Blessed to be a blessing

Yikes, I’ve signed up for yet another email feed! Not sure how often this one updates, but it was recommended by our church plant, and has some really good articles/resources. Plus, it’s all about being missional.

For example, an article about the question of celebrating Hallowe’en: “For most of us, Halloween isn’t a time where we celebrate the dead and go and skin a goat and sacrifice it to Satan…. It has become just part of our culture in the West and has very little to do with the “darkness”…it’s not good, it’s not evil…it’s just something we celebrate…” He (Seth McBee) suggests that lots of evil things happen on other holidays that we celebrate without question (drinking too much, etc.), and that God wants to redeem all things back to himself.

You see, there is no holiday like Hallowe’en, for its opportunity to meet people and befriend them, which is where missioning begins. Jesus went to parties and was accused of spending time with “drunkards”. The thing is, you can alienate yourself from those new friends in two ways: 1) by not opening your home to them on Hallowe’en (this author even suggests that church “harvest parties” are bad, because they take everyone away from their community, and your neighbours get to know you as the mean people who don’t hand out); or 2) by handing out apples wrapped in tracts, or dressing your child like Martin Luther. Two extremes, two ways to scare people away.

Jesus always pursued the sinner, meeting them where they were, engaging them in ways that they’d understand who God is and how he loves us. “Jesus used the everyday celebrations as a way to build relationships so he could speak into the lives of those around him.  He was continually at parties.” So, this author says that we should “be THAT house”–the one that gives out the best candy, and is the most welcoming. One of his ideas I saw put into practise by a good friend in Toronto: have hot cider/hot chocolate etc., available for the parents.

Maybe it’s an excuse, but I’m always cautious about acting in ways that would be out of character for myself. Yes, I love to entertain, but I’m not really an extrovert type of person. If I was to overdo this kind of thing, it would only end up awkward and embarrassing. Nevertheless, I love these ideas!

One other thing he talks about that was a lesson to me: you know how Paul talks about eating meat sacrificed to idols, and how it might be okay for us, but we shouldn’t cause our brother to stumble? Paul was talking about new Christians who actually used to do that–eat meat sacrificed to idols.

Here’s how to contextualize for Halloween:

If you have a brother who used to worship Satan and they used to sacrifice goats and drink its blood, then it might be a good idea to work through Halloween with them and whether or not it would make that brother stumble.  This does NOT mean, if you have a brother who thinks it’s merely wrong to celebrate Halloween then you should put it to the side.

Because, shouldn’t we educate our brothers on this great missional opportunity? Just remember: “Don’t use this holiday to make a point.  Use this holiday to point to the true reason we all get to celebrate and bless…Jesus… He was about parties because that’s where people were and that’s where people connect and share stories and start and continue relationships…. Christians shouldn’t be the ones avoided for parties, but should be the ones that people are most excited to have come around because they bring the “better wine.”

I should have just shared the whole article with you, haha! If you do want to read it, you have to sign up for a (free) membership at “Vergenetwork”. The title of this one is “3 Practical Ways to be Missional This Halloween; Or, Why Jesus Wouldn’t Attend the Harvest Party at Your Church”.


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Baseball Lessons

Do you sometimes feel like a failure? You’ve been trying and trying, honed your skills, done everything in the best way that you know, and still nothing has come through?

Well, it’s a statistical reality that home-run hitters tend to be strike out leaders, and: “people who are called to attempt the greatest achievements tend to experience the most embarrassing failures”. Just think of all the failures that baseball players have to deal with! Every time they strike out, or are in a slump, lose a game, lose a series… It’s heartbreaking for them, I’m sure! But they have to learn to deal with it, or they’d never survive. Perhaps you too, are going through a rigorous training process, becoming one of those called to something great… “unless those folks learn to how to deal with failure, they are never going to fulfill their destiny.”

“Too many people are sitting in the stands, watching the game (of life), because they are too afraid of failure.”

Baseball has such great lessons for life! The guy who wrote this article I’m quoting from, is actually working on a book all about it. He is the Chaplain for the Ottawa Champions, and was one of the students that I marked for Perspectives. I’m looking forward to that book!

The article was written awhile ago, and I assure you, I did not come to it this morning on purpose. ;)


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Stand Up

During our small group Bible study last night, my husband’s response to one of the questions (I forget what the question was), was that we should decorate our homes in such a way (subtle, not blatant) that when people enter, they know that you’re a Christian. As I sat there amazed that he should have such a neat idea, he proceeded to suggest an example, “like my wife does”! Thinking to myself that he must have in mind an incident from many years ago, my eyes fell to the autumn basket on my coffee table, beside which was a bulletin cover that says “We thank you our Creator, for all things bright and good”.

Funny how I really liked the idea, and had forgotten that it’s already what I like to do (though I’m hesitant to say that everyone should do it). The fact that it’s now done without thinking, is not so good! The memories finally came back to me, of just wanting so much to give praise to God in every way possible.

The discussion continued, about not wanting to turn people off, or having the effect of making them avoid you at all costs. I grew up in the “Jesus Freak” days, when you wore buttons that said “I Belong to Jesus”… and little feet the same size as an aborted fetus’… pins and bumper stickers of “Jesus Loves You”, etc. etc. Perhaps it worked well for an extremely shy teenager such as I, to ward people away from me, haha!

We always seem to go from one extreme to the other though, don’t we? Our (excellent new) pastor bravely told us a couple of weeks ago, that Christians in Canada are going to have to stand firm in the coming days, about unpopular Biblical truths. As he said, when you change what the Bible calls sin, you change what we are to repent of, and you actually change the Gospel. Because the Gospel is not just “believe”, but “repent and believe” (Mark 1:15). And it’s when we stand firm and united, that others will get the idea that we’ve got hold of something that might be true. (Philippians 1:27-28)

And what will give us the ability to stand firm? To live as we should, to serve sacrificially and be joyful even in suffering, and do it humbly? We are inspired by our Model, who has done it before us. You see, it’s not all about what we can do for Him. It’s all about what He has done for us!


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If we care enough

Here is a quote from something I just read, that shows why “showing love” to people does not always mean doing whatever makes them happy.

The quote is from one of my Perspectives students, who writes a regular piece on the Torah (called Torahbybtes). This one is on some verses from Deuteronomy 7, where it talks about God destroying “those who hate him”. As Alan says, “we ignore true negatives to our peril”.

God doesn’t take our total disregard for him lightly. He actually loves us too much to do otherwise. I know that this is not how contemporary society regards love. But it is contemporary society that has redefined love to mean allowing everyone around us to do whatever they want, however they want, and whenever they want. But as any loving parent knows (if they care to admit it), permissiveness undermines maturity. If we care enough about our children, we will instill in them a sense of responsibility that can only come about through their understanding that actions have consequences. To let them get away with anything and everything will result in much harm to them and to others.

Contrary to popular thinking, this is not hard to understand. If you mishandle fire, you get burned. Ignoring God’s ways, you will unnecessarily get sick and injured. You can count on it… Because people ignore some of the most basic of God’s principles, they prematurely die. And that’s what God through Moses is emphasizing here. To hate God is to disregard him. We cannot flagrantly turn our backs on how he designed creation and expect good results. It does not work that way!

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How to define “ordinary”?

At Small Group last night, someone reminded us how God gives us gifts/abilities, not to use for ourselves, but for others. He gave the example of how you don’t, if you have the gift of preaching, preach to yourself.

For some reason, it came to my mind how I enjoy myself right here. I have several tabs open for reading this blog–one for reading the post on this day two years ago, one for reading the tag “quotes” (all my posts where I included interesting quotes), one for reading my tag on “notes” (including sermon notes, etc.)… and so on. And I haven’t been posting at all, just reading myself. :S  I figure I’m making good use of all that blogging and note-making, but…

In fact, I used to say that “I’m doing this for me”. That doesn’t sound quite right, somehow. Not that anyone needs more stuff to read!

Back to the Small Group study, which is actually done on each week’s sermon. Pastor Tim shared several Life Principles with us, and my favourite was about God using the ordinary to do extraordinary things. He asked Moses what was in his hands–a staff. The very staff that was used in so many miracles in the Exodus story. It started with something that Moses used every day, in his particular profession, looking after sheep.

We discussed in our group how it’s important to remember that we shouldn’t base our own experience on someone else’s–just because Peter walked on water, doesn’t mean that we can do it every time we try. It was Jesus who called Peter to come, and we need to follow God’s leading about those things. Also, Tim included the fact that things like housewife & mother are also a “high and holy calling”. So often we miss the fact that miracles and extraordinary things are happening around us all the time.

Like my parents’ 60th anniversary this weekend!! :)

60th Anniversary

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Praise you Lord, that I can put myself in your hands and count on you from morning to night. I can be confident that you’ll answer when I cry for help. Nothing I might obsess about, compares to you and your works. All the nations will one day honour you and “parade your greatness”!

You are known for forgiveness, you are tender and kind, not easily angered, immense in love! You never, never quit. You snatch us from the brink of disaster, and gently and powerfully put us back on our feet.

(from Psalm 86)

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If you don’t want to miss new posts from this blog, you’d better click on my “Home” tab at the top, and then scroll way down to the bottom and enter your email address, then click “subscribe”. Because I’m pretty sure most people are like me: when they see that “so and so shared” something, they just flick right by it, hit delete, whatever. It’s impossible to read everything, that’s for sure, or even to read all the headlines.

Speaking of this “modern-day water cooler” (social media), how about some notes on an excellent Compassion article about How to be an Effective Social Media Slactivist?

Slactivism, hashtag activism, vanity activitism–these are a few different terms for the same thing: expressing support for a cause solely through social media. Sometimes it has little impact (e.g. #Kony2012 and #BringBackOurGirls); and sometimes it gets people to take action and actually can raise a significant amount of money (e.g. #BlackLivesMatter and ALSIceBucketChallenge).

So here are the hints Compassion gives, if you want to get on the positive side of it:

  1. Of course, as Christians we always want to start everything with prayer. And as Compassion says “meditate on your motives”, and ask yourself a few questions. It seems to be natural to just do things to look good, and social media certainly encourages that.
  2. Inform yourself. I try to not even click “Like” unless I’ve actually read the article. Did that once, learned my lesson! Being educated about what you’re advocating, goes a long way towards success at motivating others.
  3. Not all opinions need to be shared. There is someone on my newsfeed who always has a lot to say–I’ve learned to skim by her. On the other hand, there are friends who hardly ever Share something, and don’t really update their status that often: when they do, of course it grabs my attention! As Compassion says, sharing “opinions about everything and anything is a sure-fire way to lose credibility”. There are SO many good causes! Pick something you’re passionate about, and research it.
  4. “Don’t be an alarmist. [this point copied complete] Speak intelligently, not angrily. Speak with passion, not with vitriol. Speak with compassion, not hatred. Point people to accurate information to support your passion.”
  5. Share your story. This is where you can be personal, and vulnerable. Adds weight to the issue.
  6. Pray again. Double check what you’ve written, before hitting that “post” or “send” button!
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My One Word isn’t being updated as often as I’d originally planned, but good enough that it gets done as often as I can find something, or come across something that fits. “Done” usually means a Facebook status update, sometimes with a photo. Now that there are “memories”, you know you’ll always come across them again.

However, one wants to be careful about those updates–I’m always stopped with the thought: “Do I really want to read this again next year? Or in ten years?”

My hashtag for the One Word is kind of weird, but that’s to make it only show up the things I’ve tagged, since other versions are things other people have used as well (#oneword, #myoneword, etc.).

The “thread” I’m noticing this morning, is something that’s running through my morning readings, the Sunday sermon series, and what I’ve been teaching these days to the three-year-olds: “obedience”.

  • The kids’ stories are examples of obedience from various Old Testament characters;
  • the sermon series is based on Malachi, where God is “fed up” with ritual obedience, but wants worship that comes from the heart;
  • of course the Old Testament is full of obedience stories, and I’m using some summary-videos that are excellent in helping one understand the Torah, as well as following along with a ministry of one of my students, who is a Jewish Christian (also chaplain to the Ottawa Champions) and writes a short narrative about the week’s Torah readings (“Torahbytes”). The one I read this morning (I’m way behind on these), talked specifically about obedience.

You really should check out those videos!

EDIT Later: I watched the last video that they have, Deuteronomy, “the epic conclusion to the Torah”, and just need to add some notes here! This is where the “shemah” (sp?) is, “Listen oh Israel… love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, strength” (“shemah” means “listen”). It’s all about obedience, starting with listening, which is exactly what I’ve been trying to teach the kids lately.

The key words are “listen” and “love”; the Hebrew for “listen” including the idea of responding–obeying. And of course, “love” should always be the true motive for obeying, which is exactly what we’ve been talking about in Small Group. “Israel won’t obey without love, and they don’t truly love if they don’t obey.” Of course, they don’t seem able to obey, which speaks of the human condition, and the need for a Saviour to transform our hearts.


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even a little bit

The main reason I want to make these notes, is because it’s what I would like to say myself, to people. Thank you Steve T. for giving me the words!

One thing that jumped out at me that day, was “You can’t really know with certainty until you commit.” So even it you’re a little bit sure, God will honour that. Think about the things you’ve “always thought”, and be open enough to doubt your doubts–see what the reasons are behind your thinking. Be honest about your bias.

We always want to tell people that they should do some research, “check it out”, and weigh the evidence–concerning the truth of a particular “man” being able to rise from the dead, etc. Of course we know that being objective about these things is not enough, that it needs to be personalized.

Hunger is proof that food exists. The deepest longings of the heart (for example, our sense of injustice) are proof that God exists. I’m so often reminded that ordinary human beings just cannot love the way those same human beings desire to be loved–we are prone to error. But God can, and does love us that perfectly.

If God is not a judge, than there is no hope for us–we cry out for justice. But law and love come together in Jesus, who met the requirements of God’s law out of his love for us. And as we respond to that, we are released from being driven by other things–those things that will, in the end, crush us. Every other religion says “DO”, while Jesus says, “It is DONE” (one of his final words from the cross).

Hope these thoughts are not too disjointed to follow!


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breathe, cry, sing

Time to put something down, to keep the memory: our first trip back to our previous “home” of 35 years. And it took almost 2 years before we did it!

The quote at the top of my home page these days is: “If you do not BREATHE through writing, if you do not CRY OUT in writing, or SING in writing, then DON’T WRITE”. (It’s to keep me from writing too much.) Not sure if this memory is breathing, crying, or singing. Maybe a bit of each!

First of all, if we had ever thought that we were just imagining that Ottawa has less traffic than Toronto, we were totally confirmed on that score: incredible how much traffic, how much people, there can be in one area on a Saturday afternoon! No wonder I used to take such a deep breath every time we’d come to Mom & Dad’s for a visit!

Sunday morning we caused quite a disturbance at our old church, and couldn’t get by without a hug for every single person of course! The funny thing was, the other couple who moved to Ottawa (years before us), who called Good Shepherd home years ago, were also there! We joked that we had to come to Toronto to see each other, even though we live a short bridge-distance away in Ottawa. But that wasn’t really a joke. ;S

Yes, that was the crying time. So many beautiful people that used to be in our lives every week, and more, for soooo many years! When I felt myself losing control, the thing to do was remind myself that the purpose of that place and time was worship, more than to see people. Not about me.

But it was certainly wonderful to see two more people being baptized there, and both of them crediting our sweet friend Lisa Li, being also thankful for the church, but mostly thankful for God. Their pastor was so good, that I’ll have to make sermon notes. You know I haven’t done that in a long time!

We waited at the back of the church afterwards, until almost everyone had gone. Weird to see them for such a few minutes, and some only a hug during communion. They were so happy to see us, but, I wonder if it was mean of us to drop in?

Monday we saw our financial advisor, and then visited old friends for dinner, having a wonderful time sharing new things (seeing their new home & land, talking about our new churches) and remembering old things. That would definitely be the “singing”!

Tuesday we returned the 407 transponder (more terrible traffic), and then (crying part again): watched the Blue Jays lose! One could say they were good seats, just above 3rd base, but wow–so uncomfortable! When did they shrink the seats??! :/

Somewhere in there I made a quick trip to Michael’s (siingiing), which was practically across the street from where we were staying at Rej’s brother’s place: one (kind of) advantage to living in a big city–good shopping SO close by!

Oh, and speaking of CRYING… our poor cat, didn’t stop–the whole way there, and the whole way back! It was kind of David (Sam’s friend), to be so willing to keep her while we were there. Our plan was to get her used to travelling; we remember friends who always took their cats with them camping, or to the cottage. Maybe when we go on a shorter trip, we could let her out of the cage, on her leash. Maybe that will work better. Maybe.

Wednesday we finished things up with our lawyer (so many things to think of when you move), and then went to a friend’s birthday supper, then off home the next day. It was all great fun, but definitely felt good to get home to Ottawa!


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