Thursday, October 8, 2015

Crushed Under the Weight

It’s really unsettling and depressing to discover that the world I thought was my home is not at all like I had understood it to be.  Yes, I am naive and I do tend to give people the benefit of the doubt (Dh has accused me, for years, of putting up with garbage from people and making excuses because they have had issues and he is probably right).  I generally assume that, unless someone has been really damaged by something in life, that he or she is capable of compassion, empathy and understands that others have needs and rights as well.  I’ve learned that I am wrong.

I’m a Canadian.  I grew up believing the myth that we are the kinder, gentler version of our American neighbours.  I thought of us as the world’s peacekeepers – trying to help third world countries, having national health care and having a welfare system that, while not perfect, at least attempted to be sure that everyone’s basic needs were met.

In the last several years, I have seen glimpses that all is not what I had believed.  First Nations people were homeless on their reserves, living in desperate poverty, driven out of their homes by toxic mold, if they had homes, and dealing with a lack of just about everything (while also coping with the legacy of the unbelieveable cruelty enacted upon them in our residential school system).  I listened to stories being told at the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that made me nauseas and that made me ache to reach out to these victimized native children.  Then, I heard that the government had “saved” millions and was balancing the budget, in part by not spending the money allocated to our native peoples.

I stopped hearing about Canadian outreach in struggling nations and began to hear grumblings against refugees.  I was stunned when, earlier this fall, I began to hear talk that we were refusing to take Syrian refugees because they “might” be terrorists.  What happened to the Canada that stepped to the front of the line in helping the Vietnamese Boat people?  Other than the First Nations peoples in Canada, we are a country of immigrants – how could people forget that most of our ancestors arrived here as a result of some kind of crisis?  This was a refuge for them, why weren’t we willing to act as a refuge for others?  I saw the images of Syrian families stranded in various places in Europe, mothers with young children with no shelter, little food, no belongings after a harrowing journey across dangerous waters in unstable rafts.  I couldn’t imagine what circumstances would make me put my children at such risk and I couldn’t understand where our compassion had gone.

Then, finally, the rhetoric began to spew out in our election campaign.  I began to see online the truly offensive Islamophobia spilling out.  I heard stories of pregnant women being assaulted for wearing a hijab, of Muslim women being verbally abused and told to “go home.”  I began to see posts on Facebook from people I thought were much more compassionate arguing that these Muslims were trying to “take” “our” country and that there is no room for them here.  I couldn’t see how people were unable to see that if Muslim acts of piety and worship were unwelcome here, it would only be a matter of time before my Christian faith would become unwelcome, as well.

I have felt almost crushed by this.  I see that the party that is pushing this agenda is now leading in the polls and I am terrified for what this means for our country.  I am so tired of fighting and calling racism where it is rearing its ugly head.  I hate the conflict and I am struggling to find a way to “love my neighbor” even when he or she is spewing hate towards people who are already victims.  I don’t know anymore whether it is time to be quiet and stop the conflict or whether that is just continuing the pattern that was so evident in Nazi Germany – “it’s not me and it’s not my problem”.  I am seeing so many parallels and yet, there are so many people caught in this mass hysteria that I am becoming afraid to speak.  I don’t want to go to church because I know that some of the people in that church on Sunday morning hold these views and I am waiting for them to turn on me, too.  I debate leaving Facebook entirely because I find this all so upsetting but I also worry that if we stop calling this what it is, that it will only become more socially acceptable to hold and express these views.  I am confused and tired and mostly, just SAD.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Following Party Lines?

One of my favourite bloggers, Sarah Bessey, invited readers to share some questions with her and answering the questions would be the focus for her blog in August.  It's funny, I feel so isolated sometimes in terms of what I believe but I have so many questions, too.  I yearn for the chance to sit down and talk to people who will understand and since there seem to be so few people in the territory in which I have planted myself, evangelical and liberal at the same time, I often wish I could ask a few of my favourite bloggers to help me out.  Politics has been a BIG one for me of late, especially since the election announcement yesterday.  I was so excited to be able to ask Sarah about what she thinks and it made me think that it's only fair that I share my musings (I'm still forming my thoughts).

Obviously, there's a large part of the world whose politics are supposedly shaped by their faith, or so they would claim.  To those of us who don't share those beliefs, it's hard not to think that the faith is shaped to meet their politics, not vice-versa.  I don't understand how we can be reading the same Bible and come away with the same message.  Hatred, judgement, oppression, violence and greed are so inconsistent with the Jesus whose teachings I'm reading in my NRSV but there are so many people who seem to read the Bible and come away with the idea that judgement, oppression and dog-eat-dog capitalism are the way Jesus wants us to go.  I find that perplexing and, frankly, alarming.  I can't help but think that Jesus is weeping at our stupidity.

On the other hand, I also worry that maybe I am guilty of the same thing.  Am I so worried about loving and inclusion that I do push for a political system that 1. breeds dependence?  2.  accepts anything, even when it's morally wrong, in the name of being inclusive?  3.  is not economically sustainable, which ultimately is as oppressive (such as the collapsed system in the former Soviet Union or China's lack of freedom)?  Where does Jesus direct us in terms of politics?

In considering where my vote will go, I am finding it increasingly hard to find a place (ah, such the story of my life).  Clearly the Conservative platform in Canada is of no interest to me.  The lack of funding for any programmes to support the poor, the horrific negligence of Canada's First Nations communities and the abysmal track record on the environment are so in opposition to everything I believe that I could never go that route.

On the other hand, I don't really feel at home in the left, either.  It's interesting.  On paper, the more left wing parties would certainly seem to be where most of my beliefs would fall.  At the same time, there's something missing for me.  I've been pondering it over the last few days.  DH and I went as delegates to the provincial teacher's union meeting last summer (and are going again) and while I agreed with so much, there was still this tiny voice saying in my head, "I don't fit here."  I couldn't place it and I've really struggled with what the gap is.  I heard talk about social justice and support for initiatives that build up the poor.  I heard talk about fair wages for low income workers (including a call to make sure that we didn't use the hotel cards saying we didn't need our rooms cleaned so that the hotel workers, who are not unionized and make minimum wage, would get more hours).   There was tremendous respect shown to First Nations peoples and peoples of every minority group and a clear agenda to support all who are marginalized.  Still, I didn't quite feel a fit.  Why?

It finally came to me today.  It's not what we believe but it's from what our belief is based.  I don't just believe in justice for the sake of it being "right" but rather, that it's a call from God
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
This is not about being entitled to these rights but about being obedient to God's call.  There is a struggle, too, between rights and the fact that we can't read the Bible without coming away with the idea that there are some moral absolutes which is sometimes at odds with the rights of others (e.g., such as that as Christians, the Bible clearly tells us that we are not to kill, which makes war, even in cases that some would qualify as "just war" questionable at best).  We need to uphold the role of the family and the role of the community to support each other and for some, this is an old-fashioned ideal that is out of date.  Most of all, we are to be ruled by love, not by anger, despite the horror of the situation or the frustration and we are to show respect, even to those with whom we entirely disagree.
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:37 - 40
When the person with whom I agree politically is not guided by this command, there will always be a gap.

Anyone know of a Christian social justice party getting started?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Just the right post...

Today, I had two posts that I read that reasonated with me so much.  It's funny how things sometimes come to you just as you need them - I could have read either of these posts on a different day and skimmed them with no real connection.  I just thought I'd share.

After my rant about church yesterday, I should say that Dh and I have landed in a church that we love.  We feel a strong sense of belonging and as the church is in our local community, we have church connections in daily life, something that we haven't really had before.  It's lovely!  We are really enjoying it and also, we are finding that the interpretation of what it is to be a Christian is fairly close to our own - Evangelical but also loving, with a definite challenge to go into the world to be Christ's hands and feet.  I am sure there are people whose views are not ours but it's been unexpectedly wonderful for us.  Today was a church day and I was happy to read Sarah Bessey's post this morning, basically explaining why she loves her church.  It made me eager to go to church and to look at our worship and the community through new eyes. 

I spent a good portion of today out in the garden, trying to get stuff done with my kidlets.  Needless to say, it slowed me down.  A LOT.  Pk was constantly saying, "Isn't it great that we are helping you?  I need ________ to be just like you mom!" while with LB, I was just struggling to keep from getting hit in the head with the shovel (yesterday, he clocked me upside the head with one while trying to "help" - nothing like feeling as if you need to comfort a child who is afraid he has accidently just killed his mother when you are afraid that if you remove your hand from your skull, a chunk might just fall out).  I am a very random gardener - I have no idea what I am doing and at different times, I go in different directions and create all kinds of chaos.  Today, it was trying to clean up some beds in the "dog" area of the garden (think bomb testing range) and to plant a few veggies to get that bed going.  I waffled between gratitude for the presence of my children and then wanting them to be anywhere but in my way!  Then, I read this post this evening and realized how awesomely lucky I am to have to two kids in the way.  Please pray for Michaela as she learns to live without her precious daughter, Florence.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Just a Little Rant since it doesn't belong on Facebook...

Sorry, I disappeared again.  Life has been insane with school concerts (I'm a teacher) and Welcome to Kindergarten and family visiting from England and just general "my life is too busy" kind of stuff.  I'm finally coming out the other side of this season of crazy and it feels really good to be back here.  I doubt I was missed but I missed writing so that's all that really matters to me.

I don't know whether other people do this but I have this little Facebook problem.  The problem is that I check Facebook way too often.  I'm not addicted, really, and I am not interested so much in the little fluffy stuff that people post about how popular they are or links to Huffington Post articles or various quizes or top 80's trivia.  I just get bored REALLY easily and if I'm in the car and unfocused, I scan my feed, looking for anything that will hold my interest.  That's when I get in trouble.  I have a bad habit of clicking on articles that people have posted and then, I get enraged at whatever I find offends me.  I am usually pretty good about not saying anything or even commenting (I tend not to comment unless I agree) but sometimes, it's all I can do to keep from either writing an inflammatory rebuttal or posting a link to something that directly attacks whatever the person has said.  I feel as if it would be truly satisfying but deep down, I know that it's not worth it and I would end up feeling like a nasty person.

Today, it was a link to this article, criticizing all of the op/ed pieces about what is wrong with church.  Facebook suggested this article below it and I am guessing that the first article is a response to the second I am linking but it's possible not. 

Why did it bug me so much?  Because the first article, which is attacking all of the writing that is against church these days, expresses so clearly what is wrong with so many churches these days and why so many people ARE leaving.  More personally, it expresses some of what I was feeling at our last church that led us to finally and very painfully, leaving after being there a long time.  What is it about church that makes people so blind?  They feel as if they are getting their needs met (whatever those needs might be), anyone who is not or, worse, anyone who dares to name what isn't working, is just being selfish and greedy and wanting to change what isn't broken.  Given how the church is declining, let me say it - IT'S BROKEN, FOLKS (at least in affluent North America - interestingly, in more impoverished parts of the world, and even in some struggling spots in urban North America, it's thriving and alive and gospel fulfilling).

I'm probably not at the most reasonable point for discussing this right now because I am just finishing reading Jesus for President by Shane Claibourne and Chris Haw.  It's a brilliant book but I am certain that it offends most of the world.  While I would call these guys extreme expressors (which I think is a dog breeding term I picked up but I digress), they hit the nail on the head.  If you actually read and take seriously what Jesus says, so much of what "church" is now is not based on anything Jesus said.  Jesus was certainly not an advocate of big, flashy buildings, of constant fundraising drives to make our spaces more luxurious or of hugely expensive lighting and sound systems that make us feel like we are at a concert at a major venue.  The message of the early church was not mega-churches in which people would come week after week without making any meaningful connections to others.  Church was about relationships and relationships not only within the church walls but outside of them.  Jesus did not endorse only helping those who are "one of us" or that charity only counts if it is done within the walls of the individual congregation.  The church is not a denomination or a building or an exclusive club - it's a group of people who follow Jesus and his teachings and who look for the needy and the suffering and the marginalized and try to meet their needs.  It's people who forgive, who love, who ignore nationality and language and class structure and who use their resources to live out their faith, caring for others, including those with whom we strenuously disagree.  It isn't comfortable or easy or in keeping with the culture around us but it is rewarding, loving, meaningful and powerful.

I need to point out, as well, that I am not anti-church.  Given the number of hours of my life spent at church and involved in church activities and the fact that Dh and I spent so much time talking about how we love our church community, we are "church" people.  I think, though, that years of being in and around churches has taught us that the institutional church IS killing itself slowly (maybe not so slowly these days) with its focus on the superficial (e.g., the setting and the light show), its being a self-rewarding institution (e.g., the church we attended whose Advent focus was "random acts of kindness" and most of them happened within the walls of the church to other people who were equally blessed and it required no sacrifice) and its lack of credibility outside its own walls (with its lack of effort to improve the lives of others or to stand up against injustice). 

I guess I should just let these self-absorbed people continue to be "the church" (or, should we say, "their church").  They will gradually eliminate themselves while, I hope, those who are listening hard for the words of Jesus and trying to put them into action can transform "church" into something more meaningful and relevant and world changing.  It still makes me angry through, the hypocrisy of it all - how can you claim to be listening to Christ when you are so against listening to the cries of those around you?  The cries are deafening and those with earplugs in are making it harder for the rest of us.

There, my rant is over and I haven't offended anyone on Facebook and I don't have to feel guilty.  That was satisfying!

Saturday, May 9, 2015


I'm an INFJ.  If you know about Myers-Briggs personality typing, that will mean something to you but if not, it's just a set of random letters.  For me, it's been such a useful tool in understanding myself, particularly some of my quirkier stuff that I haven't ever really understood.

We INFJ's are a rare bunch and we can be pretty contradictory.  The one trait of being an INFJ that I haven't really owned until recently is the privacy one.  Supposedly, we are very people centred and tend of focus a lot of emotions and trying to help others.  Yup, that's me.  On the other hand, we are supposedly very private and I didn't really think that described me.  Certainly, if you hang around here,  you would think that I am VERY forthcoming but I have come to understand that my blog is really the only place that I feel like I can really tell the truth.  That makes life hard sometimes.

I do share my feelings and hash things out with people at times.  I vent about small frustrations and I talk through ideas a lot.  I've found, over the last year or so, though, that I am so lonely.  It's funny, I am surrounded by the most wonderful people and I am frequently told by people that I cope so well and that they don't know how I do it.  As an example, not too long ago, my sister-in-law was venting to me about something and then apologized for it, because I never vent to her.  It's such a strange combination - I am DYING to spill how I am feeling but I can't seem to find the words or, when I do, I don't think that people are really interested so I don't want to bother them.  I can vent about being concerned about the strike that's looming in my work or the fact that my car won't start but the things that are weighing the most heavily, I can't seem to express.  It really is lonely.

So, here I go, since I can't vent anywhere else,  it needs to spill out here.  I know, first world problems and all that and I feel guilty complaining but today, it needs to come out and here is the only place I feel safe doing it.

1.  I am so angry at Dh.  Pk has had a HARD  year at school.  She's been complaining a lot about feeling sad at school and not knowing why and that the other girls are mean to her.  Me being me, I've worried.  Is she doing something to turn the other kids off?  Is she just looking for attention? (my niece has been battling a lot of serious depression this year and has been getting a lot of attention for it and I wondered whether Pk might think this would get her attention too).  I've never felt especially like I belonged socially - is it that I am rubbing off on Pk?  Are these just the normal things that girls have to go through or is it more serious?
Anyway, when I picked Pk up at daycare yesterday, the daycare teacher said that her classroom teacher wanted to see me.  I went up alone and she filled me in on seeing that Pk is feeling uncomfortable in class at times and won't talk about what's wrong, her "friends" can be downright malicious to her sometimes and she won't tell on them or stand up to them, she won't take any risks in class at all in terms of possibly making a mistake and her teacher says she is the sweetest kid ever but she isn't being especially well served by being so sweet.  When I came home, I was bursting to discuss it with Dh and when I came in, he asked why I was so late.  I said that Pk's teacher had wanted to see me and he changed the subject.  It took three hours for him to actually ask me what it was about and then, she was present so I couldn't discuss it.  He totally forgot about it and I had to pull him aside this morning and even then, he didn't seem especially interested.  I don't want anyone to think he's a bad guy and he loves us but he can be so selfish sometimes and when it comes to parenting, it all falls to me.  I'm tired of doing this on my own.

2.  The puppy.  I love her but I said when the subject was raised that I was already on the edge in terms of being able to manage the pace of my life.  I was assured, again and again, that the work would be shared and it wouldn't all fall to me.  As I am trying to get the kids ready for school in the morning (single-handedly), having a puppy hanging off my bathrobe and pooping in the house is not making me feel especially cherished.  I do so much of the work around here and it doesn't matter what is going on, when I say that I can't do something because I am already overwhelmed, nobody listens to me, more just gets added to my plate.  IT"S NOT FAIR!

3.  Sunday school.  I want to help at church, I really do.  I want to do my part.  That being said, being down to teach Sunday school on Mother's Day when I had a school concert and had to do double duty here because Dh had his big school concerts on Wednesday and Thursday, I really, really, really could use the break.  Will Mother's Day ever be a day I get a break?  I'd love, more than anything else, just to go somewhere alone for the day and read and drink tea.  I can't even imagine what they would feel like.

Those are just the tip of the iceberg but I needed to say them.  If you have actually stuck around to read this, you probably think I am either the biggest whiner in the world or the biggest wimp.  I just wish I knew that other moms felt the same way.  I honestly find that by the time I go to bed, I am dying of exhaustion and then I wake up the next day to feeling guilty about the people whose emails I didn't anwer or whose texts got ignored and often, I can guilt from those people.  If you aren't thinking I'm a baby, you are probably thinking that I should just grow some balls and do something about it all.  You are probably right, I just don't know how...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Yarn Along

Here am I again and I'm trying to figure out how a whole week has passed since my last post.  I've still been battling this stupid virus but I think that today, I finally started to improve.  I've been back at work but it's been a real struggle to find the energy since life seems to be exceptionally busy right now!

I love the Yarn Along hosted by Ginny over at Small Things.  I love browsing to see what other people are reading and stitching and I love putting my post together.  What I love most?  Having a timeline that gives me a kind of mini-goal each week.  It motivates me to try and have a least one book finished and some visible progress on my knitting.  This week, I managed fairly well.

Knitting - still working on my baby blanket.  I'm a bit bummed.  The friend having this baby wasn't going to find out gender and so I was banking on this blue/gray I found.  My LYS didn't have enough of any one thing when I was there last and so I decided this was the best colour that had enough.  I tried to convince myself that it's grey enough that it could pass for a girl but I had a feeling this friend was having a boy.  Grr.... she posted on Facebook this week that they caved and found out gender and, you guessed it, it's a girl!  It's too late to do anything about it now and I have 22 of the 39 inches done so while it isn't the right colour, at least there's hope it will be done in time!

Reading - three books I want to mention this week.  First of all, I love reading good novels with my kids.  Pk is reading endless Scholastic series (e.g., Geronimo Stilton, Rainbow Magic, Bad Kitty, Animal Ark) and while I am thrilled she enjoys them, I can't bring myself to read them aloud.  I have been trying to find author's that would work for me to read to both kids that they would enjoy and that are light enough for LB but not boring for Pk.  We have discovered Dick King-Smith and we adore him!  I'm not sure Pk would entirely get him if she were reading him on her own but read aloud, they are WONDERFUL.  Dh and I both LOVE Sophie - she's such a tough little nut and the kids love these stories, especially since Sophie dreams of being a "lady farmer" when she grows up and so pets figure largely in her stories.  Such fun!  I also love buying second hand books and seeing where they have come from and we keep ordering VERY cheap Dick King-Smith books from England through  I can't recommend it highly enough!  Anyway, now for my reading.  First, I am reading Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne.  I know he isn't for everyone and he is a bit extreme.  I have no intention of running off to join a commune.  On the other hand, I think that he has really found the heart of the gospel message and I love seeing his interpretations of Biblical stories and the call that they have on our lives.  I'm meandering through it but it's a great read.  The other book I'm reading at the moment is Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid.  I struggle with her a bit - I love her style and I fight my way through the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan novels despite the gruesomeness because I love her characters and her writing.  This book is a bit weird.  I'm 70 pages in and interested but I can't really tell you what it's about yet.  I'll let you know.  I saw it on the shelf at the library and the title jumped out at me.  I couldn't resist.

I can't wait to see what everyone else has been up to this week!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Yarn Along

Thanks to the arrival of our new puppy, an online course for work I have been taking and this week, a horrible cold (which is why I am home today and can do this, so I guess it isn't all bad), I haven't had any time to be around here on the blog.  I've missed it and you and it's lovely to get a chance to come back with some knitting and reading.  I'm always so grateful to Ginny for hosting the Yarn Along at Small things.  I've followed so many blogs in the last five years or so and my interests shift and change but Ginny's blog has been one that I still keep coming back to.  It's so nice to feel connected!

In terms of knitting, my needles need to be on fire with baby blankets - I have a friend due in May, a friend in June and two in September.  I don't know whether I will manage to have blankets done for everyone but it's my goal to try.  Unfortunately (at least for me), everyone seems to be opposed to finding out the gender so I'm working away using colours that I hope are sufficiently neutral and sadly, my LYS has not had much selection at the moment.  I ended up buying two different lots of grey.  The one above, which is for the first blanket, is a lovely dk in a grey with a blue hint and I'm being a bit lazy in the name of time and just doing a simple feather and fan.  I wanted something that would look pretty and like I had done something amazing but that didn't require hours of counting.  This one is fairly easy and I can take it along with me.  My only worry is that the dk means it won't work up all that quickly.  When I finish here, I plan to spend a good chunk of my sick day in front of the t.v. with my needles going.

In terms of reading, I am reading two TERRIFIC books at the moment.  I started Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson as part of the SheLoves book club a few weeks ago. I don't know why, I fell away from it for a bit but now, I'm back and reading it with a vengence.  If you are interested in the complex issues around justice in the U.S., especially the inequalities related to race and poverty (and the fact that the death penalty is just plain wrong), this is a very powerful read.  On the fiction side, I'm still trying to catch up with Anne Perry, one of my favourite mystery writers who is incredibly prolific and I somehow fell behind.  Blood on the Water is a Monk mystery with an interesting spin that I am really enjoying.

I can't wait to see what others are reading and knitting this week!