This is what I do, don't try to understand how I do it; I don't really know either

It’s been happening slowly over time but I noticed it last weeked fully. There is a change among those I highly respect in the faith, in my friends and in myself. I named it last weekend and I call it a revival. For those in pentacostal circles that word brings images of large tent meetings, probably songs, flags and many numbers of conversions, but thats not the kind of revival I mean.

Especially when you grow up in a home with a family that attends church, there comes a time when you either decide that is not your faith or you make that faith your own. We made that decision a long time ago, but there has been a change and I believe it may have come partly from this; “We need to find ways of bring reminded that our religious sanctuaries are at best chapels onto the great cathedral of creation. Otherwise the impression is given, as historically has been again and again, that God is somehow more present within the four walls than in every other place and that the time for meeting within the four walls of our religious sanctuaries is somehow more sacred than all other moments and that the people who gather within the four walls are somehow more holy than all other people, ” P. Newell (Christ of the Celts).

See, we found God within the church and we were taught that that is the only place to find him. Our revival is coming from finding God outside the church. We are finding him in creation, we are finding him in each other and we are finding him in ourselves (contrary to the doctrine of original sin). We never knew this could be possible. This new perspective, “views Christ as coming from the heart of creation rather than beyond creation. And it celebrates him as reconnecting us to our true nature instead of saving us from our nature,” Newell. Just because God is in us, doesnt mean I am God – quite the contrary as anyone who knows me can attest! It means I don’t have to GO and meet with him, I already am. Where I go, He IS. We get too scared of sounding new age, and we reject any thoughts that are remotely like it, but we miss some important and valuable things by throwing the baby out with the bath water.

If the church is not more holy, and that time is not more sacred, and the people are not more worthy then do we dismiss church all together? Absolutely not! It feels good (pride) to be thought of as holier or more sacred than others and that you go to a special place that others can join if they adhere to the perscribed set of rituals. Our entire focus for evangelism was to get people into the church. That focus is completely off the mark – the goal is to show people Christ, notice I did not say bring people to Christ. How can you bring someone to someone who is already there?

Our time within the four walls as a body is not about being more special or having a holy club, it is about coming together, unity. However, unity has often been the farthest thing from what has happened within the church. We want religious nurseries, as Newell calls them. In a world that often feel rejected, labeled and less than, we love our holy clubs that make us feel special. If we really knew who we are in Christ, our churches would not be the same. In Nigeria, I danced with people who didn’t feel more special, they knew they were special. I sang with people who didnt think that time in church was more sacred, they new every minute they had breath was sacred. Being among the poor there made me feel closer to God than many times I have been in a church. That’s why I am going back. Not because I have a lot to offer them, but what they offered me.

I have a great home church but I often visit other churches. I love the people in them, some are easier to love than others. I will never give up on the congregating of the church, but I will advocate for it’s health. George Macloed is the founder of the modern-day Iona Community in Scotland (where I plan to visit one day). His prayer is what I pray for us:

Give us grace in our changing day,

to stand by the temple that is the present church.

the noisome temple

the sometimes scandalised temple that is the present church,

listening sometime to what again seems mumbo jumbo.

Make it our custom to go

till the new outline of your Body for our day

becomes visible in our midst.

Amen

 

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Love

Love is my 8 year old making me a salad for breakfast.

Love is my daughter waiting five years to go to camp and then one camp morning leaving her friends to call her mom just to say hello.

Love is my 14 year old going to the movies and diner with his grandmother.

Love is my daughter who whispers in my ear that she will always love me no matter what.

Love is little things that amount to big things. Love is the daily and the dirty. Getting into the grind of life and falling on your knees. Love is sacrifice. Love is work and effort. It makes you sweat, makes you strong. Love builds you up. Love is sometimes leaving and sometimes running full speed ahead. Love is more than an emotion, it is choices. Love makes a difference.

Love is messy, very messy.

It doesnt always look like we think it should, and sometimes it stares us in the face.

Sometimes we miss it.

It can grab hold of you and never let go.

It can die for you on a cross just so you don’t have to be eternally apart.

 

A New Chapter

I am about half way through my trip to Africa and I have come undone. What a great and also painful place to be. There is so much going on in my life personally that I am trying to manage in the background and in the foreground I am confronted daily with how much bigger than me life is.

I have seen amazing things. Stories of resilience and strength. I have also seen the worst of humanity. The more I see, the more I wrestle with how I fit. I can never watch life like it’s a show on TV. I have never been a sit on the bench person. I want the world to be better because I have been in it, and that doesn’t happen by not getting your hands dirty.

I have learned that effectiveness happens when you are strategic about the work you do. There is so much that is possible and if more people would even do SOMETHING, the world would be a significantly different place. They say 20% of people do 80% of the work. So figuring out where the best place is to invest my time and resources is important but also a great challenge because the needs seem never ending- not just in Africa, but in every country in the world. Developed countries like to pretend they have it all together, but reality is that there are huge issues in those countries as well – they just have a fancier ball gown to wear to the prom to cover the problems.

I think it’s fitting right now to be wrestling with where I fit on the global stage when there will be so many changes in my life when I get back home. It’s time again to turn a page and write a new chapter. Blank pages can be scary but I’ve stared them down before and ended up writing great adventures. This will be no different. The same God who was with me then is with me now and His love for me hasn’t changed. Below are lyrics to the song we sang in church last Sunday. They are reverberating through my mind and heart.

Our God

Chris Tomlin

Water You turned into wine

Opened the eyes of the blind

There’s no one like you

None like you

Into the darkness You shine

Out of the ashes we rise

There`s No one like you

None like you

Our God is greater, our God is stronger

God You are higher than any other

Our God is Healer, awesome in power

Our God

And if Our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?

And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?

And if Our God is for us, then who can ever stop us?

And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?

Then what can stand against?

Then what can stand against?

Follow Your Why

There is a lot of writing involved in getting your MA and your PhD but for me there is additional writing because I am applying for scholarships. I had to write an essay for one and thought I would share it with you. It’s the basis for why I do what I do.

Here was the criteria:

An essay of no more than 1,000 words specifically describing how you “followed your why” and contributed to advancing positive social change in one or more of the following areas:
a. Influencing the lives of others
b. Mentoring a colleague
c. Making a positive impact in your community *

Following our why is critical to success in life. “Your WHY is what drives you to action: A thirst for knowledge, a commitment to your family, a desire for change in your community,” Walden University Follow Your Why (2018). Your why is what will change you and those around you at the same time. It is the foundation for what we do. Having passion is important but as Kimathi Kaumbutho points out, “passion is fleeting,” (2017, May 11).  Your why will remain constant and at time fuel your passion, but when your passion fades, your why will keep you moving forward. Kaumbutho talks about days he wanted to stay in bed, but he put in the hard work anyways because his why was that he wanted to inspire others.

I have goals of making a difference in those around me and also those around the world. My why is because I should not be where I am. Where I have come from and what I grew up with determined a trajectory that was bleak and dismal. I chose to not allow my circumstances to determine my future. I wanted something different, something more and I was willing to do whatever it took to make that happen. Walden is not “looking for people who follow the crowd. We’re looking for people who follow their passion. People who have the courage to make a change,” Walden University Follow Your Why (2018). I embody this principle.

I have been told I could not make it, and to not try to achieve what I was working towards. I have evaluated the feedback and the source, then evaluated myself, my why and my options and decided that giving up was not what I would choose. There have been many days I wanted to give up, to stop trying and just let life pass by. The conceptualization of what achieving my goals looks like has been the force for me to continue on. Each goal that is realized enforces the hard decisions I have made to keep going, and that all the effort is worth it.

Showing others who come from difficult backgrounds that they can achieve their dreams is my why. At times I did not believe in myself, but among the naysayers, there were also those who profoundly believed in me. I want to be one of those people who sees in others what they can not see in themselves. We live in a broken world, we are hurt and we hurt others; but these things don’t have to define us. We need to see in each other whats under the surface. We need to be real, dig deep and live vulnerably. “We seek to belong and to contribute, to cherish and be cherished, in the places we work and live. That is what success is,” Asghar, R. (2014, January 22).

I have followed my why to bring positive change first and foremost to my children. I want them to have a much different childhood than my own. This meant I had to change myself so I could lead them by example. I have not yet arrived by any stretch but I am not who I was. I would not be disappointed if they turned out like me, but I definitely want them to go even further. I have also been involved in youth outreach since I was a youth myself. Youth are our future and though it means change will take longer to come, it will come as we shape and develop them to be people who know who they are and follow their why.

On a global scale, I have been involved in various ways politically for many years. This has been an effort to bring change federally, provincially and municipally. Currently, I volunteer as a parliamentary riding leader for the ONE campaign. We are an advocacy group with a goal to end extreme poverty. I also own a company that works with international students. These students are primarily high school age and they come from all over the world for long and short-term programs to Canada. My staff arrangesnay their living accommodations with families. I have developed a mentor program so while the students are here, we are connecting with them and pouring into their lives so that when they return home they are not the same. I have seen amazing things happen in lives through building these relationships.

My future goals are to complete my Ph.D. in public policy and administration while using my research to bring reform to the youth justice systems in developing countries. I have already made connections to start this endeavour and I am excited to begin the process that will ultimately have an impact on the future of developing countries. I will achieve these goals by following my why and showing others that they can overcome their circumstances.

Living By Moments

I love to get there. I love that feeling after a really long drive, of having arrived. It excites me to cross things off a list – I have a deep sense of satisfaction when I accomplish something. I am an achiever. I get a lot of things done because it feels good to get things done. I have always just wanted to get there and not really stop along the way because I always felt that the joy was in the end, not in the journey.

I’m getting older and learning. I don’t think I will ever not be satisfied at the end or driven to get there, but I am learning to enjoy things along the way. My life has been filled with trauma and pain. so really is it any wonder that I would just want to get to the end. When your in pain you just want it to stop, so you just get through it.

Last week I was hurting and in between my sobs I said to myself, feel this. Don’t just get through it, but feel it. My custom has been to clench every muscle and curl up tight while riding the roller coaster and just make it through. The belief is that once you are on the other side it’s over, but that is false. What you went through comes with you, unless you feel it. It’s like these emotions wait and they sneak up on you. Some will never go away – I have pain that will always be with me, but if I feel it at the time it happens, it has less power when it comes back. The more I feel it, the more I acknowledge and process it, the less it can overwhelm me. It’s that simple but not that easy.

If I break life down into moments it is easier. There are good moments and bad ones and you need to live in both. The bad moments are easier to deal with if you think of them as moment. Moments pass. When I think of them as moments I feel as though I can put it in the palm of my hand and look it over. I can examine it from different angles and take it apart. I can see why it hurts or how it came to be. Understanding helps with healing.

Of course we want the good moments to last longer but they are also only moments. I am learning to enjoy them when I have them. I often focus on the big picture – which isn’t bad, but sometimes you miss the beautiful details that only come by taking the moments. Maybe the end isn’t what you want, but don’t miss the moments on the way. Both good and bad make us who we are. We will always have the moments we want to keep stored in our memory.

I’ll never forget jumping on the trampoline with Susan and the babies. Riding my bike as a kid with the wind rushing through my hair and I felt like I could go anywhere. Each of my children being born (including the one who died). Laughing with my best friends, which happens often, but never often enough. Being surrounded by my family and eating tacos. Teaching my kids to read. The moments when I know I have impacted the life of a young person in a positive way. Finishing my degrees. Watching the city lights at night and standing on the edge of the majestic ocean.

These are all my moments. I get to keep them. The good and the bad make up my life.

I want to live it and feel it. All of it.

Original Sin vs Purity

I’m not going to do a theological debate here, nor state any verses for either theological side regarding the doctrine of original sin, but what I am going to do is explore the implications. So please bare with me whichever camp you are in.

The doctrine of original sin leads us to a conclusion that we are born sinful. We enter this world as damaged goods. Something, or moreover, someone, that God created is tainted and tarnished. His perfect creation, through no fault of their own at that point, have become unworthy of the presence of God. That’s what we are taught.

How does one live to their full potential believing that they are damaged? I know this life well because it’s not only how I was taught spiritually, but also what I believed because I was abused as a child. I fully embraced the concept that I was damaged goods. I should take what I can get because who wants something already used. No point holding out and no point striving for the top: that had already been taken from me.

BUT THOSE WERE LIES

There was a revelation to me in my early 20’s that I was not damaged goods. I asked God where he was when all those things happened to me, because I believed that He loved me, but that He (being holy) could not look at me when it was happening. I was shown that He was right there with me, crying and hurting just like me, and because of what was happening to his precious and perfect daughter. He never left me. He never viewed me as tarnished or tainted.

I made bad decisions based on the lies that I had believed and in that moment I knew that he did not hold them against me because he understood, but He wanted better for me. I had never felt pure in my life and at that moment, for the first time, I felt pure. That was the most amazing feeling I have ever had. Nothing can compare to the feeling of being given something you never felt worthy of. My life changed, my decisions changed, my everything changed because I knew I was pure.

What an impact on our decisions when we understand our value. No one will ever take that feeling of purity away from me, because to me it is sacred. What would our lives look like if we knew our worth? What would our world be like if our decisions were based on the fact that we are created in the image of the almighty, holy and pure God?

Pretending vs Faking

I can’t stand fakers. I really have no patience  or empathy for someone who fakes life, their intentions or who they are. One of my core values is integrity and faking goes directly against that value. It’s like scraping nails on the chalkboard of my inner being.

Today I had to spend a lot of time pretending and I thought it important to note the difference. There are things in my life right now that mean that for quite some time to come, any day can be detailed at any moment. One email, one phone call and I fall apart. That happened this morning. It started with an email that led to a phone call, and I fell apart. I was a weeping ball of mush, self questioning, life questioning and wanting to run away. Intense pain will do that. I liken it to being a scared kitten. You might scratch at things that are good and trying to help you. You might make sudden and erratic movements. It’s important to move slowly and breathe. I took the breathing part too fast though and ended up with an anxiety attack 10 minutes before I am supposed to be on a video conference for work. Fun times.

So I pretended. I got on the video call and did everything I could recall from my theatre classes in high school and I pretended to be ok. I fought tears for the first 20 minutes but I eventually gained a good hold and the minute I got to click the end button it all came out, but I made it through what I had to do. I wasn’t faking, but I was pretending and there is a difference. I dont think fakers are very honest with themselves so how can they be honest with others? Someone who pretends does it out of necessity. It is permissible to not tell everyone you encounter that your not ok, but it’s not healthy to not tell anyone. Someone has to know, hopefully more than one person, but people who you can trust and who can help.

It does not cross the value of integrity to pretend so you can still function as a mom, as a businesswoman, as a friend – as whatever you need to be. I think we err on the side of pretending too often (especially to our kids) but there are necessary times, because unfortunately life doesn’t grind to a halt to let you fall apart and have time to recover. So while your in that stage, you can pretend just to get through. You do need to take steps to recover though, or your just faking.

Don’t be a faker.

so speaking of recovery, I’m going for a run.