Monday, November 7, 2011

O' Christmas Tree, Do We Really Need Thee?

I have been thinking a lot this week, about Christmas Trees.

Perhaps it's because each time I log in to Facebook, my news feed informs me that another spirited individual has successfully planted a coniferous tree in their living room and adorned it with bright lights and sparkly tinsel. Perhaps it is the shock and look of askance I get, when people learn that I have never, in all my 18 years of living on my own, ever put up a Christmas Tree or Christmas Decorations.  It is not that I am against the putting up of a Christmas Tree, in fact I take great delight in the beauty of the Tannenbaum. For me it's always simply been a matter of circumstance and priority.  I am a single woman, no children, living on my own, to put up a tree just seems impractical.  I celebrate Christmas day with my family, so I'm not even home on the joyous occasion.  Money has never been so ample, that I thought a Christmas tree and decorations were worth the cost. I would rather spend that money on gas to visit someone I have not seen in a long time or taking a friend out for dinner.

I always told myself that when I get married, or when I have children, I will have a tree. I would carry on the tradition my mom started with her 4 children, of putting up and decorating the Christmas tree after watching the live airing of the Toronto Santa Clause Parade on Global.  I have, however, been questioning that logic this week and I think I have come to the resolute conclusion, that single or married, with children or childless, I will never be putting up a Christmas Tree.  Some might say I am a Scrooge, all bah-hum-bug about the season but really what does a Christmas Tree have to do with the true spirit of Christmas.

Christmas is about the gift we were given in Christ. His birth in a manager, living among us, growing up to be the Saviour of the world, ultimately sacrificing His life for ours.  Christmas is about sacrifice, giving up so others can have. 

I started to research the cost of Christmas Trees.  If you purchase a real tree, each year you will spend a minimum of $30 - $200.  An Artificial Tree is anywhere from $99.99 - $599.99 (Really $600.00 on a Christmas Tree).  Then you have the cost of ornaments, and garland, tinsel and the ever coveted perfect angel/star Topper.  Some may argue that you buy it once and then you are set, it's an investment.  True I suppose, if you are buying an artificial tree, but even then you are updating the ornaments and the accessories every year, and I have been to Hallmark and Walmart and they aren't cheap, and let's not forget the added cost to your electricity bill. It all adds up, in fact here are some of the numbers, $73.9 million - The value of farm cash receipts for Christmas trees in Canada in 2005. $196.2 million - The value of Christmas decorations imported to Canada in 2005. The bulk ($175.3 million) came from China, with Russia and some Eastern European nations supplying much of the remainder.  A lot of money spent on 60 days of fabricated beauty that symbolizes what exactly?

So with that in mind I am giving up any notion of ever having a Christmas Tree.  I am going to start a new tradition. At the beginning of November, I am going to legitimately estimate, what I would have spent that year on a Christmas Tree and/or decorations and then after the Santa Clause parade, I will go out (friends, spouse and/or children in hand), and we will purchase items to give away to those in need.  Maybe gift certificates for the homeless, turkeys for the local soup kitchen, or a thank you gift for someone who serves with our Fire Department.  Perhaps one year I will I simply buy random gifts and hand them out to random strangers (oh wait we are dong that this year - Video Post to come in December ). Perhaps I will start a "Tree Free Christmas" Campaign and encourage each person in my community to give the money they would have spent on a tree or ornaments in support of a local charity that I'm passionate about.

What I have come to realize is that I do not need a Christmas tree. In all my 18 years without one, I have never missed it, and as far as I can tell, no one else close to me has been traumatized by my not having one. If you love your Christmas tree, than, please do not take offense at my recent personal conviction. Should I happen to ever pass by your home, and see your ornately decorated tree, shining brightly in your window, I will not pass judgement but rather will enjoy the nostalgic memories and beauty it offers.

If you have read this post, and something is stirring within you, if this resonates in your spirit, why not consider joining me for a Tree Free Christmas. Want something a little more committal, jump in with both feet, and sell your artificial tree and ornaments on Kijiji, giving the money to a cause of your choosing.  Why not use Facebook or local media to start your own "Tree Free Christmas" Campaign in support of a charity in your community.

If you are thinking to yourself, I already give extra at Christmas time, thank-you. Thank-you for truly getting into the Christmas spirit.  Can I challenge you though? Can you give a little more? Could you, would you, for one year, give up the Christmas Tree, the garland, the ornaments, the topper, and take that money and spend it in a way that will brighten someone else's day?  Even if you only buy one new ornament a year, why not give it up this year, and give back to one more person in need. I know it will be a sacrifice - but I assure you, that the gift is in the giving.  Why not consider doing it this year?  Who knows maybe it will become a new tradition for you and your family as well.

Leave a comment and  let me know your thoughts? Do We Really Need Thee Christmas Tree?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Not a Fan...

I have never been much of a fan of "Church" curriculum, perhaps in part because when I first started in ministry I did not know there was such a thing, so I created my own (which others may not have been a fan, also because some of what I have seen has been trite or a reworked production of many that have gone before..

However at the recommendation of a pastor from our email list-serve,  I have recently been checking out this "Not a Fan" curriculum.  I first went to the site and I enjoyed the testimonial clips and the preview of one of the powerful small group videos. So I am ordering this small group video study to use with our Young Adults and then implement it with our church as a small group study after that. 

Being a bit of a bibliophile I bought the book to read as I wait. I have only read the preface so far, so I can not give you a fair assessment but if the preface is anything like the rest of the book I am excited.  With that in mind let me share with you the preface (it's worth the read), perhaps it will resonate with you as well, and encourage you to check out the book.

It's a Thursday afternoon and I am sitting in the church sanctuary.  It's empty now, but Easter is only a few days away.  More than thirty thousand people will likely come to the weekend services, and I have no idea what I'm going to say to them.  I can feel the pressure mounting as I sit there hoping that a sermon will come to mind.   I look around at the empty seats hoping some inspiration will come.  Instead there's just more perspiration.  I wipe the sweat off my brow and look down.  This sermon needs to be good.  There are some people who only come to church on Christmas and Easter (we call the "Creasters").  I want to make sure they all come back.  What could I say to get their attention?  How can I make my message more appealing?  Is there something creative I could do that would be a big hit and get people talking?

Still nothing.  There is a Bible in the chair in front of me.  I grab it.  I can't think of a scripture to turn to.  I've spent my life studying this book and I can't think of one passage that will "wow" the Creasters. I consider using it the was I did as a kid.  Kind of like a magic 8 Ball, you ask a question, open up the Bible and point to the page, and whatever it says answers your questions.

Finally a thought crosses my mind:  I wonder what Jesus taught whenever He had big crowds.  What I discovered would change me forever.  Not just as a preacher, but as a follower of Christ.  I found that when Jesus had a large crowd, he would most often preach a message that was like to cause them to leave.

In that empty sanctuary I read of one such occasion in John chapter 6.  Jesus is addressing a crowd that has likely grown to more than five thousand.  Jesus has never been more popular.  Word has spread about His miraculous healings and his inspirational teaching.  This crowd of thousands has come to cheer him on.

After a full day of teaching, Jesus knows the people are getting hungry, and so he turns to his disciples and asks what all these people will do for food.  One of the disciples, Philip, tells Jesus that even with eight month's wages , it wouldn't be enough money to buy bread for everyone to have a bite.  from Philip's perspective, there really wasn't anything that could be done. But another disciple, Andrew, has been scanning the crowd and he tells Jesus of a boy who has five loaves and two small fish.  Jesus takes the boy's sack lunch and with it he feeds the entire crowd.  In fact,m the Bible tells us that even after everyone had their fill, there was still plenty left over.

After dinner the crowd decides to camp out for the night so they can be with Jesus the next day.  These are some big-time fans of Jesus.  The next morning when the crowd wakes up and they're hungry again, they look around for Jesus, aka their meal ticket, but he's nowhere to be found.  These fans are hoping for an encore performance.  Eventually they realize that Jesus and His disciples have crossed over to the other side of the lake.  By the time they catch up to Jesus they're starving.  They've missed their chance to order breakfast and they are ready to find out what's on the lunch menu.  But Jesus has decided to shut down the "all you can eat" buffet.  He's not handing out any more free samples.  in verse 26 Jesus says to the crowd: "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill"

Jesus knows that these people are not going to all the trouble and sacrifice because they are following him, but because they want some free food.  Was it Jesus they wanted, or were they only interested in what He could do for them?  In verse 35 Jesus offers himself, but the question is, would that be enough? " Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty""

Jesus says, I am the bread of life.  Suddenly Jesus is the only thing on the menu.  The crowd has to decide if he will satisfy or if they are hungry for something more.  Here's what we read at the end of the chapter: "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him (John 6:66)"

Many of the fans turn to go home.  I was struck by the fact that Jesus doesn't chase after them. He doesn't soften his message to make it more appealing.  He doesn't send the disciples chasing after them with a creative handout inviting them to come back for a "build your own sundae" ice cream social.  He seems okay with the fact that his popularity has plummeted.

As I sat in the sanctuary surrounded by thousands of empty seats, here's what became clear to me: it wasn't the size of the crowds Jesus cared about; it was their lever of commitment.

I put the Bible back in the chair in front of me.

I cried.

God, I am sorry.

Almost, as soon as I said it to him, I knew it needed to go further.  A few days later on Easter Sunday, a crowd of thousands gathered and I began my sermon with a choked up apology.  I told the crowd that I was wrong for being too concerned with what they would think and how many of them would come back.  I think over the years my intentions were good; I wanted to make Jesus look as attractive as possible so that people would come to find eternal life in him.  I was offering the people Jesus, but I was handing out a lot of free dread.  In the process I cheapened the gospel.

Imagine it this way.  Imagine that my oldest daughter turns twenty-five.  She isn't married but she really wants to be.  I decide I'm going to help make that happen.  So, imagine I take out an ad in the newspaper, put up a billboard sign, and make up T-shirts begging someone to choose her.  I even offer some attractive gifts as incentives.  Doesn't that cheapen who she is?  Wouldn't that make it seem that whoever came to her would be doing her a favour?  I would never do that.  I would set the standard high. I would do background checks and lie detector tests.  There would be lengthy applications that must be filled out in triplicate.  References would be checked and hidden cameras installed.  If you want to have a relationship with her, you better be prepared to give her the best of everything you have.  I don't want to just hear you say that you love her; I want to know that you are committed to her.  I want to know that you would give your life for her.

Too often in my preaching I have tried to talk people into following Jesus.  I wanted to make following him as appealing, comfortable, and convenient as possible.  And I want to say that I am sorry.  I know it's strange to start off a book with an apology, but I want you to know that the journey I'm inviting you on is one that I've been traveling.  It's a journey I continue to be on, and I should tell you it hasn't been easy.  It was more comfortable being part of the crowd.

I know typically you put something in the introduction that makes people want to read the book.  You have a celebrity write it, or you have someone else write it so that person can tell all the readers how great the writer is. At the very least the author should write something in the introduction of a book that makes people want to read it.  I'm not sure if I've done that...probably not.  My guess is an apology from a man who got it wrong for a long time doesn't exactly inspire confidence.  But I just want to be clear that this book is not just information on a page or a pastors' commentary on the Scriptures.  This book is written by one of those in the crowd of John 6 who thought Jesus was great but was really in it for the free meals.

I hope you will read this book and discover with me what it really means to follow Jesus.  I will talk more about repentance than forgiveness, more about surrender than salvation, more about brokenness than happiness, and more about death than about life.  The truth is, if you are looking for a book about following Jesus that lays out a comfortable and reassuring path, you find it here.  Don't get me wrong, I want you to keep reading: I just want to be up-front and let you know there won't be a lot of free bread.         

Now to some the preface may seem a little harsh and unbalanced but as I scanned through the chapters, It seems that the book is well rounded,  as encouraging as it is challenging, and I am looking forward to reading it.

If you have already read it please feel free to share your reviews. 

If this has peeked your interest, why not pick up a copy and read along with me and we can share our thoughts.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Well it has been one month since I began my 36-4-36 challenge.  What a month it has been, I didn't expected much to transpire this first month, but the past 30 days have been full of surprises, blessings and lessons learned. What follows are some progress highlights.

#1) Lose AT LEAST 36lbs: So far success! I have lost some weight - 13lbs since June 15th, not sure how much of that is since September 9th, but hoping I can far surpass the 36lb goal over the next 11 months.

#6) Read AT LEAST 12 books of which 6 are not Academic/TheologyI completed 3 books this first month.  "A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS" by Khaled Hosseini, this was my favourite of the 3 books, I actually finished reading it, through tears, sobbing as the story came to a close.  My favourite quote from the book was "A woman who will be like a rock in a riverbed, enduring without complaint, her grace not sullied but SHAPED, by the turbulence that washes over her." The second book I finished was "ROOM" by Emma Donoghue.  I started this one night before going to bed and finished it the next day.  It is a riveting story, told through the eyes and language of a 5 year old.  My favourite quote from this book, at least the one that caught my attention was "the little cards with numbers all over are called a lottery, idiots buy them hoping to get magicked into millionaires."  Finally I did read an academic book for my course called "UNDERSTANDING PEOPLE" by Dr. Larry Crabb.  I highlighted a lot of this book, too many good quotes to just share one. "Something is wrong when the message from a loving God to the people He created becomes more an academic treatise to be studied rather than a wonderful truth to be grasped and breathed." and "...the real culprit behind all non-organically caused human distress: a steadfast determination to remain independent of God and still make life work." Finally this quote "...They thereby avoid responsibility for facing the painful reality of confusion and helplessness...Facing wrong directions that are painful to realize and repenting of them is no longer at the exact centre of the change process. It is no longer minds that need renewal; it is rather some internal psychological condition for which we bear no responsibility (we are victims), which must be changed by a mystical operation of the spirit.  Active repentance is replaced by passive yielding "

#8) Give TV up for the year, plus a different thing for a month, each month: Giving up TV has been a remarkable thing.  It has allowed me to redeem the time and use it for more productive endeavours.  I am more inclined to remain visiting a little longer, go out and do something active, or simply read a good book. I gave up playing Settler's online for the month of October, again just another thing to distract me from more important things.

#9) Write & Mail a personal note of encouragement a dayIn the last 30 days, I have mailed 38 notes of Encouragement.  I was so touched when one of the recipients came to my home to tell me how it had arrived at the most perfect time, and touched her heart so deeply, that she cried for an hour!  God is so good, to place a person on my heart, and to provide me the words to share so that their hearts may be encouraged.

#10) Do a 3 day fast once a month: Completed and Lesson Learned.  Perhaps it was not so much a lesson learned, as a point driven home.  I have fasted in the past, in fact years ago I did a 40 day fast, where I drank only pure fruit juice and water. Some might think, wow what discipline, what spiritual fervour - if this is you - save your kudos.  In the interest of authenticity, that fast was a failure.  Sure I did not eat, and in fact I found it quite easy to not eat.  I never found myself consumed with thoughts of food.  After those 40 days I realized I had simply, though perhaps unconsciously, replaced eating with more work and more doing.  I kept my mind occupied, I was doing twice as much, going twice as fast. At the end of the fast, I wondered why I did not feel any different, why it seemed to have so little impact.  I knew better however, and I realized that the whole Fast was spiritually pointless, because I actually didn't consciously and consistently take the time to focus on God. While I never found myself consumed with thoughts of food, I also rarely found myself consumed with thoughts of God.  Not all my fasts have been such a dismal failure, but that one certainly was, and I was the only one to blame.  So this year, as part of my 36-4-36 challenge, I was committed to fasting properly, more consistently! Giving up food would not be as much of a challenge as giving up doing!  But I did - for 3 days my schedule and the menu was cleared. The difference was astonishing!  I was hungry, hungry for food and hungry for more of God.  My thoughts at the beginning were consumed with food, wanting to end the stomach pain that felt like someone was scraping the inside of my belly with a metal spoon, as if it were a pumpkin being removed of it's innards. It was a pain I never felt during my 40 days of not eating, but now felt after only 1 day of fasting and simply being.  As the days progressed, more and more my thoughts were consumed with God, with prayer, with being in His word. Did I have any mystical revelations, visions or experiences? NO, not to say that it couldn't happen. What I did experience was a phenomenal opportunity to focus more on God, to shift my attention away  from the things of this world that often consume me and place them on the only one that should.  Fasting in this way, has and will continue to serve as a disciplined way for me to develop a deeper understanding and closer walk with God.  That being said, over the next few months, as I continue the 3 day fasts, I will be seeking clear direction, and clarity of God's will, in a decision that I am struggling with.  Should I come to your mind, please feel free to pray for me with regards to this.  The lesson learned, the one I knew in my head, but hadn't adequately applied to my life is "If you wanna go fast, you gotta slow down."

#13) Memorize an entire chapter of the Bible: I decided on Proverbs 3, reasoning that I would do well to memorize it's sage advice, recall the encouragement, share the truth, and live the principals. I have memorized thus far verses  1-4.  I realize it is not a lot, but I am pacing myself so it is well hidden in my heart.

#16) Finish at least 6 required courses: I've submitted assignment 1 of 5 for my PSY277 course with Briercrest Univeristy,

#19) Invite 1 new and different person to church a month: I have done just this, and to my surprise each person has said yes.  More than this, one young woman that I met at the gym has been coming out to our church as well our young adults program for almost a month now and has even gone so far as to have her picture taken for our church directory.  I was telling my new friend Maria (see previous post) about our churches community dinner and movie night, and she said she would love to go. I then decided to invite her to a Sunday morning service, at which she excitedly agreed to attend, and also asked if she could take part in the Sunday morning Discipleship class I teach, explaining that she would like to get involved in a bible study as she has never made bible reading and bible study a priority and would like to pursue that more.

#27) Recycle: Everything was sorted into boxes in my storage closet/now a recycling room. I am not sure I got it all right, but I only had one little shopping bag of garbage at the end of the month, the rest was all recyclable.

#28) Volunteer at least twice a month: Started going back to Martha's Table, serving the homeless and transient of Kingston, food and love.  I love this ministry, such a privilege to be a part of it.

#31) Go to the gym at least twice a week for the year: So far so good, spin class and Kickboxing have been my go to classes.  However Spin Classes have been cancelled the last couple weeks, so I have taken it upon myself to climb the stairs in my building - 20 flights 160 stairs with 3.5 additional pounds in each hand.  The first time I ascended and descended the 20 flights twice, for 320 stairs up and 320 down. This past week I did it 3 times for 480 stairs in each direction.  Let me just share, that if you have flights of stairs, you do not need a gym membership, it was a grueling regime.  I have also begun walking each week with my friend.  First week we did 5km, this past week we did 7.5km.  I am looking forward to our upcoming weekend of hiking, as the trees create a cornucopia of colour.

#33) Do something just for me every two weeks: You wouldn't think this one would be hard for me, but it is.  I was delighted to receive a record player, something I had been trying to acquire for a few months now, so as a treat I took an hour or so, and went down to value village and picked me out some sweet vinyl.

Another delightful consequence of initiating my 36-4-36 list, is that others have contacted me, saying that they were encouraged to create their own lists, and have shared with me their challenges for the year!  What are you up to this year?  Consider joining us - maybe I will start a FB group where we can all encourage and support one another, share ideas, success stories, and challenges.

I remain so excited for what is going to unfold this year as a result of undertaking this challenge. For the ways that I am going to be stretched and grow closer to God, the ways I am going to be blessed, and hopefully be a blessing to others.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kindness is Never Wasted

Q: What do Kickboxing, Spilled Sour Cream, Police Crashing Parties, Dan Akroyd and The Virgin Mary have in common?      A: My Day

And what a day it was!  It began with a sinking feeling of dread.  Which was brought on by the thought of having to get out of bed on a Saturday morning to get myself to the gym for an aerobic kickboxing class (the 2nd of two classes I committed to this week).   The class consisted of the instructor, myself and one other student, apparently everyone else was wise enough to stay in bed.  So for 50 minutes we kicked, punched, sweated, cramped, huffed and puffed our way through the class.  Kudos to the instructor for staying so positive and motivated with only two students, both of whom were less than adept at the class.

As I was leaving the gym, I caught up to the other student as we were walking out the main doors.  I made a joke about her wisdom in using the button to automate the opening of the doors, as our energy to do it manually was exhausted.  She then asked me where I resided. I told her where I lived and hen her the same.  She explained and then told me how the police arrived at her door the night before, because the 5 other people she shares the house with had a party and there were complaints.  She did not seem thrilled with this at all.  I offered to drive her home and she readily accepted.  In our conversations I suggested that if she was looking for a quieter place next year to let me know, as I know a place, that may be a little quieter. I went on to mention that it currently had a number of Christians living there - to which she exclaimed - "Oh my people!".  At that, I let her in on the fact that I was the chaplain at the school she attends and the Associate Pastor of the church down the road.  This led to more conversation and me showing her where our church was and inviting her to join us the next day for Sunday service.  To my delight she did indeed join us for Sunday service and then an afternoon together and dinner with the young adults.  In further discussion we agreed that it was certainly a God thing - a divine appointment that brought us together that day. 

The divine appointments did not end there however.  After the gym I went to a lovely baby shower for a couple from our church.  On the way home, I was exhausted and looking forward to lying down and doing nothing.  First I had to stop and pick up groceries for the supper I would be preparing the next day for 22 people.  When I finally pulled in to my apartment, I followed someone to our back parking lot.  As I watched them pull up to the curb, I wondered what they were doing, and then realized she had a vehicle full of groceries.

So with a box full of groceries myself I walked up and unlocked the door, my first thought was just to get my tired self up to my place, but instead I decided (perhaps hesitantly), to hold the door open for the woman as she carried in a couple loads of groceries.  When she arrived with the first round she thanked me, to which I responded no problem.  As soon as those words left mouth, it became a problem, as the large container of sour cream toppled out of the box I was holding and smashed into the hall carpet below, leaving sour cream seeping into the grooves of the all weather carpet mat.  The woman was apologetic as if she had picked it out of my box and thrown it to the ground herself. She was appalled that I would have to suffer so much for my kindness. I explained it was not a big deal, not to worry, I would simply run up to my apartment to get some cleaner to wipe it up.  As I made my way back down she was coming in with the 2nd and last load of groceries.  So I held the door and then continued to try to clean the sour cream out of the carpet.  As I did so, the woman took a seat on the step and started engaging me in casual conversation.  Which floor did I live on? Was I from Kingston?  Was I married? Did I have children?.  She shared that she was from Columbia but had been in Canada for a few years and was now facing some changes and did not really know anyone.  She then asked what I did for a living.  When I told her I was a pastor, she was pleasantly surprised, and then added that she herself was "very religious". She asked what church I served at and then inquired about what "Free Methodism" was.  She asked if I believed in the Virgin Mary and the Saints, and if I prayed to them. I told her that I did indeed believe in the Virgin Mary and the saints, but that I did not pray to them.  Following this - she invited me to her apartment for an authentic Colombian supper, saying we should continue our conversation, and without hesitation I agreed. As I wiped the last of the sour cream out of the grooves of the carpet, I offered to help her carry her groceries to her apartment.  As we sat the last of the bags down in her kitchen, I explained that I was going to go to my apartment to get cleaned up and would be back momentarily.

As I entered my apartment, I was suddenly startled by what I had done.  Who agrees to go to a complete strangers house for dinner on a moments notice?  Then crazy notions went  through my head; things like, what if she was a lesbian and was hitting on me, (and I just unwittingly committed myself to some sort of awkward date). Or what if she is a serial killer who is going to drug my food and leave me locked up in her apartment. I did say they were crazy thoughts. Obviously this was a situation way out of my comfort zone and not something I usually did. But I had already committed myself, so off I went to either my surprise or my demise.

Let me tell you, that it was an incredible evening!  She was a lovely lady with legitimate, incredible stories of her wealthy life in Columbia and an uncle about to be canonized by the Pope.  Stories of how Dan Akyrod was responsible for her coming to Canada.  The meal was delicious, the company delightful.

With supper over and I quite comfortable with the situation now, actually invigorated by it, I invited her to my apartment for tea and continued conversation. We talked about God for hours, the Virgin Mary, Prayer, The Holy Spirit, Reading the Bible.  She told me about her various spiritual experiences, shared about her Catholic faith and we discussed the different nuances in our beliefs.  She told me about her family back home, her recent struggles and her heartbreak. She asked for advice, asked lots of questions about faith and God and God's will.  At the end of the evening she left with my older, overly highlighted, back cover missing, Charles Swindol Study Bible and a copy of the Shack to read.  I explained that the Shack was not a theological diatribe, it was not fact, nor necessarily biblically accurate, but much like her appreciation for fine art, it painted a beautiful interpretation of the trinity that I thought she would appreciate.

There is so much more to tell, but for the sake of confidences I leave it at this.  I have made a wonderful new friend, who incidentally can teach me Spanish, and is also a fan of clean/healthy eating, which helps me to complete #26 of my 36-4-36 challenges.  These events have also been confirmation for me I think, for the subject of the book I am going to write in response to challenge #2.

My day ended, with God showing me how a little kindness and selflessness, no matter how insignificant, can not only bless your day, but perhaps your life and the life of someone else. No Amount of Kindness is ever Wasted.

I've accomplished quite a bit in the first 10 days of my 36-4-36 challenge.  Each day an encouragement card was mailed, I've been going to the gym, and being more intentional, more often, at choosing clean eating options. My books arrived from Indigo.  I invited a new person to church and they came (Technically a lot of new people I connected with at at college came but that just seems to easy) and I've been recycling both at home and work :D

355 days to go, and if giving up TV and investing more in God and people continues to provide results like I have seen already, I'm in for an incredible year.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Day 6 - Challenge #6 & a Free Pass 4 the Finale

It's day #6 in my 36-4-36 adventure so I decided to focus on challenge #6.  It's a great day!  Today I took all of the indigo cards that were generously gifted to me on my birthday and purchased some of the books I would be reading in order to fulfill this commitment.

I bought 5 books that qualify for the non-academic/theology category:  The one that I am most excited for I did not buy, as it has not been released yet: "Another Man's War: The True Story of One Man's Battle to Save Children in the Sudan"

I also purchased one book in the academic/theology category that I am very excited about: A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. by Clayborne Carson.

Starting out the challenge I am currently reading as my non-theology choice "A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini" and "Understanding People by Larry Crab" for academic reasons.

As I complete each book, I intend to blog a short review, sharing some of the highlights and best quotes without giving away too much.
Time to wrap up this post.  Tonight is my Free Pass.  The only opportunity I've had in the last 6 days to turn on the television & the last 1.5 hours I will have all year.  When I decided to give up TV for the year it was with the stipulation that I would watch the season finale of Big Brother.  Which may be pretty indicative of why someone should give up TV in the first place.  In fact I turned the TV on thinking that Big Brother started at 8pm EST but instead Survivor was on, and I must admit I was some tempted just to turn that 1.5 hours into 2.5, but I shut it off.  Who needs to see the season premiere, of something you won't get to watch.

Plus I have an encouragement card to send.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Insignificant but Important

What a great weekend. It is funny how a simple resolution towards change and betterment can make all the difference. I am not able to discern exactly what it was, but with the posting of my 36-4-36 list, there seemed to lift from me a heaviness of heart, a heaviness I did not recognize was even there.

Today I feel lighter. Perhaps it was the amazing weekend I just enjoyed. Initiated by a surprise party that brought together some of my favourite people from near and far. Friends who had in their wit and kindness, collectively created a card listing the 36 things they appreciated about me - Perhaps I am feeling lighter because my head is getting bigger.

I was uber blessed and completely surprised, to learn that in an effort to support me in my 36-4-36 endeavour, many of my friends had bought me indigo gift cards to use towards purchasing books to read in order to fulfill commitment #6. Others gifted me manicure & pedicure certificates towards commitment #21! I have had a friend offer to teach me to crochet a hat and another to knit a pair of slippers in order to fulfill #18. Another friend is going to lend me their racing bike to enter the Brockville Swim/Bike Duathlon next summer. I laughed when one friend suggested that the people present at my party should help me with commitment #3 by each finding one guy, to ask me out. Now that they are not burdened with my preferences, they can encourage anyone to step forward and I would have to say Yes as long as they love Jesus. They seemed to enjoy the fun they could have in that, perhaps a bit at my expense ;)

I'm excited that I get to share this experience with my friends, many of them joining me in some of the endeavours and others inspired to create and live out their own lists, all of them encouraging me and keeping me accountable!

It has been 4 days since I initiated the 36-4-36 list, and you wouldn't think I'd be experiencing any results as of yet, but I must say - that not having the TV on, has been liberating. I have found myself spending more time with friends, and visiting people, while my time at home is more relaxing and productive.

I have thus far, maintained my commitment to mailing an encouragement card out a day, plus have a few extra birthday cards that I am sending out, to random people.  Today at lunch instead of a burger I had a California club sandwich - avocado, black olives, havarti cheese, and sprouts on whole wheat bread - delicious and closer to that clean eating goal, although the fries may have to go next time ;)

If you are reading this and want to know how you could encourage me in this upcoming week - feel free to pray for me - for strength and commitment to get to the gym, I plan to go to spin on Friday and Cardio Kickbox on Saturday and pray as well for injury free sessions.

I also welcome any suggestions of what to give up each month-for a month, beginning in October. I need 12 things to take me through the year.

I know that none of this is going to change the world, but I recognize that it is important for a myriad of reasons for me to do it anyway. Looking forward to sharing with all of you, not only the progress but the blessings that come as a result.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Yay! Another year older, another year filled with God's grace and blessings! Though as I reflect on this past year, I find myself unimpressed with how I lived it. Not bad, just not great. I wasted away the precious days God had given me. Sure I can come up with excuses and justifications, but none that will give me those days back.
So today on my 36th birthday I am committed to living a great year, a year that I can look back on and be proud of. A year that I can look back on and know that I made a difference. A year that was about loving God, others and myself more! Hopefully a year that will catapult me into ongoing years of loving and living better!
I begin today, my 36th year with 36 goals to accomplish by Sept 9th 2012. This is my 36-4-36 list, in no particular order:
1) Lose AT LEAST 36lbs
2) Write a book
3) Go on a date with whomever ASKS, regardless of my preferences and lists. (As long as they love Jesus)
4) Get a family doctor, make an appointment and go
5) See Celine Dion in Las Vegas
6) Read AT LEAST 12 books of which 6 are not Academic/Theology
7) Finish the 2 paintings I have promised and then paint something for me
8) Give TV up for the year, plus a different thing for a month, each month
9) Write & Mail a personal note of encouragement a day (Send me your mailing addy and you will probably get a little something from me in the mail)
10) Do a 3 day fast once a month
11) Enter the Brockville Swim/Bike Duathlon next summer (Or any athletic or Artistic Competition)
12) Increase my tithe
13) Memorize an entire chapter of the Bible - I am thinking Proverbs 3 or Matthew 5
14) Spend a week in silence
15) Go to bed by 9pm and wake up at 5am for a month
16) Finish at least 6 required courses
17) Pay off existing Debt
18) Knit a pair of slippers and/or crochet a hat
19) Invite 1 new and different person to church a month
20) Plant an urban vegetable garden
21) Get a 1 day makeover: Haircut, mani, pedi, facial, new outfit. (A bunch of my girlfriends have individually asked to join me so perhaps this will turn into a girls day - that would be fabulous fun)
22) Enter a poetry slam competition
23) Send a sweet care package to someone/Surprise someone (who knows maybe it will be you)
24) Do the Reynold's James Interview Video
25) Enter open-mic at a Comedy Club
26) Learn a new language or instrument
27) Recycle (I know don't hate I have never been good at this, especially living in an apt)
28) Volunteer at least twice a month
29) Spend a weekend to a week with an old order Mennonite family
30) Unspoken
31) Go to the gym at least twice a week for the year
32) Move towards a 90% clean eating diet by years end
33) Do something just for me every two weeks
34) Give blood & Get life Insurance
35) Play 18 holes of Golf (Again friends have asked to join me, so this may become a great group day)
36) Foster
I have also created a few alternatives, in case some of the above become improbable or unlikely due to circumstances beyond my control or if additional funds, time or opportunity become available I can do these in addition or save them for my 37-4-37 List: A) Have a midnight starlight dance party; B) Go camping; C) Get SCUBA Certified; D) Get Motorcycle License; E) Take an Art or Dance Class; F) Drive Less-Bike/Walk More G) Foodie Road Trip H) Be intentional about building relationships with ppl in my complex
I am sharing this list in part as an encouragement I expect good things to transpire form this and look forward to sharing how God works in and through it all.
If you have suggestions for things to give up each month, any input, opinions or encouragement feel free to leave comments below.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lost Loved Ones?

This past Christmas, our family did something a little bit different. It was decided that we would buy one gift and then do a white elephant gift exchange. This is where someone picks a gift and then the next person can either pick a gift that has not been opened or steal someone's gift. I was not a fan of this idea, but since most others were, I went along with it.

I realized that this would be a perfect opportunity for me to do something I had wanted to do for a long time. I only had to buy one gift, but really wanted to get my siblings and parents something as well. So I went out and bought them each a devotional and a suitable bible. No one in my family attends church, nor is born again, so had I bought them bibles and devotionals as a Christmas gift in years past they would not have been impressed and probably disappointed. Since however, they were not expecting a gift this year, I figured they would at least appreciate the additional effort.

I was hoping that at some point in their lives, they would be led to pick up the bible and read it. Perhaps at a low point in their life, or at the birth of a new baby. I knew God could do a good work in the hearts of my family, and believed he was, I was just not as sure if they were ready or would ever be ready to surrender to that working.

So how shocked was I when my youngest sister called me a week or so ago, to tell me she had been reading the devotional and bible I got her and that she had some questions. I was astounded, and excited. She wanted to to know "what is it to YOU to be a Christian and then what is it to the bible, as far as stuff that is not suppose to be done or considered sinful" She also asked "So in your eyes in comparison to the bible is it a sin to have intimate relations before marriage - that's what I chose to give up for lent" This made me laugh but also overwhelmed me to see the way God was working in her heart.

A couple days later I got a Facebook message that she had gone to church on Sunday morning and then again in the evening, not realizing the evening service was a prayer meeting, which she said she really enjoyed. We talked some more and then she shared some of her journal entries. I asked her permission to share one with you today, because I think it is beautiful but more than that it is honest and real.

My devotional heading for today read " LIVE FOR CHRIST " I try to find meaning in today's reading but nothing jumps out at me. I put the book down feeling lonely, sad and then call my sister at 10:30pm who I was suppose to call at 6 but didn't. We talk a lot. I write down some of the things she says. She thinks I should read a book called THE SHACK by W.P Young and then she told me a story of how GOD spoke to her - going to look up the song Long Black Train. The only other thing that I wrote down that she said were these three words: Admit, Believe, Confess. I got off the phone with her and began to speak with GOD and came to the conclusion that I am not even ready to Admit that I can't live without HIM yet. I cried. I'm stubborn, and a control freak, and I'm not ready to relinquish control even though I want to. I tell HIM that I am on the path to trying even though the only thing standing in my way is me and my conflict within myself - My doubt or questioning. Due to crying I couldn't sleep so I picked up my book " God Knows My Name" The first thing I read was "Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord, your GOD, and cry out to the Lord" Joel 1:14. More tears flow as I think about my sister and the talk we just had. I read on "wake up you drunkards and weep!" drunkards suggests a self indulgent lifestyle pursued by those who value material things over spiritual. I then decide to begin writing and now you (my journal and GOD) have the first two pgs. on my journey to my ABC's

For some who may be shocked or even appalled that I suggested she read the Shack, I explained that it was fiction, and while not necessarily great theology, it painted a beautiful interpretation of the trinity, that she would appreciate and may help in understanding the persons of God.

I write today's post as an encouragement, for everyone who has friends and family who have not yet experienced God's saving grace. For those who pray and wait and pray some more that their loved one's would know in a personal and real way the love, grace and mercy of our Heavenly Father, keep Hope in your heart and Prayers on your lips. Never stop praying! More than the words you say, let them see your witness, of a life transformed, a life well lived. Know that God is at work and God's grace, the prevenient grace that draws all people, does not discriminate against anyone.

I also write this as a reminder to all of us who have been walking with the Lord for some time. May our hearts be as tender today as they were when we first heard His whisper. May we be authentic and honest, searching our hearts, eager to surrender any "sin" in our lives. May we be as bold and passionate today as we were when we first began this journey. May we remember that first love and may it invigorate us and spur us on to great things for God's glory.

There is much more to this story, God continues to work in amazing ways in not only my youngest sisters heart but in each member of my family, and I am excited to share those stories with you as they unfold.