Hope

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Ahhhh…quiet time. Just me, my Bible, and a scripture guide, in a chapel with some candles and a couple of other people quietly sitting and pondering as well. Just one objective: to let the scripture speak to me and guide me at this beginning of the Advent season. A season in which followers of The Way expect and prepare for the coming of Christ. What would God, the Creator of all, say to me or show me today?

The first reading we were guided to was Luke 1:28-38. In this beautiful section of the Book of Luke, an angel has come to Mary to tell her she will bear the Son of God. Verse 30 struck an immediate chord with me. “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.” I found myself thinking about this past year and how tough it has been, with opportunities to be afraid many times throughout the year. A year of challenges, disillusionment and departures. I felt more challenged by God that favored – by a long shot! I wondered what it must have been like to actually hear the words, “you have found favor with God.” I felt a longing to physically hear those words as well. Yet in my heart, I knew that I also have found favor with God. After all, it seems like any of the people written about in the Bible who were favored by God . . . well, they did not have simple-dimple, easy-peasy lives. They often had tough challenges. I think of the prophets, the apostles, the kings, etc., etc. Suck it up, Princess Kathy! God’s favor might look a lot different that the favor of mankind.

Mary asked the angel how she could possibly conceive and give birth to the Son of the Most High since she was a virgin, and the angel replies . . . “…the Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” All I could think was that seems like a technically deficient answer. In my head, I would probably be thinking, “Okey dokey, so, you say the Holy Spirit will come on me and God will overshadow me, and I will be pregnant. Hmmmm. . . this was not covered in any discussions I’ve had with mom, aunties, or my sex ed teacher.” I think I might have had just a few more questions; but Mary simply obeys.

I read that part over and over again, and began to realize that just as God and the Holy Spirit preceded Christ in Mary, so they precede Christ in us. And though Christ physically grew inside Mary, he grows inside us in a different way, as we get to know him, and tend our relationship with him, and allow ourselves to be discipled by him. How I long, in a sense, to be pregnant with Jesus – bursting at the seams with his love. I could only imagine how difficult, yet rewarding, that would be, and I longed for that. I thought of many times when it was clear that Christ was hidden deep inside; the very opposite of bursting at the seams.

The first week of Advent is the week of “Hope”. My hope is that my love and desire for Jesus grows and that he becomes so evident in me that I appear “pregnant” with him and that to identify me as anything other than his disciple would be impossible.

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The Plunge

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“We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.”
Romans 3:22     (New Living Translation)

 

Okay, so yesterday I took the plunge. Literally. That’s right. With courage in my heart, I climbed into my “big girls” bathing suit to go swimming at the pool. Thank goodness I could at least get it on. I walked out of the stall and inspected myself in the overly large mirror. Oh no. How did this happen again? Expansion instead of consolidation. I did not examine myself for very long, but instead decided it was pretty urgent to actually jump in the pool and do something about it.

So, I grabbed two towels and exited the locker room to the pool. As I walked through the little area that suddenly seemed to me to be designed for supermodels to make their spectacular entrance to the pool area, I dreaded what the lifeguards were going to see as I entered the scene. Jiggling jelly thighs for sure. I heard a whisper: “I love you no matter what.”

I parked my stuff in the most obscure place I could find, and climbed down the ladder into the pool. Ahhhhh…..it had been toooooo long. It felt so good to be in the pool again. Time to swim some lengths. One (“this feels great”)…..two (“this is awesome”)…..three (“not so bad now, is it?”)…..four (“uh oh., what’s this?”)…..five (“my arms are hurting”)…..six (“my arms are killing me!”). Six lengths and I had to take a break. Two years ago, I could swim 40, 60, maybe more, lengths without taking a break – and it wasn’t my arms that hurt, but my lungs. Good grief, how quickly things change. Again, the whisper: “I love you no matter what. It is going to take some time to get back into it again.”

What a beautiful evening it was – the temp was in the low 70’s so not many people were in the pool. I floated in the shallow end to catch my breath and let my arms calm down a little bit before attempting a few more lengths. Beautiful, quiet evening. Just a few little girls’ laughter and chatter floating in the breeze, and the sound of the water lapping against the side of the pool, were all very soothing sounds and encouraged me to let my mind rest and just enjoy His gift of this moment. Enjoy it I did. How kind God is to encourage me like this.

Back to it…..one (“let’s not do the crawl anymore”)…..two (“the sidestroke is working a bit better”)…..three (“hurting again already?!?!”)…..four (“time to get out of the pool for the day”).   As I swam over to the ladder to climb out, I started identifying the body parts that hurt. Swimming is a great workout as it works more muscles that any other sport. My feet hurt (couple of cramps in the toes), my legs hurt, my lungs hurt, my arms hurt – it seemed like everything hurt.

I climbed out and decided I’d sunbathe just a little bit despite my lack of supermodel status. I lugged myself over to the sunbathing area, laid back in one of the reclining chairs, and basked in the glow of the sun. Ahhhhh……that felt goooooood. As the sun warmed me up, the hurts began to melt away. In a moment, I let go of any remaining negative self-thoughts I had, and any concerns over how others might see me. As the sun sent its caressing rays to warm every inch of me, I thought instead “Who cares what the others see? The sun loves me no matter what.”

Just as the Son, Jesus Christ, loves us no matter what.

Benedicta

Yesterday, I attended the requiem Mass for Benedicta, only a few short months after she was conceived.  In a very moving ceremony at St. Theresa’s Parish, I felt prompted to reflect.

Benedicta reminded me that everyone needs a good word
     a blessing
             and to be blessed.

Benedicta reminded me that all life is precious
      and sacred
              and worthy of celebration.

Benedicta reminded me that the shortest of lives here on earth
      often have the greatest of impacts eternally.

Benedicta reminded me that holy rituals
      carry comfort and solace
              when chaotic life events
                       tempt us to despair.

Benedicta reminded me that rejoicing and mourning
      joy and suffering
              laughter and tears
              may all happen at the same time.

Benedicta reminded me that grief expressed communally
      is healthy and healing.

Benedicta reminded me that God makes no mistakes.

Miracle Eggs

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This is what I would call a miracle.  Honestly, an unexpected miracle.  You wait and see, by golly.  Let me explain.

I was having coffee with a friend a couple of evenings ago and we got talking about the Pokemon Go phenomenon.  She and a couple of other friends had gone out to the Legislature Grounds in downtown Edmonton at midnight the previous night and what do you think they saw there?  Hundreds of people playing Pokemon Go at midnight on a weeknight.

On the good perspective side of the house:
(1) People who have been couch potatoes are now walking.
(2) So, people who are overweight are losing weight and getting healthier.
(3) People are socializing more than they ever have.  “Did you catch this pokemon?”

Some of the more negative aspects:
(1) Children as young as 5 years old were out with their parents at midnight.
(2) People have been lured into bad situations.
(3) People are wandering around inappropriately at all times of the night even.

My friend explained to me one aspect of the game that I find fascinating.  Apparently, and pardon me if I get this description wrong, you capture virtual eggs in this game, and then you have to walk a certain distance to hatch these virtual eggs.  There are eggs that can be hatched by walking 2 km, or 5 km, or 10 km or 20 km.  She had heard from a friend the day before that he had walked 10 km to hatch an egg.

Okay, does anyone else see how we are very easily manipulated?  Seriously, there is an obesity crisis in North America currently.  People are told all the time to get walking for their health….to no avail.  But give them a virtual egg and they are off and running to make it hatch.  Hilarious!!

Please tell me the medical community is kicking themselves for not thinking this one up! From what I can tell, these virtual (i.e., unreal) eggs stand a chance of making a serious impact in the fight against Type 2 Diabetes and obesity.

Miracle eggs, that is what they are.

Ghosts

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I recently read a book that had a profound impact on my views regarding addictions. Gabor Mate wrote In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction.  It was a #1 National Best Seller.

Gabor Mate is a physician in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver – arguably, the most famous part of Vancouver.  The part that has been set aside for addicts to more freely live their lives, addictions and all.

I can’t write a book review on this right now as I was so enthralled with the book, that once  I finished reading it, I loaned it out right away.  But what Gabor Mate writes about is how trauma informs addiction.  How the level of our predisposition to addiction is related to trauma we have experienced in our past.  After having ministered to the addicted, homeless and/or sexually exploited women on the streets of Edmonton, and hearing story after story after story of most, if not all of these women, having been sexually abused as children, Mate’s book hit home for me.  It makes sense.  The ghosts of past trauma are hungry for us, however many years have passed.

Mate writes various stories of his patients with a great deal of candour, compassion and even humour.  I got the sense that even though he is able to sort of clinically observe his patients, he still carries their stories with reverence and care.

Perhaps the most surprising result for me of having read this book is moving from an ambivalent stance on harm reduction to fully supporting that model of care.

The first chapter of the book can be found in the following link – be prepared to hear the language of the streets within the book – it is raw, often crude, and sometimes difficult to hear.  But for anyone wanting a true picture of what addiction is really like, I highly recommend this book.

Chapter 1 – In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts

 

Paint

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When the word prompt of “Paint” came today, I immediately thought of a song sung by Julie Meyer.  It is a song that asks God to use me as he would a paintbrush, to paint his picture.  My heartfelt desire today.  Enjoy.

Stubborn

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Think a donkey is the most stubborn thing on earth?  Think again!  Written a while ago, but still relevant…

“Why did you beat your donkey those three times?” the angel of the Lord demanded. “I have come to block your way because you are stubbornly resisting me.”
Numbers 22:32   (New Living Translation)

So, this last week I decided it was time to really get some documentation updated. Throughout the week, I located the necessary paperwork without too much difficulty. Got it all together and after work on Friday, came home, sat down at the computer, and looked for the old files on my computer. Looked through several directories, but the file was not to be found. I wasn’t too concerned because I had the hard-copy in hand, but I stubbornly continued looking instead of immediately retyping it.

I’d been having software problems with Microsoft Word all week. I would go to open up the file with my “Little Devotionals” where I attempt to turn a word into a prayer, and the computer would lock up altogether. I got several different error messages – a “Kernel 32” error of some sort, a “WINWORD” error of some sort in the “USER.EXE file”, a “system dangerously low in resources” error, and finally, it just locked up completely Friday night. I was dumbfounded. I sent a “please help” message to a friend of mine, Tom, who is good with this stuff, and he recommended I uninstall Word and then reinstall it. So, I did that – nada. I did it again, just in case – nope. In fact, I decided to uninstall all the MS Office 2000 products on my machine and reinstall them – still zilch.

Several hours of clicking on the same buttons, and I finally decided to give it a rest, said my prayers, and went to bed at perhaps about 1:00 a.m. Got up around 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, read my passages in Numbers, took a shower and got ready for the day. Decided to do some other Bible study homework, but was so exhausted from the previous night, I fell back asleep around 9:00 a.m. My sister Karen called and woke me up around noon to make sure I was still meeting her for lunch, so I headed out the door. Got back around 3:00 p.m. and started struggling with the computer again. Gosh, it just would not be fixed for anything.

Called a friend in Silver Spring, Maryland, just to chat. Barbara is a good counselor. We exchanged news. I talked about a pretty severe test I had recently been through, but through which I thought that I managed to retain, if not completely maintain, the “joy”. That I thought that throughout the test I sought Jesus and found Jesus continually, even though there were a few breakdown moments. I figured I had learned lessons throughout the experience and that at least passed some of the test.

I felt so good after talking with Barbara. I got back on the computer. Dratted thing would not work for anything. Decided to go through all the same steps I had just been through to resolve the problem. Only this time, I was clicking harder; perhaps the machine would respond to force. You know, kinda like trying to prove you can push your finger through a thick piece of wood. I could not believe I could not get Word to open. I hate to admit this, but there were tears of frustration in my eyes as I kept rebooting and rebooting this computer. “Where is the joy now?” I thought. Finally, I turned the thing off, prayed and went to bed around midnight.

I got up today, Sunday, and turned on the computer. My thought was that rest would fix the computer, apparently, since I tried all the same failing steps that had been attempted previously. “What a stubborn computer,” I thought to myself. (Ironic thought, huh?) I gave up, read my passages in Numbers, wondered what enlightenment I was supposed to receive from the passages (see passage at top of page for further irony), prayed, showered and dressed, and went off to church. The message was a good one and one particular part that struck me was when the pastor talked about the fact that Jesus could come back at any time. Really, I’m hearing that and thinking that all the time right now and it is just striking a chord deep within me. How do I want Jesus to find me? I want to be at my best, on my game, in the zone, acing tests, scoring touchdowns – all the while, carrying His flag. I thought about that a lot as I drove home. And all the implications.

I turned on the computer. With many sighs, I tried to get Word to work. Still nothing. I called my friend Kim. “Kim,” I cried, “Help! What could possibly be wrong??? How can there be an icon there, but I can’t get it to work??” Poor Kim was busy paying bills that had risen exponentially since the previous month, so I started sympathizing with her which made me feel a bit better, although still frustrated – no Word, no writing. She recommended I call Microsoft. Novel idea, isn’t it? Ask the creator for help.

So, I called Microsoft. After a wait of maybe 10 minutes, the customer support representative walked me through some debugging steps and it turned out my “Normal” file was corrupted. The “Normal” file can become corrupted when you abnormally reboot your computer and a message comes up that the “Normal file has been modified – would you like to save the changes?” and you click “Yes” when you should actually click “No.” I believe I clicked “Yes” once in error and some bad changes got saved in my “Normal” file.

It was quite simple really to fix the problem once it was identified. There was no “hard” clicking necessary, no tears required, no self-recrimination needed, just a few simple steps and a new “Normal” file was created.

It quite amused me, as well as shamed me, to think of the frustration, self-recrimination, negativity, etc., I had experienced over this simple problem – and the answer was that I needed a new “Normal” file. And it was quite easy to get one – I just had to get rid of the old bad “Normal” file. Throw it away, send it to the recycle bin, delete it. The system automatically created a new good “Normal” file for me once I had done that. But it couldn’t do it until I had taken the proper steps.

God, thank you for sending your son, Jesus Christ, to delete my old corrupted “Normal” file and for sending the Holy Spirit to create my new “Normal” file. Forgive me my stubbornness as my machinery every once in a while still seeks the old file’s paths. Thank you for refreshing my memory with your Word every day.