Thursday 25 November 2010

This week's thanksgivings!

John H Armstrong, in his post "Thanksgiving",  writes:

A friend of mine recently received counsel from a minister who had gone through a very, very hard time. The minister urged my friend to take time at the beginning of each day to list twenty items for true thanks. My friend says this practice has done as much as anything he has ever done to transform his mind and heart.

Some folks do a regular, once-a-week list, on their blog.  Maybe a list of their favorite blog posts of the week, or of events in their life, or a list of birthdays of famous people for that week.  I'm thinking, I really need to be more thankful.  I have so much to be thankful for.  So here starts my once-a-week-thankfulness-list (though maybe I'll not be sticking to "20"):

Things I'm thankful for in the past week:

  • My daughter and her 5 1/2 month old son came to visit us all the way from Alberta-land.  We had a wonderful time.
  • While they were here, we had some great family times together with them and with another daughter, son-in-law, and their two kidlings (7 months, and 2 years), and our son, who live in our town.
  • I choked on my supper one night and swallowed a lot of liquid into my lungs.  I couldn't breathe and choked, spluttered, up-chucked, got really scared.  But my care-aide hubby used his first aid skills, and prayed, and I survived!  Thanks to both my hubby and Father.
  • It's winter!  And we have snow!  Yes! yes! yes! :-)
  • I got a lovely warm pair of corduroy pants, perfect for this chilly weather (wind chill to minus thirty Celcius)
  • Five local churches have opened their doors to my street church family, feeding them and giving them a warm place to stay on these very cold nights.
  • I'm really beginning to feel ALIVE again these days after a long kind-of-dark period.  And Father is opening my eyes more and more to how He wants me to walk in relationship with Him.  Including this whole blogging experience.  Wooh!
  • That long, kind-of-dark period, has taught me a lot about what it really means to rest in Father's love.
  • We have snow!!! Yay!!! Oh, did I say that already?  Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!  Oh yeah!

Thank You, Father!

Happy thanksgiving all you American folks!  Blessings!

what do I know and enjoy?

What's my intent?   What do I know and enjoy?  Brainstorming time!

My problem, if it's a problem, is that I know and enjoy a lot of things.  I've often said that I'm a "jill of all trades" though, perhaps unfortunately, that's kept me from mastering them.  I've also developed a wide number of skills over the years, but I'm only going to list (in no particular order, btw) those that I truly enjoy doing!  So...

What do I know and enjoy?

  • music: singing, piano, guitar
  • hobbies: sketching, embroidery, watercolor painting, sewing, gardening, woodworking, computer use
  • reading : widely! bible, fiction and non-fiction, poetry
  • writing : stories, poems, blog posts, prayers and meditations, journaling, NaNoWriMo, website content, articles and columns for newspapers and magazines, publishing newsletters and cookbooks
  • teaching : elementary and secondary, private and public schools (BEd in Secondary Social Studies (Geography) and Teacher-Librarianship; as well as teaching Home Economics, English, core French and more).  Ladies' Bible Study groups.  Tutoring: special needs students, home school students, ESL adults.  Home-school mom, grades 1 to 10, very eclectic approach.  I LOVE to find creative ways to meet learners' individual needs and learning styles.
  • interests : First Nations (especially Haida), simple church, learning disabilities, educational philosophy and methodologies, researching just about anything, life-long learning!
  • mom (and wife!) : 4 daughters and 1 son, foster children, neighbor children, 8 grandchildren (so far!), school teacher, Sunday School teacher, Girl Guide and Scout leader, babysitter ... I love kids!  I love all the phone calls and emails I get asking for advice!
  • cooking and baking, planning and catering theme birthday parties
  • people : spending time together, helping, learning together, eating together, sharing life together, volunteering, being an active part of community groups
  • faith : relationship with Father and with His family; being the church together; living loved!
  • dreams : living in an intentional community; living in a cabin by the ocean; spending a couple years exploring North America, traveling about in a converted bus, meeting lots of people along the way!
  • simple living!
Obviously I'm never bored.  But my websites and blogs have tended to be as eclectic as I am.  I want to write.  I love to write.  And yes, I'd like to make money with that.  In the past, I've done that to some degree by teaching writing skills, writing weekly newspaper columns, and having some of my stories and articles published in magazines, anthologies, and newsletters.  I do have a personal website, and at least 4 blogs in various states of activity.  I've studied very carefully how to make money on-line, but haven't actually started doing it.

Now I'm thinking a couple things:
  • I need to narrow my blogs (and website, too, probably) to particular topics
  • I need to EITHER choose one or two topics right now, and blog on them in a super focused way (maybe I'll even master them, lol); OR start half a dozen blogs, connected by some common thing (maybe my "penandpapermama" persona), and blog on them all fairly regularly (at least until I can see what I'm super-enjoying and what is really helping others!).  I'm leaning to the latter. 

What do you think?

What would YOU like to hear about, from my list above?

making money with my blog?

Guest blogger Roman, on ProBlogger,  writes about how two years ago he started a blog, howthiswebsitemakesmoney, to make money on-line.  He hasn't been making a lot of cash on that blog, at least not yet, though he has learned a lot about blog-money-making-methods. 

Disappointed by that blog, he decided, just for pure pleasure, to take the advice to "Create a site about what you know and enjoy."  As he is living in Prague, and enjoying it a great deal, he started a blog about it,  As an afterthought, he offered, for $4 a shot, to send out hand-written postcards with scenes of Prague.  This has turned out to be surprisingly successful!  He also found writing this new blog to be very easy, compared to the howthiswebsitemakesmoney  blog.  Turns out people are grateful - and Roman's making money!

So what's his advice to wanna-be "make-money-online" bloggers?

"Intend to enjoy and you might make money"

Of course, making money is about traffic, clicks, affiliates, backlinks SEO, but it’s also about finding something you enjoy doing.  If your intent is only to make money the odds are stacked against you: you will probably quit.  But if your intent is to do something you enjoy then you will keep moving forward until one day, you will be surprised to find that you are making money.

"What’s your intent?"

What great advice!  I'm going to take it!  Watch for changes coming up!  (As soon as I figure out my intent...)

Tuesday 23 November 2010

6. Post Internet Reading Habits

Recently, at Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight wrote a post called "Your Reading Habits Post Internet."  He asked a series of important questions related to this topic.  I have been thinking about this topic, and jotting down some notes.  Here are my thoughts.
On memory: internet reading doesn’t ask us to remember; it remains there for us to bookmark. Real reading generates memory because it leads us into the world of an author and a story and a book that is interconnected to other books. Why remember when you can look it up?
Why indeed?  I grew up in the dark ages when an important part of education was memorization.  Long before I went to grade one (in the days before kindergarten was an established part of the education system), my mom taught us dozens of nursery rhymes.  50 plus years later I remember them clearly.  And I taught them to my own children.  Who are teaching them to their children.  Though apparently such inter-generational passing-down is becoming an anomoly.  Not to mention, scorned by those who see most nursery rhymes as decidedly un-PC. 

Mom also read us the old-time children's stories.  Cinderella and Aesop's Fables and The Children's Book of Bible Stories and the Golden Books version of  The Three Little Pigs.  Okay, well maybe The Three Little Pigs isn't quite so old-timey, but I still tell it to my grand-kids, word for word, and they love it.  We didn't have as many books, and we didn't have TV (we were a bit old-fashioned, I admit) and movies, and we most certainly didn't have computers, with all the educational paraphenalia that go with them.  But mom and dad read those stories to us over and over again, and they became an integral part of our lives.

We had Sunday School and Church too.  In Sunday School, even as little tots, we memorized short verses, or parts of verses.  We sang Sunday School choruses and hymns in Church (in the day and age when the whole family sat together in Church), over and over, and through that music we memorized the tenets of the faith that had been passed down through generations.  As we grew older we memorized longer sections of scripture, too, and learned new songs.

We memorized on trips, too.  My dad was a bit of a gypsy-at-heart, and we did a lot of road-trip travels.  No cassettes or CDs, certainly no TVs or on-board movies, and radio-stations were mostly local and far-between.  So we sang songs, and memorized poetry and scripture.

At school, memorization of poetry was assumed.  We started out with simple poetry, like those from Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Child's Garden of Verses."  Our classes entered the "poetry recitation" sections of the local annual Music Festival.  To this day, I can recite, with great enunciation, "The Owl and the Pussycat" and "The Steam-Digger," our second grade poems which won our class a first-place prize.  Even in high school, we memorized sections from "Hamlet" and "MacBeth" (yes, in the original Shakespearean English; and yes, we had to recite them orally as well as write them with perfect spelling, punctuation and grammar).  Of course, nowadays, it is felt that forcing children and youth to memorize is harmful to their self-esteem, as it requires hard work and they might feel badly if they make a mistake or two.  Ha!

On tests, like in Social Studies, we were also expected to memorize bits of information, and regurgitate them on tests.  I admit that I sometimes felt this was silly, as the information could easily be looked up in an encyclopedia or handbook, and as much of the information was soon outdated.  Countries and capital cities, provinces and states, names and locations of rivers and mountains, names of explorers with the dates they "discovered new lands," Kings and Queens and the dates they ruled, the main exports and imports of countries around the world.  We learned ways to retain information: little ditties ("In fourteen-hundred-and-ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue") and word-plays (the inner planets: "Mary Very Easily Makes Jam").  And by memorizing  the bits and parts of the stories, we learned the stories better.  Maybe we would forget some of those bits and pieces down the road, but the stories stayed with us.  And we had a sense of where they fit into the big story.

Now, with the internet at our finger-tips, why should we memorize?  And with information growing exponentially, why bother trying?  What's the point of learning a bunch of dead old history, when we're continuously bombarded with (scattered bits and pieces of) history-in-the-making?  Why memorize countries and capitals when they are constantly changing?  Why even bother publishing atlases when they are out-of-date before they come off the presses? 

I think that memory is still crucially important, because memory makes information a part of us, a part of the way we think, a part of the way we interact with others and with the circumstances in our lives.  Memory helps us to understand that we are part of a past, as well as a present.  And being part of a past encourages us to imagine a future too, a future that maybe we can be a part of, as our being part of the past affects the way we live and the choices we make in the present.

Furthermore, if we choose to bypass memory, we lose the ability to understand the stories that connect us to our past - and to the present and future.  The memories of the past lose meaning.  We lose our "cultural literacy" , whether that be our personal cultural history, or the many cultural histories that connect the world.  So we stop reading the stories.  We stop connecting with humanity in both small and big pictures.  And more and more, we stop connecting with humanity face-to-face.  We become fragmented.  And our society becomes fragmented.  And then what happens to us?  To humankind?  Do we tell ourselves that we are framing some kind of wonderful Brave New World? Maybe so.  But is that a good thing or bad?  (And would the average reader understand the references in this paragraph without the links?)

As the quote says, "Real reading generates memory because it leads us into ... a story ... that is interconnected to other..." stories.  I believe that if we choose not to remember, we choose to cut ourselves off from the stories that make us part of the history of humankind.

Internet reading is about being connected; real reading, book reading, means being disconnected and lost in the world of the book.
Ah, the irony.

5. Post Internet Reading Habits

Recently, at Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight wrote a post called "Your Reading Habits Post Internet."  He asked a series of important questions related to this topic.  I have been thinking about this topic, and jotting down some notes.  Here are my thoughts.
Genuine reading draws into history and creates memory. Internet information-shaped reading is an assault on both history and time. Real reading taps into emotions, while internet reading mostly deadens our emotional life.
Whew.  Do I agree with this?  Is all internet information-shaped reading not "real" or "genuine" reading?  I suppose it really depends on what one is reading on the internet - and what one is reading elsewhere.  For example, there is a great deal of "book reading" that itself is an "assault on both history and time," in my opinion.  Most Harlequin Romances fall into this category.  Most best-selling newspapers (gossip-rags) too: although they do reflect a certain kind of creativity, lol.  Same with a great many "self-help" books.  And endless numbers of religious tomes. 

On the other hand, a great many "classic books" are available on the internet now (and growing in numbers every day).  I'm not at all sure that reading them on one's computer or Kindle or other electronic device, rather than in traditional book form, is going to change one's interaction with the content.  (Though there is something comforting about "book" books.  Still, that might only be because they are what I grew up with.  Young folks might find e-books more "comforting," I suppose.  On the other hand, as they spend so much time texting, tweeting, dashing off facebook statuses, and so on, I do have to  wonder if they actually take the time and patience to sit down and actually read anything longer than 240 characters in length?)

But this quote specifically says "information-shaped reading."  What does that mean?  Does it have to do with the incessant "here and now" texts and tweets and chats, in which practitioners of those arts constantly dash off little spurts about the minutiae of their everyday lives?  Which then drift off into cyberspace, supposedly stored and recorded somewhere out there.  But will our descendants, a hundred or a thousand years from now, dig through all that stuff?  And if they do (poor things), what conclusions will they draw?  How will they describe early-twenty-first century "civilization"?

I love reading historical documents.  I have copies of my own and my mother's and my grand-mother's and my great-grandmother's autograph books.  I am constantly intrigued by the different poems and notes and ditties of the different generations.  In some ways, those little books are a sort of "status" or "tweet" communication of their generations.  I also have copies of diaries and personal letters.  And even essays written in school and college.  I feel I have met my forebears, and have known them quite deeply.  Will future generations feel that way about the writing we are producing? 

Even blog posts seem to be getting shorter, though more frequent.  Apparently one can create a much larger following by dashing off quick, point-form posts, rather than the longer, serious, deeper (and yes, more emotional) posts common to early blogging.  Quantity over quality?  "Lite" vs thoughtful? 

When I was in university over 30 years ago, studying historical geography, I read Susannah Moody's "Roughing It in the Bush."   Now THAT "draws into history and creates memory."  I challenge you to read it - I challenge myself to read it again - and then compare it to what we are producing on-line.  Is what I have been producing on-line going to draw in generations to come as Susannah's diaries?  I fear not.  I have, of course, produced my own stories of my life and my family's life, and the world as I've known it (you can find some examples here and here  and here  and here  and even here on this blog).  But I fear they have been dashed off and posted in a way that is slap-dash and "lite" compared to Susannah's memoirs. 

Will even my well-over-a-hundred handwritten journals and diaries, and the few letters I have saved, "draw into history and create memory" for coming generations?  Will they even care to read them?  Will they have time or patience?  I wonder

"Internet reading mostly deadens our emotional life."  Maybe that's true.  Maybe that's why we most often just scan most "information-shaped" writing, which itself has already been boiled down to "basics."  Maybe that's why so many people are willing to spend money for "blog e-books" which give at least a bit more information than the usual posts, and in doing so, hopefully draw the reader in a bit deeper.  Maybe that's why book-club-gatherings and writers-groups and "meet-ups" have become so popular. 

Maybe the whole "information" thing is over-rated.  Maybe we NEED fiction: whether the orally-passed-on myths of the past, or the more recent written forms, sagas and theatre and fiction novels.  Maybe we NEED that sense of gathering together around the campfire, and hearing, in oral or written form, the stories of the past that give us a connection to the lives of the human race over time, a connection that makes us part of the great story.  That gives us a sense of belonging.  That causes us to share in the emotional and spiritual life of humanity.  That helps to make us whole and alive. 

And yes, we need to become part of the great Story. His Story.  A story that lives in relationship and gathering and His Life and Love. 

4. Post Internet Reading Habits

Recently, at Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight wrote a post called "Your Reading Habits Post Internet."  He asked a series of important questions related to this topic.  I have been thinking about this topic, and jotting down some notes.  Here are my thoughts.
We carry around in our pockets an iPhone or an internet-connected phone. That gadget is a more powerful computer than anyone had a decade or so ago. But the gadget doesn’t create more leisure for us. Instead it shaves time from our leisure. Why is this so?
Ha! I'm not there yet!  But I do think my laptop does the same, because it's so easy to find so much information, and I get wrapped up in it.  Still, it is too bad that I take from my leisure time (like going outside for a walk, or to visit people or do a hobby like sketching), and I know I do that.  It seems "important" somehow.  And it's so easy; I don't have to get up and go places, and I just keep reading and reading.  Time flies by without me realizing it.

I also think that because I feel I am "interacting" with other people on-line (blog comments, facebook, chats, etc) that I am visiting or in a community, and I really like that ... but after awhile I realize I'm a lot lonelier with on-line "interaction" than when I'm interacting with people face to face. 

On the other hand, I love that I can talk to people who are interested in some niche topics, when I can't find interested people locally.  And I love that I can keep up easily with family and friends far away; especially as people are so transient these days.  But I have to say that while facebook is fun and quick (and sharing pictures and videos is so easy, especially with my grandchildren far away), it really isn't the same as an old-fashioned letter, or even a newsy email or a good phone call. 

3. Post Internet Reading Habits

Recently, at Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight wrote a post called "Your Reading Habits Post Internet."  He asked a series of important questions related to this topic.  I have been thinking about this topic, and jotting down some notes.  Here are my thoughts.

Has the internet made you more of a scanner instead of a reader?What percentage of your reading is now internet reading?  Would you call internet reading “reading”?

I still read when I'm using books, magazines, etc.  But I've gotten to be a scanner on-line, until I find something I find really interesting, and then I read carefully, take notes, and respond.  Being able, often, to easily respond to the writer is something I love about the internet.  I would say that at the moment about 60 to 70% of my reading is online.  I am also slowly starting to listen to podcasts and watch informational videos a bit, but it takes effort.  I still prefer to read, or at least listen to live speakers! 

I would definitely call internet reading "reading" ... when I find something worthwhile.  I think I'm more discriminating in my on-line reading than my other reading.  I'll read ridiculously inane stuff in magazines and newspapers, just to read, just for leisure, but I don't do that on the internet; I just skim over that kind of stuff and/or move on to something more useful.  I think that is probably because my internet reading is generally for informational purposes rather than leisure.  .

2. Post Internet Reading Habits

Recently, at Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight wrote a post called "Your Reading Habits Post Internet."  He asked a series of important questions related to this topic.  I have been thinking about this topic, and jotting down some notes.  Here are my thoughts.

What has changed in your reading habits? Do you read novels less? Magazines less? Books less? Do you read the same or more?
I haven't been a very frequent fiction reader since I became an adult, though I read numerous novels in my younger years.  I do still read fiction, but am particular in my choices.  Now that my life is less busy, I expect that my novel reading will be increasing again!

As an adult,  I've become more interested in non-fiction books, and continue to read books in current areas of interest. I used to usually get books from libraries or borrow from friends; interestingly, I think I actually purchase more books than I used to, because of recommendations on the internet (and probably also because my kids are grown up and I have a bit more money to spend!). 

I used to have 1 or 2 magazine subscriptions at any time, but haven't had any for some time.  I do however still read magazines that I borrow from the library or friends or wherever.  My magazine reading is usually for leisure.  When I have magazine subscriptions they are usually on some topic I am currently really interested in.  I will say that internet reading, especially blogs, has recently taken over magazine use for topics of interest.  I am also using the internet for news more than newspapers or TV these days, probably because I'm already on the net to do writing, work on my blogs, etc, and it's easy to check the news too; it's also an easy way to check several viewpoints on certain news items I'm interested in. 

I have not yet started to read books online, but am certainly thinking of getting a Kindle or something similar.  I actually think I read more now that I did for a long time, but this is probably partly because I'm really working on blogging and other writing, and also because I am not currently working outside the home and don't have children at home (I had five!). 

1. Post Internet Reading Habits

Recently, at Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight wrote a post called "Your Reading Habits Post Internet."  He asked a series of important questions related to this topic.  I have been thinking about this topic, and jotting down some notes.  Here are my thoughts.
What has happened to your reading habits ever since the rise of the internet, blogs, Facebook and Twitter?
The internet itself did  not initially make a lot of difference to my reading habits.  In the beginning (1996 for me), I mostly did not use the internet for anything more than research - which I then backed up from traditional sources.  Occasionally I "surfed" the net out of curiosity. 

I also joined a few of the early social networks (pre-Facebook).  I did make a great deal of use of email, having formally been a enthusiastic letter writer.  Even today, the majority of my emails are still long and detailed; I have never mastered the short email form, and actually I am grateful for that.  I also joined a number of e-groups early-on, particularly ones related to home schooling.  I learned a great deal from home schoolers all over the world, while at the same time I also continued to read home school books and magazines and connect with the few local home school folks.  The big difference was that the e-groups were a large community, and with our far-ranging and detailed on-line conversations, I made close friends from around the world, some of whom I have since had the opportunity to meet face to face.

In the mid to late '90s I learned html and started my own website.  It took quite a bit of effort at first, but once I got it set up, I just added and made changes and updates from time to time.  It was basically a place to post writing efforts, and family photos etc.

It wasn't until I was on Facebook that I really got into social nets.  In the beginning I only checked from time to time but as I built up my list of friends, I started checking more often.  Now I'm in the mid-500s, 99% of them people I actually know, and if I wanted to read everyone's statuses regularly, I could be taking hours a day, which started to happen.  So mostly I just skim, and some days don't look more than once or at all.  But it's a big temptation to spend a lot of time there.  I also was playing a couple of games, but realized how addictive they were, so I quit games except the very occasional game of Scrabble.

Learning to skim is a skill I'm developing more and more.  Especially since I decided to try to really grow my blogs.  I wanted to see what other bloggers in my interest areas were talking about, and learn more about blogging.  So I started using Google Reader.  That got really crazy because I read everything carefully, and I did a lot of commenting, hoping people would link to my blog, which they did.  But now I skim a lot more, and am more particular about what I comment on, so I'm spending less time, but learning more in particular areas in which I'm especially interested.

I did sign up for a Twitter account, but have never really gotten going on it much at all.  I did try out Posterous and some other social networking sites, but again haven't used them all that much.  I suspect that if I had a cell phone with internet, I would probably be tempted to do a lot more tweeting.  So I'm holding off on that for now, as I just don't have the time.

Monday 22 November 2010

Who are you thankful for?

Today, at The Assembling of the Church , Alan Knox wrote a list of people in his life for whom he thanks God.  It's a great list; check it out!

He also has inspired me to start to write my own list.  Here it is, so far:

I am thankful for:

  • My grandpa who had a really close relationship with God, in a place and time where I heard very little about such things, even though I was growing up in a very "churched" environment.  Grandpa did not "preach at us", but he loved to pray, and his prayers were deep, loving conversations with his Father.  Because of his prayers, I knew that somehow it was possible to have a loving relationship with God.  And I kept looking for it, because of Grandpa's prayers.
  • My mom, who also had a really close relationship with God.  Mom didn't "preach at us" either, but when I was young and sat next to her in church, or when she was reading her Bible at home, I would look up her face, and see the glow of joy in her eyes, even as tears trickled down her cheeks.  I wondered at that.  How could a person be so wrapped up in God?  I could win every sword drill or Sunday School contest, but it was so cerebral to me.  Mom's relationship with God kept me searching, too.
  • My beautiful five children and my foster-daughter, and my eight grandchildren (so far!).  Being a parent and grandparent helped move my cerebral understanding of God's love down into my heart.  And watching their childhood faith and trust in God (see some examples here in the "miracle stories" ), combined with parenting struggles (see "A Mother's Journey" ) helped me to gradually let go of my self-centered "sense of responsibility" and my "knowledge about God" and learn to turn to my Father as His little child.
  • My friends at the gathering of the street church in our town (check out the links at the top of this blog), many of whom have faced unbelievable troubles in life, but have found Jesus, and are in love with Him ... and though they have so little of this world's goods, have shared that love with me and others beyond what I could have imagined. 
  • My precious husband who keeps loving me, and keeps being patient with me, no matter what I do or don't do.  And has, by his example, helped me to understand God's love and patience with me, no matter what.

.... There are so many others I am thankful for!  Maybe I can add more another day....

Who are you thankful to God for in your life?

Saturday 20 November 2010

just for fun

Sweet sixteen.  For a year I dreamed of an amazing Okanagan Lake birthday beach party with all my friends.  Many were the awesomely exciting plans we concocted.  It would be the social event of the year.  We could hardly wait.

And then my gypsy-spirited father dropped the bombshell.  This would be the summer for his long-dreamed-of trip across Canada.  The six of us, Pa, Ma, my 16 year old self, my 14 and 10 year old brothers, and my 6 year old sister would set off on a wonderfully educational nearly-seven-week trip across Canada in our family station wagon, pulling our 4 person tent trailer into which we would all squeeze each night.

Naturally, in typical teen spirit, I ranted, raved, cried, begged, and threatened to run away.  My father could not understand what had happened to his lovely, obedient daughter.  Actually he had been befuddled by her teenage behavior for the past 4 years or so; but that she should be displeased with the vacation of the century was simply incomprehensible to him.  After all, he had planned every detail carefully, and he was generously doing this for the family, not for himself.  Oh yes.  Certainly.  Yeah, right.

So off we went.  Because of my attitude, which did not improve, I was banished to the third seat of the station wagon, which faced backward.  Actually, I was quite pleased with this, as I did not have to interact with the rest of the family.  I buried my nose in a variety of novels, and only appeared for bathroom stops and meals, if possible.

Unfortunately for myself, my father was a photography fanatic.  We had to stop at every pictorial landscape, of which Canada has a distressing number.  And we all had to pile out and pose in the foreground.  Why he kept insisting I be part of the photos is beyond belief, as my evil frown created a distressing contrast with the idyllic scenery.

Also unfortunately, my dear father, a World War 2 vet and history buff, had a obsessive desire to visit every military or ex-military installation from one end of the continent to another.  And of course we were all expected to tour each site, in respect of our great nation's history.  I must admit that some sites, like Fort Steele, which had been rebuilt to colonial standards, were mildly interesting to me.  But other sites, like the boot camp near Moose Jaw where dad had received his training, were now long-deserted boarded-up buildings, with dust and tumbleweed blowing across the barren prairie flats. We visited endless historical military sites of all descriptions, from one end of Canada to the other.  On the return trip we visited Fort Louisbourg in New Brunswick. 

Poor dad.  We all piled out of the station wagon, and joined the tour group.  Or at least the rest of the family piled out.  Dad had to physically haul me out of my backseat cave.  I was ranting and raving.  The rest of the tour group stared at us, mouths hanging open.  Dad got so upset at me that finally he shouted, "I'm going to put you on the next Greyhound Bus and send you home!"  "Yes!" I shouted joyfully and started dancing with delight.  Dad stared at me in horror!  I suppose he thought this would be a terrible punishment; but to me it was a moment of pure bliss.  Mom said flatly, "You are NOT going to travel alone across country by Greyhound."  My heart sank, and I slunk into line in the tour group and trudged along.  Fort Louisbourg turned out to be fascinating, but I did my best not to let on.

Most days we would rise at dawn, have oatmeal for breakfast, and drive till noon.  No matter where we were, dad would pull over to the side of the road, and mom would prepare lunch with whatever she could manage without cooking.  A regular was cold canned beans on brown bread.  Yum.  Then we'd travel another 6 hours or so, and camp again.  Mom, who was on a tight budget due to the cost of the photos which would memorialize our vacation for all time, would do her best to cook something nourishing.  Stew was frequent.  Hot dogs were a treat.  Dad did generously announce one day that he was taking us to a restaurant.  We went to Dairy Queen and all of us had dipped soft ice cream cones.  It was a highlight of the trip.

I could go on and on, and indeed I did so throughout the vacation, writing and illustrating a rather sarcastic journal.  My father also wrote a journal, and you would never imagine that we'd been on the same vacation.  My final entry noted that it seemed like we were on the road for 45 years rather than 45 days. 

Oddly enough, over the years as I have matured a tad, I have actually come to look back on that trip with a bit of nostalgia.  And I did actually come to appreciate my nation more.  I enjoyed using my high school French in Quebec, and had an awesome time at the Ontario Science Center on my 16th birthday, thanks to elderly relatives who recognized my sorrow at not having a sweet sixteen birthday party with my friends.  And years later, when I became a high school teacher and taught Grade 10 Social Studies, which covers Canadian geography and history, I always showed my classes my dad's photos.  They totally loved laughing at my cranky glares and my wild striped 1970 bell bottom pants, hippie belts, and other fashionable attire of the era.  And so it turned out to be an entertaining and educational vacation after all.  For my 1980s and 1990s students, at any rate.

Saturday 13 November 2010

Getting rich (hopefully) or caring for the rest of the world?

13 November 2010

Getting rich (hopefully) or caring for the poor?

Warning: this is long.  But it's something to seriously consider. 

This afternoon I went to a presentation by FHTM Canada .  About a year and a half ago, a couple of friends introduced me to this "business opportunity" but it really wasn't good timing for me (and to be honest, the DVD they gave me of a sample FHTM meeting was pretty scary:  it had the gospel-crusade methodology down pat, and in fact the presenter enthusiastically pointed out how "Christian" the business is).  Another acquaintance shared the opportunity with me earlier this week, and since I am trying to decide what I want to do next, I thought it would be worth checking into.

I've been involved with various forms of MLM before.   Usborne Books, Watkins Products, Amway, for example.  I've been introduced to MLM financial planning companies.  What I do know is I don't want to sell products that require me to demonstrate, throw parties, warehouse, invest in inventory, etc.  And I don't have a lot of money to invest in up front.  I don't want to deal in something that has a rather limited market (the financial planning MLM I was introduced to was aimed at customers who already had at minimum a quarter to half million to invest).  I don't want to sell something that I wouldn't want to buy myself, or that I am not enthusiastic about myself.  If I am going to invest the time and energy it takes to really be successful, I want to be selling something I am passionate about myself.  I also don't want to be forcing products on people that they, in reality, don't need or can't afford.  I do want good support and training from my up-line.

So the introduction my friends gave me to FHTM sounded like maybe this MLM (multi-level-marketing) company was different than the others I've been involved with or explored.  They told me that:

  • FHTM provides services rather than products.
  • FHTM partners with many large companies that people are already purchasing from.
  • And that by getting people to become FHTM "customers," (aka part of the FHTM team) those people (including myself of course) get credit for "word of mouth" advertising (bringing in more "customers") so they save money on using those services.
  • The fee to start is "only $300."
  • FHTM provides an online book-keeping service that takes care of all the record keeping so you don't have to worry about it yourself.

Okay - so no huge upfront investment, no warehousing of products to sell, no complicated order forms to fill out, you're providing products that people already are buying, and supposedly you can save them money.  Sounded pretty good.  If a little bit "too good to be true."  Still, a friend who had her own retail business for years, and still struggled financially despite how hard she worked at, had joined up with FHTM, and within less than a couple years, was earning (so I'm told) at least $10,000 month.  Well, I thought, it couldn't hurt to check into it a bit more. 

So I went to this "business opportunity presentation" today.  There were probably 50 or 60 people there, including about 8 people looking into the business.  So the presenters were mostly "preaching to the choir" - and the choir members were pretty enthusiastic, of course.  No different than other "presentations" I've attended.  The presentations were polished, and the Power Point worked well (mostly).  (Did I mention I'm not terribly enthusiastic about Power Point?  Another story... going back to "church Power Point" experiences... but I digress).  Oh yes, and thankfully no mention of the "Christian" tag-line, although I recognized a lot of the choir members as being "church members" whom I've met in the past.  But of course that isn't surprising; in MLM you're encouraged to sign up friends and relatives, and most "friends" of church members tend to be other church members.  But at least the "spiritual" angle wasn't pushed.  (The "top presenter" did mention briefly that she used to be in youth ministry).

I arrived at the presentation with a number of questions (having done a fair amount of research on-line, examining both pros and cons).  The presenters did answer quite a few of my questions in their talks, though no time was given for questions and answers, as there was to be a "training session" immediately following for the already-converted.  By the end of the presentation I did have some more questions.  And I will be calling up folks I know who are (or have been) in FHTM to get their viewpoints.

But after I got home and reflected, I realized that there were some things that did trouble me:

The big "positive" being pushed is that as an FHTM member, you are "helping others."  It's not about you; it's about relationship-building and caring for others.  Oh, of course.  But then we were given all kinds of examples of how wealthy you can become (with a lot of hard work - that was admitted, thank goodness).  The lead presenter told us that her two daughters will never have to work (then added that "of course we aren't raising them to think that way."  I hope not.).

You can win (earn) an I-pod this month by signing up today!  Who wants an I-pod?  Hands up all over the room.  Except mine.  Not that I wouldn't like an I-pod.  I'm just not sure that I'm ready to jump in and do all those things you have to do in the next 17 days.  I need time to think this through.

You can win (earn) a platinum colored Lexus.  Some people get to that level in 7 months.  Well, actually it's a 3 year paid lease, and no, you can't get any other colors or makes.  But still.  Who wants a Lexus?  Well, um... not me.  Well now, maybe if it was a sweet little cherry red sports car .... :-)

The lead lady won (earned) 5 free vacations this year.  Next vacation is Dominican Republic.  Okay, think about that for a minute.  5 vacations in a year.  In sunny tropical climes, by the sound of it.  Great.  I have to stay out of the sun because I get melanomas easily.  Anyway, if I'm going to go to sunny climes, I'd rather stay for a year or two (or more) and do something really truly helpful.  For others.  Like I'd rather go next door to Dominican Republic, and help out in Haiti.  Somehow 5 vacations in a year sounds kind of, well, selfish.  For a company made up of people than always think of others first, I mean.  Of course, working with poverty-stricken people in third world countries for an extended period of time might not be a very good way to build the business, either.  Oh dear.

So when I got home and looked at the FHTM site, all the Canadian big earners who they show are couples, except for one.  What if my hubby doesn't want to get on board?  Or worse, what if my hubby doesn't want me to get on board?  Relationships are the big thing in FHTM I'm told.  What relationships are priority?  Customers/team? or my spouse and family?  Will making lots of cash for years and years, right on into the retirement years, and leaving enough to keep my kids going (theoretically) be enough to keep those family relationships going?

What about my dreams of writing?  What about the opportunities on-line that I've been working on?  What about the hobbies I love?  Am I going to shelf those?  Because I'm pretty sure that to really "go for it" with this "business opportunity" will mean cutting out some other things.

What about the volunteer work I am passionate about?  I mean, spending time with my street church family sure doesn't make me rich in money. But the riches in those relationships and in the Kingdom of God are far more important to me than building a big bank account.

So what do you think?  Am I crazy to pass up this great opportunity?  Are my other passions in life silly in comparison?

(And yes, I've thought about the fact that theoretically I would be able to "give" great amounts of money to "the church" and "missions" and such.  I know some people do that.  But I'm not at all sure that's my "gifting."  I'm a taking-care-of-people-person.  Not a giving money to other people so they can do the caring.)  (Father?  I don't sense You encouraging me, either).

(Oh.  And I wonder.  Once I started making all that money (if I actually succeeded), would I still want to give most of it away?  Or would I start caring about "me and mine" more than caring for others?)  (And I wonder.  Is this Jesus' design for believers?  Just wondering about that, because I keep thinking about that DVD...)

So what do you think?

Where do these kind of dreams come from?

13 November 2010

I woke this morning from a dream that left me wondering.  Actually, I often wake from dreams that leave me wondering.  I've raised this issue with "church folks" over the years, and generally what I encounter is an awkward moment of silence, or a quick changing of the subject.

So I'm wondering what you folks think?

In this dream, I was at a funeral.  I was sitting at the piano, ready to play music from a book of funeral music.  Not traditional hymns or worship choruses.  A very nice book, with full lyrics and music.  Songs designed to be sung as "specials."  Songs written from the viewpoints of various people. For example:

- from a spouse to the spouse who had just passed away
- from a spouse who was now re-meeting a spouse who had passed away previously
- from a child to a parent who had passed away
- from parents to a child who had passed away

There were at least 20 or 30 songs, with beautiful, thoughtful lyrics, all from different viewpoints.  I sat there, reading through the lyrics of all the songs.  And playing a couple of songs that fit that particular funeral situation. 

I have never seen or heard any of these songs before.  I have never seen a funeral song-book with these kinds of songs before.

It was a long dream.  I read the lyrics of every song.  I played a couple of the songs, by reading the music, without practice.

Where do dreams like this come from?

How can we dream such detailed dreams about things that we know we have never before experienced?  Nor even just "seen" on TV or in books or whatever?

What about dreams we have of places and events and, yes, dreams of "spiritual beings" and "spiritual events." What about things we have never done and wouldn't want to? 

What about day "dreams" like events of deja-vu?  When I was a teenager, for example, I was just sitting one day, and I had a "flash picture" in my mind of myself sitting holding a new-born baby.  It was full-colored and detailed.  I knew it was my first-born baby.  And then, years later, a few hours after my first baby was born, I looked down at her - and there was the "flash picture" in identical detail.  Same nightgown on me, same blanket around baby, same beautiful face on baby.  The hospital supplied the gown and blanket, so I couldn't have subconsciously planned them.  What's with that?  And why do I still experience deja-vu from time to time?

I've had people tell me that I'm being manipulated by evil spirits.  That such dreams and events are a result of subconscious sinful thoughts and attitudes.  On TV and in books, I've heard many other theories, as I am sure you have.  But most of those shows are hardly what you might think of as coming from a believer's perspective.

What do you think, as a believer?

Blessed Be Your Name in the Darkness... and thank You for Your Light

12 November 2010

Today my cousin from Saskatchewan phoned.  At least the caller ID said "Saskatchewan," but as it turned out she was calling from her mom's (my mom's sister) place in Summerland, a 15 minute drive from here.  She had phoned me yesterday, and we were planning to get together here in Penticton for a visit, but now she was asking if I'd be willing to go for lunch with her in Summerland.

There was a time when I loved going to Summerland.  I was born in Summerland during my parents' summer vacation (a few years back, of course, lol).  My grandparents lived in Summerland in a wonderful big old Victorian style house (you can read stories about it here)( across the street from the old hospital where I was born.  An uncle, aunt and cousins our age lived in Summerland too.  When I was a teen there was an excellent coffee house at a Summerland church.  The best swimming beach in the entire beautiful Okanagan Valley was at Summerland.  There were towering clay cliffs with narrow trails criss-crossing them, which provided great adventures for daring young folks.  A five-cents-to-a-dollar-store that people came hundreds of miles to shop at.  And endless orchards with peaches, apricots, cherries, apples, pears. You get the picture.  Summer-land!  Beautiful!

So I grew up and moved farther afield, and didn't get to Summerland very often.  My cousins grew up and moved, too.  My grandparents went to meet Jesus face-to-face.  But a few years ago, my parents moved to a seniors complex in Summerland.  And we moved to Penticton, and so our family started going to Summerland to visit mom and dad.  And I really enjoyed it, not just seeing my parents, but all the good old memories remembered.

Then my mom developed dementia.  And ended up in a higher-care-level facility.  And then my dad got cancer, and passed away.  My mom was moved to a facility in Penticton, and eventually she too passed away.  If you've been following this blog, you'll know that these losses were not easy for me.

And unfortunately, they cast a sad, even fearful, shadow over my feelings about Summerland.  Even passing by on the highway was difficult for me.  I still sometimes drove through "Lower Summerland" - the beaches, the old Victorian house, the clay cliffs, and enjoyed the old time childhood memories. 

But driving into "Upper Summerland" (aka "West Summerland") or just passing by, made my tummy hurt.  I have gone there when I needed to.  To family dinners, visiting aunts and uncles and cousins (they've been gradually moving back; Summerland has that kind of draw).  To occasional events or meetings.  For a long time, the shadow seemed to just grow deeper and longer. 

When my cousin phoned to ask if I could come up to Summerland instead of meet her in Penticton, my tummy churned.  But I said, "Yes."  And off I drove in some trepidation.

It's getting to be winter these days, and the weather recently has been mostly gray and damp and windy-chill.  But today the weather was lovely.  Chilly, but the sun was shining, the sky was blue with fluffy white clouds, the lake beautiful.  Almost looked like summer.  Living up to our region's reputation as "the sunny Okanagan." 

And surprisingly, my tummy didn't turn when I drove off the highway and headed into Summerland.  Seeing my mom's older sister and brother-in-law didn't bring back sad memories of my mom and dad.  Going with my cousin to poke around in my mom's favorite thrift store (everyone's favorite thrift store - people come from far and wide) was fun.  I hadn't stepped foot in it since we packed up my mom's clothes and dropped them off there.  Summerland is a retirement town.  I saw clothes in the thrift store that totally reminded me of my mom.  And I didn't feel sad.  They actually made me smile.

Thank You, Father, for bringing me through these past couple months of rest.  Thank You for the depression that has forced me to sleep and sleep ... and then slowly start re-awakening.  Listening to Your voice in the long hours I have been alone with few others to talk with, and too tired to do the kind of "busy work" that keeps us from facing our fears and guilt.

Thank You for bringing the "summer" back into "Summerland" for me.

Thank You for driving out the dark hidden places in my heart with Your sunlight.  With You, The Light.

"Blessed be Your name... when the darkness closes in."

(And now when the sun's starting to shine down on me again) 

Friday 12 November 2010

My church is not a business

12 November 2010

My church is not a business

Wow.  I've heard "the church" described in business terms, and seen it function according to business concepts, but a post I read today  still astonished me:

In most church planting strategies. Failing churches are expected to fail, leading to the needless waste of untold amounts of resources. Not to mention alienating potential customers through negative shopping experiences. This pessimistic approach to failing churches is apparently borne of the desire to avoid the hard conversations that might otherwise save some businesses from failing1.... After all, not many individual businesses concern themselves with assisting other businesses in a purely altruistic fashion3.....

Rather than planting new businesses or crops while allowing others to fail, we should be making the wiser investment decision4 to patch up failing churches. That may mean that we need to revisit SBC polity and seriously ask ourselves whether it is time to change the governmental structure of the SBC or, as a less invasive option, produce material designed to help failing churches adapt to current market conditions.

Regardless of how we go about attempting to salvage failing churches, the tactic of writing them off and allowing the resources they contain (which includes people, our brothers in Christ) is needlessly wasteful....

In my next post I will explore the problem of excess supply....

Even secular businesses understand that it is far cheaper to keep an existing customer from leaving than it is to gain a new customer. [↩]

Apparently there will be a whole series of posts of this nature. 

Oh dear.


early morning day-mare (vs nightmare: I was awake - I think..)

12 November 2010

Woke up early this morning.  Wide awake but didn't want to crawl out from my ultra-cozy bed.  I was thinking about this and that.  Including street church.  Which led to thinking about the 4 dozen eggs I boil for each Sunday morning gathering. Bizarre, right?  Then, even more bizarre, I began to compose verse.  Bad verse.  Very scary.  Which convinced me to get up after all, and face the day.  In a hurry.

Oh.  In case you're wondering, here's the ditty I was composing.  You can even sing it - to the tune of "The Monster Mash."

Eggs hard-boiled
4 dozen eggs hard-boiled
Eggs hard-boiled
O'er steaming pots she toiled
Eggs hard boiled
The water rolled and roiled
Eggs hard boiled!

Very very scary...  :-)

Thursday 11 November 2010

What Father's been teaching me

November 11, 2010

So last night, after all that stuff I posted yesterday (and the previous few days) I went to my friend G's house and a few of us listened to Disc 1 of the Transition series with Wayne Jacobsen.  And I was blown away, because it lined up so exactly with what God has been working through with me during this "rest" time in my life.  I listened to it again today, and took some notes.  Here they are:

Transition series - Wayne Jacobsen

Disc 1 - At Home in God

The "church" is God's people in the earth who know Him and love Him and follow Him.  People over the whole earth who are knowing who He is, and growing in relationship with Him.  And because of that, growing in relationship with each other.

Getting it is a process.  Takes years.  It's a lifelong journey.  Can't just get it from hearing about it and taking notes about it.  You can learn a lot from ground school, but you don't learn to actually fly.  Living it is better than knowing it.

In the best kinds of learning the student takes responsibility for his own learning and asks the teacher to teach him what he needs to know.

To learned to live loved the best instructor is the Holy Spirit.  The importance of prayer is, as we ask Him, "Holy Spirit, I don't know how to steer this?  Can You teach me?"  And He says, "I'd love to teach you!"  We have to become active learners.  We have to take responsibility to learn to be God's vessel, and learn how to live this life - or we'll miss the best parts of it.  There's no better way than to ask, "Holy Spirit, how do I respond to this?  Would You teach me?"  And He does.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit doesn't do it immediately.  He interested in working at a deeper level than just your intellect, so it's not always immediate.  Sometimes He has something else in mind, but He'll make it clear. 

You need to take active ownership of your life in Christ.

We live as if religion is the course of the day.  All groups/cultures have religious underpinnings.  Holy man/guru, sacred space, sacred rituals, certain laws.

We get church wrong because we are not on a relational journey to begin with.  Therefore we don't know what to share when we get together.  So we end up sharing religion - conformity, rituals. We share religious life because we don't know how to share relational life.  The real challenge is for each of to learn how to live in Him. 

Jesus showed his disciples to live the life of His Father.  He wanted them to get relationship with Father.  When we get that then we can live that life together.

Matthew 5,6,7 Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus describes the ideal of what it means to live life in God, the life God always meant us to live.  If you read it religiously it will kill you.  It's not good news to Pharisees, to Law-keepers.

In "The Message" the first beatitude reads:  You are blessed if you are at the end of your rope.  When we "go to church" we don't give testimony about that!  We define blessings in temporal, material terms.  But Jesus says the blessed people are poor in spirit, persecuted.  And we're to be God's light in the world, impacting the world.

The sermon on the mount points us to the fact that the freedom from sin is not in the actions, it's in the heart.  Until God gets your heart, your actions won't change.  The Ten Commandments are to become promise rather than commandments:  When you know Me well enough, you will not murder, commit adultery, etc.  The Old Covenant was do the Commandments or die;   the heart of God in the New Covenant is you will live because I will change you.

Jesus is describing an ideal way of living with His Father that you and I don't have a prayer of living in our own strength.

Jesus says, "I don't want you to be anxious about anything."  Have you ever tried not to be anxious or afraid?  If you try to follow the rules, you're dead.  But Jesus came to show us what life in Father is like.  He lived, modeled, demonstrated living a life dependent upon His Father.  Living in a loving way even with people trying to kill and betray Him.  Because He knew how to live related to His Father. 

The ideal of the Sermon on the Mount is not how, it's what.  And Jesus modeled it so we know it can be done.

John 13 to 17 The Upper Room Discourse.  Now Jesus is explaining to His disciples, "This is how you're going to live."

Most of what we do in western Christianity is placing New Testament terms on Old Testament concepts.  We can use all the NT language but miss the reality.

The reality:
John 15:15 "I no longer call you slaves... I call you friends because everything I have learned from the Father I have made known to you."  I'm giving you the relationship I have.  A change in paradigm.  In the Old Covenant, the image of our relationship to God is slave to Sovereign.  The relationship is fear, because fear is what keeps a slave related to the King.  Jesus is offering true friendship:  "Greater life has no man than this, than that a man lays down his life for his friend."  Jesus is about to make that happen.  Your relationship with God will be friend to friend.

Not the friendship of the world: mutual benefit, mutual combination of self-need.  That kind of friendship gets compromised when one gives more than the other.  Our concept of even love is often based on self-need: what do I need and am I getting it?  My benefit.

God sees friendship with us not as what we can give Him, but what He can give us.  Not just good buddies but a friend willing to die for you.  Never use you, never betray you.  Always there for your benefit, not His.

Romans 8:15 "God has not given us a spirit of fear, leading to slavery, but a spirit of adoption, whereby our hearts cry out, Abba."  Oh Papa!  The spirit of fear, and slavery, is Old Covenant.  Only the cross could change it, and give access to a better relationship.  All the OT sacrifices couldn't make the worshiper perfect in conscience.  When they got near God, He was still a terrifying Presence. 

The God most of have grown up is not the God of the Bible.  He is an abusive dad who wants to use us.  If you want that God, you want religion between you and Him. You want a buffer, a holy man guru, some rules to follow.  Then somebody else can deal with Him.

The relationship of the New Covenant God is that of an Abba-daddy to a child who is Abba aged.  How much expectations does He have of that child?  None.  He just loves her.  If she grows up in that love, that love will transform her.  That love changes everything.  He's not a God that needs to be appeased.

I John 4 "God is love and in Him is no darkness at all"  "Perfect loves casts out fear" - and fear is based on punishment.  "And the one who fears is not perfected in love."  There is such a huge paradigm shift going on, Old Covenant to New Covenant. 

If you don't love God, you'd be well served to fear Him because fearing God will keep you from doing some really stupid things.  But it won't change you from the inside and help you love God.  It will drive your sin deeper and make it come out in more religious ways. 

But once you love Him, you will never need to fear Him again.  That is the message of the New Testament.  The fear of the Lord is not where we get holiness from.  We say holiness derives from fear,  but God is Holy and He's not afraid of anything.  God derives His holiness from His love. 

If I absolutely loved every person I meet, I would never need a law of any kind.  When you live loved by God, you will love.  Galatians 5: love fulfills the Law.  When you get the loving right, with Him and with each other, the keeping of Law is not an issue.  Love will take you furthur than the Law ever will.  The man who is perfected is perfected by love. Once you engage that love, fear will have no place.

What about the great commandment to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself?  Isn't it the summing of the whole Law?  But isn't this absurd:  Do you know anybody you can command to love you?  If love is an act, you can command me to act like I love you.  But can you command love?  Not when love is the reality of a relationship.  Religion turns love into an act.  As you engage God's love, you'll find yourself loving others - and you'll know it's not you, it's God's love.

Jn 13:34-35 "A new commandment I give you: that you love each other as I have loved you."
1 John "We know love by this: not that we loved God, but that He first loved us."  I cannot possibly love you until I have been loved by Him, until I know what His love is.  Throw out the principles, and then learn to live in a love relationship.  Learn to live loved.  Until you know the love of the Father for you and the love of His Son, until you know that He delights over you, until that's real in your life and experience, until you know the depth of that love, you'll have no idea how to treat other people.

Jesus is God.  He lived with the disciples for three years.  Were they afraid of Him?  Why not?  Because they didn't get it that he was God!Even when they knew He was the Messiah, their understanding of what the Messiah would be was not the reality of Jesus.  They thought he was not a God-incarnate figure, just a man like David uniquely empowered to deliver God's people.  But after Jesus rose from the dead, then they knew that He was God.  Jesus had already made his disciples feel safe with Him, before the cross.  Now that they knew who He really was, and they were reconciled to Him by the power of the cross, they could be at peace with Him, including the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Now we can live not by principles but by love.

 Isn't that awesome?  You should listen to the whole talk yourself.  You can listen on-line or download it here.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

French (and other) language copies of some great books!

Yay!  The mailman brought me a package all the way from France today!  Two of my favorite books!  How cool is that?!?

Il m'aime! (He Loves Me!) by Wayne Jacobsen

Alors, tu ne veux plus aller a l'eglise (So You Don't Want to Go to Church?) by Jake Colsen.

Can't wait to dig into them!

Want to know how to order them? (Also available in English, German, Dutch, Spanish, Russian, Portugese, and Swahili) ... go to Lifestream  for ordering info

Oh, and if you want to read The Shack (La Cabane) in French, you can order it here .  It'll be my next French-language order.

Telling You what to do and how to do it, when we pray

Dear Father, Jesus, Sarayu (Holy Spirit)...

I've been thinking about some of the things we pray about.

Like praying for physical healing for people who are really sick.  Especially old people, who just want to come Home to You.  And why do we pray for healing of "incurable" cancer, but not for healing of other "incurables" like dementia or certain kinds of "disabilities"?

I'm finding it harder and harder to pray prayers that ask You to heal (and tell you exactly what and how).

(Or to pray prayers that tell You exactly what to do about all kinds of other things).

Because I really don't know if my plans and wishes (or the plans and wishes of the people who pass on "requests" to me to pray about) are really for the best.

Mostly, I just want people to KNOW YOU!

(And in my experience, sometimes - okay, often - "bad things" are often necessary for us humans to turn to You).

(And I really do think, understand, more and more, that "to die is gain."  Really.  To be with You face-to-face!  WOW!  Thank You, Jesus.  Praise Your Holy Name!)

Please help me hear Your voice, Holy Spirit, as You help me to pray.  Thank You.

is it church if it's not too "overtly spiritual"?

At our street church breakfast gatherings on Sunday mornings, sometimes we have what might be recognized as "services" after eating ... and sometimes we don't.  And sometimes I worry a bit about the "don't" times.

But I just realized....

Although we didn't do much of anything "overtly spiritual" on Sunday at street church, YOU were there with Your people.

How do I know?  I knew Your JOY!  I had a wonderful time with Your children.  Seeing them enjoying and being blessed by the food You provided to me to share with them, blessed me too!  And You gave me opportunities to share and care (love!) over breakfast and as we visited and drank coffee afterward.  And as we cleaned up after breakfast.  Talking about You.  Asking and answering questions.  Hugs and prayers as You led.  Between individuals.  In small "natural" groups of 3 or 4.  Not planned.  Just being.  With You.

And even that little chat (and big hug) with L as I was leaving and she was walking past.  And the few quiet words we shared about the depression we've both been experiencing.  And that we both know we aren't alone.  Well, Father, You know what I am saying...

Thank You!  It was Your church - and I was a part of it!  Oh, Thank You!

wondering about. .. the word and the Word ... knowing and Knowing ... You

Joshua 1: 8  This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.  9  Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

Just curious, Father.  Obviously, "this book" refers to the books of the Law as given to Moses.  However, I think when we were kids and this was one of the verses we were all urged to memorize, we were taught to assume that it referred to Your whole written word, all the Old and New Testament scriptures. 

And we generally related "of the Law" to, I think, the 2 "great commandments" and to the "principles of scripture"  (and, I suppose, to whatever theological "interpretations" and/or "distinctives" our particular "tradition" emphasized, which we also pretty much counted as Holy Writ.)

But what I am wondering, is how much these "commands" from You that we memorize and quote so cheerfully and confidently, we actually follow as they were given.  Or do we just follow them as we choose to "interpret" them to our own "beliefs" or "personally accept" them to our own comfort level?

Also, I wonder, how much right do we have to take commands and promises given the certain discrete individuals or groups, and apply them to ourselves and our situations?

For example, in Joshua 1:5, God speaks to Joshua himself and says, "No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life.  Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you:  I will not fail you or forsake you."

Now certainly, there are scriptural principles within the verse that apply broadly to all God's people (God does not fail or forsake His people).  But do we have the right to take the particulars as God's promises to ourselves, as well ("no man...stand before you" and in verse 6, the leadership position given to Joshua, for example).  And what about the IF part in verse 7 - which specifically refers to following all the details of the Law of Moses?  How often do we pay attention to those IF's?

We argue that because of Jesus we are "freed from the Law."  But then we add that we are still under the "law of love" (the two great commandments "on which hang all the law and the prophets").  And in so saying, do we actually follow those laws?  Do we even see them as living in Jesus' love, or do we see them as Laws we must follow?

And how often do we also say that we must follow the Ten Commandments (and others of our personal/group choosing) in order to be Christians?  Are we then really living in freedom to follow the law of love (in other words, to follow Jesus)?  Because, if we are placing ourselves under even some of the Mosaic laws, then we aren't freed, are we?  And if we aren't freed, then we are under the Law.  Is that right?

If the law was fulfilled (completely!) in Jesus, then we really are in a totally new way.  Jesus Himself - THE WAY, the Truth, the Life. 

(Hmmm... When Moses said, "Choose life," he wasn't referring to splashing those words on t-shirts, and marching in anti-abortion parades, was he?  No, he was referring to obeying all the commands of the Law, through which the people of Israel would find true Life).  (Although, no doubt, being anti-abortion - in positive ways - is not doubt a life-preserving choice, and thus pleasing to Jesus who is the Life).

Father, when I was growing up "in the Church,"  it seemed like "meditating on Your Law day and night" (as in lots and lots and lots of Bible study, and some prayer too) was THE sign of a "real Christian."  Over and over, verses like this were quoted.  "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."  It seemed like the lamp/light was more important than the feet or the path.  And that knowing the scriptures was more important, very often, than actually KNOWING Jesus, the Word.  Knowing about Him seemed to so often be equated with knowing Him. 

Were we wrong?  Did we totally (or at least pretty much) miss the Truth?  Was all that studying (without much doing/walking ... but we thought that studying WAS doing/walking) a waste?  I don't think it was a total waste, but I wonder how much we missed out on?  Father?  (And are some of us going too far to the opposite extreme now?  I DO worry about that...)  (And I also miss some of the deep study...)  Father?

Oh Father, here I am "wondering" again.  Please.  I want to walk "in the Truth."  Help me, please.


later... reading...

"Mack, you don't need to have it all figured out.  Just be with me." (The Shack, p 178)

Thank You, Jesus.  You are the Truth.  And Your words are Truth.  Your Spirit is Truth.  Father is Truth.

It's not one or the other.  It's One.  You. 

That's what I want.  To just be with You.  All that You are, in all ways that You reveal Yourself.  Thank You.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Feeling kind of dis-satisfied with church-where-I'm-at-right-now

As I've been thinking about my "loneliness", I've been kind of wondering if seeing the street church family as a kind of "substitute family" in place of my family (as my parents passed away, kids flew our nest; and former "church family" losses as that group closed down, and co-worker and student losses from leaving my teaching job, and such) ... well, I've been wondering if the frequent "losses" from the street church family are also part of my problem. 

Our street church gathering is not made up of what you might call a "stable population."  Especially when it comes to those who have come for the breakfasts and clothing and conversations - and have met Jesus.  Because it seems that it doesn't take long before they move on. 

Some experience transformed lives, and return to families, or move to get work, or whatever.  And their "street pastor" actually encourages them to move on, for a time at least, into a gathering of more mature believers, where they are away from the street environment and crowd.

Others - and you'd be surprised at how often this happens - soon after really encountering Jesus, go to be with Him.  It seems like they have been just barely "holding on" looking for the answer to their life's problems - and when they find it, they're happy to let go - and go home.  Or else Father has been keeping breath in them until they come to Jesus - and then He takes them home because He knows it is where they need to be.  Now.

Of course sometimes they come back, when they've gotten into a strong relationship with Jesus, and help out those on the streets.  That's awesome, because they really understand.

I keep thinking that I need more time with Your people.  I mean, this "rest" time mostly with You (and Your people on-line to some degree) has been awesome.  But You really have created us for community.  In Your image.  So yes, I'm lonely for Your family (and my personal family too...)

Maybe it's because I've been "on the sidelines" lately, and am just generally lonely.

But maybe I'm going through some kind of "withdrawls" from the "comforts" of traditional church.  I mean, at least at traditional church, you can pretty well guarantee you're going to see (if briefly, and mostly looking at the back of their heads) your "church family" for at least an hour or two every Sunday.  And if you're the "getting involved" type, there are Life Groups and Bible Studies and Teen Nights and Kids' Klubs and Womens Ministries and Mens Ministries and special groups for young adults and middle adults and senior adults and married adults and single adults and so on and so forth.  And maybe even Sunday School classes for every taste and interest and age group, if your church is big enough.  Maybe Your church even has it's own school attached.  So you can find a little group that suits your age and taste and entertainment style, and every week get together for a more-or-less-cozy time together, starting and ending precisely on time, and knowing exactly what to expect in curriculum and style.  Cozy.  Friendly but not too friendly.  Safe.  Predictable.  Dependable getting-together times. 

(Not very much like the sometimes-craziness and other-times-real-closeness of personal - real - family.  But still.)

I really loved gathering with the street church family back in the beginning.  Sunday morning breakfast gatherings of course (we still have those).  And then we started having week-day-morning coffee gatherings (when the traditional churches in town wanted to get involved, and were full of great ideas of things we could do ... and initially even lent us some indoor space ... but as it turned out, didn't really get involved when it didn't fit into the way they do things).  So our only "regular gathering" time is back to Sunday morning breakfast gatherings. 

And of course, I used to live only a couple blocks from the heart of downtown, and I walked through downtown every day, and met up with the family in the square and on park benches and in back alleys and by the beach.  But now I live a 45 minute walk away, and my health hasn't been so great, so I can't get there all the time.  And they used to come to my house and we'd sit and have coffee and meals and gathering with You, too.  But my home now is a long walk for them too.

Oh yes.  And back then, we seemed to do a lot more sit-down-together (usually outside on the grass under the trees, or huddled around an old kerosene heater in the snow ... and sometimes indoors when it worked out) and talk together about the Lord in our lives.  And read Scripture.  And pray together as a group.  But now it's mostly a coupl of individuals, or groups of 3 or 4, talking for a few minutes and then moving on.  And there's value there.  But I really do miss the group togetherness.  And digging into Scripture.  (We still pray together quite a bit).

(We never have had much music.  Sometimes I miss that).

And of course, meeting together most days just on the street.  Helping each other out.  Sharing.

Anyway, I was thinking the other day about how I'd like to find a little gathering of Your people - not a rah-rah group with formal services and worship teams and preacher and stuff, but still, a little group to gather with.  In homes or coffee shops or wherever.

I was even thinking how I wish church buildings (this town has a lot of them) were open and one could go in anytime.  A kind of "chapel" space to just go in, get out of the cold, sit quietly, kneel at the altar, even talk and sing and pray together.  Anytime.  Informally.

Sometimes I remember a couple little churches of my past, where you could do that.  I remember weekday "morning prayer" (matins) and "evening prayer" and kneeling rails (cushioned!).  Places of quiet, focused "retreat" - yet not feeling alone.  A real sense that You were there.  With a few of Your people.  Together.  Family.   Sometimes I think of that kind of longingly. Maybe I'm just being nostalgic.  Maybe.

Okay, this is something I really do miss.  Spending time in the scriptures and praying together.  The thing is, at our street church gatherings, we do have some discussion and teaching.  We share what God is doing in our lives.  We answer the many questions from people for whom the Jesus Way is so new.  We really do help each other, and that is awesome. 

But...  I miss really "getting into" scripture.  A lot of people don't read much, if at all.  A lot of people are suffering from illnesses and stuff that make "study" difficult.  Or their lives are so focused on just surviving, that "study" is simply outside their current situation.  And when they maybe start to get to the stage where they might want to "dig in," that's the time they move on with Jesus into new situations and places in life.

So I guess maybe I'm wishing to be part of a gathering of people who want to dig a bit deeper.

I'm wondering ... if all us believers, all over this town, are part of "the church at Penticton" shouldn't we be able to maybe meet with people from more than one local gathering?  Even freely move among our brothers and sisters as God gives us opportunity?  Why is that such a scary thought to so many "churches"? 

(Maybe I'm just the problem.  Maybe it's "just me.")    

Monday 8 November 2010

New Page: Asking Father About Dementia

I have just completed a new "page" :  Asking Father About Dementia

Do you ever wonder how God can allow people to suffer from dementia?  Or how dementia affects one's relationship with God?  Or how Christians react to those suffering from dementia?  Have you ever been afraid of developing dementia?

On this new page, I have gathered together some of my journal entries that mark the path I have taken in coming to that point of fear, my questions to God about it all, and the path He has taken me out as I have learned to trust Him.  The doctor says I do not have dementia... but even if I did develop it some day, I am no longer in terror of the possibility.  Thank You, Father.


Oh! I just want to add:  If you're worried about depression (and/or about dementia), from a "Christian" viewpoint, check out this conversation at Captain's blog.  I'm not alone.  You're not alone.  We're in this together.  A lot of us.
Thanks for posting, Chad.  And the rest of you who responded.  It helped me a lot.

Saturday 6 November 2010

Dementia and Loneliness

November 6, 2010

(I wrote this a couple months ago, reflecting on when my mom had dementia)

Visiting my mom, day after day, alone, was probably the loneliest thing I have ever done. 

She was alone in her lost world.  And I was alone, physically alongside, but effectively separate.  Alone. 

Maybe there was something wrong with me, that I couldn't develop a new kind of relationship (we used to be so close, talked about everything). 

But I can tell you this.  If only someone else would have come with me once a week (or even once a month maybe), I wouldn't have felt so alone.  But everyone I asked just said, "You know I can't.  She's not the person I used to know.  I can't bear to see her that way.  You're strong.  You'll do fine."  And they turned their backs and walked away. 

And that made me feel even more alone, that being alone with mom.  Whatever made them think I was strong?  I just needed someone to hold my hand and be strong - or whatever - beside me.  Once in a while.

Bond to place: Haida Gwaii

November 6, 2010

(This is something I wrote 2 months ago.  At the time I wrote this, I was feeling very much out-of-place.  Feeling I didn't belong anywhere.  Wasn't needed anywhere.  And looking back to a place and time when I did feel a bond.  A bond which draws me still.)

In his book, So Beautiful, Leonard Sweet writes:

"Offcomer" is a northern word to describe people who are "blown in on the wind," or in other words, "outsiders" settling in places where they are not "local."  The key to incarnational living in the twenty-first century is to live simultaneously as both global "offcomers" and tribal "locals," as well as vice versa.

My reaction:

Odd.  I think I had a deep connection to the "place" of Masset and Old Massett, Haida Gwaii,  from when I was very small, and every single day, pretty near, we went on long walks.  I think the environment there became a deep part of me.

When I first returned over 20 years later, and sat on the dock, and looked out over the flats, my eyes were at the same level as when I was a tot walking there. And I had this extremely detailed and real, in-the-moment flash of that same view (though there had been some changes in the intervening years) as I had seen it as a less-than-two-year-old. 

It's still the environment I miss, the ocean, beaches, salty-wind, gulls crying, ravens squawking... and meeting people walking down the street... and even that school where I slept in my buggy in the back of the classroom while my mom taught - and then taught there myself in that same room nearly a quarter of a century later. 

I feel like I should feel safe and accepted there... yet never totally did in the later years. I was an "outsider" yet with a "local bond."  So even there I felt a bit lost and separate.  And I did try to live as "both global offcomers and tribal locals" but it didn't quite come together.  Should it have?  Maguy, the school French teacher, from Paris, warned me it wouldn't... couldn't ... And she advised me to enjoy what I could, be involved as I could, but not to try to be something I'm not.

Still, I long always to return.  My connection to that place is far deeper than to any other place I have ever lived.  I want to go home.


6 November 2010

One of the things that I was feeling discouraged about, was that I have reached 55 years of age, and suddenly realized that a lot of things I have dreamed of doing and being, have not been fulfilled.  Some, of course, I've nibbled at; others are at least in the early stages of process.  And I KNOW that Father knows my dreams, and that He loves me.  And that if some of these dreams are in His purpose and plan for me, He will provide and lead.  Even plant His own dreams in my heart, dreams that are greater than I can imagine.

But when I was feeling so down, it just seemed like I was getting too old and tired and that I'd never realize any of my dreams.  I was so tired that my mind was foggy, and my memory was failing, and my naturally organized personality was becoming more and more disorganized.  I was even terrified that maybe I was developing early onset dementia.  It was a bleak time.

But even in that bleakness, Father (I'm sure it was He) nudged me to once again list my dreams.  I personally felt it was a hopeless waste of time, and I cried through the whole exercise.  But as I look at that list now I am beginning to feel hope, and courage to get up and get going.  To bring this list to Papa, and talk to Him about it.  To see what we might do together, in His will, with His guidance and strength and provision.  Hope is springing!  And with it peace and joy!  Thank You, Lord!

  • I dream of living in a little cabin by the ocean.  Sitting on the driftwood. Listening to the waves crashing on the beach.  To gulls and ravens calling.  Feeling the wind as it blows through great cedar trees.  Hear the rain splattering on the roof.  Smell the sea-salt in the air.  I dream of looking to the far-off horizon.  Dreaming of far-off places.  Maybe even getting on a boat and going to see some of them.  Maybe even get to serve some of Papa's children there.  I would love that.
  • I dream of being able to spend more time with my children and grand-children.  I dream of all my children, their spouses, my granchildren - even their spouses' families, all walking close with Jesus.  I pray.  And pray.  And I know God answers.
  • I dream of getting that PhD in history that the Dean of History at UBC urged me to pursue, so many years ago.  Or at least a Masters?  But my grandpa always said I'd get a PhD.  That would be awesome.
  • I dream of living in an intentional community.  A community where we share each others' lives.  Where maybe I could be a granny-home-school-community-teacher :-)
  • I dream, just once in my life, to be a bit of a success at something.  Is that selfish?  Maybe.
  • I dream of life in a cabin by the beach, writing, and inspiring.  Writing blogs, and even a book or two, that someone actually reads.
  • I dream of maybe taking some seminary classes sometime.
  • I dream of continuing to learn French and Haida, and maybe Spanish too.  and actually become fairly fluent by living in an immersion situation.
  • I dream of teaching people things I'm passionate about without being tied down to the "educational system" and without having to prepare exams and report cards!
  • I dream of becoming a successful writer.  Whatever that means, lol!
  • I dream of going camping.  A lot.
  • I dream of having a vacation in a cabin by the ocean.  By myself!!
  • I dream of lots of time to hang out with my kids.  My sister.  My husband (getting to know each other more).
  • I dream of playing my guitar, getting and playing a piano, singing old sons, sketching, painting with water colors, planting an herb garden and veggies too.
  • I dream of lots of time for relationship with Jesus (and I dream that my kids will understand and accept that)
  • I dream of long rambling conversations with interesting people.
  • I dream of being part of a gathering of the church that is a real, daily community.  And that I will discover what my "gift(s)" might be.  And use them to truly be part of the body.
  • I dream of getting an old bus, and camperizing it, and travel across Canada, and America too, for a year or so.  (My husband thinks that is a horrible idea, lol!)
  • I dream of curling up outside in the gazebo, wrapped in a cozy quilt in one of the big chairs, and sleeping.  (Okay! I've been realizing this dream! :-)

I dream!  And hope!  And joy comes flooding in! 

Thank You, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit.  Praise Your Holy Name.  Amen.

Counting My Blessings!

6 November 2010

Lest anyone deduce from some of my recent rambling, that my life leading up to "the crash" was all tough stuff, let me assure you - I have been and continue to be very blessed!  I have a wonderful Father in heaven, Savior, and Spirit who never forsakes me.  I have a husband who loves me, five wonderful children, and 8 awesome grand-kids.  I have a street church family, who despite their own struggles (many of them far more difficult than mine), stand by and encourage and care for me.  I belong to a couple writing groups who encourage me in my joy of writing.  I live in the beautiful sunny Okanagan Valley in southern Beautiful British Columbia.  Life is awesome! Thank You, Lord!

When I was feeling really down and exhausted, and everything seemed so so dark, God gently nudged me to list some of my blessings.  I'll be honest - at that point, it was a difficult list to write.  But as I did, the fog actually started to lift, and I realized more and more how much my Papa truly loves me.

So, here's a list of some of the BLESSINGS in my life in the 4 or so months before my tumble:

  • I accomplished some important writing projects:  I wrote a commissioned play.  I had two active blogs going, Pen and Paper Mama and My Church Journey, with more and more readers commenting and encouraging me.  I was also actively commenting on lots of blogs.  I published the first edition of a new quarterly news magazine for our Penticton Writers and Publishers group.  I was moderating an active e-group. 
  • I was actively involved in our complex's strata council.  It's a great way to meet the neighbors, and be involved in the community.
  • I had opportunities to attend several writing seminars led by experienced writers, and successful publishers.
  • I got three new grandchildren!  And I was able to travel and visit each of them and help out - and see my other grand-kids at the same time :-)
  • I received an excellent letter of reference from my last job.
  • In the spring I learned to use the entire Pro version of the new Word Office suite - and then had opportunities to use those new skills.
  • In mid-summer all my kids (but one) and their families came here for a long weekend.  We had a wonderful time together!
Am I blessed or what?  I am SO BLESSED!!!

In the past couple months, I have been sleeping.  And sleeping.  And sleeping.  Making up, I suppose, for years without enough sleep.  And my husband and son, here at home, and my other children, wherever they are, have been making sure that I obey the doctor and get rested and eat properly.  I have not had to work.  That's a blessing itself.  It's been a beautiful fall, the colors are unbelievable, there's been lots of sunshine.

And I've had so much time with Father.  At first, just collapsing into His arms and resting.  A lot.  And more recently, chatting with Him.  Seeking Him.  Being sought by Him.  Starting to learn again how to praise Him.

I found a Bible that belonged to my mom.  In it were marked the verses, God's mighty promises, that she hung onto when things were hard for her back in the day.  With little notes - initials and dates - beside them, when she'd claimed them from her Father.  A lot of those initials were mine.  And my children's initials too.  And because of the dates, I could look back and remember what was happening in our lives then.  And, oh praise God, He has kept His promises!  He has answered my mom's prayers!  Even after mom went Home to meet Him face-to-face, the answers keep coming.

I AM SO BLESSED! I AM SO LOVED!  Thank You, dear God - Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit.

I LOVE YOU!  Thank You!