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.