Thursday, December 11, 2014

Steps of Obedience

At Interns class last Monday we were issued a challenge by our instructor:  To seek out and talk to at least three people that we didn't know.  Like many people in the class, I just thought, "Great, I'll be worrying about this all week!", but then as I drove home, I decided to take it as a challenge.  As I said to my Interns class this week, as introverted as I am, I am even more competitive, and so when a challenge is issued, I take it on 100%.

So I went to church last Sunday, early as usual since I was playing Keys for the umpteenth week in a row (but I get a break on the 21st - YAY!), and I planned my strategy.  First, I broke the ice by finding someone that I didn't know, but that I knew was on a team (since she had a Welcome Home t-shirt on).  It was tough enough just approaching someone I didn't know, but it worked out fine, I met her four kids, took them to kids' class, and all was great - I had a new friend!

First service began, and I thought, "Hey, I can do this" and I was so pumped through the worship set.  After first service I sought out some more people, looking for someone brand new, but I kept finding people who had been attending our church for a year or two on and off.  With three services, it's so hard to know everyone!  I still had good conversations with them, and continued to pat myself on the back for stepping out of my comfort zone.

Because it was our CD Release day, Jeremy was giving out three CDs per service to brand new people, so during second service I looked to see who he gave the CDs and targeted one of the couples at the back of the sanctuary.  At the end of the second service I saw they were getting ready to leave, so I just put on my best "Jen Blackwood Face" (Jeremy's wife who is always super positive), and walked up to them and said, "So, you are one of the lucky ones who got a free CD!"  They were a very nice couple, maybe in their late 50s or early 60s, and we had a good chat.  They had been church hunting for a while and really enjoyed our service (dub step and all!).

I was totally pumped after I met this couple, and then thought, "I'm going to meet Skye!"  Skye was a young man from Amsterdam who was getting Baptized on Sunday (it was a very full Sunday!) and I only knew his face from the Baptism videos, but I also knew he was in the Discovery 101 class, which was ending as second service ended.  So, I hopped over to their classroom and introduced myself to him and congratulated him on his Baptism.  As I played keys as the Baptisms were happening right in front of me, I was so happy that I had met him.

As I explained to my class this week, it was tough and didn't really get easier as the morning continued, but I just felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit and thought, "What's the worst that can happen?"  Honestly, most people who walk into a church are looking for some sort of connection, and as JD said in class, maybe one person taking a minute to say hi and shake their hand could make a huge difference in someone's life.

I just hope I keep remembering, week after week, to step out in obedience.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Food for My Soul

We are in the middle of the semester at Interns, and it's pretty tiring.  Imagine a full Monday evening of intense bible study, and then up early on Tuesday for a full day of Theology and book studies.  Yesterday I was feeling pretty overwhelmed, to the point of talking to myself all the way home, wondering if it was even worth it.

However, in the midst of all of my weariness, I felt like I had to go downtown.  That didn't even make logical sense, because I was so tired and really just needed to relax.  However, I headed downtown after a whirlwind hour at home, and then all Heaven broke loose.

I walked in the door of The Mustard Seed after being away for away for a few weeks and received many greetings from the community.  I then spotted Maria holding a baby, and when I walked over, realized that Stretch and his partner had had their daughter (last I saw them she was VERY pregnant!).  I held this 10 day old miracle in my arms, talking to her about the world and life, but then saw she was hungry, and returned her to her dad.  He was so proud of his Aurora.

Next I headed for the door where I saw a noticeable upset woman - she cried and asked if I would pray for her, and we went to a private corner where I talked to her and prayed over her for about 20 minutes.  By the end she was smiling, and I realized that was the first time in four years that I had actually counseled and prayed over a community member, and it felt completely natural.

On with the evening, and I joked and chatted with the usual gang, and had a great conversation with a former crack addict and alcoholic, now married and working.  He was the happiest I had ever seen him.

At the end of the night I drove home, had my usual broken night of sleep, but when I woke up on Wednesday, instead of feeling even more tired, I felt energized.  There is no logical or physical explanation for it - I have to attribute it completely to the Holy Spirit!

Coincidentally, we studied a story in Interns yesterday about Jesus and the woman at the well, and how he was so tired when he arrived, but by the end he was energized to the point that the disciples wondered who had fed him.  His response:  "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work."

How amazing it is to experience this food!!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Jacket

When I was about 16 our so, my mom and dad bought me and my sister new ski jackets for Christmas.  Mine was pink and very bright, and I didn't really like it, but I wore it because it was very warm.  My sister's was purple and didn't zip all the way down, but was kind of a pullover style.  When she moved out to the much warmer west coast I adopted the jacket and wore it quite often through my adult years.

Finally, about 4 or 5 years ago, I decided to buy a new winter jacket, mainly because we were at Mark's in the fall and they had their previous year's jackets on sale for about $30.  The catch was that they were pretty small jackets, which is probably why they were left over, but I am a pretty small person, so I took advantage.

We gave my sister's old jacket to the church, and I wonder if it somehow made its way into the goodwill bin (although I surely would have though someone would have bought it - it was a good jacket).  I wonder, because there is a man who comes into the Mustard Seed every week with the EXACT same coat on.  I know that coat inside and out, and it is definitely the same coat - maybe not my coat, because there were likely many of that style made, but I wonder.....

And I am so glad he has it, because it is getting colder, and that jacket is so warm.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Those Little Things

Yikes, I have taking way too long of a break from blogging, and I sure miss it.  This year I have felt such a hole in my heart as the reality of not having my beloved grandparents on Earth came crashing through as I really started to grieve.  Even just days ago I felt myself crying over the injustice of my grandpa dying so quickly after giving himself so unconditionally to my grandma in the past couple of years.

But after this month they will both be gone for over a year, and it's time to move on.  There are more things in store as I open my eyes from this slumber that has lasted so long.

I had a tiring day on Tuesday, after a full day of classes full of thinking and pondering (two book studies, a DVD study and a Faithworks discussion!), and I really didn't feel like going to The Mustard Seed.  Besides, Thursday was cheque day so it shouldn't have been busy....right?  But still I was called downtown, and still I listened, and I am always amazed at the little gems that I experience among the poor and the broken.

About a year ago a big "scary looking" man yelled at me and my co-volunteer because we wouldn't give him 5 sugars (the limit is four).  My co-volunteer was quite scared by the whole thing, but I could see the hurt in the man's eyes from a life of who knows what.  I found out his name is Tim (which immediately makes me chuckly at the thought of Tim in The Holy Grail), and I made a point to always say hi to him and call him by name.  Usually he grunted, definitely never smiled, but on Tuesday I said hi as I handed him his plate and he asked how I was.  Those were the first real words spoken to me since he yelled at us for not giving him sugar.

And then there was the man who has been coming in for dinner since I began over four years ago, always carrying a book, always seeming to be quite happy.  I remember he cut his hair about a year ago and I commented that it looked good, but I thought I was just making casual conversation.  As he left on Tuesday, he said quietly, "Between you and me, you are the only person who smiles at me when you give me a plate", and he looked at me with genuine gratitude.  I had no idea that just a smile had made such a difference for him.

It made me think a lot about what we had discussed in class on Tuesday, how there are so many broken people in the world, and yes, we want them to know Jesus, but first we have to know them as a person, and just be all that Jesus was:  kind, compassionate, caring.  We can get so bogged down by all of the crud going on in the world today, and then forget that we CAN change someone's world - just with a smile or a kind hello. 

And that is how we can change the person at a time.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Happier Year

2013 started off with such promise - I had embraced yoga, was finally starting to calm my life down, and I was greatly looking forward to the coming year.  If I had known what was to come in the next 12 months I probably would have run away screaming.

February was fantastic with a trip to Disneyland and great visits with my grandparents, but by March 2nd grandma was in the hospital, never to return home.  However, her being in the hospital and my frequent visits allowed me to run into a dear friend from church, also in the hospital and also soon to be leaving for heaven.  When I heard this friend had passed on, I was so thankful to have seen and talked to her one last time.  God works in wonderful ways.

Yes, in 2013 I lost the two people I loved most in this world, and I spent five months running from and drowning in emotion, but once it was over I was so much stronger.  I feel now like they were lent to me by God for so many years, and they were in my life to coach me and guide me, to make me love others, and then continue on their legacy of generosity and empathy.  They are physically gone, but I am reminded of their lessons every day; I have memories of them all the time, and if I am really lucky, they visit me briefly in a dream.

2013 was a year of sadness but also of triumphs; I am looking forward to 2014 being a year with more triumphs, and maybe just a bit more happiness.