it's been a long time since i've shared some rilke beauty. given that the sky is darkening perfectly right now, i think tonight might be the night...


the sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,
one journeying to heaven, one that falls;

and leave you, not at home in either one,
not quite so still and dark as the darkened houses,
not calling to eternity with the passion of what becomes
a star each night, and rises;

and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel)
your life, with its immensity and fear,
so that, now bounded, now immeasurable,
it is alternately stone in you and star.
~by Ranier Maria Rilke
translated by Stephen Mitchell


last week i talked about the assignment i gave myself to write out parts of the bible with a goal to better understand and live it out. on the weekend i finished 2 Peter, and tonight i will begin with 1 John.

one thing that stuck with me from 2 Peter, however, was one little sentence that i am not even sure i've ever noticed before. it is in the second half of verse 19 of chapter 2, and it says this:
"for you are a slave to whatever controls you."

today was not a good day to know this verse. today i was a slave to frustration, and i will say that it wasn't pretty. whatever the reasons surrounding the frustration, i know that regardless of what happens around me, the only thing i have any control over is my reaction... except there was no control today. {did i mention that it wasn't pretty?}

but how many other things do we allow ourselves to become slaves to?

anger. money. approval. appetites. lust. fear.

the list could go on and on.

what is controlling you today?



i was just on rob bell's website and saw that his Drop Like Stars tour is coming to toronto next month. since i read the info on the site about the tour, i have been intrigued.

indeed, who would not be interested in a description like this:

we plot, we plan, we assume things are going to go
a certain way and then they don’t and we find ourselves
in a new place, a place we haven’t been before, a place
we never would have imagined on our own,

and so it was difficult and unexpected and maybe even
tragic and yet it opened us up and freed us to see
things in a whole new way

suffering does that—
it hurts,
but it also creates.

how many of the most significant moments in your
life came not because it all went right, but because
it all fell apart?

it’s strange how there can be art in the agony…

~from robbell.com

as much as i am not a fan of concert-type events, i think this one just might be worth it...



as usual, there are a number of books piling up beside my bed silently begging me that they be the next one i pick up. and, as you can see to the left, i am currently reading nine books at the moment. nine very different books, short stories, some memoirs, and some that are challenging the way i look at my life.

i think that nine {or possibly ten} is the limit of the number of books i will read at any given time. some people think i am insane for having so many on the go at the same time, but i once heard a brilliant statement that gave me the freedom to read the way that i do:
you wouldn't wait until the pickle jar was empty to open the olives, so why wait to open one book until another is finished?
i have no idea who said it or where i heard it, but it resonated within me, and stuck. {not to mention that i think whoever said it would have made an excellent friend to sit at starbucks and discuss life and books with.}

so, what are the next books... the ones that are tempting me to scurry through what i am currently enjoying, just so i can get to them? here are three of the most tempting...

the hole in our gospel, by richard stearns, is the first of the temptations. although i have read enough of the book, and enough reviews to know that it will not be an easy read, but without a doubt a necessary one. i have even pitched the idea to my small group that this be the book we study this fall.

the next is one that i've wanted for a while, and have seen quoted and talked about all over the blogosphere, and that is steven pressfield's the war of art. as someone who struggles daily with the need to be creative, sometimes on demand, i am looking forward to learning what so many others have been raving about.

finally, the last book i am looking forward to is one that i got for christmas last year, cecelia ahern's the gift. when i received this last christmas i already had a number of books on the go, so i didn't open it right away. back in june, i decided it was time, but given that the book begins on christmas day, the warm weather wasn't the right setting. so i had to hold off until fall was upon us, which it almost is!

so there you have the three books i am most itching to dive into...um... i'd better end this post now, because already four more have popped into my mind!

happy reading!

what do you want to read next?



last night was laundry night. in and of itself, this is not an extraordinary thing.

while i was waiting for the second to last load to dry, i sat at my desk detangling the thin fringe of one of my scarves, john waite's 'missing you' cued up on iTunes.

instantly i was transported back to my final year of high school, a wedding that i had gone to all those septembers ago... and the boy that i met at the wedding. more accurately, you could say that we 're-met' at the wedding.

his sister had become an instant friend at one of the baptist retreats that i frequented during my teenage years. and at some point, through her, i had met her brother, P. up until that wedding, i would have called him an acquaintance.

but how much can change in one innocent dance...

i will admit that in my earlier years, i could have been considered somewhat boy obsessed. but as i got closer to the end of my high school years, that had slowed down. one point that i have neglected to mention up to now, is that i actually was at the wedding with my friend K as my guest. he knew many of other guests, and we had fun whenever we were together. the truly amazing thing is that K and i were friends at all, as on my first day of high school, back in september of 1979, when i walked into kingsville district high school, K was the first boy that i fell in love with. somehow, over the years, a friendship emerged from the madness of my crush, and here we were at a wedding together.

and then there was P, the dance that changed everything... and the kiss.

could i even attempt to explain what happened between us on that dance floor? i don't think so, but it was there, and it was beautiful, and when he showed up at my door the next afternoon, tulips in hand, slightly crushed from their motorcycle journey, i knew that whatever it was, i was smitten.

but reality has a way of peeing all over the most fragile and heartfelt of our dreams.

P was leaving to go back to university in london.

this was before email, IMs and SMS. this was all happening firmly in the era of snail mail and rotary telephones. which meant that the magic, the whatever you want to call it, was over before it had a chance to begin. and, for a while, i grieved the loss of what could have been.

* * * * *

fast forward to 2009.

i am romantic enough to want to believe in love at first sight, but i will admit to being somewhat of a skeptic. perhaps, if i were to have not forgotten P and this memory, i wouldn't have been so quick to allow skepticism to win over my heart.

all this being said, apart from truly enjoying this blissful memory, i am a little saddened that it has been so long since i have thought of P and that magical evening.

how many other beautiful memories and people have gotten lost in the dusty recesses of my head?



familiarity can be both good and bad.

earlier this week i was reading in deuteronomy 17, where God was giving guidelines for the king. verses 18-20 read:
when he sits on the throne as king, he must copy these laws on a scroll for himself in the presence of the Levitical priests. he must always keep this copy of the law with him and read it daily as long as he lives. that way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of this law. this regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. it will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. this will ensure that he and his decendants will reign for many generations.
i will admit that my initial thought when i read this was almost laughter. you can just see it, the new king, all pumped up and ready to take the country and the world by storm, and the first thing on his agenda... is homework! {i can almost hear the echo of the royal 'are you kidding me?!'}

but the reasons given here for the king to be intimately familiar with the law are all the best ones possible. to fear God. to stay away from pride. to keep his heart where it needed to be.

when what you are familiar with is living and powerful and life-changing, familiarity is good.

it seems to me that we today need the word of God equally, and for the same reasons. we don't have to copy our own version of the law, given all the resources, both virtual and actual, that we have at our fingertips. bibles are available in every hotel room. i don't even have a clue as to how many different bibles i own myself. {none from hotels though!} and, to make matters worse, every time i log onto amazon.ca, they try to sell me yet another one! if accessibility alone was the key to holiness, i would surely be a saint.

unfortunately, having the word of God near you does not change anything. its power only comes when you open the book, becoming intimately acquainted with its words.

which leads me to the question that has been in the back of my mind for a day...

what are we more familiar with: the book, or what is in it?

in light of this question i cannot get out of my head, i've given myself an assignment. i am writing out parts of the bible, in an effort to become more familiar with parts i have not previously spent a great deal of time. i'm in 2 Peter right now, and i think i'll move into the Johns next.

not that i have any chance of ever becoming king... but with the reasons given here, what will work in the life of a royal, will surely have an impact on mine.



i went to see Julie & Julia with L. tonight, and all i can say, is that it was pure bliss. how could it be otherwise, the heady combination of paris, cooking and blogging?!

this afternoon, i predicted to someone that at the end of the movie, i would walk out wanting to cook, and L. would want to blog... so it ended up with me being the one who wanted to to both.

i love baking, but cooking intimidates me. french cooking, in particular, scares me silly. for the life of me, i cannot think of a good reason why this is so. after all, i am french. perhaps one day i will break down and actually buy this cookbook...

one thing i do admire about both women, however, is their tenacity, not only in finding what they wanted to do with their lives, but doggedly doing it, regardless of how much opposition {snooty french women/de-boning a duck/discouragement/disgusting messes} they encountered.

if you haven't yet seen it, and you're in the mood to simply be happy {and hungry}, i highly recommend it. the paris scenery alone is heavenly. i may have sighed, "i am homesick," more than once during the movie.

bon appetit!


how i love thee...

there is a cool breeze blowing through my kitchen as i type this, reminding me that in spite of the hot, humid days we've been experiencing, fall is just around the corner.

this fills me with glee.

i tried to explain to someone last week why it is that i get giddy when fall emerges like a glorious sunrise. i don't think i explained it well, i am not even sure how good i will do now.

but there is something about the cooler days, when the sun turns the leaves, and everthing under them, golden.

...when apples are the fruit of choice and pumpkins have their coming out party.

...when a new routine fills the days.

...when we start thinking about the holidays; where we will spend them, who we will laugh and eat and be merry with.

...when friends will start asking where the pumpkin pies are.

...when, of all the times of the year, i feel most alive, most like myself, and most like anything can happen. even the things i spend the rest of the year thinking are impossible.

this is why i love fall.


sitting in the dark

i don't do it near often enough, but i really do love going to see movies in the theatre. there's something about the combination of sitting in the dark, the smell of movie theatre popcorn, and bigger than life screen & sound that makes me almost giddy when i am fortunate enough to get there.

it's been a while since i've been to the theatre, but if i were to go right now, this would be the one:





inspired by my friend B's blog where she lists ten things that make her happy, i thought i would make my own list of blissful things...
  1. a brand new journal.
  2. hearing the voices of my niece & nephews {actually seeing them is truly heaven!}
  3. jeans & boots... not to mention the weather to wear them comfortably!
  4. getting an real, old fashioned, honest to goodness letter in the mail.
  5. climbing into my freshly laundered bed with enough time to read before falling asleep.
  6. paris. remembering my trips to paris. reading about paris. planning my next trip to paris...
  7. saturday movie nights with the girls..
  8. waking up early on a saturday morning & knowing there is nothing i have to do.
  9. any words written by Rilke...
  10. the drawings on my refrigerator made by nicky & megan...



here is a sentence i never thought i would write: last month i visited the auschwitz-birkenau museum for the third time.

realizing that most people will never visit it once, a third visit could almost be considered an indulgence. but considering this was my fourth missions trip to poland, and for those we traveled with who have never been, skipping it simply wasn't an option.

but even given the number of times i have been there, this is the first time i am able to write anything more than a few words about it. the first time that the magnitude of hatred and madness hasn't left me feeling overwhelmed and helpless. the words of theoden from LOTR: the two towers almost echo through the bunkers...
what can man do against such reckless hate?
* * * * *

as you walk into one of the first buildings on the tour, the words of george santayana greet you:
those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
i didn't see this quote anywhere in the museum, but the words of edmunde burke seem to fit here perfectly:
all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
we need to remember these things, no matter how hard they are to recall. we need to remember them so that the next time we are confronted by injustice and evil, we will be compelled to act, no matter how small that action may seem. it may not be genocide, but forced slavery, prostitution, and the madness of extreme poverty need to be met with more than an overwhelmed indifference.

we must remember that our inaction allows the wrong side to win.

yes, the issues may be vast and almost incomprehensible, but if every one of us who has the ability, the income, the voice, to do something, the problem of injustice facing our world might be a little less intimidating tomorrow. and when tomorrow comes, we need to be ready to do what must be done then.

how different our world would look if we loved recklessly?

or wouldn't you love to see the LOTR quote turned around...

what can evil do in the face of such reckless love?



i did not have the greatest night of sleep last night.

surely, part of it was due to the exceedingly large cup of tea i had only moments before i went to bed. but another part was due to a conversation that i had with someone yesterday... a conversation i would rather not have happened, but was apparently unavoidable.

i won't get into the details, they really aren't what is important. what is important, is that while i may not have returned the biting comments that came my way, and while i said nothing but all the right words one could say in such a situation, i did not show this person love during the exchange. i shared the necessary information, but that was all.

then, this morning, reading mark 12 with youversion.com's reading plan, i was reminded of this incident in Jesus' life...
Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”

They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.

Jesus was bated, and yet managed to answer with wisdom and grace.

i still have so much to learn from him...



last night around 9 pm, i was so supremely tired, i decided that i would pack it all in, and read in bed for a while before sleep won. but, as i did just that, something unexpected happened.

as laid down in my bed, all fresh and clean from wednesday's laundry extravaganza, i was filled with gratefulness for the fact that i have a bed at all, not to mention one that is as comfortable and beautiful as the one in my home. i was simply overwhelmed by how blessed i am just because of this one thing, not to mention the thousands of other blessings that are strewn throughout my life.

i don't know about you, but when i think about being thankful, i usually stick to the big things: family, friends, God's grace, a job i love, etc. but for some reason, it has never occured to me to be thankful simply because i have a bed. {that being said, in the past, after a two-week missions trip where i have slept on what could only really be called a cot, i have been VERY thankful ... but this is different.}

what are you grateful for?

what is it in your life today that you may have taken for granted, that you now see as the gift that it is?



last week i had the priviledge of attending PORTICO's satellite location of willow creek's leadership summit. i honestly cannot remember if this was my sixth, seventh or eighth summit, but every year i come away with more than one necessary bit of wisdom for my life.

this year was no exception.

today at staff prayer, doug rhind asked us what was one highlight of the summit for us. i guess i am a slow processor, as apart from everything tim keller saying being brilliant, i could only remember one actual thing from the entire summit.

usually, at least a week after the event, i will go through my notes, extract the gems, and put them in the journal that i carry with me. clearly, i have not done this yet.

but tonight, i pulled my notes out, and my book opened to the notes i took during bill hybels' last session. there is simple brilliance here, so, of course, i need to share it with you.

bill talked about four things every leader must do:
  1. make and keep a daily appointment with God. leaders need to hear something from God every day, and too often, when it gets busy, what gets cut out of schedules is time with God.
  2. commit to reading good books at least 30 minutes a day. this goes nicely with yesterday's resolve.
  3. review your replenishment strategy. you need an adequate replenishment strategy to offset the work you are doing.
  4. decide to say 'yes' to God every time the Spirit prompts you to do something. every year bill seems to end with something that simply terrifies me. last year it was mother teresa's 'i will refuse God nothing.' this year, this was it. to be honest, first writing that sentence in my notes, and then typing it now, i felt an overwhelming urge to add "...unless it is too crazy/scary/out there/ridiculous...{insert appropriate fear-based word here}."
then, he ended his final session with...
we only have one life...
...what will i live for?
...what score card am i keeping?
...what race am i running?
so much to think about, and this is only one little session...



simply put, i have not read much lately.

now, i know that there are those who would argue that point, based on the fact that i seem to get caught reading so often. but the truth is, for whatever reason, i have slowed down both my reading and my writing.

somehow i found that i was no longer reading for enjoyment, for the sheer pleasure of it, as i have always done, but i had come to look at reading as a chore, as just one more thing to knock off the grand to-do list.

this changes today.

whatever reasons may have caused this, i am now declaring them null and void. i read because i find bits and pieces of myself that i have either forgotten about or lost within the pages of books. i write for the same reason... not because i have to write, but because when i do not write, i become like a stranger to myself, and need the very act of writing to remind me of the things that i too often tend to forget.

to go with my new resolve, i was reminded of a quote from what was possibly the best book i've ever read, and found a beautiful quote in one of the books i am reading now.

when she came to write her story, she would wonder exactly when the books and the words started to mean not just something, but everything. {markus zusak, the book thief}

perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. {mary ann shaffer & annie barrows, the guernsey literary and potato peel pie society}

what are you reading these days?



i brought four books with me on my recent trip to poland. four seemed adequate, given the initial 36 hours of travel time to get to krakow, a week in the city, then a 26-hour layover in london, england on the way home.

but, it seems that all i needed was one.

the thing around your neck, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a collection of twelve short, brilliant, stories. what Jhumpa Lahiri's interpreter of maladies accomplished to give a glimpse into lives of those in and from india, the thing around your neck does for nigeria and its beautiful people.

these stories, filled with hope and hopelessness, beauty and heartbreak, joy and tragedy, are the perfect companion to these hot summer days... even if you read them at home.

whether or not you normally are a short story reader, this book is well worth your time.



in the late 70s and early 80s, i tried never to miss an episode of charlie's angels.

in the early 80s, my part-time job of tutoring one of my brother's friends got regularly sidetracked whenever any Thriller video came on the television.

in the mid 80s, i found myself in movies like sixteen candles & the breakfast club, but mostly in pretty in pink, which i saw at the theatre and/or drive- in 53 times... all creations of john hughes, whose movie magic made me believe he understood me better than i understood myself.

my youth seems to be slowly fading to gray...



i have had some weighty things on my mind lately. some situations beyond my control that could rearrange the backyard-- if not the whole landscape-- of my life. and while i have chosen not to worry about these things, their heavy presence is my constant companion these days.

yesterday i found some relief in these words of Julian of Norwich:
Ah, good Lord, how could all things be well, because of the great
harm which has come through sin to your creatures?

This was God's response to her:
And so our good Lord answered
all the questions and doubts which I could raise,
saying most comfortingly:
I make all things well,
and I can make all things well,
and I shall make all things well,
and I will make all things well;
and you will see for yourself
that every kind of thing will be well.
...And in these words God wishes us
to be enclosed in rest and peace.
it is a great relief to remember that it is not my job to fix everything.

it is my job to trust he who can make all things well.



as i type this, there is a bit of incredulity that the past week has gone by so very fast. but the laundry-filled suitcase on my sofa and the jet lag that woke me over an hour ago are proof that indeed, i have been and returned from krakow, poland.

poland was as beautiful as i remembered it, and before this trip, i had only spent a weekend in the city of krakow, so getting to spend an entire week was amazing.

compared to the global 180 missions trips i am used to, this was another world entirely. for the previous six trips i have been on, whether to poland or ukraine, i have known (for the most part) what i needed to do when i got there. my role in these trips, if done correctly, is to be invisible and let the rest of the team shine. one of my most favorite parts being in seeing someone on the team do something that at the beginning of the process they didn't think was possible for them.

this trip was very different from that. we went to help a newly planted church; to do what they needed us to. whether it be handing out flyers around the town square or playing football with some guys in the park. i hope they were blessed by us, i know that i was blessed by their passion for the city and its inhabitants, including the ones they were less comfortable with.

what am i walking away from this experience with? i am not sure yet. perhaps it is too soon to tell. and while the answer probably won't be found in the unpacked suitcase on my sofa, i am sure it will show up somewhere.

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