracle indeed.

I often had the privilege of putting her to bed with a stuffed animal we called “Bunnykins” and I sang Brahms lullaby to her every night that I put her to bed – a song that became known as the “mmm hmmm” song because I would hum it. I was part of her early formation in so many ways, including helping homeschool her.

Fourteen years between us meant that I was more like a second mother to her. But she called me her best friend. She has always been special to me. The others are special to in their own way. But there is something about being able to witness a birth that makes that relationship different than with others. I saw her before she took her first breath on her own. I heard her first cry. I severed the life source that separated her from my mother and left her as an individual person.

I’m coming up on a decade since I left home. And those who have travelled with me that entire 10 years will know that it’s been a rocky one. I don’t see my siblings. But every day I yearn to be a part of their lives and have them apart of mine.

I don’t normally name my family. But I name Hope in part because she has one of the most beautiful names ever. But more importantly, I have witnessed countless ways in which she lives into her name. One such time was her embracing me and letting me say to her that I love her and am always here for her.

Nothing’s changed. Dearest Hope – I love you and am always here for you. Today, tomorrow and in the days, months, years ahead. Happy birthday dear one.

Faithful to completion

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I have an incredible gift of starting new things with extraordinary enthusiasm. I have many ideas and many interests.

But finishing things is not exactly a gift or passion that comes easily.

The past little while I’ve been under a bit of pressure to finish something that I had started in the fall but has been lingering with mediocre progress – my assignments for a History of Christianity course. I have accepted an internship position that begins May 1 (more details to follow) but in order to do that, I need to have this course out of the way. The internship is something I *really want to do* and therefore is serving as sufficient motivation to get these papers done.

History has never been my strong suit. And chapter summaries on a summary book are unappealing to write. But the truth is – I’ve read the book once, don’t want to read it again and am ready for something new. It’s boring. It’s like pulling teeth. I have an attention span of a gnat as I try to summarize chapters of the early church. I’ve made progress but it feels like I am slogging through this just to get it done and out of my to do list. There are a myriad of things that seem more interesting. Like practicing scales on the guitar or cleaning the bathroom. But time is ticking and procrastination isn’t exactly adding more joy to this project nor is it getting the work done.

So last night I stuck at it – determined to complete four chapter summaries. Today I have a goal still to meet but decided to pull out the art project for this course to shift from academic to creative work. I am creating a children’s story book on the miracles attributed to St. Columba of Iona using plasticine as a medium. I’m not sure why I haven’t been working on this because it is thoroughly enjoyable and very therapeutic to work with my hands. The above picture shows the progress I made on a blank canvas this afternoon – some celtic art will go on top, but getting the background done is significant because it isn’t as interesting.

As I have been spreading plasticine to cover the white canvas, I have been thinking about the verse in Philippians:

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

I can’t help but think about what it means to finish the good work that He began in m. I’m messy. I hurt people, I hurt God. I do what I do not want to do. I don’t do what I should. I wonder if God ever feels like he is slogging through while moulding me into the person he has called me to be. Is it like pulling teeth to keep me on the straight and narrow? Does God ever want to give up on me like I want to give up on this course?

And yet there are verses like this one that demonstrate God’s faithfulness and persistence to me – and to you.

God’s not done with me. Not even close. And he will be faithful to complete the good work that he started.

Trust me

This time in my life is characterized by uncertainty.

I’m not sure where I will be living in the coming days. I know God will provide – he always has. But I’m not sure when or where or how. I don’t know if I will be living with the family I have come to love or if I will be branching out on my own after living in community for a significant period of my time in Toronto. I don’t know if God is calling me to the neighbourhood where I am working or if he is going to provide a place nearby the amenities I know and love.

I’m not sure what my finances are going to look like. Moving may impact how many students I have. Moving might increase my rent when I am already stretched.

I’m unsure what my summer will look like. I have a direction – but stuff needs to be put down on paper and it’s not yet. I need to decide on learning goals and think carefully about where God is calling me to not just now but in the future. And I don’t know.

I’m not sure about health. Things are stable at the moment and I’m grateful that I’m only really impacted by constant headaches that are usually manageable. But in the coming months I see the neurosurgeon again and decisions will be made.

I am unsure what I’ll be doing in the fall – like an internship, and courses. But this will be the first summer I do not earn a significant portion of my tuition.

I am unsure of what it’s like to live AND serve in a community. My identity is shifting to a more public and professional identity. This is new and this is scary. I haven’t figured it out.

As I pray through this uncertainty, I want answers. But God seems to just be saying “Trust me”.

It’s not the answer I want – I want answers and things to fall in place. But God is saying, “Trust me”

I want my life to be defined and outlined. But God is saying, “Trust me.”

I don’t want to live in this uncertainty. But God is saying, “Trust me.”

I want this anxiety of uncertainty to leave me magically. But God is saying, “Trust me.”

I want an easier answer – something that I can do without thinking about it. But God is saying, “Trust me”

I don’t know what this looks like. But God is saying, “Trust me”

So, here I am – in the place in-between, in the space of the unknown. I don’t know how to trust.

But I am reminded: Be still. And know that I am God.

so for a moment – even if it’s just a moment – I sit with my anxiety and I allow those words to flow over me like a waterfall. I stop what I am doing to try to be still. I am not still – but I am trying. I am trying to know that God is God. I don’t know – but I am trying.

And I hear the words of my Lord saying, “Trust me”

Good Friday Reflection

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching with the pastoral team this morning on Christ’s crucifixion. Each of us took a passage from Luke 23. I loved hearing the different voices – but was also interested in the strands that were held together in the reflections and music. I thought it was cool that God had orchestrated the many people involved in such a way that without sharing what we were focusing on, the reflections blended nicely. Anyways, here is mine!

Luke 23:44-49

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[a] When he had said this, he breathed his last.

47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Throughout this week, I have been thinking about the quiet trust of small children. I used to nanny a very young boy and often had the task of preparing him to sleep. As he would fall asleep in my arms, I would reflect on the privilege of having this child’s trust. He would surrender himself to sleep as I sang lullabies to him. Sometimes he would resist sleep, but eventually tiredness would win out and he would close his eyes.

The words of Jesus on the cross that Luke records make me think of the quiet trust of a child. Jesus says “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit ” and breathes his last breath. This trust and surrender to the Father’s will meant that Jesus was utterly obedient – even to death on a cross.

He was quoting Psalm 31 which in some Jewish circles would have been a bedtime lullaby of sorts, read each night as one surrenders his or her self to vulnerable sleep.

I wonder how many lines of this psalm Jesus had as He placed His spirit in God’s hands?

Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,

    for you are my refuge.

Jesus had performed a multitude of miracles, demonstrating that even raising the dead was within his power. At the beginning of his ministry, he was tempted by the devil to use his powers in order to gain glory on his own accord and not by humbly submitting to God’s will. Perhaps the final temptation Jesus faced was to escape death and what lay beyond death.

Instead, Jesus says “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;

    my eyes grow weak with sorrow,

    my soul and body with grief.

10 My life is consumed by anguish

    and my years by groaning;

my strength fails because of my affliction,[b]

    and my bones grow weak.

I cannot even begin to fathom the amount of pain Jesus experienced in the journey to the cross let alone the cross itself. I imagine in those final moments on the cross his soul and body were consumed by distress, sorry, anguish and groaning.

And in the midst of such affliction, Jesus cries out: Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

11 Because of all my enemies,

    I am the utter contempt of my neighbors

and an object of dread to my closest friends—

    those who see me on the street flee from me.

Besides excruciating physical pain, Jesus had been mocked and rejected by the very people He came to serve and to save. Even his closest friends abandoned him in his time of need. Luke tells us that even the women stood at a distance.

And as those who mock him and those who flee – Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Like a sleeping baby, Jesus moves into the sleep of death trusting His father. Unlike the baby, Jesus gives up his spirit in obedience to God’s will – knowing what lies ahead. Jesus who has the power to change the events submits and gives up His own life – demonstrating ultimate trust in God the Father.

As we reflect on Christ’s work on the cross, may we each grow closer to being able to echo Jesus words with trust and obedience:

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

Amen.