Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Beggar. Really?

After my last blog post, a friend and I struck up an email conversation on the topic of looking out for God's promptings in our everyday lives; looking out for opportunities to be Jesus' hands and feet. My friend shared with me some verses that she read in her devotions that day. It is from Luke 6:30-31 (NIV) and it says:
Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
While I wholeheartedly agree with the verse... that day, in the back of my mind, I was thinking of it in the context of a beggar asking me for money or food. I quickly formed a conclusion that I wouldn't have to "walk the talk" regarding this particular verse anytime soon because there are no beggars in this suburban community in which we live and I'm not heading downtown anytime soon.

That was Friday. Then Saturday came. God was about to prove my theory wrong!

Saturday is the day we go buy groceries. We went to our local Costco store. When we were loading our cart full of groceries into the back of our van, a man approached hubby. The words that came out of the man's mouth literally made my jaw drop.

He said: "Sir, you got any spare change?"

Trying hard to connect what I just heard with the unbelief that was going through my brain, I quickly looked up and stared at this man... a beggar... in the suburbs!!! What was I thinking just the day before??? God really does have a way of shaking me out of my comfortable little world, doesn't He? He does have a sense of humour, doesn't He?

Hubby and I ended up giving this man some food from our cart. Then we drove away. BUT, the encounter wouldn't leave me. The reality is... there are no beggars in the suburbs (at least, we've never bumped into one ever before!)... what was God's purpose in allowing this encounter... what more were we to do? So many questions! We decided that hubby would drop me off at the next store; he would go back to find the man and talk to him.

They chatted for a bit... hubby learned that his name is Ken and found out a little bit about his situation. Anyway, long story short... we have enough information that I think we can locate him again in order to help him through (or in partnership with) the local food bank that he frequents. I don't know if he wants any further contact with us... I don't know how exactly we can help... we'll have to wait and see. What I do know is that God taught me a huge lesson that day --- it's now almost a week later and I still smile when I think of the circumstances surrounding our encounter with Ken, the beggar... here in the suburbs!

I ended my previous blog post like this and I'm ending this one the exact same way:
Here I am. Lord, send me! (paraphrased from Isaiah 6:8)
The difference is, the verse rings true in a very personal way this time around! Thank you Lord!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tickled Pink

OK... tonight I have absolutely been tickled pink by God's sense of humour! So, our church hosts a Monday night sports drop-in programme for our community. It is purely a sports night --- there is no mention of God; no Bible lessons; no inviting people to come out to church. The families that come do know that we are a local church and that's about it!

Tonight, one of the moms approached me... her children attended our church's summer sports camps (again, no "church content" there as well) and that's how she found out about this drop-in programme. They have been coming regularly every Monday night.

She said: "I need to ask you a question." She proceeded to ask me if our church offered Bible classes for children! I said: "Absolutely. Why do you ask?" She told me that she's been observing "us" --- and she has come to the conclusion that Christians are different and that she wants her family to learn what we learn on Sundays! The key thing here is: she came to the conclusion by observing us; not by listening to us preach to her! That reality really hit home for me tonight.

You see... I have had several opportunities to help this lady and her family over the past few months. During several of those opportunities... the tasks were soooo out of my comfort zone that I've had to convince myself to actually do them!

God really does have a sense of humour, doesn't He? I now know that when this lady saw me help her out during those "out-of-my-comfort-zone" moments, she was actually forming an opinion --- a definition --- of what Christ-followers are supposed to be all about; to see if Christ-followers really do "walk the talk"! Looking back, I am soooo thankful that God gave me the strength to obey His promptings and that I acted on them!

Galatians 6:9 definitely comes to mind right about now: "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Also 1 John 3:18: "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

All I can say is GO GOD!!! Like I said in the beginning of this post, I am tickled pink --- this is way too exciting!!!

Here I am. Lord, send me! (paraphrased from Isaiah 6:8)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haiti...

The disaster in Haiti... there are just no words! My heart is breaking... my tears are falling... but, I know that my God is a God of hope and good will come out of this terrible catastrophe.

In the meantime, Haiti needs our help! Hubby and I (and our kids!) have chosen to give hope and send help by donating through Samaritan's Purse. To read more about what they are doing on the ground right now in Haiti, please click here or watch the follwoing video: (Please pause the Playlist on the sidebar while you watch the video.)



Please pray fervently and give generously!!!

I must also add that I am one proud mama today! Last night, hubby and I talked to our kids about the great need to donate financially towards disaster relief in Haiti. This morning, my son told me that he prayed before bed and asked God to help him decide how much of his money to give... well, he has decided to give "all the money in his piggy bank!"

I know this wasn't an easy decision for my son as he has been saving up for one of the new 2010 Stars Wars LEGO sets... it definitely took sacrifice because just these past few weeks he's finally saved enough money to buy one. In fact, just a few days ago when we were at the store, he pointed out to me the set that he is eyeing!

My daughter has also arrived at the same decision. Now you see why my heart is smiling... and I know that God is smiling too! I praise God for His work in both my children's hearts and for allowing us to seize teachable moments like this one... one lesson at a time!

Monday, January 11, 2010

What Is Church?

Since joining the church planting team of The Sanctuary Pickering (it would be two years ago now!), we have been constantly grappling with the question of what church should look like in our culture --- in our day and age --- in order to reach the vast majority of people who aren't church goers.

So today I am asking this question here on my blog... what is church? This blog post is really fueled by a very interesting discussion I had yesterday with a fellow Sanctuarian. We were "doing church" at the Pickering Markets on a Sunday morning; going to where the people are and not staying where we are comfortable. While there, we were asking ourselves: "Is this church?"... hence the interesting discussion.

First off, the answer is: "Yes, being at the Pickering Markets is definitely church!" We connected with a variety of people who we wouldn't have normally met if we stayed at our regular meeting place week in and week out. Now, that many more people know where to find us if and when they feel spiritually hungry!

How else can church look like in our community today? Well, a few things we have done as the Body of Christ are: food drives, visiting seniors' homes, helping out at city-run events, park/neighbourhood garbage clean up, organizing low-cost summer sports programmes, weekly sports drop-in, fundraising for community agencies, serving Christmas dinner to families affected by AIDs/HIV, family free skates...

I can list more things but I think the point is made... so long as these things are done in Jesus' name, then I do believe for certain that we are being the church! For it says in Matthew 18:20: "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

The verse definitely does not say... for where two or three come together to sing, listen to a sermon and pray, there am I with them. Don't get me wrong... I am not at all against a formal worship service! In fact, I think it is very important for us Christ-followers to gather in such a manner. But, we can not just do that. We have to give ourselves away.

This is an analogy that I've often used... just like in real life, if you keep eating (inreach) without exercising (outreach), you will grow but you will not be healthy --- you will most certainly grow bigger, but not healthier. Doing outreach, just like exercising, is hard work; but it will allow us to grow healthier spiritually. Just like exercising, if it isn't done routinely, it is tough to get into the groove of it. But, it is a must-do in order to be healthy!

After two years of being a part of The Sanctuary Pickering, I can most definitely say that I have grown in ways that I couldn't have imagined before. And, I credit it to the fact that this church helps me to give myself away through outreach while providing opportunities for me to nourish myself at the same time.

And for that, I am a better person!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Keeping It Real...

Since I started blogging, I've tried to keep this blog real... a real representation of what's going on in my life and my thoughts. But there is always that struggle to find a balance... to decide whether to post something or not. For example: happy things will sometimes sound like I'm bragging and sad things will often sound like I'm complaining --- so I'm always asking myself what that good balance looks like on a blog.

Well, I can tell you that this blog post is one of those that I've had to contemplate whether or not to post... but here I am tapping away at my keyboard... so I guess this will get posted in the end!

So here it goes...

To say that the New Year started off rather shaky for us is definitely an understatement! In the last couple of weeks leading up to the New Year, life has not been smooth sailing. First off, hubby cut his eyelid very badly in a bizarre accident at church while he was setting up the A/V system. Another centimetre or so and he would have injured his eye. His eyelid was bruised for quite some time and he is now sporting a two-inch long scar.

Then, a few days before Christmas he was involved in a car accident. Our car is now fixed, by the way!

Then on Christmas Eve, I was confronted with an ugly situation which dredged up a whole gamut of emotions that brought back memories of traumas experienced during my childhood. It was not easy to keep my emotions in check so that my family and I could enjoy celebrating Christmas the following day. Because of this incident, the days that followed Christmas were extremely difficult for me emotionally... I am on the mend now but every now and then, I still find myself reliving some of the ugly memories!

Then, last week hubby injured his ankle while playing basketball at our church's sports drop-in programme. He is still on crutches and is wearing an air cast. His mobility is limited therefore he hasn't been able to really work all week...

I've also been struggling with what to feel about or say to a few people/families at our church who have decided that church planting and community outreach is just plain tough therefore deciding that the grass is greener on the other side... sigh! I'm at a lost for words about this, I think...

All of the above in just three short weeks! Wait... before you think that this post is just way too depressing to finish reading... I agree with you!!! I've been thinking a lot these few days... do I let these things drag me down? Of course not. But how do I rise above these things? There is only one answer and it is to look towards God... to turn my eyes upon Jesus!

The following verses have been invaluable to me these few weeks:

Romans 8:28-31 (NIV)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV)
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Psalm 121: 7-8 (NIV)
The Lord will keep you from all harm — he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Galatians 6:8-10 (NIV)
The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

The realities of life can really stink sometimes... but I have long come to realize that life isn't about me after all... it is all about God. And, I am truly blessed because my Heavenly Father is always there for me! Therefore I will rejoice and be glad!!!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Meet Annu

This is Annu. She is 8 years old and she lives in India. She is the newest member of our family --- our 'daughter' from Compassion Canada. We started sponsoring her today and we are very excitedly awaiting an information package arriving in 10 days' time that will tell us more about her!

The decision to sponsor a child started with my daughter --- who told us that all she wants for Christmas is to be able to sponsor a 'little sister' through Compassion Canada. One by one, each of us warmed up to the idea --- and this morning, we sat in our living room, all eyes fixed on the screen of hubby's laptop and we chose Annu!

We are praying for opportunities to impact Annu's life with more than just our monthly sponsorship. My kids are very eager to start writing letters to her... maybe one day we just might be able to meet her! That would just be awesome!!!

A New Year, A New Decade!

Happy New Year!!! Wow... a new decade is upon us! Somehow, I still can't believe that we are now in the year 2010... seems so surreal to me.

The arrival of a new year usually calls for resolutions... our family does them in the form of our birthday present(s) to Jesus on Christmas morning. Mine this year went something like this: I will strive to do my devotions and read my Bible each and every morning without fail in 2010.

Well, guess what? Just one day into the New Year and I have changed my mind! Don't get me wrong... I am still going to stick with my "resolution" but something else has stirred in me and I am adding something more to my birthday present for Jesus. You see, during the days between Christmas and New Year, I had the opportunity to read the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. What can I say but "wow!" --- this book is a must read.

I am struggling to find the words with which to properly summarize this book. As a matter of fact, I don't think I can do it with just this mere blog post but I will try...

This book talks about God, the God of the universe, loving us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love and contrasting it with the average human response --- go to church, read the Bible, sing praise and worship songs, not committing "big" sins! How lame of a response is that! This book has challenged me --- if I am truly overwhelmed by how relentlessly God loves me, then my response should be to love Him back with a crazy, out-of-this-world kind of love!

So, in a nutshell --- that's the addition to my birthday present for Jesus. I want to live a life that is characterized by a crazy-kind-of-love for Jesus... and my prayer is that God will be gracious and allow me to have that in 2010.