Sunday, December 7, 2014

Dear Christmas Warriors - A Christmas Letter

Dear Christmas Warriors, 

You know who you are. You're the ones on social media making sure everybody knows that it's not just a season or just any set of holidays it's Christmas with a capital CHRIST.
Can we chat for a minute?

                                             FYI: I kind of picture you like this

First, stop posting Facebook statuses claiming that Facebook is demanding that images of the Nativity be taken down. This is a rumour that started in 2012 and has no basis in any kind of reality. When I see posts like this ....

I always check with (a website devoted to debunking urban legends and internet rumours) to be sure that what I'm seeing is truth or random wackiness. Fortunately, this status is not true and unfortunately falls into the random wackiness category. Here's a quote in case you don't believe me 

"Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities requires users to agree they "will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence." Ordinary religious images do not meet any of these criteria and thus are perfectly acceptable for posting on Facebook. "

Don't perpetrate random wackiness on Facebook, use your noggin' before posting stuff like this. It makes you look dumb. Besides, Facebook is too busy taking down images of breastfeeding moms to take down your nativity pictures.

Now, I'm about to preach a bit, so you should probably strap yourself in.
I see a lot of this at Christmas time

And this 

This kind of stuff, especially, if you're a Christian isn't really cool and I'll tell you why.

We no longer live in a homogeneous country run by Protestant Englishmen or Catholic Frenchmen. We are a diverse nation, with many different people groups several of which share holiday space during the month of December. It's ok for our government to recognize that other people groups/religions or celebrate alongside Christians this month. It doesn't water down the message of Christmas or crush the freedom of faith that Christians have in Canada. What it does is show that our nation is kind, that we care about many, not just some and that together, unlike in other parts of the world where one religious group crushes the others, we can all enjoy our holidays.

Also, Christmas isn't going anywhere. Stop acting like it's about to be stomped out. Christmas has become a cultural as well as a religious observance. Tons of people who have never heard the message of Jesus, still put up a tree and pass out gifts. The thing is now, instead of it being government mandated that everyone know, understand and accept the Christian Christmas, it's up to the individual Christian to demonstrate why accepting the Christ of Christmas is a great thing to do.
These Facebook posts are a terrible way of letting people know you celebrate the Christ of Christmas. They're aggressive, kind of smarmy and sometimes make Christians look like paranoid wackos.

So maybe, ask someone what they're doing for their "holidays"  and tell them what you're doing for Christmas. And maybe when they mention that they're not doing anything invite them to a Christmas Eve service or your Christmas dinner (I find promising them cake is a great tool to get them in the door). Or maybe remember that the Jehovah's Witness/Muslim/Atheist/Jew/undecided person in the cubicle next to you doesn't celebrate Christmas, but they're getting time off work, so they are in fact getting holidays, so, wish them Happy Holidays. It doesn't make Christmas less, it makes kindness more! Which is really what Christmas is all about, right? Right!

1 Peter 2:1 So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God. 

**Sorry about the formatting. First time using the Blogger app.**

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

It's Good Friday, so I'm taking the opportunity that a day off and sleeping in gives to contemplate the biblical account of Christ's crucifixion.

The crucifixion was of course horrible and gut wrenching and, thanks to Mel Gibson and the Passion of the Christ, as well as countless years in church, I have a fairly vivid understanding of Christ's suffering.


 Although, the suffering of Christ is important for both our redemption and the fulfillment of prophecy, the part of the Good Friday story that has always got me excited, my brain and my heart, is the tearing of the veil in the temple.

37 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and dismissed his spirit.
38 And the curtain in the Temple was split apart from top to bottom.
Mark 15:37-38

Depending on which scholarly type person you ask, the veil of the temple had different dimensions. According to one "expert" it was 15 feet wide by 15 feet long with a linen veil in the time of Moses to 20 feet wide by 60 feet long and 4 inches thick in the Temple of Jesus’ day. I don't know and honestly I don't care. What I do care about is the spiritual significance and symbolism.

The veil was a barrier between common folk and what was referred to as The Holy of Holies. In Moses time, it was where the Ark of the Covenant (Remember Indian Jones?), essentially the fancy box that housed God's Spirit, was housed. 

Later, after the Ark was no longer in the possession of the Israelites, the Holy of Holies was considered to be the place where God was. The priests of the Jewish temple only went in there once a year and only after a whole bunch of cleansing rituals on what was called the Day of Atonement . Sometimes they weren't "clean" enough, their sins hadn't been atoned or paid for through cleansing and sacrifice and as a result they would die, fall down dead in the presence of God. 

So the veil, kept everyone from God. Without atonement the Holy of Holies was a place of death and judgement. As mentioned in the reference above, when Jesus finally breathed his last  the veil was torn. Jesus' death was the atonement, the payment, the redeeming factor that tore the veil. His suffering and death, his sacrifice was what made it possible for the common people, you and me to interact with God. 

This is when I get a bit misty. The torn veil means that I don't have to be under judgement, that I don't have to strive and scrub myself clean and go through ritual to come to God. That through the sacrifice of Jesus, I can come to God just as I am all full of mistakes, banged up and dirty. That I can have mercy from my poor decisions, bad choices and ultimately death, grace (favour with God), hope for a fulfilling and blessed life now and an eternal life after death and that I can have a one on one relationship with the God that created the universe.  

And that is what makes Good Friday good for me.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Why I Sometimes Don’t Take My Meds

I’m pretty open about the fact that I have an hormonal imbalance that, without medication, turns me into a depressed rage beast.  I’m open with this information mostly because I think it’s super important to talk about stuff like this. Do you know what grows in the dark? Bad things like mold, fungus and angler-fish *shudders*. 

I will never swim in the ocean again. Thanks, Finding Nemo!

With depression, mental illness and other topics that have been delegated as not fit for discussion, in the darkness grows stigma, stereotypes and shame – all bad things. I think it’s time we stop shaming people for a chemical flaw as if it’s a character flaw and bring these topics into the light and see if we can’t breed some understanding and support.

However, as much as I like to be open I can’t say I’m completely without shame when it comes to my potential for depressed rage-beastedness. My secret, the thing I don’t discuss very often is that sometimes I don’t take my pills.

I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I think that if you asked anyone who relies on pharmaceuticals to maintain their emotions, behaviours and mental acuity you would find that many of us are resentful and ashamed that we have to take medication daily just to be normal. For me, especially I think because I am a Christian, I'm ashamed that I need medication to keep from flying off the handle at my young son, or to have the energy and focus to complete the tasks of daily life or to balance me out enough that I don't think friends and family would be better off without me. If I have the Spirit of God inside me, why can't I conquer all this? On the other hand, I am sometimes resentful of the fact that my emotions sometimes feel anesthetized, that if I display a deep emotion my husband wonders if I've taken my medication for the day or that I can’t just be normal.

I can tell you, that beyond a shadow of a doubt, getting my medication was a divine intervention in my life, a healing, just not in the way I usually think of healing, nobody smashed me in the head with the palm of their hand or doused me in holy water. However, I still struggle with taking my medication and I think that for me it boils down to comparison and incorrect thinking.

I saw on Pinterest once a sign that said, “Comparison is the thief of joy” and it, comparison, certainly steals my joy. When I compare myself to the other women, other mothers or the so called “normal people” I am full of self-doubt, resentment, jealousy and even anger, but I'm looking at people that simply aren't me. I will never be a shy, demure, Suzy-homemaker, nor will I be a virtuoso musician, an Olympic swimmer or someone with brown eyes. That's not me. It's not the person God had in mind, with a destiny and plan before the creation of the universe. He wants me, even me with a hormonal imbalance

. As for incorrect thinking, I've always been a bit of a know-it-all and I think sometimes I assume my plan  must be God's plan because (obviously) my plan is brilliant. It couldn't possibly be that God might be able to use me just as I am. Of course, when things then don't go my way I fall into resentment and comparison, stop taking my medications and then start the cycle all over again. I need to fix the tape in my head so that it plays God's truths and not the ones I've made up for myself. So that it reminds me of God's goodness and promises. 

Any way, I've been mulling these thoughts over for the last month or so, just thought I'd share them.

Hope they encourage you to stop comparing yourself to others and to love yourself enough to take full advantage of the resources available to you. God has a fantastic plan for you and it's no surprise to him that you have anxiety, depression, mental illness or whatever. He loves you so much.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

At Just The Right Time

*Originally posted as a Facebook Note 12/19/13*

There’s a verse in the Bible that starts with “At just the right time…”
You might think that words this simple and seemingly mundane might not really carry a lot of weight, but for the past year these words have helped me to remember God’s faithfulness, His promises and have encouraged me to hope when I felt lost.

The words, “at just the right time, “ are taken from Romans 5:6, and are part of a point the  Apostle Paul is  making regarding God’s plan for the redemption of mankind. Although I’m incredibly thankful for redemption, that’s not the main reason these 5 words spoke to me this past year. What spoke to me (still does) was the idea that God has things in store for me, good things that will be mine at just the right time.

It’s kind of abstract I guess,  so let me try and break it down for you.

In March this year I lost my job. It was sudden, unexpected and, without being a bit melodramatic, a crushing blow to my confidence, my family finances and my sense of self and security. However, financially the job loss came at a time in which a student loan I hadn’t been expecting to be be paid off for another 4 years was paid off. It came at a time when, between a small loan from my parents and my income tax return, we were able to afford, with $200 to spare, the new/used car we needed for Jeff to get to work. Then my severance came in and made it possible for us to stay afloat until the exact week my Employment Insurance kicked in.  

During this time, skills and talents that I hadn’t had the time to use while working full time were able to be used in some really cool ways. I got to write Sunday School curriculum that involved swords and catapults and that kids actually looked forward too. I was also able to renew friendships, spend the most amount of time with my son since I went back to work when he was 9 months old and just generally be available to help others and volunteer my time.

Then, when things started to look bad financially and the winter months with increased hydro payments and Christmas costs were coming up, I got a great job on only my third try out in the job market.

This doesn't even take into account all the timely words of encouragement and coffee dates that sprung up just when I needed them.

I’m not saying this period of time (March to late September) was easy, or that I was happy this whole time just skipping along like Ned Flanders quoting scrididdlely scripture and smiling like a psycho. What I am saying is that in looking back at 2013 I can very clearly see that God was faithful, that His timing was spot on. At just the right time He met my needs and the needs of my family. At just the right time, he encouraged me and bolstered my hope. At just the right time I was constantly reminded that I am important, favoured and blessed.

If you’re struggling, if you’re hoping and praying for something, if you’re lost,  your time will come just when it’s supposed to. Hang on to hope.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Why I Will Never Be Asked To Write a Parenting Guide

It's has always been a fairly sure thing that no one would be calling Jeff and I to write a parenting guide anytime soon.  This isn't to say that we're lousy parents. Let's just say that we often find ourselves in some ridiculous situations.

Side Note: Jeff would like to point out that when I say "we" or "us" I'm referring to myself and not him. He says his parenting is just fine.

Here are two conversations that might illustrate my point.

#1 - I am his son.
We knew that this summer would be the one in which we had the Birds and Bees talk with Jacob, but this conversation really cemented it for us.

*Before this conversation occurred Jeff had been having stomach pains and I had joked several times that he was having a baby.

Me: (Getting off the phone with Jeff) Daddy is still feeling sick. The doctors did an ultrasound, but he has to wait to find out what's wrong. He's going to come home.

Jacob: So is he?

Me: Is he what?

Jacob: Is he pregnant?

Me: (Eyebrows up in my hairline trying not to laugh) No. Men don't get pregnant Jacob. So, no.

Jacob: But that doesn't make sense.

Me: What doesn't make sense?

Jacob: I am his son. How am I his son if he didn't get pregnant with me?

Me: Uh...well I was pregnant with you. Men don't get pregnant. Daddy will explain everything when he gets home. Now, go put pants on and play with some Lego.

Can you imagine the amount of complaining? 

#2 - Chicken Vaginas
Jeff had a big talk with Jacob about the differences between men and women's anatomy and about relationships. The following conversation occurred the next day while we were eating eggs.

Jacob: Eggs are kind of funny. It's like eating poo.

Me: Ew! No it's not. What are you talking about?

Jacob: Eggs come out of the chickens' butt, so it's like eating poo.

Me: Eggs don't come out of chickens' butts, they come out of chicken's vaginas.

Jeff:  Sara!!

Jacob: Mom! Chickens have wieners not vaginas.

Me: Roosters have wieners. Chickens have vaginas.
(Looking at Jeff) Is this a good time to tell him where babies come from?

Jeff: (Gives me the head shake of shame)

Jacob: Lady vaginas?

Me: Yes, baby. From lady vaginas.

Jacob: (Thinking for a minute) Unless they're cut out, right mom?

Me: Yes, baby.

Jacob: I was cut out of your tummy , right?

Me: Yes Jacob. It's called a C-section.

Jacob: Oh. Good!


I can't wait to fill him in on the mechanics of where babies come from. That should be more fun than forks in my eyes.

Parenting is hard.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

My Brain is Going To Explode

Now, it might just be a case of the hormones, but I just read this article that made my head want to explode.

If you haven't been living under a rock you probably wish you were because news-feeds everywhere have been full of images of Miley Cyrus, tongue hanging out, getting her twerk on at the MTV Video Music Awards. I'm fairly certain that MTV doesn't even show videos any more unless they involve teen moms and Oompa-loompa-like New Jersey-ites, but I guess they still need a reason to pat celebrities on the back. From the very beginning, like back when they had VJs and showed ground breaking music videos, the MTV VMA's have been set up to shock and titillate. This is not the Oscars people. This is a 3 hour party/commercial for celebrity brats and braggarts.

For example, Howard Stern at the 1991 MTV VMAs. The same year my mom stopped letting me watch the show.

So back to Miley Cyrus. She pulled on her flesh tone, latex bra and panty set and twerked her (nonexistent) derriere off and generally made people uncomfortable. This performance and comments she's made recently have led many to speculate, whether rightfully or not, that Miley Cyrus is a racist or at least that these things are indicative of White culture's constant appropriation and watering down of Black culture. Someone with a journalism degree said it, and some other stuff, like this.

On stage as well as in her video she used the tedious trope of having black women as her backing singers, there only to be fondled by her and to admire her wiggling derriere. Cyrus is explicitly imitating crunk music videos and the sort of hip-hop she finds so edgy – she has said, bless her, that she feels she is Lil' Kim inside and she loves "hood music" – and the effect was not of a homage but of a minstrel show, with a young wealthy woman from the south doing a garish imitation of black music and reducing black dancers to background fodder and black women to exaggerated sex objects.

I think there's a valid argument there, not just because of Miley Cyrus, and that it would be something very interesting to study, but that's not why I'm writing. I'm writing because A. people are loosing their minds over this and hoping the first train to "Paint-Everything-With-The-Same-Brush-Ville" and B. I love Janis Joplin.

When I was in my early teens I started listening to music my parents hated and disapproved of - most likely it was a case of my dad not wanting to hear anymore of the crap my 12 year old self thought was "so cool". To combat this my dad started introducing me to music he had liked when he was a kid and actually talking to me about music, music history and about really appreciating music for the many things that it is - history, culture, emotion, expression, art, worship, ravings, fluff, and much, much more. Dad introduced me to Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Eric Clapton, The Yardbirds and their many offspring, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jefferson Airplane, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

Janis Joplin struck a real chord with me. I was an awkward 12 year old, with a myriad of self-esteem issues and a butt-ton of hormones. I felt like I got Janis. I loved her early folky stuff sung with only the autoharp as accompaniment and her stuff from the posthumously released, Clive Davis produced album Pearl. I read her autobiographies, I listened to the musicians she claimed to be influenced by and shocked my Grade 8 guidance teacher by telling him I wanted to be blues singer when I grew up. There were probably several very moody years in which I listened not much more than Janis. So I have a deep love for Janis. DEEP LOVE.

This afternoon, while goofing around on the Internet I came across an article that made my head want to explode. Some moron, from a publication I'm not going to post wrote an article entitled "If Miley Cyrus's Twerking Is Racist, Isn't Janis Joplin's Singing Also Racist?" with the sub-heading "Well, in fact, yes. But Janis's talent distracted from her minstrelsy." Ok, to be honest I just read the title and I assumed that the article would find no link at all between the two of them. I mean, really, one is what I would consider an entertainer and the other an artist. However, the author did not see things the way I do (Shocking, I know!). Instead the author argued that, well, I'll let the author's words speak for themselves.

Not that I want to stick up for Cyrus or anything... Bad art is easy to condemn. It's a lot less easy to talk about the unpleasant racial implications of Joplin's work. I know I don't enjoy the racism in Cyrus's performance, because I don't enjoy her performance. But with Joplin? What am I responding to? I'd like to say I'm responding to the passion, or the technique, or the emotion, but all of those are so embedded in the drama of racial appropriation that I don't know how you separate them out. Unless you do what Cyrus does, and, with a clumsiness approaching inspiration, jettison the passion, the technique, and the emotion altogether, until the audience is left gazing at the racism that in other contexts, with just a sugar-coating of competence, they've managed to love.
I'm about to lose my MIND. Seriously?!?!

Janis Joplin was an artist that dabbled in many different types of music, Folk, Country/Western, Blues, Rock and Psychedelia. However, she felt an affinity for Blues, much in the same way that I felt an affinity, admiration and love of her music. This author's logic is flawed. Having an appreciation, affinity and love for a particular type of music isn't appropriation. By that logic any artist that sings a song written by a Black musician or adapts a culturally Black genre of music is a racist. That would make the Rolling Stones who's early influences included Muddy Waters racist for their love of Blues, the Beastie Boys bigots for "appropriating" Hip Hop culture, Paul Simon a candidate for KKK membership for his only having Ladysmith Black Mambazo as "backup singers" on Graceland and Eric Clapton a real prejudiced kind of guy for his Robert Johnson obsession. It's one thing to love, to be influenced by and to feel an affinity for a musical genre from whatever culture and another to make it a joke, parody or minstrel show, if you will, of it.

I can't speak for Miley Cyrus or more likely her handlers. Do I like her "music" or think that she's offering anything even remotely artistic to the world? No. I think she's someone who's grown up in the entertainment industry and has probably very rarely been told no. No matter the tastelessness of her performance whether or not she's appropriating Black culture is really a matter of the heart. When we generalize, no matter how easy it is, we make assumptions, we stereotype people and we do exactly what this author accuses Miley Cyrus and Janis Joplin of.

And that, among other things, makes my head want to explode.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

On Baptism, Fear and Freedom

Image by Jono and Laynie Photo and Film

This is me.
Now, before you start panicking, I'm not at the site of a mass tragedy, a funeral or any other negative thing. This picture was taken at a baptism.

Last year, Freedom House, the church I attend, held a mass, public baptism and it freaked me right out. Not the idea of baptism, I've been a Christian for most of my life and have witnessed countless baptisms of several flavours. Out in a lake? Check. Inside a church? Check. Baptisms in which people wore robes? Check. Infant baptisms? Check. Baptisms after which someone helpfully pulled the plug on the baptismal tank (think of a very large bathtub) and the drain made atrocious sucking sounds while the pastor tried to preach? Oh yeah, I was there for that. I was baptized myself when I was 10. So I'm cool with the act of baptism.

I actually really love baptism services. The visual representation of someone entering a new life of grace and freedom is beautiful, exciting and profound. What I was freaked out about was the public nature of this baptism. Held in the middle of Harmony Square, in Brantford's reemerging downtown core, this event was publicized in several media outlets and was at the least going to draw about a hundred people or so.

Now, I've always attended charismatic style churches, so I'm used to outward demonstrations of worship. Add to that the fact that I'm fairly fond of the limelight and some of you may be scratching your head wondering what the big deal is about an outdoor service. The thing is I like order and I really hate conflict. So the potential, at least in my head, of these things happening at a large scale baptism, held in the middle of a public square was huge. What if people picketed? What if no one showed up to get baptized? What if people wrote all sorts of bad things about my church in our local paper, online, etc? (Some did. I particularly liked the guy who called us Branch Davidians. Dude! That is so 1995!) What if someone saw me worshiping with my hands raised, maybe swaying a bit to the music (No dancing. I'm still dealing with some body issues. Jesus is helping me get over the fear of my own jiggle.) with my eyes closed?

See that last fear there? No, not the bit about jiggling, the one about someone seeing me worshiping. That's the one that really bothered me. I was afraid of what people would think of me. I was freaked out that people would think I was some kind of wackadoo out proselytizing in the public square being a spectacle. And that is sad.

The picture above was taken when I finally stopped caring about what people thought, when I took a real look at the people around me, people smiling and cheering about a new way of living, about freedom and grace and when I accepted a measure of freedom and grace for myself. Those are tears of redemption, tears of joy and tears of change. As I told one person who saw the picture on Facebook and was concerned for my generally well being, "It's all good in the hood. :)"


Baptism began as a public demonstration held by a lone yahoo wearing animal skins, munching on locusts, in the Jordan River. The whole point of baptism was (and is) a public display of an inward change. Baptism, and arguably worship all together, was never meant to be held behind closed doors. It, like salvation, was never meant to be only for those deemed worthy by those in authority or even by those deemed worthy by society at large. Baptism (and by rote salvation) is for any one. From the richest to the poorest, the healthy to the sick, the wanted and unwanted, the sure and even those who aren't 100% sure, but are willing to try. The Church (notice that big C) has for too long kept baptism locked away, hidden and shrouded in ritual and rules.

So we're doing it again! This Sunday, four churches along with Freedom House will be holding another baptism at 3pm - same bapt place, same bapt channel (See what I did there?). We're going to have a service - that means we're going to sing songs and someone is going to speak, -the message of salvation will be preached as will a message on what baptism means, it will be short. Then people who want to get baptized ( old Christians, new Christians, Christians that belong to a church and those who don't, kids, grown-up, the lost, the found and those looking to regain a faith they once had) will. They'll physically get dunked under water for about 3 seconds and brought up out of the water, handed a towel and then will receive some information and prayer.  Spiritually,as my mother in law would describe it, those baptized will be taking off an old coat, one of sin, fear, death, etc and putting on a new one made of grace, new life and redemption.

Am I nervous? A little, I still like order and more people and more media coverage means more things are out of my control. Am I freaked out though? No. I'm excited. I'm excited to be part of an age old celebration of newness and grace. I'm excited to watch my son get baptized (there will be tears). I'm excited to take "church" out of four walls and into my city centre. I'm excited to have the freedom to worship and grow in freedom with others.

I'm excited.