The Best is yet come

It’s that time of year again — kids are groaning, keeners are cheering, parents are counting down the days left of chauffering kids to summer camps, pool parties and back to school shopping.

Yep. Back to school. Again. For almost the second decade.

For the past 4 years I haven’t had to make new friends so I’m a bit rusty and apprehensive about doing that again — and if you’re like me, “not rusty” is not anything to boast about either.

There are so many kinds of people out there with rich and complex backstories that have brought them to cross paths with you in the coming year, and for me, interacting with that is daunting and overwhelming and exhausting.

Social life? No thanks.

I exaggerate — to an extent.

It’s interesting why I find making new friends and new connections so dislikeable though, given that I know I enjoy people’s company (mostly) and that my prospective career depends on finding like minded people to collaborate with.

Not only that, but my making new friends in the past has been incredibly fruitful and the big picture that God has painted through my friendships — that He’s still painting — is truly wonderful and I haven’t been able to appreciate it until 10 years after this story had begun.

Authentic friendship and a longing for deep connection and understanding has marked my youth and childhood. In fact, it plays a large part in my testimony.

Growing up as an only child I was always in search for that best friend, that partner in crime who would be with me forever and never leave me alone.

God in His grace introduced Himself to me. Then in His abundance brought 5 wonderful girls to play with at school. A sisterhood and veritable tween clique.

When I lost my place of acquaintance with the many, I gained the mutual best friendship of one.

When I was desperate for a sister, God gave me one younger and one older.

After many years, when the one drifted away, I grieved.

But little did I know that God was placing me on new paths with people that had always been before me. People that I never thought to connect with because I had my one.

I thought I only had room for one — best means second to none after all… Right?

But as I searched and watched and waited to see who I’d cross paths with next… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… Soon there were so many whose friendships were precious to me.

And so everything that I sought after and lost was returned to me ten fold — true to His promise.

For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:32-33

In Him are all things found. It’s not “if I want blank, I’ll do what God says and He’ll give it to me.”

When we yearn and search for Him, we are already quenched and THEN in addition to that, everything else tends to follow and fall perfectly into place.

Instead it’s “I am enough to satisfy your need.” He is enough. He is more than enough.

In those moments of pain and grief and soul shattering loneliness — I was never alone. Not only was He true to His Word that He would never leave nor forsake me, he showed it by placing me with my closest friends when I needed a community most, when I didn’t know they would become my closest friends — when at first they were little more than strangers and kind acquaintances.

It took me years to see and realize it. I thought I had that “did we just become best friends??” moment with each of them but looking back… It was a long time coming.

So making new friends at a new place, away from the last new friends at the last new place? Bring it on.

When you think your heart is full, or can only hold enough for one best, or only a few, God knows how to open new spaces and fill even those to an overflowing brim.

Best doesn’t always mean one. Best simply means of exceptional quality and you can never have enough of that.

Indeed, the best is yet come.

#feelingthankful #feelingblessed

MM EL EM AZ DL EL — we’ll all be spread across the province and the country soon, but distance has never stopped us before ♥

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Paris 01: Lets get down to business

Cue the intro to “Be a man” !

The day has come. Training is over and we fly for the city of light tomorrow!?

We have a tight team and already God has shown us how good He is and how much He knows us and loves us. We haven’t even left and there are already a few cool stories, a number of examples of “coincidental”, “that was lucky”, “guess that worked itself out” moments. AKA God-ordained, super cool, crisis averted moments.

From “happening” to have extra essential things to cover exactly what was forgotten, to “happening” to be all musically talented with hearts for worship, to “happening” to be perfectly compatible housemates… I’m amazed.

What training has challenged me most in is making a habit of checking where my heart is at with regard to pride, my attitude towards others, especially my team mates. To not hide behind a surface version of me, but to not be afraid to be vulnerable. Amidst all the fun and the teasing, I have to be careful with my words and use them to edify and encourage also. Not only that, but to be caught in His grace if I fail and something weird and unnecessary comes out of the mouth. Also, being ready to generously offer grace to others, especially in ou varying degrees in French fluency.

What I find encouraging is that we’re all learning and for many of us, but I’ll speak only for me, there is less fear in asking what words mean or how to translate a saying. And there is no shame when gently corrected.

Our very wise directors gave us some potential points of culture shock and the most worrying is the cultural sport of invigorating discussion. Debating with rationality and rhetoric. Did I mention that most Parisians would identify themselves as atheist? Ouf, debating… not my cup of tea. Nor my glass of wine, or slice of brie, or bite of croissant. (Can you tell I’m looking forward to the food?)

And yet by God’s grace and the wise training we just went through, I’m going on this mission trip without any significant feelings of fear. I have no expectations because what God has planned is far more magnificent than anything I can imagine.

The other day I was reading Isaiah 55, and it is my prayer for Paris, that they would see the compassion of the Lord.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. …Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way,and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. €œFor as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.  For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace…”

Jesus is enough to satisfy, and the Gospel is enough for an answer. God in His sovereignty and the power of the Holy Spirit is stronger than our human hearts, He is mighty to save. His word is enough to water this hardened soil, and I trust that the next 5 weeks will yield fruit, even if we never see it.

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Matrimony of the Cross

Wow, what an interesting week. All building up to this weekend of celebration, first of Christ’s death and then His resurrection.

This morning as the sky lightened, dawn set crystal trees on fire, seemingly bent and frozen in mourning. How is it that something as destructive and displeasurable as an ice storm could be so beautiful?

How is it that the worst death of all time became so influential that it brought people of all eras, all cultures, together? How is it that they — that we — can say it was so beautiful, it changed our lives forever?

How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who brings good news.

Christ took away the sin of the world — the sin of people like you and me, people of all eras, all nations, all cultures — absorbing the wrath of God in our place on the cross. He who knew no sin, became sin, that we might become righteous. He died so that we might have eternal life with Him. He loves and pursues us, an unfaithful people who rejected Him. Christ demonstrates his love in this, that while we were still sinners, he died.

Hear that? We had nothing acceptable to God. Nothing. He didn’t do what he did on the cross because we “did our best” — we didn’t even try. He didn’t meet us half way or 75% of the way or 25% of the way, he met us ALL the way.

That is why it is beautiful.

This Good Friday we celebrate the marriage proposal of the Lamb to His bride, the Church. The cross, is the ring.

I was reminded of that this morning when rehearsing with the band for the worship service. I was having fun singing, I was worshipping, I was trying so hard to let the words and his memory and his promise sink in. To meditate on them.

But I didn’t “feel” it.

Had my heart gone cold, had it hardened? What was going on? Was there some sin I’ve been holding on to that doesn’t make me right with God??

Except, that’s the whole point of Easter weekend, isn’t it?

While I was up on stage, worrying about all these things while outwardly worshipping with solemnity, a thought put those worries to rest… “don’t pursue feelings, pursue Me, for I first pursued you.”

He took our sin to make us right with God. And not by any effort of mine.

One of the songs was “Jesus Paid It All,” and we skipped the bridge “O praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead” because the Disciples had no idea that Sunday was coming.

But Sunday is coming. Jesus is coming.

Happy Easter!

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When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour content on all my pride // I hear the Saviour say, thy strength indeed is small, child of weakness watch and pray, find in Me thine all in all. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe, sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow // The Lamb of God in my place, Your blood poured out, my sin erased it was my death You died, I am raised to life, Hallelujah the Lamb of God. There is no greater love… ||

Cakes of Raisin

And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” (Hosea 3:1)

Some of you have heard the story, “Hosea, Hosea, your wife was such a player.”

The first command that God gives Hosea in the text, is to marry a prostitute, which is difficult enough if you’re hoping for a long term stable marriage. Even so, Hosea obeys because God wants to show the people of Israel how unfaithful they’ve been, and how much He abounds in love and grace. How much more difficult is the second command to keep loving her after she rejects him and pursues a life of shame, dishonor and worthlessness? Truly, love is a choice, decision, promise and commitment before it is a feeling.

Will brought up this cakes of raisin thing this morning… it’s a fun sounding cultural-historical thing, but given th context, it’s safe to assume it involves pagan worship and idolatry.

Cakes of raisin. Entertainment? Career? Future? Image. Status. Money. Pleasure. When they come before God, when they replace our first love, they are despicable. And though we turn to these empty wells, still He pursues us and purchases for us our freedom, restores our dignity by the blood of Christ, and offers us the peace, rest and living water we’ve been searching for: Himself.

I was challenged… I had forgotten that my sin is wicked and offensive in His Holy presence, that apart from Him I can do nothing; I am nothing, and deserve death.

But for the grace of God, we have been redeemed and restored if we are in Christ.

In 1 Samuel, the Israelites go up against the Philistines by their own might, but are defeated and lose the ark of the covenant. The only reason why they got it back, is because God made the Philistines send it back… the Israelites had nothing to do with its restoration, or the plight of the Philistines. We are no different today. We are powerless (less in general, if we’re honest) apart from God.

Something that I’ve been catching myself doing lately, is not worrying about the future, but planning for it. Obsessively. It gives me the illusion of control, that I know the best way for me, that circumstances will obey my every whim — or that God will make it so.

Surely, we have control over our own lives at least? We make our own choices, but we have no say in what actually happens, the consequences of those choices. I don’t know what’s in store tomorrow, I may not last the night, let alone next year, 2021, 2026, 2036…

CS Lewis once remarked, “there are those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.'”

Indeed, pride has reared its ugly head and I am nothing.

Come now, you who say, “€œToday or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”€” yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “€œIf the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)

 

Father, thank you for your goodness and grace and mercy and steadfast love. Would you teach my heart to come to you always because you are more than enough. Though my heart and flesh may fail, you are my portion forever. You’re all I need, and Lord I need you, every hour I need you. Teach me to be Holy and obey despite imperfect human execution of obedience… Let me renounce my idols and my cakes of raisins. Do not give me up to the desires of my heart, but deliver me from evil. Break my heart from what breaks yours…

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Joy and Death

November 1st… the day where we enter the Halloween-Christmas limbo period.

I was walking home just now, and passed two houses, side by side. One had the lights and sparkles, red and green decorations, the works. The only thing missing was a pristine, light fluffy layer of fallen snow.

Their neighbours on the other hand had demons in the trees, skulls and monsters in the yard, smashed pumpkin on the porch, cobwebs on the hedges… Seriously, the cobwebs were everywhere, someone went crazy with it. It almost looked like someone toilet-papered their yard.

One house was ready for joy, the other was clinging to death.

This Sunday, Pastor Jacob preached about the joy of repentance, of leaving our sin behind us and trusting in the Lord. Trusting that the good He has planned for us far outweighs the valley of suffering that we may have to cross to get there. Moreover, when we put our trust in Him, the pressure and the focus is no longer on us. Why– how is that a good thing? Imagine it. Our world stops being about us… we can step off stage and just… enjoy. Laugh, cry, connect, be strung along for the ride of what Christ is doing centre stage.

In Genesis 45, after decades of bottled emotions, Joseph sends his brothers back to get their father Jacob in Canaan, to unite the people of God as a family once again. And he tells them, “do not quarrel on the way.” Do not fear, don’t stress, don’t fight.

Jacob fought his whole life for his inheritance, God’s promise to his grandfather Abraham that nations would come from him. But his 12 sons, the nation of Israel was crumbling before his eyes. His first born slept with his father’s concubine, Simeon and Levi slaughter a whole city, Judah sells Joseph into slavery, Joseph’s mother dies in childbirth to Benjamin…

Is anyone to blame? Maybe. But does it matter? When Joseph sends his brothers back, they’ve all accepted that God can bring beauty from the ashes. There’s no need to point fingers, or to wallow in remorse. What’s done is done. What God’s people meant for evil, God meant for good.

So what is this good?

The good is the fact that it’s November 1st. We don’t have to cling to death anymore, it’s time to get ready for joy. Not only is Christmas time the season for joy, it is the celebration of the Messiah’s arrival, the one who takes away the sin of the world, the one who loosens our white-knuckled grip on death.

Colossians 3 invites us to “put on the new self.” In Christ, getting rid of death is as simple as changing your clothes. Or for the sake of this metaphor, as easy as cleaning and redecorating a front yard, because Christ already did the cleaning 2000 years ago on the cross.

In the same way that snowfall covers the city in pure, sparkling beauty, in the same way that it heralds the season of joy and cheer, let us let go of death and find joy in repentance: “Repent and believe the gospel, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”

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P.S. Oh, and move over Pumpkin Spice Latte… bring on the Peppermint White Hot Chocolates!!

Roller Coaster Week: Blue Jays, Midterms… Wait, It’s Over?

It’s been quite the ride.

I jumped on a bandwagon (LETS GO BLUE JAYS), stayed ahead of a wave (of midterms and assignments)… and now I’m not quite sure what to do on the shore.

For those of you still hanging on, I promise I still have work and assignments to do… just not what some call “hell week.”

ALDS, Game 5, Bautista bat flip… I was hooked. Before that, I couldn’t care less about baseball. Then the game was explained and I marvelled at the amount of strategy involved… it really is a mind game. Followed it through the Championship Series… and I’m still feeling the let down that it didn’t turn into Game 7, let alone a World Series.

At the same time that the ALCS was going… so were midterms and midterm-equivalent-assignments. I was wired in and out of class… Not at all a healthy thing. On top of my usual sleeplessness, I could hardly celebrate finishing one midterm and/or assignment before I had to start thinking of and planning for the next. And when I wasn’t, there were the Jays.

For some the following will be heresy… but maybe for me, it wasn’t such a bad thing that we lost… the spell broke and here I am blinking in the sunlight wondering where the last week and a half went.

These games turned me into something I never thought I would be… a sports fan. Maybe not the super crazy ones, but crazy enough to feel every out like a ball to the gut. Crazy enough to scoff at the opponent team’s despair. Crazy enough to cheer for a team I’d only been with for a week, and study all the terms and the players (alongside my midterms).

This wasn’t me, was it? Since when did I care about a game?

As for midterms… this is the first time where because of the back-to-back nature of my schedule, I basically had to cram every night. I’ve never crammed before, so that was a learning curve in itself! By God’s grace, I still did well… but marks are still coming in. All week, I was stressing over what’s done, what’s next, what’s ahead… just survive until Friday and I’m home free.

Well… it’s Friday. No Jays. No midterms.

I’ve forgotten what it was like to breathe. I’d forgotten what it was like to rest. I’d left peace and joy that surpass all understanding for… fandom — tension and anxiety.

Now that it’s over, it feels like the room was flooding, and just before I ran out of air, someone slammed the valve shut. It’s been a week of so much noise and panic, that the quiet sounds suspicious.

But in the quiet, is a still small voice of graceful intercession.

Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Matthew 24:35

It’s over. Jays, midterms, adrenaline, stress, anxiety. No screaming, pounding fans, no profs and TAs telling me how much time I have left. Just a still small voice.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. 

Psalm 46

A very present help in trouble… infinitely more present and more help than seeing a win for the Jays. Though that would’ve been nice, what would it have really accomplished?

The nations rage… sounds like the jays fans. First a bad call on an inference homer, then a bad call on Revere’s strike.

He utters his voice, the earth melts… can I just let that sink in? And then, He is with usHe is our fortress? It’s such a silly thing to forget. How can we forget that God is on our side? The Jays lost… when did that become such an important thing to me that losing hurts? When did losing Jays glory matter more than forgetting God’s glory?

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. Put down your bats. Put down your gloves. The look on some of the Jays’ faces at the end of the game was… heartbreaking. They’ve traded their life for the game, a career that will be over once they get an injury or turn a bit older than 40. They don’t exactly have a lot of time to make the most of. They fought, they lost, it’s over… but what about us? What pointless war are we fighting? What are we wasting energy on?
Be still, and know that I am God. Stop. Breathe. Listen. Slow down. Look around. The games will end. The deadlines will pass. The grades will come in. He’s already fought for you, for our side. And he’s already won, his voice melts the earth, he disarms the enemy no matter where he goes. There’s no need to play “the bottom of the 9th.”
The past few days, my mind has been racing from one thing to the next, and now that I’m forced to stop… it’s almost like mental whiplash. So it’s time to rest. Time to recover.
Kinda something like this.
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Gods Don’t Bleed

This is absolutely not the first time this comparison, illustration, analysis, has been drawn.

But it’s certainly a testament to how counter-cultural the ways of God are.

In pagan myths and legends worldwide, the power and deity of the gods was demonstrated in their immortality. The proof that they weren’t hoaxes, was by the strength of their blood — no one could spill it.

During the first century when the Greek and Roman pantheons were of great cultural significance… the one who was (and is) a true God did the exact thing that — if he were a pagan god — was not to be done. And he did it willingly!

An unscathed god was meant to be a display of power, the crucified One was true proof of His.

For what god is a god if he is afraid of death? Or nervous around it, or would not prefer it?

Christ showed us what He can do. Death did not phase him, He knew he’d be victorious before the battle in the grave had even begun. So confident was he, that he let it happen at every opportunity to save himself.

There was only one thing that made Jesus nervous: His Father’s wrath. This didn’t just psych him out, this was stress to hematidrosis – sweating blood.

If the guy who could crush Death like an insect was stressed out by this, why are we taking it so lightly?

Why do I avoid warning people about this for the sake of my relationship with them? Why am I more afraid of them than I am of Him?

Every excuse that I can come up with is matched by His Truth.

I’m afraid of them thinking I’m a weirdo religious nut — Ephesians 2:10 says you are God’s workmanship.

I’m afraid of them never speaking to me again, and I’ll drive away all my friends, and be all alone — Hebrews 13:5 says I will never leave you nor forsake you, Matthew 28:20 says behold I am with you even til the end of the age.

I’m afraid of being wrong about all this — Romans 11:33 speaks of God’s unsearchable and inscrutable ways.

I’m afraid I’m not ready or equipped to be your messenger — 1 Peter 4:10 says as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another.

I’m afraid nothing I do is usable by God, that nothing will change for anybody — 1 John 3:20 says God is greater than the heart.

I’m afraid I’m not smart enough to go up against their arguments — 1 Corinthians 1:25 says the foolishness of God is wiser than men.

And then all I can muster is… I’m afraid.

And in His embrace, He says in Isaiah 41:10 and Joshua 1:9… Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous, do not be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

How can I learn to not care about the “religious nut” label? How can I learn to not be defined by my network and connections? How can I learn to hold the shield of faith steadfastly against the arrows of doubt? How can I learn the ins and outs of Your Truth? How can I learn to see myself as only the witness and messenger, not the Saviour? How can I learn the wisdom, knowledge and understanding of God? How can I learn to drum up this courage at will?

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I stand before you God / The Greatness of Your renown / I have heard of the majesty and wonder of You / King of Heaven in humility, I bow / As Your love in wave after wave / crashes over me, crashes over me / For You are for us, You are not against us / Champion of Heaven, You made a way for all to enter in / I have heard You calling my name / I have heard the song of love that You sing / So I will let you draw me out beyond the shore / Into Your grace, Your grace.

You make me brave. You call me out beyond the shore into the waves. You make me brave. No fear can hinder now the love that made a way. You make me brave. No fear can hinder now the promises You made.

The Artist’s Collapse

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is a gift from God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

This is no obscure verse. There are cards and mugs and T-shirts and bumper stickers that probably have this verse on it. It’s great for encouraging one another, especially in those times (cough cough teen angst) when we question our worth, our existence, and our future.

I remember seeing it and reading it and coming back to it time and time again but as always, the Word of God always has something to say to the soul no matter how many times you’ve heard it. The ramifications of this verse are stunning; literally and figuratively. It’s huge! It’s almost unbelievable. It’s a compliment as big as God’s heart, and it’s so hard to take in. I have a hard time dealing with mortal compliments, that is, my response to them. How am I supposed to handle these words breathed from the God of all creation to me?

“Who am I that you are mindful of me?” asks the psalmist.

Here’s the usual breakdown of what this verse is actually saying:

1) If you are a human, we are told that each of us are masterpieces worth dying for.

2) We are chosen, and chosen well. We have purpose. We have a destiny. No one who has ever lived or will ever live, is an accident. No one is useless. Not only that, this purpose was carefully chosen long before you arrived.

3) Our salvation is a gift. This is the Bible turning backwards thinking right side up again. To us of course, the backwards part seems forward, and God’s forward seems backwards.

You do something to earn the reward, right? Not with God.

He gives first, now go do good work. We didn’t earn God’s gift, we can’t boast in our efforts toward it. But in truly receiving the gift of grace, our works and effort become a natural response of joy and gratitude. Natural. As if it were supposed to be that way all along. Right side up, right way forward.

Ours is a culture where chosen ones and heroes and destiny resonate so deeply with us. Most, if not every child has at least dreamed or pictured themselves as their favourite hero character. Maybe I’m an alien with powers that will develop in the near future. Maybe this body mark means I’m destined for greatness. Maybe my crazy old uncle has a double or triple life and will find me worthy enough to invite me into it. Maybe my family has a secret they will take to the grave and I’m about to join their ranks.

Maybe someday a mysterious stranger or mysterious circumstance will come knock at my door, tell me I’m chosen, present me with a purpose and turn my life upside down, but also make it so much more interesting.

I’ll be honest, with that last one I was initially thinking of Harry Potter or something like that, but reading it again… in many ways, isn’t it what we’ve been exploring in Ephesians 2:10 just now?

Sure, but that’s fiction, people have told me. Well how about an analogy, penned no less by CS Lewis in his book, The Problem of Pain, in which he answers the anxiety-inducing question, “if God is so good and loving, if God loves us, if God finds us precious and worthwhile, why does He allow pain and suffering into our lives?”

Not to belittle any painful experiences, but… well I guess I should just let him explain:

We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the ‘intolerable compliment.’

Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life — the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child — he will take endless trouble — and would, doubtless thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and recommenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumbnail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.

He goes on to show this love in a man’s despotic love for a beast or a pet, a father’s provident and venerable love for a child, and the inexorable love between husband and wife.

For the artist’s love for his work, it is persistent, according to Lewis. God’s love is persistent. It’s taken me a while to really believe the truth in Ephesian 2:10, and even now I haven’t plundered all its truth yet. But God is faithfully persistent in revealing it.

When all the other voices tell me what’s wrong with my body, my fitness, my intellect, my personality, my social image, my beliefs, my behaviour, whatever it might be… The cross tells me who I am.

Not that my identity is in religion, necessarily. Far from it. I am labelled under “Christian,” but its implications are far more interesting. The cross, and my faith in what was done on it, tells me that while I still deserved His wrath over my sin, God in all His glory and power died in my place because He loves me and thinks I am worth that cost.

Let me note that my revealing these voices is not to garner pity or validation… it’s not a secret cry for compliments. I rarely know what to do with compliments, it’s not my love language, if you will.

But the cross, the act committed upon it. That is love at its truest.

I love Lewis’ illustration of a sentient work of art. If we were to take the analogy a bit further, Christ’s incarnation would be like the artist being collapsed into his own creation, only to be scorned by it.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional painter is collapsed into a few two dimensional strokes of colour, and then blotted out.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional author is collapsed into a few lines of fiction, and then scribbled and scratched out beyond recognition.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional dancer is collapsed into pattern of movement, then practiced poorly, abandoned and forgotten.

The fully fleshed, three dimensional musician is collapsed into a simple melodious pressure wave, lost in a cacophonous symphony.

But the story isn’t over…

The painter, the author, the dancer, the musician, the creator… is so much more than their creation. Immeasurably more, as our friends at Rend Collective sing. What is a blot of paint to the painter, a scribble to the writer, poor repetition to a dancer, noise to a musician? A nuisance sure, but certainly not enough to wipe them from existence.

What is death to the creator of life?

But the story still isn’t over…

What if the art maker, like Gepetto, desired so much more, not of but for the artwork? For a wooden toy to become a son? For the creation to be like the creator?

[See] that you put off the old self with its practices and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.

Colossians 3:9-11

What if the artist could lift the world on the canvas and bring it to life? What if the writer could lift a character from the page and hang out? What if a dancer could meet their dance personified in all its richness and complexity and beauty? What if a musician could duet with their opus?

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Christ’s invitation to draw near to Him, to enter a covenant relationship with Him, is not for misery in righteousness, not an ideological cage or a prison. It’s an invitation to a life outside the confines of this reality.

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From Useless Pirate to Surrendered Captain

The end of the semester came out of nowhere. Has it really been 12 weeks since I started? This winter term, if I’m to follow the schedule I’ve set out for myself, is the climax of my time here. Or at least, in terms of fun courses. So much fun in fact, that after the first week, I was dreading the last.

This mentality of course did not last very long, because I got swept up in the work that I thoroughly enjoyed. And now the end has come and gone. Perhaps it’s a mercy that I didn’t brace myself for the end, or else it would have been a bitter end.

Fortunately, I plan much too far in advance and those future plans, when they become present and urgent plans, are always modified. So this is most likely not the climax. It’s not all downhill from here, as many people try to tell me.

They’re right, of course, but they’re wrong too. There’s always something better and worse around the corner, I find.

Anyway, the sudden evaporation of my daily routine left me with a work vacuum. For the first few days, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Do I relax? Watch hours of YouTube and Netflix? Check emails? Do chores? Work on personal projects? I could do all of these and should do all of these, but with a schedule wiped clean, my brain went, OKAY YOU HAVE TIME TO DO THIS AND THIS AND THIS AND THIS, ISN’T THAT EXCITING? LET’S DO ALL OF THEM AT ONCE. And… cut to white noise.

There were no boundaries, no structures, no coherence to organize or prioritize. And so I got nothing done.

I didn’t want to do anything, I didn’t want to think about anything… for lack of a better way to put it, I was in a lethargic waking coma.

It was a dry season spiritually too… I couldn’t decide if I wanted to sleep or get up, one part of me wanted to dig into a new Bible study while another part wanted to binge watch Orphan Black, going outside or having any human interaction was suddenly a lot of effort… the list goes on. My internal soundtrack may as well have been, “we are the pirates who don’t do anything, we just stay home, and lie around!”

But there’s good news. The reason I felt compelled to write this post is because I am OUT of that space now. Mostly because I’ve actually got to study for exams now… but also because once I got back into prayer, scripture and community, everything came back into focus.

I’m moving ahead with a new project now, and I’m researching and just moving forward with purpose again. This research incidentally requires Biblical investigation. History, culture, extra-biblical sources, looking for experts… some very fun stuff I might add.

After a few days of spiritual drought, the sudden thirst for the Word is just exploding in me, which doesn’t happen nearly as often as I’d like. I was about to go to bed when I decided to skim through Hebrews and 13:20-21 caught my eye. Of course, my writing impulses forbid me to leave this blogpost til morning.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21

Especially right after Easter, this verse is such an encouragement and a reminder. We’ve celebrated, now it’s time to get to work. Work? I thought the cross was all about not having to work. This is true, for our salvation. That work is being done in us, but not by us. That’s Christ’s work. His work then motivates us to fulfill the purpose he designed us for.

If we are motors designed to fulfill a purpose, He is the beautiful, dangerous, essential, electrical power source without which the motor is useless.

As I’m working on this new writing project, it was a great reminder to me that my writing is worthless without His power in me. My words would be meaningless, my stories ephemeral, my voice unintelligible. He has equipped me with everything I need to do his will, and he is working in me the map to doing it. He is creating in me something new… Lord willing, a person of the Jeremiah 31 people, and a Proverbs 31 woman.

The project is Esther’s story, one of providence and presence. God provides, and God is present. In a time when God’s presence appeared much more tangibly than it does now, whether it be booming voices, blinding visions, miracles, burning bushes, oncoming storms… the book of Esther shows His presence in a much more invisible kind of visibility.

This post is full of paradoxes, isn’t it? God’s name is never mentioned in the book, and nothing strictly supernatural happens either. Events just sort of… fall into place. One after another.

God was definitely in control of what was going on. He set his plan for the Jews’ deliverance into motion before they even faced destruction. He wasn’t there, but boy he was definitely there. At work. In people. Esther was equipped naturally with everything she needed to face the king and win his favour: faith, obedience, wisdom and modesty. Mordecai was equipped to be at the right place at the right time to discover the plot against the king’s life.

After watching a documentary about the incredible trials that come with the incredible… eventual… precious… rare rewards of writing in the TV industry, it’s so good to know that God is present through it all, and that he provides the “inside,” like the personality and the skills, as well as the “outside,” as in the circumstances and doors.

What does this mean? I’m realizing as I write that this post has become an “unriddling,” a place for me to digest my inward thoughts. If I’m preaching, this is not my intention. I simply cannot let myself forget these truths, lest I fall for the lie that my life is in my hands, that I am the captain of my destiny.

If I am to pursue this career, I will have to bring the right idea, to the right person, in the right place at the right time, and do it consistently and constantly. A daunting, impossible task for me, but all too easy for God. I must keep reminding myself of this, that everything that happens to my scripts and stories are under control. If they succeed, God did that. If they fail, God let that happen for a reason. I want to fight my pride to the sweet sweet end. These stories aren’t for me, or my living. I need to keep my eyes on that which they cannot see; write toward a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, for a King who is never changing.

Clearly, this is in my “head knowledge.” But what of the heart?

My “big break” hasn’t come yet, but neither have I faced any kind of searing rejection… yet. This is all the more reason to remember that while I am equipped with the quill, I am not the writer. My darkest and finest hours of my early career are coming, so let my heart (as well as my head) ever remember:

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5-6

And with that, friend, may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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There but for the Grace of God Go I

After a whole bunch of posts for my media class digital portfolio, it feels good to do a normal check-in on my “real” blog.

This past week and this coming week are the two busiest weeks of the semester, maybe even of all the time I’ve been in Guelph. The work to be done, the meetings to go to, the people to speak with, the time to be spent… going into this period, I was anxious and worried. I was worried about being worried.

My to-do list is too long. I’m not going to have time to do everything, or at least everything well. When am I going to do this task? How am I going to do that task? How am I going to time manage all this??

But God is faithful. Here I am, half way through and more than hopeful.

In fact, last Sunday’s sermon was about God’s faithfulness. He comes through on his promises. He comes through on His word toward those who aren’t his people like Ishmael, and He will certainly come through for those who are His. And how amazing is it to be called His if we are in Christ.

What’s cool is that from the get go of this busy time of year, God worked to encourage me and take away my fear and my anxiety. He is faithful to provide. And He’s been looking out for this for a while — forever to be precise, really — because He had to orchestrate the sermon schedule, among other things.

My point here is not that the world revolves around us and that God is here to make our problems go away. Just the opposite. I don’t think I could have been as productive as I was and I don’t think I would have made it through this storm as unscathed as I did without the grace He’s shown, without the strength He’s given, without the community He’s blessed me with. This is about Him, and praise and honour and glory be to the one who restores us to Himself.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

These are such go-to verses, almost cliche to the point where it seems they’ve lost their lustre. They’ve been said so many times online, on mugs, on T-shirts, on posters… But this week has reaffirmed their truth for me in way I haven’t experienced before. God gives us what we need to get through stuff, and at just the right time.

I received peace and rest through a sermon before I could even get very anxious. Before that, I learned those verses before I knew what it was to be this busy. Way before that, God breathed and the authors of those words penned them to encourage the thousands of generations to come.

I even got VCB’s new album that Sunday and I’ve been listening to If I Have You throughout the week. Such a timely encouragement and a blessing:

I don’t need the riches of this world / I can’t even take them where I’m going. / I don’t need a thousand empty words / I just need the ones that You have spoken.

If I have You and nothing else, I have everything.

I don’t need to see tomorrow’s plans / I just need to trust that You are working. / I don’t even need to understand / I just need to keep You as the first thing.

You are more, You are more than enough.

I forget which sermon I heard it in, but God knows every cause and effect event down to an atomic level and smaller. He knows how many moles of oxygen are in your lungs, and he knows which molecules bump into what when we exhale. He knows what the chain reaction of consequences will be for every action taken. He planned the cross before He made man. He knows what He’s doing, He’s in control, He is sovereign over our circumstances. Now, these two weeks seem as small and insignificant as they are, and not because I’m woman enough to handle it.

He is my strength, He is my everything. With one week down, one to go, there but for the grace of God go I.

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