Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Sweeter Song

I could fill my whole blog with Henri Nouwen quotes. If you have never encountered him before, here is a sample to whet your appetite for some rich spiritual writing. This excerpt is from a 1982 interview Leadership did with Nouwen and Richard Foster.

"I'm like many pastors; I commit myself to projects and plans and then wonder how I can get them all done. This is true of the pastor, the teacher, the administrator. Indeed, it's true of our culture, which tells us, "Do as much as you can or you'll never make it." In that sense, pastors are part of the world.
I've discovered I cannot fight the demons of busyness directly. I cannot continuously say "No" to this or "No" to that, unless there is something ten times more attractive to choose. Saying "No" to my lust, my greed, my needs, and the world's powers takes an enormous amount of energy.
The only hope is to find something so obviously real and attractive that I can devote all my energies to saying "Yes." In effect, I don't have time to pay any attention to the distractions.
One such thing I can say "Yes" to is when I come in touch with the fact that I am loved. Once I have found that in my total brokenness I am still loved, I become free from the compulsion of doing successful things."

(See whole interview, with Nouwen and Richard Foster)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Too far

I've always been what you might call a "detail" person, and I've worried for a while about my anal retentive tendencies.

The other day I brought home a binder from work, containing my typed-up "To-do" list. While running an errand, and waiting, I started sketching out some things on my list. A few minutes later, I stopped and looked down at my sheet, and realized that I have just gone too far.

I had written, "Redo my to-do list" on my to-do list. Sick and wrong.

If I can laugh at myself, does that mean it's not as bad as it sounds? :)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Pilates and wings?

Last night, Amy and I had big plans: pilates at the local gym we've joined and then out for wings.

I've been pretty excited about this gym membership: it's only for a month, and it cost me $5. I want to fit as much in this month as I can.

I enjoy doing yoga and pilates videos, but I've never taken a class, so last night was going to be my initiation. After work we drove to the gym, changed into suitable clothes, and found our way to the studio in which the said class would take place.

We surveyed the crowd of smiling and confident-looking women, and tried to get our bearings. A woman in spandex saw us standing to the side, and asked us if we were the beginners we appeared to be. When I indicated that I expected my skill level to be "very low"- she gave us instructions. We gathered our equipment: hand-weights (my choice: the wimpiest kind), a rubber exercise band, and a floor mat)

I started to think to myself, "wow, pilates with weights, I never did this with the video!"

The class started off high in energy with loud, active music and our instructor leading us in a variety of sequences of forward, side, and back steps and kicks. With growing bewilderment I was ready to throw everything I thought I knew about pilates out the window.

As we did deep lunges with weights at our sides I asked the girl next to me (between gasping breaths) what class we were in. "Power Sculpt" she replied, confirming my growing suspicions. So much for pilates.

I've been trying to think of an analogy, or word-picture to help you envision this situation, but they're all inadequate. My roommate says it's a shame I don't have a video to show you. Let me set the stage: we are in a studio that is a level above a main workout area. The studio is windowed, so in full view of the masses on their treadmills, lifting weights, etc. I smoothly maneouvered myself to the back of the pack, not noticing the mirror behind me exposing my awkward movements more clearly than anyone else's.

Now picture a room full of women stepping forward- to the side- to the back- in growingly complex combinations. All in synch, with ease and fluidity. Then picture one person, with long arms and legs only rarely lucky enough to do the correct movements in the exact opposite direction. Most often she does something completely different, inventing her own kooky and awkward dance. That was me. :)

Luckily, the entire class did not consist of this "complex" choreography. I had plenty of opportunities to feel the burn in my back, arms, legs and stomach to feel like I fully deserved the chicken wings and onion rings I enjoyed afterward.

Pilates next week?

Maple syrup goodness

I had not one but TWO delicious pancake breakfasts with maple syrup this past weekend. On Saturday I went with some of our PIONEERS team, and then on Sunday with my friend Lisa.

Mmmm... pancakes and sausages

Donnie was feeling a bit better and able to join us for breakfast and a wagon ride

On the wagon ride huddling close for warmth

Tapped trees

All together for a team picture

With Lisa on Sunday, tummies full of maple syrup goodness. :)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

New Roommate

Meet my new roommate Amy.
She's pretty cool, and I am enjoying getting to know her more. She just moved here from Calgary, and joined our office, as coordinator for our short-term program "the Edge."
She is even proving to be a pretty good influence on me: I've been eating healthier and I've even gone out running with her several times. (Let's see if I can keep it up!)
I've had many roommates over the years, in the different places I've lived. I recently did a count: Amy is #26.
I am thankful for all of my roommate experiences. Valuable friendships came out of many of them, and the inevitable challenging circumstances forced me to recognize selfishness in myself and other things I needed to surrender.

Maybe I should just start calling my roommates (and former roommates) by number... In above photograph see #26 testing peppers at the Farmer's Market.

Monday, March 13, 2006

18th Birthday

Today Ashley would have turned 18 years old. It's hard to imagine, and still hard not to have her here. I look forward to the day when I'll see her again, and when we will worship Jesus Christ, side by side.

I have shared some of the story on here before, but was reminded of this part the other day. I thought I would share it today.

During those 5 days in the hospital, while we waited as she lingered between life and death, God was so clearly present, and drawing us deeper in our understanding of Him. One day, my mom and my brother were in the chapel, looking through Ashley's Bible, and they came across this verse that Ashley had marked:

"With Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26

Both felt strongly that God was saying something to them through that verse. Deven said, "Mom, maybe it means God is going to heal her!"

Mom paused, and spoke these words, "Maybe it means that God is going to heal us."

It was a lot easier to believe that God could heal her of her physical wounds, than to believe that He could take something so precious away from us, and heal us emotionally. But He has. We will always miss her, but we praise God for the healing, and the good work He has done in and through this.

Now I am going to take the rest of the day off to reflect, pray and write.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Fog-shrouded wilderness

I just had an amazing phone call with my mom. As He often has over the years, God spoke truth through her to me, and I sit here now marvelling in joy and thanksgiving.

I've been doing the devotionals every week for a class at North Park, and last night, since the scheduled speaker (Donnie) was sick, I helped another girl, Steph, to fill in. The subject: Spiritual Warfare. I am so underqualified to do so many of the things I find myself doing.

I told my mom about it, and she thought it was interesting that it worked out that way, since spiritual warfare has been one of the heavy things on my mind in the past weeks and months.

God has been rooting me in truth in the past year, affirming my identity in Christ, completely apart from what I do. He has been a father holding my chubby toddler knuckles as I take wobbly steps forward, learning to walk in the spirit, letting Christ live His life through me. More recently, although I am still learning vital lessons in those two areas, I sense Him leading me into battle- asking me to stand firm
(Eph 6:11).

God has been pretty clearly calling me out in a specific way. To be honest, it feels foolish, and doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I find it hard to explain, and when I rationalize, I find myself telling God that

1.) I don't want to
2.) He can and should ask someone else
3.) I don't have the strength to face what He is asking

I've found that my rationalizations don't usually convince God. :)

I've gone back and forth so many times in my mind. Sermons, words from others, and scripture have all confirmed what I think He is asking. So I say, "ok God, I'll obey." And then there is perfect peace. Then a bit further down the line, I start thinking about the risks involved, and second-guessing, and I tell myself that I've misheard Him. And then there is gut-wrenching anxiety. Round and round it has gone.

Talking to my mom this morning was so good because she shared how things that God has layed on her heart often haven't made sense, and she has been on that same journey. I also saw the way she has obeyed, when it just didn't seem to make any sense at all... and how she is so sensitive to His voice.

I realize that I will not cultivate an awareness and sensitivity to His voice if I do not obey Him in these small things.

One of my mom's prayer for me for years has been
Isaiah 30:21 "Your ears will hear a word behind you, 'This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right or to the left."

Sometimes, on this path He has me on, all I see ahead is untamed, dangerous wilderness. To the left or right I see paths branching off that are paved and complete with street signs. I take a step or two onto them, and the voice behind me directs me back. So on I go into the fog-shrouded wilderness.

sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" John 10:27

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Grumpy Jennifer

This past week and a half, I got 2 flat tires, my car broke down, and my purse broke. Donnie, our executive director has been sick and in the hospital (he is now recovering at home). Things look positive, but he gave us quite a scare. Since I work quite closely with him, it has thrown me off things at work. Then, starting Saturday and finishing a half hour ago, we've had a candidate orientation program (COP), welcoming 4 great new people to PIONEERS. COP is always one of the craziest and most draining times of the year.

Yesterday I felt like I was simply at the end of my
resources, and I found myself grabbing a quiet moment in my office, grumpy and wanting a good cry. I started a post complaining about the week. As I wrote about my flat tires, I remembered how a co-worker had changed one for me in about 10 minutes, and the other I was able to get to the gas station in time to fill up. As I wrote about my car breaking down, I was reminded of how Donnie & Beth had leant me their car for the week. And then of how Steve & Amanda came from Cambridge and Steve fixed my car for me in about 15 minutes. And then my purse that broke? Out of the blue a friend gave me a new one.

Over and over I was reminded of God's material and practical provision for me. I had been wallowing in my weakness, feeling
irritable and just not up to being around people yesterday evening. When He reminded me of His provision with my car and etc, He reminded me that He had provided for me in every way. All the patience, strength, wisdom and more that I needed was available to me in Christ. I just had to step forward with the faith that He would be enough in that moment.

So I stepped forward, and He provided.

More and more the desire of my heart coming to the surface, is to be a channel of God's love to others. I want my life to be an expression of God's love to the world. Learning my way into the fulfillment of that (so much to learn!) I find the times it is most needed I feel least able to offer it. I remind myself though of the truth that God has made all I need available to me in Christ. My inadequacy is a good thing, because I need to step forward in faith that He is enough and allow Him to love through me.

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with
every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ
Ephesians 1:3