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.