Saturday, February 27, 2010


I feel sick. The atrocious book I wrote about in my last blog post is for sale through both chapters and I have called both to let them know but I can't believe that they would sell such evil garbage.

And You Call Yourself a Christian...

Recently, I have begun to read a blog that I really enjoy. She calls herself "Emerging Mummy" and it's a mixed blog - about struggles and joys of motherhood and family and also, with a heavy emphasis on being a thoughtful Christian (at least, that is how I see it). She really hits a chord with me because she seems to struggle with a lot of the same issues that I do - how to find a balance between living life as the Bible calls us to while not slipping into judgement, narrow-mindedness, legalism and, quite frankly, cruelty, all things that, sadly, seem to go hand-in-hand with some forms of Christianity.

Yesterday (at least, I read it yesterday), Sarah published two posts. The first was essentially a resignation from Christianity (not from God or Jesus, just from the institutional church and from so-called "Christians") and the second was an appeal for stories of the presence of true, from the heart, loving Christianity that is in keeping with the message of the Gospel. She has been struggling with issues from the institutional church (and, more specifically, from its members, who DO seem to have a gift for behaving in a way that is anything but Christian at times). If I read her post and her comments correctly, the final straw for her was the death of a child at the hands of her adoptive parents in California, based on that atrocious book "How to Train Up a Child" by the Pearls.

To begin, I should probably tell you about the book by the Pearls and my journey that would have me even know what on earth it is. Pk was a VERY difficult infant - colic, hours of crying every evening and very, very poor sleep habits. I had a number of people pushing various parenting practices on me that just didn't mesh with my heart in terms of how I wanted to parent (nothing anywhere near as extreme as the ridiculous and cruel things that the Pearls were advocating but leaving a 4 month old to cry for long periods to sleep train seems fairly abusive to me, too). At 3 a.m., I would finally get her down and then come to the computer, searching for something, ANYTHING, to make me feel like I could cope. I kept finding articles and quotes from Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician from the U.S. whose ideas just seemed so much more fitting to what I believed. At first, some of it seemed a bit "crunchy granola" for me - having your child in your bed just seemed like an odd thing to do. Interesting, these things all worked - babywearing, co-sleeping, etc and I liked how they built a relationship with my child. That was the start of my AP (attachment parenting) journey. The only problem was that a lot of the AP types are very "granola" - left of centre, atheist, anti anything vaguely traditional and that made me uncomfortable. I eventually found a great web group called "Gentle Christian Mothers" that really fit - women who were like me, devout Christians whose parenting practices were not built around "spare the rod". It was a much better fit and it was nice to feel that I am not alone. I heard about the Pearls there - fighting the Pearl methods of child-rearing and, even to a lesser extent, Ezzo (hard core-sleep training) methods. I will also say that it was wonderful to accidently stumble upon a book called "Christian Parenting and Childcare" by William Sears that turned out to be by the same Dr. Sears whose attitudes I love so much. His addressing of the "spoil the rod" is done in an interpretation that makes much more sense in the light of a compassionate God. Even better is his discussion of spanking. I don't want to make anyone upset and I am not standing in judgement here but I will say that I do not and will not spank. To me, it is an act of an adult bullying a child and using nothing other than physical superiority to force a child into submission and I don't believe that it works and I would hate myself if I did it. Anyway, Dr. Sears is obviously writing carefully to an audience who he knows may be pro-spanking and instead of turning them off so that they close the book, he lays out very clear guidelines to how and when spanking should be used that essentially rule it out altogether. I love that.

Before I proceed, I will also say that I have not personally read the Pearls' book. 1. I thought it would make me sick. 2. I didn't want to spend money on it and have them make a profit and 3. I wouldn't want to have that in my possession for even a short period of time. I did read both excepts and summaries ( see this link if you want to know the awful things they advocate) and that was more than enough for me. So, to some degree, I am talking about something that I have not personally read and there is a small possibility that I am not accurate in my interpretation. I will say that there are people who have KILLED THEIR CHILDREN based on this book and so, at the absolute least, it is a book that is open to considerable misinterpretation if it does not actually put forward parenting methods that foster abuse.

Now, how do I reconcile myself to a Christianity that advocated something like that?

I think that for me, it is easy. I come from 4 generations of ministers. I think I can truly say that I have seen the church at its worst. My grandmother, who spent most of her life working full-time for the church on an unpaid basis (as a minister's wife, which, in those days, was most certainly a full-time calling), was left in dire poverty when my grandfather died suddenly. There had been a clerical error at church office with my grandfather's tiny pension and if it hadn't been for a minister friend of the family who had POWER in the church and went to work on her behalf, she would have had nothing. Dh and I left a church several years ago because of the atrocious things that went on. An allegation was made against the minister and he was immediately removed without a thorough investigation, his family was destroyed, he had a breakdown and all the members of the church would talk about was getting the family out of the manse so that they could hire someone else. In the end, it also turned out that the allegation was entirely untrue and the only reason I know that is because my mother is very connected in the church. Dh and I couldn't stand watching a family in pain being totally ignored and hurt. I know that there are examples of atrocious behaviour by Christians and I don't have to go back to the inquisition or to parts of the world where things are brutal and violent to find examples.

On the other hand, I also know that the church is made up of human beings and while some of them behave in cruel and terrible ways, some of them are gentle, kind and compassionate and often, in ways that will never been seen publically by others. We went to a wonderful little church in Toronto. This church was in a low-income neighbourhood and there wasn't anyone in this congregation who hasn't seen suffering of some kind or another. Compassion was rife. Were there angry and bitter people? Of course, but there was a deep commitment to helping others that was at the heart of the congregation. One example I can remember was when the daughter of one of the immigrant families became pregnant. She was 16 and in some churches, the judgement would have run her out of the church. Not at this congregation. Initially, people struggled a little bit - how could they find the line between compassion and following scriptural teaching on sex? Ultimately, I think people decided that what was done was done and the best thing to do would be to surround mother, baby and father with love. Guess what? That was ten years ago and the couple is happily married with two children and have made a life for themselves. That's was treating people with love instead of judgement can do. When we first went to the church, we noticed a rather odd woman who would stand up just before the sermon and sneak out of the church, hiding her face behind her purse. We wondered but never asked. When we had been there for about six months, someone mentioned in passing that we shouldn't leave anything in our pockets of our coats when we hung them up as she had mental health problems and would go and rifle through people's pockets during the sermon. Instead of getting angry, they accepted her with her faults and found ways to protect themselves but show love at the same time. Then there was the acute manic-depressive woman who people tolerated with patience and kindness despite the fact that a conversation with her was very, very hard work... I think what stands out for me the most were the sales. We had four church bazaars a year. Everyone donated everything they could spare and usually, there was an amazing array of "gently used" items, all very reasonably priced. Let me remind you that this church was small and poor. We were surrounded by highrise apartments that were largely populated by new immigrants who had just arrived, primarily from Pakistan and China. These people had NOTHING and were starting from scratch. Especially after 9-11, Muslim women would wander in to shop, looking afraid and beaten down by life. They would carefully look for a few tings and without fail, they would leave with a fully-stocked kitchen, linens and clothing, having paid $2 for the lot. The church really couldn't spare the money but they always had a hand for those in need. Christ was at work in that place.

Then, we moved into a small town on the edge of the suburbs. That was a shock. We tried church after church (including the one that ran out the minister) and we tried to find a home but nothing fit. We finally wandered into our church that we attend now and it is home. We have learned that 1. while we attend a church that is part of the denomination, the less we have to do with the greater denomination, the easier it is to feel like Christians and 2. that we find that it is easier to see Christ as work in churches in places where people have suffered. Our church is in a working-class area and the people are a funny mix - teachers, professionals, etc mixing with people battling all of the issues related to chronic poverty in an area that is slowly moving up the social ladder (new housing and a reasonable easy commute to the city is changing the composition of the community). Is our church perfect? No. There are issues that can easily turn out attention away from God but for the most part, people are kind and loving and looking for ways to show love to God. I don't have lots of stories but I will say that before Pk was born, we couldn't get over all of the love and support we got. There is one family in particular who really took us under their wing and before I knew it, I had more clothing than I know what to do with and kindness and support when I was so afraid as I approached delivery. It is common practice in our church to appeal to people when there is someone in need, whether it is a ride to chemo treatments or a family in need with children needing clothing, a car needing repair or a family without furniture. People don't have all that much but they always find a way to help. We built our church building over the course of about a year and people from the church were up there all the time, sharing whatever gifts they have. It has become a place that means so much to all of us and there is something so wonderful about being able to tell my daughter that her father helped to build the church. Now, we are trying to build the "body" of the church in a way that reflects the message of the Gospel.

I don't know that I have entirely answered the question of how to reconcile being a Christian with what Christians do. I guess I see it a bit like being a human being. Just because Hitler or Stalin or Charles Manson did something, that doesn't mean that I share responsibility for that. For that matter, I may be a Christian but I did not participate in genocide in Africa or the Jim Jones cianide (I know I have spelled this wrong), mass suicide or maniacs who bomb abortion clinics. As a Christian, I bear the responsibility of spreading the gospel and doing everything I can to get the true message out but I am not going to abandon it because people whose agendas appall me claim to represent my faith. I guess it is a struggle to which I am accustomed. I teach in the public school system and I have heard (although I have not been subjected to it) that some people are really down on Christians teaching in the public schools system. I think that is where we belong. How can we represent the gifts of the Christian life if we are always hiding our lights under a bushel? I was shocked last year when a mother came up to tell me that she wanted to thank me for teaching at the school. I don't know how but it had come to the knowledge of a group of the parents that I am a Christian and they wanted me to know that 1. they were praying for me and 2. they wanted to thank me for being part of the public system.

So, the very long answer is - what works for me is to find a faith community that is a good fit, to avoid contacts with the self-satisfied affluents and fanatical fundamentalists who sit in judgement of everyone else and thirdly, to remind myself that Christ warned us that there would be many false prophets who would claim to come in his name. This is just yet another Biblical prophecy coming true. We are called to be light in the world and I think we need to be light in the church, as well.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Gratitude 77

I haven't been keeping up with the Gratitude posts and I think it is time to go back. It really helps to keep from getting overwhelmed when I try and focus on something for which to be grateful. I know that I am really lucky compared to so many and I have been blessed with so many gifts. These days, I have felt myself sinking a bit into dissatisfaction with life. It's time to change the focus.

Today, I got up feeling really tired and discouraged. My guess is that it has more to do with the dreary winter weather and hormones than anything else but that doesn't make it any less oppressive. We are in the throws of report card writing at work and I have been feeling very overwhelmed. Everyone is feeling the same way and that doesn't help, either. One side effect that often goes along with these feelings for me is the feeling of being very isolated and I also tend to start getting anxious. Today, I had really hit that wall.

As teachers, we are entitle to a certain amount of "prep time" - time when another teacher comes in to take care of the class so that I have a chance to do a bit of my work. I usually stay in the classroom and do work on the computer. Today, Mrs. B., a very sweet young teacher arrived to do art with my class. About half way through the lesson, she came over to me and said, "One of these days, I really want to talk to you about that book on your desk." At first, I wondered what she was talking about and then I realised she meant my devotions book - I have a book "Daily Moments with God for Teachers". I immediately asked what she wanted to know and it turned into a wonderful conversation. I didn't know but she is a Christian and feels very isolated. She had seen the book on my desk and wondered about whether that was something we shared but she didn't want to presume and cause any offense. I am used to being the only Christian in most of the places I have worked so I don't think about it all that much. I don't advertise it loudly but I don't hide it and I try to make it evident to people without being in-your-face about it. We had a wonderful in-depth conversation and I get the feeling that it might be the start of a great friendship. The best part was that she told me all about her husband who had leukemia as a child and has to go for annual appointments to check for recurrance of the cancer. She was saying that he inspires her because he is never afraid, he just trusts God to do what is for the best. I NEEDED to hear that today.

I am grateful for those little connections that can make such a difference on a bad day.

Mind Candy...

I love doing studies and book groups. I think I miss being a student in some ways and keeping involved in studies helps me feel like my mind is fresh. Since faith is so important to my life these days, it's no surprise that the two studies I am doing right now (or starting to do) are faith-related. It also helps that both are for people like me who are struggling with issues that seem to keep recurring.

The first study that I am doing (well, it's not exactly a study but a blog discussion) is with Beth Moore's newest book, So Long Insecurity. I love Beth Moore. I discovered her through the blogger Bible study group that I joined and so far, I have done three of her Bible studies and really loved each one. I have learned so much and Beth has a gift for making things challenging but engaging at the same time. This book is a bit different but equally impactful. With this study, there is a reading assignment and then questions to be done and then responses can be posted on the LPM blog.
At church, our small groups are reconfiguring and for now, I have decided to join a book discussion group (I debated doing the in-depth Bible study but it is on an evening that isn't good for me). This isn't a hard choice - I LOVE Max Lucado and he has such wonderful things to say. I have wanted to read this book anyway, so it provides the perfect excuse. I love having a chance to sit around and chat about what I have read.

What are you reading these days?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

We just got back from church and it was a WONDERFUL service. I wish I had the text to the sermon, it was terrific. Our minister told the story of a missionary family who were caught in a communist country and held captive. They were eventually told that they would be allowed to leave but they would only be allowed to take 200 lbs of "stuff" with them. After years in this place, they had accumulated all the stuff we all have and think that we are attached to. They spent a great deal of time with a scale and finally, worked it down to 200 lbs. The soldiers came and told them that it was time to go. They were asked whether they were sure that they had weighed everything and were down to 200 lbs. Then, they were asked whether they had weighed their children - they had to say goodbye to everything. Our minister reminded us that, in some ways, this is what Lent is about - figuring out what really matters and what else is just stuff and stuff that might actually separate us from what God wants for us. I like that. Actually, it made me think that I would like to go back to something I started ages ago and for the 40 days of Lent, I will try to get rid of something each day. I like the idea of shedding all that extra baggage that takes up so much time and energy.
I also have to say, we sat in a row with several families with whom we have become really close and we all have toddlers. It was incredibly moving to go up as families to get the ashes on our foreheads. It was wonderful to be marked as believers like that. Dh said that we needed to get our faces washed before we go to bed to protect the pillow cases - I wish I could keep that black cross of ashes for a long time.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Preparing for Lent

Blueberry Pancakes by pabo76

Often, for me, Lent is a season that seems to creep up. There is the frenzy of Christmas and then the struggle to get back into the swing of things after the holidays. Add in Valentine's Day, another set of report cards and a frenzied term at school and often, it's Lent before I know it and I haven't had a chance to even think about how I want to mark it in my life.

I often give something up, although, to be honest, some years, it ends up being more about just doing what I think should be done rather than about a true act of sacrifice to bring me closer to God. This year, I want things to be different.

I have been thinking a lot about what Lent should mean to me. It's been nice that with our new church building, there has been a greater focus on moving into this season. Tonight we had a wonderful pancake supper (I feel like I never have enough time to see friends at church so, as much as anything, it was the company that was great). Tomorrow, we are having an Ash Wednesday service. I haven't ever been to one that I know of - it isn't really a big part of our tradition. I knew that our ministers were planning on doing a lot - they kept the palm branches from Palm Sunday last year and burned them and those will be our ashes for tomorrow. We plan on taking Pk to church tomorrow night, which I am really excited about. I love evening services and I love going to small services during the week - to me, they seem so much for holy - we aren't there because that's what one "should" do on a Sunday, everyone is there because they have made a deliberate choice to be in that place at that time.

I still haven't really answered what Lent will mean for me. I am planning on giving something up - I have become quite addicted to several hot drinks that cost more than they should and that have become something that I really look forward to as an oasis in my day. There's nothing really all that wrong with it but they have become something that borders on an addiction - it really becomes something I feel like I can't live without. Making a change like that is good for me - both for my health and for my state of mind. I want my relief to come from other things and my priorities to be where they should be. I have wondered whether there is a way to bring Lent into our home (as I try to bring in other celebrations) but I haven't come up with anything. I will try to keep the focus on what this season is building to and to set priorities but I am not entirely there in terms of what this should mean.

I'd love any suggestions of how you mark Lent and give it significance.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tim Horton's - Mean to Pregnant Women!

When I was pregnant with Pk, I was... rather emotional (and most people would say that I am a sap at the best of times). There was one particular commercial that would have me sniffling for half an hour every time I saw it -

Over the last few days, we have been glued to the t.v., watching the Winter Olympics (which is really strange, other than Chelsea F.C., you won't often see us watching t.v. sports). Of course, the opening ceremonies had me in tears several times (and we Canadians claim not to be patriotic...) and I thought I was going to have a heart attack a couple of times (I have discovered a love of watching freestyle skiing). Then, today, Tim Horton's got me again. I can't find it online but I will put a link when I get one. It's a man at the airport who is obviously welcoming his wife and children to Canada (it seems like she has come from Africa or the Caribbean and it has been a long separation). I sat and sniffled quite a while. So cruel, especially from a company that has so few good caffeine free options for those of us who are expecting.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Valentine's Fun

On a completely different note from the last couple of posts, I wanted to share some of the things we are doing to get ready for Valentine's Day. I don't usually do much but with Pk getting older, I am so aware of the memories that we can make and the lasting impressions we can create for her future. With the theme of love, Valentine's Day fits in so perfectly with the values we are trying to pass on - most especially, on the gift that love is in our lives and on the importance of sharing love with others.

Valentine's Treats
As always, I wanted to find a nice treat for Pk to take to her daycare party this week. She fell in love with marshmallows so when I saw this recipe for marshmallows from scratch, I couldn't resist! They were really easy! The recipe appears here:

This was my result. The original post called for dusting with red sprinkles and cinnamon hearts, which I don't have so I just used icing sugar. I spread the mix into a large pan (10 by 15, I think) so they weren't too thick and were easy to cut. I sprayed the cookie cutter with Pam and they were easy to work with. The marshmallows were yummy and really pretty.

Valentine Cards
This year, another thing I wanted to try was to have Pk make Valentine's for family (we caved and bought "Max and Ruby" Valentine's for her daycare friends that she fell in love with). She doesn't generally have all that much endurance when I try to get her to make pictures for a purpose (thank you cards after Christmas are still in process) but she had a great time with these - we just used red marker, foam hearts of various sizes and colours, and heart stickers. We are going to mail these later today.

Valentine's Mobile
I have tried to decorate a bit this year and since last year, I liked the "Names of Jesus" garland that I found on Monica's blog so I extended off the original idea and modified it to fit our light over the dining room table. I have been looking for ways to incorporate more scripture into our home. The pictures here don't do it justice but I think it turned out really well.

You will need:
three patterns of Valentine's scrapbooking paper
dark red cardstock
printer paper
a heart shaped paper punch

1. Choose five love related texts from the Bible and print them (I used bradley hand font, 8 inch and kept the margins really tight, about 3 inches so they would fit on the hearts).

31 "So may all your enemies perish, O LORD! 
But may they who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength." Then the land had peace forty years. Judges 5:31

7 Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes. Psalm 17:7

37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Matthew 22:37-39

35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Romans 8:35

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 1 Corinthians 13:4

2. With the scrapbook paper, cut 5 2-inch squares from each pattern.
3. Cut 15, 1.75 inch squared from the cardstock.
4. Punch five hearts from each patterned paper. Attach with adhesive - heart on cardstock square, cardstock square on patterned square.
5 . Cut 4 inch squared from the patterned paper and cut 5 hearts slightly smaller than 4 inches to fit in the squares. Mount each scripture passage on the hearts on the squares.
6. I took them all to have them laminated so I can use them again.
7. Attach based on the photo below.

Sorry, I am no great photographer but I think they they look really pretty.

Heart Match Puzzle
I found this online and had it laminated, as well. Pk loves it! It's nothing exciting but since I am trying to work with her on colours and matching, it's kind of fun.


Well, I am back from the doctor and all is well. It would seem that there is nothing wrong with me and I can stop writing my obituary. After something like that which had me so terrified, I am almost embarrassed to admit how scared I was - I have been home for a few hours and have found several things to do before I showed up here to bashfully admit that I blew things out of proportion again.
Thank you for the encouragement and also, thank you for the prayers. Knowing I am not alone means so much. Driving in to the hospital, I was thinking about you behind me and that God would never force me to face something for which I didn't have the strength to endure. It made a huge difference.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The *F* Word

Shortly after I had Pk, my doctor mentioned that my bloodwork was coming back a little bit funny. It was nothing to worry about, she said, just that my platelets were a bit high (she prefaced this by saying, "You do NOT have cancer" - how well she knows me). They gradually came down enough that she stopped testing. Then, last spring, I had bloodwork for something else and again, my platelets were slightly high. She ordered me to take daily low-dose aspirin and she was going to do a referral to a hematologist (again, she said that normally, this doesn't indicate anything but she just wanted a second person to say the same thing). I have been waiting and waiting for the appointment and finally, last week, I got the call saying that I see the specialist tomorrow morning at 9:30.

I have always struggled with fear. I don't mean the silly-nagging-worry kind of fear - yup, I get that like everyone but I can cope with that, it really isn't all that big a deal. On the other hand, once-in-a-while, I hit something that scares me to the point of being almost paralysed by it. Usually, it's a medical thing, although money worries can push me pretty close to that place, too. This is a gut-gnawing, life stopping, obsessive, paralysing FEAR that I can't shake. It eats at me most of the day and I wake up in the morning with a sense that something is horribly wrong before even having a coherent thought. It has nothing to do with logic. In this case, two doctors now have told me that it is almost certainly nothing and that since the rest of my bloodwork is completely normal, it's unlikely to be any of the things that high platelets can signify (none of which lead to death or severe infirmity). Objectively and logically, I can see that this is more likely to be a nuisance than anything else. I found a great, thorough and sound medical site (after scanning through many whose information was scant, inaccurate or alarmist) that states that high platelets is common as a post partum problem and that most of the time, people with it never have any health issues at all. It all makes sense - I didn't have it before I had Pk and it appears immediately after I had her (and I had lost a lot of blood during delivery), so it would be logical that the birth process was the cause. While I can say that and it makes sense to me, it doesn't take the edge off the fear. I find myself getting sad, worried that Pk might grow up without a mother. I become terrified that something will happen to this baby or that I won't be able to be there for my children. It has nothing to do with logic or reason, it's this deep-in-my-soul ache-type thing that, once activated, is almost impossible to turn off.

As a Christian, this really makes me feel like a failure. I have read all the wonderful passages in scripture about how, as Christians, we need not fear. I DO trust that God loves me and wants the best for me and, while that does not mean that I won't suffer, I can rest assured that I won't suffer alone and that ultimately, there are better things ahead. This is a true "stronghold" (a term that really grabbed me when I did the Beth Moore study "Breaking Free). I guess that all I can do is pray, keep putting one foot in front of the other and do whatever I can to keep from letting this steal my wonderful moments that are available to me daily. I just wish I could defeat this. It would be so liberating not to live knowing that something can come along and knock me off my stride to the point that it takes me days (or even weeks sometimes) to really get a grip.

In the meantime, please pray for me. That appointment tomorrow scares me more than just about anything else I have gone through. It would be nice to know that I am not alone.