Sunday, December 24, 2006

She imagined serving tea to her friend in her tidy, cozy apartment with carefully swept floor and gleaming countertop. She would offer her friend a small square served on an elegant plate, laugh brightly and speak companionably, sharing her recent insights and offering a listening ear.

Now her friend sat across from her in an apartment reflecting the disorder of her own mind. Articles of clothing were strewn about and a small, pathetic assortment of unwrapped presents scattered on her couch. The kitchen countertop was cluttered with dishes and the table top was scattered with papers. She poured the tea shakily and then she told her friend painful, secret things, things she hadn't even admitted to herself. She wept and was ashamed, but she knew that this was herself as she truly was, the real person, more than the brave face she showed to the rest of the world.
And she knew that she was broken, and that she needed God. Suddenly she saw she had spoken about the will of God, more than she had sought it. That she had spoken about God, more than she had spoken to him. And that perhaps she had more in common with Job's friends than she had ever suspected. And she saw that she had searched for a dream, something big that everyone could recognize as great, some grand purpose that could swallow up all her pain. She saw she had misinterpreted, missed the mark, that she had wanted some guarantee from God of a bright, shining future. She realized this desire was the opposite of faith. She realized now what God did promise, and what he did not promise. She saw she needed to serve God now, not after he met her demands, that she needed to worship him even if healing never came in the way she wanted. She saw she needed to entrust him with her life, to offer him her wounded heart.
And in the midst of the overthrow of pretensions and the laying bare, in the turmoil of the collapse of her carefully contructed cardboard castles, she knew one thing could not be shaken, but stood firm. And this knowledge was enough. She knew God had never changed, and that he loved her as she was now. And as the lies, false assumptions, and half truths fled, the truth gradually came flooding in. By looking back she could see the choices she had made, the sin that had enslaved her. And she knew how it had happened, how her life had hovered on the brink of destruction. She saw the strategy that had kept her in bondage so long, a willing prisoner to fear and anger, sin and shame; she saw the wasted years of her life, when she hadn't lived at all, when she had been a shell of who she was created to be. And she knew that the truth would set her free, that she was forgiven and that beyond this bleak winter was the promise of a new spring when her fragile hope would again blossom and her shattered strength be renewed.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

On Growth

It's almost been a month since I last posted. How I feel about this blog really has changed and I am much more self-conscious. I didn't even post anything and then delete it as I so often do, although I did have a couple of ideas for entries. I have been kind of busy with Greek and an application to graduate school. My definition of busyness is probably different from many other people and I tend to focus on just one thing at a time, instead of keeping many balls in the air.

Usually growth is so gradual that it is barely perceptible and regular measuring on a growth chart is the only way to notice the change. Looking back over the past year, I think I have grown in many ways, not always for the reasons I expected. My 40 days of purpose this summer and fall were more a meandering sixty day journey, rather unfocused and after the first fourteen days completely undocumented. The Alpha course I took this fall caused me to grow in ways I didn't expect. I thought a basic course in Christianity wouldn't teach me anything new, but the video presentations by Nicky Gumbel and the fellowship and sharing with people all at different points in their spiritual journey were both absolutely phenomenonal. I am sure with all that great food on Monday nights, I must have grown in other, less welcome, ways. A highlight for me was the Holy Spirit weekend, the weekend before Reformation day, which I spent at St. Thomas the Apostle, a Catholic church where I sensed the unity Christ prayed that we would have and learned from believers of another Christian tradition, as well experienced and learned about the Holy Spirit. We were together with another Alpha group, the first at St. Thomas the Apostle, lead by a woman who had attended Alpha at Immanuel the previous year and whose husband was in our group. I am so sad Alpha is now done, but another group A Life Worth Living will be starting up. I also enjoy the fellowship of my small group but we haven't met as often this year as I would like.
A couple of months ago I was so sure I was going to get another encouraging, uplifting message at a special service, something that would confirm the direction I am taking. I had a life-altering affirmation a year previous by someone who was visiting my parent's church from Elim Ministries. However I was disappointed this time to hear a message that was not relevant for my current life. It made me think about where I am getting my direction from, and I realized I need to seek guidance from God. God has promised to guide those who ask him for wisdom, and Christ has sent the Holy Spirit, so while another person may confirm my direction if that is in God's plan, I need to hear from God myself and follow the Spirit's leading. So now I wait and make plans, but I trust God to direct my steps.
I have been reading through the Message paraphrase of the Bible, which can be very jarring to read after years of solely reading the New International Version. The references to things anarchonistic to biblical times were particularly jarring, but I did really think about what the Bible was saying. The Bible reading plan I choose had its positive things and its pitfalls, and now I am nearly done, I think I will be reading through the Bible more slowly to get out morsels I couldn't really take the time to chew this past year, because I was rushing through the readings. I love God's Word so much and the difficult passages only make it more fascinating, although I never am excited to read Leviticus, and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and even Isaiah seem so long when you are trying to get through them. Reading Hebrews helps to understand Leviticus and sometimes a passage will leap out at you in the prophets and you wonder how you could have missed it.
This time last year I certainly wouldn't have expected I would now be living on my own for the past three months, taking a class in New Testament Greek and contemplating grad school for next year. I do see the hand of God and provision of God in this and I think this living on my own has been a maturing process. I see many more areas for growth, I'd like to display the fruits of the Spirit all the time, even in traffic, to live less by emotion and more by faith and obedience, to be more focused on God and others and less on myself, and I really need to learn how to speak wisely and be silent when necessary. I am growing in the gift of using words to encourage and to express and to speak of truth, but I think I need to examine the proverbs about the tongue. Sometimes you need to speak, but sometimes it is wiser to remain silent. At least your own foolishness will not be as readily apparent.
When God told Abraham to leave his people and go to a distant country, he obeyed and he didn't even really know where he was going. I don't think I would be like that at all, I'd want a road map and a detailed intinerary, and first I would wonder if it really was God speaking to me and who he really was. I think I'd need a few signs, perhaps a fleece-like test like Gideon was granted or the more impressive shadows moving back steps like Hezekiah was given. Abram was told he would be the father of a great nation, but he was old, his wife was barren and past the age of childbearing anyways, and he had not one child. Abraham believed God and he even was willing to give up his own son, the child of promise who came years of soujourning later, and in obedience he was about to sacrifice him, confident God could raise him to life if necessary. The apostle Paul said believers in Christ are children of Abraham and heirs to the promise God gave him. What great faith and how little Abraham had to go on, compared to believers today.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

On Surrender

Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."

I came to church very burdened and very hurt. I didn't want to be there and I felt I couldn't praise God. As I sat there I was reminded of how Jesus has set me free, in order to live, how he has made me right with God through his death. Then a wise person reminded me of these words of Jesus. I need to give my burden to him, to surrender what is eating away at me to him. He will give me rest. Sometimes you come to a place where there is nothing you can do, nothing you can say that will help, though it may cause further hurt or pain or division. I was reminded that God is in control, that I can give this situation to him and that I don't have to be burdened or weighed down anymore. Ultimately he will bring healing, redemption, reconciliation, true forgiveness, and he will reveal the truth, not the limited one I know, but his truth.
When I praise him for who he is, what he has done, and what he is doing, the worries and concerns and day to day struggles can fall to the side. Christ is the judge, it is not I, and he is the Truth. I can trust my Father, because he knows what is best for his children. Realizing there is nothing I can do with this mess I am a part of, helps me surrender everything in my life to God. There is so much in my life that needs to change and the Holy Spirit will help me, Jesus will teach me, and his burden, which I take to mean the burden to share his good news with others, is light, not like the burden that I took upon myself. May my words not hurt, not cause division or pain, not build walls, not set me in place as judge. May I be silent when I shouldn't speak, may I live what I confess, and may God's message shine through and may he be glorified.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Greek Chorus
by Jo-Ann Badley
[with thanks to Jo-Ann Badley and apologies to the late Dr. Seuss]
I do not wish to study Greek
I do not want to be a Geek.
Would you study in your room?
And there prepare to meet your doom?
Would you study at a table?
Would you, could you, were you able?
Would you study on the train?
There, perchance, to strain your brain?
Would you, could you, on term break?
Do it for the gospel's sake?
I will not do it on term break
Not even for the gospel's sake;
I do not like to memorize:
Those funny letters hurt my eyes.
Not in a train, not with my brain,
Not at a table, though I'm able,
Not in my room to meet my doom:
Not here or there or anywhere...
I do not wish to study Greek
I do not want to be a Geek.
Take Greek this term without apology,
Drop anthro- theo- missiology!
Switch to Greek from other classes
It matters not if no-one passes...
Perhaps for you, but not for me:
Greek isn't practical, you see,
I'd rather learn to fix transmissions
I'm a candidate for missions.
Would you take in the summer?
Six weeks of verbs won't make you dumber
You might like the paradigms:
Repeat those lists five thousand times.
I would not, could not, in the summer
For six whole weeks a real bummer!
I will not study Greek at all
Not in summer, not in fall.
Greek is really for the birds
Greek is really just for nerds
I do not wish to study Greek
I do not want to be a Geek.
You do not like it, so you say
Try it, try it, and you may
Try it and you may, I say:
lego, legeis, and legei...
lego, legeis... now I've got it
Whatever it means, I needn't stop it.
This learning Greek is so much fun
A few more weeks and I'll be done.
Now I'll learn those paradigms,
Repeat vocab a million times.
In the summer, in the fall,
I'll do it any time at all.
I'll swap my Greek for other classes,
I won't mind if no one passes.
I will study in a tree,
Now I know that Greek's for me:
I will do a Ph.D.
I will study on term break;
Greek will be a piece of cake.
I will study on a train,
Let conjugations fill my brain.
I will study at a table;
Learn the aorist since I'm able.
I will study in my room,
Morning, night, and afternoon.
I will study here and there:
I will study anywhere!
I do so love to study Greek:
I really want to be a Geek.

My New Testament Greek professor had this poem read in our class and then emailed it to us. This poem is supposed to have Greek letters for "lego, legeis, legei" but those won't publish in blogger.
I love learning Greek; I just hope I can keep it up long enough for it to remain with me and not disappear as French did after highschool. I hope I can use it in biblical scholarship in an academic setting, but even just learning the original language of the New Testament is a valuable thing. I will get a copy of the Greek New Testament next semester from the Bible Society. The second year of Greek is exegesis. And then there is Hebrew, which I really want to learn too, so I can read the Old Testament in its original language. Not everyone understands my attraction to taking this class or recognizes the value of reading the New Testament in its original language, but it is fascinating to me and it will be essential if I am going to be a biblical scholar in post-graduate studies. Ofcourse I am only starting to learn it, but so far it is going well. Too bad I never took it at Redeemer where I studied English and Religion. My brother took it as an elective.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Withdrawal Symptoms (from Friends)

"I was feeling lazy," she said, moseying up to the sink, rinsing the stale water from the dishes, "so I made spaghetti pie. Remember when Mom used to make that? Of course, I didn't use cottage cheese."

"Sisterly solidarity," she said, laughing a little, lilting-like, with her head, tilting-like, going up to kiss the ceiling, "My spinach has been past the due date for a week now, and I'm still eating it."

"Oh, I started sliding a little today--in the rain," she said, sighing, like golden leaves would sigh if they did, "I think I need new tires. Someone said I should just change my front tires with my back tires. Of course, I wouldn't really know how to do that. And when I changed the back ones, the whole front might just roll away."

"She bought her wedding dress," she said, pausing, thoughtfully, with the dish towel limp in her hand. "She described it to me; but you know how sometimes you just can't see it in your mind--what it is that they're describing? I'll have to see it sometime, though."

"Mm hm," I said, typing furiously.

reed elamef a

the thing was so softly spoken,

i couldn't hear--quite,

couldn't make out--quite,

what it was he was saying, what it was

that he so much wanted me to hear

in the grey room with the phone curled, nestled

and sweaty between my ear and shoulder

and we breathing apart, so tired of the voices and stories that we only whispered things,

soft things,

that couldn't really be heard, or even

proven to exist


She would walk around, stepping lightly from tile to tile. And she knew she stepped only once on each ceramic plate, because she was always looking down. And this didn't have to be a negative thing, necessarily. It was only when one looked down that one could see foundations of people, feet, and the twisting of the earth, how it grew from the depths upwards and exploded in green things, and buds. She knew this. She liked to look at carpet, too. Carpet could be lush, and purple, or it could be worn, and where there had been uniformity, there were now patches of stark fibres, because no one had tread this part. One could tell a lot about a person by her feet, or his carpet. She knew this. Sometimes it her hurt her eyes to look upward too directly. Sometimes the sky was too blue, and the flames were too orange, and she would blink, startled, and look down again.

thursday night at suzanne's apartment

A small grey turtle on a gnarled log.
Spiked coffee.
I feel...
Then, the macadamia nut cookie cometh.
Minks are mean.
Let's go bowling.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Journey of (a metaphorical) 40 Days

In late August I began a rereading of "A Purpose Driven Life". The plan was that I would take the next forty days to read, reflect, and journal the insights I gained and steps I should take. I started off well, reading each section on the appointed day and journaling almost daily. However soon I was writing once a week and then not at all, and finally I wasn't even reading daily. The Forty Days of Purpose stretched into a sixty-five day period that was not entirely purposeful. This time around I learned much and was challenged with ways my life and focus has to change. From the first reading on "it's not about me" (I don't think that insight has fully sunk in yet), I was challenged about purposeful living working out in practical ways of service and obedience.

Sometimes I felt discouraged and doubted I would ever be a world class Christian such as Rick Warren describes or even someone who would share my faith with those who do not know Christ, but I realized that a journey takes time and growth takes time. I am not naturally a servant and I am naturally very self-absorbed so I think it will take some time to grow in these areas. I trust that God will work in me as I work out my faith.

At the same time I was taking an Alpha course and a couple weeks ago spent a wonderful weekend at a Catholic church learning about the Holy Spirit. Our Alpha group combined with another Alpha group and it was wonderful to experience the unity of brothers and sisters in Christ, learning from one another. I am very passionate about ecumenicalism and I love it when different church traditions and denominations can come together in unity, focusing on the essential matters that we have in common. I want to recognize my brothers and sisters in Christ from whatever denomination or tradition.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I'm an aunt!

I have been an aunt for more than twelve hours already. Owen Nicholas Langelaar was born a little after 8 am today. Mother Karen and baby Owen are both doing well. Clint sounded very happy on the message I got after I arrived home from work. Owen weighed 6 pounds and 5 ounces. That's all the detail I know. My Mom is now an Oma, since my Dad really wanted to be called Opa. My sisters have voluntarily taken on the title of Tante Rachel and Christina, but I think I'll just be known as Aunt Suzanne, although I doubt Owen will be able to pronounce my name correctly for quite some time. None of my younger siblings ever got it right. I was Zan and San, when they started talking. I am curious if Owen has reddish blond hair or not, like Karen did when she was born. I suppose I will see pictures posted on their blog within a few days. I will see Owen in person in January, when Karen and Clint are coming to Ontario for a visit.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Answer to Prayer

For those who haven't already heard, I wanted share briefly about a wonderful answer to prayer that I received on Wednesday. I start a new job tomorrow, an office position in Burlington. Very providentially, my new employer was willing to accomodate the class I am taking Tuesday and Thursday morning so I will be working the equivalent of four days a week over five week days. I view this as a blessing from God. I know a number of people were praying for me to find employment as I recently moved out on my own and definitely needed work soon. Now I need grace and confidence as I start the position, but I know I will be given what I need.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Psalm 139 (New International Version)
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.

19 If only you would slay the wicked, O God!
Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!

20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.

21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD,
and abhor those who rise up against you?

22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Last Sunday morning, exhausted after several nights of poor sleep, worried about my mental state, and stressed out by the move and all the other change in my life, I sat and read this psalm and each word had special significance. I wept, but I felt comforted and I knew this psalm that David had written centuries before was God's word for me for right now. I was given this psalm during a recent time of prayer ministry and it was also a text referred to by an article about confidence and faith vs. self-doubt and fear that spoke directly into my situation. I wasn't at church, but that article was like a sermon written for me. That God knows me intimately, yet loves me is an astounding thought. Sometimes I don't love myself, but God loves me enough to send his Son to die for me. He knows all my negative, anxious, and fearful thoughts, yet he gives me the gift of faith and the ability to make a conscious choice to believe him and his promises. He is there to guide me and his hand is upon me and he is directing my steps. He knows what I will say next and what I am thinking at every moment.

I am not an accident of biology and chance, I am a deliberate creation of a loving God who planned my life before I was ever conceived, who saw me in my mother's womb when she was jumping down sandhills, who, in fact, chose me before the creation of the world to be his child. I asked him if he planned the day I was admitted to the hospital when I could not speak and no longer saw reality, and the nurses seized me and gave me an injection against my will. But I knew that he had been there in the darkness and that he had brought me out of it and had shaped me by it. He wept too and he bore my pain and carried my sorrows and paid for my redemption and healing. To think the God of the universe, the creator of the cosmos, has thoughts of me and cares about the details of my life is hard to wrap my mind around, but it is a truth that I am realizing more and more.

David's interjection about his enemies seems out of place in the psalm and those words did not seem applicable or explicable on that Sunday morning, but his prayer, for God to search him and know his heart, and to test him and know his anxious thoughts, to see if there is any offensive way in him, and to lead him in the way everlasting, became my prayer too.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

On Beginnings and Endings

Today I celebrate another birthday. I'm at the age that you stop mentioning your exact age, and I think I could pass for younger than I am. At seventeen someone thought I was thirteen, and people often think my younger brother is older than me. It may be he just looks mature and is taller than me and married. This year will be a big year of change. I quit my unsatisfactory receptionist position a couple of weeks ago, so I am looking for employment. I am in the process of applying to take a course at McMaster University in New Testament Greek with a plan to go back to school in the fall semester of 2007. The class is during the day, so I will need a flexible job or afternoon shift general labour-type job. I'll be moving into my own apartment September 1st, so I finally will be launching out on my own. I have lived three years on campus at Redeemer, but I always came home in the summers and many times during the school year as well. In the midst of all this change and with my unsettled future, I feel remarkably at peace. I guess even though I don't have a job yet and I am moving out on my own, I feel that God is directing my steps and that he will take care of me even if I mistakenly go in the wrong direction. Having said that, I would appreciate your prayers during this time of job searching and launching out, because job searching and uncertainty definitely aren't my favourite things. And if you hear of any suitable job openings in the general Hamilton area I hope you will pass some information my way. I feel very positive about leaving my old job, and I expect that the Giver of all good gifts has something appropriate for me. And when I "consider the lilies" I am reminded not to worry about what I should eat or drink or wear (or about how I will earn my bread and save for the future), because my Heavenly Father knows that I need all these things. I am reminded to seek first his kingdom and all these things will be added unto me as well. My mother and father are also willing to help me if I need it and they are such a blessing with their encouragement, generousity, and support. I have been the longest at home of any of their children and perhaps the slowest to mature, so their patience has been remarkable. Now that I am moving out, they will only remember my good points fondly and forget all the rest.
I was going to post a birthday picture, but that will have to wait. I do plan on changing my picture soon, because I never really liked it. I better go see if everyone is ready to watch the movie I selected.

Friday, August 18, 2006

1. One book that changed your life: The Purpose Driven Life (The Bible has made the most significant impact on my life by far, but Rick Warren's book also changed me and gave me hope for my future. I am going to read it again this September.)
2. One book that you’ve read more than once: Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
3. One book you’d want on a desert island: The Bible in a Greek, Hebrew, and English edition (not the NIV since I know that version well.)
4. One book that made you laugh: The Indispensible Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Waterson
5. One book that made you cry: The Boys or Waiting for the Electrician's Daughter by John Terpstra
6. One book that you wish had been written: I've thought of a few books I wish had been written like a step by step guide to my bright future or a book showing the way to a healthy medication-free life, but I think I will go with a wish that Jane Austen had written an eighth novel.
7. One book that you wish had never been written: Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. In truth, I would have been content if they had stopped after the first book, but even better would have been that the first book was never even conceived of.
8. One book you’re currently reading: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, a book I've already read three times and now have three copies of, since I just purchased Selected Works of the Bronte Sisters.
9. One book you’ve been meaning to read: "To the Lighthouse" by Virginia Woolf
10. Now tag five people: I retag Rachel and Christina and tag Andrea Hensen. I won't tag anyone else.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Dreamer

I am sure he could have given up, angry at God,
embittered by life. Because after the dreams—dreams
of twelve sheaves of grain and twelve stars, sun and
moon with eleven of the sheaves and thirteen heavenly
orbs–everyone in his large, contentious family in
fact–all bowing before him, the upright sheave and
brightest star—not long after these rapturous visions
came the thirty pieces of silver paid to his jealous
brothers and the bending of his proud neck to slavery
in a foreign land. And after rising to the top of the
household of Potiphar, captain of the palace guard, and
after losing his cloak rather than his virtue to
Potiphar’s lascivious wife came tearful, strident,
and false accusations and incarceration in a dank
prison cell.

(This is when I would have given up, if not before,
holding tight to anger, but relinquishing all belief
in prophetic dreams. I would stare at the prison walls
with stinging tears tracking the dirt on my face, but
I wouldn't stir to high acts of service, let alone
impressive feats of prison organization.)

But the one his rough-edged shepherd brothers mockingly
called "the Dreamer" worked so diligently he was soon
put in charge of all the prisoners. He even interpreted
the prophetic dreams of Pharaoh’s disgraced cupbearer
and baker (you would think he would be sick of dreams),
and his interpretations came true—the painful public
death of the one and the restoration to service of
the other. But his plea to the soon-to-be restored
cupbearer for advocation for his own release from
an unjust imprisonment were forgotten along with the
bad memories of a disgraceful incarceration, eagerly
discarded like soiled prison garb tossed in trash
heap. More years passed in prison, long years of
chaffing bondage. Did any ember of hope remain?

Was he surprised when he was summoned to interpret
Pharaoh’s troubling dreams? Was he staggered when
he was used to save Egypt (and the seed of the
Promise) in a time of severe famine? How did it
feel when, as second highest ruler of the land,
he received the abject bows of the brothers who
had sold him into slavery? Did he then gasp at
the unlikely route of God’s unfolding plan—its
unveiled, once inscrutable purpose?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Moving Out

I am moving to my own apartment in September. It is a bachelor apartment in the basement of a house, quite tiny but adequate provided I minimize my possessions and keep it tidy. It has only a microwave and a hot-plate, but I will buy a high-end toaster oven. The fridge is small and so is the counter-top but there is a lot of cupboard space. The apartment is already furnished, but I will use some of it and bring in some of my own. I am stealing my sister's upper bunk from her room and taking my brother's old futon, so I will have room and a place to sit and an extra bed when needed. There is cable tv (but I don't have a tv yet) and high-speed internet (I just bought a lap-top). I think that these things are included in the very affordable rent. The apartment already looks very nice, but once I decorate it and move my stuff in it will seem more home-y. I am excited to move out on my own, but I will need to get out a lot and do things with friends and volunteer in the evenings or I will feel lonely and cramped. My parents are delighted I'm moving out, although they do suggest I visit fairly regularly. My sister Christina will be moving into my old room, which will be nice for her as her room now is very small. Pictures to follow- they are still on my Mom's camera and not on the computer.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Disjointed Musings of the Sleep-Deprived or Reflections on Insularity Vs. Ecumenicalism

I have a tendency to write blog entries in my head when I am trying to fall asleep. It is very annoying, like an endless song going through your head that you can't turn off and that keeps you awake much longer than your neighbour's outdoor oldies drifting over your backyard pool would. On Tuesday night I stayed up too late writing a card to a friend, winding me up enough to guarantee that after my prayers I would begin writing a blog entry. Why I cannot stop myself I don't know and since Wednesday night I was going to be seeing Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man's Chest, I knew I wouldn't be able to write a real blog entry for at least one more night, putting me at risk for another late-night session of blog revising and editing combined with movie impressions and images and snippets of repetitive movie music. Not a good combination for sleep. Now I have a chance to write the actual blog and I cannot begin it. In my mind, believe me, it was a masterpiece unparalleled in the postings of this blog....

...It all began with reflections on the wrongness of Christian groups, some of them cults, some of them insular conservative denominations, some of them less isolated but never-the-less prideful denominations, who decide they are where it is at, and those Christians outside their community are either not true Christians whose salvation is in doubt or less enlightened or less worthy or less right than their group, people with whom it wouldn't do to commune with at the Lord's table because their theology isn't right and besides they don't even concurr with the correct explanation of the Eucharist.These late-night musings were once again provoked in part by Michener's The Covenant (see my last post) in which we see an extreme example of this attitude. In this historical epic about South Africa, a Calvinist Africaner honestly believes that God did not make a covenant with the English as he did with the Dutch and each layer of society should remain separate like stacked layers of coloured jello (with the lemon Africaner layer on top ofcourse). In Michener's portrayal, speculation about the salvation of nations as a whole leaves many Africaners certain that while some individuals in certain nations may be saved, it is likely most of the Bantu and a good portion of the English nation are not as the English are not Calvinist and the Bantu are sons of Ham. I was just reading today an apartheid reading of the New Testament and the way they were using certain passages was wrong and disturbing, yet laughable and oddly fascinating at the same time. How the Pentecost account of different peoples hearing Christ's followers speak the gospel message each in their own tongues could morph into a racial theory that each people should remain distinct and separate in each language and culture is strangely disturbing and completely unexpected, and that is only the beginning.
I think any Christian group that starts to speculate, even if not openly, on how many of another Christian group are likely to be saved, is in serious trouble. To think your group has an unique handle on God's truth is arrogant and, while it may be true that you have a more correct view on a certain doctrine, it does not follow that you are a more shining example of what it means to be Christ-like. The things that are held in common with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are much more important than the differences that divide. In my view, no one knows an individual's heart, but anyone who holds to the Apostle's Creed and is attempting to follow Christ in their life should be considered a Christian. Maybe they are not and certain things can clearly disqualify them from an inheritance in the kingdom of God, but it is possible to have all the correct theological and doctrinal views and still miss out on following Christ. When the correct Christian worldview becomes more important than a life of discipleship, there is something seriously out of balance. Yes ideas are important and correct Biblical interpretation is important and a well considered worldview is important, but more important is living out what you believe and becoming more and more like Christ. (I am often guilty myself of being rich in ideas and theories, but impoverished in my practice of my faith and my discipleship.) And yes the three forms of unity contain much carefully reasoned theology, but any Spirit-filled believer who reads the Bible will recognize the difference between systematic doctrine, carefully demarcated from other Christian traditions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the God-breathed inspired Word of God. So let's not make the lack of the three forms of unity a cause for division and separation. Or beliefs about adult and infant baptism for that matter. Or the use of icons in Orthodox churches. It's okay to cherish your denomination's particular traditions and understandings, but don't fail to recognize how God is working in another denomination or church tradition just because you don't agree with a particular belief or practice.
I think often God works within our frameworks of belief. So an Eastern Orthodox believer might be drawn close to God, gain an immediate sense of his presence and love as she prays with her heart and her whole self by the discipline of "The Jesus Prayer" while a charismatic believer might be able to pray to God with her spirit, enhance her relationship to Christ and service and witness to him, and enter a new dimension of praise by the use of tongues. God is working in each case to accomplish a similar result, the enhancement of prayer from prayer merely of the mind to prayer of the whole self, but the Eastern Orthodox believer would likely be hesitant about using tongues and disagree with the charismatic's teaching about them and the charismatic believer would likely lack the discipline to master the Jesus prayer so it becomes a prayer of the heart and the prayer of Christ in her. I have noticed that God works in ways we are open to and that we have faith for. He works with our limitations and around our hang-ups. Our understandings also shape our awareness of how he is working.
Some may think I am too inclusive and lack discernment ("don't you think the Reformation was necessary?" they might well ask or "aren't prayers to Mary and the saints just plain wrong?"), but others would consider me much too narrow. I believe Christ's words that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one comes to the Father except by him. I do not consider liberal so-called Christians who do not believe in Jesus' physical resurrection genuine Christians, and I do not think other religions are equally valid ways to God, though I can see some truths in other religions. I don't know how it all works out, but it strikes me that who Christ is is the central question that everyone must decide. These claims for Christ may seem incredibly arrogant and offensive, especially in the postmodern world, but I believe they are true.
In the coming kingdom of Christ there will be people from every language, tribe, and people. So we can expect an amazing variety, yet wonderful unity. And there will not be segregration or division at the marriage supper of the Lamb. I'm looking forward to that day, but I think we can already get a foretaste of it here, the oneness Jesus prayed we would have before he went to the cross. God has a task for all of us, of all Christian traditions and personalities, and our very differences can actually enhance the body of Christ and help us to reach more people as we work together to advance the Kingdom.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Covenant

I am five hundred pages into The Covenant, James Michener's historical epic novel about South Africa. Strangely enough his book has got me thinking a lot about biblical hermeneutics. Maybe it's not so very strange because in Michener's portrayal, among the Dutch settlers in what would become South Africa there is the almost universal belief that they are the new Israel in the new promised land. The Dutch loved the Old Testament and believed that like Israel was given the land of Canaan to be her possession, so were the Dutch given land in the African continent. The Dutch consulted the Old Testament earnestly to decipher how they must behave in this new land. On one occasion in the novel they are perplexed whether to baptize a child born of a Malayan slave mother and Dutch father and the cleric at first flatly refuses, but upon finding the passage that Abraham circumcised all in his household including slaves, they see what must be done and further see that the baptism must be performed the selfsame-day since Abraham circumcised his household the same day he was commanded. On another occasion, a devout Dutch woman argues that the old Hottentot servant who has always been around the kitchen while her mother-in-law is cooking meals, must no longer be in the house because he is one of the children of Ham, who are cursed by God, and no Canaanite should be in the house of the Lord. Intermarriage and intermingling of the races, though it is done especially in the early days when white women are scarce, is viewed as sinful like the Israelite intermarriage with the pagan peoples which was explicitly forbidden by God. The enemies of the Dutch, the cattle-stealing Bushmen and the Xhosa, the black tribe who are moving west as the Dutch are moving east and so competing for the same land, are like the enemies of Israel and it is argued at one point by a character in the novel that just as in biblical times five of God's people will put a hundred enemies to flight. With the superior weapons of the Dutch, this estimate turns out to be sadly true in their skirmishes and battles.

With an almost exclusive focus on the Old Testament, the Dutch pursue parallels between the nation of Israel in the promised land and the Dutch in Africa and Jesus' words in the Great Commission are heeded less than God's commands to Israel to be a separate holy people. I suppose their firm belief in the doctrine of predestination, the same belief that lead some of them to be certain that they personally were of the elect and most of them being sure that most of the Dutch nation were of the elect, rendered evangelism rather superfluous. Some may have assumed very few of the African tribes were of the elect, working on the demented theory of the children of Ham, and if people are predestined to be elect or reprobate, then they will be saved or damned somehow without the necessity of strenuous effort on anyone's part. At least, if you are a firm believer in predestination, you can never preach to any individual that Jesus died for them, because you don't know if they are elect or reprobate. In Michener's novel, although the strengths of the Dutch people are evident and as a whole they seem to be courageous and God-fearing salt-of-the-earth type people, many times I felt ashamed of my ancestry as I read of their dealings with the Bushmen or Xhosa or when I read of their questionable biblical interpretation. These stubborn Calvinists are of the same stock that I was descended from. While the Dutch seem to ignore the Great Commission, Hilary Saltwood, an English missionary, desires to fulfill it, working with the slaves and servants of the Dutch and the Xhosa. In his training at the London Missionary Society, the New Testament was emphasized with very little mention of the Old Testament. The Dutch settlers point him to Joshua and Deuteronomy, solemnly reading him passages out of their big family Bibles, and he studies more of the Old Testament, but remains steadily New Testament in his theology and ethics.

I think if you had to pick either the Old or New Testament to focus on exclusively, the New Testament is a better choice. However it is best to take the whole of the Bible. Without the Old Testament Scripture loses much of its richness. To see how Christ is the fulfillment of the law and how everything the Old Testament points to Christ, as the resurrected Lord showed to two men on the road to Emmanous, is an extraordinary thing. To track the progression of revelation, to read of creation and the Fall and God's promises, to read the stories God's dealings with the patriarchs, of God's deliverance in the Exodus, to hear the honest prayers of God's people in the psalms, to read the calls to repentance and words of hope in the prophets--these all are things I would not want to miss. The stories of Israel's sin and failure to follow the stipulations of their covenant with God, the cycle of sin during the times of the judges and the many evil kings in Israel's history, show clearly why a Saviour was needed, God's Son, the Word made flesh who would be the Passover lamb. God's faithfulness to his covenant is shown against a background of Israel's faithlessness and the need for a new better covenant is made obvious.

I guess those who focus solely on the New Testament still have a general knowledge of the stories of the Old Testament, but I still think they miss out on a lot. However to ignore the New Testament is to miss out on a lot more. If I lived in that time, I don't know if I would have done better than the Dutch in South Africa. Would I have gone against the flow of the general consensus? I don't know, but I suspect not. Now it seems so obviously wrong to view your people as the new Israel, when that time in salvation history is past and the Saviour has come, the descendent of Abraham and Jacob and David. Ofcourse it is true that the church is the new Israel, but its inheritance is not a physical piece of land. The real enemy is no longer flesh and blood and the word of God must be preached to all nations in fulfillment of the Great Commission. In the end, I suspect the Dutch record in South Africa was as flawed as that of Israel in the land of Canaan, though for different reasons. Nevertheless, like in the biblical story, redemption and reconciliation always is possible, or, at least, is possible until the return of the Redeemer.

Friday, June 23, 2006

And ten years later...

Today I passed my G2 exit test on my first try! Yes, I am twenty-five years old and I just got my full license. It has been almost a decade since I got my beginners driving permit. I went through a couple of quite lengthy periods when I wasn't driving at all, and I waited until my time was almost up to take my G1 exit test. That was about five years ago. My parents were in Korea and my brother drove me to my test, but we couldn't find the examination center and almost didn't make it on time. He couldn't understand how I could go in the wrong door, then get in the wrong line, then not remember the licence number or even the correct colour of the car. I got emotional and was crying before my test and told my driver examinator that my parents were away and my brother was being mean and that I would lose my license if I didn't pass the test. I passed, but I think the crying helped because my brother said I didn't come to a complete stop at the first stop sign and the driver examinator never marked that down. I had paid to renew my license and was given another five years to do my G2 exit test, and I always knew I should do it, but I didn't schedule it until about three months ago. This time was a lot less emotional and I drove myself there in my own car. I don't know why I waited so long to do it. It really wasn't that difficult. But I have become a more confident driver since I have been driving to work every day on the highway. I made a couple of mistakes, but I didn't even have to parallel park or do a three point turn. That is what I have been practicing this week. I got so I could do the parallel park most of the time, but not all of the time. Three-point turns I have no trouble with. Last night a neighbour decided to give me a few pointers for my parallel park, having seen some of my attempts this week, and he made me practice a couple of times with him giving directions. The first time worked okay, although he had me awful close to the one car, but the second time he was saying left when he meant right and it was a spectacular failure. Then I could finally go in the house after I tried it on my own (successfully) another time. When I took my test there was no one behind me on the highway, so merging and changing lanes was very easy. I don't think it was just chance.

Monday, June 19, 2006

On Being a Blonde (Naturally)

Sometimes I can't decide if I act more ditzy because I am subconsciously living up to the stereotype of the dumb blonde, or if my light-coloured tresses just gives me a good excuse for anything stupid I do that I would do anyways whatever my hair colour. I am an intelligent person, but sometimes ditziness will overtake me when I am standing in the check-out line at the mall or ordering Chinese take-out at a restaurant and I will do or say something embarrassing. I used to hate dumb blonde jokes in grade school, although secretly I thought some of them rather funny. It annoyed me that a boy in my class who was blonder than I was was always telling them. Why should blondes be any less intelligent than anyone else and if blonde hair makes you stupider why would only blonde girls be affected?
When I was born my parents discarded the name Jennifer, which means fair-haired because my hair was actually rather dark. So they called me Suzanne (Lily), an allusion to their wedding text. But my hair soon grew in lighter and for most of my childhood I had light white blonde hair. Even into my teens my hair was still very light, but it began to grow in darker. I liked my hair in the summer when it was bleached by the sun, but in the winter my hair was quite a bit darker. I began to say that I wasn't blonde anymore, I was really a brunette. I talked about dyeing my hair blonde, which only convinced my family that I must be a blonde, since my hair still was quite light. I have never dyed or highlighted my hair or even permed it, though I did crimp it in the eighties and early nineties.
Having blonde hair is nothing special in Dutch circles. More than half of the children in my grade school had blonde hair and even at Redeemer where I went to school there were tonnes of blondes so I blended right in. So I was shocked when a couple of weeks ago during an ice-breaker treasure hunt at a woman's breakfast the team that had to find someone with natural blonde hair got stuck on that part and ran out of time before they located one. At my table there were at least two with natural blonde hair (both of Dutch descent), but I didn't realize that so many blondes are made that way by hair dye. I guess though that highlighted blondes may not have been considered natural either. Recently I heard a shocking statistic that 80% of women dye or highlight their hair. The breakfast I was at wasn't a Christian Reformed, or any kind of Reformed function, or they wouldn't have had any trouble locating a natural blonde.
Sometimes I envy my sister Rachel her glossy dark hair. My hair does not have much gloss or shine and it is extremely thick. It also is prone to turning green in the swimming pool so now I never get it wet in our pool. During my sister's wedding part of my hair was green. I can't even use coloured shampoos on it, at least according to the hairdresser who cut off my green hair and said "good riddance". She said since my hair had so little pigment it was weaker and more easily damaged and can take on other colours easily.
When I was little my Mom kept my hair short, because she didn't want to have to fuss over it. Once I was mistaken for a boy with my pixie cut. For much of my life it has been cut just below my chin. My worst hair-style was in the eighties when I had something very close to a mullet. That's a picture I will not post, for obvious reasons. My Mom still thinks my hair looks best short, but I like it longer because then the overall effect is blonder. The roots are quite dark, but the sun lightens my hair over time. Probably eventually I will have dirty blonde hair, unless I resort to hair dye or highlights.
I guess in the end I am rather attached to my hair colour, dumb blonde stereotypes notwithstanding. I wouldn't look right as a brunette, my skin is so pale. And green hair really doesn't work for me either. So I will continue as a blonde as long as I can, and I will tell myself I am a bright person whose hair colour has no effect on her level of intelligence. I mean everybody does stupid things, right?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

An Abundant Life

"Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people---free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out for us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone."
Ephesians 1:7-12 The Message

A couple of days ago this passage really struck me. Sometimes when I am reading the epistles and I know what the next line will be, it doesn't really sink in. But this year I've been reading familiar passages in the Message and it often strikes me in a new way. I don't think it is just that I am hearing new words in an unfamiliar paraphrase ofcourse. No matter what translation you are reading, God can speak to you in a new way even if you have heard the passage many times before. I guess that is the richness of God's Word and the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit. I've been thinking about my life alot lately, and I wonder if it is passing me by while I follow a dull routine and go through the motions of living. I fritter away time, and somehow I don't make time for what's really important. My job, which really is a rich field for blogging material that I can't exploit for rather obvious reasons, is far from fulfilling. We'll leave it at that. I live at home, but I know I should be moving out soon and spreading my wings. Yet I fear doing so. I don't have a plan about what I should do with my life. I am trying to form one but it is still in the gestation stage and may miscarry.
For a long time I didn't dream, I didn't allow myself to think beyond graduating from university. I hoped I would meet some-one, imagining that then my life would come together. I wanted marriage and a family. A career would be nice too, but I didn't allow myself to imagine what it would be. Looking back, I don't think at twenty-one or even at twenty-three, the ages that my two married siblings were married, I was ready for a serious relationship leading to matrimony. I had enough things to work through. Another thing that I did think about and dream about was getting off my medication that I've been on since I was seventeen and going through a severe depression and lengthy hospitalization. I am always ready to listen to any one who has anti-medication arguments, because, even though it helped me come out from a catatonic state, I hate taking it and always have. I had the idea that my life medication free, like my life with a boyfriend or husband, or my life with me twenty to thirty pounds lighter, would be so much improved somehow.
It's only been in the last year or so that I've been starting to believe in God's purposes for my life, that it will be worth-while and meaningful. Of course I still have the tendency to throw pity-parties, at least on a monthly basis if not more often. And there is a big gap between what I know and what I actually do in my life. I am quick to understand the theories and concepts but slow to put them into practice. Sometimes I would rather not live and try and face the future. Instead of enjoying the little things and living in the present and thanking God for the blessings, or even, as my Mom suggested today, thanking God for the messes and problems, I focus on complaining about what I don't have and stewing about the negatives which you never have to look very far to find. Instead of focusing on being happy for friends and relatives who have joys and successes, I feel a sense of envy. "Why can't I be getting married by now?" or "why can't I find a fulfilling job and career?" My focus is too often on what I think God should do for me and not on how I should serve and love. Many people have to go through hard times and hard things---I mean the examples are every-where in the Scriptures and in life, but it is how you respond and how you trust God and how you rejoice and are thankful even in difficulty that matters. God doesn't promise a difficulty-free life, but he does promise a rich and glorious life, an abundant life. That's what this passage says to me. That God has given me every-thing I need for a life well lived. That in Christ I am set free from worries and fears and sins, that I don't have to live in them, and though I will have problems and difficulties and struggles, I don't have to despair or give up and I can be victorious in them and joyful in the midst of them. That long before I was born, God planned for me a glorious life. When I think of what Christ went through to free and deliver me, to redeem me--how can I live in a self-imposed gloomy dungeon imagining I am a prisoner? This passage says I have everything I need. Can I tell God that it is not enough? That somehow it doesn't work for me because I am a special problem that Christ's blood just can't quite cover? Of course not! And I can be a part of something big that God is working in the world, his purposes and his redemption of his good creation. I especially love how the Message puts it that in Christ God set before us "a long range plan in which everything would be brought together and and summed up in him (Christ), everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth." I know I don't understand the full significance, but it is so much bigger than me and my petty concerns and preoccupations.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

I am a founding member of a small group of writers called The Clay Pot Society. The group is so small it consists only of myself and a friend at present. Our second meeting was last night and we met at a small restaurant in Westdale did some writing exercises and later shared some of our new material. This is the poem I wrote for the occasion.

We Know, And Yet...

So we know how it should work
The branch drawing nourishment from the vine
Sucking sustenance (need I be scientific?)
Water and nutrients capillarizing
The branch staying fresh and green
Budding with promise
And then bearing fruit
Fruit that ripens on the vine
Turning from small sour green to large luscious purple
We know all this, and what’s more we
know about complete joy, kept commands,
chosen friends, and sacrificial love
Yes we know about pruned branches and lasting fruit,
answered requests and proven discipleship
So why do I feel more like
the dry withered branch
tossed aside
and destined for the bonfire?

I suspect capillarizing is really not a word, and I admit my knowledge of viticulture is deficient, whatever else I may know, but we in The Clay Poet Society are not harsh critics and are accepting of all literary efforts.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Update on "The Pearl"

I entered the "God Uses Ink Novice Contest" a few weeks ago. I found out yesterday that I won third prize for my age group. I tied for third with some-one else and the prize is a $50 gift certicate to the Word Guild. Unfortunately, it is hard to spend this money unless you go to the writers' conference in June which would cost you another $350. I am not sure what else you could get with it from them, but my Mom is going to the conference so maybe she could try to spend it there. Or, as she just suggested, she could try to apply it to her own registration and then give me the $50. The first prize was free admission to the Writers' Conference and second prize was a $100 certificate. My reward from my Mom for even entering the contest is that she is going to take me out to a restaurant of my choice. I am somewhat excited about winning third, but slightly disappointed I didn't win first prize so I could go to the writers' conference for free. It would have been fun, but I didn't really expect I would win first. I will get an email soon with the judge's comments.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

An Adventure

Yesterday I went for a walk with my friend Mary-Ann. I wanted to go to the brow, but she wanted to go to Bayfront near the Hamilton Art Gallery where there is a Williams Coffee Pub and washrooms to use. Correction- there used to be a Williams Coffee Pub and there is now an empty building that they are doing major renovations/reconstruction work to. And we didn't exactly go for a walk it was more like a stroll and a stand-still-and-watch-the-ship-unload because-ships-are-so-fascinating. Actually I don't know if ship is the most precise term to use, since it is almost the maximum size that can make it here in the Great Lakes up the Saint Lawrence seaway. Maybe a freighter? After watching the ship unload we drove a little ways away near the Haida where we stood watching another ship back up and contemplated squeezing through the hole in the closed gate in the high steel fence with its forbidding barbed wire at the top. Earlier Mary-Ann had explained that even though the signs on another gate leading into restricted industrial-type shipping area said Authorized Entry only, ID cards necessary etc. it meant nothing without the words trespassers will be prosecuted. Then we saw those words on another sign and so now we stood at the gate near the Haida that Mary-Ann said was sometimes open. We saw a man walk by and enter the restricted industrial-type area. An elderly couple in a car stared us a long time before driving away. We were thinking of squeezing through the gate when we were approached by a youngish man, from a distance strangely reminiscent of my former friend who would be boyfriend, Jim. I was commenting to Mary-Ann that he reminded me of some-one I used to know, when he called out, "Are you waiting for the tug-boat guys?" Mary-Ann hastily explained that we were just standing here watching the ships, thinking we might get in trouble if he suspected we were trying to squeeze through the gate. A conversation followed and we learned he was a pilot/sailor who was piloting the first ship we had been watching that was leaving at 11:30 pm. His name was Jim some-body and he said no one cared if you went in the restricted area, but you had to be careful not to get in the way of the fork-lifts.
He offered to walk with us into the restricted ship-yard and asked us what we did for a living. He thought we might be reporters. Mary-Ann gets that a lot. I laughed and told him that Mary-Ann should be a reporter, and Mary-Ann said we are just nosy and curious. We soon found ourselves standing right by the ship. The ship was from Hong-Kong and had stopped in Korea and it's crew was Indian. Jim asked us if we wanted him to ask if he could give us a tour. I said, "Sure, but only if it wouldn't put anybody out." Mary-Ann looked at me and told me quietly it wasn't a good idea, "Do you know what the third most prevalent international crime is?" I didn't know it was kidnapping for the sex trade, but I didn't feel that worried. "I don't want to get locked in a cabin somewhere," she said under her breath, "We talked about it in my classes at the end of university." I told her, "Okay we won't do it." But Mary-Ann found it impossible to refuse politely and wasn't coming up with any excuses. I just stood there smiling, no help at all. Jim was busy getting permission, while Mary-Ann kept on repeating that we could just watch from our current position. "I sorry but we don't know you," she said as she stood at the entrance to the ship after climbing up the gang-way. We walked onto the ship and a man paged the captain for us, while we signed in and got badges. Mary-Ann didn't complete her signing in before she decided she was done, and was told repeatedly "sign, sign." The tour was short, Jim called it the nickle tour, and he took us on to the bridge of the ship (I am very weak on ship terms but I mean the part of the ship with the controls where the pilot steers the ship.) On the way, which took us through numerous stairways and corridors and doorways, we saw some eating quarters and living quarters. Every thing was extremely clean, cleaner than my house at home, and nothing was rickety. Mary-Ann says she was praying the whole time that she wouldn't be kidnapped and at one point when Jim said, "After you," as we stood by a door Jim had just opened, Mary-Ann worried he was going to turn around and lock the door after we went in. She didn't want to be the first in. I wasn't concerned at all and I wasn't praying or aware how worried Mary-Ann was. We met the pilot, who we had actually seen earlier walk in, while we had been standing by the Haida, and he remembered seeing us earlier. He said if we waited a few minutes he could get us a drink. I would have agreed, as in some cultures it is rude to decline anything, but Mary-Ann said quickly that we really must be going because we had somewhere to be. We both thanked the captain and looked around awhile longer at all the instruments. We quickly navigated back down through the ship and soon were back in the place where we had signed in. We surrendered our badges and thanked every one profusely. Jim led us back through the ship yard to the gate. He said "You thought you were going to be sold into white slavery didn't you?" Mary-Ann said, "Actually yes."
We stood near the parking lot and had a discussion about his line of work and the dark side of globalization. His whole family is or has been involved with shipping and he worked around the world on ocean-liners for a few years. One Christmas Eve he was on a ship I forget where and there was a fire that took eight hours to put out and he decided enough was enough and he didn't want to die on a ship some day. Since then he has worked in the US and Canada piloting ships through the habours and locks. There always must be a Canadian or American pilot when navigating the harbours in the US or Canada. He said some ships have deplorable conditions like no drinkable tap water and rats and he has seen sailors from third-world countries who haven't been paid in two years or in four-months, but are trapped and can't leave because they don't have their passports which are held by some-one else in the ship. The companies sometimes have no intention of paying them and their wages are low in any case. He is able to draw attention to these cases when they come into the harbours. Often the ships are built cheaply in China and some don't hold up very well. They might be run by a company based in Montreal and have an Indian crew and the owner may be who knows where, but usually the profits from this lucrative business are not taxed and are somewhere off-shore. The ships are expensive to repair however. Usually the ships will be running on minimal fuel when going through the harbours and locks so that more cargo can be packed in. The ship we toured had mostly steel, but Jim has seen unique cargo like a ship only carrying bottles of Scotch or wine. He has a couple complimentary bottles of Scotch sitting in his windowsill at home. He said the Hamilton Harbour is going like gang-busters with a lot of steel being shipped in.
A man from the Port Authority drove up and Jim had a conversation with him while still maintaining eye contact with us. Eventually Mary-Ann and I thanked Jim again and drove off. We enthused about our adventure and Mary-Ann said she had to tell her sister about it who would be so jealous. We went to her apartment and I told her room-mate about it, while Mary-Ann phoned her Mom to find out where her sister was. Her Mom told her off for being so foolish. I am not sure if she reached her sister. Mary-Ann phoned her boyfriend and left a breath-less message and then we went out to Second Cup. When I got home my Dad agreed with Mary-Ann's Mom's assessment, "Mary-Ann must be a little more street smart." My Mom felt more like I had and thought it was a pretty amazing adventure. That's what happens when you go for a walk with Mary-Ann. She threatens to tell the story at my wedding, if I ever have one since I am not even dating, and she would explain how I almost "got her killed or sold into prostitution." Good times.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

To My Sister On Her Birthday

Sister, I know you as
a bubbling brook sparkling
with the sun reaching its golden fingers
to its depths as if to pluck
its glinting stones, small smooth brightly coloured
gifts to the world
that make your song so beautiful

I remember you laughing, your dark head
bent, your exotic eyes sparkling
I remember your gap-toothed smile, so ready
and so charming
Your name means “pretty” and you always were
I remember your cute little ringlets as a toddler
And how you communicated by gestures and sounds
rather than words
Later you made up for it and could keep up a steady stream of chatter
I remember your ever-present hair-bands
when you were growing your bangs out
They were bright, fat, and cloth-coloured
and held back your bubbled hair
slightly bleached by the sun
I remember how you would seize upon an idea and not let go
You understood the parable of the persistent widow
better than any one I know
I remember how you found friends everywhere
And cared deeply about them all
I remember when we were room-mates sharing a bunk bed
You were a collector, but organized
I lazed in bed in the mornings but you always
leapt out of bed to greet the day
I remember when we were devotional partners
praying and laughing together, excited by our spiritual potential

Does the stream flow on and the dance
of light continue? Does your song go on?
I hope the spring thaw will swell your banks
For to you I may be a sister of blood only
But you will always be a sister of my heart

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Yes, it's true I have an addiction (other than my obvious addiction to chocolate)

I have a confession to make. While from my postings you might surmise I am a deep person with profound thoughts on religious subjects, in fact I am an entertainment news addict. While I have never actually bought a celebrity news tabloid, when I am listening to the radio I am more likely to tune into and actually retain the lastest celebrity gossip about Madonna than I am to pay attention to and understand the significance of Stephen Harper's latest political appointment. When I open the Hamilton Spectator I feel an irresistible pull to the tabloid-like page of celebrity news and gossip. A few weeks go I made a deal with my sister Rachel that we would no longer read this page upon penalty of two hard slaps, one on each cheek (of our face). I have been slapped about three times, but that only constitutes a fraction of my actual offenses. I still read it almost every day, only surreptitiously. I know it is a waste of time and I shouldn't really care about what Paris Hilton said about Nicole Richie's alleged eating disorder, but I just can't break the habit. I could be reading about something that actually matters like world events or politics and learning something of value. Instead I contemplate the latest celebrity romances, marriages, births, and divorces. Will Jude Law and Sienna Miller get together again for the fourth time? Is Lindsay Lohan dating Leonardo Dicaprio? Will Eminem's marriage end for the second time?
I first realized the seriousness of my problem when I felt inordinately worried and upset about Katie Holmes' relationship to Tom Cruise. I mean here was a Catholic girl, who had professed her intent to remain a virgin until marriage, who gets involved with a much older actor and is introduced to Scientology and eventually becomes pregnant. Scientology is a very strange, twisted religion that does something called auditing to cleanse you of your past painful memories, and takes in alot of money doing it. I followed each painful stage of their relationship from the couch jumping antics of Tom Cruise to their engagement to the announcement of Katie's Holmes pregnancy to the birth of Suri, their daughter who supposedly had a silent birth as per Scientology teaching. Why was I so fascinated by the story? I don't know, but I felt the same sick fascination with any story about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Should I care that Brad Pitt made the top 100 unsexiest list due to rumoured poor hygiene? No, but I do, otherwise why would I retain this trivial, useless information?
Clearly drastic action is required to break me of this disgusting habit. Is an intervention called for? Perhaps a deliverance session? I am hoping a public admission of my problem will encourage accountability and force change. I wonder if there is an entertainment addicts anoynomous I could join?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Poem that didn't make it by snail mail

This is a poem that I wrote for a writing contest with the theme finding the courage to answer God's call. I mailed it in on Sunday night, but unfortunately I did not put enough postage on it so it never arrived at its intended destination. I expect it will arrive back at my house soon. I am rather disappointed in myself as the deadline for the entries was this past Thursday.

The Pearl

Words echo through a cavernous
void, “Receive the healing of God
Be healed in heart
Be healed in your emotions
Be healed in your mind AND

My dream, I have a dream?
My dream, if I have one, lies
cold and hard like a stone
at the bottom of a deep, dark well
My dream sits in a dusty attic
buried among things long abandoned
in some crumbling cardboard box
I can’t- won’t search for it
won’t gaze upon it
or examine its contours

For it is a treasure I most fear to find
Unearthing it might demand of me
my carefully hoarded treasures to be sold
in order to claim it. It would require throwing away
these images of stone and carven wood
Upon discovery I would not buy
the field in which I found it, I would bury it deeper
let the dark earth cover it

I stop up my ears because I don’t
want to hear God call me by name
Because finding my dream, hearing God’s voice,
would require finding the courage to
take a step towards the dream’s fulfillment
And then another and another
on the long, perilous journey

I need the courage to surrender myself
to unstop my ears LISTEN
open my heart OBEY
unclench my hands FORGIVE
For if I would turn he would heal me
I must open my coal-seared
lips and speak into the void,
“Here I am.
Send me.”

Saturday, April 08, 2006

How many books do you own?
I own 189 (yes I counted them). I used to have more, but I got rid of some. Some are duplicates and some are comic books (19). Many of them are novels from my English classes. I have seven Bibles.

What book is your latest purchase?
My most recent purchase of a book is Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. I started reading a copy from my highschool's library years ago, but I didn't finish it because I was too offended by the implied lesbianism, which though not as overt as in "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker (another book I started in highschool but didn't finish until university), is much more overt than it is in the movie. I got a gift card from my friend for Christmas and this was my selection. I had just read "A Redbird Christmas" by the same author, a light-hearted book I enjoyed immensely.

What book have you most recently read?
I reread "The Orthodox Way" by Bishop Kallistos Ware and finished it yesterday on my lunch break. It is a general account of the doctrine, worship and life of Orthodox Christians and, even the second time around, it was very thought-provoking and challenging.

Name five great books with impact on you.
1)War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
2)Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
3)Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
4)The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
5)Who do you say that I am? Christians Encounter Other Religions by Calvin E. Shenk

Who do you challenge to answer these same questions?

Well, since most people I know who read my blog and are bloggers themselves are already tagged, I tag Andrea Hensen and that's it.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Reflections on Baptism

This reflection was originally posted last week, but I deleted the posting after realizing that my blog is almost entirely reflections on my faith. I do want to write about other things, but ideas aren't forthcoming. Can I have blogger's block at this early stage in my blog development? Anyways my sister emailed me and mentioned she appreciated this posting, not that she had noticed its absence, so here it is again resurrected from my Word Perfect files. Hopefully my next posting will take this blog into new, exciting territory.

A few weeks ago I witnessed a baptism, actually--more than twenty baptisms, including that of my close friend, at a charismatic church not far from my house. Most of the people being baptized were young teenagers or young adults and some cracked a few jokes at their own expense or the expense of their church culture's. There were many people doing the baptizing and most of them were not pastors, but cell group leaders and mentors of the young people. The baptism was by immersion and every one gave their testimony before they were baptized in the name of "the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit-in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." My friend had already been baptized--at least once. I am not sure if she was baptized as infant, but she was baptized as a young teenager. When she told me she was going to be baptized again, I told her of my conviction that one baptism is enough. She told me that when she was baptized as a young teenager her reason was that she feared the baptism experience and wanted to get it over with. So when our mutual friend who went to the same church as her told her she was going to be baptized, my friend decided to be baptized as well. She said she didn't really know Christ then as her personal Saviour. She always told herself, whenever she felt the prompting to be baptized as a believer, that maybe she had gotten things a little backward, but she was baptized after all. But recently she had felt led to humble herself and take a step of faith and trust by being baptized even though she had been an active, faithful member of her church for several years.

I grew up in the CRC and was baptized as an infant. When my family left the CRC in my late teens we went to a charismatic Word-Faith church. My parents and three of my siblings were baptized again as believers in various swimming pools. I remember one occasion when a number of people from our church, including my younger sister, were being baptized in our swimming pool. The pastor pressured me to be baptized as well. I told him firmly that I had already been baptized. To me the point in baptism was what God was doing, so whether I was an unknowing infant being sealed with covenant promises or whether I was a believer who was determined to follow Christ, it didn't matter. Infant baptism was legitimate and could be followed up with a public profession of faith when the age of maturity was reached. To me it seemed just another way to arrive at the same place. In university I heard of one lady who was baptized six or seven times, whenever she came back to the faith following a period when she had backslid into a life of sin. For my church history course, I did a twelve page paper on the Church Fathers' view of baptism and the Eucharist and it confirmed me in my view that baptism should not be repeated. I also learned about the rich symbolism involved in the sacrament as one is buried with Christ when immersed in water and then raised to newness of life when brought back up. You died to sin and then were made a new creature in Christ. The point was what God was doing in forgiving your sins, adopting you as his child and heir, and sealing your eternal life, whether you was sprinkled or submerged in water and whether you were an infant or adult. I did admit it would be nice to remember your baptism as a turning point in your life, but it was also good to know you had been baptized as an infant and God had placed his seal of ownership on you and made you covenant promises you could later accept and affirm. It showed his grace in your life before you even could accept it. You were a covenant child, a child of God even though you were to young to understand the meaning of it.

But as I listened to my friend give her testimony and watched her get baptized, I felt proud of her and certain that she was taking a step in obedience and submission to God. Yes, she had already been baptized, at least once. But being dogmatic about these points might be to hinder how God is working in some-one's life. I realized I felt envious too, as I think it would be such a rich, meaningful experience to be baptized as a believer and to be so identified with Christ's death and resurrection that you die to sin and are raised to new life. It would be a sign-post, a turning point, a life-altering event. Yes a public profession of faith can function in much the same way, but it is not as symbolically powerful. And being baptized after deliberately deciding to follow Christ means what God is doing in the sacrament can be immediately applied to your life of faith in a powerful way, rather than, as in infant baptism, be potential covenantal promises to be appreciated later at the age of understanding and later accepted or denied. I still believe my baptism as an infant is valid and does not need to be repeated, but if I ever had the opportunity to be baptized as a believer I would not hesitate. Because I am a member of the CRC, such an opportunity in any official sense is not likely to occur. My Mom pointed out I could be baptized in my own pool if I wanted. I'm not sure if I would do that. Would I have my own children baptized as infants? If I was a member in the CRC, I probably would do so and I would appreciate the promises of God and the seal of the covenant, but deep in my heart I would wish my child to be baptized as a believer when he or she makes a concious choice for Christ. Either way God's grace will be at work in the lives of my children and he is able to redeem them by his love. He is bigger than any doctrine or dogma and he is at work in my life,in the life of my courageous friend, and in the lives of all his children.

Friday, March 24, 2006

My Testimony

Although I gave this testimony nearly four months ago at the first Sunday of Advent evening service at Immanuel Christian Reformed Church, I thought I would post it as a statement of faith and a very necessary reminder that my future is in God's hands. Remembering what he has already done in my life helps drive self-pity, fear, and hopelessness away.

Testimony of Suzanne den Boer November 27, 2005

“Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:1-5

That phrase “redeems your life from the pit” has a special significance to me. I know what it is like to be in a deep, dark pit and believe yourself utterly separated from God. But thankfully I also know about God’s forgiveness, healing, redemption, and love.

On May 31st, 1998 I stood before this congregation and made my public profession of faith. On that occasion I gave my testimony of how God had been with me through an extremely difficult time in my life when I was hospitalized with a severe depression. While at one point I literally believed myself in hell and was completely catatonic, there in the hospital God showed me his love in a real way. In my hospital bed I sang “Jesus loves me” and really knew in my heart that he did. During that testimony at my profession of faith, I also thanked the congregation of Immanuel for their incredible love, care, prayers, and support during this difficult time.

So why I am standing here again seven years later, having recently been readmitted to membership? I guess because my journey of faith and healing didn’t end on that day, but has continued with a few twists and turns and detours. I went through a period when I was very angry with God and doubted my faith and that I was even a “real Christian.” I didn’t think I could change, and, what is more, I didn’t want to. I felt sorry for myself and wondered what the point of my life was. If you ask my parents and some of my friends, you will be told that this period lasted for a long time---too long for some of them. Also at this time I was no longer at Immanuel, as soon after my profession of faith, I formally resigned my membership and left with my family. We attended a charismatic church that emphasised faith, healing, and the Holy Spirit. I did correspondence courses for a year, worked for a year at a factory, and then started my schooling at Redeemer College, still struggling in the basic question of “am I a real Christian?” My family eventually left the church we had been attending about a year after the founding pastor resigned. My parents started attending Flamborough Christian Fellowship where they still are today and I attended with them. There were a lot of good things about this church including Spirit-led prayer and ministry that helped me on my road to healing, but I didn’t feel completely at home there.

I started attending services at Immanuel in my fourth year at Redeemer and this past Spring I participated in the 40 Days of Purpose. This study helped me see God had created me for a purpose to love him, belong to his family, become like Christ, serve God, and be his hands and feet to a broken world and gave me hope that God would indeed complete the good work he began in me. I felt convicted that I should commit to a church family rather than casually attend church services, so this fall I started the process of again becoming a member at Immanuel. God recently confirmed to me that he is healing me in a deeper way in my heart, emotions, and mind and that I need to get my dream back, the one he gave me that I thought was lost forever. I am not at the end of my journey, but God has brought me this far and given me hope and a future. None of my pain will be wasted by God, but he is working all things for my good. I thank God for his forgiveness bought at a great price, his healing, his redemption, and his love and I know that as God helps me to become all that he is calling me to be and helps me grow in love and compassion, he will satisfy my desires with good things.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A frivolous entry about
My Austenian Obsession
Bottom right picture Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow) dances with Mr. George Knightley (Jeremy Northam). Middle picture Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) and Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen) share a tender moment long after Elizabeth's prejudice has dissipated and Darcy's pride has softened.

I appreciate all things Austenian. I have read each of Jane Austen's seven novels at least once, and my favourites I have read several times. My volume of Austen is dog-eared and the cover is falling apart. Periodically I used to rent the BBC's 1995 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice at the local video store. It was the same as renting six seven day rentals as it comes in six volumes of one hour each. Eventually I bought the DVD, reasoning it would pay for itself after the fifth viewing. I enjoy every moment of the six hours---at least once a year. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy is a happy combination that can give me hours and hours of viewing pleasure. I also own the Oscar-award-winning Sense and Sensibility and Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow and I would buy the 1995 version of Persuasion if I could get my hands on a copy. Recently I purchased the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley, a movie I saw twice in theatres and would highly recommend to anyone who appreciates Austen and/or Pride and Prejudice.
When I was a young teenager I read a lot of sentimental Christian historical romance, much of it extremely badly written, and I found Jane Austen rather dull. I'd like to think I have a refined literary appreciation of Austen's novels now, especially since I majored in English literature in university. The truth is, while I do appreciate Austen's wonderfully accurate portrayal of English society of her day and her deep knowledge of human nature, I mostly love the novels for their stories of love overcoming barriers and obstacles and love triumphing in the end with the marriage of the heroine and hero. Some in my family have suggested that perhaps I would have enjoyed living in that time and spending my days embroidering cushions, going for long walks in the English country-side, attending dinner parties, and performing elaborate dances at private balls. In reality English gentlewomen's lives were very limited, as they could not work or get the same education as men, and their only means of ensuring their future and their continuance in the manner of life to which they were accustomed was to marry and marry well.
Recently some friends and I were discussing how Austen's female characters had little to do but sit around and work with their needle, drink tea, and attend dinner parties and the occasional ball, and the irony that we all were sitting around crocheting, having just finished our tea, was not lost on us, but of course, as we told each other, our lives consisted of much more than that. I'm sure, however, that we all would love to meet the modern equivalent of Mr. Darcy and have him fall madly in love with us, bewitched "body and soul" by our irresistible charms. I think I would settle for mere possession of irresistible charms.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

I am a first time blogger and the sixth person from my immediate family to have a blog. I've considered having a blog for a couple of years, but I was galvanized into action by my youngest sister who burst onto the blogging scene at the tender age of nine a couple of weeks ago. I found I couldn't comment on her site without a blogging identity. I have been a long-time reader of my brother's blog which combines insightful analysis, creative storytelling, and sophisticated satire with a degree of random zaniness. Although I enjoy writing and it comes naturally to me, I doubted my blog would be as interesting, humorous, or enjoyable to read. My older sister Karen and brother-in-law Clint started a blog of their own recently so Clint could expound his wisdom on current issues and they could report on the progress of their international adoption. A recent post announced that Karen is pregnant and the baby will arrive in late October, so in addition to the excellent photos of prairie landscapes, crazy and cute pets, and farm-life there will be pictures of a baby boy or girl, my first nephew or niece. My sister Rachel informed me as I was writing this that she also has a blog so three of my four sisters now have a blog. My sister Christina offered to give me a few pointers so eventually this blog may be more visually exciting, although I don't take pictures myself. I am not sure exactly what the content of this blog will be.
The title of my blog comes from a passage in Matthew 6:25-34 which was my parent's wedding text. Matthew 6:28-33 reads, "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?" For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." A similar passage is found in Luke 12. In "The Message," a contemporary paraphrase of the Bible "consider the lilies" is rendered "look at the wildflowers," which is not as poetic but was available as a blogspot url. I guess I will have to be content with it (sigh). I am not the first in my family to use this biblical passage as a title and theme for their writing. For several years my Mom had a column in Christian Courier entitled "Like the Lilies" in which she wrote about our family humorously and her faith seriously. Her upcoming book, still to be published, takes many of these columns and shows her process of changing from a head Christian to a heart Christian, if you will excuse the cliche. Personally I find this particular passage very challenging. I tend to worry about my future and it is good to be reminded that God will provide what I need and will take care of me. Remembering to seek first his kingdom and righteousness and knowing how that should be worked out in practical terms in my day to day life is hard, but it's my goal and is certainly an achievable one. Since my name "Suzanne" comes from the Hebrew for "Lily" my title has an added layer of meaning, so I guess I am inviting you to consider the person Suzanne, or at least to consider my thoughts and writing. Well, I will leave the rest for a future post.