Monday, December 24, 2018

Yuletide Yearning

It's December 24th and Christmas fast approaches, swifter than Santa's reindeer, it will be upon us.

Somehow this season of belonging and of love, joy, and peace is also one of alienation and disconnection, discouragement, grief, and conflict. No matter how many fancy bows we slap on our gifts, or how perfect our gift selection is, there remains a void Christmas cannot fill.

Those who remember who they have lost, whether years ago or recently, grieve the fact that their loved ones are not here. Those whose families are not perfect, who are alienated from family members, lament their losses and struggle towards peace within themselves. Those who have yet to find a love they imagine could fill any gaping hole in themselves, mourn the absence of their other half. Those who long for a child, but find it beyond their grasp, grieve the hole in their family.

Jesus came to bring joy, he came to bring peace, and he was the perfect Gift of love. It's when we forget why we celebrate Christmas in the first place and get caught up in all the trappings of the season, all the glitter and gifts, all the baked goodies and scrumptious feasts, that we are in danger of missing why Jesus came and why he is still relevant more than two thousands years after he was born.

Jesus was sent to usher in the Kingdom of God. He was sent to be the Sacrificial lamb. He came as a baby so he could set the captives free and give sight to the blind, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour. He came so he could point the way to his Father, and so he could be the Way. He came to tell the truth, and to be the Truth. He came to demonstrate life, and to be the Life.

"Because of His boundless love, He became what we are in order that He might make us what He is." (Irenaeus). Christ's incarnation, that he came as a helpless child, yet the fullness of God dwelt in him, means so much more than a Hallmark card can express. His life, his death and his resurrection mean everything. If your joy and patience seem in short supply in the hectic pace of the holidays, take a deep breath and remember just what was wrapped up in that Perfect Gift.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Valley of Decision

Some decisions can have long-ranging impacts on the rest of your life. One of them is a choice of a career. Another is a choice of a spouse. While you can always switch careers or career streams, hopefully you go into a marriage with the intention of remaining with your partner for life.

That's why careful consideration should be made of whether the person you select as a potential mate is suitable and compatible. No one is perfect, but are there any red flags that cause you to hesitate?

You can fall in love so easily, but will you be able to stay in love with this person during rough seas? Do you love them enough to face any disaster together or crisis? Are there signs that you can work well together? How do you handle a disagreement or conflict?

You don't have to be identical in all your viewpoints or strengths, but you should complement one another and be working for the same goals. If there is something about your partner that you wish you could change, you have to ask yourself could you handle it if the person never changed in that area.

I'm only in the beginning stages of a relationship, and I admit to questioning whether our love can go the distance, with all the challenges we will face. I want to be clear-eyed and alert, and not clouded by unrealistic expectations. I don't want to face misery later, when I wake up from my dream scenario and realize relationships are hard work and there are certain behaviours I cannot tolerate.

I haven't come to a firm conclusion. I think I will maintain a prayerful watchfulness, and listen closely to the voice of God, in whatever form it comes. In the end, the decision to continue pursuing the relationship is up to me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Greatest Gift

What's the best gift you ever received?  What about the best gift you ever gave?

A number of gifts come to mind as I ponder those questions, but sometimes the gifts don't stick in your memory for long from Christmas to Christmas or birthday to birthday.

Giving gifts is one of my love languages, but more so I give words of affirmation and encouragement. My cards tend to be lengthy missives which delineate everything I love about the recipient or express my best wishes for their continued health and happiness.

The Bible says the greatest gift is love. Without it you're bankrupt; without it as a motive your best actions are without any value. It will remain long after the dust settles; it endures forever.

It is the new command that the apostle John gave, "Love one another." Love comes from God and every one who loves is born of God, and knows God.

I'm realizing I can do many good things, things that are kind and considerate, things that people can point out as beautiful or beneficial, but my motives for doing these things can be mixed at best. Also I can keep myself busy and stressed doing things I was never intended to do.

Listening to the Holy Spirit is key, as is soaking in the Heavenly Father's love, and keeping close to Jesus Christ, who is a friend and a brother.

How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God and that is what we are!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Soul Prints

There's some people you could never forget. They come into your life and leave their imprint on your heart and soul. They might disappear or grow distant, but they were your friend and nothing can ever change that.

I've said goodbye to many friends. Usually it is not even that we had a falling out, we just grew in different directions or moved locations or no longer had time and energy to maintain a bond. In some cases I'm not even sure what happened, but I knew it was over. Other times I hurt people or became offended at people while I was unwell which is why I likely will never return to Facebook, the scene of the worst of my crimes. Or I missed a critical meeting like a baby shower, with regrets, or a visit that I couldn't participate in, because I was in the hospital.

I've come to see regretting the end of friendships is not productive. Better to remember the friend with fondness and move on. If you did hurt someone, it is important to apologise, if it is in your power.

I have had to let go of a dear friend, with whom I had a toxic relationship, and that was very difficult. Yet she wrote me a heartfelt email that granted closure to our friendship. She released me with a blessing, and I know she always had the best in mind for me in her heart. I will never forget her, and I will remember her prayers for me and how much she cared over the years.

I have a few close friends who are very important to me. I rely on them, and I try to a dependable friend to them as well. The reality is you can't always rely on friends or be entirely trustworthy yourself. There are no perfect friendships; there is only one perfect friend and I depend upon him and cling to him fiercely when there appears to be no solid ground beneath my feet.

I am grateful for friends who give so much love and support to me. I am thankful for fellow believers who pray for me. I even treasure acquaintances who care enough to give a listening ear. I truly am blessed.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Peaceful Repose

Of late I have been improving in my ability to sleep well. Part of it is following a proven bedtime routine that prepares me for peaceful slumber. This strategy is called "sleep hygiene" and has nothing to do with showering, though that might be part of a successful bedtime routine.

I think the biggest breakthrough happened was when I relaxed about when I would fall asleep, and realized there was actually no way I wouldn't get at least some sleep, especially after taking my medications, which basically knock me out anyways.

But actually there was an even greater breakthrough, when I trusted when I couldn't sleep or was awakened in the middle of the night, that there could be a purpose for being awake.  That there might be someone to pray for, or something to battle through. It wasn't a disaster to be awake at midnight or 3 am or 5 am; it was actually an opportunity to spend time with God and seek his guidance and direction.

I can ask God to help me sleep. If something in my day is troubling me, I can bring it to him. If I have any burdens I have picked up I can lay them down. If I have become prideful, I can turn away from that. If I feel unsafe either physically or spiritually, I can remember the angels that surround and encamp about me. I can remember the blood of Jesus which purifies and protects. I can remember my Heavenly Father who holds me in the palm of his hand and who has numbered the hairs of my head and keeps my tears in a bottle.

When my emotions seem out of control, there is One who can bring peace. He can still the storm with three words: "Peace, be still."

Sometimes I picture Jesus with me, standing by my bed, or even holding me in his arms. I think of what he might say to me and I remember his red letter words. At the hospital He was always there when I couldn't sleep, and I would pretend we were having a slumber party, but I complained to Him He was keeping me awake. He might have been keeping me awake, but it was for a purpose. More likely He was working on me, reorganizing some files deep in my brain, or redecorating the walls of my home.
Hard to believe this was already three years ago. Where has time gone?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Brian Doerksen- Grateful for Another Day

Lyrics for Grateful for Another Day by Brian Doerksen

[Verse 1]
I'm grateful for another day
This gift of life all lit with grace
A day to let judgments go
A day to love peace and let it grow

[Verse 2]
I'm grateful for another day
A change to trust come what may
A day to risk loving more
Let's see what God may have in store

[Chorus 1]
A day to see the reasons, a thousand gifts receiving
A day to trust that God will see us through
A day to stop complaining, a day to start reclaiming
A day to trust that God will see us through!

[Verse 3]
I'm grateful for this gift of time
I'll live it knowing love is mine
A day to let worry go
A day when compassion stirs and flows!

[Chorus 2]
A day to see the reasons, a thousand each season
A day to trust that God will see us through
A day to stop complaining, a day to start reclaiming
A day to trust that God will see us through

Gratitude is a theme running through my life right now like a golden thread, transforming the ordinary or the painful into a thing of beauty and life. Through being thankful for the blessings I have and continually receive, I can take my eyes off what I perceive as lacking or weak in me. My eyes are focused on the face of Christ, sometimes appearing in the faces around me who need something I can give, be it only a smile or a kind word. One of the gifts I can give is encouragement, another is being present rather than distracted. I might have teaching gifts, but I have so much to learn I try to be receptive to anything a wiser person might be able to teach me. I need to learn the difference between being empathetic and compassionate and trying to "fix" or rescue someone. As a branch on the vine (John 15), in order to bear fruit I must be connected to Christ and receptive to the Father's love. I need to follow my calling and choose the best rather than merely the good.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Truth or Dare

I grew up playing a game called Truth or Dare. It went as follows "Truth, Dare, Double Dare, Promise to Repeat." In my circle of friends even the double dares were not as daunting as "Truth."

Your friend might ask you what you really thought about a boy she knew you were interested in. Or she might ask you whether you really cared about a friend you'd had a falling out with.

I was always destined to tell the truth, as my second name Alison means "truth" or "noble", I just sometimes allow a layer of obscurity camouflage the truth just a little. Or I give it some embellishments and a little touch of flair.

The truth is simple, but I can dress it up and make it elaborate. Tuck it in with some chocolates and hide it amongst layers of tissue paper. It's now a gift basket, voila!

"Speaking the truth to power," what does that mean? And what if nobody can hear you in the deafening cacophony of our culture? Do you scream louder or repeat softly?

I believe the truth will always eventually come out, and then you will want to be on the side of truth and justice. But every one has a voice, and also two ears to listen, and even if your platform is small and your circle of friends is small, and your contribution seems tiny, it matters.

Everyone is made in the image of God and can transform into the image of Christ. To Christ, all people matter and he would go to the ends of the earth to seek out one lost little lamb.

He declared "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, but by me." This is a bold claim, and it is either truth or not, but every one must make their own decision. Who is Jesus of Nazareth? Is he a Prophet? Is He the Son of the Most High God? Is He My Saviour, and if so, do I make him my Lord?

Do I believe Him, and do I receive these blessings from His hand?

Who I am in Christ:

I am a child of God.
I am strong in the Lord and the Power of His Might.
I am lead by the Spirit of God.
I am kept in safety whenever I go.
I walk by faith and not by sight.
I am rescued from the dominion of darkness.
I am an heir with God and coheir with Christ.
I am blessed with every spiritual blessing.
I am an overcomer by the blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony.
I am an imitator of God.
I am healed by His wounds.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I am more than a conqueror.

The above list was given to me from the Women's Bible Study at People's Church Every word is based on an actual Bible passage and is an important truth about my identity.
My Baptism last decade

Tuesday, December 04, 2018


People pleaser, chameleon, wall-flower: all words to describe someone who can blend into the surroundings in an attempt to fit in or hide in plain sight. I think we all learn those skills to adapt to each new social situation and survive the round of holiday functions this time of year.

If you are introverted like myself and you do better with one or two friends than a whole crowd you might gravitate towards the food or disappear into the bathroom for long periods. 

If you arrive at a party solo, as is frequently the case for me, you hope you will meet at least one person who can converse about trivial matters, such as holiday food or favourite holiday traditions or the best holiday drinks. You do not hope for a true meetings of the minds as that would be tempting fate.

Actually in my case, most of my holiday parties I will attend this year will be church or  family functions and that introduces a wrinkle. How much of your truth do you put out there? If there's someone who hasn't seen you in months and they casually ask how you are what should you say? The standard "fine, thank you" seems inadequate but the complete explanation seems burdensome.

Chances are this won't happen very often this year as my family, church family in various churches, and extended family are all mostly aware of my story. There are still run-ins with acquaintances who haven't got wind of the circumstances of my life.

In my experience, people generally thank you for your vulnerability in admitting to mental health issues and but occasionally will over-praise you for addressing the stigma or cause you to wonder if you have over-shared. Sharing what you have gone through is a right and a privilege, but it is not a duty. You don't have to be a wall-flower, but neither do you have to be the life of the party. You can share yourself in small doses to people who can tolerate the mixture of sweet and salty and you can answer briefly to those who are only casual acquaintances.