The weather?! Really??!

Yeah, really. I’m blogging about the weather. What else do you talk about when you have nothing to talk about?

Actually, I’m writing about the weather because in my little corner of Ontario, we’ve had this unbelievable stretch of sunny days. I can’t remember the last time it rained. In fact, even on the days that weren’t perfectly sunny, there’s been no precipitation. On the one hand, I love that because it makes it super-easy to get out for a walk with the puppy. There’s no prep (her raincoat, my raincoat, rainboots) needed and there’s no clean up afterwards (muddy paws, wet belly to wipe…I AM talking about the dog, people!).

On the other hand, there IS such a thing as too much of a good thing. After a time, the ground becomes hard, the plants suffer, there is danger of fires. I have friends who have been praying for rain because they were not able to get into their church camp due to forest fires.

A day of rain probably means I’ll have to forgo my beloved summer clothes (really, I adore tank tops and shorts and flip flops…I am, apparently, a minimalist when it comes to clothing). It probably means I’ll have to remember to bring Koski’s rain jacket down from my bedroom before our morning walk. It probably means I won’t be eating dinner out on the front porch with my friends in Oshawa tomorrow evening. I could look at it as a bad thing.

But a day of rain means other things, too. It means I will be cozy in my car as I drive to Oshawa (I love driving in the rain). It means that the forests will be less likely to catch fire. It means that the flower and trees will flourish.

Most situations are just like this: they have their good points and their bad points. You could look on them as a blessing or a curse. You could see the positive or the negative in them.

I think God calls us to see the blessing rather than the curse. When we focus on the negative, we rob ourselves (and those around us) of joy. And we are called to live joyfully.

I love that old saying “Life is not about avoiding the storm, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” And that is just what I plan to do tomorrow!

The good and the bad…

I’ve been struggling with my fitness routine lately. I’ve had some bad binge days when it comes to food and some malaise when it comes to exercising. But tonite I fought my way through the second bootcamp class of the week, and I am pleased with how I feel. I am pleased that I worked hard today – at exercise, at eating well and at my vocation.

Some days are bad. Some days are really hard. The trick, I think, is to not allow those days to be overwhelming. To not allow them to be the end of the story. Bad days definitely come, but so do good days. So do days when it is easy to work hard and live up to the goals you’ve set for yourself.

I saw this on pinterest this evening and it made me smile:

I admit, I am not usually thinking of Jesus during my workout. I’m usually thinking of oxygen and the need for more of it. But I like this picture. I believe the words written here.

And when the bad days come, I need to remember this. Because in this statement of purpose, I find hope. And all that is needed to change a bad day into a good day is hope rightly placed.

Be weird…

A friend posted this on Facebook today, and I just had to steal it:

 

I am convinced that if the people of Jesus’ time spoke in our vernacular, they would have called him weird and random. Sometimes he answered the questions he was asked, but a lot of the time he went in a totally different direction. A lot of the time he used story and metaphor to get at the thing behind the thing he was being asked about. A lot of the time he chose to do what didn’t make sense to others and to teach lessons that went against the grain of society.

I like that about Jesus. Whenever I read the biographies of his life (aka Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), I feel like we’re seeing a real person. Not one who presents himself in a way that will be most palatable to those around him. I struggle with this sometimes. I am a people pleaser, though I think God is slowly curing me of that tendency. I could learn something from Jesus’ ability to just be who he was.

And who he was, was so very wonderful. The Son of God, the Word that was spoken at creation, the lamb who laid down his life for our sin, the love of God in flesh and blood.

So my friends, be weird, be random, be who you are. Because God made you and you are loved just as you are.

Blessing the animals…

There is a tradition (though it is a fairly new one) at my church of doing a Blessing of the Animals service in May. The service is short, informal and held out on the lawn of the church. People bring their pets and the minister blesses them.

It’s a bit of a strange thing to do, in some peoples’ eyes, but I have to admit, I love it. For me, it is a time to preach about the idea that when we disrespect creation, we disrespect the creator. It’s a time to preach in the open air and be interrupted by sounds you don’t normally hear on a Sunday morning (chirps and barks and the like). It’s a time to gather with other animal lovers and affirm the relationship each of us have with our various pets.

Some might scoff at the idea of blessing a bunch of cats and dogs (and two very vocal birds). But I found that in doing this service, I was the one who was blessed.

This job is for the birds! (Sorry, I had to go there!) This is Dixie, who belongs to Colin and June and is one of the first birds I’ve ever held.

 

This is Milo, who belongs to Marlene and was ill recently. He’s recovered perfectly and was full of kisses and love.

 

And this is my girl, Koski. I love the look of attentiveness on her face…it was a new experience to preach with her beside me. A good one. 🙂

He lifts you up!

I have a song by Audio Adrenaline going through my head right now…the lyrics go “you get down, He lifts you up! You get down, He lifts you up! You get down, He lifts you up! Every time you’re down, the Lord lifts you up!”

I find this to be so true. Every time I find myself down – and yes, that happens even to a fairly balanced, fairly bubbly person like me – God sends something to lift me up. Today it was a gentleman who is a client at our foodbank. He stopped by my office and just ‘wanted to talk.’ I sat and listened as he told me about the terrible things he has been through (abuse, addiction, depression, his wife leaving him, disease, etc.) in the past few years. But then he would get this grin on his face and say “God’s shown me so much, though. God is with me all the time.”

He told me how he had become addicted to cocaine, but God had sent a police team into the bar where he got his drugs and all the dealers were cleared out. He said one day one dealer got angry at him and wouldn’t sell to him anymore and that meant that he couldn’t get his drugs anymore. That began the long road to recovery for him.

I loved his honesty and his ability to see God at work in the places where most of us would think God does not go. I found his faith inspiring and his smile contagious.

Things are hard at at the foodbank right now. We are surviving week-to-week. Today there is a total of $56 left in the bank. It will take at least $1800 to buy food for our clients a week from now. It seems insurmountable. And yet – God provides. Endlessly and faithfully. And I am so grateful that He does. Because in sharing a little food with those in need, there is a much deeper blessing to be found for those who serve.

The start of summer…

Summer has often been a difficult season for me. I was always easily over-heated and exhausted by the humidity. I spent a lot of summers feeling really uncomfortable because of the extra weight I was carrying. But that has changed in the past year. With the weight loss, I have found that I am often cold and have been really looking forward to summer. Even though we’ve only had a few days of warmth so far, I can already tell that I am going to love this summer. It is great to feel warm again and to enjoy wearing shorts and tank tops.

This past weekend was the beginning of the summer season with the Victoria Day long weekend. Some of my friends and I have a tradition of going to David’s house for a campfire. And that is exactly what we did on Friday. It was a warm and beautiful day, and it was a joy to spend some time with good friends. I thought I’d share some of the photos I took on Friday.

To me, these photos are expressions of gratitude for all the good things God has gifted me with.

 

Naters hanging out in the Tree House his godfather, David, built for him and Cam.

 

Cam had to get the same shot, of course. 🙂

 

Michelle, Rob, Aly and Karen enjoying the fire.

 

Daddy’s girl: Aly and Rob
Pretty Aly-girl….love that smile!

 

Been thinkin’…

One of my regular readers mentioned to me the other day that she has been missing my posts. I really appreciated that, because it’s nice to know that this little project has an impact on others and that when I don’t get around to writing, that also has an impact.

For the last week or so I’ve been taking some time to myself. I have ideas for blogs, but many nights I have gone to bed without writing them. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I just needed a few more days to think.

Sometimes it’s good to go quiet for a bit. For the most part, I love my blogging time. I love the fact that it settles a centres me. I love the practice of writing each day and I find my brain has been working even when I wasn’t in front of my laptop writing up a blog. But sometimes, you just need a break. Sometimes silence is a good thing.

Sometimes we just need to be still. We live in a world that rushes past, and stillness can be a deep spiritual discipline. A whole new kind of worship.

Having said all that, I believe my time of stillness has come to an end and I plan on blogging regularly for the forseeable future.

Messing up…

It’s been a tough week for me Weight-Watchers-wise. On the one hand I’ve had awesome success with Weight Watchers over the past year. On the other hand it has been a frustrating game of one-step-forward-two-steps-back since about January. If I have lost anything since then (and whether or not I have is arguable, because I have been up and down a lot), it’s been a very minor amount. Recently, I’ve found that I am letting myself get away with extra tastes and “just a pinch” of this or that.

This is not good. On the one hand, I am sticking to very healthy eating most of the time. My diet has improved leaps and bounds over this time last year. On the other hand, I have been sabotaging myself with all these little extras. This week, especially has been difficult. To the point that tonite I decided to pretty much scrap this week, understand that the scale may say something very nasty to me on Sunday, and start fresh after weigh-in on Sunday morning.

Sometimes we mess up. There’s no great reason for this slip-up on my part. I have kept my exercise up this week, I have been planning healthy meals, I have been enjoying my work and loving the weather. Perhaps this is just a culmination of some stress that has been piling up over the last several weeks. Maybe it’s emotional-jet-lag from a truly terrible week I had a few weeks back. Whatever the reason, I’ve decided to show some grace to myself.

After all, that’s what Jesus would do. That is what God has always done with us, his children. The Old Testament is full of moments when Israel messed up. When they turned away from God. When they lost the plot. And though God warned that turning away from Him meant turning away from love and life and goodness and turning towards the opposite of those things, He never stopped taking them back. The people of Israel never got to the end of God’s grace. God was always ready to take them back one more time. And when they got to the point where it might look like God was finished with them, God changed the rules of the game.

He sent his Son, to live and to die, to teach and to rise again, to break the bonds of sin and death forever and for everyone. I love that about God. This is the the thing that keeps my faith going even when I’m in a dry spell or  struggle. Because I know, no matter how badly I mess up, Christ has already paid the price for my mess-ups. God’s grace is THAT big.

So I am having grace for myself. This week, I have messed up. I recognize it, I own it, and I am sorry for it. I will be careful over the next two days and I will begin fresh with Weight Watchers on Sunday. And I will remember to be thankful that in Weight Watchers, as with God, it is never too late for a new beginning.

 

Precious Moments…

I had the pleasure of baptizing my “adopted” niece on Sunday. It was a precious day for me. I had baptized her two older brothers (on the same day), a couple of years ago. I was touched that my friends (her parents) wanted me to be the one to preside over this moment in her life. It meant a lot to me that I got to baptize each of the Jeffrey children, and it meant a lot to them that I was willing and able to do it.

So this past Sunday the whole lot of the Jeffrey’s drove all the way to Brampton for 1o:30am. We had a lovely time in the service (Dad and I sang “In His Time”), and afterwards everyone headed back to the Manse for a shared lunch. It was beautiful, and I was reminded how deeply blessed I am to have these friends in my life. Even though we now live in different cities – an hour apart – we continue to grow in friendship and to keep in contact with each other.

God has blessed me with really great friendships over the years and the one I share with the Jeffrey’s is especially beautiful to me because it is a friendship with the entire family. I knew Rob as a teenager, became friends with his wife, Michelle, about 4 years ago. I have been at the hospital when each of their children arrived. We have been through good and through bad together. We are better than friends, we are chosen-family.

I am blessed. And in case you don’t know how much I am blessed, here are a few pics from the baptism, to prove it to you!

Michelle and Aly in the Great Hall.

 

Me and Aly. Look what a proud Auntie I am! 🙂

 

Me, Aly and one of her older brothers, Cameron. The boys were as high as kites and not all that interested in sitting for pics.

 

Me and Aly, my Dad and Aly’s other older brother, Nate. You can see Cam’s leg, too…but he’d just about had enough of photos by this point.

In danger of loving them…

I had lunch with a colleague today. He and I went through a very difficult phase in our (separate) ministries in previous churches, during the same period of time. We are both marked by the difficulties we faced and the wounds we incurred.

What is amazing is that we are both in much happier phases of ministry now. God is healing our wounds and showing us what we learned through those difficult times. As we talked, my colleague, who is notably stoic and unemotional, said to me “I’m in danger of loving these people.” Now for your average Joe, that might not sound like a grand declaration. But for this particular colleague of mine, it is pretty close to gushing about the congregation he now serves.

I remember keeping this promise of God in my mind during the long months of that difficult phase:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.
“They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

I would tell myself this over and over again. Sometimes I would look in the mirror and say “Rebekah, you know you serve a God who loves you more than you deserve. He has promised you a better day. It is coming. You have to get through this time to get to that time.”

Today as I sat outside with my friend enjoying some good food and good conversation, I realized that the better day is HERE and NOW. Despite whatever bumps in the road come (and trust me, they come all the time), I love the people that make up the congregation where I serve. And there is nothing like love to make a situation good.