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Archive for December, 2015

Revisited: New Year’s Resolutions

Two years ago, I sat at my computer to create a rather ambitious list of resolutions that I knew I’d fail at least one of them by day 2 if not before. That wasn’t the point. The point was to try to reorient my life and make lasting changes of the heart and not just behavioural changes. I knew I wouldn’t succeed – and as I read my list today, I think there is only one that I have consistently maintained over the two years.

Two years later, it’s time to revisit these goals. Some of the goals are impossible even when trying my best. Some goals need to be tweaked to be made possible. Some goals need to be added.

So here we go.

1. To maintain a rhythm of Daily Morning, Mid-Day, Evening and Compline Prayer

2. To immerse myself daily into Scripture

3. To read a book a month and to jot down a few notes of each to be compiled at the end of the year

4. To write every day – whether this be a blog post, a journal entry or a paper – something to keep the writing juices flowing

5. To pray for our political leaders.

6. To accept whatever comes as if it comes from God. To joyfully give thanks in everything, even those things that I do not like or do not understand.

7. To stay on top of readings for school and assignments.

8. To create to do lists and do what is on the list

9. To exercise regularly. To provide a physical outlet for stress and frustration. To lose weight. To increase health.

10. To be gentle with myself. I am quick to say “It is what it is” in refering to other people’s situations but am never that kind to myself. To say to myself only what I would have the courage to say to a friend.

11. To write notes of appreciation and gratitude

12. To make my own coffee. I’ve ‘adopted’ local coffee shops as a way of living missional in the neighbourhood. But the cost of coffee this way is high and my budget is small. I can buy coffee grounds from local stores.

13. To make sure I schedule at least one coffee with a friend each week.

14. Make one new meal a week. I love to cook. Like really really love to cook. I need to do it more.

15. To eat breakfast.

16. To keep Sabbath. Even when it’s hard.

17. To go unplugged for 24 hours at least once a month.

18. To keep my place organized so that I am prepared to offer hospitality at the drop of a hat.

19. To save money. I live under the poverty line but I still seem to have more than I need.

20. To buy what I will eat, and to eat what I buy.

21. To support local businesses.

22. To designate a time each week for chores. I no longer have the luxury of laundry in my own place. And the work I keep meaning to get to seems to take a long time before I actually get to it. But I prefer a tidy kitchen and it’s easier to keep it as such.

23. To snuggle with my beloved cat and bunnies each day, and to enjoy being loved unconditionally by this creature God has given me to care for.

24. To decrease packaged foods or foods with preservatives or other additives.

25. To increase how many foods I will purchase fair trade.

26. To only buy used clothing and dishes. To replenish the stock at second hand stores with items that I no longer use or don’t fit.

27. To only buy books for school.

28. To stay on top of paper work. To file my taxes on time. To catch up on my taxes. To replace my ID when it needs to. To change my address. To file paper work. Basically to be organized.

29. To drink more water every day.

30. To travel somewhere outside the province.

31. To say no if I can’t do something or don’t want to. To weigh each opportunity with what God is calling me to. To remember that the need is not the call.

32. To give generously of my time and resources, remembering that to whom much is given, much is expected.

33. To worry less. To trust that God is with me and that He is big enough to take care of the details of my life.

34. To go to some live music every month. The city has lots of free opportunities along with opportunities that are low in cost.

35. To get outside every day, if only for a walk around the block or to the coffee shop.

36. To remember and acknowledge people’s birthdays. On time.

37. To feel fear or anxiety – and to do it anyways. To take risks and to congratulate myself for doing so. To try new things.

38. To regularly learn about the saints.

39. To wash the dishes before bed.

40. To freely give, and to freely accept,  knowing that all good things are God’s to give and receive.

A Light in Darkness

December 24, 2015 1 comment

 

IMG_0654.jpgThis was a message I shared at a gathering that marked and remembered that Christmas is difficult for many.

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I belong to several Facebook groups and decided to share that I was gathering with some friends tonight to mark that Christmas is difficult and to welcome them to join us. Between the various groups, I got over 100 likes, comments and private messages. Christmas is hard for many people.

Hallmark, TV and the stores try to sell us a story that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year – that if we by the right present, hang out with the right person and wear the right clothes this Christmas will be the best Christmas we’ve ever had. And if you can’t do this – Santa will. I remember feeling shocked at a modern Christmas song that says that Santa is the answer to the prayers I’ve had all year. A bit of a strange thought to think that Santa knows my inner desires that well and rather disappointing to think that Santa – the great giver of gifts – will put something under my tree that is the answer to prayers of deep longing.

For any of us who are struggling with loss, depression, estranged relationships, poverty, illness and a whole host of other things life deals us, that kind of Christmas is empty and leaves us wanting. To quote the Grinch – maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe it’s about something more.

I’ve been thinking about the story that is the reason for the season. One of the words of wisdom we read talked about the life-light coming into the world. Christians believe that was Jesus. But what I love about the words that follow the ones we read is that God in Jesus moved into the neighbourhood. God subjected himself to be born of a woman – an unmarried Mary. Stigma and judgment still exist today when a young girl becomes pregnant but back then a woman could be killed. Without Joseph keeping his commitment to marriage, Mary and the baby would have become destitute. He was born in a manger which I am sure looked different than our tidy nativity scenes. I worked on a horse farm for a few years and while these horses were well kept, the barn stunk and I went home smelling like the stinky barn. The first visitors to great this life-light were a bunch of shepherds – people who were so poor they had to sleep out in the fields with their sheep. More than that – they also stunk and were so dirty that the temples would forbid them from entering.

Jesus had a messy start to life – not quite the beginning we would expect for God coming to earth. But the messiness didn’t end there. Around age two, Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled to Egypt because the king in charge felt threatened by this young child and was out to kill him. Jesus as a young boy taught in the temple and his own parents didn’t understand him. He healed the sick and fed the hungry and the religious rulers of the day plotted to kill him.

Jesus lived in the darkness that we live in. He knows what it is like to hurt, to be sad, to be alone. He knows what it’s like to not have a roof over his head. He knows what it is like to be misunderstood by his family. He knows what it is like to be rejected by his friends. He knows political injustice that kills innocent people because of unfounded fears.

As Sufi poet Rumi says, The wound is the place where the light enters you.

I believe that Jesus came to earth as a helpless babe in a stinky manger worshipped by the outcasts and lived a life as light in the darkness so that wherever we are at, we can know a God who understands our deepest pains and longings. I believe that as we open our wounds to a God who knows us and knows what we are going through, the light enters us.

But more than that – Jesus was not overcome by the darkness of this world. The religious and political rulers of the day had their way in putting him to death on the cross. But he overcame death in his resurrection. The light overcame darkness.

And I believe that the light can overcome the darkness in our own lives. That as we let the light into our wounds, that light will fill us and we will become light. We will have opportunities to be light and show light to others walking in darkness. In the end, darkness does not win.

So we gather tonight, in brokenness and pain as Christmas draws near. As Leonard Cohen sings, there’s a crack, a crack in everything. We are not alone in our brokenness. But let us remember that while that crack is there and we may not be able to do anything ourselves to change that – the crack is where the light comes in.