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?



there are some books that can only be read over time. Walter Brueggemann's Prayers for a Privileged People is just such a book.

this morning, i read the poem entitled, Salvation Oracles, and felt compelled to share its brilliance with you.

Salvation Oracles by Walter Brueggemann
on reading Isaiah 43:1-5

there is a long list of threats around us:
falling markets,
other unlike us in all their variety,
the list goes on and we know it well.

and in the midst of threat of every kind,
you appear among us in your full poers,
in your deep fidelity,
in your amazing compassion.
you speak among us the one word that could matter:
"do not fear."

and we, in our several fearfulnesses, are jarred by your utterance.
on a good day, we know that your sovereign word is true.
so give us good days by your rule,
free enough to rejoice,
open enough to change,
trusting enough to move out of new obedience,
grace enough to be forgiven and then forgive.

we live you your word. speak it to us through the night,
that we may have many good days through your gift.


in praise of nothingness

it is saturday morning.

i have nothing to do.

please reread the previous sentence with as much anticipation and bliss as you can muster, because that is how it was written. i slept in until 7am, which is unthinkable in my world, then stayed in the warm cocoon of my bed to read for a while. after that, i needed a couple of ingredients for something i want to make today (can you guess from the picture?), so i went to the store.

and now, with the exception of making the pie, i have an open day before me. the possibilities are endless...

so, i'll have to talk to you you later because...

...i have nothing to do.



yes, i always miss paris. it is true. but there are days when the homesickness is stronger than others.

on those days, movies like paris, je t'aime get me through.

this is one of my favorite scenes...



a weird thing happened recently.

the day started out great, in spite of the insane humidity. i got to work early, so i saw no one for the first part of the morning.

and then things started falling apart.

it seemed that i was one of the few having a good day. nearly everyone i spoke to was angry, upset, discouraged, frustrated, tired or just plain down.

by mid-day i had started to feel my good mood waning, and had no idea why. it was only after i got home and started objectively looking at my day did i realize that my own downward spiral was caused simply by the negativity that had been popping in and out of my life all day.

no one, least of all me, likes to think that we are weak-minded enough to be so easily swayed by surroundings, but that day proved that whether or not i want to be susceptible, i am.

but i believe the main problem wasn't the emotions themselves, but the sheer number of them. i cannot remember which one was the proverbial 'straw that broke the camel's back', pushing me into a negative mindset, but i know it was there.

all this has made me re-examine my own propensity for the negative and the cynical, and realize that i have a responsibility to my co-workers and friends to not let the things that tend to drag me down win as often as they do. yes, we all have rough times, and there are things that should frustrate and anger us. but as part of a team, i need to recognize that my mood affects everyone else. {yes, i realize that most learned this in kindergarten, making me a gold medalist in the slow learner catetgory!}

i really don't want to be that last straw, pushing someone else into a place where they didn't want to go.

we all have a responsibility to one another...


review: The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani

there are some books that you just cannot wait to finish. there are also the ones that you must force yourself to pick up just to read a paragraph.

Skye Jethani's The Divine Commodity is neither.

this book is the kind that you desperately want to devour all you can immediately , but at the same time, you don't want to open it, because you know it will be over way too soon.

i will admit that i was an easy sell on this one. any book involving Vincent van Gogh and his art is pretty much a shoo-in to my library. but couple that with a poignant look at how our consumer culture has infiltrated our lives, our churches, and ultimately our view of God, and i couldn't get this book fast enough.

The Divine Commodity tackles seven different areas that need to be deconstructed, such as our pursuit of pleasure or contentment with segregation, and then ends each chapter with a way we can counteract the effects. using examples from his own ministry experience as well as van Gogh's life, ministry and art, he helps his readers see where in their lives they have drank the kool-aid of consumerism, and what they can do to get out. the antidotes that Jethani recommends to oppose the consumer mindset are timeless and brilliant in their simplicity.

if you are ready to take a much needed look at your life, ministry and church, i cannot more highly recommend this book. and once you read it, i would love to hear your thoughts.



there are days when my insecurities seem to actually run the show of my life... and this week has been full of them. at one point it was almost humorous, no sooner had i talked myself off one metaphorical ledge, when something totally different provoked me back onto another.

and i don't even like heights... symbolic or otherwise.

i love how madeleine l'engle's words give us permission to be human, even in all the messiness that is humanity. in her brilliant book, walking on water, she writes,
when we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. but to grow up is to accept vulnerability... to be alive is to be vulnerable.
to be alive is to be vulnerable. there will always be days when life and all life's characters push my insecurity buttons, inadvertently and otherwise. my job is to always look for and believe the truth in a situation and in myself.

as i was walking this morning, i was praying about some of the more challenging characters and situations in my life this week. my prayer ended with these resolutions:
  • may my default emotion always be love.
  • may my default reaction always grace and truth.
perhaps this will keep me off those allegorical ledges.


drops like stars

wednesday evening i had the rare and exceptional experience of attending rob bell's drops like stars tour in toronto. now, not being one who enjoys concert-type events, i really wasn't sure what to expect.

what my expectations were met with, was brilliance.

rob bell opened with a story of two brothers and their families. one brother found out he and his wife were going to have a baby, but complications developed, and the family was called to the hospital with the bad news that the baby was lost. shortly after that, the other brother announced that his wife was pregnant, and months later, the family was again called to the same hospital, but this time they were welcoming a new baby into their family.

the point? we live our lives in hallways, between rooms of tragedy and rooms of joy.

mr. bell goes on to say that we know that tragedy happens, and the important thing is not to ask why it happens, but instead, 'now what?' changing perspective from the tragedy or life-altering situation to the future, even if it now becomes a future that we didn't previously imagine. 'suffering,' he says, 'forces us to revise the plans we've made for ourselves.'
none get to God but through trouble.
~catherine of aragon
one of the most powerful moments of the evening for me was when we were each asked to write in our non-usual hand the words 'i know how you feel' on an index card. then, he asked that anyone who had stood by the graveside of a loved one hold up their card. with the reality of having done so only days ago, i held my card up hesitantly, fearing that once again i might lose to the overwhelming emotions of the past few days.

but, as you would expect, most of the people in the room were also holding up their cards as well. we were instructed to make eye contact with someone and exchange cards with them.

then we were asked to hold up the card we now held if we've ever stared down a stack of bills that we had no idea how to pay. make eye contact, and exchange cards.

if you, or someone you know has ever battled an addiction. eye contact. exchange.

if you have ever been betrayed. ditto.

all these situations that we feel so alone in, and here we were standing in a room filled with people with similar experiences. but not the experiences we want to talk about. we're much more comfortable talking about the good things, our successes, our acquisitions, our travels... and yet, the one thing we all have in common, regardless of age, race, paycheque size, is that we have all faced heartbreak, lost dreams, tragedy.

one other quote that stood out to me was this:
this, too, will shape me.
~rob bell
every situation we would rather not face will shape us. it will close us, or it will open us. it will make us bitter, or it will make us better. the thing we too often forget is that we are the ones with the power to choose the outcome.

sometimes we find ourselves in the tragedy room. sometimes the joy room. more often than not we're in the hallway blissfully unaware of the next room we will visit.

where are you today?



for some reason, the suckiest of situations seems to bring out the best in people.

over the past six days, since gramp died, the truth of this statement has been exemplified in my life, and i am filled with gratitude for...

...the friend who sat in my office and let me cry.

...the friend who came over on friday night to watch a movie, and didn't bat an eyelash when i slept through most of it.

...the friend who helped me feel like my life would go on, and graciously offered her guest room for my family.

...the parents who always simply love my brothers and i.

...the baby brother who always makes me laugh, even when life sucks.

...the friends of my parents, who came, even though mom and dad left kingsville eight years ago.

...the friend of my brother, who looked so grown up, and made us laugh.

...the friend who called just to see how i was doing.

...the aunt and uncle i didn't expect to see at the funeral home who, even though i haven't seen them in almost a decade, haven't changed a bit, and even remembered my best friend.

...and last but certainly not least, the best friend, who crossed borders and drove hours to be at the funeral home, was the first one to arrive, one of the last to leave, and as always, laughed, cried, and ate chocolate doughnuts with me.

you don't always know where the support and love you need will come from, but the past six days have proven once again that i am one immensely blessed girl.



long before september 11, 2001, the date was a happy one for my family. it was not only my grandmother's birthday, but also her and grampa's wedding anniversary. for as long as i can remember, september 11 is a date that was celebrated in our house.

even though my gram has been gone for almost 14 years, september 11 is a day that i still mark to celebrate the life of a woman whose impact in my life has been immeasurable. and even now, there is rarely a week that goes by when at least once i don't wish i could pick up a telephone and hear her voice on the other end of the line. usually, on her birthday, i write a letter to her in my journal.

but not today.

this morning, my mother called to tell me that my grandfather's battle with dementia and many other illnesses ended last night, a few short hours before what would have began another anniversary without my grandmother. in the near fourteen years since gram went away, there wasn't a day when gramp didn't want to leave this life to be with her. every time i spoke with him, he made that abundantly clear.

but while my heart is heavy, and so sad tonight, i cannot help but love that after so many anniversaries apart, my grandparents are celebrating together today, this time with their God as the host of the party.



i am almost halfway through julia child's book, my life in france, and if you've been around these parts for any time at all, you must know that contant reading about paris is basically making me homesick for my favorite city.

what it isn't doing is making me particularly hungry. i don't understand, given my intense love and devotion to all things france et francais, why i cannot get excited about the cooking. duck, goose, lark, aspic, rabbit...while enjoyable to read about the preparation of these things, the prospect of actually eating them is far from enjoyable to me.

oh well, it's not like i have any problem finding something to eat when i'm actually there, even if larks are not an option!


Review: 'Fearless' by Max Lucado

The default emotion in response to the world we live in could far too naturally and easily be fear. From the dark, looming cloud of the current economic crisis to the ever-present threat of violence in homes, schools and the world at large, it seems that there is always something to be afraid of lurking just around the corner.

In ‘Fearless’, Max Lucado dares to present us with the concept that regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, a life without fear can be more than just a dream. Lucado tackles not only some of the more common fears, like death, or the unknown factor of the future, but he also brings to light fears that are less commonly talked about, like the fear that we don’t matter, or that we will be a disappointment to God.

Admittedly, Max Lucado's writing style is not my favorite. But any style differences took a back seat to the solid content, ideas and inspiration to live by faith rather than fear. I not only enjoyed the book, but it caused me to look at the many situations that I too naturally default to fear in, and has challenged me to move beyond the fear, to a place of faith.

My favorite part, however, is one of the last chapters, entitled, 'The One Healthy Terror', where Lucado takes his book to another level, discussing the one fear that actually has the power to transform our lives in a positive way. In my estimation, brilliant.



a couple of the books i am reading right now are having a profound impact on the way i look at my life. in one of them, Soul and the City: Finding God in the Noise and Frenzy of Life, by Marcy Heidish, i am reading a chapter called 'finding God in stress', and in the few pages i have read so far, i have seen an unpleasant reflection of myself.

the author relates how on one monday morning, she received three emails in a row, all beginning with a variation of the phrase, 'i am busy'. she went on to tell how throughout that week, many of the other emails she received also told of how busy their authors were.

it strikes me that in our world and culture, being busy is easy. it has become the default setting for most of us. ask ten people how they are doing, and easily more than half will reply, 'busy.' couple that with the stresses of life, both good and bad, usual and unusual, and it seems that we've got a population of people who have no clue how to stop, how to shut off. how to rest.

i really hate being like everyone else.

simply deciding that stress and busyness will no longer be part of one's life is a nice fairy tale, but the truth is there is more work and discipline involved in making such a decision a reality. as a first step to doing so, i am erasing the word 'busy' from my vocabulary.

when someone asks me how i am, 'busy' is no longer an adequate answer. when writing letters or emails to friends, i will no longer relate epic tales of the busyness of my life. in essence, i will no longer allow the condition of my life to be determined by the things and quantity of things that i have to do.

if i can change the way i think during this season, then the rest of the year should be a piece of cake {she says hopefully}.

how are you doing?



peter rollins and paraclete publishing recently had a parable competition. the winning parable was written by kester brewin, whom i had not heard of until they published this winning parable this morning.

all i can say is... well, there's really nothing i can say.


There was once a man who had lived a long and difficult life. When he finally lay down, a faint smile bent the lines in his face as his eyes were shut. He had run the race; now he could rest. The curtain was pulled back, and he stumbled through the light to meet God.

‘My Master and my Friend,’ the old man hailed God as he prostrated himself before God’s feet. Hearing no reply, the man looked up and saw God shuffling awkwardly in his chair, not quite managing to fight back a blush across his cheeks.

Not wanting his moment of judgement and welcome to be spoiled, the old man gathered his courage and spoke up. ‘My Lord and my God,’ he began, nervously. ‘Is this not the time when my life and works shall be weighed in your scales and my named checked against those who have made it into the Book of Life?’ After such a tiring day it was difficult for him to remember the exact details of what was meant to be happening, but he felt certain that it should be God who should be taking the lead.

‘My child,’ said God sadly, before petering out and looking around for some way out.

Following God’s gaze, the old man took in a crumpled photo, pinned to a crowded notice board hung askew in a dark corner. His heart leapt. ‘Father,’ he said, getting up carefully like a servant in Medieval court, ‘here is a photo of footprints on a beach…’

God took it and stared at it for a while and as the man perceived his eyes glistening, his own tears came, for he knew the photo, and knew the words of comfort that came with it. ‘Tell me, Lord,’ he said, knowing already the lines that would come, ‘tell me what the footprints mean.’

And so God began.

‘Your life has been like a walk along the beach with me, many scenes from your life flashing across the sky. In each scene there are footprints in the sand, sometimes two sets, at other times only one.’

At this point God paused, and looked down, and so the old man seized the initiative, and played too his part.

‘Lord, this bothers me because I notice that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I can see only one set of footprints.’

He looked up, but saw God unmoved, so continued. ‘You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?’

He bowed his head, holding back the tears, ready for the words of succour that he knew must come.

And slowly God replied, his voice shaking with emotion. ‘The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when you carried me.’

The man frowned for a moment, paused, and then looked up. ‘Surely Lord,’ he began rather embarrassed to be correcting the Almighty, ‘you mean when you carried me.’

‘My dear child,’ God said, twisting a loose thread of cloth from his flowing robes, his face suddenly a mirror in which the old man saw the battles he had fought and the doubts he had put asunder, ‘this was the measure of your faith: when difficulties came, you gathered up this tired and arthritic God, and carried your beliefs to safety.’

A small wind blew through the old photographs and worn papers, and the two men sat in silence for a moment.

‘I have prepared a room for you,’ God said after a while, ‘though I quite understand if you don’t want me to stay.’

[© KB 2009]



previously i have mentioned my love for the writings of G.K. Chesterton. it seems that every time i come across something he wrote that i've not previously read, i fall in love again.

this quote is no exception:
the center of every man's existence is a dream. death, disease, insanity, are merely material accidents, like a toothache or a twisted ankle. that these brutal forces always besiege and often capture the citadel does not prove that they are the citadel.
- G.K. Chesterton
"sir walter scott," twelve types

this is an exceedingly busy time at work for me, and the words that i have most uttered, aloud as well as quietly to myself over the last few days are, 'i am drowning.' yesterday, when the time came to leave the office to go home, i actually felt guilty that i was going with so many things unfinished. while this is hardly in the same category as death or disease, it seems much like a form of accepted insanity.

i needed Chesterton's reminder, that the craziness is not my life, not my dream.



hello september. i've been waiting for you.

i really do love this time of year. and the truth is, that even though it has been somewhere north of 20 years since i have gotten up excitedly on the day after labor day, donned some new outfit that was really too hot to wear in the still-summer weather, and headed off to the first day of the new school year, i still miss it... and there is a part of me that wishes i could go.

before you begin to think me some kind of super student, i was much more concerned with the social aspects of my high school career than any of the academic pursuits. the classes themselves were merely a means to an end {and my high school art teacher, mr. gombai, will be the first in line to tell you about that! he certainly talked to my parents enough about it...}

even as a child, before my intense dislike of heat, and need to hide from the sun, summer was my least favorite season. i always hated the fact that come the end of june, things stopped. i couldn't see my friends every day. people who i wanted around went on vacation. all the usual was unusual, and not at all enjoyable.

then, hello september.

while there are no pictures, i am sure that on the first day back to school, i walked through the halls with a blissful, goofy smile. so happy to be back surrounded by friends, seeing favorite teachers, and all the lovely chats we regularly had in art class.

so, even though this weekend won't mark the last boring weekend until the fun starts for me, i am excited that today is the beginning of school season. last saturday, i did buy some new pencils and pens... i don't think i will ever get over the need for new school supplies.

and this fall i am thinking of taking a MCS course on the book of Acts, so perhaps that will help assuage the nostalgia that attempts to overwhelm me whenever i pass by large quantities of sharpened pencils.

i can only hope...

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