Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's Happening

When I was younger, I listened to fluffy pop music like Duran Duran and Split Enz - nothing ear-splitting, nothing offensive, just good ol' pop. I met a guy when I was 20 who liked Metallica, and I remember thinking it was too loud, but I was also intrigued by the anger of it all. At 21 I bought the first Stone Temple Pilots album, and remember listening to it on the bus on my way home from University (on my Sony Walkman!). When "Sex Type Thing" came roaring into my earphones, I thought, "This is WAY too heavy!" However, the album grew on me, and I found myself leaning towards the rest of the grunge movement, including Alice in Chains, a hard-driving metal/grunge band from Seattle, whos lyrics revolved largely around drugs and death. I loved it.

My mom used to like Black Sabbath when she was younger, and I remember her telling me a number of years ago that it now all sounded like noise to her. I thought that I would be rocking to Alice in Chains well into my 60s, I'd be the cool parent who liked all of the kids' music, and I'd never think of it as noise. My radio is always tuned to the new rock stations and I pride myself in knowing all of the new music.

But something is changing.

In the last few days, I've hardly been able to listen to the new rock radio stations - it all sounds very noisy to me. I hear the old Nirvana and Pearl Jam songs and they sound dated - a memory of long ago when we used to sit around a drink and listen to their depressing lyrics. I haven't let go of Soundgarden and Alice in Chains yet (I recently drooled over a guitar magazine article picturing Chris Cornell with his hair the length it was in the Badmotorfinger days), but I wonder if it is only a matter of time before I find them noisy as well. Oh, what a sad day that will be.....

I find myself enjoying jazz, listening to CBC (which I swore as a kid would never happen - we ALWAYS listened to CBC on Sunday nights and summer school-less days, and I hated it), and trying to soothe my brain with something a little quieter than screaming guitars and haunting voices.

Oh no.....I'm officially getting old.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Skies Opened Up

We had a minor tragedy occur this past week - someone decided to set our house on fire. It was early in the morning, and we all got out okay, but it was the realization of my greatest childhood fear - that we would lose the house in a fire. For as long as I can remember, I feared the house going up in flames in the middle of the night, but as I grew older, my fear started to wane as I thought about all of the people I knew who had never had a fire...and that maybe we would be as lucky.

I guess we weren't so lucky.

After the initial trauma, I found myself in shock, trying to keep everything in order while my brain spoke irrational thoughts. I spent much of Monday and Tuesday on the phone, retelling the story again and again, until my throat grew sore from so much talking. I feebly went to FPU on Monday and thought that going to The Mustard Seed on Tuesday would help. It did keep my mind off things, or so I thought, until I walked by Sheldon with a tray full of mugs, and he said, "You look mad." In that moment I wanted to sit down and tell him the story, but I couldn't - that would be against the rules - and so off I went with my mugs. I had to leave early, and likely missed a karaoke song being sung just for me, but I just spent too much time in my own head and just had to leave.

All week long I tried to pray, tried to find some encouragement in scripture, but I felt like there was a roadblack between me and God - I just couldn't get through and couldn't find comfort. On Friday I thought I had a breakthrough, but thinking back, I think it was at that time the shock wore off, and I stopped frantically trying to "do" things and started to think about the reality of the situation, and then I became depressed. I woke up on Saturday morning thinking that I just wanted to spend the rest of the day in bed. I had great plans to go to spin class, but that couldn't happen since I had been up most of the night. I felt like I would never be the same.

However, behind the scenes there was a great prayer chain working to help me out - whatever barriers to God that were keeping me from getting to him, they weren't there for my dear friends, and they were working diligently to pray for my comfort. As Saturday night rolled around, and it started to get dark, and my heart started to tighten, I received a message from God that I no longer had to worry, and it was as if the sky opened up to heaven and I could feel His presence envelope me completely. I felt no doubt that it was time to sleep. I slept for 8 hours last night, ran for an hour this morning, and feel absolutely great.

Now what can I do to thank Him?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

So Cold

I should be getting to bed, I mean really - I have to get up to teach class at 600 tomorrow morning. However, it's been another great but troubling night at the Mustard Seed, and I always feel better when I write my thoughts down.

It was probably around -25 when I arrived, and thankfully at 630 the staff decided to let everyone inside. They were so grateful to just be able to sit at a table out of the cold. We served at our usual 700, and by the time 800 rolled around my feet were frozen and my hands could hardly give out the plates. There were a lot of regulars who didn't show up tonight - I hope that wherever they were, they were warm.

By 945, with 15 minutes until closing, everyone seemed to have a forlorn look on their face - of course they didn't want to go back out into the cold. Many blankets were given out, meals were served outside (which isn't normally done), and a few people let were let in who normally wouldn't have been. There was one young guy in particular who was so obviously intoxicated, but he wasn't causing any trouble, so I didn't see any need to report him to the staff. In hindsight maybe I was lucky he didn't cause any trouble, but I couldn't bear the thought of him wandering around in the cold any longer than he had to.

And as always, I am left of thoughts of certain people and wondering what they did when they left: The young kid who started coming last week, all of 18 or 19 years old but so polite, and in another world he would be hanging out at a University or College and having the time of his life. This young boy who looks like he could be a model, but for some reason is hanging out in the inner city with nowhere to go. Then there's Sheldon, with his mop of curly hair and his sarcastic attitude, who said he would sing karaoke tonight but didn't quite make it in. I remember a few months ago when someone asked him to go to McDonald's and he just replied, "No money." I hope he's warm somewhere tonight. And the tall guy whose name I still don't know, the guy who calls me KJ, and every night he leaves with his big thermos and four tea bags, and I wonder where he goes to drink that tea.

At FPU last night we discussed what we would do if we could do anything and money was no object. It was interesting - one class member would run a pet store, one a junk yard, and one would keep singing his heart out. I wasn't going to share my plan, but they asked, and I responded that I would build a homeless shelter where people could eat three meals a day and stay for the night. It would be big enough so that no one would ever be turned away, and there would always be lots of donuts at coffee time. Then I wouldn't have to come home and worry about people being left out on the street in -25 weather - they would always have a bed to sleep in, and they would always have a full belly.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tim Horton's Coffee

I hate coffee - I'm proud to admit that I am one of the few people in our culture who does not start the day with caffeine and I ridicule the drive-thru lineups at Tim Horton's (I counted 10 cars in line at about 850 this morning - my record is 13, scoff scoff). I tried to drink coffee once in University after staying up all night at a residence party, but it was awful (is 7-11 coffee typically awful? I don't know.) and I have never drank a cup again. Every once in a while I try Scott's coffee, but it's just a reminder that the stuff is bad, bad, bad.

(As a side note - I have tried iced coffee slushes that are so loaded with cream and sugar that of course they taste good, but I'm too cheap to get addicted to those and I don't want to waste the calories only to end up climbing the walls as I try to fall asleep later!).

So how can I explain the fact that, since a Tim Horton's opened in Devon, I have tried Scott's coffee a couple of times (large triple triples - gah!), and my brain has actually thought, "Hey, I could drink this stuff!". Nevermind the cream and sugar calories, the loaded caffeine, the rumours of msg in the coffee (unsubstantiated, of course), my brain still seems to want a Tim Horton's Coffee. It doesn't want a Mac's coffee or a Fas Gas coffee, but hey, if I was seen drinking a Tim Horton's coffee, I'd finally be one of the cool kids!


It is amazing what the advertising juggernaut has done to our psyches, including my logical coffee-hating psyche, to the point where I would actually consider purchasing a coffee at Tim Horton's. I can somewhat understand the drive-thru lineups now, although come on people, half the time there are five or ten cars in the drive-thru and no one in the restaurant!!

If this is a small example of the effect of advertising on our purchasing power, it's no wonder we've become a must-have-it-now-who-cares-about-the-cost society. It's no wonder we're riddled in debt and no one really seems to care if they dig their way out. After all, the government will bail us out, right?

Do we even have a chance?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mr. Bailey

Over six years ago, on July 18, 2004, I walked through the front doors of Devon Alliance Church and was greeted by Mr. and Mrs. Robert and Maria Bailey. What struck me was the way I was greeted - not just a token handshake and smile, but they physically moved towards me and welcomed me into the church with loving handshakes and sincere kindness. Mr. Bailey asked me my name, and if I was related to the Matthews family across the river (which I'm not), and each week they greeted us tirelessly and whole-heartedly. They represented everything that a Christ-loving couple should be.

As Elizabeth grew older she would sit with me in the sanctuary, and often would dance as we worshipped before the service. Mr. Bailey always made a point of greeting her in a grandfatherly way, saying, "There's my dancer! Are you going to dance for me again?" As she grew older she didn't dance in that carefree three year old way, but he always mentioned it, even the last time she saw him a few months ago. Sometimes I wonder if she reminded him of his own granddaughters, as they have very curly hair just as Elizabeth does. There was just such fondness in his voice for a little girl whose name he may not have even known.

Mrs. Bailey died a couple of years ago, and after that Mr. Bailey seemed to lose a bit of his energy. He still came to church regularly, drove himself, and I'll never forget the last time I saw him at church, and he was walking slowly, and he left by himself and moved gingerly down the sidewalk towards his car. I thought of walking up beside him and wishing him a good day, but I didn't - I just watched him and respected him as he carried on with life without his beloved Maria.

I read in the bulletin a few weeks ago that Mr. Bailey was in the hospital, and then with extreme sadness read a note from the kids' school announcing his passing on October 31, 2010. I didn't realize he had been so ill - I thought he'd just bounce back, and I cried with the realization that I would never see him again.

His funeral was today, and it was regal and appropriate, as his legion family joined with his blood family and honored a man who did so much for this world. The old hymns were lovely, and I had forgotten what it felt like to sing them. No wonder the senior members of our church miss them so much. A former Pastor of our church delivered a ten minute sermon that was so powerful - I was on the edge of my seat with anticipation. He asked us if we were saved, and if we were following Jesus, asking in a way that made me want to live a Godly life like never before. I can't fully explain why he moved me so profoundly - he just did, and I long to hear him preach again, but he is likely retired.

It's been a busy day, and the kids were so good at the funeral that I was amazed (someone even commented on it as we left!). I'm left with great memories of Mr. Bailey and an observation of an amazing legacy that has God at the very centre. It's so sad to see people of such character pass out of our world, but inspires us to be exactly as they were.

Goodbye Mr Bailey!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Crossing Paths

Sometimes I wonder why certain people cross our paths, and why they seem to hijack our brains and we can't let them go. Day after day we come across so many people but every once in a while we meet someone with whom we have an instant connection. Me, being an extreme introvert, doesn't connect with people very often, but when I do, it's almost magnetic. Like at church, there have been so many nice people I have met over the last six years, and many older ladies who are fabulous mother figures (since my own parents are a province away), but only one older lady to whom I have felt a very strong bond, and it doesn't even really make sense considering I see others far more often than I see her, but this lady grabbed ahold of my heart from the moment I met her. She likely doesn't even know, and I'll probably never tell her. I wonder though, why her and not the others?

And of course at the Mustard Seed, where hundreds come in every day, and I'm polite and smile to all of them, but there are a few that have grabbed my heart to the point where I'm wondering if God has sent them with a purpose. It doesn't make sense that a person I don't even know could enter my brain and never exit, a person who I see for a few hours a week (or every other week), but who occupies my thoughts and dreams and leads me to think about life pathways that were never in any five year plan I could imagine.

There must be a reason.....I can't believe that we come together by pure coincidence.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

She Smiled!

Driving to the Mustard Seed on Tuesday nights is a great time to talk to God. Usually we discuss the people and their circumstances, and last night I was anxious as I drove because it was the first cold Tuesday of the season. My heart breaks enough for these people when it's warm outside, and I couldn't imagine them being out in the cold....and it's not even really that cold yet. But God reminded me that they had been living that way long before I came into the picture, and my job is not to feel sorry for them, but to provide a friendly face and maybe offer some hope.

And so I thought about one lady in particular who comes in almost every week. She never thanks me for a plate, and takes it with almost a sneer on her face. I know she loves her sweets, but when we run out of her favorites, the sneer comes back. But there was something about her, something that made me think she had some smiles on the inside, and I made it my mission last night to make her smile.

I saw her as she came up the plate line, and as I gave her a plate I said hello. She didn't smile, but started a conversation about the weather, and she had never spoken to me in the plate line before. Okay, I thought, that's a start. Later, at the coffee bar, she came over to ask about leftovers, and I can't remember what I said to her, but I did catch a hint of a smile, and then it was gone. However, that lead to further conversations later in the evening - how she was likely diabetic and would find out the next day if it was type 1 or 2, and that conversation will lead to more next week, because of course I need to find out her prognosis.

My experience with her last night reminded me that even though people may seem crusty on the outside, we never know what is going on inside of them. Everyone has a story. No one is a mere mortal.

The holy spirit continues to stir things inside of me that I don't want to acknowledge, because they are way too far out of my comfort zone and way too big of a project in my tiny brain. I was stirred as I chatted with two community members about the upcoming art show and decided that I really have to attend. I was stirred as I listened to karaoke, and each week more and more people try to convince me to sing (but I never will!). I was stirred as the people gathered their blankets and headed out into the cold, and by my crazy-haired friend who came in for a coffee, smiled, and headed off into the night.

I wonder if everyone who works at The Mustard Seed feels the way I do.

I sure hope so.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Everything Comes Back to Star Trek

I've been thinking about Edith Keeler a lot today.

Holy Spirit, you are making me uncomfortable.


Oh my aching heart - what a week it has been. Since I found out that the "Gideon" on a friend's blog was the grandson of our Senior Pastor, I have been praying like never before, talking to God in open language ("Come on God, you can DO this!" - like He needs encouragement from me), and just thinking that if we all prayed hard enough, a miracle could occur, that a baby only a few days ago was headed to Heaven would grow and prosper and live out his purpose. So far, we are still waiting, but Gideon continues to fight and the story is already an amazing one of faith and God's unending love. What has been a teary rollercoaster for me is likely unimaginable for his family, and so I continue to pray non-stop, as we should always, but rarely ever do.

And then there was last night, Tuesday, at The Mustard Seed. Each week my heart is gripped by the people who walk in the door - Darryl, who had walked from Whyte Ave to eat but left his fiance there because she was tired. They are homeless and their truck was stolen a few weeks ago. There is the nameless guy (only because I have yet to ask him his name) who told me how he used to be a mathematical genius until he drank too much, and now at 45 he doesn't think he can get it back. The guy who seemed cheery but told me he is lonely and depressed because he has nowhere to live and no family or friends. He spent Thanksgiving walking around, and expects Christmas to be the same. He left with a blanket and a warm jacket to weather out the night...and it's not even cold yet. The guy who took three water bottles to his "destination of choice" as he called it, and asked if I knew anything about the new ID for homeless people. And the one that sticks in my mind the most, the young guy with the crazy unkempt hair, who introduced himself by asking me if I had a Scottish background, and then asked me to dance during karaoke. Of course I had to decline as there were leftovers to be served, and we're not supposed to touch the community members anyway (sigh), but I wondered why he asked - someone else lonely and depressed?

I can't stop thinking about all of the people I talked to last night, and wishing I could go find them right now to make sure they are okay. I never thought my heart would ache so much for people I don't even know, people who just see me as one of the many faces who serves them coffee night after night - I'm no one special to them, but they are so special to me.

I keep thinking that someday I will be doing more for them than just serving coffee and handing out plates, but it's not in my vision yet, although I know it's in God's.

The Lord will fulfill His purpose in me.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Morning

It's a beautiful day in the neighbourhood, as Mr. Rogers would say - the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the air is ripe with the smell of falling leaves. I went for a "brief" run this morning (only an hour - brief when compared to the half marathon I'll be attempting next Monday!) and it was gorgeous and crisp, and a big bird scared the heck out of me as I went down onto the trails, but it was so breathtaking down there.

Before I went for my run, I woke up at about 630 (thanks to the parents for the "morning person"genes - I can't sleep in!). My first thought was to have a chat with God - my brain has some inner turmoil and I'm trying to sort it out. Usually I can step out of my brain and analyze the problem, and figure out the root of the conflict. This time, however, my logical process is not working, so I asked God if He could help me sort out the problem. I fell back asleep and He sent me a dream.

I was walking down a street with Scott, and there was a lineup of Mustard Seed people. Maria was there (she works at The Mustard Seed every night), and they had separated the people into two lines - one line was sober, and the other line was not. I asked her how she handled them every night, and she said she had lots of training. Scott wanted to move along down the street (I'm not sure where we were headed), so off we went.

We stopped at a bench and sat down, and I found some papers with an old cheque and a ten dollar bill. I thought it had fallen out of my pocket, and as I looked at it again, the ten dollar bill was accompanied by five dollar bills. I thought my eyes were deceiving me, and the next time I looked, there was also a hundred dollar bill. I exclaimed to Scott, "The money is multiplying and I'm not even kidding!" I thought of the people in line, and of course there were favorites that I wanted to give the money to, but I couldn't, because that would be favoritism and could cause a problem.

Right now I'm not sure why God sent this dream to me as an answer to my internal conflict. This week is an awesome week for the Mustard Seed as Thursday will be their annual radio-thon. I'm going down there as soon as I drop the kids off at school, and will stay to help with Bingo, card games, and to serve lunch. I can't wait!!

For this week, I'll enjoy the warm autumn days, have a few more chats with God, hang out with the Mustard Seed gang, and see if the answers come into my head.

I have faith that the answer is close.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Here we are, in the third week of school, and all is well. Matthew seems to have found a renewed joy for school and is a much happier boy than he was last year, and Elizabeth is making friends (of course she is!). They are memorizing scripture, doing daily devotions, and are learning in a strict but loving environment. It was definitely the correct decision.

But I sit this evening in a bit of a funk, thinking back to the summer and all the fun things we did (despite the weather), and it plays back like a movie on fast-forward, and I wonder where the time went. And I sit here wishing away the next twelve weeks, because I have once again taken on too much and don't know how I'm going to fit it all in. My mind is buzzing with all of the things that need to be done. Last week I thought, "When this week is over, I'll be able to relax." Well, last week is over, and now I find myself saying, "When Thankgiving weekend comes along, I'll be able to relax." What will come next?

"By Christmas, I'll be able to relax."
"When school's out, I'll be able to relax."
"When the kids are older, I'll be able to relax."
"When I'm dead, I'll be able to relax."

And so on and on I'll go, wishing away my life, and never being able to relax. I wonder why I constantly feel overwhelmed, even though I'm not really all that busy (I only work a couple hours a day, after all!). For some reason, everything that needs to be done creates noise in my brain, and I try to shut it off by eating (yah, like that will work), which sends negative thoughts all around, out of control thoughts, and more noise. IT NEVER ENDS!

I completed a KI lesson on prayer today, and maybe it's time to give this prayer thing a real shot. Yes, I pray here and there, but I seem to need a calm brain in order to pray, and that just hasn't been happening these days. I know this brain chaos is all my own fault, but I can't seem to figure it out on my own. So let's see what happens.

Please Lord, quiet my brain and let me enjoy the peace of the moment....

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


The first day of school has always been a favorite - new pencils, fresh clothes, smiling faces (other than the grumpy high schoolers I saw walking down the road this morning!), but I always wonder what kind of year it's going to be. It seems to get more difficult as the kids get older.

We put this kids into a different school, hoping for a Christian Education and smaller class sizes, but when we arrived there had been a bunch of new registrations and Elizabeth's class was the same size as the year before - 16. She then started to cry because she didn't know anyone. Truthfully, she did know two of the kids in her class, but it wasn't like Robina Baker where she would have known everyone in her class.

And then there was Matthew - we walked into his classroom and he immediately spotted Owen, his "nemesis" (Matthew's word) from grade 3. It looked like his class had grown as well.

So I went home and cried, because Matthew seemed upset about Owen and Elizabeth was crying. Why had I even switched schools? Matthew could have been a senior kid at Robina Baker, he could have done track and cross country, and Elizabeth would have been happy with her gaggle of girlfriends. But then I had to remember the big picture - they were going to get a solid Christian Education, the teachers really seemed to care, and they had to learn that saying the Lord's Prayer every morning in school wasn't a bad thing.

Like a paranoid parent, I snuck over at lunchtime to see how they were doing. Matthew and Owen were laughing and running together on the playground, and Elizabeth was jumping on Matthew's back.

Silly me.


Last night was a different night at The Mustard Seed; it was their annual "work-bee" time and so the building was closed as they painted, repaired, and refreshed the building for the upcoming year. Of course, even when the building is closed there are still hungry people walking around, and so we served simple sandwiches and juice to the neighbourhood people.

It was a new experience in the fresh air, but nice to see the people sitting in chairs, talking, eating their sandwiches, and smiling. We also experienced the reality of the inner city - because we were not confined to the walls of the building, in which no person can enter if they are under the influence, we had a few inebriated people walk through. However, they were pleasent, happily took a sandwich (one apparently stumbled into the staircase at the back of the building), and reminded me that there is more to inner city work than serving the safe people.

The usuals came around - Stewart and Georgie, Michael, and lots of other who I have yet to know their names, but those who were missing were notably those who love the karaoke night and come around for a meal and to sing a song. I wonder what they were up to last night. We saw a few new people as well - lots of guys on bicycles, including a hilarious young guy who kept rolling through on his bike, taking as many sandwiches as we could give him. Some people probably left with around 10 sandwiches as we had plenty, but those will probably only last for a few snacks, perhaps a breakfast and a lunch, and then we will see them again.

Friday, August 27, 2010


I was lucky enough to attend a charity luncheon on Wednesday, the guest speaker being the one and only Lance Armstrong. The luncheon was held at the Shaw Conference Centre, and Edmonton's elite were there, dressed in their finest, having paid $200 a plate to raise money for Breast Cancer and to have a chance to hear Mr. Armstrong's words of wisdom.

While breast cancer is a fantastic cause, I wondered why we couldn't have a million dollar fundraiser for the homeless of Edmonton. I can't even imagine what could be done in the inner city if all of the major charitable organizations had an extra couple of hundred thousand dollars to play with. As I sat at the lunch I couldn't help but think of the people I have met and grown close to at the Mustard Seed (they must be more comfortable with me as well now - on Tuesday a few approached me to chat). As we walked to Jeff's shiny new truck, I looked for any sign of someone I knew, maybe Stewart and Georgie walking down the street, or any of the regular karaoke singers. They are all that is on my mind these days.

But, I've also had to realize that our causes and purposes are all different, and the burden on my heart isn't necessarily on everyone's. I spoke to my piano teacher the other day, and she had gone down to the Mustard Seed to volunteer with a friend, but afterwards she said it didn't interest her at all. However, she volunteered with a group that was teaching English to new immigrants, and said she absolutely loved it, and wished she could do it every week, while I was thinking it didn't really sound all that exciting.

And so I continue along my merry way, the first day of school looming, wondering how Matthew is going to react when he sees that his "nemesis" from grade 3 has also jumped to the Christian School (I'm hoping they'll end up being buddies.....hoping....), studying for an exam so that I can teach exercise classes, trying to fit in workouts so that I don't crap out on my races at the end of the month, and wondering what the heck I'm going to wear to my cousin's wedding next weekend.

But all the while, they are constantly in my head, like a connection has been made that will never be broken, and I want to do all I can to help them. I would give up all of my trivial worries just to be able to give them something they need, but of course I can't do that - against the rules, you know.

Last night Scott and I mused over the fact that we will be mortgage free in a few years, and Matthew gave me a big hug. When I asked why he hugged me, he said, "Then we can give away more money even sooner."

I can't wait.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


We take so much for granted in our overindulged North America culture. Clothing is just one example - most of us have overflowing closets, clothes we don't wear anymore, our kids have more clothes than they could ever wear, and it goes on and on throughout the years. We often respond, as the seasons changes, by going through our clothes, bagging them up, and sending them to a charity. In our case, we send them to the United Church Thrift Shop right here in Devon.

I went through our clothes a few weeks ago and found an old VBS staff t-shirt from 2007 - it was very plain, black, and I didn't even wear it to work out in, so it was time for it to go. It was packed in with all of the other orphaned clothing that had been gathering dust.

Last night, as I was handing out plates at the Mustard Seed Church, a young girl walked towards me wearing a black t-shirt that read "Staff '07" on the front. My first thought was that the Staff '07 lettering was a generic print that could have been bought at any one of a number of craft stores. Then, as she passed by me, I saw the faint outline of some writing on the back. I could barely read the top word - "Inspector", and I couldn't read the bottom word, but the printing was unmistakable - it was the solid block letter writing that I am well know for.

This was my t-shirt.

Of course, I didn't ask her about the t-shirt - she continued on to be served dinner, and then was off into the downtown streets. I wondered, however, how the black VBS t-shirt made its way from the United Church Thrift Shop and into inner city Edmonton. It had likely ended up in one of their surplus bags, and maybe ended up at the Bissell Centre or Hope Mission. Of course I'll never know.

It made me wonder how many people last night were wearing castoff clothing purged from the closet of an overindulged family. That wording may sound mean, but we all have way too much stuff. We are all overindulged to the point where a simple t-shirt has no meaning, but for another, it's an important piece of clothing.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Now That Was a Lightbulb Moment!

Why should it surprise me that I have been entrenched in legalism for the past six wonder I couldn't get my head around anything important! Legalism fits my personality perfectly - rules oriented, boundries, but I would never have realized that legalism was my problem until I was studying Romans and listening to commentary by the one and only Chuck Missler. I then ran to my new Systematic Theology book (once a nerd, always a nerd), and it's starting to make sense to me now.

I have spent the past six years in an evangelical church, and yet have not been able to call myself a Christian. I thought that getting baptized three years ago might help ease my conscience - after all, professing faith in Christ in front of others was a leap of faith in itself for this uber-introvert. But no, that didn't do it either. I continued to muddle through church, tried to read book upon book trying to figure out what the problem was, tried to learn as much as I could, thinking that knowledge was the key, but no matter what I did, I knew it was never going to be enough, because I didn't follow the rules to a T, sometimes I (gasp!) didn't feel like going to church, and I didn't seem to have the right "church attitude". I was never going to be able to call myself a Christian.

However, the light bulbs started to go on during my Romans session with Dr. Missler, and his specific point that legalism was for those weak in their faith. Faith? That's not logical or concrete. That's why rules need to be followed! GAH! I had always known the definition of legalism, but couldn't see it in myself. No wonder I could never be good enough....because I would never be able to follow the rules to my own satisfaction!

I then read the chapter on Justification in my Systematic Theology book. So we can be justified through faith...okay. So that means we are declared righteous by God.....okay. But we are only declared righteous because Christ's righteousness is imputed on us....okay. The fact that God declares us righteous doesn't mean we change on the inside....okay, it's becoming clearer now. So nothing we do will make us righteous by God, since we will always be's only through faith that we can receive this....BINGO!

The book went on to say that, because we are sinners, we could never truly accept the fact that God had declared us righteous by any other means than faith. I think the faith part was the key that I was always missing. Since I viewed everything through a legalistic lens, I could never believe that I could be declared righteous, because the sin factor was always there. But now I see that we are declared righteous through our faith in Jesus.

Faith is the key - hear that logical brain?

Stay tuned for more ramblings......this book is turning my brain upside down.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Oh My Heart

When I went through volunteer training, the Volunteer Co-ordinator at The Mustard Seed went through a list of rules for us - don't give the patrons any money or gifts, don't give them rides, don't tell them where you live or your last name, and don't go visit their residences by yourself. At the time I understood the rules, although I never thought I'd become close enough to any of the patrons to really worry about the rules.

How wrong I was.

After less than two months, I am developing bonds with some of the patrons, and I can hear myself thinking that there are certain people who are harmless and could benefit from a ride home. Like Michael, the older English gentlement who has a hard time with the stairs, and who was so grateful for the little chocolate bars we were handing out last night. Surely I could give him a ride home, right?

Or Stewart and his wife, who were so helpful last night since I was the only volunteer left after 900. I was running the coffee bar by myself, but would never have been able to keep up with the dishes or the coffee without their help. Happily, we were cleaned up by 1015. Surely they would be harmless, right?

But, rules are rules and there are reasons for them. I joke around with some of the other people who come in regularly, but I would never think of breaking the rules with those younger people - they seem too streetwise, too strong, different than the older people with their broken bodies. I had my first "uncomfortable moment" with a patron who started chatting with me, which was fine, but then started making some comments which were not fine, and I just ignored him and talked to the next people in line. He didn't come back to the coffee bar. Another patron was quite irate when I wouldn't give him a water bottle that was behind the counter - I told him it probably belonged to a staff member, but he still wanted it. I didn't see him again either. Last night was the first night I was grateful for the staff lead walking me outside and making sure I got into my car safely. In past weeks, I didn't have any issues leaving, but last night a lot of people were hanging around outside after 1000.

As Laura said in that inital training meeting, we need to be cautious, not over the top, but not naive either. These are people who are hungry and desperate some of the time, and I'm a nice person who wishes I could help them all, but sometimes you just have to accept the limits.

And on another positive note, I finally made it over to my friend with the puzzles. I didn't have much time since there were so few volunteers last night, but I attempted one puzzle (unsuccessfully). I hope he comes back next week so that I can try again.

And I hope my singer friend comes back since he always seems happier when he sings, and I missed hearing his rendition of 90s grunge.

And I hope the young guy with a cane who looked like he had been in a fight felt better after I gave him some chocolate.

And I hope the couple who was walking back to Capilano made it safely.

I hope.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

For Whom

Tonight is my fifth week at the Mustard Seed, and some interesting things happened in the third week that have made me think a lot about what I am doing there and why. How easy it is, as mortal humans, to make everything about us - we are so self-centered!! After the first fabulous two weeks, I was looking forward to the third week, but not for the right reasons. I was hoping to chat with certain people, hoping to hear certain karaoke songs, and was thirsting for that "feel good feeling" that I had was all for me.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived and found a different aura - at first I couldn't pinpoint it, but everything seemed a little down from the moment I drove up - maybe it was the overcast night. I then entered the church, started doing my thing, and it was almost like a thin cloud was hanging around me, and I couldn't feel anything for what I was doing. It was very wierd, but I continued along the evening, and drove home wondering what had just happened. And then it hit me - I wasn't going there to make myself feel good, or hang out with the crowd, I was going there to serve and to be humble.

And so last week, I drove downtown with a different attitude - that I was going to welcome whatever came to me that week, good or bad, but realizing that this is not something I am doing for me, but for Him, and His Glory.

As it turns out, last week was different, and busy as I served juice instead of handing out plates. This week maybe I'll just clear coffee mugs from the tables, even though I would rather hand out plates, but it's not about me. I did see my friend with the Mohawk who had sung a wonderful karaoke version of Plush two weeks before, and I asked him if they had Interstate Love Song. Next thing I knew, he was on the microphone, singing my song, and came over after and I praised him, because it was great.

What a gift I have been given to serve in this way. Sometimes I think I should be doing something bigger and better for God, but maybe this is it for now. He'll tell me if there is more.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

365 served

My second shift at The Mustard Seed was last night - I had to be up early this morning so I didn't stay up to post when I returned home. It was another fantastic evening - I handed out 365 plates, and recognized a handful of people that came through, although there were a lot of new people. My friend with the puzzle was not there last night, but maybe I'll see him again one of these weeks. Some of the people smiled genuinely as I handed them their plates, and even though I don't know all of their stories, part of their story is definitely the fact that they need to come for a free meal, whether they have money to buy groceries or not, the need for a free meal exists. And for that, I am eternally greatful to The One who sent me to do His service.

I'm thinking about them a lot again today - the young girl with her boyfriend who could hardly walk, and how they did last night under their blanket, for they were homeless - the young deaf man who signed "Thank you" every time I gave him something, but who asked to be escorted out of the building due to an altercation that occurred inside, as he feared for his safety - the other young man involved in the altercation, the one who loved lasagna (so he told me last week), and gave me a flyer promoting his new business - the guy with a mohawk who sang a Stone Temple Pilots karaoke song - I wonder what they are all doing today.

The time went so fast, and soon it was 1000, and I didn't want the evening to end. What a joy it is to serve, and to receive smiles, just for being nice to someone who maybe has had a rough day. I hope that I feel this way every time I go, but it seems like those who have served for a while aren't quite as enthusiastic as I am. I will pray each time I drive the long drive into the inner city that I will serve with the same joy as I have this past few weeks.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

One Billion Percent Sure

I just arrived home from my first shift at the Mustard Seed Church, and had to write everything down before I lost these feelings to a world of sleep. What an amazing night! I started out by handing out plates to each person who came in for dinner - I would say 8 out of 10 said thank you for the plate - they were a polite group of people, but they were hungry. At 800 the food was cut off and there were still many who came in looking for dinner or asking for seconds. They knew that I was a newbie and tried to get through the line twice - one young smarty-pants asked for a second plate, in a way that I knew he was just testing me. I politely declined. At least one person snuck through for seconds - I only recognized him because he was wearing a baggy blue dress shirt. However, I wasn't 100% sure, so didn't say anything.

After dinner, the coffee bar lineup began. I offered to help, and was astounded by the volume of sugar and hot chocolate that people were drinking. I guess the sugar helps calm down the hunger pangs a bit. There was one younger man who came through four times while I was there, each time getting two scoops of hot chocolate in his coffee. A lot of people kept asking if there was any food left, and finally at about 830 we brought out some leftovers from the kitchen. The lineup suddenly grew much longer. We went through all of the leftovers, and then put out some day-old bagels and pastries - there weren't very many, just a tray full. It was sadly amazing how everyone went into self-preservation mode, not caring that there were hardly any buns and pastries to go around. One young guy filled a container that he said would be lunch tomorrow. One older guy took at least four donuts. I guess when you're that hungry, you look out for number one.

And so I'm going to sleep now in my cozy bed, with mountains of food waiting for me for breakfast, and a lot of the people I met tonight will be eating the leftovers they snuck out tonight, or nothing at all. I'll be thinking about the young mom and her two kids who kept coming through the lineup for some extra buns, and the young man who liked hot chocolate in his coffee, and the guys playing crib at the back table, and the man who had a puzzle in his pocket that I wanted to try. I looked for him after dinner but couldn't find him - maybe I'll try his puzzle next week.

It sure puts some things in prespective, as I purposely starved myself in the past couple of weeks to try to win a stupid challenge at our local gym. At least I now have the choice to be able to eat whatever I want. Those people are starving all the time and are so grateful for the meal we served tonight.

As I left the Mustard Seed Church, I had no doubt in my mind that it was exactly where God wants me to be and to serve. I had ignored the calling for so long, and now I am positive that this is where I need to be. My only wish is that I could be there every night instead of just once a week.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A friend! A friend!

As I type this, Matthew has his friend Marcus over, and he hasn't been so excited in ages! They have been hanging out together for a few weeks, and have been trying to get together after school, but of course I needed to talk to Marcus' mom first, and Matthew kept forgetting to ask for his phone number. Finally, yesterday Matthew brought home a thin piece of paper with a phone number on it. We phoned Marcus this morning, and he's been here all day, and they are watching an Indiana Jones movie now.

In a way it makes me sad that we're switching schools, but there's still summer, and friends seem to change so quickly at that age. If they stay friends over the summer, they can always get together after school in the fall. I still think the change of schools will be the best choice for Matthew, and I'll be able to be so much more involved as the teachers want as much parent help as can be offered.

So I guess my mother was right - the loners always seem to find each other and make friends. We all just want our kids to be happy - and today I have one happy boy!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Found It

After all of the dreams, visions, and calling from the Holy Spirit, and after second guessing myself, procrastinating, and humming/hawing, I finally made it back to the Mustard Seed church and I realized the calling was real. As I explained to someone on Sunday afternoon, there are other things I "do" for the church - organize kids' ministries, teach a financial class, but I see those things more as giving back to God using the gifts he has already given me. He created my organizational skills and my mathematical aptitude, so it is only fitting that I use these gifts to benefit the kingdom. But this isn't the same as my calling.

My first realization as I parked in front of the Mustard Seed was that people had lined up for 700 supper over an hour ahead of time. By the time we had finished our tour, the lineup stretched around the block. The meal was a delicious looking stew, nice salad, and mountains of rice crispie squares. We then walked through the clothing depot and the food bank, and the reality of the inner city was right in front of us. I thought of pretty much everyone I know, and how we all have too much, and these people stood in line for over an hour for stew, and there was a shortage of shampoo and razors.

Our calling is to make sacrifices to further the Kingdom of God, get out of our comfort zone, and help those in need. Jesus spoke of WHEN we help the poor, not if, and even Deuteronomy commands us to help the poor. What a great gesture of God's love we can give by spending a few hours of time serving those in need.

My calling. My purpose. Visions realized.

God has spoken.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ezekiel Bread

I had always heard how healthy this bread is, but only recently discovered that it has beans and lentils in addition to the bunch of different grains. My friend Melisa and I made a bunch of loaves tonight, using her electric flour mill to crush whole grains and beans into fine flour. I am so excited to have another super food to eat! I'm planning to go out and buy my own mill so that I can create pure flour to use for baking - I haven't been this excited in a long time!

As I read more about this bread, I learned that the four grains, combined with lentils and beans, together form a complete protein with 18 amino acids. This protein is 83% as healthy as the protein found in milk and eggs - how amazing is that. It made me take a new look at Ezekiel 4:9, and realize that the recipe for the bread was spelled out in God's own words, thousands of years ago. No scientist would have known back then that this combination of foods would have produced a complete protein...other than the Greatest Scientist of All!

It seems that everywhere I look I see further evidence of His amazing's becoming more difficult to deny the more time I spend in His Word.

If only more people would just look - it's so easy to find.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Wierd Kids

I guess ever since God invented kids there has always been a "wierd kid" in the bunch. The one who was a little off the wall, who didn't really have very many friends, and who kids generally stayed away from.

It turns out that I have one of those wierd kids.

We all want our kids to be happy and to have friends, and generally be content with the world. As the school end draws near, I look back with the sad realization that Matthew didn't get invited to one birthday party all year....and I'm sure there were kids who had birthdays during the year! The realization was punctuated as I read some Facebook postings about a boy in his class who had a birthday party yesterday, a boy I thought Matthew got along with, but no birthday invitation for Matthew.

Of course, there are only so many kids you can invite to a birthday party (unless you're one of those crazy parents who invites the entire class!!), so it's not like Matthew would get invited to every birthday, but I would have thought maybe one at least? In the end, I don't think he cares, but sometimes I wonder what goes on in his head.

And so I think the move to the new school will be a good one - he may be the "new wierd kid", and may still not get invited to any birthday parties, but when the school is small, the loners aren't so obvious to themselves. Right now he sees hundreds of kids playing together and he might be lucky if one will talk to him over recess. When he is only one of forty or fifty kids, hopefully he won't feel so ostrasized.

In the end, we like to say that school popularity doesn't really matter, but how long can a kid go before he starts to think something might be wrong with him? And it sure doesn't help that he has an uber-extroverted sister with more friends than she can count.

Aaaah parenthood - the pains along with the joys. We can all just rest assured that God has a plan for all of the kids, even the wierd ones.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Old Friends

When I was in elementary school, there was a huge core group of kids that grew up through elementary school and into junior high. We all walked to school, our parents knew each other, and it was a safe time to just be kids.

One of those friends I had was named Chris Dary - I tended to hang out with the boys more than the girls, mainly because they were more interesting and liked to play sports at recess. As an aside, I still struggle to relate to the female gender - my brain just doesn't seem wired in the same way most female brains are. I really don't like getting together with "the girls", find mindless chatter extremely annoying, and abhor shopping. But I digress.

Anyway, on Sunday morning, I was puttering down the trail on my Sunday morning "run" (more like a limping shuffle) and remembered a dream I had the night before. "Chris Dary!" I mused out loud (to the birds and squirrels, I guess), "I haven't thought about him in years!" I chuckled to myself, remembering innocent times of the past, and continued shuffling along.

That night, I had a friend request on Facebook from a friend at the gym. I confirmed, and then had access to her Facebook wall. As I'm reading down the wall, imagine my surprise when I saw a posting from none other than CHRIS DARY! I looked at his pictures, and sure enough, there was my old friend, hanging out with buddies, beer in hand, all grown up. My friend from the gym confirmed it was the same Chris Dary, and next thing I knew there was a Facebook friend request from him. I had to confirm!

Stuff like this makes me wonder about the ripples and waves of time and how we all flow towards one another (sorry, Mr. Spock reference again). Why my brain would have picked that night to dream about an old friend, I'll probably never know. But it makes me ponder dreams and where they come from....supernatural perhaps? I'll never forget the dream I had the night after Scott's grandma died, where we sat at a kitchen table and she told me how great things were now that she had passed. She looked thirty years younger, and was as real as I am sitting here today.

I think it's time to take a closer look into my brain, and start figuring out what it's trying to tell me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Early Morning

As part of my obsessive-compulsive behavior during this fitness challenge, I was up at 445 this morning to run a killer hill (twice!) before a killer strength/cardio class at 600. That's not really my point. The point is that it was so quiet at that time of morning - dark, cool, and even the highway wasn't bustling with trucks yet (as it usually is by about 530!). I left my house at 500, enjoying the silence of the morning, sputtered up and down the hill (and up again) and chugged along to the gym.

Later in the day, as part of a study I am doing, I was reading Mark and specifically the verse when Jesus awoke in the early morning to pray in a solitary place. That really struck me today. I've heard about people who get up at 300 or 400 in the morning to have their solitary God time, and what a fantastic time it would be, with the air still and quiet. Trying to "get in" God time later in the day with hustle and bustle everywhere just doesn't seem to work - it doesn't allow us to really listen to what He has to say.

I am lucky to be a morning person, and I wonder if I should use that gift to do something more productive with my time that try to burn calories so that I can lose another pound that I don't really need to lose. I will still enjoy my morning workouts, but if I'm going to be up at 500, why not use that quiet time to do some REAL good in this world?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Obsessive Compulsive

You would think that after almost 38 years on this planet I would know myself by now. I'm competitive, easily irritated, and a perfectionist. So what was I thinking when I entered a fitness challenge at the local gym? We get points for certain challenges (most points at the end wins a prize), and I've been going hard to ensure that every challenge has been completed, and was infuriated to see this week's challenges, two of which I won't be able to complete. I stormed around for a while last night, thought about quitting the challenge, and then decided to pray about it (like God wants to hear my rantings about a silly weight loss challenge in small town Alberta!).

Once I turned to face God, I soon realized how unimportant the whole thing is, and who really cares if I complete these challenges. One of them is unhealthy (in my opinion) and the other I'm forgoing to hop out to the lake on Saturday.

And so I learned a lesson last night, and slept soundly on God's advice, and realized that turning to Him in any situation makes things much better.

Off to face the day!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Purpose Confusion

Like many others, I am searching for my purpose in life. That seems to mean (in my narrow-minded world) that I only have one purpose, and I'm trying to figure out what it is. Why waste time doing something that is not my one purpose? As a result, I seem to have been scared into a corner, unwilling to move in any purposeful direction.

So when I had one of "those" dreams last night, I thought I had it all figured out. My general purpose, I think, is to help people (isn't that everyone's?). I've been trying to narrow it down to a specific group: Seniors? Homeless? Financially challenged? I thought that my heart would guide me to the correct group. My dream had me at the Mustard Seed Church, although it was a big 6+ story building (I only say 6+ because I went to the sixth floor). I parked my little car in a 30 minute parking zone but stayed too long, resulting in $600 worth of parking tickets (there's that six again). I returned another day with some blankets for the room I had visited, and was trying to fold them in a common area but was having trouble folding them (you know how dreams are), and I kept thinking, "I'm taking too much time, and Scott and the kids are waiting for me." I woke up as I was riding the elevator up to the sixth floor with my blankets.

I was sure this all meant I was supposed to go back to the homeless people. Then I received an e-mail from someone who is in dire financial straights and needs help. Now I'm not sure where the seniors fit in. Maybe in all this I have to be patient and not narrow my focus to one particular group. After all, everyone needs help in some capacity, right?

And so for today I will help the financial challenged, and Friday I'll help the seniors, and one of these days I'll make it back to the inner city, because it's calling me loud and clear.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A True Purpose

I'm doing volunteer tax returns for our town office, and Wednesday I'll be going to visit two seniors at their lodge. The thought of going there to help them (one uses a walker and is not very mobile), makes me feel content, exhilarated, and useful. The appreciation in their voices is worth more than anything I could ever be paid. Interestingly, a part time opportunity has come up in which I would work solely with seniors. I wonder, however, if I would come to resent the work that could eat up precious time. I would never want to think a negative thought about a 90 year old who is waiting for me to help them with their life. Maybe I should just keep volunteering, because the time is my own and I'm giving it - I'm not obligated. That makes a big difference.

Am I just taking the easy way out?

Sunday, April 4, 2010


I've never been a person who has had a lot of friends, primarily by my own choice since I'm so antisocial. I had a great friend as a kid, until we went to different highschools and then lost touch...even though she still lived down the street. In high school I had one good friend and lots of casual friends, but then we went to University and all lost touch, even though we were in the same University. In University I had a great group of friends - graduate students who were all older than I was and took care of me like a little sister. Then they all finished their theses, moved away, and started their lives.

I have had many casual friends since then, lots of bar friends (they're easy to find!), and when we moved to Devon, lots of neighbourhood and "small town" friends. Everyone is friendly in a small town! I do, however, have one friend who was special - she is outgoing, extroverted, gregarious, quite unlike me, but like me in that she is smart and Type-A and is a thinker. She definitely has no need for extra friends, but I always felt like she truly cared about me, and I thought about the future days when we would grow older, and watch our kids grow, and maybe my kids would marry her kids, and I took for granted that she would never leave.

But, I found out today that her family is likely moving, and for an excellent reason, but it didn't keep me from mourning the loss of my buddy and crying silently to myself. I'm probably crying more for the fact that she gave me a way out of my anti-social behaviour - she was outgoing enough for both of us, and our kids liked to play together, and now I'm going to have to start all over again. Selfish, yes.

So, I guess I have to work at letting more of my casual friends into my life, opening my anti-social door, and find someone else to lean on. I wonder if, over in my parallel universe, the alternate Jo is outgoing and full of life. This Jo is just going to have to work at it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spiritual gift...or spiritual curse?

I'm struggling right now with my business - it's just tax preparation, so how much emotion could be involved in that? Lots, I am finding out. From the 52 year old divorced trucker to the lady who has just started a framing business, I find myself thinking about them far too often. I want them to think highly of me, so I put in so much extra effort to give them great service. But at what cost? I can't sleep, I'm always trying to think of ways to help them, and I feel guilty handing them a bill. Sometimes I feel like I should be doing a lot of this out of the goodness of my heart, but then I have to remind myself that I need to pay my mortgage and keep food on the table. Then I think that if they just would have called someone else, they probably would have received the same product (although not necessarily the same great service!) for a far lesser price. How crazy is that?

In a way I envy my former co-workers who could rattle through tax returns and couldn't care less about their clients (and often had never even met them!). But, I guess that's not me - I'm just going to have to deal with the fact that I care about everyone who crosses my path.

This is going to be a long two months!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Sometimes I wonder why our Creator made us to be self-centred and egotistic. It is so frustrating sometimes!! In a way, it makes us strive for the top and try to be the best we can, but on the way to the top it's so easy to forget the important things. I'm sure my 80 year old self would travel back and time and say things like, "Jo, it didn't matter at all whether you were the best at this or had the most of that, but what did matter is that the kids turned out okay and you fulfilled your given purpose, and the legacy will live on forever."

But still, I get a little twinge of jealousy when I hear about the other accountants in town getting clients, thinking, "Those should be my clients, I'm a CA after all, blah blah blah." Why can't I silence that little voice in my head? Maybe 15 years of hanging around with power hungry, bottom line oriented people has helped that little voice along, but it's still my responsibility to silence it.

And so my fervent prayer today is to get rid of that little voice and concentrate on my Purpose (which I'm still not sure what it is!). I have prayed for some revelation these past few nights, but instead had dreams about vampires and heavy metal bands....not too much revelation there! I've been enjoying the blue sky a little more, however, knowing that one day from that sky will come the day.......

Saturday, February 27, 2010

They're Okay

I had a friend in junior high named Jeanette - we also played soccer together in elementary school. Sadly, Jeanette was one of those kids who would get very angry if you pushed the wrong buttons, and we were mean to her in grade 4 - so mean that I still feel guilty about it today. But, in junior high we were friends, even though she wasn't one of the "cool kids" (but hey, neither was I!), and then she went off to a different high school. She had a very rough childhood, losing her mom in a car accident, her dad to a heart attack, and then finally, her brother. I could hardly believe it when, in the summer of 2006, I picked up the local newspaper and found that my old friend had died in a car accident on one of the highways around Devon. I went to her funeral out of a sense of obligation, even though I hadn't seen her in 20 years, but I wanted to give my respects to her, and through her funeral saw that she had lived a happy life, had three kids, and had been living only minutes away from me and I never knew.

Elizabeth was invited to a birthday party by a new kid in her class - his name is Talon and he's a funny little kid. Parents were invited to the party as well, and I thought it would be nice to meet Talon's parents - it seems that the more people you know in a small town, the better.

So I took Elizabeth over and was invited in warmly by Robert, and when I met him I had a flash of familiarity, but not unlike when I see a lot of people around town. After all, it's a small town. A young girl was bringing out a pinata for the kids to play with, very pretty, around 14 years old, and as I watched them, I had a sudden realization: I was watching Jeannette's daughter holding the pinata and Robert was Jeanette's widowed husband. The realization was so overwhelming for a moment that I could hardly contain my emotions. I had thought about Jeanette's family for three years and wondered how they were, and now I could see - they were doing very well.

Robert appeared happy, hosting this party for his girlfriend's son, and Shelby was a beautiful young lady - spitting image of her mom, but so different in personality. She was outgoing and chatty, and so good with all the little kids running around.

In an episode of Star Trek, Mr. Spock comments on how time is like water, with ebbs and flows and waves, and that the currents of time eventually take us all to where we are supposed to be. I suppose it was only a matter of time before I crossed paths with this family, but I had never thought it would be in such an unexpected way. I stayed just long enough to see Jeannette's two sons drive up in a beat up red van, but they looked good as well - young teenagers, laughing at the little kids.

I don't know why everything happened as it did today, but lately a lot have things have been happening that make me question His Devine Intervention. We need to realize more how God is in control of the ebbs and flows of time, and all things come around to serve His purposes.

If we can just stop long enough to listen, all things can be revealed, but we have to stop, and that is the challenge.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Back in the late 80s and early 90s there was an ice dancing team from Canada who skated for France. They were a brother and sister team known as the Dushesnays. I remember seeing them for the first time and felt a sense of magic in their skating, and when they skating their program in the 1990 world championships, I cried. It was called "Missing" and it was about oppression and crimes against humanity, at a time when human beings were going missing and never heard from again.

I pulled it up on Youtube today and watched it, evoking memories from 20 years ago, and again I cried. But this time it wasn't so much for the routine, which was still breathtakingly spectacular. I cried again for the memories I have from that time, since I taped the program at my grandparents' house (on VHS!) and watched it over and over. After watching that performance, my teenaged self chatted with my grandma, played a bit of crib with grandpa, with the world ahead of me, on the cusp of graduation and University looming in the fall.

Fast forward 20 years and it's so hard to visit the grandparents now. Grandpa just seems so tired, and the only conversation that can be had with grandma is about the weather. It's painful in a way, painful to think of the days when I could discuss the future, and how University was going, and what I was planning to do with my life. Now I've lost my friend and confidant, even though the body is still there, but the best conversations now are about the long ago past, long before I was born. It's the only time now when grandma seems like her old self - when she's talking about her childhood memories or about her two sisters, long gone from this world. What a cruel irony - that memories from 75 years ago are held intact, but memories from the last few years are gone.

It's stuff like this that makes me ponder the meaning of life and what our purpose really is. What kind of legacy are we meant to leave during this temporary moment in time? I find myself gravitating towards the senior members of our communities, trying to figure out what makes them content, and how they remain stoic and true while the world around us continues to crumble. Time marches on and the memories are sometimes all that are left, but what are we going to do with this time? I feel like I am standing on the edge of a cliff, and if I would just jump forward, there is purpose and meaning waiting for me that I could never have dreamed of. The tough part is not knowing what the future holds.

But if I could go back in time and sit beside myself in the family room, watching the Dushesnays carve out a masterpiece on ice, I would tell myself to cherish every moment in that house and with family. Another twenty years are going to pass in the blink of an eye, and I want my 57 year old self to be proud of the last 20 years, having missed nothing.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Why does it seem we let pride get in the way of the things that are truly important? Take a career, for example. We all know that work is work and shouldn't be the centre of our lives, but why does it sneak in and try to convince us that it IS all that important, and we're crazy to not want more money, power and prestige? Why does it have to be a fight? Logically, I know that this is all meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but why do I feel a little bit of glee when a new client calls, and I can pridefully think "They want ME - they think that I'm good enough to take care of their business!"

Shouldn't I instead be revelling in the Love of a Saviour, and think, "He's loves ME, and He thinks that I'm good enough to live with him for all eternity!". And then everything else would take a backseat, and it would all become ancillary to The Truth.

Why does it have to be such a battle?

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Sometimes I wonder who came up with the concept of time, but here we are, ruled by every hour and minute of the day. Suddenly everyone is saying, "What happened to January?" and it's true, it did seem to go by in the blink of an eye. I am still trying to figure out how the days seem to go by so fast without knowing what had been accomplished. How sad is it that days and months and years go by, often without anything to show for it.

And as time ticks on, we get older, and suddenly grandparents are turning 86 and 88 and we wonder what happened to the energetic grandparents we had when we were kids. The truth is, we're not kids anymore, and 20 years has passed, and the bodies grow tired. Last night I made a surprise visit to the grandparents', cookies in hand, and even though it was a long drive on a dark night, it was 4000% worth it. I just think of all the warm memories of cookies and visits, and all that was given to me by two grandparents who shared amazing love among so many family members. Isn't it worth a trip to see the smiles on their faces, and a tear in their eye? That is time well spent, and a moment to cherish. These moments aren't going to be there much longer, and need to be savoured before we blink and another year has gone, and we wonder where the time went.

The time is now - what are we doing in this very moment to define our earthly purpose?

Not another minute can be wasted.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Answer

Well, last night's adventure to the downtown church was nothing short of an awe-inspiring, miraculous, God-in-action evening. The roads didn't end up being too bad, and so I arrived at the church at about ten to six. There was no parking in front, so I had to drive up 96th street to come around and park on the block before the church.

But let me backtrack a little bit. A few weeks ago, I had a dream about the downtown church people, which made me realize how much they had worked their way into my thoughts. In my dream, I went down an alley to give a man some money, and he returned the favour by demanding more, and I looked around for help, but there was just a building, and nowhere to go. I ended up running towards a soup kitchen.

So last night I drove up 96 street, past the Mustard Seed, where dozens were waiting to get in for Sunday dinner, turned onto 107 avenue, and then south down 95 street. I thought that if I turned right on 105 avenue I'd end up at the place I wanted to park. So I turned right, and it was a dead a building....and I yelled out loud, "THIS IS THE PLACE FROM MY DREAM!" and it was. Over beside the building were some people and shopping carts, and as I hyperventilated and my brain tried to comprehend the scene, I spun the car around and headed back to the street.

I finally returned to the street on which I could park my car, and all that I could think was "Do you really believe that what you believe is really real". It was going through my head over and over again. I went into the church, invited by a fellow FPU leader, thinking that the revelation of my dream was the reason I was sent last night. But there was more to come.

I walked into the sanctuary and the band was practicing, playing lines from "Knocking on Heaven's Door". It was a welcoming church, and I just sat and took it all in. The band played for an hour or so, very upbeat, lots of dancing and flag waving, and true joy expressing itself through music.

The first speaker was a pastor from Sylvan Lake, who didn't impress me much as the first thing he did was demand that every make an offering so that they could be prosperred. Hmmm....that didn't quite sound right. He then spoke about some of his visions and what they meant to the church in 2010. My head was trying to decide how I was going to make a graceful exit. The second speaker was much better, and had a great message on fire, God being a consuming fire, needing to have the fire within us to reach those outside the church, and being salt to flavour the secular world. He was a great speaker and we ended singing a song that had been written by the founder of the Salvation Army. As we sang the song, I thought that I would leave soon after.

After the song, the entire congregation was invited to the front to receive prayer and to receive the fire. I was happy to just sit in my seat and watch everyone else, and Franca (the fellow FPU leader) asked if I wanted to go out to receive prayer. I reluctantly joined the crowd, feeling slightly uncomfortable as people started falling on the floor. The pastor from Sylvan Lake approached me, and I raised my arms up as he touched my neck and yelled, "FIRE!" My hands dropped to my chest as my knees buckled, but I stayed standing, and he returned as my eyes were closed and again touched me and yelled, "FIRE" and I had to grab a chair to keep from falling. I stumbled downstairs to the washroom, completely lightheaded, drained, like I had been zapped by an electrical current.

I came back upstairs and sat in my chair, repeating to myself, "Do you believe, do you believe, do you really believe that what you believe is really real."

Church in Devon felt different today. I decided to start my own Sunday School bible study on Genesis because I like Genesis, but heard a voice telling me to instead study Isaiah, and so I am tackling that massive book for what is currently an unknown reason. I gave with thanksgiving, giving back to the Lord, knowing that it is all His to begin with and I gladly give my tithe to Him. The sermon spoke volumes as it discussed Ephesians 4 and how we should carry ourselves in this world. Everywhere I looked I saw opportunity to give and to help and contribute to The Kingdom, and I'm not sure where I will be next, but I prayed fervantly and will continue to pray tonight.

Finally I can answer the question, going against all logic.


Saturday, January 23, 2010


I'll be heading downtown in just over two hours, on roads that are in poor driving condition and in snowy winter weather. Since I found out about the prophetic conference at the downtown church, I've only been drawn towards the Saturday night service, even though there was one last night and one this morning. Something powerful awaits me there, I can feel it. I just need His hand upon the weather and my car to get me there and back safely, so that I can pray over everything that will happen tonight and do His will in the morning.

He's waiting.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Oh My God

The church downtown is having a prophetic conference this weekend.

I think I am supposed to go.

The New Class

Last night we began a new Financial Peace University class. It was exciting, but a little nerve-racking, as I didn't know most of the people in the class. There were few warm faces of familiarity, and I was constantly wondering what people were thinking. The highlight of the evening was when I told a lady that she had been sponsored by one of our church family members, and I thought she was going to cry. I am hoping and praying that this course will send her in the right direction and lead her out of financial misery.

Next week everyone will be a little more familiar, and by the end we'll all be friends, I'm sure. It's stuff like this that makes me wonder if I'm cut out for this kind of ministry, for it's one thing to be tough with your friends, but another to be tough with strangers.

And oddly, all I want to do is go back to that church downtown. I dream about them now.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

His Light At Every Turn

Before I write my real post, I'll just let you know the "no TV" thing didn't work out too well. I'll blame The Biggest Loser. What is it about 500 lb people that continues to draw our attention? More on that some other day.

Today is the first Sunday in a long time that I didn't come home feeling full of despair. I can't quite pinpoint where this despair comes from - perhaps returning to a home that always seems chaotic, wondering what I'll do for the rest of the week, but maybe it's leaving God behind and not relying on him every minute of every day. I feel lost in a way, like my friend is back at church and I can't find him unless I go back to that structure.

But today was a day that I didn't feel that despair when I returned home, probably because of all the amazing things that happened today and how I can see the potential in the world - the potential for doing His work.

It started when Pastor Dave asked me if I was ready to speak in front of the congregation, a task which I had completely forgotten about. Even though he said I could do it next week, I said no, as I had important things to say. I prayed during worship that God would send the words to my mouth. So I first spoke about the Christmas Elves, thanking everyone for their generosity, and they were so moved that they clapped for all that we had done for the people in need in Devon. I then spoke of my idea for a hot chocolate/tea drive for the Mustard Seed Church, not sure how people would react, and a lady I didn't even know came up to me after the service and gave me $20 to buy items for the drive. I was then thanked by someone else for doing this work for the Mustard Seed.

It made me realize that people do want to help, but often don't know where to start. Sometimes it just takes one person to nudge people in one direction, and it turns into something amazing. I have spoken to so many "old-timers" at our church (not necessarily old in age, but who have been around for years), and they all speak of the days when our church family would make monthly visits to the Mustard Seed and help serve. I don't understand why it stopped, but it did. Everyone thinks it is such a great idea to help, but the ball never gets rolling.

So maybe when I'm down at the Mustard Seed, dropping off the hot chocolate and tea for the coffee bar, I'll be able to talk to someone about how to get that ball rolling. It's time to get off our hands and use them for The Kingdom.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Veggin' in the Lord

January 1. Another year has started, and along with it, all of the thoughts of how to make this year better than the last. Not that last year was bad - 2009 was a great year! However, there is always more that can be done, more ways to serve, more time to be immersed in The Word, more time to give to The Kingdom.

I went for a run this morning (-30 with windchill, but I was dressed well) and found myself pondering the upcoming year and how I could find more time to do the important things. Even though I tried to slow down in 2009 by quitting a high pressure job, the time still seemed to get away from me, and the year zoomed by as it always does. I came to the conclusion that by using each hour wisely, and not being involved in time wasters, that the days would be richer and might not whiz by so quickly.

And so I've decided to give up television, the ultimate time waster - we'll see how long I can last. So often the TV is used to just zone out and veg, to forget about the day and all the things that need to be done. It is so easy for two, three, four hours to go by during this "relaxation time", and then the scramble is on to get ready for tomorrow. Maybe, when I find myself needing some solace, I can just sit in the quiet, talk to God, ask for direction, and provide some meaning to that hour or two that I need to be alone.

We'll see how this goes - but when you consider most of us have 16 or 17 waking hours, why can't we give more of those hours to God? It sure is a better use of time than watching The Biggest Loser!

Happy New Year!