Wednesday, 24 October 2012

WARNING: NAKED MAN on the 4th Floor...

You know those days that are supposed to go according to plan? The ones that are scheduled and timed in order to keep you on track. And then all of a sudden the day is here and it's happening and you realize that there is nothing about this day that resembles your plan whatsoever!?!

Today was that day.

I'm taking an art class this semester, to be more specific, it's an art appreciation class. I'm learning how to appreciate art (insert joke here). We were assigned to write an art exhibition critique. So we had to choose a museum from a list we were given, and then choose an exhibition from a list given, and then choose a specific art piece in that exhibition to critique. The class is very small and so a few of us decided that it would be fun to go on this "field trip" together. Our museum of choice was the Art Gallery of Ontario. So since today was a reading day we figured that I'd pick everyone up at school around 9:45am, get to the museum around 10:30am, spend an hour or 2 in the museum and then grab a bite to eat before heading back. That was our plan.

I have a good friend who is known for his sense of direction. I figured I might as well just ask him to tell me the best way to go rather than to consult my GPS, since I don't really like using those things anyways. I texted him fairly late last night to get the route. So this morning I arrived at school and picked up the motley crew. It was a grey and rainy day so we put on the tunes and cruised to the city. I thought we were taking an odd route but I trusted my friend's directions completely and didn't give it another thought. We chatted and laughed and took the opportunity to get to know each other better. And about an hour passed and we were still driving. I kept thinking that we should be arriving any minute because my friend had told me the route, and we all trusted him and his directions would not lead us astray. Another 30 minutes passed and still no museum. I pulled the car over and consulted the map. I gasped. We had overshot the museum a lot! So we found our way to the gardener and started the trek back to the city. One of the girls had to go to the bathroom very badly and so of course we got stuck in major traffic! We finally found the museum and managed to locate a parking lot a few blocks away. It was still raining. We were all starving so we opted to eat before we hit the AGO. We were on the hunt for a pub and just before we stopped to eat at The Black Bull, we passed this guy on the street....for real....

It's Gregory Smith, the actor. He's from Rookie Blue, one of my favourite shows, and no I didn't stop him on the street to get a picture. I mean come on, I'm not that girl! ;)

We enjoyed a great lunch and again asked for directions for the AGO. We somehow managed to overshoot the museum again so we had to walk back the way we came.

Once arriving at the museum and checking our coats, we spent the next 2 hours observing and appreciating art. I got separated from the group at one point and wandered up to the 4th floor, I was interested to see what art exhibits were up there. As soon as I walked onto the floor I saw a sign that said "live art class in progress". I thought that it would be interesting to watch for a bit so I headed in that direction. I walked in the room and saw a circle of artists sketching. I looked to see what they're sketching...


I froze. At first, I thought he was a statue.

Nope, he moved ever so slightly, not on purpose. He was real and very very naked. It was a good thing that last week our professor had us read an article on christians and nudity in art because I might have been more shocked had I not read it. But seriously, how does one just bare their entire body openly to an entire room and whatever onlookers that may happen to wander in? And do you think that perhaps on the sign they could put "Live art class in progress. WARNING: NAKED MAN!" Just saying.

We finished at the museum and headed home. We hit rush hour traffic but half the car was snoozing at that point. I think I dropped the last person off just before 6pm.

It's funny because there was absolutely nothing about today that went according to my plan. Yesterday I began praying for the Lord to illuminate the areas of my life where He is so present and where there are gifts that I miss because my eyes become fixed on other things that I think I'm missing. Today I spent a few hours downtown Toronto with a wonderful group of people. As we sat around the table at lunch we all reflected that in any other circumstance it would be very odd and probably very unlikely that the 4 of us would ever hang out like this. And yet there we were, wet from the rain, tired from the drive and all trying to write a paper on a topic that we don't really have any knowledge of. I didn't think that I'd spend the day laughing and getting to know the storiess of these 3 individuals, I was going to go in, get the information and get out. Today was a crazy, unexpected day that was full of so much laughter. I doubt that I'll ever forget it.

Sometimes those days that don't seem to go according to plan, those days might actually be God taking the opportunity to throw a handful of gifts your way!

So thankful that today I had eyes to see.

Yours Truly,

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Dear 16-year-old Self...

Sometimes I wonder if I knew what I know now 9 or 10 years ago (say that 10 times fast), how much would it change things? Would it change anything at all? What advice would I give my younger self straight from my much wiser, older self (please note the sarcasm)?

These are a few of the things that I think I would want my 16-year-old self to know…
  1. Math never gets easier, just accept it and move on.
  2. Put that bowl of chips away! Seriously, 9 years from now you are still going to be trying to work off the damage that they’ve done!
  3. You really don’t need to figure out what you’re going to do with your life right now. I know the guidance counselors are telling you that you have to have it all figured out but you don’t. And those kids who think they do have their future pegged down, there’s a good chance it’s not going to play out exactly the way they think it will. Relax!
  4. It’s ok not to worry so much. That stomach disorder that you think is going to ruin your life, well it’s not going to. You’re going to figure out how to manage it and all that worry is really only making it worse. So just breathe, it’s all going to be ok.
  5. Do yourself and favour and stop saying you want to be married by 25! You’re going to get there and not be married and do you know what, it’s actually ok! You’re going to meet people and learn things about yourself that are going to change you. And you could have never learned those specific things if you were married. Don’t rush God’s timing.
  6. It’s not cool to buy all of your clothes 2 sizes too big. First of all, every shopping trip you go on with your Mother will end up with you both in tears. I know you hate your body right now, I know you feel ugly and sometimes just wish you were invisible. I know you hide in your oversized clothes. It won’t always be like this. One of these days you are going to lose some weight. You are going to buy your first pair of jeans and a bra that isn’t just meant for sports. You’re going to colour your hair and actually like layers! You’re going to learn how to wear make-up and jewelry and you’re not going to cringe every time you look in the mirror. The frump years will end and you will blossom. So stop telling yourself that you’re worthless. Stop saying that no one will ever love you! Stop scarring yourself with those words because in 10 years you’ll still be dealing with the deep wounds they’ve left.
  7. Stop yelling and arguing every time you’re mad, it doesn’t help anything. Take it down a notch; it’s ok to be wrong. It’s ok to say I’m sorry. It’s ok not to have the answer. Realize that the people you yell at are the people who you love the most, think about what kind of words you use.
  8. That boy, you’re not going to marry him. Don’t waste your time fretting about him. You can do better. Enough said.
  9. I know you’re grieving. I know your family is broken. I know it feels like those things will never be whole again, but they will. Time is going to help ease the pain. Your family is going to heal. You will never forget him, but you will come into a new normal. One day you’ll share his story and you’ll talk about all of the ways that it has changed your life and impacted who you are. You’ll never forget; it will become a part of who you are. And one day your family will sit around that same table and they’ll talk and laugh and life will be full again. Trust me.
  10. Jesus really does love you. You live with this fear that you’re the exception to his love. You worry that He’s out to get you. You don’t think you’re good enough or worthy enough for His love. You think you have too many questions, too many doubts, that you are too screwed up. You’re not. He really does love you, all of you. And He’s going to help you as you walk with Him. He is going to lead you, He’s going to protect you from some things that you can’t see right now. Don’t be afraid to really trust Him. Let go of all those things you hold so tightly to, just take His hand. Release your heavy load. You are so loved girl, you are so loved.
  11. It’s going to be ok, it really is. I know some days are harder than others but you’re ok. Don’t give up, keep going. Remember to laugh and give thanks, it will make a difference. Be intentional in the way that live and love and lead.

I’m not sure if had I heard those things at 16, I would have listened to them or believed them? Just writing them out I can feel some of the pain that I carried then. Sometimes in order to see how far you’ve come, you have to stop and look back to the journey you’ve taken.

Lord, thank you that I’ve never had to walk any road alone.

When I meet with younger girls, the things I wish that I had known when I was their age often leak into our conversations. It might be the natural caregiver and protector in me, but I think it’s also that I feel such a strong desire to see people living full and rich lives. But sometimes life just has to be our teacher and it doesn’t matter if I’ve been told or warned ahead of time. Some things we can only learn when we walk through them, as hard as it is to say. Maybe in 10 years I’ll write another letter to my younger self, hopefully some of these lessons won’t need to be repeated!

Yours truly,
The Kindred Spirit

Sunday, 7 October 2012

New at Church? Welcome to the Club...

At the beginning of September I started a brand new adventure: I moved into my own little apartment. It’s really the perfect little set up for me. I have a cute little place in my aunt and uncle’s basement. For a girl who didn’t grow up with family around (other than my brothers and parents) I am absolutely loving having my aunt and uncle and two little cousins upstairs. It’s been one of those sweet gifts from the Lord, which only He could have arranged. In light of this new move I’ve been on the hunt for a church that is a little closer to my neck of the woods. I’ve recently found one that I really like so far; it’s actually the church that my Mom found the Lord in so it’s kind of neat being there. The only thing is that I only know two people, my Mom’s cousin and his wife, who luckily feel as close as if they were actually my aunt and uncle. Other than that, I know no one. Not one single soul.

Before my family moved to Wainfleet, I spent the first 4 years of my life living in Stouffville, where my Dad was the youth pastor at the Stouffville Missionary Church (now called East Ridge). Then we moved to Wainfleet where my Dad became the lead pastor of the Wainfleet BIC Church for about 19 years. Now he’s in a role where he helps to lead other pastors. So sufficient to say, I was born into the church. I’ve always belonged, even when I may not have felt like I did. I’ve always known pretty much everyone at church and vice versa, and I’ve always been overly involved in church life, being the social butterfly that I am. I’ve never understood what it really feels like to not belong.

Until now…
I wake up on Sunday morning and decide that I’m going to do it; I’m going to go to a new church. So I get ready, hop in my car and find the place. I walk in to the church, it’s fairly large and the service has just begun. There are people everywhere. Where do I sit? I look around acting like I’m looking for someone so the usher doesn’t suspect that I’m actually terrified because I came here alone. I walk up the aisle and choose a seat. I feel like people are looking at me because I’m alone. Do they wonder if I’m a Christian? Maybe they pity me because I’m alone?

I can’t even sing, I feel sick. Should I stay? Of course I should stay, if my experience is that bad by the end of the morning, I just won’t come back.

Is this what it feels like? Have I become the target for “church hospitality”? I can’t be, I’m already “saved”. But, maybe I’m still a so-called “target”.

The tables in my head for a moment: you say you welcome new people, here’s your chance, prove it!

The service continues. There’s a guest speaker. Why is there always a guest speaker when you’re trying to get a feel for a “regular Sunday”?

The service ends and I’m frozen in my seat. What should I do? Leave? Go to the guest centre? I hate this, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.

Everyone is visiting. The young people are all crowded together. People are having coffee, kids are running around, there’s laughter. No one seems like they’re in a rush to leave. I like that, it reminds me of my childhood. Could I belong here?

I can’t escape the feeling like it’s a club and I’m not part of it.

I feel completely rescued when my Mom’s cousin and his wife somehow recognize me and chat for a while. They both hug me and I feel so relieved, there’s nothing like family. After they leave, I decide to go to the newcomers table. I meet a lovely lady, who knows my parents, small world. She talks to me for a while and introduces me to her husband and son. We have more mutual friends that we talk about for a while. I ask about small groups and college and careers. She says it’s happening right now, if I want to go.
I freeze.

Um, no, well, um, maybe next time. Maybe you can show me where it is and maybe next week I’ll try to go.

After a quick tour I make my exit. My first Sunday impression is good, I think I’ll go back next week and maybe go to the College and Careers group.

I do indeed go back the following week. I walk to where I think the College and Careers meet. I don’t see anyone. I can’t escape the feeling of the club again. There’s people running around, they look at me but no one says anything. I feel lost. Maybe I shouldn’t go this week, it’s too soon. What if I get there and it turns out to be the “I just graduated from high school” type of college and career group? There’s nothing wrong with that, I’m just not in that zone anymore. I wait for a few minutes. I feel like a total idiot. I’m leaving.

I book it out of there. I have this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Is it this hard to belong somewhere? What happens when I actually meet people, people that have probably known each other for years and have histories together and inside jokes and stories only they know? Will they welcome me? Will I feel safe and accepted?

I become introverted in these situations. I can’t help it.

You say you want me to come but do you really want that? Do you really want to know my story? Is there actually room for me here?

Do you know how much courage it took for me to walk through those doors, to sit in your gym, to fill out a visitor card?

Because before now, I didn’t know.

Because I’ve always been in the club.

Until now…
Even though it’s terribly uncomfortable, I’m thankful that I’m experiencing what it’s like to not belong, to be new and to come alone. I’m thankful because I want to believe that it’s these kind of experiences that shape how you lead, how you really learn to create a welcoming space, how you become a person that makes people feel safe and accepted. I don’t want to forget that sometimes just parking your car and getting up the nerve to walk into the building takes courage. And I don’t want to forget that maybe there are people that will walk through those doors and leave feeling like they’ll never be part of the club, so what’s the point?

But most of all, I don’t want to forget the message that I think Jesus himself would say to anyone who feels forgotten, invisible or alone:

You are not.

So I’m thanking the Lord for new experiences that are giving me new clarity and perspective. And I’m praying for courage to try and meet some new people in a new and unfamiliar place.

And just maybe I’ll find out that it’s not a club after all.

Yours truly,

Friday, 5 October 2012

I'm Not a Feminist...Seriously, For Real...

I am a strong woman.

It works against me and it works for me, depending on the day.

But even though I might be strong, I’m also possibly the most sensitive person you’ve ever met and you’ve probably never even realized it. Sometimes when I’m at my most vulnerable I pretend to be my most strong.

I’ve grown up being more than encouraged by my family that I matter as a woman and that God loves me just as much as a man; and that because I am a woman I have no less to contribute to this world than the male gender does. I have been raised by parents who have shown me that women can and should lead right alongside men. I’ve been raised by parents who view marriage as a mutually submissive relationship. And so naturally, I’ve learned to lead. Not just that, I’ve learned to love leading.

I am mentored by two women who inspire me with their gifts and abilities and their love for the Lord and boy oh boy, are they women who can lead!

This year I’ve been overwhelmed to find out that there are quite a number of people around me don’t believe that God designed women to be pastors and teachers in the church. This past summer I spent my time doing a pastoral and teaching internship.
Can you feel the tension here?

I know that there are a large group of people who live with this belief but I didn’t know they were so close to me.

You see I’m convinced that it in fact is biblical for women to lead and I’ve done some study on the topic. But I don’t write this to get into some type of biblical or theological debate because I don’t actually think that will make any difference. For me there’s another side to consider, it’s the side that I don’t think some of these people see. It is the sensitive under the strong.

It’s the question of whether you really realize the implications of what you’re saying, what you believe and what you hold to? It’s the fact that most often it becomes about power, about making others feel small.

Whether I have to sit on a certain side of the church.
Or whether I’m not permitted to speak.
Or perhaps just not permitted to teach.
Or I have to be called a director and not a pastor when I the same credentials as you.
Whatever it is, do you realize you’ve put me in a box?

Because what happens when God has given me a story to tell?
What happens when I have gifts to lead?
What about when I sense every door open to be a pastor? When I hear God whisper the word “lead” to me?

Am I to listen to your word, to your interpretation and not God’s leading in my very own life?

There is this story; it’s actually a scene from a movie that my Dad loves. He’s told me the story so often that it’s ingrained into my mind. It’s from the old classic “Chariots of Fire”. Here’s a brief synopsis of the movie…

The story, told in a flashback, of two young British sprinters competing for fame in the 1924 Olympics. Eric, a devout Scottish missionary runs because he knows it must please God. Harold, the song of a newly rich Jew runs to prove his place in Cambridge society. In a warmup 100 meter race, Eric defeats Harold, who hires a pro trainer to prepare him. Eric, whose qualifying heat is scheduled for Sunday, refuses to run despite pressure from the Olympic committee. A compromise is reached when a nobleman allows Eric to compete in his 400 meter slot. Eric and Harold win their respective races and go on to achieve fame as missionary and businessman/athletic advocate, respectively.

When Eric Liddell accidentally missed a church prayer meeting because of his running, his sister Jennie scolds him and accuses him of no longer caring about God. Eric tells her that though he intends to eventually return to the China mission, he feels divinely inspired when running, and that not to run would be to dishonour God: "I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure."

I love this part of the movie purely for what I believe is its insight into the very heart of God. To not run would be to dishonor God because God created Eric to run, so choosing not to run would be living in a way that is untrue to how God made him.

So what if God made me to lead and to teach? What if somehow I come alive when I lead? Would it be dishonouring to God to choose not to live and act in a way that He created me to?

This isn’t really even about me personally. I’m not sure I want to be a pastor and when it comes down to it, I personally probably prefer the lead pastor to be a man. But I had a chance this summer to do a 3 week teaching series as a part of my pastoral internship and I loved it. I loved what I learned about God and His word through my study and message preparation and I love that I got to share that with people. And I do love to lead and there are situations that I get put in where I feel like to not lead would be a denial of the gifts that God has entrusted me with.

So there’s this tension when I cross paths with the “women shouldn’t lead because God didn’t mean for them to” mentality, simply because I cannot in any way believe that there is a solid foundation for its truth. And if you really know me and you still believe this, then what does that say about how you view me as a person?

What I’m not trying to do is go on some feminist power trip here. I actually do think there are certain roles that men and women should have that cannot actually overlap. I have some male friends who lead in a way and demand a respect that I’m still uncertain a woman ever could. But does that mean it couldn’t happen and does that mean that it shouldn’t?

Because in the end I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me to lead, and when I lead, I feel His pleasure. 


P.S. I'm not a feminist, just for the record.