it's christmas eve morning. everyone is still asleep, and i am sitting at dad's computer with a perfect cup of starbuck's ethiopia sidamo blend. all is well.

as a rule, the christmas season makes me reflective, and this one is no different. given the fact that i have watched the new version of 'miracle on 34th street' more times than i can count, the last time being just a week ago, one of the lines that usually strikes me, struck me again. richard attenborough, [santa claus], explaining why his role as the guy in red is important, says, "I'm a symbol of the human ability to be able to suppress the selfish and hateful tendencies that rule the major part of our lives." hmmm.

throughout this past week, i have been painfuly aware of the power of these selfish & hateful tendancies in my life, and how much control they have. and while i am not ashamed to admit that a small part of me still believes in santa claus, i know that nothing he, or his symbolic power can do can ever rid me of all that is dark inside, and make me deserving of anything more than a lump of coal.

enter Jesus. Emmanuel. God with us. Not someone far away who drops in once a year, bringing down a judgement on whether we've been good or bad and rewarding us accordingly, but God with us...seeing the small good we do, but more importantly, seeing all that is in us, including the dark, hateful, selfish parts, and who chooses to love us anyway. Chooses to save us from our worst enemy: ourselves. Who, all those years ago, could look ahead to his death, and beyond through all of history up to this moment, and determine that in spite of all the bad, horrible things that lay between his birth and here, that nothing is so horrible, in our world or in us that God would change his mind and abort the plan.

o come, o come Emmanuel.


a cage

"What do you fear, my lady?"
"A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire."
(The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers)

today a friend of mine afforded me a rare glimpse of my life, as seen through his eyes, and part of what was revealed surprised me.

i am afraid. i don't want to be, and i don't want to admit it, but i am afraid. as i sat there listening to him, this quote from LOTR came to me, and i realized that if i don't move beyond this, and face down the dragon which daunts me, i will meet the end of my life with the realization that the cage that held me back was my own doing.

“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.” ~Raymond Lindquist



a recent conversation with someone prompted me to remember this blessing given to Henri Nouwen by his spiritual mentor:

May all your expectations be frustrated.
May all your plans be thwarted.
May all your desires be withered into nothingness.
That you may experience the powerlessness and the poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God the Father, the Son and the Spirit.
i'm not exactly sure how i would accept such a blessing, should it come my way. granted, the payoff from all the frustration, thwarting & whithering would be worth it. but my tendency is to run away from all that is hard and sucky. i desire growth, and yet balk at the things that would produce what i want.
may i have the courage to live...regardless of what each day brings.



reading: Ancient-Future Time

this sunday marks the beginning of advent. for years now, i've wanted to observe advent, but i always seem to miss it. Robert Weber's book, Ancient-Future Time talks about the usual preparation activities of fall, getting ready for all that winter will bring, then he goes on,

"But where is God in all of this? The danger we all face as we prepare for the future, whether it is for our fall activities or something else, is the tendency to be indifferent to the presence of God in our plans. We participate in that humanistic spirit prevalent in our Western world, a spirit that often expresses itself in the way we plan for the future. When we think we can do things on our own, we act as though we have little or no need of God. Then we become self-confident, begin to believe in ourselves, and think ourselves to be invincible...Advent is a time when God breaks in on us with new surprises and touches us wiht a renewing and restoring power."

advent is all about waiting. Israel waiting for a Savior. us waiting for the second coming of that Savior. Webber goes on to say,

"Advent is always needed when we, the people of God, separate our lives in the world from the true meaning of worship. Worship celebrates God for us and works within us to be servants to others and to the world. when we go about our lives striving for power, success, and wealth and seek things for ourselves and yet attend worship, listen to the Word, and take bread and wine into our stomachs, we ar no better than dead Israel. God cannot be in our worship because God is not in our lives. Our worship becomes mechanical, dull, dreary, and rote. Our lives drift further and further away from God and from his will, and the sense of God's absence becomes more and more acute....Advent is a time to cry, "O God, turn me away from my indifference, creat in me a heart of repentance, and lead me to the waters of spiritual refreshment."

given my own ability to think myself self-confident, i need all that i can get in the way of God breaking into my life to remind me that i am nothing without him.

i am nothing without him.


a million little pieces

listening: snow patrol
reading: prayer [yancey] & this beautiful mess [mckinley]

last night i told someone that i was feeling shatterable. that with the wrong combination of words, all that is me would shatter into a million pieces, and i would then cease to exist.

i don't like feeling this way....and even more, i hate admitting it. even as these words of rilke's echo through my memory, i struggle to find the grace to do what needs to be done.

“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves ... Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point it, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps, then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” ~Rilke


at a loss

over the past seven days, since arriving home from Ukraine, i have sat down at my computer no less than six times, with an aim to write about the trip. frustratingly, every one of those times, i have felt completely inadequate and at a total loss to do what i am feeling and what i experienced justice.

so many people have asked me how the trip was, and to merely say that it was a good trip, or even a great trip would be like saying, when asked to describe the eiffel tower, that it is brown. but to expound, to try to encapsulate the essence of this trip, is, at this moment, not quite a possibility.

we only did five school presentations, less than even our first year in Poland. there was opposition, which made the week very definitely unboring. the people of Ukraine are beautiful, whether we are talking about our hosts who were with us all week, the students who so graciously dropped everything in their week to join our drama team, or the students in the schools themselves.

the trip was filled with laughter, the beginning of friendship, the understanding of close friends, seeking God-- together and individually, and the knowledge that we were presenting, both on stage and with our lives, the fact that life is so much more than those students may have ever realized.

i'm ready to go back.



equilibrium and greatness of spirit
cannot be the chief deisre
of a single entity

equilibrium and its cousin, fairness
negate all attempts to be spectacular
as useless as tightrope walking
only inches from the ground

true greatness of spirit
true adventure
seeks not for itself or safety
but rather for
the blind to see
the lame to walk
and glory to an unseen force of grace



last night i sat around a table with three people who each occupy a special place in my heart. we had just attended the memorial service for jen's dad, and since she was flying back to calgary at 7am this morning, we had this one night to sit around a platter of appetizers and share life and laughter. it was perfect.

the truth is it has been way too long since we had gotten together. even rhanda, sarah & i have not all hung out together since my birthday in april, and we all live in the same city. as i sat with my friends, the restaurant's fake fireplace helping set the mood, i couldn't help but wonder why it took a funeral to make it happen.

had you asked us why we hadn't seen each other in so long, you would have heard a long list of excuses ranging from busyness to tiredness, from work to church...all good things, but all things that can keep us from the important people in our lives. people who have seen us at our best and at our worst, yet who still find it in their hearts to love us.

if we can put the busyness and all that daily clamors for our attention on hold for something as awful as death, why can we not do it for something so important as life?



there are some seasons more marked by what doesn't happen, than by what does.

i've never been very good at waiting...in many respects, i'm definitely more of an instant gratification girl than anything else. this is not an easy thing to change about oneself.

the season i currently find myself in seems to be such a season. some things i am waiting for are from my own hand; some are life; but all are orchestrated by God, no doubt to teach me to wait on him, to trust only in him.

Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
(Psalm 27:14)

wait patiently.



camp is almost here...and i'm tired. it caught up to me last week, and in the process i lost my voice. i have definitely not been the model of someone living a balanced life.

it's not like i didn't see it coming. it's not like the words, silence, solitude, sabbath, and a whole host of other words, some which start with the letter 's', some which don't, have been greatly present in my life for the past few months.

but somehow, the easier, or wiser choice seems to be imbalance, rather than balance. nature seems to have its own natural sense of equilibrium...why don't humans? why is it so much easier to be out of balance?

something else to ponder...



of all the things i love about paris, and there are many things that i love about paris, the bridges definitely rank pretty high on the list. when i go back (with much more comfortable shoes than i had the last time), i plan to take a day and start at the pont de sully, which connects the farthest end of the ile st-louis to both the left & right banks, and walk across every bridge all the way over to the pont de bir hakeim, just beyond the eiffel tower.

i had a revelation this week about my visit to paris, that perhaps seems on some levels to diminish what is my great love of the city. i realized that during this week that i was gone, for the first time in i have no idea how long, no one wanted or expected anything at all from me. not a soul on the planet had any expectations of me...and it felt good, gloriously good, just to be.

when i told a friend about this revelation today, she said that it should tell me something, that i need to do this more often, and while i don't disagree, i need to find a way to fit these times into my life more regularly...without feeling guilty.

that is my goal for the next nine & a half months...until i return?


i have a most brilliant idea. for the next world cup, i am going to make a sign, simply black & white, so no national affiliation will be confused. this will be a flag for those of us who just don't give a flying fig about the freaking world cup & just don't want to be honked at any longer.

this is my flag:


just up the road from the luxembourg garden, at the end of the street sits the Pantheon, as of this moment, my favorite church in paris (mostly because there were only about 12 other tourists in it!) it truly is a beautiful church, the columns on the outside of the building, while from far away they look nice, from close up, they are fairly intimidating.

to prove that fact, i took this picture of this poor, unsuspecting man as he stood looking up. for the size of him, he could be just a little boy!

every time i look at these pictures, i am astounded athow so much of the architecture in paris can make one feel small. the eiffel tower, the arc de triomphe, the louvre... and here the pantheon. it's all so much bigger than life...not in the las vegas sort of way... when i was in vegas, i was also astounded at the largeness of everything, but it was more of a grand scale to shock & because they can make things big, while in paris, it seems to be a natural outpouring of the french spirit - a sort of 'this is us, this is who we are, and if you want to look at it you can, and if not, i really don't care' attitude. the beauty of paris seems to be that it is designed by parisians for parisians, and those of us who are fortunate enough to see it should just consider ourselves lucky.

i think i noticed that attitude after having only been in the city a few hours. so many tourist destinations cater to their guests, as opposed to to the natives. paris really doesn't care that you're visiting. life there will go on just fine after you go home. maybe that's what i liked so much about it.

back to the pantheon, king louis XV, after surviving an illness, commissioned the pantheon to be built in dedication of Sainte-Geneviève (that's her in the picture), but now it's mostly known for the famous dead people buried there, Victor Hugo, Voltaire, and Marie Curie to name a few.

so much history. so much beauty. i left the pantheon feeling appropriately small...and i didn't mind at all.


face in the water

on friday, i had yet another perfect morning. i went over to the luxembourg palace/ pantheon area. my first stop was at the bakery dalloyau pictured here. i had gone past it on the bus on wednesday, and to be sure that i remembered to go back, i took the picture.

and what a good decision it ended up being! another of the yummy things i miss from the city of lights is the pain au chocolat. oh my goodness...let me say that none of the sad excuses for chocolate croissants that have ever been made and consumed on our continent have ever been or could ever dream to be in the same catagory of these golden delicacies.

after picking up my pain au chocolat, i crossed the street and headed into the luxembourg garden to sit on a park bench and eat my breakfast. the garden was absolutely beautiful. i don't think i ever have, or ever will eat breakfast in such a truly beautiful place again...at least until i go back! the palace was nice too, but for some reason, it was the garden that truly captured me. because i went in may, the tulips and other flowers were in bloom. whoever said that springtime was the time to go to paris surely knew what they were talking about.

just before i left the gardens, and headed over the the pantheon i went a little closer to the palace, to get a closer look at it. while i was taking some pictures, i saw a group of people standing by a pool. it seemed that the amount of people who were standing around & photographing the pool were quite disproportionate to the pool itself. that, however, was because a group of trees was standing between me, and the thing all the people were looking at, which was a very large face sticking out & perfectly reflected in the water. it was quite surreal & very cool.

from here, i walked down to the street over to the pantheon, currently my favorite parisian church, but i'll save that for tomorrow!



of all the reading i did before i left for paris, there was one constant, and that was that the tea room angelina was somthing not to be missed. so being the compliant traveler i am, on thursday afternoon i made my way over to 226 rue de rivoli, to what has to the most beautiful restaurant i've ever been in.

on my way over, i stopped at (of course) a shoe store, and when i told the clerk that i was headed to angelina, she added her opinion that the hot chocolate was something not to be missed.

so i sat down, and as i hadn't eaten lunch, i ordered a chicken sandwich first, with the african hot chocolate to follow for dessert. my waiter asked if i wanted anything else for dessert, but i figured that i would see how i felt after what was supposed to be the most incredible hot chocolate in the world.

well, the chocolat arrived in a little white carafe, with a small cup & a bowl of whipped cream on the side....and being the experiential person that i am, i was already taken, and hadn't had a sip yet. i could try to express just how good, how moving, how unbelievable this hot chocolate was, but mere words can never adequately convey the reality.

i attempted to force myself to finish it all, as who knew when such glory would come my way again...but i was unable to do it.

just another reason that paris is indeed the greatest city in all of the civilized world.

books & a flag

directly opposite notre dame, on the rue de la bucherie on the left bank lies a little bookstore i have dreamed about for years, shakespeare & co. strangely enough, i walked past it three times before i was actually observant enough to find it. (i never claimed that i was not at least a bit jet-lagged). this picture was taken the morning after i visited it, before it opened. and like so many of the other aspects of my trip, it was so perfectly what i had hoped for and epxected, that i almost feel juvenile saying that it too, was perfect.

originally i had planned on buying a copy of charles dicken's 'a tale of two cities' in, coincidentally enough, one of the two cities. but, crazily enough, i just couldn't bring myself to spend almost 30 euro on a book! so i settled to purchase another book from this haven of literature.

the day i got to paris was a national holiday, european victory day, so on my first visit to the arc de triomphe, there was this huge flag of france hanging from the centre of it. the flag was only there for that one day, the next day, when i went back, it was gone. i'm so glad that i didn't wait to take the picture. it was so surreal, it's hard to capture how truly big this flag is by the photo...but trust me, it would easily have covered over a house!

the open bus tour, a hop on/hop off tour with headphones for the tour guide in multiple languages was one of my best purchases for the trip. not only did i meet a lot more people than i would have had i not taken it, but just to be able to sit on the top of a double decker bus & see the city go by was truly amazing. i would highly recommend this for anyone planning on going to paris.



the thursday morning of my trip was perfect. as was my habit, i got up early & had a walk around the latin quarter. these morning walks were some of my favorite times, as it seemed to be just me & the native parisians, although they were all headed somewhere, and i was content simply being part of them.

by this point, i had come to the realization that i wasn't going to be able to do everything i wanted in this trip, and had resolved to slow down and make the most of what i could reasonably do. one of my better decisions.

after a ride on the open bus tour, i arrived at the rodin museum around 10am. the weather was perfect...which was the first time since the day i had arrived, so i chose to skip the indoor part of the museum, and stay in the garden, which again, was one of the better decisions.

considering rodin is my favorite sculptor, i was surprised at how little i actually knew of his life. for example, this sign under the lamp contained both rodin's name, as well as rilke's...who is my favorite poet. i had no clue that in 1902 rainer maria rilke went to paris to write a monograph on the sculptor. i took this picture to remind myself to look up the connection when i got home. while looking it up, i found this poem of rilke's, entitled 'a walk.'

My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave...
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

the garden was truly amazing. the thinker, the three shades, the gates of hell, all incredible. ... although this may be the first sentence in history that uses the phrases 'gates of hell' and 'incredible' together.

i'm starting to forget what it felt like to be in paris...not that i ever will forget it all, but sometimes the dailyness & relentlessness of life serves to blur all that was once held dear. i will not wait another 40 years to go back.

that's just too long to wait to visit the part of my heart i left behind.



this morning, i had local buffalo news on while i was waiting for the Today Show to start, and this (annoying) reporter was talking to a group of kids who were excited for their last day of school. two of them were heading into middle school in september, and the (annoying) reporter asked these two if they were afraid.

the boy answered immediately 'no' and looked at her as if she was insane. the girl, however, when asked the question, took a second. it appeared that she had never given the fact that starting a new school would be something that you would be afraid of. she looked around a bit, and then answered 'yes'.

after all, if someone older who has already been there asks if you are afraid, surely there is something to be afraid of. i would like to think that this girl will disregard the (annoying) reporter's words, but given the look on her face, i think it's more a reality that today is the beginning of a couple of months of apprehension before she begins her new school. and once she gets used to all that 'fun' worrying, there will be more on the other side. worry is not an easy habit to kick.

what madness that we so freely project our fears onto children.


paris (part one)

i hate to be cliche, but there really is something about paris in the spring. not that i have other seasons to compare it to (yet). my trip was simultaneously all that i had ever hoped for and so much more than i dreamed.

my hotel, familia hotel, was amazing. when i go back i will again stay there. the staff were great, and all the rooms have these amazing sepia murals on the wall above the bed of different areas of paris. the hotel is in the latin quarter, and somewhere in the back of my mind, i had decided long ago that if i ever did get to paris, the latin quarter was where i wanted to stay. sometimes i can make good choices, and the latin quarter & familia hotel are among the examples of this anomaly!

the seine and all the bridges that link the left and right banks together captivated me. on more than one occasion did i feel a wave of envy sweep over me as i saw parisians sitting on the banks of the seine eating their lunch. as good as my imagination can be, the credit river will never be a substitute!

every morning, almost like a touchstone, i walked through the busy streets of the latin quarter, amongst the parisians going to work, school, fathers taking little children to daycare or wherever french children go when their parents go to work, up from my hotel to notre dame. the man at the front desk of my hotel said it takes ten minutes, but an odd thing happens when you walk through the streets of paris, time ceases to matter. or at least for me, it ceased to exist. there was only me, and this beautiful incredible city that seemed to have everything bathed in a pinkish sort of light, making it all more beautiful. anyway, back to notre dame, it was almost as though i had made a deal with myself no day would start without seeing the beautiful cathedral. apart from my hotel and the rue des ecoles on which it was, notre dame was the only thing i saw every day.

on friday a friend asked me if i would ever move to paris, and without hesitation i answered, 'yes.' i cannot explain it more than to say that from the first moment the airplane landed, and for some unexplained reason tears came to my eyes, paris felt like home. even as i sit here in the apartment that has been my actual home for more than three years, i know that somewhere east of here exists a place where my heart truly feels at home.

gertrude stein said "america is my country and paris is my hometown." while our countries of origin may be different, this same sentiment echoes through the parts of my heart that made the trip home with me.



one of my many favorite moments in paris.


there is so much that i just don't understand.

beginning with myself, and the less than intelligent choices that i make with alarming frequency... most of which have to do with the annoying discontentment that seems to shadow me, and in those moments when my guard is down, and i'm feeling much like my life is just so much the consolation prize version of the life i wanted, then the sub-intelligent choices seem to make so much more sense.

the reality is that the reasons for discontentment will always be around, and will always be numerous. there will always be some unrealized dream or goal, some piece of life that just doesn't fit the way i want it to...something. i cannot control any of these things, and freedom comes when i start to remember this.

the only thing i can control is my response. it's okay that my unrealized dreams break my heart, if the death of a dream doesn't break my heart, then i can't have wanted it that badly. but broken isn't bad, it's just a place to start again. Brennan Manning sums it up pretty well in the Ragamuffin Gospel when he says:

"to be alive is to be broken. and to be broken is to stand in need of grace. honesty keeps us in touch with our neediness and the truth that we are saved sinners. there is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretent to be anything but who they are."
may i live to be beautifully transparent.



listening: city and color

today i turn 40.

in spite of the fact that i've been trying to prepare myself for this day for months, perhaps years, i don't belive i'm any more prepared to accept it today than i was any of the many yesterdays. it simply seems not possible.

but here it is nonetheless. and the reality is, if you look at my birth certificate, then it's true that i am closer to beginning retirement than i am the day i began high school. and the person who lives inside this four decade old body hardly seems a day over 21 most days...some days she even has the remarkable ability to revert back to an 8 year old, but we won't talk about that today. :-) 40 still seems foreign, not that it's bad, it's just an age, a season of life that belongs to someone else...perhaps someone with a bit more maturity...?

it has been a remarkable four decades, i must admit that, filled with so many truly spectacular memories and people and places...that if all i got was these 40 years, i couldn't begin to complain.

as humans, we have a tendancy to look for patterns where there could be none...and with that, i know where i stand today, the road behind me is more characterized by beginnings, and the road ahead will no doubt be marked with more endings.

but this one thing i know: that given all i've been given by God, and using history as a guide, i could never hope for an ordinary existence. so today, i will be 40. but i'll be 40 as only i am equipped to be, and i'll go to Paris in 18 days, and i will continue to laugh and grow and learn with the amazing people in my life, and i will continue to search out the beginnings and firsts that i can jump into wholeheartedly, and i will endeavor to embrace the endings that will surely come with all the grace i have within me, and some from beyond.

here we go...



talking with rhanda tonight i was reminded of something that happened recently that is forcing me to rethink some things.

a few weeks ago, i was on my way downtown to a seminar. let me start by saying the fact that i was running unbelievably late was all my doing, no one else to blame. and it was late, 8:54am to be exact, and the one express train that would get me to the convention centre on time was leaving at 9:08am, i still hadn't purchased my ticket...and there was not a parking space left at the clarkson GO station. i'd already driven around, and nothing. zippo. nada. nice try. i didn't have time to actually drive down & park & make it on time, so i was really out of options.

now, i've always held to the belief that if i'm going to bring something to God in prayer, it will be worthy of his time. secretly, i've always been a bit annoyed at people who ask for prayer for things like to help them find their keys, or for a test that they decided not to study for, but to go out the night before, or other things that i may deem trivial. seriously, i would think that God has more important things on his agenda than helping us out of our poor organization or bad judgement situations. seriously.

so, the frustration was mounting as i circled back around the parking lot, and as the clock turned to 8:55am, somewhere from the depths of my soul came the words, "God, i could use a little help here," as i was turning a corner. then, at that moment, right before me, there was a beautifully free spot, waiting for my little car.

what do you say at that point? the 'thank you' i incredulously said seemed so feebly inadequate, especially since i've always held that God was much too busy to have to deal with parking spots. i was suitably humbled.

may i stay there.


listening: kelly clarkson :-) & train
reading: the rest of God (buchanan) still...

i realized today that it's been a while since i did any blogging (is that a word?) :-)

it's funny, most of the time i can find so many reasons not to write, even though i know that i need to, in order to keep from becoming a stranger to myself, to sort out the constant monologue running through my head, to just get it all on paper. sometimes my reasons for not writing are valid, like when i visited auschwitz, both times. even now, i feel so inadequate to write anything, and when i sit down to try, i am overwhelmed by the sadness and tragedy of it all.

but most of the time, my reasons are merely excuses, the most common being that i feel as though my words will never do justice to how i'm feeling...that incessant internal editor, that insists on writing nothing over writing anything less than absolutely perfect.




listening: Jezioro łabędzie (Czajkowski)
reading: The Rest of God (Buchanan)

I've come to the conclusion that i do not always handle stress well. most of the time, it's all good, and there is no problem seeing the bigger picture for the forest of stressors. but then times like these come into play, and this usually fiercely independent girl wants nothing more than to go crying to her mommy.

In these moments of weakness, i have realized the very real danger in leaving myself unchecked. we have this crazy human tendancy when we (or our pride) are hurt or in pain, to give ourselves licence to do things we would normally never consider right. when provoked, we feel justified to take the filter off of our words and attitudes, unleashing them on those responsible for wronging us. we talk too much to people who have nothing to do with the issue, dragging others into our sad little foxhole. we throw all the things we have learned from Jesus out the window in the face of our situation.

telling ourselves that it's okay to lash out, to get justification, forgetting that in essence, we are doing the same thing (or worse) that hurt us and started us down this sad road, to others.

Tennyson summed it up pretty well when he wrote:
Guard your roving thoughts with a jealous care, for speech is but the dialer of thoughts, and every fool can plainly read in your words what is the hour of your

And then there's always Proverbs 4:23,
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

May we always be on guard.



listening: the elizabthtown soundtrack
reading: the historian, walking on water

(for some reason i've been thinking about my grandmother a lot this week. even though i've lived a decade without her, i still hear her voice in my head, and the lessons i learned through her death are still those i am most thankful for in life. )

death, while hard and awful, can be a beautiful gift. it forces you out of whatever box you’ve been sitting in, and moves you to look at life, your life, the life of the dead one, and life in the grander sense of humanity and eternity, from a completely different angle.

death is the ultimate catalyst. the biggest event obviously is the passing from life through death to the next phase of eternity. but there is also the smaller, yet no less important, briefly open curtain in the lives around the one who has moved on. for before these lies the ultimate challenge: go on with life as you’ve always known it, or use the momentary clarity illuminating what is truly important as a roadmap for where God is calling you next.

the unfortunate reality is that we need great, terrible things like death and tragedy to remind us that we are still alive, move us beyond the comfortable armchair where we are so content to live the majority of our lives.

in his book everyday apocalypse david dark writes,
"given our tendancy to see and hear what we want to see and hear while disregarding the rest, we need whatever we can get in the way of an awakening."

no one enjoys being awakened from perfect, beautiful sleep. but if the alarm never sounded, how many of us would never wake up?



my mom just called and told me that there's trouble.

it seems that my three year old, more than slightly angelic nephew has picked up on one of my more notable phrases ("suck it up, princess") . it also seems that nicky, when annoyed with his sister, has taken to using this phrase in dealing with her. the bad news comes in with the fact that nicky's mom, my sister-in-law, is--shall we say--LESS than impressed with nicky's newly expanded vocabulary.

hence the trouble.

honestly, i'm having trouble feeling repentant. i love these kids, and (don't tell the rest of the family) when i visit calgary, it's really them i'm going to see. and if some of my twisted sense of humor and outlook on life can get passed down to their little lives, then no one would be happier than me. this is, after all, the nephew who played with a little 'Finding Nemo' toy that laughed to the distraction of everyone in the family, because the toy's laugh reminded him of mine.

he remembers me because of the laughter we share. what an amazing life i have. doghouse or not.



(it's funny how sometimes things in life collide with beautiful and random unpredictability.)

i talked with a friend today about the devotions we're doing ultimately as a church, but more immediately as a small group. my friend made the comment that we'll need to make sure we do them, so that we're not looked at as slackers by the others in the group.

while i laughed, it made me wonder how often in life we do the right things with the wrong motives...or more accurately how often i have done this. i will admit, more often than not, even to myself, i am a paradox.

then i remembered something i had read in richard foster's book entitled 'prayer'. while this is primarily about prayer, it encompasses most, if not all of life.

"The truth of the matter is, we all come to prayer with a tangled mass of motives--altruistic and selfish, merciful and hateful, loving and bitter. Frankly, this side of eternity we will never unravel the good from the bad, the pure from the impure. But what i have come to see is that God is big enough to receive us with all our mixture. We do not have to be bright, or pure, or filled with faith, or anything. That is what grace means, and not only are we saved by grace, we live by it as well."

the perfectionist streak in me makes me want to get it all together before i set about to accomplish. 'it would make it all better,' i spend too much time rationalizing, 'if i did it in my own power'. but all these years have proven that this will never happen on its own.


so, God, in his great mercy, as richard so eloquently points out, has made a way even in the midst of my motive/perfectionist quandry. my only responsibility is to let go of how it "should" be, and surrender myself to those unconstrained rhythms of grace.




last night brennan manning's 'the ragamuffin gospel' brought out an interesting question at our reading group. "can grace be taken too lightly, too flippantly?" i know it can, because i have sat there, in the cheap seats more times than i'd like to admit.

the discussion that came from this question was a good one...the reason i wanted to start a reading group in the first place.

it really is easy to take grace too lightly in the north american suburban church community. we have everything we need, and if we don't have it today, all we need to do is jump online, order it, and it can be here tomorrow. we have access to more than we'll ever need. our government works to ensure our rights are protected [ :-) ], our homes work hard to shelter us from the elements, we work hard to earn the paycheques that keep us from needing anyone else's help and to keep all the balls we have in the air from falling for lack of resources. aside from the aching feeling of emptiness inside, which could be filled temporarily with the right new toy, what real need to we have for God?

even in ministry. the point was brought up that we have everything we need to make a successful youth event or church service go without 'resorting' to prayer. we have the games, the knowledge, the talented people, the planning ability...if we don't have time to call on God, we can still have a pretty decent event.

contrast this with churches in poland and ukraine who have such an incredible passion for seeking God in prayer...a passion lacking here. they seek God because he is all they have. they know that without him, there is nothing else. because it's true.

a lot of the time it seems like we seek God because it is the polite thing to do. we are in his house after all, we should at least acknowledge his existence. when in reality, all that we have in the way of resources, possessions, whatever, truly is nothing, but we're so busy convincing ourselves that it's something and patting ourselves on the back that we don't need anyone else, that we forget how much we need God and God alone.

who is better off?



listening: elizabethtown soundtrack, david gray, james blunt
reading: ragamuffin gospel, the historian

wow, it's been over a month since i sat at my parent's computer & wrote the last entry. i'd use some overworn cliche like 'time flies when you're having fun', but the reality is that time flies no matter what you're doing. the past month hasn't been all fun.

leaving calgary was hard for some reason this time. then i got sick for two weeks. and there's the ongoing stress that sometimes seems relentless.

but in the midst of the bad, come moments of brilliance. spending time with the fam & getting to michigan to see angie. after months of reading & deliberating FINALLY booking my trip to paris (yes, to all who thought it would never happen...i leave on may 7!). actually getting a car (still having a hard time wrapping my mind around my newfound mobility). getting to see a concept i worked on for months hanging in the worship centre & getting carried around by hundreds of people.

i feel as though i have wasted so much of my life waiting for ... something. like chantal kreviazuk's song 'time', "i should have known better/i shouldn't have wasted those days/and afternoons and mornings i threw them all away." no more. i'm done waiting.

i'm going to paris. i'm going to write the book. i'm going to take a chance.

here i come.

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