Saturday, November 30, 2013


Following a deep discussion regarding household finances and 9-year-old respect issues the other night with my dear, family-loving, hard-working hubby, I could sense an almost-tangible heaviness descend on my heart. As I sat in the welcome quiet of my post-bedtime living room, a favourite Scripture passage came to mind:
"|Come to me,
 all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
 for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls." 
(Matthew 11:28-9) 
I thought others might benefit from hearing it, so I posted it to face book and went to bed. By morning, over 20 people had taken the time to click "like". Not a huge number by any means, but still an indicator, I think, of how much people are craving rest. Not just a break, not even the physical rest of a stolen nap or a good night's sleep, welcome as they are; but real, refreshing, restorative, renewing, soul-deep rest. A very counter-cultural notion, particularly at this time of year. For most of us, the pace of life is frantic at the best of times; add in a myriad of Christmas-tide activities, events and expectations and it's enough to make me want to sit down and cry!  My brothers and sisters, this should not be!
I wended my way to the world's largest mall recently to take advantage of a huge sale in a certain store for a certain beloved man in my life. It looked as if Christmas had exploded all over West Edmonton Mall - beautiful, but so busy! All the colours and lights and decorations and people, all the hustle and bustle and rushing from store to store...It was not a place of rest; just the opposite - it made me tired just watching the crowd! But, after I had accomplished my goal and was waiting to catch my bus, I stumbled upon an oasis in the midst of the crazy.
Now, maybe this isn't your particular idea of rest, but it was amazing to me what good it did my soul just to sit there, taking in the sound of the fountains, the harmony of the colours, the beauty of the place, the juxtaposition of calm and chaotic. And the experience resulted in a desire to create such pockets of peace in my own celebrating of the Season. As much as I love my Saviour, and as fervently as I advocate keeping Christ in Christmas, I have to admit that my focus has been largely commercial and superficial. So it's no surprise that I invariably arrive on the other side of the holidays thoroughly exhausted in body, mind and spirit. I want things to be different this year; I want to relive the waiting and longing and expectant hope of that first Christmas; I want to know the peace and rest and satisfaction of that long-awaited promise finally fulfilled. My hope is that this practice will produce different results by the time I get to the end of 2013; maybe even provide a more rested, peaceful foundation to start off the new year?
Not so very long ago, I went through a time of deep, dark soul-ache, accompanied by extreme weariness. With several very unpleasant possibilities looming in the near future, there were times when it was hard just to keep breathing. Worry and fear as constant companions will drain you like nothing else. However, it was during this that I learned in a whole new way what the above verses really meant. (Not surprising, I guess - we grow the most in times of trouble, not ease...) Since then, I have determined to respond differently when that familiar feeling of fatigue begins to overtake me. As I become better acquainted with myself, I'm discovering people, places and activities that bring real rest and rejuvenation, and those that definitely do not!
While that list may look different for everyone, maybe there are some common ones? Solitude comes to mind; silence, too. Put the two together and you have a powerful restorative. Except in our day and age, these two things are rarer than hen's teeth! When was the last time you indulged in both of these - or even one or the other? Yet, it's in silence and solitude, with all distractions and interruptions and preoccupations stripped way, that we can truly come to Him for the rest we so desperately need. Allow me to leave you with one more verse to ponder:
"This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
 “In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength".
(Isaiah 30:15)
 May you know real joy today!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Report Cards

It's report card time at my boys' school - our first in the public school system (having homeschooled for the past 3 years...).  Results to be posted online next week, the billboard outside our school announced. What a flood of memories washed over me as I read that sign's bold black letters! When I was in school (how many years ago now?), I lived for report cards, parent/teacher interviews, assignments and tests - anything and everything that would validate my existence even a little bit. I figured out school at quite a young age and was able to successfully navigate those rough waters with relative ease; high grades and good behaviour combined with just the right amount of helpfulness (read: sucking up) produced a plethora of ego-boosting comments and compliments throughout the years.  How I hounded my parents for information after a P/T conference; I had to hear every word, every expression, every positive utterance - preferably more than once! (My poor dear parents, they were always so patient - I appreciate them so much now, remembering just what I was...) I would read and re-read comments scribbled in the margins of my tests and papers, basking in the warm glow of approval.

I have always been a people-pleaser. I have always suffered from low self-esteem. And I have always gravitated to that which I could do very well, fairly easily. (For more details, see other posts on this blog.) I think it's those three issues that come together to produce the phenomenon I mentioned above. I must admit here and now that, while I have grown and matured in many ways over the years, this has not changed in the slightest.  Now, I live for likes on my face book status or comments on this very blog; in my mind, I replay over and over any kind or encouraging word; I cherish cards or notes or messages that compliment me ever so slightly and reread them again and again...I guess you could say that my love language is "words of affirmation" (see Gary Chapman's "The 5 Love Languages"), and that's fine, but who am I really out to please, anyway? How often do I fixate on God's words of love to me, His endless gifts, His miraculous provision - a thousand things every day that give me everything a bruised and battered image needs to clearly see its' true worth? Because, you see, all the positive reinforcement I've ever received (and craved) has been for the outward, the obvious, the public, for-the-world-to-see stuff. How much do I care about that which only God sees, the real Joy? A quote I read recently by Oswald Chambers really got me thinking about all this: "We are only what we are in the dark; all the rest is reputation. What God looks at is what we are in the dark—the imaginations of our minds; the thoughts of our heart; the habits of our bodies; these are the things that mark us in God’s sight." (Oswald Chambers, in The Love of God from the Quotable Oswald Chambers)

And so I'm feeling the need to start shifting my focus a bit...While encouragement from others is certainly sanctioned by God and meant to be a beautiful blessing, it should never take the place in my self-image of what my Father thinks of me. And while my outward behaviour/reputation serves as a witness to my God, it's my true, inner, authentic self that also merits constant examination and evaluation. Ah, this chasing after real joy - it's a never-ending digging, exposing, admitting, confessing...not comfortable, but valuable. If you can relate to anything I've said here, I'd love to know (not [just] to stroke my ego, but to see how God might be using these words of mine). May you know real joy! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Do you ever allow yourself to dream? To imagine a different life, a different path, a different purpose? Do you think dreaming and contentment can co-exist? Do you ever wonder if you're in the right place, doing the right thing? I haven't had the courage (or self-esteem) to ask these questions very often in my lifetime, but I've taken some time this week to slow down and start wondering; to do some tentative dreaming (not by choice necessarily, but thanks to the flu, which feels remarkably like being hit by a truck...). I've always found that any dreaming I've dared to do is invariably accompanied by a vaguely guilty sensation; maybe that's one reason I indulge in the practice so rarely? Anytime I think about things being different from my current situation, my conscience starts preaching the gospel of contentment at me - and an excellent concept it is! I am learning the secret of contentment that Paul talks about in Philippians 4; the more impossible situations that I see God supernaturally redeem, the more my faith grows and the more I am able to rest in His care. I KNOW in all cases, and have been permitted to see in many of the same, that what He brings is ALWAYS for my good and His glory. It seems a little trite, but the phrase "If God brings you to it, He'll bring you through it" is one that's set on repeat in my brain these days. And that brings me back to the concept of dreaming - is it even ok to dream that my life could be different? Or is it all part of the plan, God leading my thoughts and desires in the direction of His will? And what about the dreams themselves? Does everyone get to follow their bliss? How do we know if our dreams come from God or own selfish/lazy/ambitious desires? I don't have any answers, just questions...

As for me, I find that I do have dreams: I'd like to write books that inspire and encourage; I'd like to preach and teach and lead people into the presence of God through music; I'd love to earn an M.Div. degree; I want to record a worship album and a hymns album; I dream of being out of debt, of being a healthy weight, of owning a home, of paying off my student loans (ok, that one might be a bit far-fetched)... And I have other dreams: for my family, my children, my own character... Now, these all sound pretty good to me, noble ambitions - but what do I do about them? Like Laverne and Shirley, do I go out and make my dreams come true? :) Is that the right attitude? Do I try to force them through, to turn them into track-able, measure-able goals and write to-do lists and mission statements and such? Or do I submit them to God, ask for His guidance and wait on His timing? Or is there some ideal middle ground?

I do have one dream, though, that I know will be a reality some day - the dream of Heaven. I've been dreaming of Heaven quite a bit lately; not in a morbid sense, but more of a homesick, can't-wait-until-everything-is-put-right kind of way... I came across a face book post the other day that was talking about how in Heaven there will be no more pain, tears, sorrows, etc...and then it presented the following sentence and invited the reader to fill in the blank as specifically as possible: In Heaven, there will be no more _________. Well, I filled in the first thing that came to mind and it blew me away - I'd never applied the promise of Heaven to my specific situation before! What hope it gave me! I think it was that sentence that inspired this fresh bout of dreaming; maybe knowing that whatever my life holds, it does not begin to compare to the glory that will be revealed on that day, when we will see clearly, when we will know fully! Hooray for hope!

I'd love to hear your take on this - what do you think about dreams? Do you have any? I think God made us to dream, and that hopeful dreaming can contribute to joyful living - may you know real joy today!