Friday, February 11, 2011

'It's tidings of comfort and joy"

It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel. It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity.
- Frederic D. Huntington, Forum magazine, 1890, as quoted in Crazy Love.

Prosperity hardens the heart.
- William Wilberforce

A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb,
But to a hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet.
-Proverbs 27:7

Because I have such a sweet tooth and tend toward an addictive behavior with regards to sugary treats, I can readily relate to a feeling of overdoing it.
It's like a chocolate hangover, if you will.

It's this feeling of not wanting to see another sweet thing for 100 years, because your stomach is so cross at you for taking in too much, it has a terrible stale, sick feeling. Part of you wishes you could puke and get rid of it, just to bring an end to the gross feeling of excess. The only thing in the world that sounds good at this point is lettuce or water or maybe black tea. Something clean, clear, clarifying, and thin, to counter all the thick, rich, creamy excess.

I've had so much of a good thing, that is has become unpalatable and distasteful.
The thing that I loved became repulsive to me.

I believe we as westerners are sick on comfort in this same pattern. In so much as is in our power, we so strive to, and by and large have successfully polished, perfected and crafted our lives to serve the god of our choice, our comfort.

In years past when I was less in-tune to my body, I remember feeling the need to counter too much sugar with too much salt. For example, craving chips after a bowl of ice cream. It was unsuccessful, of course, as a solution, and only created a self-perpetuating cycle. One kept leading to the other and my poor body was an innocent victim of my mouth and my folly!

I find that it is the same with comfort. We so satiate ourselves on comfort and ease, that we keep having to push the envelope toward edginess and ugliness to bring back some feeling of reality or balance since our lives are too sickeningly sweet and ultra-clean.

Everything seems to reflect this pattern of unbalanced excess swaying from one gluttonous pendulum swing to another. We are manifesting it in all our expressions of life.
Genres of music have developed that are mostly fuzz and static and chaos, grinding, war-like grunting grating screaming. Visual art depicts mess, more chaos and aggressive black scribbles. Simple beauty when depicted in art now, is seen as unpalatably cheesey and even mocked by many published art writers and critics. Hobbies have developed to include jumping out of planes or off of bridges tied to an elastic, trying one's luck with wild and/or poisonous animals and many other daredevil adventures of which I don't even know. Here's a quick google top 10 list of some of the edgy danger some call fun.

The entertainment industry is certainly doing all it can muster to push the outermost limits of sensationalism. Sex can't simply be sex anymore - it must be twisted to involve and include almost anything you can think of and many you never would have, including pain and suffering.
I realize the last sentence is not a new development- there have been sexual abuses as long as there have been societies of people. I would argue, however, the prevalence, general acceptance and degree of perversion has increased in recent times.

The degree and frequency of violence in all entertainment media is well known. I just received a notice from Anna's school regarding a certain popular video game, to raise awareness. The description that was shocking to me, reads as follows:
This is a first-person shooter in which players control a U.S soldier who
works for the C.I.A. and participates in both well-known and secret events
during the Cold War (including assassinations and interrogations
involving torture). Players use a wide variety of weapons such as pistols,
rifles, machine guns, and explosives to kill/injure enemies.
Combat can generate pools of blood and dismembered limbs. Players can
use enemy bodies as human shields and execute them at close range.
In one sequence, broken glass is placed in the mouth of a man while
he is repeatedly punched, causing blood to spill from his mouth.
(Descriptive and graphic language plays a large role in the game.)

We're bored with anything less.
Did that sound good to you? Sounds like the opposite of true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy - what Philippians 4:8 commends to us as what should fill our minds and thought life.
(The game was Call of Duty: Black Ops, by the way.)

I see where idea of a God of comfort becomes undesirable when you don't know real suffering nor have suffered any lack. We have a growing appetite for the ugly and twisted. Have you seen the movie 300? I've only seen glimpses, but to me, it was such a dark glorification of freakish perversion, pain, and power, through violence and fornication. Don't go see it just to find out, if you haven't. No really, please don't. Remember Philippians 4:8!

I had the happy opportunity to see a few clips from a documentary film that showed some of the underground church in China, as well as rural ministries in Africa. The kinds of things they face day to day, year after year are things we in the West as a whole have never encountered outside of digital media. There was real suffering. Not a delay in a pleasure (Shoot! My wireless connection is SO slow! Och! What is their PROBLEM!??).
I mean actual suffering. The kind where you suffer.
Not the kind where you are inconvenienced.
Many had seen family members massacred in front of them, been victims of brutality themselves, lived in fear of imprisonment, and much more.
So much of the West is numb to this reality, in part because of the glorification and use of misery as entertainment.
An offer of comfort and joy to those in those real-life situation would be the most relieving, refreshing and life-giving salvation to them. They can see more tangibly the meaning and value of the Gospel. It absolutely has no less value to the affluent Westerner! We just can't see it or feel it. Nor do we particularly want it.
We're good, thanks.

Nothing could be further from the Truth.

We are not good.
We have od'ed ourselves so grossly on counterfeit pleasures that we have cultivated addictions to them; our appetites have been corrupted to favor them, turned toward them. It happens in the physical as well as emotional and spiritual. 9 out of 10 people reading this probably have physical appetites out of sync because of abuses and gluttony. When you eat too much sugar, you are initially sickened by it. (that might have happened when you were too young to remember it) But then it creates the appetite for more... and more and more. You seek that pleasure experience repeatedly, and don't self-control it. You will find eventually that you are eating it out of habit even more than pleasure, if you pay close enough attention, but you can't seem to stop. You've created a habit to perpetuate the excess. The same could be said of excessive quantities, salt or any excess. It creates imbalance that is self-perpetuating.

When a ball bearing in a car becomes damaged, it can no longer spin in its perfect groove. The bearing will eventually seize up from the damage and uneven wear. The misaligned groove that the imbalance creates just keeps getting deeper and bigger. The initial damage kept perpetuating itself.
Like I said, folks, I was there. I so so so get it.

It can change. I'm still working on it, but I have come a long way.

What are we going to do about it?
God save us from our gluttony of comfort and our riches.

Jesus provides the only true salvation.
The broken and contrite heart He will not deny.

Come, Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy, without money and without price.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;

from Isaiah 55:1-3

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Disconnected

---Added in 2013 - This is the most painfully boring post, but I feel guilty outright deleting it. I recommend skipping it. Just saying. ---

Today, these are just thoughts that don't come to any real conclusions.
Just so you don't get your hopes up or anything. : )

------------

The most basic human interaction consists of 2 humans, within some proximity to each other, attempting to communicate verbally or with body language.

That is the closest connection. There is no middle man, tools or implements. Person to person; it is direct. If all of our senses are in tact, there are 4 mediums of information acquisition from the other- we can hear you, see you, maybe smell you, touch you. All of these are unique and provide information and shades of meaning that the others simply can't express in the same way. So there are different levels to which this interaction can deepen and transmit the greatest understanding. All of the senses are communicating something: remove any of them and that is one less aspect through which you are able to connect or commune.

Let's say that the first stage in introducing separation in communication and using a tool to connect people, chronologically, came with writing a letter, and having a third party deliver it. I then have in my hand something that was physically in my friend's hand at one point, and their words are expressed in their own distinct personal stamp and style of handwriting. I can see a visual, 1st hand expression of their personality, but not themselves.
There is a loss of 3 out of 4 mediums I would argue.

Then came telephones. I can't see you but I can hear your actual voice, though transmitted electrically (or however). I hear its inflections as you express and respond to me, and I can read a fair amount of your emotion and meaning from that. I lose sight, smell, and touch, and rely solely on hearing, but at least the voice is one of the most telling expressers.
Maybe losing 2.5 out of 4, having words themselves with the added bonus of vocal inflection.

Enter the internet. Via email, I see your words, but they are in impersonal neutral type, not in your handwriting, so I see the capital R that the computer produces, not YOU. Neither do I hear your vocal inflections. I do not see you, hear you, smell or touch you. Look at how far removed it is from the original. It is like a 3rd generation tape: one that was taped off of another that was taped off another, that was taped off of the original. The quality decreases with each step away from the original. I have very very little to go on, to actually effectively communicate with you. In place of all 4 senses, I must project in my imagination what I presume your tone to be, and the mood and intention behind these typed words before me. Quite a bit if left to conjecture, I would say! Miscommunication is rampant in this world. Everyone reading this surely has had instances in texting or email of your tone being misunderstood in what you said, or misunderstanding the other. In many cases it has been the source of high drama in relationships!
Lovely!
Isn't it wonderful the progress we've made? (excuse my sarcasm)
This is like, 3.5 out of 4 gone.

Now everyone else but me has cell phones and I'm using Skype. I can see and hear my mom on our Skype calls, but it is still very much like talking to a robot, as it is this digitally manufactured image of her and her voice. Also, since the signals are flying all over the PLANET and/or outer space, we often have a sketchy connection. I periodically can't hear her or see her or other various troubles.
Technically this should only be a solid 2 out of 4 loss (smell and touch), but combining connection difficulties and the artificiality of it all, I can only give it a weak 2 at best.

I talk to my dad on his cell phone (me on my LANDLINE - and I had to set down my WALKMAN to answer the PHONE. I know, I am such a dinosaur. Are any of you young'ins googling walkman now?) . Obviously we have conversations, but it is always much quieter than a landline call as the signal is weaker. The connection is removed yet another degree. It isn't from cord to cord across the continent, it is flying through the air harum scarum.

I've talked about this before too.

There is a great lack of quality connection and community in the world today, while quantity proliferates and overwhelms. I believe everyone is aching from it. Everyone seems to be complaining about it and the void it creates in our psyche. We frantically strive to fill it with other distractions, and saccharin substitutes for true connection, our fill-ins usually in the form of a digital reproduction of the original, the actual thing you wanted in the first place but choose not to, or can't have for whatever million potential reasons. Social networking sites like facebook attempt to fill the space of real relationships and people text instead of talk, and live imaginary lives online or in video games instead of in reality with other humans. Addictions to these outlets are as common as houseflies these days. There's got to be a reason for that! It's trying to fill some legitimate, real need we have.

So why don't we just go to the source? I have so many questions and theories about the larger impact of these changes. I think are a great many that we won't see until it's too late. Hindsight will be, as it always is, the perfect vision interpreter of what happened right under our noses, unbeknownst to us. I do fear that the further we get away from the original, the harder it is to go back. It won't be automatic and easy, cause it won't be the norm, we won't be accustomed to it, so it will have awkwardness added to further dissuade us.

Someone else is raising many of the same questions and concerns, I later come to find.

There's way more than enough blather on that topic for today. Thanks for listening!
As always, I love feedback! Comments?
funny/cool/thought provoking response options are only one click away just below here...
tempting tempting... clicky clicky!

*cough*

Who can relate to this experience:

You are just wrapping up nice bout of the flu or a bad cold or virus, and as a parting gift, it leaves you with a lingering cough. And I mean lingering. That buzzard might stick around for another month while you are otherwise in normal health.

And then who has attemped, through Shaolin monk-like subconscious-transcending efforts of mind control over body, to suppress their never-ending stream of cough for the benefit of their bed-partner, or someone else who's sleep might be affected by your all night Concert of Croup.

Have you done this?

I have. Last night. I was able to suppress about 2/3 of my coughs I'd say, which I was pretty impressed with! But then another solid 30% totally slipped by me without my ability to intercept them at all. And alas, neither me nor my bed-partner got any sleep basically all night. He, because of my 'coughing fits' of which he didn't even know how few he got compared to what might have been, and me, because of my coughing fits, plus my focussed attention the rest of the time on overpowering or at the very least muzzling said coughing fits.

If you are contemplating this plan of action, feeling heroic in your ability to take control of your body, my word of advice to you is this:

Just sleep on the couch.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Holiday Greetings

from Niamh:

We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas,
and a Happy New You!

apparently Niamh is pretty optimistic about the results of all those new resolutions.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Light of Your Face

My dad is a sucker for gadgets.
He once bought me a bagel slicer, and at its presentation I said,
"But I already have one!"
"You do?" he replied, surprised.
"Yes!" and I pulled out a steak knife from the drawer.

...

He also had this flashlight (let's not get into his obsession with flashlights...) that was attached to an elastic band so that you would wear it around your head, and like a miner, you could have hands-free illumination wherever you point your face. He got me one once, cause no one should be without this little gem, right?

And it can be helpful, especially since I have no light of my own.
My face emanates no brilliance or splendor.
But God does. He doesn't need a headlamp.
All I need is his gaze upon me to illuminate me.
Simply directing his face to me will give me light.

God, You see me. Shine upon my darkness and give me light!
May I reflect it out into the world!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Sustainability: Suffering

This has become quite a buzzword of late, in discussion of environmentalism, economics, you name it.

In my ongoing endeavor to quantify my emotions and perceived "needs" I was mulling over the idea of sustainability as it relates to suffering.

We've all heard stories of people lifting a car off of a trapped person, or other miraculous and normally impossible feats when emergency need arose. They were able to endure, survive and accomplish something normally impossible - but not for a prolonged period of time. They had to lift it and get the job done in a serious hurry, cause they certainly weren't carrying it around like that while they shop for groceries or try on several pairs of shoes.

But of course we all endure any number of stresses on a daily basis, for years and years. Some of those may make themselves mainstays for the majority of your life.

So different stresses have varying levels of sustainability.
Some are, some simply aren't.
And different people have different levels of strength.
So how do we determine what is sustainable for us?
Some things, like carrying cars, we are physically unable to do for a long time, so clearly it is unsustainable. Other things we may be able do for a long time and still survive, but it would be unhealthy to do them: smoking, doing drugs and eating junk food for physical examples. Many people do one or all of these for years without dying. But that doesn't mean that they are good to do and cultivate in your life.
What about emotional stresses like abusive relationships, energy draining jobs, unhealthy social boundaries, loneliness, etc?
Most of these have a fairly subjective assessment of stress level and are not conveniently quantifiable so as to render the answers clear. Most of the time we decide what we consider sustainable for ourselves and build our own arbitrary boundaries to enforce those decisions. The apparently random times that one person says "I can't ____" and the next person presses through the unthinkable can be befuddling.

Myself and another mom friend of mine (who has also been dealing with health issues) have regularly come to a place of Redefining Can't. It's become a buzz-phrase for us.
9.75 times out of 10, oh yes you can, like it or not!

When you say, "I need a break," from a task, stress, situation, person, you are deciding that boundary. Maybe you could take a lot more. Maybe you think you can't. Usually you can, but should you? I have no idea. Often it seems that break can be life saving. Sometimes pressing through is invaluable for building character. Sometimes pressing through only hurts yourself and others involved. Oh for a clear outline to know when to say when!

I have seen this in other's lives, where a situation in their life that was unsustainable (in the "I can't bear this" sense, not the I-will-die-without-water sense), eventually exploded quite messily, after they had toughed it out for longer than most would expect. In the end, they acted very uncharacteristically to satisfy these felt needs that they had denied for too long, apparently.

I want to avoid this, but I also don't want to be indulgent while using this 'fear' for an excuse.
I want to have healthy sustainable boundaries, that are willing and happily ready to be sacrificial when it is appropriate and right, and doesn't make a martyr of one's self unnecessarily.

God, give light to my path, and give me a good strong fence within to play and live!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Die Princess

I wish more mothers of young daughters these days would read and agree with these 2 articles.

Click em!



One of the many industries I would love to see go bankrupt.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Snuggly Cement

City Mouse failed to say anything about her first trip home in 7 1/2 years.
It was nuts. It was soooo good. It was therapy.
I couldn't believe how it made me cry like crazy, even taking the highway exit that led to my childhood home, seeing all the landmarks, parks, businesses that I remember, familiar signs, familiar homes, fences, schools, cracks in the road that I remember from 20 yrs ago.
Every thing is familiar.
I fit in! A trippy experience after 12 years of being a Martian. (total years in Canada - 4 in Toronto, 8 in Nova Scotia) I was driving on the highway, with this strange sensation in my chest, thinking, "I feel like me again." I forgot what this felt like. I loved it. It was like going back in time. I felt lighter, freer, smilier, bouncier, at peace.

I realize now, all these images form the backdrop for all my childhood memories. For all the people, interactions, and happenings I remember, this was the background. They are so inextricably linked with the comforts, the things nearest and dearest to me, simple pleasures of that time of innocence and foundation for all that I am now. A crumbling brick wall that hasn't been fixed since I was 10 brought tears to my eyes, it and so many million other little things like it just brought back a flood of memories and feelings.

It was intense. I loved it. I miss it very much. I am a fish out of water here, but hey.
I took Anna with me, left Niamh at home with Daddy. She was Daddy's girl anyway, but this 10 day one-on-one sealed the deal! They bonded over their common passion, tractors.

But oh my, I think I have a city girl on my hands in the eldest! Anna LOVED it. She loved the Plaza. Loved the fountains, stores, sidewalks. She was like an aboriginal taken from the middle of the Serengeti or something and dropped in downtown Hong Kong. A little culture shock. She looked down at the sidewalk and exclaimed with big eyes, "WOW! What is that?!? It's so cool! You don't get muddy!"
I know. Amazing, eh? It was the invention of the wheel as far as she was concerned.


Anna took this beauty, capturing the lilies and mint my mom cultivated outside the house in which I grew up. Still there and giving joy to the observer! I hope the people of the house and neighborhood weren't too freaked out by my photos and videotaping. I'm fairly confident the police must have gotten a phone call or 2 about this strange entourage spending a little too much time walking back and forth on the street, staring at random houses for no apparent reason.

My little fashionista loving a Plaza fountain.

I think my dad took this one of me in the antique district by my old neighbourhood. I spent many's the day riding my bike and taking walks with mom up and down these streets.
Think the sweater and boots look too warm? It was a couple months ago, don't worry. We were still chilly. Of course Anna wasn't, because she is a Canadian polar bear. One chilly evening at a public playground, another family had bulging eyes seeing Anna running and playing in pure bliss wearing a tank top while their son had on a puffy winter coat. Anna kept insisting, "I'm fine! I don't want my jacket!" Hilarious.
"She's Canadian," I leaned over and assured them.
Knowing nods followed.

There were many tears as we boarded the plane to come home, and they weren't mine.
Anna didn't want to leave. She sobbed on my lap saying, "I wish this was the first day we got here again and we were just getting here!"
I know Baby, believe me.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Don't Judge a Weed by Its Leaf

Say hello to my Million Bloom Plant.


That is actually what it's called, and the name is pretty accurate.
It was a gift from a sweet friend at church.
I love it, it's beautiful, except that at first I spent so much time dead-heading it, my family went hungry. It behaves more or less like a petunia, so I thought it required dead-heading to re-bloom, but reading up a little to do this blog post I found out it doesn't. Oh well. Forgo the housekeeper I guess. Back to the kitchen with me.

However, it doesn't seem to be rooted deeply. Get a little overzealous in your dead-heading and you'll unintentionally yank out the whole stem. It's quite easy actually.

I was thinking about what a show this plant puts on. It blooms constantly for months, from May til hard frost. In a warm climate it can even be perennial.

Then I thought about some of my experiences weeding in the garden. Talk about roots! Anyone who has ever gotten their hands even a little dirty in a garden knows of what I speak. I have been baffled and amazed at how a little leafy scruff can have a root that seems to burrow under the ground a mile like the Toronto PATH or something. You pull... and pull... and pull some more, and a root you never imagined judging by the look of it comes out, certainly a lot more than there had been leafy display.
It's the flora equivalent of an iceberg.

And I think about how so many Christians are like that. There is a big display, loud Amens, big Bible, membership in all the right groups, participation in all the meetings, a presentation of enthusiasm, but no hidden life in Christ: no deep roots, no grounding, no prayer life when nobody is watching, no hunger that drives us into the Word even when distractions try to draw us away, no loving the unlovely.
Everything is above ground and pretty.

But a flood and a strong wind will uproot the one that doesn't go deep.
A little minor pruning could prove to be the ruination of the shallow-rooted one. He can't bear up under it. Instead of bettering, it destroys him. He spends all his energy and nutrients he gathers on constantly producing more shows.

The weed was spending his energy on cultivating those long roots, and propagating. His appearance may be humble (yet still beautiful in my estimation), but that wasn't his priority. Therefore he has a poor reputation among those who cultivate showy gardens.
He is shunned and cast out.

While he may not have the colors or the flashy display of the other, he is sturdy, he does have his own grace, he'll be back next year, and he will spread. Those expansive roots will make more plants, also sturdy and deep rooted. In winter, he will rest and endure, he will do without and survive, and as soon as there is an inkling of sun and heat again, he will be back. He didn't die in the season of difficulty, though he mightn't have liked it. He quietly waited for the Spring. He stored up and was rarin' to go as soon as the opportunity presented itself, as soon as conditions were conducive.

As the song says, "Ya gotta go down, if you wanna go up.
You gotta go lower, if you want to go higher and higher.
You gotta hide and do it in secret, if you want to be seen by God.
Cause it's the inside outside upside down kingdom,
where you lose to gain,
and you die to live."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Life Lessons at the Beach


We went as a family today to the beach. I love to collect beach glass, and you can see a glimpse of my collection in the background, filling the base for my bamboo. In my hand is what I found just today.

While others swim, tan, dig, or build, I'm on a treasure hunt for beach glass.
When we arrived at the beach, we searched and settled on our spot, put down our things, and began the beachy festivities. Children ran for the water and began constructing sandcastles. I roamed. Far and wide I scanned, back and forth, digging, perusing, searching, collecting. I didn't even begin to look around where we laid our things. I immediately left to walk and look elsewhere. I found some, but not much, and they were pretty small. I came across one or 2 larger ones, but disappointing in general.

But then to my surprise, when we came back to our base to dry off, dress, and prepare to leave, I found one... and another... and another... and another! Such an amazing concentration, and of greater size than others I had found all day elsewhere while I worked hard at looking.
Then as we walked to the car, 3 more were effortlessly at my feet as I was simply making my way, leaving the beach.

Life lessons. There were abundant treasures to be had right in my own nest. The things I was seeking were not far away - they were right beneath me. I needn't stray nor strain, but take the steps I would naturally take, without worry, and explore and not dismiss what already surrounded me. A little Taoism, a little Ecclesiastes, the theme remains.
Contentment. Finding, seeing, embracing the beauty in what you've been given and what and whom surrounds you; not breeding contempt in familiarity, but loving the common, the simple, the imperfect.

You might be surprised at what you find.

I was.

You Are What You Eat, part 2

I'm really not doing great at keeping continuity in a series, since part 1 of YAWYE was way back here in April'09, and not even well-written. But hey. I'm under no contractual obligations here. That's the beauty part.

SO. This is what I want to say to the world today.

Let's say you are going to build yourself a house to live in. All I give you for building materials is pudding cups; the little plastic individual serving ones covered in a little sealed foil.
So you build a house out of them, somehow. Then someone drives by as they inevitably will and the gust of wind knocks down a wall, de-stabilizing the roof and collapsing the entire structure. You rebuild, cause you have confidence in your method as I assured you these were reliable and safe. Surely it is a fluke that it didn't work last time. It rains. You are soaking wet and freezing cold as pudding cups afforded you no protection and were nothing even close to water-tight.
And on and on the story would go.

When you eat, you are giving your body the cellular tools with which to build itself. Eat garbage, and you give your body no option but to construct itself - your very organs, nerves, muscles, bones, brain, hair, eyes - out of garbage. The cells cannot be as strong, resilient or effective against the storms of life (bacterial, viral, genetic, toxic, etc.) as they could have been, built out of better ingredients.

Every cell in your body has a limited lifespan and, when it dies, will be replaced. Based on this process and rate of cellular replacement, you will have what more or less amounts to an entirely new body, bones included, over the course of 10 years (cells other than bones take approx. 7 years).

Why do we not regenerate to be newer and nicer over time then? Mistreatment, conscious or not, accelerates degeneration, and weaker, damaged cells constitute the replacements. Any and all mistreatment of our body contributes to the damage and oxidation, including smoking, drinking, environmental pollutants and toxins, dietary toxins, dehydration, insufficient sleep or sleep of compromised quality, emotional and physical stress, insufficient nutrition, insufficient exercise and oxygenation and certainly more.

Building stronger cells, I argue, is like building your house out of stone or brick. A strong wind of virus is less likely to level your house. A rain of nerve malfunction can be kept at bay. A landslide of cell mutation may be resisted, overcome and corrected.

A house of pudding cups is powerless against such onslaughts.

Degeneration will happen whether you like it or not, whether you live perfectly or not. We are mortal. But we can help or hurt matters tremendously. May I plead with you to build yourself out of worthy materials! Those french fries or hot dogs will be with you longer than you thought, and not only on your belly! They may be supplying the materials for the liver your body is currently working on, or brain, or heart! Those of us with children, may we take seriously the influence we have in establishing eating habits, and supplying the fuel and building blocks of our children's bodies.

Know that I preach to myself as well, lest this sound accusatory.
I say this for your blessing, not your cursing!

Be well, and do the good you know to do. Today.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Transparency

The introduction of blogging, facebook, myspace, twitter, etc. to my world presented me with a challenge. Everyone I know - family, neighbours, church friends, grade school friends, high school friends, university friends, musician friends, in-laws - from every subset of my life, were all converging in one location. There was a bit of an identity traffic jam, with maybe a few fender benders, and some unanticipated social juggling. I found I had to decide who I am, and it had to be through and through, the same to everybody. This may make it sound as if I lived the life of a total hypocrite prior, presenting different Jenni's to everyone. In a way I did. Mind you, it's not like I went out clubbing and smoking up with one group and leading prayer groups with another. My morals didn't change from one group to another, but language certainly did (no ghetto accents with in-laws, for example, or Christianese with fiddle cohorts) and the content of conversation differed vastly.

But when my blog could be potentially read by any of the above, and when facebook status updates are read by all of the above, it brought a level of transparency I hadn't ever had among my subsets. If I am excited about God, and had an awesome prayer or worship session and am busting with enthusiasm about it that overflows into a blog or status, I would formerly have chosen a smaller friend group of Christians with which to talk about it.
But now, everybody sees it.

I may have reserved my discussion on amaranth or hydrogenated oils for the few health nuts I know, instead of opening it to a broader audience.

The fiddle people, who may have vaguely known I was not Hindu, now see, 'whoa, she's really into this God thing', and possibly even 'she really likes to go eat pancakes' *. The church people are now hearing random references to Arthur Muise, about whom they haven't a clue. (A great fiddle player, by the way.)

So I had to make some decisions. What do I believe in? What am I prepared to represent?
Am I willing to own it in front of anyone?
Am I willing to be scandalous to one group while identifying with another?
There were lots of people I didn't hide my faith from, but I didn't advertise it either.

Now it's ALL out there! No secrets! I had lots of trepidation at first.
I struggled with, "What can I say that is neutral enough for every audience?"

And then I gave up. There is very little editing these days.
The whole Jenni : the Bride of Christ, the fiddle player, the MS patient, the mommy, the Irish speaker, quinoa & amaranth-eater, is all open to the public.

I have been deleted from some people's friend lists for being too Jesus freaky. That's fine. I believe there are even verses of blessing that might apply to that.

But for this development, for the acquisition of a more fearless approach to life, that doesn't change me to suit the viewer (only in so much as is actually appropriate and culturally considerate maintaining kindness in interaction), that is more real about who I am, what I believe, where I stand in the universe and on eternal matters of the soul:

For this, Internet, and often-sketchy social-networking sites, I thank you.


*"go eat pancakes" is a reference to the common misunderstanding of my reference to something called IHOP- more commonly known as the International House of Pancakes, but when I say it, is referring to the International House of Prayer.
I'm not that into pancakes, for the record.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Generation Gap widens

I am feeling age creeping in. It is a little weird sometimes.

The generation gap is widening.
I say and do things I associate with my parents and even grandparents, with frequency.

At Christmas this past year, I found myself with an uncharacteristic desire for cheesey holiday clothing and/or jewelry. What's happening to me???

I am mostly unaware of, and even fearful of many new technologies. I don't know how to use them, nor do I often even understand their purpose. We have had an ipod for a couple years. I've never used it. I don't know how to turn it on.
Did I just say that?

I do own a jump drive now, however, and have used it... once...

I am getting more moles and freckles. What is up with that?

My makeup has much more of a purpose now. Concealer has become a near and dear friend.

I am concerned about my bedtime, and consider 9pm a perfectly reasonable and sensible bedtime, and 5am a common time to start the day, not end it.

I don't understand a goodly portion of what the young people are saying these days. The slang is beyond me. I have given up on it. After approx 3 wildly failed attempts that ended in public shaming, (in particular, one time when I described myself as a SAHM, which I understood to mean stay-at-home-mom, but I was shocked when I was informed that Urban Dictionary by the way, ahem, says that means sexy and hot Mama. This was not what I was going for in my public self-description.) I am resigning myself to datedness and old faithfuls, like 'you go girl' and the simple and universal adjective, "Cool!" in place of other confusing misnomer synonyms like sick, gross, wicked, bad etc. Is diseased the next description of something really desirable and attractive? How about loathesome? malicious? painful? heinous? odious?
"Wow! Where did you get those shoes?!?! They are nauseating!"
Would that give a new twist to that little catch phrase about "throwing up a little in my mouth just now"? Would that then be a good thing? Something was SO amazingly nauseating, you actually threw up in your mouth a little. I'm happy for you.
Super. Sounds like we're on a good road here, folks. Definitely want to keep on it! See where it takes us!
Not me, however. But you go right on ahead. However, if I give you gifts that you don't like, I really can't be blamed, because the last time you saw it and said you didn't like it, I misunderstood that you DID in fact like it.
This reminds me of a Scripture passage, however. Isaiah 5:20 says, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil..." I think of that verse every time I hear these opposite-day adjectives.

I don't have a sweet clue what music is trendy anymore. Most of my favorite musicians are no longer living. And I don't mean Kurt Cobain. Much more obscure usually, many never did a professional recording.

When I go to the store with the humorous idea to buy clothing, I hold items up in the air with a confused, furrowed brow, unsure of even how they are to be applied to my body, let alone how to coordinate them with other things. It looks like a drape of fabric to me that I would have as much luck with as a sari. What happened to holes for your head and arms that were pretty self-evident and needed no explanation? While I love the creativity and variety, I miss understanding what I'm looking at sometimes.

Other clothing and styles that I wore in grade school are back in again. I've been around long enough to see the cycle.

*sigh* I need a young person to adopt me and give me little masterclasses to keep me at least partially in the loop. My five-year-old and mother-in-law are failing.

Another sign of true aging: I don't care that I'm out of the loop! Be gone, Oh Loop! I'm more and more ok with nerdiness.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday, Going to Church

Anna looked at all the traffic as we drove to church Sunday morning and said,
''Wow! Are all these people going to church?''
I wish, Sweety. I'm pretty sure they're not.

Here's where I'm at, as sung by Rita Springer.

Listen to it as well if you like by clicking on the song title.

I am not here just to see a phenomenon.
I am not here for experiential bliss.
I simply come to the feet of the God I serve,
The One that I love

I am not here for the sake of the people's praise.
I have not come to see the thunder and rain.
I simply come into courts of the King above
The One that I praise

I want to find the way to His chambers
I want to be in the presence of the Lord
I am in need of his mercy and favor
Forever more

I am not here for the sake of a miracle.
I am not here just to see the dead raised.
Yes, I believe in power supernatural
That's how I am saved

I've had enough of this life of a Pharisee!
I want to know this Jesus who's been loving me -
I'm running into the temple just to see the one that I love

I want to find the way to His chambers;
I want to be in the presence of the Lord!
I am in need of his mercy and favor, Forever more

I give my heart to the one they call Jesus
Seeking out first the very kingdom of God;
You are the Way and the Truth I believe it
You are my phenomenon

You can move mountains whenever You want to
You can speak to the sea whenever it pleases You

Forgive me, o Lord, if I have been a market place-
Turn me upside down so I will seek Your face
And if Your presence comes into this place
So will the thunder and rain!

You are my phenomenon.
You are mine and I am Yours.

May I be all Yours, God, all Yours...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Confession and Challenge: Readiness

So many thoughts; swimming, swimming, and I come here to sort and inventory, apparently.

I am so full of lies and self-deception. Seeing myself on youtube recently came as a real surprise, and was only one aspect of the self-awareness program that I have been subjected to the past couple weeks.

I say I know and believe that Jesus could return any day, any minute, because no one knows the hour. But I don't live as if I believe this.

I'm just going to be totally transparent here. As much as one hand is grabbing the other hand telling it not - to - type - this - I've been embarrassed lately by how many times a visitor has come into my house unannounced - that's fine, I welcome it - but more times than I would have preferred, they came in and found me in front of the computer- not in front of my sink, or with a broom in my hand, or a mixing bowl in front of me, or sitting on the couch reading Niamh a book, as I would have preferred. But apparently, without my really realizing it, I am whisking away to the glowing blue screen more often than I think is good, or I would not have been embarrassed.

I feel like I'm caught with my pants down.

I don't want this to happen when the Lord returns.

I don't want Him to come, for the trumpets to sound, for Him to descend from heaven with a shout and with the voice of the archangel, and for me to be busy scrolling down checking facebook status updates. I want Him to find me ready, about my Father's business, not distracted with folly and vanity. I want to already be looking into the sky in anticipation.

Is it true that every action we do is an act of service to something, or someone?

When we go to the toilet, we are serving our bladders.
We work serving our employers and providing for/serving our families.
We can preach the Gospel, serving the King of Kings.
We can dress to impress serving our pride, or spend the time and money otherwise.
We can serve the lowest and in so doing, serve our King, Jesus.
Eat to serve your hunger.
Read to serve your curiosity or desire for entertainment.
Exercise to serve/benefit your muscles.

Is it true that every action we do gives glory to something or someone?
If I choose gouda over swiss, I am declaring by my choice that I believe gouda to be superior, or that at the very least I prefer it at that moment. If I spend the one hour of free/personal time I have at the end of a day on emails/blogs/social networking instead of in prayer or the Word of God, am I not passively stating my preference, where my desire lies? With every purchase, word selection in our speech, book read, music listened to, show watched, food eaten, we are declaring preferences in our choices - if we prefer it, we are exalting it above the other options.

The Bible says (I Cor. 10:31) whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all for the glory of God. (p.s. I won't go there as much as I could, but to me this says that we can glorify God or not, by our food and drink choices.)

Am I glorifying God in my choices?
Do my preferences betray me or do they reveal a heart after God's heart?

How can I claim that I am person of One Thing, as David did in Ps. 27:4, when my fickle adulterous heart seeks a harem of lovers? I know what it's like to have the hunger where my desire for God is insatiable. I must read, I must pray, I must worship and sing to Him, it is fire in my bones -- rocks for the internet! It sounds awful! Turn it off, get it away from me! It can't possibly come between me and my God!

But that's not where I've been. I've run to distractions whenever I had the chance. If I ran and read a verse with anticipation the way I ran over to check my email the last month I could have done a lot of reading. I'm might have grown in God, instead of knowing all about someone's cat's visit to the vet whom I don't talk to in real life or have real relationship with.

I remember not having a sweet clue what facebook was. Why can't we live without it again? I joined to see one friend's photos. A real life friend. Who knew it was like trying crystal meth or something. One sample and you're toast! Maybe not the very first time, but give it time, it will suck you into its vapid vacuum.
I am reminded of Chambers' quote: Beware of the good thing that keeps you from the best.

I John 3:3 says that everyone who has this hope fixed in HIM, purifies himself.
If I have this hope, I will purify myself. So do I? Yes?
Then get going.

Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.
James 4:17.

Let's go for it. Seriously.
Shake everything that can be shaken, Lord.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

PBP. GIFWMY.

Maybe you haven't seen that before. If not, it stands for "Please be patient. God isn't finished with me yet."

God has certainly been patient with me. Good grief. It's amazing, really. We as humans should learn from this. If we know (or think we know) very much more than another, be patient with that person! The gap between your knowledge/wisdom levels and theirs are certainly not approaching that of God's and yours, but He, with love and kindness, endures our folly and waits while we grow EVER so slowly, over yeeeears and years.

O Let us love as we are loved.

I moved to this area called Monastery 7 years ago. It is a very isolated and remote place, by my big city standards. It was within the same year that I saw God's really un-subtle sense of humour when I realized that there was no accident that I was here, that the name of the place was what it was, and what that implied for me. What is a Monastery, but a sequestered place of prayer? It is to this place that He brought me, and I felt that I was to learn here to pray, and to embrace a life of prayer.

Now, I am a very noisy, social creature by nature; so in order to quiet me, and to teach me to lean on Him, to be still and listen, and not lose myself in an occupied flurry of friends and activities, He had to dump me in the woods. I would not have chosen this myself, as that lack of social activity sounded like nightmare to me. I feared it. I struggled through years here, wishing for it to be different.

Why I didn't simply yield to the lesson that He made clear to me from the beginning, I dunno.

But I feel now, my knee bows, after years of stiffening my neck, and bucking against the goads, (how many Biblical references can I throw in one sentence?) I am beginning to submit, and learn, and discipline, to see, and hunger, and kneel. Praise be to God, who waits, and who leads us on, whose glory shines and draws our hearts to Himself. Who does not change, who loves us in our weakness.

-------------------------------------------------------

I was thinking about the verse tonight, II Chronicles 7:14, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

I never understood why it took humility to pray. I don't see it as any great stretch to know that it takes the power of God to move on the hearts of men in order for them to come by the bus load from the pub to the church, or fall in the streets under conviction of sin, as happened in the Hebridean revival of the early 1950's. I would never expect any worship leader to be cool enough, or preacher convincing enough to cause this kind of remarkable occurrence. So of course, we would need to pray - that didn't require any stretch or uncomfortable humility to me. Like if I was asked to carry my house to the other end of our field. Would it require great humility to concede that I couldn't do it? No! There would be no chance! Of course another way would have to be found.

So I was thinking about it tonight, and I thought - to really give oneself to prayer, takes away from our lives as we might otherwise lead them. Maybe I will spend less time primping before church, and more time praying, but then - Ack! - I might not be perfectly coiffed! What would people think?? Maybe I spend more time on my knees praying at home, and am found when friends or family come in and discover me there. Maybe I spend less time on my house, and accept the judgment from others that I am not the ultimate Martha Stewart of Monastery. Maybe I spend less time social networking seeking affirmation and social strokes.
These require humility from me.
Humble yourself and pray...

I don't begin to think that is a full meaning behind the verse, just one little color in the rainbow of meaning and an implication for me.

Thank You, God, for not giving up on me.