16 Jan 2021

Living Your Best Life

     I took a class in the fall that included a bunch of reading, and discussion. While there was much involved (tests, analyses, etc.), I jokingly nick-named it “Book Club for Credit” – and that stuck.
     As we gathered (on Zoom) to dissect the deeper meaning of that week’s reading, one of our foci was on the characters: who would we write a letter to, and what would it say? One of my classmates tended to pick the most emotionally-balanced character, and said “I feel that [name] is just living their best life!” Our analysis would then go into how and why that person was, and how and why the other characters were not.
     It got to be a bit of a joke – by about we would ask “So who is living their best life in this book?” It was lovely. (I quite miss those classes, to be honest!)
     The idea can be transferred, however, to our own lives. I would recommend we refrain from making such analyses of our friends and neighbours, as we do not have the same exposure to their lives as authors grant us into the lives of fictional characters in books. 
     But we can ask ourselves at the end of each day: How am I living my best life? Not in comparing ourselves to others, but in celebrating the reality of our 
beautiful and unique experiences each day?
     I can be quite reflective, and quite revealing… and maybe we can take it one step further. Imagine waking up each morning and thinking: “today I can live my best life – by doing X and Y and Z!” And maybe that will happen, and maybe it won’t, but at least we’ve tried.
     I imagine that if we start our days by deciding that it can be a good day, then we can make it a good day. It doesn’t mean that the rest of the world will be all rainbows and butterflies – but it allows us to focus our perspectives on making our day a good day - one day at a time. 
     So… how are you going to live your best life today?
 
Rom 15.13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

10 Jan 2021

Feedback

"Writing"
CC BY-SA by ThroughKiksLens 
Source: Flickr

      I was involved in a series of discussions this week for a project I’m working on. In this group, each of us shared something we have written, with the purpose of receiving feedback. 
      Asking for feedback can be daunting. We are putting out into the world something that we have made, created, put time and effort into – and we hope that it will be good enough. But the feedback process itself can be intimidating, because we know that sometimes instead of critique, we receive criticism.
      I think there’s a distinct difference: feedback that is meant to be helpful and constructive is intended to improve, to strengthen the offering of our colleagues to the world, is a critique. Feedback for the sake of putting someone else down, of insulting their work, is a criticism. 
Our tone and words matter a lot in this process, for example: “I think if you clarify this sentence it would enhance your point” is kinder than “this sentence doesn’t make sense”; it offers a suggestion with a purpose rather than just rejecting what’s there.
      Feedback is an important part of writing, but it’s also an important part of life. We exist in a constant feedback loop, with our words and actions and even facial expressions and body language. How we respond to those around us reflects not only what we think of the other, but also a bit about how we see the world. For if we only seek out the negative, and complain without aiming to help or empower, we are caught in a criticism loop; which can be isolating and inhospitable. 
      But if we take a moment to try and help, and enhance one another, we are building up a safe space to try, an open space to share, a helpful space to grow. A space of critique (when asked for!) can be a space of healthy Christianity. 
      Ephesians 4.29: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
      May we all strive to be ambassadors for grace!

2 Jan 2021

The TBR

    I am a bookworm, an avid reader. Sometimes I read literature, sometimes I read fluff. But I read – pretty much daily! And the basis of many conversations I have with friends has to do with books. 
    As such, one of the realities in my life is the TBR – the “To Be Read” bookpile. Or bookshelf. Or… if I’m honest, book case! I could go for a year without buying a book, or borrowing from the library (ah, the blissful library!) and still meet my average of 10 books a month. 
    While I enjoy collecting books, I also enjoy passing them along; I’m more into tsundoku (a Japanese word for the TBR) than bibliomania (an obsession with books, to the extent of damaging social relationships).  
    For me, my bookshelves speak about my relationships: some have been gifts, some recommendations, some follow-ups to conversations. Some remind me of adventures with friends, or of educational experiences, or of book club ideas yet to put into practice. I have fiction and poetry, non-fiction and biography, thrillers and lots of theology! And there’s always – always – a Bible on my TBR. Because that is a part of my daily reading, and re-reading – and there’s always something new to be found in its pages. 
    As I set my “reading challenge” goals again this year (I belong to several book groups), I realised that I’ve never included the Bible in my reading trackers… not because I don’t enjoy it, or want to share it – quite the opposite! I don’t count it because I’m never done reading it: unlike the mysteries or histories or even the adventure books that are re-reads. It’s always in the TBR section, because for me it’s a way of life. 
    So what are you reading this year? Can I suggest the Bible?

 "‘Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are’ is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread."
~Fran├žois Mauriac
 

26 Dec 2020

Community

A screenshot of the CBC online article

             I had the great pleasure this week of speaking with a journalist from the CBC - she was doing a story on how churches were planning Christmas during COVID... word had gotten to her about our delivery of pre-consecrated communion for Christmas, and they were interested in learning more.
            I described how this was not normal, but building on the tradition of home communions (taking the sacrament beyond the building to the people of the church), we were celebrating being spiritually together while physically apart.
            The inevitable question came up: Isn't communion about community?
           Yes. It is! Community with God and with each other. However - community is not always defined as the person seated next to you on any given day. 
            Community is about knowing people, and being known - so we can react and respond when there are changes and occasions within community. It's reaching out to a friend who's going through a tough time... it's dropping off soup to a neighbour with sick kids... it's supporting local groups who work with food re-distribution and social supports... it's praying for the people in the homes you walk past on a stroll... it's journeying alongside someone standing up for what is right... and yes, it's coming together in the church to share in the body and blood of Christ.
            So for those of us here at St. John's, we don't have to come to the building to achieve community - we *live* community. We connect with one another, we reach out to those who may need help, we do what we can to make our part of the world a better place. 
            We don't always get it right, but we do try: because we care, and because we can. 
            And in doing that, we are doing our best to live the Gospel - 365 days a year, including Christmas. 
            Christmas this year was about new ways of celebrating our traditions. So although much was different, much was also the same: including Christmas communion. While the church made a headline one day for delivering communion, we live the joy every day of delivering community. 



12 Dec 2020

Spell-Cherker

In my writing, one of the things I am grateful for is the spell-checker. 

Admittedly, my spelling usually isn't terrible, and my typing isn't generally too bad; however, there are times when I end up with something VERY different than what I intended; I may be typing too quickly, or when I am tired or distracted and not at my best. And so, with a quick spell-check, I get the chance to edit out anything that should not be in the writing.

I've had a lot of opportunity to do this recently; my current chapter 3 is on re-write number 4, with more to come!

As much as it can be a nuisance, this editing and rewriting is a gift; as I am able to re-phrase and re-work my efforts, I can clarify what is being said, eliminate parts that are unnecessary or off-topic or just awkward. And, by going through such a process, my writing is better, my project is more concise, and it's an overall better experience.

Wouldn't it be great if we all did some editing in our daily communications? 

Well, we can: we can be intentional about what we say, and what we write. We can avoid hitting the send button in anger, we can verify facts before we pass along judgements, we can choose an appropriate audience. It's not always easy; but it is always possible - in fact, it's Christian. Ephesians 4.29 reminds us: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

One of the resources I have shared is the "Think Before You Speak" practice.... it invites folks to be intentional, before they speak (or email, or post on social media!)
THINK before you speak. (Or, thiinky before you speaky!)
T - is it true? Are these facts or guesses?
- is it helpful? Will this build up the church/community/conversation, or tear it down?
I - is it important? Is this adding to the conversation, or has this already been shared? 
I - is it inspiring? Will this encourage the hearer? Is it a faithful response to the situation?
N - is it necessary? Does it need to be shared here and now?
K - is it kind? Even difficult conversations can be kind; is your delivery rude or mean?
Y - is it your story? Or are you telling someone else's story?

It's a good practice to get into, and can provide that basic 'edit' function to our conversations. And we can practice with our friends in casual chats, until it becomes more natural to us... because it will make a profound difference in our interactions, if we can speak the grace that has been given us. All we need to do is imagine how we would feel to hear what we're saying... and maybe find that metaphorical edit button. 



5 Dec 2020

Advent Adventures: New Traditions

          Christmas, we know, will look different this year. And many of us are lamenting what won't be - the traditions that we done in years past, the rhythms of the season that have

            And I know many are expressing these laments in terms of those we hold nearest and dearest. The kids won't have their school concert; the pets won't have their Santa picture, the multi-generational massive feast won't be all at the same table.

            I recognise that this is not what we want. We want the traditions, we want the experiences, we want that inaccessible sense of historical security. Though, would everything *really* be okay if we did what we've always done? Or can we be open to new opportunities?

            I have seen many expressions of enthusiasm as families are focusing their energy on building traditions around their priorities. They are rejecting the "woe is ME!" mentality as they establish new ways to celebrate, having re-evaluated the intention behind each of those things that are changed.

            The family meal? A friend is creating 'take-out' packages and door-drop-delivering to their family, who will all join on Zoom - where no one needs to change out of their PJs!

            The church service or carol sing? With online options, Christmas is so big it bursts beyond the confines of one building! (I'll be worshiping in London and New York, and Winnipeg and Lunenburg!)      

            The fellowship? A friend has compiled a recording of a favourite book for her children, with each chapter read by a different member of the tribe: each day they listen, chat about the person, and send a note of care back.

            The parties? Phone-a-friend and don't worry about vaccuuming up the dog hair!           

            This year is definitely different. And we're not always comfortable with different. But let's find ways to use that different setting that we've been given as a way to increase our intentionality about celebrating. And who knows - maybe our new traditions will be so exciting that even in a post-COVID world we'll want to continue them.

 


28 Nov 2020

Hello, My Beautiful Lovelies!

While I don't watch TV (aside from streamed Hockey games when my Winnipeg Jets are playing!), I have found myself lately watching short videos on the computer... usually, believe it or not, cooking shows. One of them is a woman who starts every segment with "Hello, my beautiful lovelies!" before she dives into a new recipe. 

There's some comfort in it, in that there's a distinct LACK of drama (life has enough of that these days!). 

The way she starts, however, is with a positivity that is genuine and inviting. The videos do not edit out when an egg shell falls in a bowl, or a cake fails to rise. She presents an authenticity as though the viewer were sitting in the same kitchen, chatting casually as friends, not worrying about the imperfections in cooking (or life!)

It's a bit of a break from the reality of masks and protocols, of Advent planning and press-conference-scanning. 
It's an invitation to be imperfect, to be okay with not always being okay, and to be embracing the beauty in others. 

For in a time of fear and stress, who wouldn't benefit from a kind greeting and genuine compliment? Who wouldn't enjoy a friends' relaxed laughter, and a fun try-something-new adventure?

I think the point of this is: we can make that happen. We can choose how to be present to each other. (I'm not suggesting that we go for an artificially happy-happy space; rather to be open to the movement of the Spirit as God puts the right people in our paths. 

We have the ability to interact with one another as we are: beloved of Christ, siblings in the Lord. Beautiful, lovely, chosen. 

Imagine how our days will be if we start out that way.
Hello, my beautiful lovelies!!