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Saturday, November 28, 2009

On leaving...

Let's be brutally honest. Leaving is hard and painful. There are little happy feelings that are present when you are giving that person a hug for the last time for a very long time. The amazing thing is that there are so many wonderful people that have to look forward to seeing when you come home. Those people actually makes leaving harder yet easier at the same time.
I wanted to try to put into words some of the emotional roller coaster I've been on for people who are interested.
If I was asked to sum up the feeling I have right now it would be relief. That may sound all-together cruel but it is the truth. Saying goodbye is extremely emotional and difficult. Such strong emotions are tiring.
Let me explain further. My feeling of relief is in no way related to relief of the absence of important people but just simply relief that the anticipation, tears and raw emotion is almost over. There is really only so much the heart can take and I think I've reached my limit. That doesn't negate the love that I have for everyone, I am now just looking forward to saying HELLO!
Tomorrow will be the hardest day as I say goodbye to my family. They have been beyond wonderful in supporting and loving me through this whole experience. I am going to miss them terribly. I will event miss our seemingly sarcastic and teasing ways that are just the forms we express love.
Thank you to everyone who helped me through this stage of my life. You will be and are already missed. Send me an email anytime you like. I can't always promise a prompt reply but I will do my best.
A special thank you to Tara who helped me pack when I was completely overwhelmed with the amount that had to be accomplished. You saved my travel journeys. You are my superwoman!! xoxo

The next time you hear from me I'll be in Africa! WOOT!

Much Love always!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fairness does not Govern Life and Death

Fairness does not govern life and death.(pg. 50 from The Five People you will Meet in Heaven) It actually doesn't govern very much these days. The justice system, if played well can even work against justice itself.
These past few months have been challenging for me. Many of my friends have gone through situations that are unfair. The situations are unfair and for a few cases, completely heartbreaking.
I don't exactly know where I am going with this but I felt an urge to write. Bare with me...
This world seems to be drifting nearer to one that challenges and stretches reality. The things once accepted as unchangeable have people whose livelihoods are being spent tweaking that reality. Right and wrong, peace and war, strength and weakness, democracy and socialism, the list goes on: People such as politicians, lawyers, doctors, scientists etc etc etc...Then why does our heart desire to question what the ultimate form of governance is if there exists the ability to constantly change that?
I once heard an opinion about God and his place in this world. The speaker (or author-can't remember) was of the opinion that after God created the world he stepped back. He believed that God created evolution like he created everything else. This challenges common Christian beliefs which asks the question "well, doesn't that eliminate the need for a creator?"
I can't answer that but I know that when I contemplate this thought it makes the concept of prayer make much more sense. Prayer is time spent with God. It is an invitation to God to enter into your life and take his rightful position as creator. It is requesting and listening to God's requests for you-asking and allowing him to be apart of you. It is a respectful surrendering of control!
Was it fair for God to die for me? Was it fair that he hung in the hot sun as the crowd laughed and scoffed? Was it fair that he carried my cross while at times in my life I still turn away from him? I think the answer is clear.
What I do know is that fairness doesn't govern life and we have to seek out God to let him govern ours. If we let him he'll govern our lives. The paradox is that under this governance life is not without unfairness. In fact when we bow down before God we can become visible targets for injustice and worldly condemnation.
Back to those whose lives have gone haywire. Did they let go of God's governance on their lives? Did they take control of themselves? No, but there is something that they have now.
Their creator creates customized joy and shares in their lives; A witness to their pain and assurance that they are not alone. Fairness doesn't govern life and death, God does. His ways are unconventional and, on occasion, painful. The point is to put our faith into something that knows what is best, far beyond our own comprehension.
Even when you don't understand why your dreams have been destroyed or your life sits before you in shambles, remember two things:God has been there in human form and he will get you through it (just maybe not in the way that you intended)

I promise- and so does God!

p.s. if you read this, let me know if it made sense. Sometimes I find that what makes sense to me doesn't to others...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

No one wants to sit beside someone who is sick...



"Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat."- Mother Teresa

No one wants to sit beside someone who is sick. Today I was at the doctor's office (well, one of them) for the 3rd time. Everytime I've been this week they've requested that I wear a mask which is exactly why no one wants to sit beside me- maybe also because of the sneezing or coughing, who knows!
I found it quite amusing to watch as people would enter the doctors office, take one look at me in my mask and strategically place themselves as far away as possible. One man even squeezed himself in a coat rack just so that he wouldn't have to take the only available seat left beside yours truly.
Now, I was able to laugh this incident off because I know I will get over this terrible cold and be right as rain soon enough, but it got me thinking. What about people who have to spend their whole lives dealing with this kind of treatment? How do they manage? Is it as easy for them to laugh it off?
I suppose in our society anything that isn't normal is something too far out of our comfort zone. Anything that doesn't look, sound, smell, or act just a certain way merits our distaste and disrespect.
Why is it then that amputees are respected due to their loss of limbs in battle, or scream-o music so highly revered, or stinky athletes worshipped after a game, or a comedian who say things a little bit differently then the rest of us for a laugh- why are they any different then the disfigured, the deaf, the homeless, or any other 'outsider' for that matter? They are of a higher position because wehave decided that they are different.
Isn't that sad? Doesn't that make you wonder how many people must go through life without being touch, hugged, LOVED?
In a past blog I talked about a couple I met in New Brunswick this summer. I won't name them for privacy's sake so I will call them Mr. and Mrs. Awesome. Mrs. Awesome has the biggest most loving heart. I remember leaving the downtown homeless storehouse and talking with her. We had had a wonderful time learning how to play crib with some of the men. She started telling me of this one man that played crib with her who was probably the worst smelling individual there. What struck me was not the fact that he smelled but that she played with him for hours. She was bothered by the smell but she didn't let it get in the way of loving him.
We often ask God to get rid of those things that hinder us from loving one another. Sometimes those things aren't spiritual, emotion or even mental- they are physical hindrances.
The reason that the warrior, the scream-o band, the athlete and the comedian are so easily respected is because it is easy to find out what they've done to earn that respect. Maybe then we should look a little harder to those who may not have their badges outside of themselves. Their badges could be covered with 'non-normal' attire, but their respect is no less warranted.


Note: This is by no means a way to discredit those who've done respectful things whether you are in the army, a band, a sports team, or on stage. I was just using these analogies to make a point!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blessings vs. Trials

Last night I was at a friends house for dinner and a very interesting discussion emerged on blessings and trials. It was getting particularly deep when one person turned to myself and another and said "So, are you telling me that you think that God gives you more than you can handle?"
Both the other individual and I said in unison- YES!
I think that this is something that is particularly confusing to Christians. It was clarified that God will never give you trials that you cannot handle; He will, however, give you blessings that you are not able to handle.
When God blesses he does it in a way that only shows his glory. That is why the commonly used thought, that is you let God take over he'll bless you beyond what you can even comprehend, fits so well.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Over the past year or so I've struggled off and on in the area regarding finances. I would often find my thoughts jogging back and forth between whether I agreed more so with Christian prosperity or Christ-like abandonment of money hoarding. (note: this is putting is drastically, but you get my point)I've known for quite some time that my line of work will mean that money will certainly not grow on trees.
Last week one of my friends on facebook sent out a question about Christians and finances and it sparked a lost fear I had not known about until now. I had always held onto the idea that is was okay for me to have more than enough since I would be able to provide down the road to whoever would need it.
I guess when it boils down to it, those thoughts I held so dearly to required my own control, and not God's. It was something that I could plan for. I'd created an earthly treasure of sorts, in my mind, for the future. I lacked the one thing that trumps this whole thought-process- faith!
A friend gave me a wonderful book to read and it has revolutionized the way I see many things- money included. The book is called Turnings and is written by Guy Chevreau. I would recommend it to anyone who would stop and listen to me for half a second.
He says " Kingdom obedience leads finances. So much is compromised when it is the other way around."
Having faith and finances means that God expects you to be a good steward of money. Chevreau also says this. " God will not trust you with Kingdom power and authority until you've proved faithful with something as insignificant as money, for the eternal consequences of squandering Kingdom authority are far greater than misleading earthly riches."
Paraphrased, have faith that God will provide what is needed if you are willing to be good stewards of what is blessed to you, for the Kingdom of God!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Choice Thanksgiving


Today at church we had a guest speaker who spoke very well on the season of Thanksgiving. I am going to use some of her own thoughts and expand on them with my own.
She used 2 passages. Psalm 22 and Job Chapter 23. At first I was a bit taken aback by the solemnness and sorrowful nature of these passages. Then I understood where she was going with it.
Holiday seasons for the majority of the world are painful experiences, whether it is facing that family we dread, missing a person whose presence isn't there for whatever reason, or remember what used to be. It is easy to be thankful when everything is that 'hallmark' picture of family and friends. It isn't so easy when life is upside down.
Job was a man who lost everything. He lost his children (10 in total) and all of his worldly possessions. Then, to top it all off his health fails him. Job has nothing.
In all intents and purposes, Job has every reason to blame God and accuse him of the pain he feels. Instead, Job says this "Naked I came from my mother's womb,and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." (Job 1:21)
David was a tortured man through much of his life. He made staggeringly poor choices whose repercussions lasted generations. Although the feeling of his writing is a cry out to a God whom he thinks has abandoned him, he does 2 things. 1) He starts to remember that God has restored everyone else in their weakness. In realizing this he then 2) Gives THANKS to God by offering his praise of those blessings.
The reality of this Thanksgiving weekend may not be what is desired but the point I want to make is that Thanksgiving, like so much of our faith in God, is a choice. Sometimes it is a feeling, but when the focus is placed on making it a choice then, regardless of the situation, God is our strong fortress and sustainer. Even when we can't see it, God will bless through the rain and the storms of life. Just keep turning to him!
This thanksgiving dinner is most likely the last time that my family and I will be all together before I head overseas. Thanks be to God that I have this weekend. It is a bittersweet day but also one to remember!
Happy Choice Day everyone!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Weakness

It's been a whirlwind of an adventure these past few weeks. There were many moments where I would think to myself "Hey, this would be a great topic to write about", however none of them came to pass.
Conferences, cottages, doctors appointments and bridal showers are just a few of the adventures I've been on.
I spent the month of August in New Brunswick. My grandmother was born there so we go to visit family every year. Just this past year my parents purchased a piece of land and built a small but beautiful cottage on it. I was surrounded by a bubbling brook, sky-high trees and a beautiful bay of brackish water.
Since it is a pretty removed area surrounded by farm and uninhabited land, there was no cell reception nor did we have a television. By being forced to be alone with my thoughts God was faithful through my low moments. As much as I love my parents it was lonely at times when they were gone and I was by myself without the potential to talk to my friends.
On the first day after I arrived I woke to the sound of hammers and drills outside my window. My mom was making coffee and suggested that I take some to the workers who was working on our cottage outside. I laugh when I think about that moment since I know God had been planning it for quite some time.
My mom had talked about one of the builders and how he started and runs a downtown St. John mission for homeless and at risk people. When I met that husband and wife team I instantaneously was drawn to their passion for the work they do for the glory of God.
After that I was hooked. I spent ever Thursday and Sunday evening in downtown Saint John where I would simply hang out and chat with people who came into the centre. We talked about everything from politics to life stories. I can't express how much joy and blessings those three weeks spent with the amazing people of Saint John gave me. I now have deep God-given friendships and penpals!
Faithfulness is in God's character. He cannot be anything but faithful to his people. Hey seeks us out even from the deepest holes of life. God is also transformative. I realized that my issues of being alone were coming from a deeper issue; I am soon leaving to Africa where I will know literally no one. The pain of being alone was amplified in the silence of my surrounds in New Brunswick and I was forced to come to terms with how I actually felt. I was scared to be alone and I was scared to leave the people whom I had a community and family. I was simply scared.
My fear came from a lack of faith in God's great handiwork in my life. The day I met that power-house couple that ran the downtown city mission I was also introduced to another new community of people that I grew to love and cherish. God taught me that his arms stretch to my future and he knew what my heart wanted and he gave me just that- a community.
I am more assured than ever before that God has a wonderful community in front of me in Nyeri Kenya. I may not speak the language(yet) but that won't stop him from what is in his nature- to bless his people!
I didn't really want to write about this because I have a hard time showing weakness. I came to an understanding that this experience has God written all over it. Whatever happens is going to happen in whichever way God decides, thus instead of trying to control it, I will let it just be. I think that the more open and honest I am about this new phase of my life, God will use it for the betterment of his kingdom.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Bread and Apple!



Have you ever sat down and really looked at the words Christ taught us to pray? I grew up in a church where every Sunday I would say the same thing over and over again without really KNOWING what I was saying.
One summer while I was working at camp our director who happened to be a pastor did a weekly bible study of the Lord's prayer. After that eye opening experience I haven't looked at the words in the same light. I look at them and I put them into context of what it means for me.
Give us this day our daily bread. Interesting formation of words since grains for bread would have been pretty abundant during Jesus' years here on earth since carbs were the staple of their diet. If you think about it in terms of energy, you wouldn't need bread if you weren't moving around harvesting crops or caring for child, but since these were daily occurrences in the life of a Jew, bread was a crucial part of survival.
Bread in the form of what Jesus was talking about has nothing to do with physical hunger but the spiritual. One does not desire the spiritual bread of God if they aren't going anywhere. God will give us exactly the right amount of bread needed for each day's journey. The further I walk in my faith the more I realize that I need that bread that comes from heaven. I can't do this on my own.
One of my biggest heart-troubles of leaving in November is the fact that I know I have to do this alone. I have always gone away from home with at least someone I know but this time I am not. I do not have that comfort of a friend or family. My bread is my comfort and my sustainer. Literally my bread of life.
In the past I used to get frustrated with the Christian 'lingo' so to speak that seems to circulate amongst my friends. I remember hearing words or phrases over and over again and thinking to myself 'can't we come up with something better to express ourselves?'
I mentioned this thought to a good friend of mine and her response is worth noting. She said that that may in fact be true that there is a common lingo but that words for her mean so much more because she can think back to an experience that reminds her of it. I thought 'Wow, what a positive way of thinking rather than being judgmental!'

Bread of life has a whole new meaning!

I sang in a youth choir for more than 7 years and it was a big part of my life. I was just overcome with a memory of singing a beautiful song called "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree"

Jesus Christ, my bread and apple! Such comfort that brings to a troubled soul!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgGvL09QSSQ&feature=related

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Abundant Blessings


Blogging has become a real blessing to me. As I sit here writing this blog I am inspired to share with you all the abundant blessings God has provided for me over the past week.
Normally when I sit to begin a blog I have a direction I am going to take. Today is different. I don't know what to write but I'm looking forward to what may come out of this.
Last week myself and five other individuals from North Park Community Church departed on a journey to Chicago to participate in a Short Term Mission Conference aimed at opening discussion for the usefulness of STM (Short Term Mission). I was hesitant to go because I only knew one other person who was going and I wasn't sure what to expect from the conference itself. It turned out to be an immensely growing and wonderful experience.
We had a very quick trip down and had a lovely time talking and listening to music. There is something about being in a very small car and bonding really quickly that I've really come to enjoy despite the fact that I'm claustrophobic!
We arrived shortly after noon and got some lunch and headed straight into the lectures. I had the chance to meet and talk with Gil Odendaal who is the Director of STM at Saddleback Church under Rick Warren. He did a presentation on the CHE (Community Health Education) work the church is doing in Rwanda. I was totally impressed!
In the evening they had a key note speaker from Nairobi Kenya named Oscar Muriu. He is certainly a mover and a shaker. He spoke very powerfully that certainly struck deep down within me. To summarize his talk wouldn't do him justice but I'm going to try and give a very broad and very general overview of his talk. He discussed the detriments that STM has brought over the years. He talked about how the Western Church often comes with an agenda to 'fix' things whether that be to build something or give money to something. He was very clear in saying that he didn't agree with others coming to do things that local Kenyans could do themselves. He talked about how mission groups come and never really experience the culture or the people since they arrive in large groups, stay in the same hotel, eat together and generally never leave each other's side. To them it is a glorified vacation. What about the Kenyans, or any other host country for that matter. At one point he boldly stated not to come to Kenya with your own agenda, we don't need you. He also talked about Kenyan culture in that they won't say no to you. It is apart of who they are that they must 'keep face' per say. As I sat there listening to him I came to a horrible realization. The Presbyterian Church had ASKED if I could come. In one single moment it seemed as if my entire world had crashed down around me. Now I didn't know which way to turn.
As soon as he was finished his talk one of the leaders of my group from North Park suggested we go up and meet him since he is good friends with the Kenyan Pastor. I was terrified that he would mention something to Oscar about me going to Kenya and I quietly pulled him aside and asked him not to say anything. I immediately left for fear of breaking down into tears in front of everyone in the auditorium.
I sat in the bathroom for a long time crying... crying out to God. I remember saying to him "God, I don't understand. I thought this was where you told me to go. I am so lost. Please tell me what to do!"
I pulled myself together and walked back to my hotel. I fell asleep last night trying to figure out what my next steps were going to be.
The next day, broken, I woke up not really wanting to continue on with the seminars. During most of the time slots there were more than one person presenting. I decided to attend one by a Dominican Republican pastor named Rev. Robert Guerrero. HE also had a similar theme as Oscar. He based his talk on Luke 22:24-30 "Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." What struck me was his sincerity and courage. He spoke about the need for missions to shift from the mindset of the Benefactor to the Kingdom Builder. So many groups come thinking that they have all the answers for the people. What is it that makes us think that our way is better anyways? What he focused on was his desire to see people come because they simply want to BE with each other as the body of Christ; to come to build a relationship rather than a building.
After he concluded I felt a resurgence of courage within me. I am called to Kenya not to be a Benefactor but a Kingdom Builder. As Robert said " We (The Western world) are not called to fix the problem but to participate in it."
The next day our group got together with Oscar to pray for him. Our group leader asked our group to share with him anything that was on our hearts to encourage Oscar. I was overcome with gratitude towards him. I told him that I was deeply grateful for reminding me of my purpose and the value of the Kenyan people. I thanked him for his honesty with us in the West that we were, in some cases, a detriment to others. When I finished Oscar said to me words I will take with me through the remainder of my days here on earth. HE said "Margaret I hope you know that I DO believe in missions. I believe in the power of human relationships and I know that is why you are coming. I WANT you to come to Kenya and when you do come have coffee with me." It was hard to hold back the tears in that moment! Praise God that he tears away all that is unclean and was so gracious to build back up so quickly!
Over the past few weeks I had begun to allow thoughts into my mind which were not of God. I began to think about how useful I could and have been. What I began to ficus on was my own success rather than God's.
We arrived back in London just in time to attend the evening service, albeit I was really late. After the service I had to rush to the bathroom but I was intercepted by three different women that I've spent time with these past few years at school. I was overwhelmed by their welcoming and happiness to see me and I was convicted by God. He showed me in that moment how he had been working through me in these women's lives. It has absolutely nothing to do with me at all. Praise God that he takes all the credit. I don't want it anyways.. it just messes with my brain!
On Saturday I got up and drove to Tillsonburg to do a church service that I had taken for a minister on holidays. I found the church to have a wonderful environment about them. They were relaxed and prepared to worship their God in whatever way that might take. There was a beautiful dynamic in the service where there was no disconnect between the person speaking and the congregation. Everyone participated and it was reciprocal. I felt completely at home.
As I drove back to the 401 I realized that my roommate from third year, Vicki, went to church right near there. As I was driving I prayed "God, if you want Vicki and I to meet would you please help me to get there in time". I made a few wrong turns but eventually walked into the service as they were finishing their last song.
I spent the afternoon with Vicki and her friends at the beach just laughing and having a wonderful time with wonderful conversation.
VIcki and I made plans and she came to my house the next day, slept over then we went back to the beach. We had an extremely relaxing day of lying on the beach then swimming and repeating. We got a bit scorched but I was just overcome with what a blessing the past days had been.
Fellowship really IS just BEING with people. It has nothing to do with an agenda, although that is something that comes with the relationship.
I didn't plan on being cleansed in Chicago, nor did I plan on being so relaxed and free to speak frankly with the congregation in Tillsonburg. I did not plan to meet Vicki or spend 2 days at the beach but that is exactly what God wanted. As the singer Matt Nathanson says " Everyday is a start of something beautiful!"

So true... So true!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rain rain go away... or not!


I love the rain. I use the word love for a reason. As of late, I have been analysing my use of the word to ensure that I am using it to describe things that are actually loveable. You do not love clothing- you like the way they help you feel better about yourself. You love people and places for the way they love you and the memories they create. I do, infact, love rain. It's sounds are like the minds way of "drawing blank" for a few moments of the day. I listen to the patter on the tin troffes on my house and it sounds like drums off in the distance. It is beautiful.
Rain is cleansing and healing to the environment. It washes away dust and dirt and leave things clean and refreshed. It acts as a deliverer of nutrients to plants and animals and replenishes life-giving water supplies. However, it also has its harsh side. It can be bitterly cold and unwelcome when one is not prepared. It can wreck that perfect 'do' or spoil a delicately planned wedding day. It is hard to be prepared though when you are not God and do not get to decide the whether patterns. Well, what if the rain is like God? Ok, bare with me here for a moment. Rain is a positive thing for all the good it brings after the storm, but the storm is what is often the focus of the argument. We look at the difficulty rather than the outcome to decide whether or not it was a success. Maybe that is a good frame of reference when looking at God. I don't think he looks so much at the outcome but rather the process; what it is that his daughter has actually learned.
Short and sweet and to the point. I love the rain for the process of cleansing it gives!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Well, it' official. I have confirmation that I will be placed in Nyeri, Kenya for my contract. To say the least I am very excited and nervous all at once.
I was remembering on the weekend an interesting prayer I had with someone. I was at an Athletes In Action retreat in 2008 and the guest speaker was Herbie Kuhn. Herbie is the announcer for the Toronto Raptors. He spoke of following the path that God has in-store for each person. After his last talk he talked around the room offering prayer to each individual. He prayed for me and after he was finished he looked at me and said "I feel I have to tell you that I see you working with children."
At the time I kind of blew it off as something that he had just said to me in passing. I have worked at a local YMCA for more than 5 years and my idea of working with children was limited to what I could see there. I was NOT interested in working with children in a swimming lesson context; not that I hate teaching swimming lessons but that I'd had enough for the time being. Also around that same time I had big aspirations to someday become involved in the UN in some capacity.
As time went on I realized that Herbie's comment was not something that was said in passing but was a meaningful, even prophetic statement.
Last week I was driving back from Montreal with a friend and I was beyond exhausted. I don't remember being able to think straight but I remember all of a sudden remembering this comment from Herbie. The second I realized it I also received an overwhelming sense of assurance that Kenya was were I was going- this was 2 days prior to getting the confirmation that Kenya was a go...
Ha, I am continually blown away by my own lack of faith. God promised me everything and he's done just that.
"To worship you Jesus, is my sole desire... purpose to lift your name high!"- Hillsong.
Here is the website if you are interested in finding out more information about where I'll be. http://www.shauriyakoysc.org/

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Railroad Tracks of Life

I went into work with my dad the other day for a job interview. As soon as I walked out of the interview I knew that I hadn't got it. Not for anything I did wrong (I hope) but I just kind of felt it. I suppose that interviewing is always good practice and I think I would have been pretty miserable there seeing as it was a clothing store and I have next to no sense of style. I would have probably got myself into quite a bit of trouble because I would have sold something to someone that looks aweful.
I've always despised the saying that one "wakes up on the wrong side of the bed" yet that
generally summed up how I was feeling that day. As time goes on I am recognizing the importance of journaling because I deeply wish I could remember the details of how I felt before my past trips.
Some days I feel as if a shadow has descended upon my soul and dampen the possibility of light which can squelch the feelings of hope.
But then creates the question of what exactly it is that I hope for? Do I hope for clarity, or stability; doesn't everyone? Or is it something more? I am recalling a vague memory of a prayer said awhile back having to do with hunger. This hunger has nothing to do with food or physical satisfaction yet it does have to do with peace.
I recall listening to some people talk about God and their deepest desires to understand the intricacies of his holiness. I think I was jealous of their intensity of faith. I yearned to understand what they understood and I longed to feel what they expressed.
Past prayers of request from God of this magnitude have resulted in strenuous times of heart break and trial and in full awareness to this I asked another. "God, I want to desire you like 'they' do!"
True to God's nature, he answered those prayers, yet not in the way I'D expected. Since around that time I've felt unfulfilled, lost and searching for something I could never put into words. It is only not that I realize that this is what true yearning feels like, It is about never been satisfied with the status-quo, and never allowing the heart to settle. Part of me cringes when I re-read the words I've written yet I know that I could not be who I am if I were to be 'normal' or what the status-quo says I am to be.
Hungering after God means (at least for me) never feeling satisfied, but in a good way. I never feel like I've quite got God figured out. Some days it makes me frustrated with my own ignorance as a human, and everyday it leaves me feeling humbled by what I do not know. There is a saying that I like. God love you just as you are but he loves you too much to keep you they way you are. He is constantly placing within me desires for something that is to come; something that keeps me hungry.
I've also realized that the days which a cloud settles on my heart are the days which I do nothing to pursue God.
I received an email yesterday from a close family friend about the trials of Rick Warren as his wife, Kay, battles cancer. He says “I
used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don't believe that anymore.

Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it's kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life. No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on.”

This life is preparation. In preparation it is a constant battle to perfection. I can’t expect my walk with God to be happy all the time. If it were, then I wouldn’t be in preparation for eternity.

God was faithful to me that day when I requested the understanding of hunger. He showed me that, like earthly hunger, it is not without pain and yearning. You have to be aware that something is wrong in order to fix it!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In the Beginning was a Pair of Pants


It all started with a pair of cotton pants. I remember that day like it was yesterday. We were cementing rebar structures for the exterior of a church and I ripped my pants. Jose´ looked at me and laughed. He pointed down to his pants which has a large whole in the same spot as mine. I remember how we laughed together.
That night I marched out the the local market and found the first pair of pants I could get my hands on and bought them. I returned to the building site the next day proudly sporting my brand new pants.
I don't recall Jose´reaction to my pants but I remember the feeling in my stomach when I looked over to see that he was wearing the same pants but with a few stitches added to the spot that used have the gaping hole. To express my feelings at this point is excruciating still to this day.
That day I changed. I could never go back in time to the girl I used to be nor would I ever want to. I became someone it's taken me years to understand and express. I lost a great deal in that moment, but I gained a higher comprehension of what mattered.
As I sit here writing this I am wondering what I would have become had I not made the decision to go to Guatemala in 2005 which thus led up to the event involving the pants. Who would I be? Where could my life be heading?
When I was in Guatemala I began, what I am sure will be, a life-long relationship with Liberation Theology. I learned of the perils of the poor and the type of Christianity that has come out of a few academics who have devoted their lives to walking beside the poor.
I recently read an article that talked about a shift in views of the crucifix. It now has two views within the church. The crucifix will always be the symbolic act of the atonement of the world to God. Horacio Gutierrez once said" You see the resignation and acceptance on the face of the Son of God in his moment of greatest suffering? He knows that it is the Father's will that he die this way, and so he gives himself, uncomplaining, in utter trust and love, assured that after these brief moments of suffering he will be in paradise forever. Is he complaining to God? Is he challenging Herod and Pilate who put him there? Is he trying to change society? Is he agitating among the poor for a redistribution of wealth or a new social order? Is he wishing he had a gun so that he could destroy his oppressors?
"Of course not! He knows that God knows best. So instead of turning aside from God's plan, he accepts it and plays his assigned role."
From this we learn how our own suffering is the call to bear our own weight of the cross like Christ did; our own service and discipleship. There is however another part of the crucifix that I think is often forgotten. The crucifix also shows us how to cope with the suffering of others.
An idea that I've heard discussed today was something called 'ideological distortion' which is what happens when what you believe to be true comes into contact with something that disagrees with you. One could almost argue that there are a number of Christians who subconsciously think that the extent of their suffering begins and ends with themselves.
The other immensely important part of the crucifix is that Jesus died for everyone else's sins as well, uniting us all as one body of people in this world together. Once complete, we could no longer be separate as individuals but whole as one body of Christ. Horacio Gutierrez goes on to say " You see the terrible thing that is happening to Jesus? He who came to teach us to love one another, and who always acted towards in love, is being killed for thinking such thoughts and doing such deed. What a terrible thing that this should happen! What a terrible thing that Jesus should continue to be crucified in his brothers and sisters today! If we love Jesus, we must find out who is doing this to him and put a stop to it, for people will continue to kill Jesus every time they kill those who try to follow him today by loving their neighbours and working to create a better world. We must work to see that torture and death of this sort are not the lots of any persons in God's world. We much create a society in which no one is crucified or harmed as Jesus was. That will be one way we can thank him for his great love for us."
Frequently Jesus associates and honours the poor. He says in Matthew 19:21 "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." That is a bold statement that needs attention. He also says in Matthew 26:11 "The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me."
Liberation Theology empowers the poor and gives them a voice through biblical derivatives. It is not a means to attack those who are wealthy but to create equal opportunity through political activism for all people on earth.
Jesus came to earth as the Son of Man to destroy sin's strong-hold in our lives and Liberation Theology's mandate is to fight poverty by suppressing that which enables it; sin!

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Eyes of the Lord

Have you ever wondered why friendships seem that much deeper and virtually unbreakable when faith is the foundation? I've been marveling over this fact today as I've spent time with friends over this year and years past. I have the most authentic, beautiful and faithful friends. I really could end the blog right there.

I have a family of friends who would do anything for me. They would drive to wherever I am if I asked them and they would feed me and clothe me if I needed it. Matthew 25: 37-40 says "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

Sanctified within each of my friends is the ability to recognize Jesus within me. This fact is such an encouragement to me because there were times in my past, and most certainly in my future, where I have not be able to recognize Jesus. God speaks through the eyes of those who look beyond the exterior, into the crevices of the soul. My friends are people such as this.

What saddens me is how easy it is for people in this society to slip into the trap and shut out the world and those that love them. They have been programmed to think that success is done alone. It is them against the world. The reason I feel as if I can dare to write about this is that I used to be that person. I could never let others in because I was so afraid of what might happen --> they might not like who I am. They would recognize how unworthy I am and how terrible my sin is.

I came to a crossroads in my life where I had to make a decision. I had to allow myself to get hurt and still not necessarily know the outcome or I could stay in a waiting room my whole life without any expectations. I chose the latter.

This choice does not come without challenges. I continue to stifle fear of pain and consciously decide to welcome the joys that come as the result.

Faith is not a feeling but a choice. I choose to have faith in my friends as they have in me. Why? Because that is exactly what Jesus does everyday. You see, these friendships are not just bilateral. There is a third party whose presence takes precedence over my friend’s and mine. Jesus’ proprietorship over friendships is the beginning and the end of what matters. This leads me to claim that not only do I have the best friends in the world, but in the heavens.

Once the ownership of a relationship is given over to God it becomes a source of empowerment rather than a continual letdown. You can find encouragement and raw humanity within them, which can reach into your own heart. You are uplifted by each other’s struggles because you know that each one is a vessel through which God can work.

I found this verse that I will end off with today. Psalm 121:7-8“The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” The Lord is alive in my friends, for they watch out for me. Their eyes are those of the Lord.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Faithful through the Hissy Fits


Have you ever reached that point where you think that if you just don't know what God has in store for you then you just might die(or at least crawl into a corner and hide)? I reached that feeling a few weeks ago and decided that I'd had about enough and I told God exactly that.
My conversation with God went a little something like this...
"God, I have absolutely NO idea what you think you are doing, but I'm throwing in the hat!
I'm tired and I'm frustrated and I really wish you'd let me in on your 'little secrets' or whatever you think it is that you are hiding from me."
Now, at this point you are either laughing hysterically or you are shaking your head in shame. I am hoping for the first but whichever way you choose to feel I am assured that God can handle my hissy fits.
I have a very vivid memory of my brother when he was about 2 or 3 years old. He was sitting on the floor outside his room throwing toys and screaming at the top of his lungs. I remember standing in the hallway looking at him and then turning to my parents as they sat in front of the TV completely ignoring him. I was in disbelief that nothing was being done to stifle this irrate child, so I decided I would laugh at him. Note: I think I may have received a toy square in the forehead sometime around then.
I wonder if sometimes God laughs at us as we sit and throw our toys and say mean words to him. I wonder if sometimes he simply listens without any intent of replying simply to let us get whatever weight we are holding off our chests.
After a while I can almost hear him now. "Are you about done yet Margaret? I have something to tell you."
Today I received two emails with offers to work in two very different parts of Africa; both of which I would be honoured to serve. Boy do I feel silly now...
Now I've been thrown into another whirlwind time of decisions and contemplation. Would I have it any other way?
Not a chance!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Teaching Friend

I spent the past two weeks in Toronto attending a cross-cultural training. Although much of what was taught had already been learned, I took away from the experience deep and lasting friendships; One person in particular I wrote a journal entry on. This is what I wrote.
"I've identified one person in particular, and for the purposes of privacy I'll call him Joe, as a man I can relate to and that has already contributed greatly to my time here.
To describe him isn't difficult in appearances. He is tall, jolly and full of laughter. He has dancing blue eyes and will speak about 2 inches away from your face in conversation. I wouldn't change a thing about him. He speaks simple English with no attempt to embellish or elabourate his words yet he speaks with confidence and wisedom I've experience in few people.
On the second day of the orientation we split into two different groups and I happened to be in Joe's. We had spent about an hour drawing a story line of our lives and experiences to explain how we got to this point in our lives. In our groups we were to share with one another our 'stories'.
Joe told a bold and moving story of how he had wandered for 40 years of his life away from God and experienced pain I cannot imagine during his life. He's spent the last few years of his life in prison ministry and more than once I was moved to tears by the size of his heart. This big man showed no shame in shedding tears of both joy and sorrow. I was so encouraged and thankful for him.
After I had shared my story Joe was the first person to come up to me and thank me, simply for being who I am. He encouraged and strengthened me through his kind yet simple words. We've already had some lovely talks about God and life and I know that this is the beginning of a great friendship. He has taught me so much already.
The word that resonates best when I think of Joe is devout. There is nothing that causes him to falter in his faith. He does not try to make himself look important nor does he care what others think of him. He simply delights in his Lord. He delights in moments spent and prayers sent. His love comes from the never ending source that will never die.
Through these observations of Joe's faith he completely and totally convicted me. You see, for a long time I've been told that I am somehow a leader. This fact began to worry me. 'What if I am not smart enough? What if I can't be what people need me to be?' I began to seek out biblical knowledge for the purpose of being able to answer people's needs and not for the sole reason of desiring to know God more intimately. This choice I made actually forced me into a greater ignorance of who God really is.
I'd forgotten that God is jealous and wants me to revel and delight in him alone. He deserves a service that is for his benefit and not my own.
Joe has saved me from a great deal of hardship in many ways. Had I not learned this important fact I would have likely suffered great disappointment and loneliness.
Joe said to me 'the longest journey a person ever takes is the distance from his head to his heart.' This is innately true for me. I'd lost the connection between my head knowledge and my true heart's desire to seek out more of God solely for the purpose of knowing him alone.
Praise God for Joe. He showed me how a seemingly uncomplicated man can have such a great impact simply because he delights in his Lord."

Choosing Pain

On Thursday I fell off my bike for the first time since I was 5 years old. I even remember the last time it happened because I remember the look of terror on my mother's face as she ran towards me on the street, yelling in hysterics. Of course I was absolutely fine after a good hug and kiss and I had a nice battle scar to show everyone.
This time was a bit different. I was alone and somewhat far from my house. I was using my brother's new bike and the brakes were in superb shape. I was trying to adjust my helmet when I realized I was approaching an intersection far too quickly, so my first impression was to squeeze the brakes with my left hand. Now, on this particular bike, the combination of good brakes and only engaging the front tires resulted in a head first approach to the pavement. I really didn't even have time to think about what had happened until I was lying on the ground. My arm hurt a little and all I remember thinking as 'PLEASE don't be broken, PLEASE don't be broken. Mom is going to KILL me-ANOTHER broken bone' (I've broken a few before...) or 'is James' bike okay? Did I ruin it?'
Fortunately, there were two men standing around the road who came over to help me. Minus a few layers of skin on my hands, elbows and knees, a nice bruise on my quad and a hurt ego, I am fine, and most importantly, the bike is without wear and tear.
I started thinking about my reaction to the accident and why my injuries didn't start to hurt until later. It wasn't until I got home did I really start to feel the collision with the ground. Of course, having spent years lifeguarding and much of my university career in science, I know the effects of shock and its intricate protective mechanism but I learned a good lesson.
I began to think over the connection between my upcoming journeys and my accident. Throughout the journey of deciding where to go and for how long, I've sought to include my family at every level. By no means would I ever consider otherwise when trying to figure out long term mission opportunities but my view of their position was limited. I realized that every action I take has an opposite reaction within the confines of my family.
This leads into the main point of this blog. How does one follow the will of God while at the same time remaining honouring to their parents and siblings? My parents have been beyond supportive in this journey but I wonder if the pain they are enduring, caused by my choices, is honouring them?
I am reminded of the verse in Matt where Mary weeps at the foot of the cross for her son. She knows that he is the Saviour of the world, but to her she is also his baby. As I try to put myself in Jesus shoes I would think that the last thing Jesus would want his mother to see is his suffering, but the other part of it was that she NEEDED to see it just like the rest of the world.
Let's get one thing straight, I am CERTAINLY not claiming to be Jesus but I like to think sometimes that my life is intricately linked to his own human experience.
Parents are a wonderful gift from God to provide love and support but they cannot protect you from pain. The only person who can is God and is aware of oncoming pain in our lives yet does nothing to stop it. In my own life, I learn best from mistakes and God takes full advantage of this. Pain is inevitable but it is survivable through faith. God molds and transforms, not even mentioning healing through pain. It is in the deepest darkest moments of my soul that God gives clarity. Thus I've decided that if pain results in this, I choose pain. I am honouring my parents by honouring God first.
For me, pain equals a time of clarity. I guess falling off my bike wasn't so bad after all.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Thinking about the next 6 Months

Life certain has its curve-balls, both good and bad. Four years ago I would not have pictured myself as a graduate of Huron University College and with a BA in Globalization and International Comparative Studies. I had it all planned out. I would graduate with a Bsc. in some kind of Science and then it was off to Medical School.

As you can probably imagine, God had his way and changed most of that. I found myself becoming more and more interested in global issues. I hadn't even considered the possibility of a degree in anything other than science.

When I look back on my time at university I see the the writing of God over everything that happened. I saw how his handy-work led me to take specific courses, become involved with certain organizations and complete specific tasks. They say that hind-sight is 20/20 and looking back now makes that so clear.

With these thoughts in mind I have started another journey with God. This journey is far beyond my comfort zone that I can no longer see the circle I had drawn. Three years in a foreign country with a different culture and a job for which I feel not the least bit qualified.

With these three competing topics in my head, I am reminded of a conversation I had last fall with a very dear friend. We were talking about what was expected of women verses what God expects from us. I can't remember who said what but a sentence that has resonated with for a long time was "Since when have you ever done what is conventional or comfortable?" Writing those words now brings me to a thought that this sentence is not only one I ask of myself and others, but what God asks of me as well. Since when has Margaret ever done what the world told her to do? From what I have heard of my parents, that sentence fits to a T. I am certain I have left them with a few extra gray hairs. Sorry Mom and Dad :S

I know that I have my fears and apprehensions about the next decisions I will have to make but I know that someday I will be able to look back and see, yet again, how God's hind-sight in our lives is 20/20.

I've known for a long time that I was never called to "conventional" hence why I have decided to call this blog just that. My unconventional-ness will result I am sure in laughs and tears but, more importantly, I know it will lead to the glorification of God Almighty.

All Praise be to Him who loves the unconventional!