Monday, January 27, 2014

Six new things.

Hey, do you remember yourself four weeks ago? Making New Years' resolutions as 2013 ended? 2014 was all shiny and new, and everything was going to be different?

Yeah, me too. I like resolving new things. And although it's easy to be cynical about resolutions (Have the hardly-used treadmills cluttered up Kijiji yet?) there is value in making them.

2014 has never happened before. (from the TWLOHA 2014 calendar, if you still need one)

Anyway, resolutions are good, goals are good.  I've enjoyed Don Miller's Storyline and My Subplot stuff, and putting my goals as a "subplot" and thinking in narrative form was very helpful.

Don Miller posted about another guy with goal-setting stuff, more of an overall 'life plan' thing. And I rolled my eyes at the over-hyped phrases like "creating the life you've always wanted." And I'm almost morally opposed to Life Plans with sailboats on the cover.... But I didn't dismiss it outright. I thought I'd give it a shot.

And you know what? Despite the package, the content was pretty good. So I began trying out that format. I wrote some goals down in early-mid 2013, along with specific commitments to get there.

 (you can download it here, but sign up with an email where you can filter out their constant offers. Also, if you imagine it in a nicer font with different pictures, it seems a lot cooler. I promise.)

Then I got some external motivation. The staff at The Summit Community began to work on our goals/resolutions together. We've been preparing things and praying on our own. We're starting to have some conversations. We're asking where we need to be, and what steps we see ahead.

Here are my top six. There's one shared resolution with my husband, Jarod; the other five are all me.

There will be some posts explaining these soon. For now, here's the list that's been on my mind this month.

1. I will wait 21 days before talking about significant new habits/endeavours.
2. I will undertake a "spending fast" from buying "stuff" for a year, using that money instead to build relationships.
3. I will re-read the Gospels constantly this year, while reading through the Bible as usual.
4. I will stop saying I am "busy."
5. We will give 1% of our income, above our tithe, to Kiva micro-loans.
6. I will spend the entire "first quarter" of my pastor-work days differently.

I will soon post about the first. In the meantime - what about you?

Monday, May 2, 2011

I've thrown in my lot with them, and with that I'm still content.

(I wrote this in February. It's not about politics or the election today. I've finally got around to updating it and posting it tonight.)

One of the things I'm the most grateful for in life is that I've experienced so much variety. So many types of cities and towns, so many types of housing, and so many different types and expressions of church. I've lived rural and small city and mid-sized city and large city and suburb. I've lived in mid-rises and high-rises and dorms and above storefronts and attics and basements and semis and detached. I've regularly attended church plants, old churches, young churches - even worked at Baptist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian.

One of the churches that's still closest to my heart is  FreeChurch Toronto. This church, in so many ways, just "gets" it in my mind. They embody it. They understand, but also live out: presence and love and creativity and truth and so much more.

I've spoken before how I made an intentional choice to finish my education and move towards ordination in PAOC because of their core beliefs and practices. I don't think anyone matches up perfectly with any denomination, but I think they've been a good choice and still reflect me well. As I told a friend, I've thrown in my lot with them, and with that I'm content.

Many of the people working in PAOC hold areas of strength that aren't necessarily a strength of the denomination as a whole, but I've seen that expressed well in a diverse range of churches, even if a lot of the large "backbone" churches often look fairly similar. There's a lot of interesting ideas being tried out. And yeah, there's a lot of similarities too.

I'm going to list a few. They're not all strengths of PAOC, but by and large they are. It may not be of much interest to those who aren't Christians, and even if you are it's a lot of reading... but as usual, it's always better to talk about these things than just to read them. For those who disagree, that's fine (and expected for many people) - just disagree with me in person instead of anonymous hater comments, if you would. (And that lets me clarify what my position actually is, especially if I haven't mentioned it here.)

Inerrancy of original texts, reading conservatively with an eye to "exegesis" and "hermeneutics"
In reading Scripture, I believe the original text is inerrant. Is every edit of it? Nope. Is every translation? Nope. Is there enough historical reliability, early copies, multiple manuscripts in early usage and extra-biblical sources to give assurance about the majority of the content? Definitely.

I'm glad to live at a time when we realize that everything we do is coloured by a particular perspective, that there isn't a way to stand outside and claim absolute knowledge of the right way. And specifically to understand Scripture, you need to understand what its original author meant to its original audience (exegesis) and what unchanging meaning applies to a different cultural context (hermeneutics). And there's ways to guard that - with what the church has consistently taught, with the Bible's internal consistency.

And I'm also very glad to live in a time and a country where it's possible to disagree about many peripheral things in the faith, but the core of Christianity is still the same, and cooperation between different churches is encouraged.

The giftings of the Holy Spirit, including baptism/tongues/charismatic gifts, being active today

Most who call themselves Christians  would agree with that. I find I'm even more historical/conservative than some people in PAOC on this. I think there's something special about the baptism of the HS. it's not just one potential gift among many. I think it's open and available to all beginning in the book of Acts and still is today. I think there's still value and power in seeking that for each person. Not so that we add to a list of spiritual tricks or build ourselves up for our own sake, but that we get better equipped to serve and God gives us power for living and serving Him and doing good day to day. That's a pretty classical/conservative position but I hold it pretty strongly.

Creation, fall, redemption, restoration (vs. creation, fall, redemption, BURN NOTICE, model 2.0)

More recently, I've ran into more and more people that hold a versions of this that looks like "creation, fall, redemption, and then God says "whoops!" pulls the plug, and says "don't take any of this seriously, it wasn't the real thing, time for brand-new everything now that the awful material world is gone!" That's jarring... and pretty Gnostic-sounding (if you're up on your history of popular beliefs). It's also inconsistent. Creation can't groan for redemption if that means destruction. That whole Romans passage needs to be taken together, in context with itself and the whole of Scripture (exegesis, again). (Same for the 2nd Peter passage).

That misinterpretation leads to misfires in a couple other areas - two that always hit me are care for the planet, and understanding of gender roles. If God isn't much caring for the way things are now, and doesn't care about restoring the original design -- then we don't have much of a leg to stand on in thinking God wants to make things right in either of those things. We don't have much of a reason to talk about the church being an example of the way God intended things to be in equality or care instead of just ploughing ahead with the same patterns that characterize the fallen world operates. We don't have much hope of changing anything, except praying more souls will be saved before the end...

And I think that "burn notice" model is incomplete... and we've lost something there if that's all we have.

Cities, incarnation, presence.
The suburbs has traditionally (within the past fifty years) been the domain of the church. and there are people aplenty who find that the best space for them. I wouldn't presume that telling everyone to live in the city among the poor is what they need to do. Then again, I would say that living in comfortable suburbs most poor  people can't get to because they're carless and just making an occasional donation or city mission trip is pretty suspect. And many, many people live suburban and do much  more than this.

By contrast, the church in the urban areas of cities has often been 'relief work to those in poverty'. Alone, that's also incomplete. Whether we live suburban or urban or rural,  we need to be building more permanent solutions to poverty. And many people do. That includes making sure elementary and secondary schools are equally funded, safe, and academic across boundaries (not just in the suburbs), advocating for transit that actually works, and building churches in cities and suburbs accessible to everyone (much harder to do in rural areas). What if the church got involved (again) in creating banking solutions again that were fair, and operating credit unions? What if we took more cues from the Mennonites in employment programs? What if skilled tradespeople in each suburban church committed to taking on an inner-city or small-town apprentice who wouldn't have the opportunity otherwise? What if suburban college students who drive the family car committed to picking up and carpooling every day with a rural student to school? There's so much that's possible here.... amazing opportunities! (I haven't yet read Tim Keller's Generous Justice, so don't take it as an automatic endorsement, but he's coming from a similar mindset).

But hey (whoa, awkward!) there's also the whole matter of all the people who live in cities that (err) aren't poor, and don't live in neighbourhoods populated by traditional churches. And it's often difficult to talk about that. Unless you're already rich, the desire to be around rich people can have all sorts of interesting motivations.

What does that look like? I'm not one to know much that's fleshed out, (BC PAOC has some ideas.)  but it may involve a church renting office space in a condo building that the pastor lives in, and being able to use their meeting room for church. It may entail finding bi-vocational, second-career pastors who already are part of these neighbourhoods and cultures, and enabling them to keep living in them while starting up new ministry. It definitely entails finding new spaces in neighbourhoods built without churches, and advocating for religious space to be a part of it when we're doing city planning.

It may even entail a focus and call for professional dual-income families, where a single spouse remains at their decent-paying job while the second takes two years to church-plant. and then paying a pastor fairly, if you are going to at all.

One of the most interesting people I've met in the past couple years is a Toronto real estate agent who I met at a conference on urban religious communities.  He sells condos, writes about the city, and discusses the need for the church in these new communities that are being built entirely without religious buildings of any type. That's exciting stuff... and it's gonna take new models.

And with the mobility of those in cities, adaptive churches that constantly reinvent their form without forgetting their historical roots or compromising their message is going to be a constant.

I was talking with an old friend on Facebook a few nights ago. I haven't seen him in a few years, and we were just catching up. We want to do a reunion of everyone who went to our small group in Toronto as part of our church. We are now scattered from Hamilton to Barrie to Owen Sound to Vancouver. But the connection we had within that city was unparalleled. Honest, life-giving, friendship, prayer, love, support. Listening. Food. Real, lasting, deep deep change in our lives. I would give a lot to have that again.

Equal genders, equal giftings. we're different, but not unequal or unable.
Churches often equate or conflate cultural expectations with what the Bible teaches.

Again, this is exegesis/hermeneutics stuff. What does it say from beginning to end? What's specifically cultural and should be understood as such? What are the general principles at hand? And what's the constant message, vs. what are the "outliers" that need extra study and consideration? In a pre-fall world, there was no inequality, though there was certainly difference. Post-fall, it all fell apart. And just as we seek to mitigate the post-fall results of difficult working conditions or painful labor in childbirth, seeking to overcome inequality  (not sanction it or baptize it) is a part of being redemptive and Biblical. (Which is why me and Mark Driscoll's teaching or any of the Acts 29 "dudes" won't get along very well in that area).

You know... I have no problem sewing baby bunting or curtains, or making casseroles. It's relaxing, I'm good at it, yeah yeah. But I don't want to make a life of it. I have no desire to stay at home for months on end. The idea of having a home-based business would thrill some people. It sends shivers down my spine. Jarod and I are choosing our paths carefully to make sure we are able to both work and both stay home with kids and have childcare options too. (Though their usefulness is limited, I'm a classic ENTJ personality type and a Type-A leader.)

But so much more than that, there are issues from sex slavery to abortion that can't simply be legislated away. What does it look like to be truly just - and truly compassionate? Will a Mother's Day Baby Shower to raise money for the local crisis pregnancy center be a good start? A little one... but it juuuust scratches the surface. There is so much more related to justice and care and compassion that we can do. Again, exciting!!!

Possessions and space aren't mine. also... you've been given a brain that has a capacity for a lot of work, so apply yourself and work hard.
‎"'The most difficult lie I have ever contended with is this: life is a story about me." - Donald Miller.

It's not really about my individual story. It's not about my individual passion. I'm extremely privileged in some areas to know what my gifts are.. but on the other hand, when it comes to financing that, I'm also well aware that I can't just do something I'm passionate about or else I'll end up time-bankrupt and money-bankrupt.

I work hard now, and I think about money now, specifically because I want to think very little about it later.
(I know it's a traaaaap, Admiral Ackbar.)

But the way I think of it is:
- For someone without savings or a wealthy relative, loans were the only option for education. I'm okay with that.
- I owe a lot - a LOT - in student loans.
- As such, when Jarod and I are both back to work, one-third to one-half of our post-tax, post-tithe income will easily be dedicated to paying those loans off.
- Because of this, our consumption and standard of living won't be able to rise significantly aside from buying bigger housing. Even that, though, is because having a larger space means we can open up our house to a more communal model of living that we've wanted to do for a while.
- I struggle with the knowledge that two cars may be a necessity for us. I don't like driving much, to be honest. But I also see them as a huge money sink - what else does anyone sink thousands of dollars into a year, that's useful for a while but completely depreciates and wears out? The idea of a car as a status symbol is so beyond me. But if it means we cart dozens of people around every week and take teenagers amazing places and do good with it. That's something else.

But.. wait!!! Now it gets exciting and amazing and encouraging!!!

Now think about when those loans are paid off.. Do we start suddenly spending money on ourselves? Uh, I don't think so. Do we cut the amount of work we're doing in half? That doesn't seem tenable either for the two of us who (a) really like working and (b) hopefully will already have built smart schedules where we spend enough time with each other and our kids and (c) workable budgets.

So that leaves us with the pattern of earning sufficient money, fair wages. We are in the pattern of not using a serious chunk of that. And if we stay with that mindset and don't make "me-first" changes, we suddenly have a couple thousand dollars a month that are free for us to give away and finance things with. We could set up a charity to give two people affordable, interest-free mortgages on houses with that! We could sponsor multiple single mothers through college. We could enable missionaries in the Majority World. We could easily transition, with a minimum of effort, into being people who financially provide deep, long-term, empowering solutions to poverty and help spread the good news of Jesus with our money as well as our time.

Or.... we could buy a bigger house in a nicer neighbourhood and two fancy cars and a larger TV and go on more vacations and get some designer clothes and a spray tan and Botox it up, but I think you probably realize by now that's nowhere near as exciting!

(I am going to get that Rancilio Silvia espresso maker though. One day. One day.)

More centrality of communion and baptism in Christian practice than we usually see + respect and use of historical things in church, not just the newest and best.
Earlier this fall, I visited a church with Jarod. The first service had a guest speaker who made  a bunch of sexist jokes and generalizations throughout his sermon, and we were like "whoa... this is terrible!" 

I think we actually walked out and said "Well, at least we know we can cross that church off our list!... Bleeech." Then we figured "Okay, let's come back when the actual pastor is speaking and give them a a fair shot." So we did. And that was fine. And they were baptizing some folks that Sunday. As a part of the service.

I like churches that make it a regular thing. (Also, we talked later with the pastor about our first visit experience. He was well aware the guy that week was "off," in his words).

I've constantly been in awe about how every sermon at FreeChurch Toronto could tie back to communion, every week could end with it, and it was always about Jesus in the end (not in a shallow or surface way, but drawing deep parallells and tugging out true connections).

I think these have often become "one thing among many" we do, and they don't occupy the place they deserve - as two of the church-specific practices commanded by Jesus. I'm ok with being part of PAOC and knowing that it will probably never be a once-weekly thing in another PAOC church that I go to besides FreeChurch - but that once a month or however regularly often it happens is important. And not just to me.

Lasting practices and classics are that way for a reason... and many of them are still valuable today.

In 2005, I was sitting in a class in midtown Toronto, and the professor made a comment that really struck me. His comment was good, but I found it hard to understand the mentality he was addressing. He said (essentially) "Just because a book hasn't been written in the past ten years, don't immediately dismiss it. Some classics are classics for a reason."

My reaction was that I thought the exact opposite way. It's hard to find anything new that's much good! Maybe my appreciation of the classics is a leftover from reading Aristotle and Plato and Socrates and the Bible and Shakespeare and all that.

Seriously, though, where would I have been in 2003 working 60 hours a week at Tim Hortons and the Buck or Two without The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence? (And without having Whose Line is it Anyway? to watch for a half hour and relax enough to sleep at night.).

How would I understand community if not for Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together (written secretly in Nazi Germany)?

Without these giants behind me, how would I presume to read anything as recent as The Cross of Christ or Courageous Leadership or The Irresistible Revolution and have any context whatsoever?

We need to learn from those who went before us. There's a reason that many forms and words are tried, tested, and true. And while there's a lot out there that isn't helpful or is too far out culturally, I would be so much weaker without Chrysostom's Easter Sermon or the Apostles' Creed.

Even within the PAOC, I see a lot of people who grew up in wonderful, strong, and fairly traditional churches -- and I've been asked many times by them why I'd choose intentionally to identify with PAOC. Well... PAOC hits these marks. Do they emphasize some more and others less? Of course. But if I'm looking to affiliate - and be held accountable - by a denomination, this is a good one for me. I can still say, now, that I've thrown my lot in with PAOC and I'm still really, really content.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I love this city, a lot. I've never lived in a place I liked so much, that suited me so much.
For reference, this post from last year.
I don't think I"ll be able to stay here long-term, though.

I'm interested in a lot and I enjoy doing a lot, but one thing's central.

Ever since I looked at a career evaluator test in 1998 and thought"Well, I'd want to be a youth pastor but I'd have to be a guy, right? I don't really want to be anything else."

It took me until 2004 to figure out that I could legit. be a youth pastor - and settle my mind that I wasn't doing any interpretive gymnastics with the Bible to think that was ok.

So that's it. What do I want from life?

To do what I'm called to.
To do what I"m becoming better at.
To do what I'm trained for and experienced in.

I've done a lot of things in life and I"ve done a lot of things in ministry. Everything from the most manual labor to high-end PR-related stuff in work, and everything from kids' camps to seniors' residences on the other side. But I know my focus. Even though I've considered it, I don't even really want to do church planting at this point, though if an appropriate place and time came up I might. I'm not leaning that way though. I want to do what I've always worked towards.

I want to be a hired youth pastor in PAOC.

  • I want to teach clearly and engagingly in age-appropriate ways that offer a choice to teenagers.
  • I want to build practices of prayer and Scripture reading and action and stillness and worship and more that will feed and sustain them through their lives.
  • I want to listen.
  • I want to do away with cliched responses and easy answers on tough topics, and help others to do the same in their own lives and to others.
  • I want to train teams who understand teenagers and will be one-on-one mentors and group leaders, discipling and teaching and challenging and praying and listening to teenagers.
  • I want to collaborate with other leaders, or myself lead Jr. High and young adult programs that integrate with the kids' and adult ministries.
  • I want to bring teens along on experiences God will use to change their lives.
  • I want to be involved in the schools nearby.
  • I want to carve out safe places and times for teenagers to seek the Holy Spirit... without coercion or manipulation.. but with intentionality and leadership.
  • I want to have conversations with parents and put resources in their hands and connect them to each other. 
  • I want to help the church understand false perceptions about youth that are harmful, and realities that are helpful, and help form a paradigm that's useful.
  • I want to be part of a healthy church that I'm not embarrassed to bring people to - and that the teens I work with aren't either.
  • I want to be involved in a church that's concretely looking after people outside of it, taking risks, and encouraging initiative.
  • I want to have a healthy small group of adults around me and Jarod.
  • I want to finish off the time I've been working towards it and be ordained - and officiate some of the weddings for these young men and women as they grow up.
  • I want to help transition people into their out-of-town and local college and university and apprenticeships and work with intentionality and direction and spiritual awareness.
  • And I want to occasionally bring the sermon at the church Sunday mornings.

For all the "other" stuff

  • I want to work shifts in ultrasound as my almost-certainly-necessary second job. And be a solid part of the team there, doing my job well.
  • I want to have a few small kids and a large dog - and have a childcare arrangement with people we trust, that blesses them financially. (I've already got an amazingly supportive husband who's been consistently hard-working, intelligent, hilarious, strong, kind, and good to me. Our five-year anniversary's April 29... five years already! And still awesome.)
  • I want to live in a city where Jarod and I can both live reasonably close to everything and not do any insane commuting. And live in-town enough that our kids can use public transportation in when they're teenagers and we can walk a couple places. It would be awesome to live somewhere urban enough to only have one car - but to be realistic, we'll probably have to rock the suburbs because that's where most churches are. And rock them... we will!
  • And in the process, we'll finally own a house (big enough to share as others need) and pay off our debts. I look forward to the day the debts are paid off and we can give a bigger chunk to making projects happen and changing lives, too
  • And yes, I would really like a heavy, built-like-a-tank Rancilio Silvia espresso machine with a brass boiler and solid steel interior fittings... maybe in a decade or so.

It's been eight years of school for me so far in the making. Four years of a theology undergrad, one year completed of my master's at MacDiv. I'll finish it someday. Two years of a cardiac diploma and right now the final year in cardiac ultrasound. Jarod and I are volunteering at a great church right now, but we went there with the understanding that it's a temp arrangement - we're onto new things before too long. And I'm very excited to be volunteering at a smaller church in another city for 3 months this summer when I'm away on placement.

Three days of exams are left as far as academics go. And then a month off, and then 3 + 3 months of placement. And that's it for me. School's a little longer for Jarod, but we're both getting to the end, and he can work just about anywhere.

Either way.. it's just about time. It could happen as early as the second placement, or if it's farther it could take till 2012 or so... And if we move, it'll break my heart a bit... but it'll be so worth it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My display name is set to "Kendra" for an assignment right now. I've been assigned a fictitious patient who's my age (!) and female to write about their experience with a heart problem, so I did the (easy) thing and created a blog for it, complete with fake name, fake dates, and fake experiences.:

Yes, Kendra is my middle name - I'm very creative in finding names to use... lol.

Nope, I don't have mitral valve disease :) Even a tiny bit. Nor did I grow up anywhere near Manitoba, and my parents are both wonderful and responsible people who always took me to the doctor. The worst thing I had as a kid was frequent ear infections (and frequent antibiotic treatments for them). :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cleaning out cat litter is not my favorite way to spend time, especially last night. Surprising, I know.

And I didn't mind cleaning up much from our first kitty, but cat number 2 produces a lot of number two... and it was even worse since the cats have been dewormed again, which basically functions feline Drano (or putting your cat on one of those herbal system cleanses, if that image sits better with you). I had a headache, and my shoulders were killing me, so the thought of hefting forty pounds of litter off the top a seven-foot bookshelf to refill the box wasn't that exciting either.

But the more I thought about it, the better it got.

- For one, I live in a country and apartment where I can have pets.
- I can afford multiple pets.
- I'm not pregnant, and so I can clean out the litter box without fear of catching anything horrid. I also can finish my school without having another creature depending on us just yet.
- In the cleanup vein, after living in places with just a shower or just a bathtub, this place actually has both.
- The worm medicine was way, way cheaper than I expected.
- The cats must feel better :)
- Garbage is actually picked up once a week where I live.
- Not only that, but the green bin and recycling are picked up too.
- The downstairs walk is always shoveled and salted, and I don't have to think about it
- Because I've got a headache, Jarod will carry it downstairs for me. and Jarod already does a lot of cleaning that I don't have to (and already took care of the recycling and other garbage).

So yeah, I'm okay with cleaning out the litter box.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Dish soap made me think of this topic , but I'll get to that a bit later.

I think the amount you get to know your neighbours is inversely proportional to the size of your building. In big condominiums it's hard to get to know neighbours, or on country houses with huge lots. In smaller buildings or houses close together, you really get to know people, for good or bad.

When I think of neighbours, I remember a variety, including:

  •  growing up as a child in a middle-aged to elderly suburb full of adult neighbours
  • living in the country later as a child, and the neighbours who would snowplow the street.
  • the cat-fighting duo across the hall from me in residence..
  • my first summer living out of residence with some roomates, we had some awful neighbours who caused a cockroach invasion next door, then moved out and left the critters to invade the apartment through the ductwork.
  • the friendly chain-smoker in my very sketchy Toronto lowrise building, who had lived there over twenty years and kept a good eye on things.
  • the not-so-friendly drug-dealing 'family business' at the apartment next door when we lived above a store in Uxbridge
  • The couple Jarod and I rented a basement apartment from when we were first married - two workers with the school board. They were both divorcees with 3 kids each, and later in life they met, married, and had another child. The little guy's costumes ("I'm wearing Spiderman to the pool!") were the best.

My next door neighbours have mostly been good ones. I like the idea of next-door neighbours, and I have several friends who have recently purchased properties and been glad to find mostly good next-door neighbours.

I haven't, often, though, had neighbours that I got to know well - especially in large buildings. Until I moved to Hamilton. When I moved to Hamilton, my next-door neighbour was Mats - a German Ph.D. student finishing up his doctorate (on particular ecological details of escarpments). He was quiet, worked hard, had the very occasional six-pack of beer or smoked a pipe outside with Jarod, and had a couple nice guitars.

Mats had to make a difficult choice between two jobs - one in New Zealand, or another in Ireland that would also hire his girlfriend, and was a bit closer to his family in Germany. He chose the latter.

Thankfully, my good friend Jacklyn had just become engaged, and was looking to move to a larger space in preparation for getting married - she moved in next door. And since Mats couldn't take his furniture with him, he left a lot of it for them, which worked out perfectly. And when Jacklyn's fiance Andrei needed to move out of his other place prematurely, we just so happened to have a spare bedroom available at our place.

So we've lucked out with our neighbours so far. Jacklyn moved in, Andrei lived in our spare bedroom until they got married, and then he had the long move next door.

And it's been great to have neighbours we're friends with too. Even with little details like parking spaces. We have a parking space for our car. Since we've sold it, we can share our parking space with our neighbours when either of us has a guest over that drives.

Have extra food? Made too much spaghetti sauce? Trying out a new coffee cake recipe? Your neighbour makes a readily available taste tester/leftovers recipient. And they like it. Everybody wins. (Dear Andrei. Thank you for perfecting your coffee cake recipe. We are happy to try any future refinements you make.)

If one of us goes out of town, the other can come by, feed the pets, get the mail, borrow a movie... Food is easy to share. Need a cup of sugar? The neighbour will probably have it? (Want to share some of the cinnamon rolls you just made? You have a neighbour next door who just lent you sugar...) The same for extension cords, Scotch tape, Scotch, screwdrivers, and a whole lot more. My neighbours are great.

Not to mention the upper deck isn't "this side" and "that side" when it comes to parties, it's easy to entertain twice as many.

And like everything else, you want to be considerate and thoughtful and set good boundaries, and if you're like me you're not always considerate, but thankfully I have forgiving neighbours who like food. It's worked out pretty well. And while sound's not much of an issue. Andrei told Jarod the other day that he heard him playing guitar, and applauded when he finished the song. (Jarod didn't hear him, unfortunately)

And a couple days ago when I was out of dish soap and the dish pile was getting higher and higher, and it was too late to go to the store.... they were away for the weekend, so I just borrowed theirs and bought them a replacement bottle when I was at the store next.

Good neighbours, good stuff all around.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

michael pollan, mark bittman, and why i'm no "foodie"

This past summer, I worked at the Juravinski Cancer Centre. On my final day of work, I decided to buy a lunch as a treat. I normally don't eat lunchmeat or white bread, but I really like a good sandwich - crusty Italian bread, ham or turkey, good cheese, tomato, so I thought I'd go for something like that, since the cafeteria normally had specials that looked pretty good.

When I was in line, I saw there was a special like that, but noticed the cheese on the "display" sandwich was melty orange goo squishing out the front.

Me: "Can I get real cheese on this sandwich instead of processed?"
Worker: "Uh, no, we only have processed cheese. actually we never have real cheese unless there's a special that has real cheese on the sandwich"
Me: Uhh..... ok. (completely and utterly dumbfounded..)

I ate the processed cheese, but that was a letdown. I could have bought ingredients for six awesome sandwiches for the same price -- and probably should have. Although once in a while, I will eat the processed cheese by choice. (And to be fair, the hospital had just done a review process that also was phasing in healthier options, so hopefully this isn't always the case).

I've heard of a couple people whose views on food I find interesting, though I don't know a ton about them.

There's a guy named Michael Pollan who wrote a book called "In Defense of Food." I haven't read it, but it's been summed up as: Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The "real food" part, especially, I like hearing. Not processed cheese or "soyrizo" or Eggos... real food. Not too much. Mostly plants. (Though again, once in a while I'll do the processed thing).

There's another guy named Mark Bittman who's pretty good too - I've asked for "How to Cook Everything" for Christmas, and I like hearing about his eating choices - vegan for breakfast and dinner, and then anything (including meat and whatever else) for dinner. 

That's actually pretty close to how I eat in a typical day - usually 'oatmeal' for breakfast (boiling water poured over minute oats, because I don't want to actually cook anything in the morning), some kind of vegetarian or vegan thing for lunch (usually with beans or cheese as the protein) and then something awesome for dinner. 

I like those ideas about food.

They're simple. (Mark also says things like "Don't bother mincing, just chop").
They put a priority on real food without a lot of restrictions.
And they remind people that being able to feed yourself is a basic skill. 

Convenience foods have become so much a way of life that a lot of people think they're a right - and don't know how to make food or budget for making their own food, even as they pursue higher education. (This whole "wah, I can't afford my latte, all I can afford is cucumber sandwiches on $7.50 a day" article epitomizes that. This guy offers a cogent response.

That, to me, is so weird. Even if you don't know anything, you can always learn. And $7.50 a day is quite a bit of money for one or even two people, if you want to learn basic skills.

I started university with 2 years in residence with a microwave and a kettle - not a great place to learn about food prep. I remember the first summer I lived in an apartment, and had to figure out my own meals. I knew how to bake stuff from a recipe, and to make a few meals at home, but I wasn't used to figuring it out for myself.

I knew how to make a few things (how to brown meat and make spaghetti sauce, tuna sandwiches, baked potatoes, stir-fry) but I certainly didn't know how to do much. Between Google and a crazy work schedule of 60+ hours a week (full-time morning shifts at Tim Hortons and a night shift at the dollar store) though, I figured some stuff out. And I never, ever ate ramen noodles or Kraft Dinner, mostly because I don't like them.

Two sites taught me pretty much everything I know about recipes - and (formerly If you want to make a recipe, type it in the search box, sort it by ranking, and choose the one with 378 five-star reviews... that's been my method for years.

By year 3, I'd moved into an apartment, and the only things I really remember making were a lot of tzatziki and pitas, a lot of eggs, a lot of salad, a lot of whole-wheat toast and peanut butter, and buying huge packages of ground beef and chicken, separating them into individual portions, and freezing all the little portions. (I was also a pretty awful roommate... I even got a dog without asking my roomates, a few weeks before they moved in. Man. I don't know how they put up with me.)

I was at Jarod's a lot too that year, and everyone else living there was Chinese or Korean, so we learned a ton about how to cook rice, different sauces, and tried a lot of new stuff. We also cooked a lot of chicken or beef with rice on the side. And spaghetti. Always spaghetti, and we started buying only whole-wheat pasta then.

I find it weird when people are impressed that either of us cook, or that we can make our own meals. I don't think I'm a "foodie" at all, or that I particularly care for obscure or exotic ingredients. I tried quinoa a little while ago after we'd had it at a restaurant last year (with a $20 off coupon!) and found you can make some awesome things with it and it's pretty healthy. But I think a lot of gourmet food stuff is pretentious and expensive, and I don't care much for things like the exact flavours in a glass of wine or what's "trendy"

I guess if avocados or fajitas are strange to people, I can understand that -- but what's easier than half an avocado on toast or frying up some meat, peppers, and seasoning in six minutes and throwing it on some tortillas? I guess I just think about it as "quick and easy" (although with avocados I also think "expensive!")

But once a month or so, Jarod gets Kraft Dinner and I get a donut. You gotta have that stuff too, just not all the time.

We've got a jar of mild curry paste in the fridge I haven't cracked yet, and I just learned to make biscotti a few years ago. (I also tried making sushi - way more time-consuming than I'd like, for something I'd rather eat once in a while and have it made for me).
But baking's more recreation than necessity (I don't do bread or anything like that) and I don't like making anything for dinner that takes more than 15-20 minutes. I don't soak dried beans, and I don't do once-a-month-cooking. Even crock-pot stuff usually requires a lot more forethought than I like. 

I also like meat in pretty much any dinner dish (though TVP and tofu do get used once in a while). My Mennonite roots tend towards the blander, starchy, robust foods, but man, they are good - though now I can make a stir-fry or fish tacos pretty easily too, and stroganoff's quick. Stuff like jambalaya or anything like that takes a lot of time and I'm just not interested in taking a lot of time. (These took a little while but I figure I only buy pumpkin once or twice a year - making them was a good decision.) Adding vegetables is what takes the effort and thought - and is usually a salad or some nuked frozen veggie, if it's not already in the meal.

That said, for Jarod and I, one of our favorite things to do is go out for dinner - once every month or two, when we can. We like trying new stuff or really well-prepared things we know. You can get 6 quail at the farmers' market for $9 - I've got to try making those some day soon - a friend of ours made us Cornish hens and wild rice a few years ago, and maybe I'll try something like that.

And no processed cheese. 

Except earlier this week, when Jarod picked up his box of KD, and asked if I wanted it for lunch... and after I made a horrible face, he proposed that it would be mixed with cooked ground beef and spaghetti sauce. And yeah - I sure did. Nothing fancy, certainly not healthy, but once in a while that's OK with me.

Monday, November 1, 2010


‎"'The most difficult lie I have ever contended with is this: life is a story about me." - Donald Miller.

"...if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, 'How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?' The point is that each person's pride is in competition with everyone else's pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise." - C.S. Lewis (excerpts can be found here and here)

I've been kicking these particular thoughts around for a week, and they aren't very well-formatted yet... but may as well put them out there.

I don't think of myself (much) as being a person who cares much about celebrity. Politics is not my calling, and to be known for its own sake.... seems a bit useless.

Influence and leadership, though, is definitely my currency. I want to know that I'm making some kind of difference, and the ability to bring others towards a common goal is definitely something I'm built for. But it's also something that's incredibly easy to confuse with just general popularity and being liked and agreed with.

And in some ways, they correlate - trying to lead without having the underlying character and outer charisma is a bit of a wasted effort... on the other hand, there's a way it can degenerate into simple manipulation, image, strategy.... and I'm not good with that.

Even something simple though, can show how proud I am. I think I've got a pretty healthy self-esteem, and I've kicked up enough accomplishments in the past decade for me to feel pretty good about. But whenever I have to take a job or do something that's relatively powerless, or in a role that's traditionally associated with not-leading or a job without a lot of power, it really wears on me. I did administrative work again this summer... and I was so glad to get out of it. Even when I'm asked to do something administration-related for anything else I'm involved in, it gets me. I don't want to be helping fill out papers, I want to be calling some shots. Pretty rough, eh? For a while I've had a few boxes of oak baseboard scraps (originally received because I needed some scrap wood to help repair a bookcase). I've been turning them into semi-useful, (semi-profitable?) key racks.... but the act of cutting and painting these bring up these immediate "crafty scrapbooking stay-at-home-mom" associations that make me wince. Again... not a shining moment.

I shouldn't be threatened when I have to take on stuff like that. And I shouldn't fall into the trap of assuming that just because I don't want to be in roles like a scrapbooking mom or a secretary, that those are bad roles for someone else to take on.

Dave Slater spoke at Lift last night, and referenced Matthew 20 - when Jesus was asked if he'd put certain disciples in places of honor in his kingdom: 

"But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave."

And it's easy to skim over that and go "yeah, yeah, that's a nice sentiment about being a leader that's also helping others" -- but at the core it's a lot more radical than that. Because it doesn't negate leadership. It doesn't translate into weak leadership. But it does completely change how you think about leadership's foundation and patterns.

A bit more from Lewis:

"Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed."

well.... another first step, another day.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Election day tomorrow in Hamilton

Tomorrow night we're having a little party at my house. Just a few folks, starting at 8 or so. We're going to watch election results.

Tomorrow is Hamilton's municipal election. There's a lot of good candidates, especially in my ward. There's at least five candidates I could have confidently voted for in my ward, and it came down to a minor difference why I chose the one I did. Even for mayor, there were two of the three frontrunners I think I could have responsibly chosen.

For me personally, I voted in the advance polls. For mayor - Fred Eisenberger, and for Ward 2 councillor - Martinus Gelensye. (Paul Casey and Matt Jelly were close runners-up in my choice.)

I like municipal elections the most because things don't get polarized into "left" and "right" wing, especially because I hold priorities on both sides of the spectrum. I think Eisenberger's most closely aligned with mine for mayor, and while several folks had platforms I could get behind in Ward 2, Martinus brings some forms of experience to the table that the other folks don't.

And I look forward to seeing the results, because I firmly believe that everything rises and falls on leadership. Not just city leadership of course, but that's an important piece of the puzzle.

I've also had the privilege of being part of the following campaign - I don't care who you vote for (or even if you make an intentional decision not to vote) but I'm very conscious of the privilege I have to vote, and the big difference leadership makes.

These ads could have been even better, but I'm really glad we were able to get them in buses around the city as well as a lot of local papers - radio ads went out too. I'm glad that was able to happen this timea round.

Even if neither candidate I vote for gets in, I'm glad I've been a part of the process. And no matter who gets in, I hope the leadership of this city is solid, visionary, and forward-thinking for the next four years.

We'll see. And tomorrow will be a party, either way.

Two stories.

This weekend, thousands of teenagers come to Hamilton - for one of the most polarizing events within the "youth ministry" community.

Acquire the Fire.

The thing most in its favour? It gets a large amount of teenagers together, from really varied church backgrounds. It's one of the only events in Ontario to do that, and the largest in Hamilton.

The thing least in its favour? It's a big American event, and its methods, metaphors and worldviews show it.

I've been as a teenager, and I've taken teens to it before as a youth leader.

Ever since living here, I haven't.

One, because I'm finding the cons are outweighing the pros about it.. 

Two, because if you're a teenager that goes to Sir John A. MacDonald high school across the street from Copps Coliseum, the thrill of an event there is considerably diminished!

Three, because TrueCity puts together a great local event that also gets together a ton of teenagers from widely varying church backgrounds twice a year - where teens from different churches spend a day volunteering at places around the city - at places that actually can use the help. And there's a lot of context and carefulness and humility that goes into it. I think it's a better fit.

And because I've just been around on those weekends - shopping at the market, going to the library, passing by on my way to somewhere, I've got a different perspective. I've met groups who stayed in the church building I worked at - let them know the location of the nearest Starbucks and Pizza Pizza, and that the BBQ restaurant on the corner was also really good! I try to give a little bit of context about the city and the opportunity to see something good in it - even if it's as minor as a familiar chain restaurant or pointing out something good about the city they can experience.

I understand how events like this work -- by taking someone out of their daily context, having an event in a different city, people are more receptive to hearing new things - challenging things. And good things, like researching and understanding your faith, being unashamed of it, communicating it to others. Even boldness - which is a good thing, if not abused. And when a conference is an event in a bigger city, it feels bigger. More powerful. Like it means more. 

But because Hamilton's an unfamiliar place - and a poorer and less attractive one than people are used to, I'm also confronted with scenes like last year... the first story... when I'm in front of Jackson Square with several McMaster students and a group of young teenagers come stamping by singing worship songs at the top of their lungs... or teens screaming "Jesus loves you" at people.

Would they do it at their high school? I don't think so.

Because they know - in some part of their heads - that loving God isn't supposed to turn into a verbal offensive onslaught. These things are not meant to be shouted or screamed at people. They're part of a faith that leads to transformed lives... and when they're turned into this sort of frontal assault.. that assumes everyone around it isn't part of their faith... it makes me very squeamish.

And I know by the time they get back home and back to their school, and usually their youth leaders have talked to them about having a life that shows your faith - and that gentleness, humility, and respect are parts of that, and they realize that they have to see the people in their high school every day, they're more careful about what they do. And by the time most of them reach Grade 11 or 12, they're at a stage of more thoughtfulness and maturity, and more considerate of others. 

And their witness becomes something more like what I heard last week at the McMaster cafeteria. the second story... - three guys talking together about what exactly Jesus' death meant, and assurance of salvation. Two guys who knew each other, a third guy who barely knew them.. but they were talking quietly and humbly. They were showing each other a lot of respect. They weren't disrupting those around them or getting into a heated argument. (I only heard them since I was sitting at the next table and had just removed my headphones).

It was gentle, it was intellectually honest, and it was life-giving. I've seen a lot of that on the Mac campus, and I've had the privilege to start being involved with another group, Lift Church, who gently and quietly enable students to do campus ministry there, from small groups to food giveaways, no strings attached. 

And I know that most of the time, things will bear out that way in these kids' lives. They have leaders, they have churches, they have friends who will help them work through this stuff.

But... the weekend of ATF, when they walk by and yell stuff, I'm still standing with a bunch of people who've just heard bombastic catchphrases, and my heart's breaking.

And this may be funny coming from me, because I'm a loudmouth, I know that.
I'm not good with the gentle.
I'm not good with the quiet.
I'm an opinionated person who usually runs her mouth off, (or shuts down completely to avoid saying something stupid.)

But I try really hard not to confuse confrontational tactics for what I believe. Because I think the gospel's the only thing that makes real sense of life, and that the gospel - that God created the world good, that the world and humanity fell through human rebellion, sin; and Jesus Christ came to die, be buried, and rise again to defeat death and bear the punishment for sin - and that God will one day make everything right again--- is beautiful truth and not absurdity or foolishness.

I believe it not only makes sense, but is a truly comprehensive worldview that adds to instead of confounds knowledge and life. It's compatible with when I majored in philosophy. It's compatible with my theology degree and master's studies. And when I'm studying the human heart and understanding physics techniques used in sound imaging, that's a part of it too

And I understand to believe, support, and articulate that is tough - and always has been.

But I don't want my backup to be people who learn to scream the truth at others.

I want to hear more people gently, quietly, encouragingly speak the truth in love - like those guys in the cafeteria, or the students at Lift Church on the McMaster campus giving away food, no strings attached. more like the second story.

And I hope the kids this weekend have been learning that - just as I hope I'm learning it, and learning to be a little gentler, a little quieter, and a little bolder myself. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

five months in

It's been five months. I think I'll start writing again.

Not that I expect much of an audience after so long a hiatus, but I think I need to start recording things more carefully. And more consistently.

Later today, I think.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity (from TED 2009)

I've seen this on a few blogs, and I really like how Jon Acuff frames it:

"Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a massive book called, “Eat, Pray, Love.” Now, she finds herself with the impossible task of trying to recreate that success with her next book. In this video, she details the relationship between people and the creative beauty of God. It’s not a “Christian video” but it’s the most perfect example I’ve seen of a person bumping into the beautiful mystery of God and being unable to deny it. Here’s one of her quotes:

“Allowing somebody, one mere person, to believe that he or she is the vessel, the font and the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile human psyche. It’s like asking someone to swallow the sun.”

I can’t encourage you enough to watch this"

Saturday, March 27, 2010

living a meaningful story - this week.

I like Don Miller, and this book intrigues me. It's on my summer reading list.
I read this post a month or so ago, and it's been bouncing around my brain since then.

It makes sense. I've lived in a lot of different settings - cities - houses - areas - with very different people. I've worked at a lot of different jobs. I still often go to new workplaces, parties, churches, hospitals, venues, cities, conferences, classrooms, seminars or meetings where I need to understand a whole room of people and a whole new context - and blend in.

A little while ago, Jarod and I were talking with some people we know well. It was about comments they'd made - we found them pretty hurtful, because they were generalizations about certain cultures... and we had to ask them "Do you realize you're talking about the culture of our friends and the people we work with and go to school with? Those things you're saying aren't true."

It was a weird conversation. But it led to a good outcome... they talked about how they realized by talking to us how limited their experience has been, and how their initial comments were based on a lack of understanding.

It makes me hopeful. Being people who have experiences - and tell our stories - helps other people understand how to get outside their own box. And at the same time, listening to others' stories is important.

Failing to hear stories and keeping a limited perspective keeps us back in so many areas. Sure, we may hear theory about career options or taking your vitamins or whether public transit works or safely using power tools... but if there's no context, talk about any of that stuff is just information.

But when you talk to the PR specialist or you're walking alongside someone with osteoporosis or taking the subway or seeing a severed finger reattached.... you've got an image. You've got an experience. You've got a story of your own now. That information becomes real.

So I want to keep having more experiences, doing new things, getting into scenarios and going places that give me more stories - whether that's the story of learning to use the table saw with the wooden hand or what kind of trucks they use in Florence - or just how I made spaghetti sauce in university. All of that is part and parcel of the stories I have so far. I want more. I want better. I want new. I likely have several more decades to gain and pass on more of them and I like Don Miller's words on creating memorable scenes and going to different settings.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Back in the game, I suppose - Input, steeping, output.

I've always felt that it's better to write than not to write.
Not because I'm writing for a specific audience, as I might writing an article.
Not because I want to get a lot of readers.
But because if I write 100 pieces, one or two will come out well, and it will make me a better writer.

However, I find myself in the place now that I can't do it on the things I really care about or focus on the field I'm in.

A couple years ago, I used to read a lot. Books, blogs, the Bible, conferences on the things I'm passionate about - youth ministry and urban churches.

I've been informed before. I've been keeping up in my field before. I've been steeping myself in the mindsets and people and Scripture and prayer that I need to keep myself in the right space/place mentally... (Grounded and centered and current and relevant and thoughtful........... not regurgitant and derivative and restless). That's a good mental place.

I'm not there right now. I think I'm doing well at my job, and I'm happy about the words I say and the programming I do... but I haven't been growing as much as I'd like, as a leader. I'm not in the right mental place, and I need to be growing more. But I have been there before.

But when I'm there mentally, then I progress through three stages when I write

I can reiterate things well said by others on various issues, personalizing them somewhat
2. I can talk about "new" perspectives - still derived, but with one's own perspective
3. I can occasionally float a much more original and contextualized concept or idea.

The problem is, without 1 and 2, 3 is somewhat difficult. And I think I'm someone with the potential and giftings to make a substantive contribution with #3 in that list someday - or even several much smaller ones. In fact, I'd think that's an important part of what I do.

I actually have books on my shelf that I've ordered months ago and haven't read. For me, that's way, way, way out of the ordinary. I still love what I do. But it takes effort and time that I need to reshuffle.

With limited time, I find I've largely given up the conversation. I pretty much say "um, hi... urghle urghle duh" when I run into other pastors -- some of whom I formerly sought out to talk to because of what they knew and how they did what they did. I'm not in a real "learning" mode right now, and that sucks.

I don't want to stay in stasis... but neither do I want to treat it lightly. It's work. It requires effort, dignity, thought- they're weighty matters. And I love this stuff. It's just too important to relegate to the level of recreation, or to reduce to an academic "get all the information" exercise.

It takes work and time and thought to rejoin that conversation daily, weekly, monthly. And without joining the conversation, I can't hope to steep myself in enough of 1 and 2 to come up with anything meaningful for 3.

The problem then becomes -- the non-work-related things I do for recreation/relaxation/enjoyment (food, building things, buildings, design, art, cities, opining, community involvement) become the majority of what i output.

The nice part is, recreation is possible in 10, 15 minute chunks. And for the past two years, almost all of my days have had several short breaks in them, useless for work but great for recreation.

And while in those 15 minutes I may shoot out a good opinion or three, or repost many things of interest, or exclaim passionately about my likes and dislikes.... I don't think I have much substantive to offer that hasn't been said before there. I'm no great artist or developer or craftsman. I'm far too derivative and amateur for that. I do it for fun, not because I look to make a substantive and world-changing contribution with any of this stuff.

But because I'm using them for recreation, I can sometimes end up doing #1 and #2 with that list. But no work is being done here either.

Starting tomorrow, I won't have those 15-minute chunks anymore, which helps.

But more has to be done. What's the solution there?
Find more time? (not likely)
Give up recreation entirely? (not healthy or fun)
Leave the conversation for a later time? (not productive)

There's probably not too much I can do at this point, but I don't want to leave things.

Tomorrow, coincidentally, I start taking the GO again for two months. It will exhaust me. It will frustrate me. But I'll be doing nuclear cardiac testing for a month (exciting, at a place I hear is great!) and regular cardiac testing for another month (also exciting -- and a place I've worked before that I know is great).

The upshot is -- that gives me some of that time -- a train ride each way I can use. Two hours of reading time a day, which I really appreciated before. I think that's part of the solution. But I'm not going to be bringing a laptop along with everything else, so we'll have to see how the low-tech stuff goes.

And who knows, if they decide to keep me around, I could be taking it for a lot longer, so I want to get off on the right foot this time and use those 2 hours a day rightly.

But I'd like to start getting back to where I was before... because I feel like I've been out of the game for too long... and I don't want to lean on what I've learned and heard and done before. I want to keep growing as a person as a leader, and be thoughtful enough about the things that matter.