An Anthem of Valour

My grandma is one of the most amazing people I know. If anyone has displayed Christ accurately to me, it is her. During some of the most difficult years of my life, she would stay up with me for as long as I wanted to talk to her, and she listened, never judging or condemning, even when I talked about some of my frustrations with my parents.

She always checks with me before she cooks a meal to make sure that it will be something that I enjoy, and she buys my favourite instant oatmeal (Dino-Eggs, just for the record) when I am coming for a visit. She never criticizes my eating.

She encouraged me when I became frustrated with my inability to cook. She has been the one who reminds me that I am still competent and talented, and that I don’t need to be great at cooking after all.

She is honest, yet kind. Christ shines through her, but she doesn’t flaunt it. She is generous, yet wise. She is perceptive, but she does not worry about what she doesn’t know. She is steady in crises, and strong in more ways than one. She is a woman of valour, and her works deserve to be celebrated.

Proverbs 31:10-31 describes a woman worth noticing – a woman of valour. Throughout the book of Proverbs, you can find warnings to men to avoid the adulterous woman and to refuse to give in to her temptation. Proverbs 31 closes with the opposite message, originally aimed at young men: Look for a wife of noble character, an excellent wife, and a woman of wisdom. The Hebrew phrase for the title of this woman is eshet chayil, which can be translated as “woman of strength” or “woman of valour.” Read what this passage says about her. Continue reading

Shut Down

When I was younger, my father used to lecture me.  It did not matter what I had to do, what homework was due at school the next day, when he had a grievance against me.  He had us sit at the kitchen table, and he would talk for 2 hours straight, on average.  He was a preacher, so he had no problem talking for that long.

The grievances were usually petty.  I didn’t hold a family member’s hand well enough during the blessing for the food.  I couldn’t think of a prayer request.  I corrected a fact that he had gotten wrong.  It didn’t matter what it was.  I couldn’t predict it.  Sometimes I could get away with a snarky comment to one of my sisters.  Often, I couldn’t pass the salt to his satisfaction.  Supper nearly regularly ended with a long lecture from him.

During these lectures, I was not permitted to speak unless he asked me to.  When he did, he expected a specific answer.
Do you understand what you did wrong?
Yes.
Good.
I still haven’t figured out what answers he wanted to some of his questions, though.  When he asked those ones, I knew that it was going to be a long night. Continue reading

Maybe People are Okay

There are a few things that really get on my nerves:

  • When people are late
  • When people make me late
  • Harassment
  • When different foods touch each other on my plate
  • When people make jokes about feminism

Oh, I wish I had good comebacks for the things that people say.  I really do like the think that I’m witty.

I’m not.

So when someone makes fun of feminism, I just sit there and hate them.

I’m no stranger to feminism being looked down on.  It’s kind of discouraging, actually, how often I encounter sexism at school and at work.  It’s not unusual for me to hear someone talk about the so-called evils of feminism in a school where I am learning how to lead both men and women in the church.

This last week, a good friend of mine was on a roll with the feminism jokes: “I’m a feminist.  I have no problem with hitting women.”  “See, I don’t like feminism because then I can’t be chivalrous.”  “This is why I’m not a feminist: we guys don’t get as many bathroom stalls, so now I have to wait to use the washroom!”

And I sat there, and I got angrier and angrier.

I wanted to fight back.  I wanted him to understand how important feminism is to me, but I also wanted him to hurt like I was hurting.

But then I thought of Jesus’ instructions to love, and to turn the other cheek, and I didn’t want to.  God!  I said,  “Fight for me, because you said I shouldn’t fight for myself!  Defend my rights, because I can defend my own rights when I”m supposed to be willing to surrender them.  Fight for me!

Maybe what I meant was, Hurt him for me.  Make him feel guilty.

Maybe that’s why God didn’t agree to my suggestion.  Instead, God said, “Tell him.  Tell him that you are hurt.  Tell him how much this means to you.  Tell him how feminism means freedom from the abuse you experienced.  Tell him how rape culture has scarred women you care about.  Tell him about how feminism offers the hope that one day young ladies will be able to go for a run without worrying about catcalling or being followed by a group of guys.  Tell him that it matters to you.”

My hands shook as walked toward him after chapel.  I turned around twice, then resolved once again to go through with it.

Then I told him.  I told him about my family, about my friends, about me, and about how we all need feminism.  I told him that I couldn’t tell whether he actually believed what he joked about or not because way too may people do believe it.  I told him that I don’t want to tell him what to believe, but I do want him to understand how the jokes make me angry.

He listened.  He didn’t argue. “That totally makes sense,” he said.  He listened, and he apologized, and he stopped.

Maybe people are okay.

Maybe what is needed isn’t a fight, but a dialogue.  When both sides put down their swords and listen to each other, maybe things can start to change.

Growing Up

Since moving out of my parents’ place, I have changed a lot.

At first, I would have made any parent proud.  I didn’t buy junk food, and I always ate my vegetables before my dessert.  I went running every morning, and handed all of my homework in on time, if not early.  I read all of my textbooks cover to cover.  I kept my room spotless, and washed the dishes every day.  I never bought anything that I didn’t absolutely need, I never ate out, and I checked with my roommates before leaving the house.  I passed up on fun events in order to do ministry or schoolwork or chores.

Today I finished off another bag of chips, and the only exercise I got was walking to and from the bus stop and the restaurant for lunch.  I’m taking dance lessons.  I have handed in assignments late in order to get more sleep.  Sometimes I skim my textbooks.  My room is a complete disaster, and the dishes are piling up in the sink.  I bought myself some movies and a sewing machine.  I eat out at least every couple of weeks.  I go in and out of the house whenever I want without worrying about checking in with my roommate.

Maybe I have become irresponsible.

What I do know, though, is that over the past three years, I have been growing up.

Everything that I never learned when I was younger, I am learning now.  I might have learned how to run a ministry and keep a tight budget and a packed schedule when I was twelve.  I knew what it was like to lose sleep, to worry, and to work hard until I reach a goal, but I never learned how to live.

My life often looks to me like a disaster, but it is so much more than that.  It is a beautiful mishmash of failures and successes and joys and pain and learning.  I am starting to learn how to take care of my mind and my body, but to not take it too seriously.  I am learning how to have friends and how to have spontaneous fun with people.  I am learning that it’s okay to be vulnerable, but I don’t have to be, if I don’t want to.  I am learning that I don’t always need to be careful.  I am learning that I am capable of protecting myself, but I don’t always need to.

I am learning to find peace in the middle of chaos,

joy in the middle of disappointment,

vibrant life in the middle of dry monotony.

Beauty can be found in the middle of pain.

Hope can be found even in loss.

Grief will come, but it will not take me over.

Life will happen, and I will make the most of it.

Here’s to growing up too early, and here’s to never growing up too late.

Here’s to being an adult, surviving, thriving.

Getting Back To Thankfulness

I set up an interactive bulletin board last week at my college in preparation for thanksgiving.  It was covered in strips of blank paper, and said at the top,

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” – 1 Chronicles 16:34

What are you thankful for this thanksgiving?

Nearly all the strips of paper had been filled in by students by the end of the week.  Some were simple, some were profound, some were thankful for the people around them, a lot were thankful for good food.

Sometimes finding things to be genuinely grateful for is difficult.  Especially when the depression settles in, the anxiety brings up every worst case scenario, my body is sick and lacking sleep and is becoming increasingly uncooperative when I need to focus, and I have taken on way, way more than I should have this semester, I look at my life and all I can see is what needs to change.

What can I be thankful for? I wonder.  My life is okay, but it is not good by anyone’s standards!

I have to think about it.  I have to search for reasons, but they are there.

I am in my third year of my degree program, but this semester is the first semester in which my bank account has not drifted below $500.00.  This is good.

I received such encouragement this last week, which got me through my lowest week in months.

I have a reliable job which lets me take the time off that I need.

How I would like to take nothing for granted!  But I am not there yet.  So I will begin with today.  Though with only a few thanks, it is a step in the attitude I aspire toward.

The Father’s Good Pleasure

Luke 12:22-32 (ESV)

“And he said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

“And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’”

Can you think of a time when you needed something – anything?  Have you ever needed money or food?  Have you ever needed friendship, or help with something, or advice?

I have.   Continue reading

To the One I Consider the Least of These

Matthew 25:31-40

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father,inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’”

You know, as far as I’m concerned, you are most definitely the least of these.  I don’t want to go out of my way to show kindness or love to you.  You don’t deserve my forgiveness, let alone my love.
Have you heard the song “Spirit Speaks” by Know Hope Collective?  The line that resonated with me goes: “I’ll go where You will lead to love the least of these – my greatest offering.”
My greatest offering indeed.  Loving you is a sacrifice.  It means giving you what you don’t deserve – what you didn’t give me.  I don’t want to.  It’s not fair.  It doesn’t seem like justice.
It’s not justice.  It’s grace.  And it will take time.  But I will.

Figuring Out Forgiveness

Matthew 18:21-22

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

I have spent two years trying to figure out forgiveness.  For a while I thought that when I forgave, it would stop hurting, but I forgave, yet I was still hurting.  At another point, I thought that maybe forgiveness means reconciliation with the one who sinned against me, but he refused to change and I was hurt again.  I came up with many more theories, but each one failed me, leaving me increasingly baffled.
I have discovered, though, that forgiveness seems to mean not holding a person’s sin against him or her.  It means that when I am upset, I don’t use it against them.  I do not need to forget about what happened, and I can take steps to keep it from happening again, but when I forgive, I start to see and treat them as human.  They are capable of evil, yes, but so am I.  And like me, they are also capable of good, and I cannot let my hurt blind me from seeing the good that they bring to the world.  When I forgive, they become, in my mind, more than just the person who sinned against me.  I will not claim the right for myself to condemn them for their sin, because I also am a sinner.
I have also discovered, however, that forgiveness is not a one time event, but neither is it a process.  It is a cycle that never seems to end  It merely gradually becomes a little bit easier as I make my way around to forgiving again.
Forgiveness doesn’t last, you see.  I might stop holding this hurt against you, but I am not healed yet.  The wounds reopen, and I feel the pain, and the anger and bitterness that come with it, all over again.  A memory resurfaces, Father’s day comes around, someone reminds me of the way you treated me, and I find myself holding your sin against you all over again.
It’s hard to forgive you.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve had to forgive you all over again, but I must have reached seventy-seven times by now.  I will keep forgiving, though.  God forgives all of everyone’s sins completely, so I suppose that with God’s power in me, I can forgive these.  However many times the pain comes back, I will forgive you again.

No Trespassing

Hold on,

Let me explain you a thing.

Far too many men seem to think

That I am theirs to criticize, utilize, harass as they please.

I am not.

I am a fellow human being.

I am not public property.

I shouldn’t have to put up a “NO TRESPASSING” sign

For you to get a clue when you’re crossing the line.

We don’t have to put “RESPECT ME” signs on our cars

For men to subject them to better treatment than movie stars.

Boy, when cars – mere objects – are treated better than women.

Houston, um, I think that we might have a problem.

I am not public property.

In fact, I don’t belong to any one else but me.

I am my own, and I am only mine.

I shouldn’t have to put up a “NO TRESPASSING” sign.

You need my permission to cross the boundary line.

Otherwise, don’t stalk me; don’t touch me: I am mine.