Wednesday 25 February 2009

Ash Wednesday

Today we begin in earnest the preparation of our hearts for Easter. A dear friend of mine shared this wonderful quote about Lent:

Some years ago a friend of mine told me that he had urged his children to move beyond giving up candy to giving up some habit of sin that marked their lives. About halfway through Lent he asked the children how they were doing with their Lenten promise. One of his young sons had promised to give up fighting with his brothers and sisters during Lent. When his father asked him how it was going, the boy replied, "I'm doing pretty good, Dad—but boy, I can't wait until Easter!"

That response indicates that this boy had only partly understood the purpose of Lenten "giving up." Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and his way of life. That always involves giving up sin in some form. The goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of our lives forever. Conversion means leaving behind an old way of living and acting in order to embrace new life in Christ.

My vision for this Lenten season is a time of refocusing my heart and my attitudes by spending more time in prayer and reading God's Word. With that as the foundation, I pupose also to use this season as a time of cultivating more of a servant's heart in my relationships, and in particular my marriage.

This has been a difficult past 8 months for us with my husband unemployed and I have begun to recognize much bitterness and anger within me. It is that bitterness and anger that I want to root out, to give up, replacing it with a giving heart and gentle spirit, which I know I can only do through the power of God.

My desire is a living faith, a faith which is demonstrated through the fruit and good works which arise naturally out of a loving relationship with our God.

How will you use this Lenton season?

Saturday 21 February 2009

Finding my place

(This is a bit of a continuation of my last post.)

These past two years have been years of discovery and change, to the point where I no longer feel at home, well, anywhere within the Christian community.

I suppose, though I now cringe to admit it, I would previously have described myself as being on the very conservative side of conservative Christianity. If it was "conservative", I was there - and the more conservative, the better. And clearly anyone who disagreed with some part of conservative Christianity was just using that as an excuse to not have to be obedient in that particular area - a sentiment I still hear almost daily from the conservative side of Christianity.

Gratefully, and by the mercy of God, I no longer feel that way myself. Slowly I began to see the things that weren't quite "right" with that ultra-conservative ideology - first one thing, then another, then more and more until what I had previously felt at home with now looked so completely foreign to me that I could no longer abide with it.

Now I see it everywhere. It seems glaringly obvious to me, this ideology that appears so "biblical" on the surface and yet, digging deeper, is often nothing more than excess burdens imposed by man, a need to keep up with the Joneses, a competition, mere outward appearance.

I know I linked to this series in my previous entry, but Taunya really hit the nail on the head early on in her first installment of The Marketing of the Titus 2 Woman:

This month we must wear skirts only, the next we must purchase an 1868 dictionary, the next we must only read from the King James version of the Bible, the next month KJV is out and it must be the ESV or else we are reading heresy. By the middle of the year we must change our homeschooling curriculum because the one we are using is not Christian enough, by early summer we must all have our children stop dating and read the latest book on courtship, by mid-summer we are going to hell if our daughters even look at a college with interest. By then end of summer even our sons need to stay out of college in favor of an apprenticeship. By fall we must all put on clothes from the 1860's and admit that the South was right all along and Lincoln is the worse thing to ever befall this great nation of ours. By Thanksgiving we had all better be trying to have as many children as the Duggars (currently they have 18) or else we are not as godly as we think we are. By Christmas if we find we cannot have that many children we had better adopt that many. By New Years we need to have all of our children (dressed alike I might add) lined up according to size and ready to leave our church of 10 years to head to that Family-Integrated one down the road. What is a Family-Integrated church? Wow! if you don't know you aren't as godly as you thought you were. Finally and most importantly our husband must immediately be able to teach us and our children theology on a seminary level or else he is clearly a backslidder who does not love his family!

The hardest part in untangling it all is that it is all based - very loosely! - on biblical principles. Start with one verse or biblical principal, ignore the context, build up a whole set of rules around it, and presto! One more man-made burden to take on in the name of being "godly" - and shake your head ruefully at any who don't jump on the bandwagon right behind you.

So much of it I can no longer stomach. The patriocentric movement. The quiverful movement. The "biblical method" of parenting - I feel physically sick to read some of the descriptions. (And these are parents who truly love their children and mean well, earnestly desiring to raise godly children! If only they could see the damage they are doing - like the quivering daughters they leave behind.) The proliferation of "Titus 2" and "Biblical Womanhood" and "Biblical Femininity" writings, and the even greater abundance of women who form their ideas of biblical living based on such writings, turning their families' lives upside down every time they step away from the newest blog post or book. The "one size fits all" approach to everything. Our ("godly") way or the highway. The legalism that drenches it all.

As I said, I could never feel at home there again. Which is funny, because I do most of the things they preach - I just do them for different reasons, and I don't believe they should necessarily be universally applied to all Christians. I am a skirt-wearing, birth-control-avoiding, homeschooling, living-lightly mama with a marriage that most conservatives would approve of. And yet I firmly disagree with patriarchy, I don't believe it is a sin to take steps to conceive or to avoid conception provided the couple is following the promptings of the Holy Spirit and not the flesh, I don't think it is sinful for women to wear pants, and I understand that someone can be both Christian and send their children to public schools!

But I don't fit in with the liberal end of Christianity either. I do believe there is Absolute Truth. I do believe there is one way to God, through Jesus Christ, His Son and our Saviour. I do believe the Bible is true, inerrant, and historically factual. I do believe that homosexuality is a sin - while sincerely loving the person and welcoming them into fellowship. I do believe there are fundamental differences between a man and a woman - while wholeheartedly rejecting the teachings of patriarchy.

The evangelical movement. The health and wealth gospel. The emergent movement. I can't find any footing in any of them either. There seems to be no one set "type" of Christian that I can identify with - and many days I am so disappointed by what I see in the church that I wish there was some other way altogether of identifying myself as a follower of Jesus Christ.

(And, of course, there is no one defined "conservative" or "liberal" or "evangelical" or "emergent" or "_____" Christian - there are all sorts of people within each - which only makes it harder to find solid footing or to discuss any particular ideology in any sort of fruitful manner.)

Sometimes it can be difficult to avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater, if you'll pardon the cliché, but I have sought earnestly to be cautious that, while turning away from the extrabiblical principles of conservative Christianity, I don't leave behind the true biblical principles at the same time. So that's where I'm at right now - continually digging, searching, praying, looking for the Truth in a religion that has strayed so far from where it should be. Walking away from religous teachings and back to the Bible and the welcoming arms of the Creator Who left it for us. Giving my life to God, not to a movement or doctrine.

Relearning Grace - grace from God, grace for others, and grace for myself.

Grace, sweet grace.

Sunday 15 February 2009

If I was Jesus

My husband and I were listening to the Christian radio station in the car recently when the song "If I was Jesus" came on. Apparently it's a Toby Keith original, but has recently been popularized by Paul Colman. I'd never heard it before, but I loved it right from the first line. Before it was finished, I had declared it (much to my husband's amusement) my New Favourite Song.

Because it's just so true.

If I Was Jesus

If I was Jesus, I’d have some real long hair
A robe and some sandals, is exactly what I’d wear
I’d be the guy at the party, turnin’ water to wine
Yeah me and my disciples, we’d have a real good time.

Ooh and I’d lay my life down for you
And I show you who’s the boss
I’d forgive you and adore you
While I was hangin’ on your cross
If I was Jesus.

I’d have some friends that were poor
I’d run around with the wrong crowd, man I’d never be bored
Then I’d heal me a blind man, get myself crucified
By politicians and preachers, who got somethin’ to hide.

Ooh and I’d lay my life down for you
And I show you who’s the boss
I’d forgive you and adore you
While I was hangin’ on your cross
If I was Jesus.

If I was Jesus, I’d come back from the dead
And I’d walk on some water, just to mess with your head
I know your dark little secrets, I’d look you right in the face
And I’d tell you I love you, with Amazing Grace.

Ooh and I’d lay my life down for you
And I show you who’s the boss
I’d forgive you and adore you
While I was hangin’ on your cross
If I was Jesus.

If I was Jesus.

Luke 7:34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, "Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners."

Is it weird that one of the things I love about Jesus is that He had that reputation? He wasn't worried about appearances. He drank wine. He hung out with the "wrong crowd". He wasn't caught up in The Rules. How often did the Pharisees try to accuse Jesus of breaking their Law for doing things like - *gasp* - healing on the Sabbath?

Jesus was so different from the Pharisees. But I look at the Christian church now and see more Pharisee than Christ. I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the thought of Jesus coming to sit down in the typical Sunday morning church service - the disapproving looks he'd get over his long hair and lack of "Sunday best", the whispers about having seen him last night hanging out with Johnny Sinner, and oh didn't you know he's rumoured to be a drunk? And then we wonder why those who aren't Christians want nothing to do with our God. Honestly, I don't blame them one bit. If I were on the outside looking in, I'd want nothing to do with Him either. I'm so grateful that I already know His amazing love and grace and could never turn away from that, no matter what I see in those who claim to follow Him.

But at the same time, I know that most of us mean well, truly believe we are doing "the right thing", sincerely love our God even as we stumble along the path in our attempts to follow Christ. The church may have gone horribly astray over the years, but it consists of humans - sinners who have been saved by grace. Not perfect people - sinners. Different from those outside not by anything we have done, but merely by our acceptance of what Christ did for us.

So many of us, in our earnest desire to be more godly, have fallen prey to those "wolves in sheep's clothings" (Matthew 7:15), those false prophets who would turn our eyes and hearts from God's Word even as we seek to move closer to it. Thatmom recently wrote a very convicting post on why we must vocally and publically speak out against these false prophets, just as they have vocally and publically spread their lies and venom amongst God's children, blinding their eyes and stopping their ears to the Truth of the Gospel.

In a similar vein, Taunya has written an excellent series entitled The Marketing of the Titus 2 Woman (Parts One, Two, Three, Four, and Five still to come) that also speaks to the idea of our increasing propensity to form our beliefs based on what we are told by others rather than on what God's Word tells us. This series is particularly timely as there seems to be an increase in "Christian fads" - the monthly "new thing" (read: extra-biblical rule) that you must do in order to be a "real and godly Christian" - though perhaps in many ways this truly is an age-old problem.

After all, "there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

I have more to ponder and share along this line, but I'm starting to feel rambly and this seems like a good place to pause for the time being. I just so enjoyed this song, this "irreverent" picture of the Jesus I so love, the Jesus I long for others to know, the radical with a reputation as a sinner-loving wine-bibber.

And sinner-lover He is. Jesus, friend of sinners, who came for the lost.

Matthew 9:10-13 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Thursday 12 February 2009

Big boy underwear!

We had a big potty learning milestone today - our first poo in the toilet! (And by "our" I mean "his". I've been quite proficient at pooing on the toilet for a couple decades now.)

I remember reading a quote somewhere, long ago, about how God made poo stink because otherwise mothers would be so proud of their children's first poos that they'd try to save it. Too true, too true.


He's been doing amazing on the toilet ever since hubby went back to work. His one week temporary job was extended for another week, so the little guy and I have had two weeks now to get back into a really good routine. I really struggle with that when my husband's home 24/7. But suddenly the little guy is almost completely potty trained (telling me when he needs to go, staying dry all day except naps, and able to stop himself right away if he does start to have an accident), we're eating much healthier and more regularly, he's picking up all sorts of new concepts, we're getting out a lot more, and I'm just really enjoying him in a new way. It's hard to explain. I've always enjoyed him - I think he's pretty much the most amazing boy ever - but these past couple weeks have been even more fun. It's been really good for us, and he's clearly flourishing. It's neat to see.

So to celebrate his amazing job on the potty (and his first poo there!), we went out this evening and bought big boy underwear! We got a package of Cars undies, a package of trucks undies, and a couple of the old school waffle weaves. He was giddy with excitement. He had to put them on the minute we got home. And then take them off and try another pair. And then take those ones off and try another pair. Then he was satisfied for the rest of the evening.

I'm really proud of him. And not just for this - for everything. It's just amazing to watch him grow. He's such a sweet kid, so great when we go out, always complimented on how good he is, SO SO funny (I laugh SO MUCH because of him), just great. It's been fascinating to watch him grow into toddlerhood, and I can't wait to see the boy and man he becomes.

Friday 6 February 2009

When the cat's away...

What a week this has been! My husband, who has been unemployed for seven months, had a week-long temporary job. I love that man dearly, but I find it hard to keep a good house with him around 24/7.

A week without him has left my house mother-in-law ready. It's that clean.

The kitchen is scrubbed, clean (including the inside of my toaster) and completely reorganized. I feel like I have so much extra room in there now! I even tackled the top of my fridge.



I sorted through the boy's toy baskets, tossing out all the miscellaneous "stuff" that had collected in there. Even though his baskets were suddenly much emptier, he has rediscovered all of his favourite toys and been playing with them much more often. Less is, indeed, often more.

I *coughputawaytheChristmasdecorationscough*, but we won't talk about that. Because it's February. And ow, my pride.

I cleaned and reorganized and tidied and cleaned some more. I have this odd desire to dance around my house now.

And the boy and I! We had so much fun.

I made a batch of playdough using a recipe a friend had given me. He played with this frequently and for nice long stretches of time, which I took full advantage of to get more cleaning done (and some web surfing...and some playdough playing...because who can resist playdoh?). I made a playdoh snowman, which the boy insisted needed a hat - so a hat was made. I give you, Cowboy Playdohman:

And Cowboy Playdohman after a few modifications done by said boy:

We played with bubbles (while Mommy washed the dishes).

We went outside! In the snow! For hours!

We walked to the produce market and picked up all sorts of wonderful fruits and veggies (and the obligatory yogurt, which the boy would eat several times a day if I let him). We tried our very first blood orange, which, though the name has always turned me off, was very good. We bought bananas, battered though they tend to be in the winter, with plans to make banana muffins in a couple days.

I hate to sound so giddy about having my darling husband out of the house for a few days - but seven months! You can't blame a girl, really.

Kool-Aid Playdough

2 1/2 cups Flour
1/2 cup salt
2 small packages of Kool-Aid
3 tablespoons of oil
2 cups boiling water

1. Mix flour, salt, oil and kool-aid until blended
2. Add boiling water, mix with spoon until cool enough to knead, knead until colour is well mixed
3. Store in air tight container or bag in the fridge.

Wednesday 4 February 2009

2 years ago yesterday...

I married my childhood sweetheart.

I'm so grateful to have him in my life. He is patient, kind, supportive, honest, goofy, and intelligent. We balance each other out perfectly, in so many ways, and my life is all the richer and better with him in it.

When I was a kid, I swore up and down that I was never getting married, I was simply going to adopt a child and live happily ever after, just the two of us. I have to say, I'm glad I changed my mind. I'd have missed out on one amazing husband - and my child would have gone without an incredible father.

We had a lovely dinner out yesterday, then came home and spent the evening snuggled in bed watching Fireproof. It wasn't without its cheesy moments, but it was quite good overall. (We were both pleasantly surprised.)

Shortly after it ended, our son woke up, staggered sleepily into our room, climbed into bed and the three of us snuggled down together for the night. I am so blessed to have both those guys in my life.

Here's to another happy year together, and the promise of more to come - "until death do us part". Cheers!