Thursday, April 29, 2010

our place in God's story and the story of our lives

So I'm reading this book that's a little out of my normal reading list right now. It's called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. I had read one of his books a while back so when this one looked interesting I picked it up. It has been a good read so far. The book is about making a part of his life into a movie. They spend a lot of time talking about story - about character, plot, conflict, etc. - not exactly something you would expect a business major to enjoy reading about (I took my one required English Literature class to graduate and did just well enough).

In the book, Miller often relates the concepts of a story to the lives God has given us to live. God has created a story that is unfolding and then He has created us and placed us in that story. I read something in the book yesterday that really struck me at the time.

When Steve, Ben, and I wrote our characters into the screenplay, I felt the way I hope God feels as he writes the world, sitting over the planets and placing tiny people in tiny wombs. I f I have a hope, it's that God sat over the dark nothing and wrote you and me, specifically, into the story, and put us in with the sunset and the rainstorm as though to say, Enjoy your place in my story. The beauty of it means you matter, and you can create within it even as I have created you.
I've wondered, though, if one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is because we don't want the responsibility inherent in the acknowledgement. We don't want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn't remarkable, then we don't have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants.
But I've noticed something. I've never walked out of a meaningless movie thinking all movies are meaningless. I only thought the movie I walked out was meaningless. I wonder, then, if when people say life is meaningless, what they really mean is their lives are meaningless. I wonder if they've chosen to believe their whole existence is unremarkable, and are projecting their dreary life on the rest of us. (pg. 59-60)
I especially liked the line that said: "Enjoy your place in my story. The beauty of it mean you matter, and you can create within it even as I have created you." God created us to enjoy the story He has given us. He wants us to find joy in living life. We have place in God's larger story. And we have the story of our own lives that we are part of, and that God allows us freedom to create for ourselves.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

back on the prairies

So, I'm sitting in my hotel room in Caronport . . . back here for a week for my "baby" sister's wedding. As we were flying in to Regina earlier this afternoon I struck again by how flat it is out here . . . and everything looks like boxes from up above, as we flew over the endless farm fields. And yet, as I look out the window of the hotel room there is also a beauty to the prairies. Growing up in cities and surrounded by mountains, I had never seen a sunset that looked like the ones I saw here, or seen a night sky quite like you can see here.

Looking outside reminds me of how much care and detail that God took in creating this world - all parts of this world. Although, when I was out here for school those of us from BC used to joke that God spent lots of time making everything west of the Rocky Mountains and by the time He got to here, He was tired so that's why they're all flat here. But, that was all in fun.

This picture is looking out across a field from a dirt road at the edge of town. Seeing the sky go on and on forever like that is something that people raised in mountainous areas don't usually see.

Watching the sunset through the trees. It was pretty cool to see a sunset take over the entire sky.

Growing up in the beautiful place that I did, it was always easy to take it for granted. It wasn't until I left there to go away for school that I realized how beautiful it actually was. And, also discovered the different kind of beauty that other areas had to offer - even the cold prairies can be beautiful in winter when you're watching the Northern Lights or watching an amazing sunrise or sunset.

God sure created a beautiful place for us to live. We have been blessed. Sitting here today reminded me of that.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


So, fighting a cold and sore throat the last few days has meant that I've been watching a lot of M*A*S*H . . . maybe a little too much of it when it's becoming an illustration for a blog post.

For those who have never watched M*A*S*H, the character names in the descriptions may not make a lot of sense, but you should still be able to get the point.

The first thing that got me thinking about writing this blog is a scene where Margaret and Klinger are driving. They hit a rock on the road and put a whole in the oil pan of the jeep meaning they are stuck there for night - as it is too late to walk back to camp. This is not exactly what Margaret had in mind when they set out. She was looking forward to plans for her birthday. She hadn't told anyone that it was her birthday, so Klinger is naturally a little surprised when she says so. When he asks why, her response is that she didn't want others to be feeling sorry for her - that was something she wanted to reserve for herself.

As I was watching that unfold, I started thinking about how often we do exactly the same thing. We want to reserve for ourselves the "right" to feel sorry for ourselves, so we don't share with others about our disappointments. But, that's not the way we were created to live. God created us for community - with a desire for a sense of belonging.

The second spot that got me thinking about this more was in an episode where one of the nurses at the 4077 gets killed by a landmine. Hawkeye volunteers to deliver the euology at the memorial service they have for her. In the process, he discovers how little he knew of this nurse - how little anyone in the camp knew of her. Upon suggestion of the camp's chaplain, Hawkeye reads the diary of this nurse and realizes that some of their preconceived ideas about why she was so quiet and kept so much to herself were very wrong. She was shy and didn't know how to express herself to people. Hawkeye is also a character who doesn't really share much of his deeper feelings with people - he uses jokes to cover them up - and he takes the time during the eulogy to let those people at the 4077 that important to him know.

As I watched that episode, I started to think about how we so often do the same thing. We don't actually tell people what they mean to us - usually because we don't know how because we've never done it before. And sometimes,we then don't have the opportunity to tell them later. Another aspect of living in community with one another that's important.

The sermon this weekend at church was about belonging and how that is found first in belonging to Christ. But, once we belong to Christ, we also belong to the family of God. That's the place where we can be honest with one another, encourage one another, pray for one another. Society may tell us that we should be strong and independent and go it alone, but God designed us for community and we search for that place to belong.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

another year of life

In a couple of hours it will be April 21 . . . my birthday. My 27th birthday to be exact. Another year of life has passed. I was sitting on the couch writing in my journal just a bit ago and wondering where did this year go? It does not seem possible for another year to have passed. But, when I think about all that has happened since my last birthday I guess it makes sense that it has been a year.

As I reflected on what life since April 21, 2009 has looked like I found myself initially going back over the major events of the last year of my life . . . both of my sisters getting engaged, lots of change at church, friends getting pregnant, etc. The longer I reflected the more it moved towards the spiritual life. Spiritual life is undeniably connected to the events that happen in our lives. Oftentimes an event or a series of events will set in motion some lessons in our spiritual walk. They give direction to the journey of life with God that we will be on as long as we are walking on this earth.

Ultimately, whether we claim to be followers of Christ or not, we are on a spiritual journey. As a follower of Christ that journey moves us into deeper relationship with our heavenly Father. But, growing in that deeper relationship does not always come easy. The relationship grows through the good times, but it grows even more through the hard times - through those times when life does not make sense and all we can do is cling to the hope of what we have known in the past and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Not too long ago I was asked to describe what the journey I have been on with God lately has been like. It was an interesting question and the answer somewhat surprised me. My answer: It's like I'm walking through a dark, thick forest. There's a path that I'm trying to follow but it's overgrown and almost not noticeable in the brush. As I take each step, the next one is revealed. Not knowing what it coming twenty steps down the road, all I can do is take the next step as it revealed to me.
That answer was not maybe what I wanted it to be, but it reveals a journey that is about trusting God in the unknowns of life. I wanted to be able to say that it had been a great party and life was just exciting. But, in thinking about that answer I realized that life is probably more like what I was describing than like what I wished I could describe. Both times on our journey are good and are needed, but, if I am honest, I learn way more in the times when I have to trust and step in faith than when times are easy.

Where are you on your journey with God? How would you describe the journey you have been on with God lately? What word picture makes it clear? What are you learning in this time in your journey?

Friday, April 16, 2010

weddings, careers, life plans, waiting

I've been thinking a lot about weddings and marriage lately. I guess that's what happens when both of your sisters are engaged and it seems like most family conversation revolves around wedding planning. One sister will be married in two weeks and the other in a year.

When I first heard that my youngest sister was engaged it caught me a bit off guard. I knew she had a boyfriend and that was probably coming, but it happened earlier than I expected. I hadn't expected her to be getting married before me. My other sister . . . I wasn't surprised at all. For a number of years I've known she would get married before me (she's also younger than me), and I knew that she her fiance were planning marriage in their future.

Isn't it true that life doesn't always go according to our plans? I never expected I would still be single at this point in my life. And I certainly never planned on both of my sisters getting married before me. When I graduated high school nine years ago (Yikes! Has it really been that long already?!?), I had my life planned from then until into my thirties. Needless to say, it hasn't really gone according to that plan.

My life plan at 18:
-graduate from the local college/university with my BA in Business Administration in 4 years, by the time I was 22
-find a job with an accounting firm and start working towards becoming a CGA, with the plan being to finish that in 3 years by the time I was 25
-sometime after I finished my degree I would meet a guy and we would get married about the same time as I finished my CGA work (I know, I was a little crazy! Let's decide that I should plan a wedding and finish that in the same year!) [Or my alternate plan was to marry my high school boyfriend after my first year of college and then continue with the rest of my plan, including waiting until I was finished my CGA to think about having kids.]
-work for a couple of years after finishing my CGA and then quit working for a while to have kids and be at home with them

Wow! Looking back at that now it seems kind of ridiculous to have even thought that was a possibility for it to go exactly like that. Reality has been much different than that:
-I spent two years studying business at the local college and then transferred to a Bible college in the middle of nowhere on the Saskatchewan praries to finish my BA in Business Administration
-after graduating after 4 years at 22 (that timing worked according to my plan, but not from the school I thought it would be from), I moved back home and began looking for a job
-worked as the bookkeeper at a repair shop for a couple fo years, before being offered and accepting a job at the Gospel Mission as their bookkeeper - a job that I'm still at today and am loving most days
-not yet married, no kids, haven't started working towards becoming a CGA and not sure if/when I will

Yup, reality is different than what my plan was, but, for the most part, I'm happy with it.

All the wedding talk in my family recently has made me think about all the planning we put into things - some of which we have control over and others that we have no control over at all. Weddings . . . we have control over that and what we plan for it. Our jobs . . . for the most part we can pick the job we want and where we want to do it. Life . . . we have only some control in regards to decisions we make, but there is much of it that is out of our control. We do what we can to be ready and listening to God's direction and then we have to wait for God to do His part.

And sometimes it's the waiting that is the hard part. We want something to do to move towards a goal. The last thing we want to hear from God is wait. And so, in our impatience, we try to make things happen on our own and according to our own desires. God gives us freedom and we can choose to make whatever decisions we would like. But sometimes we have to wait for Him to show us where to go - what the next step is.

I'm not sure what my life would look like today if I had decided that my plan at 18 when I graduated high school was the way I was going to live no matter what. But, I venture to guess that it would have been filled with some challenges from not following what God had planned for me that was better than anything I could plan. And I would have missed out on some of the blessings that come from where I am now and how I've gotten to here.

So, where are you today? Are you waiting on God for something?

Or are you moving ahead knowing that this is the direction God has pointed you?

Or are you forging ahead on your own and realizing that maybe waiting would have been the better choice?

Wherever you are, what I know is that God does have good things for us. Sometimes they may come in the form of waiting, or loss, or trials, but God promises that He will work all things out for our good. We may not be able to see that good in the midst of something, but we can often see it looking back from the other side.

If God is saying wait, it's because He has something better for us if we will just be patient and trust Him.

If God is showing the direction to go, move forward in it. It will be worth what it requires of you.

If you're beginning to realize that waiting for God rather than forging ahead would have been the better choice, don't despair; it's not too late. You can still stop and repent and ask God to show you where to go from where you are now. He's the God of second chances and He'll give you another one if you ask.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

everybody's broken

I was listening to a Bon Jovi CD earlier today and was struck by the lyrics to a song by the title of this blog: Everybody's Broken.

I was just struck with the realization of the truth that every body is broken. Now, obviously as followers of Christ, there is hope for our brokenness to be made into wholeness in Christ. But, before that can be a reality, we have to admit that we're broken. We cannot be made whole until we admit we are broken.

Here's the words to the song for you to read:

Welcome to the party
Come on in and disappear
You're feeling like a stranger
But all your friends are here
Little lines and cracks
Around your eyes and mouth
Something's trying to get in
Something's trying to get out

It's OK to be a little broken
Everybody's broken in this life
It's OK to feel a little broken
Everybody's broken
You're alright, it's alright
It's just life

Step into the deep end
Make yourself at home
When you wonder why you're breathing
Know you're not alone
It's so hard to believe
What's easier to doubt
You're trying to hold in
What you're dying to scream out

It's OK to be a little broken
Everybody's broken in this life
It's OK to feel a little broken
Everybody's broken
You're alright, it's alright
It's just life

Take a look around
Tell me what you see
Is who you think you are
Who you want to be

It's OK to be a little broken
Everybody's broken in this life
It's OK to feel a little broken
Everbody's broken
You're alright
Keep on going
Eyes wide open
Everybody's broken (repeat line)

When I read those words (or listen to the song) I'm struck by the realizatino that there are people in our world who are telling us that it is OK to be broken, yet in the church, a place that should be a haven for broken people, we often feel like we can't be broken - that if we admit that we're broken we'll be kicked out or told that we're not good enough.

I wonder if we need to learn how to let people be broken - how to tell people that it's OK if they're broken when they come. Maybe we need to learn to admit ourselves that we're broken - that we don't have it all together. Because, really, the only reason we can find wholeness in life si when we admit that we're broken without Jesus in our lives. We can't find wholeness on our own. As Bon Jovi says in this song over and over again, "Everybody's broken".

Are we willing to admit this in the church? Or do we want to continue to go along pretending we have it all together when we're really falling apart on the inside?

Obviously the song has limits in it's application to the Christian life because we do have hope and a place to find wholeness made out of our brokenness. That wholeness comes in Christ. But, I think it can be a good starting place . . . admitting we are broken. If we don't do this, we will never find wholeness in Christ. We need to begin with letting people be broken and being willing to admit our own brokenness.

So, what are you going to do? Are you going to admit your own brokenness? Or are you going to keep trying to hide it?

Honestly, I'm speaking to myself bgi time in this. I don't find it easy to admit my brokenness, but God has been challenging me in this lately. I don't always have to have it all together. In fact, I only find true wholeness when I first admit my brokenness and come to Him to find wholeness.

Friday, April 9, 2010

reflecting on Easter

I've been thinking about this blog post since last weekend - Easter weekend - but that weekend was so busy for me that it's really taken me this long to get any clarity on what I wanted to write. And I'm still not sure this has a point other than to just record my somewhat disjointed thoughts.

Good Friday . . .
Why exactly do we call it good?
I mean, sure, now with the benefit of looking back at history we can see that it was good in the end, but the events that happened that day were hardly what we would normally call good. And they must have seemed like the end of the world to Jesus' disciples and other followers.
Yet, we call it Good Friday.

Saturday . . .
Can you even imagine what it must have been like on this Sabbath for Jesus disciples and followers?
The Sabbath . . . by Jewish Law they were not allowed to do any work on this day, so Jesus lay in the tomb, but no one brought spices or anything to the tomb. Just going through the motions of the day. Nothing feeling quite right.
Possibly the disciples were feeling this way as they went through the day.

Easter Sunday . . .
Resurrection Day!
But Jesus' disciples and other followers had no idea what this day would hold when they woke up.
The women go to visit the tomb and bring burial spices . . . but they find an empty tomb. They run to tell the disciples who don't believe them and have to check it out for themselves.
Is it possible?
Did He really rise from the dead?
Is He really alive again?

Jesus appears to His disciples and followers . . .
They had seen Him die and they knew He had been placed in tomb . . . yet He was alive and in their midst?!
How is that possible?
Yet, it fulfills the prophecies of old and the statements Jesus made about Himself.
Jesus said that He would rise again in three days.

Ordinary, un-schooled men and women . . . 
turn their world upside-down with their proclamations of Jesus' victory over sin and death on the cross.
Even in the face of persecution they do not be quiet.
Death cannot shut their mouths.
Punishment and imprisonment cannot stop the spread.

What an amazing thing to celebrate and remember . . .
Jesus died on the cross for my sins,
                                    for your sins,
                                    for the sins of the world
                                                      -those who had aleady lived and died,
                                                       those who were living then,
                                                       and those who would live in all eternity.
How incredible the truth . . .
that still turns our world upside-down.

How precious the love for us - for you, for me, for all -
that led our Lord to make the greatest sacrifice of all,
to reconcile us to Him and restore a broken relationship.

I read this earlier this week and thought it was a fresh way to look at the story of Easter, and really it is what got me thinking about some of what I wrote.