12.31.2009

the end

ah, the last day of the year.

this is a bittersweet day to me, this turning of the final page on one calendar year while simultaneously cracking open a new one. saying goodbye to a year that went by so incredibly fast, while looking forward in anticipation of what the new one will bring.

and tonight, i get to spend the last night of the decade with my whole family. there will be much food, laughter, game playing and good times.

i know i haven't written much in this last week of the new year. my writing schedule has been blown to oblivion with this vacation. when i get home, i promise things will be back to normal.


instead of wishing you a happy new year tonight, i am going to wish you a joy-filled one. happiness is fleeting, but joy reaches down and transforms the soul.


so whatever you are doing to ring in the new year, i wish you, and all you love, much joy.

see you next year.

recommended reading

i love recommended reading lists. so how could i not do one of my own?! check back often, as i'm just beginning this list.

fiction
the book thief | markus zuzak
if you could see me now | cecelia ahern
winter solstice | rosamunde pilcher


non-fiction
the divine commodity | skye jethani


biography/memoirs

my life in france
| by julia child
take this bread | by sara miles

12.24.2009

home

today, at 5:55 pm i am flying to calgary, alberta.

i have never lived in calgary, nor anywhere west of windsor, ontario actually. but since the parents, the three brothers, and their families have migrated their lives distinctly westward, this place where i have never lived is the home in 'i'll be home for christmas'.

there is a slight weirdness whenever i am asked when i am going home, since for the last eleven years, i have lived in mississauga, effectually making here home as well. when i am tired at the end of the day, this address in streetsville is my last stop at night.

and yet, tomorrow, westjet airlines gets to take me home. to see mom and dad. the siblings. the niece and all the nephews. to laughter. to friends.

home.

wherever you find yourself over the next few days, i wish you much peace, joy, laughter and love as we celebrate the arrival of a tiny baby who left his home, so we could ultimately be at home with our Father.

i found this beauty of a poem by g. k. chesterton that i didn't even know existed. enjoy!

the house of christmas
by g. k. chesterton

there fared a mother driven forth
out of an inn to roam;
in the place where she was homeless
all men are at home.
the crazy stable close at hand,
with shaking timber and shifting sand,
grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
than the square stones of rome.

for men are homesick in their homes,
and strangers under the sun,
and they lay on their heads in a foreign land
whenever the day is done.
here we have battle and blazing eyes,
and chance and honour and high surprise,
but our homes are under miraculous skies
where the yule tale was begun.

a child in a foul stable,
where the beasts feed and foam;
only where he was homeless
are you and i at home;
we have hands that fashion and heads that know,
but our hearts we lost - how long ago!
in a place no chart nor ship can show
under the sky's dome.

this world is wild as an old wives' tale,
and strange the plain things are,
the earth is enough and the air is enough
for our wonder and our war;
but our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
and our peace is put in impossible things
where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
round an incredible star.

to an open house in the evening
home shall men come,
to an older place than eden
and a taller town than rome.
to the end of the way of the wandering star,
to the things that cannot be and that are,
to the place where God was homeless
and all men are at home.


merry christmas eve!

12.23.2009

almost

tomorrow is get on a plane day.

i'd like to be able to say that i am packed and ready to go. it would be super to tell you that there are not still two empty suitcases sitting on my bedroom floor, or that i've already gotten out my passport and everything else that will be necessary for the journey.

but that would be a lie.

so, after work tonight, i have got some things to do.

but while i have ignored the practical side of my life, my advent reading journey has continued. this gem from WinterSong: Christmas Readings made my heart smile, and i hope it does the same for you...
the first-born light
by madeleine l'engle

the Maker's hand flung stars across the night
with angels bursting forth from galaxies
new music singing from the spheres in harmonies
that blessed the dancing of the first-born light.

and then the light was darkened by an earth
dimmed by torn dreams, saddened by shrill pride.
stars faded, lost their story, and died.
the dance distorted in strange lies and anger.
love's hand again was lifted. in a manger
again the Maker of the stars gave birth.

merry christmas eve's eve

12.22.2009

unreasonable

for the most part, i think i am a fairly reasonable person. or at the very least, i fancy myself so.

but after reading this poem from WinterSong: Christmas Readings i have to wonder if my reasonability leaves room for the miraculous and the wonder-filled.
after annunciation
by madeleine l'engle

this is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
had mary been filled with reason
there'd have been no room for the child.

merry christmas eve's eve's eve

12.21.2009

still waiting...

the beginning of the week of christmas always seems like the longest of the year for me, this year especially so.

here we are on monday, still three days, ten hours and 42 minutes until i get on a plane and head towards the family, still four days until christmas itself, and i get to see the whole family, and these few days feel like an eternity.

it's not like i don't have anything to do over these next few days... there are some rather demanding projects at work that will clamor for my attention. some unwrapped presents for little ones are still waiting to be wrapped. friends i want to celebrate the season with over a caramel brulee americano. one present that i am still waiting for {gulp!} not to mention the two very empty suitcases sitting in my bedroom.

as i said, so much to do, and yet all i can think of is finally being with all my family on christmas day.

and so, i wait.

this advent season, i have had the great joy of being accompanied by the words of two women that i have admired for years. madeliene l'engle and luci shaw's WinterSong: Christmas Readings has been a gift, and, truth be told, is helping me wait in beauty.

this poem, by madeleine l'engle, i read last night, and is perfect for both the season, as well as this winter solstice day...

Into the darkest hour
by madeleine l'engle

It was a time like this,
war & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss—
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.

It was a time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight—
and yet the Prince of bliss
came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.

And in a time like this
how celebrate is birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.
merry christmas eve's eve's eve's eve

12.19.2009

christmas miracle!

i, and my friend barb have been looking for black christmas decorations since i put my tree up on october 31. it has been a fruitless search, and i had made peace with the navy blue bulbs that had been my second choice.

but yesterday, my friend lyndsay made my christmas miracle happen! black, shiny, perfect christmas decorations!

thank you, thank you, my friend!

unplanned

a few weeks ago, when i booked today off as a vacation day, never did i suspect that i would end up spending it as i did.

after staying up until after midnight baking pumpkin pies & tarts, i got a slower start to my day that i had planned. but the purpose of taking the day off was so that i could leisurely get ready for my annual chicks only christmas party. that was the plan until...

as i began vacuuming this morning, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye, and to make an ugly story short, it was a mouse. not Mickey, whom i would have welcomed, but one of his way too rodent-like relatives that would never have been invited, had i had a say in the matter.

so, the next seven hours were spent going through my home in an effort to find all my unwelcomed intruder's 'nests'. and he had a couple doozies. so i spent the majority of my day cleaning up mouse poo and throwing away things that the mouse pooed on.

today has been a sucky ending to an hard week. and somewhere in the midst of cleaning up after my messy houseguest, i was reminded that on monday of this week, based on my devotions, i prayed for humility. and did God ever answer my prayer. i have been humbled emotionally, relationally, spiritually, and now environmentally this week.

as much as until the critter is caught and out of my home, i refuse to laugh about it {and there is a part of me that questions whether it is possible even when it is over}, this reminder that my home and possessions are really not mine, but under God's ownership is something that i need to keep first and foremost in my mind. i am not the owner of the things in my possession. i am merely the steward. so, until i can laugh about it, as friends say i will, this realization will have to suffice.

there's just one more thing, though... how does one actually fall asleep with a mouse in their home?

12.16.2009

seeing

i don't believe i have ever ridden a city's metro system and not heard strains of music from a musician playing within the subway system. paris. kiev. london. toronto. it doesn't matter where you are, the underground seems to call musicians to be the soundtrack for commuters.

in my travels, however, i don't seem to recall ever not quickly walking past these rush hour artists in an effort to get where i was going, even when i was on vacation. perhaps it is the nature of a metro station that makes loitering for any reason seem vaguely wrong.

much like the 'tree falling in the woods and no one hearing it' question, i ran across this article in the washington post online about whether or not commuters would stop and listen if a world-renowned violinist was the one providing their transit melodies.

violinist joshua bell, who shortly before this experiment, played at symphony hall in boston for no less than $100 a seat. but on a friday morning last january, donned in some rather banal attire and accompanied by his stradivarius, he set himself up in washington's l'enfant plaza station beside a trash basket, and gave what should have been an amazing gift to all who passed by.

the article goes on to say that very few of that morning's commuters had any clue that the music that they could not help but hear was played by a master. most rushed past in an effort to get on with their day.
earth's crammed with heaven,
and every common bush afire with God;
but only he who sees,
takes off his shoes—
the rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

elizabeth barrett browning
it makes me wonder how many amazing moments i rush past in my efforts to live life. would i, on that cold friday morning, have been one of the few who recognized the strains of genius, and in essence, taken off my shoes, or would i have been one of the many unseeing crowd, rushing off to whatever else? i fear that the answer is not the one i would want it to be.

* * * * *

God, open my eyes and ears to the extraordinary moments of life, however small they are. let me not be in such a rush to live my life that i forget that, as frederick buechner said, "all moments are key moments and life itself is grace."

12.14.2009

o come

for years, my favorite christmas song has been steven curtis chapman's o come, o come emmanuel. even when the calendar wasn't turned to december, there is something about the opening piano strains that calm my heart even in the most frustrating of times.

then last year, rosie thomas came out with a very rosie christmas, and this holiday season, as i have listened to this gem more and more, the SCC version of o come has been dethroned by dear rosie's.

i am not even sure if i can adequately explain why. there is something entirely magical about the song. from the first moment, when rosie begins singing in her perfect, perfect voice, i close my eyes, and for a few moments, regardless of what else is happening around me, i let my heart believe that anything can happen.

the frustrations can fade.

the miracle can happen.

the loneliness becomes solitude.

the impossible seems less so.

i don't know where you find yourself in this christmas season, but regardless of individual situations, i think we could all use a little more belief in the miraculous.

and if we cannot find it in the celebration of a baby come to save the world, can it be found anywhere?

12.11.2009

a single thing

it's not a surprise that in my love of books, i also love to introduce others to those books that i have loved and want to share. but sometimes, in my exuberance, i will lend one out that i haven't even yet finished, in an attempt to prolong the enjoyment of the book. unfortunately, every once in a while, it does bite me in the butt, and i don't get that book back.

one book that is living this sad tale is rilke's book of hours. it is a book of love poems/prayers to God, and i have quoted it many times before here, and i am sure to quote it again and again, even if i don't currently have a copy right now.

this morning in my devotions, i was writing about the dichotomy i too often have between those things that i proclaim to believe, and how my actions tell a different story as to what i REALLY believe. when the time came to pray, i was reminded by this line from one of rilke's poems in the book of hours,
i yearn... to be contained in an all-embracing mind that sees me as a single thing...
this is my prayer today. i want to be seen from God's view as a single thing.

and for your own enjoyment, i will share with you the rest of ranier maria rilke's brillian poem, which i had written out in my journal. enjoy!

i am praying again, awesome one.

you hear me again, as words
from the depths of me
rush toward you in the wind.

i've been scattered in pieces
torn by conflict,
mocked by laughter,
washed down in drink.

in alleyways i sweep myself up
out of garbage and broken glass.
with my half-mouth i stammer you,
who are eternal in your symmetry.
i lift to you my half-hands
in wordless beseeching, that i may find again
the eyes with which i once beheld you.

i am a house gutted by fire
where only the guilty sometimes sleep
before the punishment that devours them
hounds them out into the open.

i am a city by the sea
sinking into a toxic tide.
i am strange to myself as though some unknown
had poisoned my mother as she carried me.

it is here in all the pieces of my shame
that i now find myself again.
i yearn to belong to something, to be contained
in an all-embracing mind that sees me
as a single thing.
i yearn to be held
in the great hands of your heart—
oh let them take me now.

into them i place these fragments, my life,
and you, God— spend them however you want.

12.10.2009

to hope...




to hope means to be ready at every moment for that which is not yet born, and yet not become desperate if there is no birth in our lifetime. | emily dickinson


12.07.2009

waiting

it is advent again. the season of waiting. this year it seems as though i am feeling the things i am waiting for much more acutely than others.

waiting for a friend to heal and finally be able to leave the hospital after over two months. waiting for promises that somehow seem to never be fulfilled. waiting...

but what i am most waiting for is for 5:55 pm on thursday, dec 24, when i will get on a plane and finally be on the way to see my family, most of whom i have not seen since i got on a plane in calgary 340 days ago. it has been a very long year, and i am waiting.

less than patiently, to be honest.

why it is waiting seems easier when we realize we are not alone in it?

* * * * *

we wait for you to ache

with the energy we have,
we begin the day,
waiting and watching and hoping.

we wait,
not clear about our waiting.
but filled with a restlessness,
daring to imagine
that you are not finished yet —
so we wait,
patiently, impatiently,
restlessly, confidently,
quaking and fearful,
boldly and daring.

your sovereign decree stands clear
and we do not doubt.
we wait for you to dissolve in tender tears.
your impervious rule takes not prisoners,
we wait for you to ache and hurt and care over us
and with us
and beyond us.
cry with us the brutality
grieve with us the misery
tremble with us the poverty and hurt.
attend to us — by attending in power and in mercy.
remake this alien world into our proper home.

we pray in the name of the utterly homeless one,
even Jesus.

amen.

12.04.2009

applause



righteousness is given
through faith in Jesus Christ
to all who believe. |
romans 3:22



this past sunday we had our children's musical at PORTICO, and while kid's events are not where i generally get my entertainment, i have to say it was an enjoyable experience. everyone involved did a fantastic job.

my favorite part of the presentation, however, was one that no one actually planned for. at the beginning, after everyone had been welcomed and introductions had been done, just as the lights went down for the presentation to begin, something strange happened.

as the side stage door opened, and children started walking through the semi-darkness to their places, parents started applauding. then more parents, and pretty soon, everyone was applauding. these kids hadn't done a thing but show up and walk through a door. yet here they were, already being celebrated.

my naturally cynical bent initially chuckled at the craziness of it... applause simply for being there? but just as fast as my chuckle bubbled up, the words i had read from romans that morning exploded in my head. "righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe..."

all we have to do is believe.

we are not made right with God through our actions. through keeping a set of rules. by behaving in an acceptable manner. not even by going to church and reading the bible. all we have to do is believe.

all we have to do is show up.

and God applauds our showing up by making us righteous and whole and his.

how crazy and perfect is that?

12.01.2009

Christmas 2009 Blog Tour

The Christmas Dog
i will admit, i am a sucker for a good Christmas story, and during this season when there is so much demanding time, energy and focus, who couldn't use a good, holiday spirit invoking story to help relax?

betty kowalski's life has turned into a boring, predictable routine. the only 'excitement' she has are the frustratingly unpleasant run-ins with her equally unpleasant neighbor, with whom she fears the worst. with a goal to survive the holidays alone, then decide what to do afterward, she is a woman without a lot of hope.

but for a woman who isn't expecting much, there seems to always be someone at her door. first a dog, then others, each lost and alone in their own way, and all looking for something that eludes them.

The Christmas Dog is a charming Christmas story that i read in an afternoon. and at the risk of sounding sappy, i will say that it is a story that reminds us that when we open our hearts to love, even if it is just a dog, you never know what will happen.

read an excerpt of The Christmas Dog here or by clicking on the book cover.



The Unfinished Gift
not being one for historical fiction, when i opened this book i was hoping that the 1943 setting was a prologue. but any misgivings i may have had quickly faded away as i was carried into this beautifully told story about three generations of men in the collins family.

the story opens with young patrick collins on his way to his grandfather's house. his father, a pilot, is on the other side of the world fighting in world war II, and his mother, having just died in a car crash, have left young patrick on his own. his only living relative is ian collins, a grandfather he doesn't know, who alienated himself from his son's family years ago, after his own wife's death. a grandfather who has more anger and bitterness than young patrick can hope to understand.

through a series of bad-to-worse events, patrick's grandfather discovers some letters never meant for his eyes that open his heart and help him see where he's been wrong for years. but is it too little too late, when it looks like he's driven off everyone who has ever loved him?

The Unfinished Gift was a perfect Christmas read. it was one of the few historical fiction pieces that i truly didn't want to end... except of course for a happy ending!

read an excerpt of The Unfinished Gift here or click on the book cover.



Finding Christmas
and finally, i haven't had the pleasure of reading Finding Christmas yet, but thought i would share an excerpt from this book as well. enjoy.








All three books are available at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

happy december


from december to march,
there are for many of us three gardens— the garden outdoors,
the garden of pots and bowls
in the house, and the garden of
the mind's eye. |
katherine s. white

...and for many {myself included} there is the garden of the unreal, which, blissfully, we cannot kill.

happy december!

11.26.2009

coffee



a cup of coffee—real coffee— home-browned, home ground, home made, that comes to you dark as a hazel-eye, but changes to a golden bronze as you temper it with cream that never cheated, but was real cream from its birth, thick, tenderly yellow, perfectly sweet, neither lumpy nor frothing on the java: such a cup of coffee is a match for twenty blue devils and will exorcise them all. |
henry ward beecher


i think he takes his coffee as seriously as i do... maybe a bit more!



photo taken at a starbucks
on the boulevard saint-michel, paris, may 2006



11.24.2009

moments

i don't know about you, but there are a few moments every day, that for me are the epitome of near perfection. they are small moments that make me happy and so grateful for the life that i have been granted.

one such moment is just before i fall asleep, especially when i have the time to enjoy the process. i am not one of those people who put their head on the pillow and find themselves immediately asleep. i've never had such super-human ability, and envy those who have the gift. no, instead, falling asleep for me is a process, usually including a book.

but my very favorite part is just after i've gotten into bed, and the realization that for at least the next however many hours, i have nothing to do but sleep. i find such luxury in that moment. to me, it is pure bliss.

there is another one, that given the fact that it might be considered too much information, i won't mention here. perhaps i will post it in the comments. then it's up to you whether or not you want to take the chance!

but i wonder, what is your favorite moment of the day?

feel free to leave a comment. and if your favorite moment is personal, then feel free to remain anonymous!

11.23.2009

remembering

as i was doing this morning's life journal reading, i came across some words of Jesus that seemed to jump off the page at me.

let me set the stage. in the days preceding this, Jesus fed the five thousand. a few days later, Jesus fed another four thousand. i don't know about you, but i am not sure that i ever realized before how closely these two meals happened. and then, at the beginning of Matthew chapter 16, there was yet another run in with the pharisees. this time they demanded that Jesus show them a sign to prove his authority.

Matthew continues the story...
Later, after they crossed to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring any bread. "Watch out!" Jesus warned them. "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn't brought any bread.
Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, "You have so little faith! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread? Don't you understand even yet? Don't you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? Or the 4,000 I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up? Why can't you understand that I'm not talking about bread? So again I say, `Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.'"

Then at last they understood that he wasn't speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
{Matthew 16:5-12}
don't you remember? it was only days ago when Jesus fed the first group, and even less days since he fed a larger group with more food, and here, the disciples' minds are so wrapped up in the immediacy of what they consider the priority, they completely miss what Jesus is telling them.

don't you remember? i can hardly fault the disciples here, because of the countless times i have forgotten all the ways that God has provided for me in the midst of a struggle or need. like this past summer, before the missions trip to Poland, when financial support was late in coming, i spent way too much time focusing on what i didn't have, and human ways to remedy it... even though i have years of experience and six missions trips with Global 180 where God has always provided.

don't you remember? we don't need to remember God's faithfulness when everything is going well. it seems during those times, our 'remember muscle' works just fine. it gets weak when we've been waiting... for healing, for the answer to prayer that seems so impossible, for those things we're almost too afraid to actually utter in prayer for fear that our hearts may break.

but this is when we most need to remember. this is when i most need to remember all the God has done for me throughout my life.

don't you remember?

11.20.2009

gates of hell




man enjoys living on the edge of his dreams
and neglects the real things of the world
which are so beautiful.
the ignorant and indifferent
destroy beautiful things
merely by looking at them.
[things that] remake the soul of him
who understands them. |
auguste rodin







i took this photo of auguste rodin's the gates of hell at the rodin museum gardens in paris in march of 2008. in an effort to get the sculpture without people in front of it, i waited. and waited. and waited! these three people, who were not together, simply wouldn't leave. then suddenly there was this moment when they were all standing right in front of it looking up, as the three shades on the top of the sculpture were looking down at them. i couldn't resist myself.

11.19.2009

enigma

   enigma |iˈnigmə|
   noun ( pl. -mas or -mata |-mətə|)
   a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand.
     • a riddle or paradox.

we're in the process of starting a new venue at PORTICO, and last night we had the first town hall meeting to see who would be interested in helping start up the new venue. i find the whole process and the anticipation of the outcome exciting. to be part of something great from the beginning is always pretty amazing.

when jeff asked those of us in the meeting which evening we'd be more interested in the venue happening, between saturday or sunday, only one hand went up for saturday: mine. so on the way home, sharon asked me why i was interested in saturday, and at first, i really wasn't sure how to answer her.

the truth is, i am an enigma, sometimes even to myself.

i am a girl who needs to live in a large city, but loves the small town feel of the area i live in.

personality-wise, i am split right down the middle: half sanguine {generally light-hearted, funloving, a people person, loves to entertain, spontaneous, and confident} and half melancholic {thoughtful ponderer, highly creative, depressed, perfectionist, often a loner and chooses to stay alone and reflect}.

when i am alone, i wish i was out with people. when out with people, i wish i was alone.

so i guess it is no surprise that when it comes to my home church, the oddity continues...

i love PORTICO, including its size, but i am never fully comfortable in a large crowd of people. which is why i think a smaller venue with a completely different feel is appealing. and i won't even get into the fact that i love the non-traditional, non-sunday element.

we all, i suppose, have our enigmatic moments. whether or not we pay attention to them is probably another story entirely.

what is an enigmatic facet of your life? share them with me so i can feel more normal. which is an odd thing to ask, because i hate being normal... good grief.

11.16.2009

laugh






every day is a fresh beginning,
every morn is the world made new. | sarah chauncey woolsey





it's monday, and truth be told, i am tired. i'm really not sure why i've been so tired lately, discounting, of course, last thursday evening's visit back to my teenage years!

this fall season has gone by so quickly, it's been quite crazy. last night at PORTICO, we said goodbye to phil and marisa aud, who are leaving us for a church in georgia. i'm really excited for them, i love new beginnings, and they really have waited so long for this, but they will definitely be missed. enjoy your adventure, my friends!

it's been 11 months since i have seen the majority of my family, and i am counting the days (38 days, 10 hours, 19 minutes) until my plane leaves. i'm so looking forward to spending a week with them, especially with my favorite little people... who are looking less and less like little people every day. one thing is certain, i will laugh. just look at that picture! how could you not laugh with such awesomeness happening just for your entertainment?!


so, no matter what this week holds, enjoy it. and don't forget to laugh!

11.12.2009

art





art, like morality,
consists in drawing the line
somewhere. | g.k. chesterton

11.11.2009

cathedrals


in the shadows of tall buildings
of fallen angels on the ceilings
oily feathers in bronze and concrete
faded colors, pieces left incomplete
the line moves slowly past the electric fence
across the borders between continents

in the cathedrals of new york and rome
there is a feeling that you should just go home
and spend a lifetime finding out
just where that is |
joan osborne, cathedrals

11.10.2009

right now: francis chan & donald miller

francis chan
  • there has been a twisting of scripture to attempt to keep what we want in life.
  • you cannot have the 'american dream' and follow Jesus— they cannot be reconciled; they cannot co-exist.
  • we have redefined obedience: say a father were to ask his child to clean his room. two hours later the child returns and when the father asks if his room is cleaned, the child replies that he didn't do it, but he did memorize what the father asked him to so... not really going to fly in that situation.
  • 1 Peter 4:12 "Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you."
  • we need to not be surprised at the trials and trouble in our lives.
  • 1 Peter 5:8 "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour."
  • while we may want to get angry and fight with those creating division and conflict in our lives, we need to respond with grace.
  • God is the 'God of all grace' {1 Peter 5:10 "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."}
  • when we suffer with Christ, there is a fellowship; a sharing
  • we don't need a comforter when we are comfortable.

donald miller
  • kids growing up without dads are 70% more likely to commit suicide or drop out of school; girls are more likely to get pregnant.
  • forgiveness = taking the burden of what someone has done to you without holding them responsible.
  • God designed us to be interdependent with him; then sin happened, so we are here on earth fatherless, on a journey back to him.
  • Matthew 6:6, "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen."
  • Jesus calling God 'Father' here is radically disrupting the people's religious paradigm; this is the God who Moses himself couldn't even look at!
  • 70% of atheists think that the church should answer the call of fatherlessness in our society.
  • calling men into relational ministry is difficult.
  • when boys grow up without dads, they become oppressors.
  • when girls grow up without dads, they become victims.
  • every crap thing that happens to you is a chance for you to get stronger.

11.09.2009

right now: george barna

i had the privilege of attending the right now conference simulcast at PORTICO last weekend. there were only about 17 of us, but those who stuck to the end all agreed that for $10 and the amazing speakers, there really should have been more people there.

here are my notes from the first session, what i learned from master leaders by george barna. i missed the first half of his talk as i was doing registration, but i still have copious notes.

  • a leader's job is to help people understand and make sense of reality.
  • there is a difference between teaching and leadership; too many people with the gift of teaching/preaching confuse it with the God-given gift of leadership.
leadership checkpoints:

1. leaders can change reality, but they cannot change people.
  • if people don't have the desire an will to change themselves, they will not.
  • once a person reaches the age of 13, they change very little.
  • our best strategy is to work with who people are, who God has created them to be.
  • if you are absolutely committed to changing lives, work with children.

2. nobody is the complete leadership package, so it's important to work as part of a leadership team.
  • there is a fine line between arrogance and self conficence.
  • great leadership teams are: small in numbers (4-6); spend time together, know each other; have shared vision, values and passion; are vulnerable and communicate with each other; strive to empower people.

3. the most undervalued and overlooked skill a leader needs is listening.
  • it takes practice and discipline to know how to listen properly.
  • we need to seriously evaluate how good we are at listening.
  • do the people i work with feel safe to tell me what is on their mind?

4. leaders must master handling conflict and confrontation.
  • we must normalize conflict.
  • when you sense something happening, seize the initiative and address it.
  • know the facts and understand the facets of the situation.
  • position yourself as a friend and not a foe of those involved.
  • be sure to ask clarifying questioning and listen to answers.
  • seek a win-win outcome.
  • the goal is to solve the problem, not win the fight.
  • sometimes you have to create conflict within your team.
  • leaders bring danger with them, beause they seek the truth.
  • do people appreciate my leadership because it is safe or because i make them uncomfortable and challenge them?

5. what is success?
  • you get what you measure (eg. attendance, $, programs, building)
  • success is helping people achieve their potential in Christ.
  • great leadership is not synonymous with popularity.
  • never ask people following you to do what you yourself would not do.

6. do not accept a leadership position unless you are willing to pay a steep price.
  • great leaders are identifiable by their passion for truth and justice, but this will make people uncomfortable and make some enemies.
  • pressure purifies and prepares you for a higher calling.
  • two kinds of pressure: internal and eternal.
  • ignore external pressure.
  • pay attention to internal pressure, it is more real.
Foundation for handling pressure:
  • lean on God for strength and encouragement.
  • examine motivations for leading, be honest with hwo you are an why you are leading; what are your convictions?
  • rely on your close family and friends for honesty and feedback.

Remember...

  • people need to be led.
  • leading isn't a job, it's a calling of God.
  • success = partnering with God to see lived changed.

11.08.2009

sabbath


a great benefit of sabbath keeping is that we learn to let God take care of us— not by becoming passive and lazy, but in the freedom of giving up our feeble attempts to be god in our own lives. |
marva j. dawn

11.07.2009

the road


the road goes ever on and on
down from the door where it began.
now far ahead the road has gone
and i must follow, if i can,
pursuing it with eager feet,
until it joins some larger way
where many paths and errands meet.
and whither then?
i cannot say. | j.r.r. tolkien

11.06.2009

november



how did it get so late so soon?
it's night before it's afternoon.
december is here before it's june.
my goodness how the time has flewn.
how did it get so late so soon? |
dr. seuss



11.03.2009

granted or gratitude


i don't know about you, but contentment can be the most elusive thing in the world for me. it is one of my most basic struggles. one of the biggest ways i struggle with contentment is always wanting to be in paris. it doesn't matter what day it is or what i am doing, if you ask me at any moment in life where i want to be, i can pretty much guarantee you that the answer would be the city of lights.

there are different ways of coping with things... the weapon of choice in the phaneuf family has almost always been humor.

how i love my family!

when it comes to life
the critical thing is whether
you take things for granted
or take them with gratitude. |
g.k. chesterton


p.s. the picture is a product of staying after work for the Book of Acts class, wanting to be in paris, and having eaten too many gummy bears in one sitting...

11.01.2009

dressed


my plans for yesterday didn't quite go as i had hoped. i only got the tree out of storage. but today, i got to make it pretty. it's not quite finished yet, i still have to get some silver tinsel. i haven't used the blue/silver decorations in years, and only decided to do so this year, because the tree shares the top of my cedar chest with a silver Eiffel Tower. so, i couldn't being myself to use the the gold/bronze/dark red combination this year. sometimes i can hardly live with myself!

he who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree. | roy l. smith

rest



"take rest; a field that has rested
gives a bountiful crop." |
ovid

10.30.2009

merry early

christmas has arrived early in my world.

10.28.2009

stress and poetry

have you ever volunteered to do something, and then end up questioning the supposed wisdom of that decision?

that is where i am today. i volunteered to write the script for the the opening of the One Hope Benefit Concert video at PORTICO, and now, having already been up for hours working on this thing yet again, it seems no closer to being done.

the voices telling me that it cannot be done are working overtime.

you've never written a video script before.
what were you thinking?
you've never written anything decent in a two week period.
what makes you think you can do this?

this sucks. do you really want to show it to someone else?

like i said, working overtime... but i am pressing on.

in the midst of my research, however, i did find this gem that is becoming my chorus for the day. i hope you enjoy it as much as i am...

love the earth and sun and amimals,
despise riches, give alms to everyone who asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labor to others...
and your very flesh shall be a great poem.
| walt whitman

10.27.2009

i know nothing


the more i read, the more i meditate; and the more i acquire, the more i am enabled to affirm that i know nothing. | voltaire

10.26.2009

silence

we need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness.
God is the friend of silence. see how nature— trees, flowers, grass—
grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... we need silence to be able to touch souls.
|
mother teresa

10.21.2009

nine things that make me happy


any book by cecelia ahern. having read almost every book that ms. ahern has written, i was super excited to get her newest book, the book of tomorrow, from the UK. given my propensity for reading ridiculously fast, i am gloriously taking this one slow.

chocolat-banane tarte from Brioche Doree. sadly, these amazing little tartes can only be purchased in paris, at one of my favorite stops while wandering the city. i had read about them in a couple of different tour books before i went on my first visit, and make sure i have one every time i go back.

whimsical washroom characters. i LOVE our new PORTICO washroom characters (and the signs they are on). they are playful and quirky and make me happy every time i see them.

my christmas tree. only nine more sleeps until i put my christmas tree up! it is my annual, october 31 tradition. you may think it is insane, but given that i live alone, and am gone for most of the day, in order for my tree to feel as loved and appreciated as other christmas trees who may have more people in their home, i put mine up earlier. that way we both get the maximum amount of enjoyment.

airplane paperclips. i ordered these adorable clips from china, and they were worth the long, long wait to actually receive them.

fall. i think i've made it pretty clear that i love fall. i adore fall. the colors, the food, the sweaters, the grey, rainy days... bliss.

books i am reading. my friend phil commented (regarding my sickness-induced absence from blogging) that i cannot blog and blow my nose at the same time, but i can read 11 books. yes, it's true, all those books you see under 'reading right now', i am actually reading.

my 'assignment'. a while back, i gave myself the assignment of writing out passages of the Bible, in an effort to better understand and learn. at first, i will admit i was mildly skeptical, not thinking that it would be as powerful as it has turned out being. i'm writing out 1 John right now, and let me tell you, it is exceedingly challenging seeing John's words about loving other believers written by your own hand. it's been equally convicting and challenging, and a practice i plan on continuing.

and as always, paris. i'm living vicariously through two friends who are fortunate enough to find themselves in paris at some point this fall. i've been now twice in the spring, and fall is definitely the next time i want to go. perhaps 2010...

happiness


the happiness of life is made up of minute fractions—
the little soon-forgotten charities of a kiss or smile, a kind look,
a heartfelt compliment, and the countless infinitesimals
of pleasurable and genial feeling. | samuel saylor coleridge

10.20.2009

existence

last night my small group began our journey through Timothy Keller's The Prodigal God. i believe that this is the first time any of us have read the book, at least of those who were sitting in my living room last night.

in his introduction, Keller says,
one of the signs that you may not grasp the unique, radical nature of the gospel is that you are certain you do.
as someone who has been on this Christ follower journey for the better part of 36 years, i have had more than my share of moments when i thought i had it all figured out. usually, these times of 'illumination' are followed by times when i crash and burn and realize the there is truly very little that i actually know or understand.

to make the point even stronger, i came across this quote by Buechner yesterday that seems to underscore what Keller has said...
it is as impossible for man to demonstrate existence of God as it would be for Sherlock Holmes to demonstrate the existence of Arthur Conan Doyle. {Frederick Buechner}
how brilliant is that?

10.19.2009

no room

i have a special love for the books of the Bible that John wrote. his poetic, artistic style of prose simply makes me happy.

back in august i told you about an assignment i'd given myself to write out parts of the Bible in an effort to better understand and live out what i believe. this past week i have been writing out the second chapter of 1 John.

1 John 2: 9-11 says,
those who claim to be in the light but hate a fellow believer are still in the darkness. those who love their fellow believers live in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. but those who hate a fellow believer are in the darkness and walk around in the darkness; they do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
now, i'm not much for math, but this equation seems pretty simple...

love fellow believers = light = no stumbling

hate fellow believers = darkness = blindness, disorientation, stumbling

according to John there are two possible responses to other Christians: love or hate. there is no room here for merely tolerating people. no middle ground to compensate for personalities that may clash with mine, those who have hurt me or people close to me, those i would rather simply go somewhere else. apparently it is all or nothing.

the decision is mine. do i stumble around in the darkness, or will i walk in the light?

as a person who is hopelessly clumsy on the best and brightest of days, there is only one option...

10.13.2009

ick...


i am sick.

which is why i haven't written in a bit. apparently it is hard to write and blow your nose at the same time.

i will be back soon...

10.09.2009

hilarious...

i have always, and will forever remain, a lover of old fashioned, paper books.
although, i may not go this far...


10.08.2009

seeing

as much as i loved the angel's two questions from yesterday, my favorite part of Hagar's story happens at the end.

between the angel's instructions and Hagar's return to Abram and Sarai's house, there is sandwiched a verse that is brilliance.
She [Hagar] gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” {v. 13}
the God who sees me. this reminds me of a quote i first read in a book over a decade ago that has resonated in my soul since...
to me, one of the proofs that God's hand is behind and all throughout this marvelous book we know as the Bible is the way it continually touches upon this very fear in us--the fear that we are so insignificant as to be forgotten. that we are nothing. unconsciously, his Word meets this fear, and answers it. {Amy Carmichael}
the majority of the self-imposed stupidity of my life happens because i forget that God sees me. i feel forgotten and insecure and insignificant, these feelings cause me to say the stupidest words, do the stupidest things.

the story is silent as to what happened when Hagar returns to Abram and Sarai. it says nothing of the reception she got when she walked back into the tent. no mention of whether or not the situation changed. this is all it says:
So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. {v. 15}
the only change was that Hagar had a new name for her God, and with this new name, came the realization that she was seen and heard.

how many self-induced problems would be eliminated if i could remember this...


10.07.2009

questions

yet another reason that i love my job: yesterday i was able to attend the Leading From A Healthy Soul one day conference.

Mark Buchanan, who wrote one of my favorite books, The Rest of God, opened the conference by talking about the story of Abram, Sarai and Hagar from Genesis 16. let me tell you about it...

God promises Abram that he will have a son and heirs as countless as the stars in the sky. Sarai doesn't get pregnant. Abram and Sarai get old. Sarai takes matters into her own hands. Abram doesn't object strongly enough. Enter Hagar, Sarai's maidservant, who is handed over from Sarai to Abram {which apparently worked back then}. Hagar gets pregnant, then treats Sarai with contempt. Sarai, no longer impressed with her solution, blames Abram, whose own solution is that Sarai can treat Hagar however she wants. Sarai treats Hagar like crap. Hagar runs away.

now you're caught up. this is where it gets good.

Hagar is out in the desert, when an angel appears and asks her two questions:
"Hagar, Sarai's servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?"
{v. 8}
* * * * *

at this point, Mr. Buchanan compared the angel's questions to that timeless classic, Monty Python's The Holy Grail. The old man standing at the bridge asking three questions to allow people to pass.

what is your name?
what is your quest?
what is your favorite color?

these questions deal with the core of who we are.

what is your name? / who are you? identity
what is your quest?/ where are you going? destiny
what is your favorite color? (obviously not asked by the angel) passion

* * * * *

back to the story. Hagar, only able to answer the first of the angel's questions, is sent back to the sucky situation. then, as if the return isn't bad enough, he has more good news, this time about the baby she is carrying,
This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives." {v. 12}
i'm not a mother, but i cannot imagine anyone getting too excited about this. you can pretty much feel the foreshadowing of parent/teacher conferences and other discipline issues settling around you with these words.

but despite this, Hagar focused on something different, which i'll write about tomorrow... {stay tuned!}

for now, i want to leave you with the angel's two questions, the same questions Mark asked those attending the conference. let them sink into your soul and don't rush the answers.

who are you?

where are you going?

10.06.2009

review: Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham

call me what you will, but i am always a bit wary whenever i pick up a book that is solely for women. as a single, never-been-married, never-had-a-child woman, it has been my experience that most books written solely for we of the fairer sex deal more in the realm of the wife and mother than simply being a woman, thus alienating anyone whose life path has taken them elsewhere.

marcus buckingham’s new book, finding your strongest life: what the happiest and most successful women do differently, was a happy kind of exception to that rule. while he does deal with these responsibilities, the principles that he lays out for living a strong life transcend external roles, and are as applicable in the boardroom as they are at starbucks with friends or in the family kitchen.

dealing with core issues that we face as humans, mr. buckingham’s book takes his reader on a journey of self-discovery, including finding direction for your life from the myriad of choices there are available and being true to yourself, whoever you are.

being an unashamed ‘test’ nerd, i loved the online strong life test, which quickly helps a woman determine the role she was born to play, advisor, caretaker, influencer, motivator, etc. the best part, however, was after taking the test, armed with what your lead and supporting roles, chapter seven explains them, providing examples of strongest moments and ways to expand that role in your life.

using examples of real women, find your strongest life is a good place to start for those looking to get out of the ruts we too easily find ourselves in. filled with useful information, mr. buckingham’s book can be a catalyst to your strongest life.

10.05.2009

voices

since grampa died, i have not been focused on writing as i was before. to be honest, it's been a very dry spell.

with this realization come the questions...

what if this crazy writer thing is just something that i desire, not something i actually am? what if all my dreams in this realm are merely illusions or worse…delusions? i read the words of others who move me, and realize that while i have things inside of me to say, i currently am not able to remove them from me. and that is what a writer needs to do… detach from themselves the words, angst, emotion, ideas, and smear them onto paper.

am i too lazy? do i not give my voice the opportunity to emerge? why is it far easier to stare at a screen, play solitaire or even clean than to wrestle with what is inside me to the point where it can come out and become an entity of its own?

and then, after what has been so firmly a part of you is down on paper {or the blogosphere}, it is subject to the world and all its opinions. to criticism, first from the unending critic inside of me, then to the world at large. do i want to subject this piece of myself to such hostility?

but the opposite is equally as unappealing as well. to sit alone in a room with all the unrealized words, dreams, thoughts, ideas living inside of me... making me feel that i am living only a shadow...

i write not because i want to, but because i have to.
“if you hear a voice within you saying, ''you are not a painter,'' then by all means paint… and that voice will be silenced.” {Vincent van Gogh}
i pray this works for writers as well...

10.02.2009

$4.16

i wasn't going to turn my computer on when i got home last night. it was almost 11 pm, and i had been at the church since 8:30 am, and wanted nothing more than to find myself fast asleep in the comfort of my bed.

but my growling stomach had other plans... so while i was waiting for the eggo waffle to toast, i hit the 'on' button, waited as my dinosaur home computer powered up, and checked my email.

while taking my first bite of the syrup-covered yumminess, i saw an email that i didn't expect.

* * * * *

let me backtrack to early august. willow creek's leadership summit, as always, introduced their audience to a number of people who are impacting the world in different ways. one of those people was jessica jackley, whose organization KIVA, helps connect people who have $25 they can spare to loan with people who need microfinancing to help get on their feet. KIVA's website explains what they do as, "KIVA lets you lend to a specific entrepreneur, empowering them to life themselves out of poverty."

so when i got home that night, i sat down at this same computer and donated my first $25 to a group of women in the dominican republic. hoping to inspire others, i even emailed a few friends to join me in the venture.

* * * * *

back to last night.

the email subject read, 'your KIVA credit is now ready for use'. to be honest, i had no idea what it was talking about, until i opened the email and saw that the group from the dominican republic had already made two payments on the loan they received, my share being $2.08 of each payment. hence the email, acknowledging my credit of $4.16, which i could either relend, withdraw or donate.

i don't know about you, but sometimes i find that the cynicism and pessimism about the world we live in is overwhelming. i don't think that i actually expected to see any of the investment i had originally made. but somehow, this $4.16, which in mississauga couldn't even buy you a happy meal at mcdonald's, makes me feel as though some of the more cynical parts of me were somehow being silenced.

i went to sleep content in the realization that you don't have to change the whole world, or write it off as hopeless... you only need to do whatever you can, and if you're really, really lucky, you get to do it again.

10.01.2009

october


happy october!

october is perhaps one of the happiest of months, as it is the entryway to all things fall and orange and gold and dark red and pumpkin.

to celebrate this joyous month, here is a poem capturing the essence of my most favorite of seasons.

october
by robert frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost--
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

9.29.2009

wasted

you know that tiny, nagging feeling that you get when something isn't exactly right? and try as you might, you cannot name the unrightness that you're feeling... it is hiding around some corner just beyond reach of your brain. finally, this morning i have been able to put a name to what has been haunting me.

my life is filled with people. those i work with, the ones i see at church on sunday, my small group on monday night, the baristas at starbucks, and everywhere in between. people of all walks of life with some of the most amazing stories you could imagine. some have faced loss that would have crippled someone else. some looking into the face of an illness or huge life obstacle, but who have still maintained the love and grace that would cause an outsider to believe nothing could be wrong in their lives.

fascinating, amazing people.

and yet, what i have noticed lately is a growing trend that when two or more people are talking, the most animated discussion tends to be about television, movies or some kind of celebrity faux pas. our most passionate discussions tend to be about people who don't exist... or who don't exist in our world.

the most disturbing part of this trend, to me, is that it is equally the same everywhere, from in line at starbucks, to the water cooler at work, to talk in the foyer after/before worship services on sunday morning. the question of the day seems to have migrated from, 'how are you?' to 'what did you watch?'

people are more than they-- or we-- watch on TV.

when our most passionate and animated conversations happen about Grey's Anatomy, LOST or SYTYCD, what is left for the actual people standing before us? if we use up our best brain power, our best social graces, our best words of praise for what is on a screen, what do we have to offer those who need us to grieve or rejoice or laugh with them? the real people.

what is there left when all our emotions are wasted on what doesn't really exist?

* * * * *

so, my friends, i'll ask you as i'm asking myself:
who are the most important people in your life?
do they know it?
does the rest of the world know it?
 

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