Thursday, July 11, 2013

What IS Church?

This is a question that has been on my mind for a while now.  Our church has had a big campaign on that they are calling Abundant Blessings.  I totally understand what they are trying to do but it has rubbed me the wrong way since it began back in April.  The overall message is that we have been so richly blessed by God, we need to give back to Him from the riches with which we have been blessed -  not just gifts of material wealth but of time and talents, as well.  That part of the message doesn't bother me - of course, as Christians, we are stewards of the things God has given us and we need to use them to His glory.  My stumbling block is the part of the message that we need to give it back "to His church".

When I hear this message, I hear, very definitely, to THIS church, this congregation.  I sometimes feel as if it gives carte blanche for endless requests and I find myself resisting that.  I think that anyone would tell you that I am quick to step up when there is need, including at church.  I think my resentment comes into it a bit when I feel like it's just one more thing on my plate and that the expectation is that this will come before everything else, because its being church somehow makes it more important than anything else.  If I were not giving in other ways and other places, these demands would be entirely understandable but I don't just give in one place.

That led me to pondering the question "What is God's church?" and my understanding goes WAY beyond the individual congregation or denomination.  For me, the CHURCH is any place that two people are together in His name so that means that, when I organize meals to support our friends whose on is having surgery, that is my giving to the church.  When I bake every week for the last two years for Dh's weekly men's meeting, I am giving to the church.  When I send a message of care to someone from my husband's church in which he grew up, that's part of the church, too.  I don't pretend that I give anywhere near enough but I do try and extend that giving anywhere that I can - to the school at which I work, to our neighbours, to the homeless, to people around me who are going through a rough time.  To me, that is church, too.  And, for that matter, church is my immediate and extended family.  It's the same reason that I believe so firmly that we Christians need to be out in the world, not just sitting back in our own little enclaves, living with neighbours who are like us, sending our children to little Christian schools and only spending time in places with people like us.  We need to be the present church in our very present and suffering world.

Now, that being said, I do think my church does a great job of "being church" in many different ways.  One thing they have started is P,B and J, (which stands for potluck, bonfire and Jesus).  It's a monthly get together at which we have a casual dinner, we go outside and "be" together and then have a bonfire, roast marshmallows and there is a kind of small reflection.  The part that is the most moving to me is that there is a small group of migrant workers from Jamaica who have started to come.  R, one of the workers, is a pastor back home and he has spoken and sung for us at both of the last two get togethers.  I found it profoundly moving last night to hear someone who is so far away from his family, working SO hard, preaching to us about seeing that we can praise God even in the hard times, like Ruth and Naomi.  To me, THAT is church - being together as believers, sharing our stories and the fruits of our tables.  It doesn't matter whether he is from "our" church or not and the people at our church, rather than looking down on these, some would say, rather insignificant people, are thrilled to have them there and we pile their plates high and try to make them feel as welcome as we can.

To me, THAT is what it means to be church and I will happily give to that in any way that I can.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What's On...

As always, I begin by apologizing.  I've been enjoying being on holiday after spending a frantic few weeks writing report cards, packing up a classroom, getting ready to make the transition to the full-time kindergarten programme I will be teaching in the fall and then, dealing with children (and a husband) who are sick with a bad summer cold.  Add in a trip up north to visit my parents-in-law and life has been very busy.  I'm hoping that we can now settle into our new summer normal for the next 8 weeks or so of being a stay-at-home mom and finding the time to savour life.

Like so many bloggers, I often wonder why I blog.  There was a time when I was really busy visiting other people, commenting lots and networking.  It was a big thing for me.  Then, I went back to work and this poor blog has been totally ignored.  Thanks to infrequent posts, lack of my visiting others and frankly, my mundane life that I don't imagine is that interesting to anyone, I don't get many visitors which leads me to think about why I do it.  I've decided, at least for this summer, my blog will be for me.  I want to savour the moments and try to recapture who I am.

I'm fairly sure that I'm not the only mom who has children and somehow gets lost in the frenzy.  Between shuffling kids to lessons, cooking, dealing the dogs and the endless mess that is my house, there really isn't much time left.  I forget who I am beyond the next five minutes.  One thing I do love about blogging is that my browsing the blogs of the women I love to read often helps me to reconnect with who I am.  Today, I was over at Lucy's Attic24 which led me to run out to my garden to photograph my roses, something that really does make me happy!

Here's a what's on post - things that are on my mind, on my to do list, on my pins and on my bedside table and what's making me happy.

What's On - In my Garden:
 I love David Austin English roses and one of my mother's day presents was this one.  It isn't entirely open yet but I love the colour.

This is my "heritage" D.A. rose.  The smell is heavenly and I love the full-petal look.

This is a tea rose I planted a couple of years ago.  It didn't do much last summer but it's doing me proud already this year.

No, this isn't a rose but it still makes me happy.  This was my other mother's day gift, a pink hydrangea that is already in full bloom as well.  Can you see that I have a bit of a "thing" for pink flowers?

On my needles -
I haven't been doing nearly enough knitting of late.  I have recently picked up a couple of unfinished projects and am enjoying dreaming of wearing this on a fall day - it's the Guernsey Wrap and I love it!  I've made two for other people and now, it's time for one for me.  I'm using Cascade Eco in a lovely shade of heathery brown.  It will be perfect for fall (which, in case you haven't noticed, is my very favourite season!)  I've also been working on some dishcloths since they are perfect "in the car" projects and we seem to be doing a lot of driving of late.  The flying blocks is my current favourite.

On our table -
There's nothing I love better than trying new recipes and circumstances have definitely forces me in that direction.  Our CSA has been filled with yummy sugar snap peas over the last few weeks, which has led to some delicious experiments - stir-fried pork with sugar snap peas, crunchy parmesan sugar snap peas, and sugar snap peas with mint and lemon.  We also got some garlic scapes, which were new to me and led to this delicious pasta recipe.  I also cleaned out the freezer, which led me to discover just how many bananas I had been stockpiling.  I bake each week for Dh's Tuesday night meeting, so we tried and loved these chocolate banana squares.

On my booklist -
First of all, I have to say that I have really discovered Goodreads and I think I am in love.  I've been a member forever but I haven't done anything about creating booklists until the last couple of months.  I love it!  It's got me thinking much more about what I think about what I am reading and I especially love being able to browse other peoples' reviews.

Recently finished:
A Conspiracy of Friends - Alexander McCall Smith - you will either love him or hate him.  He's subtle, observational and devilishly funny, if you "get" his understated Scottish sense of humour.  I love the fact that he points out the perversity of human nature without being nasty about people.  I can never get enough of his writing but I have friends who find him incredibly boring.

Happier at Home - Gretchen Rubin - this was a fun read.  I liked "The Happiness Project" much better, this seemed a bit formulaic after the first one but it still gave me some interesting things to think about.  I'd like to try to set up some her the little shrines.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves - Lynne Truss - again, I loved this book but I know that not everyone feels that way.  I stumbled across a wonderful summer reading list at Modern Mrs. Darcy and my sending it to a few friends has turned into a summer book club.  This was one of our selections and I loved it!  I think, after years of teaching, it's nice to see that I have been teaching the students correctly.  Also, given how much I love language and writing, it's nice to see that it is possible to convey these nuances in language.

On my currently reading list:
The Moon by Night - Madeline L'Engle (I love, love, love Madeleine L'Engle and am slowing rereading all of the stuff I read as a teenager), Loving God when You Don't Love the Church by Chris Jackson (not loving this one so far, the message is essentially "suck it up" and my definition of church isn't the same - that's another post), The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester (another Mrs. Darcy selection that I am enjoying so far), Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist (I am ADORING this book) and finally, Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny (who might just be my favourite mystery writer of all these days).

On my "to be read" pile -
I Thought it was just Me (But it Isn't) by Brene Brown, You Live by Learning by Eleanor Roosevelt, What Happens when Women Say Yes to God by Lysa Terkeurst (the next study over at Proverbs 31) and The Winnowing Season by Cindy Woodsmall (one of my Amish books - my dirty reading secret)

On my pinterest boards -
Most of my pinterest time is spent right now planning for teaching with Pk.  I wasn't happy with what was (and wasn't) going on her in class last year (a hazard of being a teacher) and this summer, we are doing Grade 1 summer school, to get her ready for the fall.  We started in our math with a mix of number sense and data management.  Here are a few links I liked:
Guess My Rule for sorting - we sorted her My Little Ponies and her stuffies and she decided herself to sort the shells we found on the beach
Grab and Graph Pattern Blocks - she LOVED this activity but teaching tally marks has to come first (and I'd like to modify this activity and do grab and graph Canadian coins for money review)
Tally Marks - I loved this and Pk loved this as a game - I called out a number and she made it with popsicle sticks

On My podcasts list -
My Bad Church Experience - North Point - I love their podcasts and this is something that speaks to many Christians, I think.  I have especially liked number 3 - in and out - amazing stuff!

What's on for you these days?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Birthday, Canada!

I don't love the idea of nationalism.  The "us" vs the rest has gotten too many countries into trouble in the past (and the present) and that love of an illusion of a separate identity has led to people forgetting that we are humans before anything else.  It's dangerous and can lead to huge levels of aggression, hostility and narrow-mindedness.

That being said, however, if I am honest, I would have to say that I love Canada Day.  It represents so much to me - summer, time with friends, a chance to reflect of just how incredibly lucky we are and a chance to think about what means the most in crafting a nation.  

Some things I love about Canada:
- that the colour of your skin almost always doesn't matter
-that a huge pride celebration was happening the same weekend as our celebrations - I may have some ambiguity about Pride, I am thrilled to live in a country in which people can safely go out and announce who they are, even when it goes against the norm, and they are safe
-our health care system
-that we don't seem to be ruled by fear or anger, like many of the countries around us
-the many (sadly, not all) Canadians can be honest about the times that our country didn't do what it should and that we want to make things right
-that to be Canadian does not mean that you were born here, grew up speaking English and hold with the religion of the majority
-wide open spaces and very distinct seasons
-that when we called the police today to help us with our shed being spray painted, the officer was not someone of whom we needed to be afraid and, in fact, he and my dh chatted for half an hour
-two languages, many founding cultures
-being able to eat the cuisines of the entire world within 15 or 20 minutes of our small town

What concerns me about living in Canada:
-our apathy towards the struggles of people around the world
-the horrid living conditions on native reserves in many areas of our country
-children living in poverty here within our own boundaries
-our living well off the sweat of others around the world
-the damage that we may be doing to the environment with Alberta oil plans

As we enjoyed the wonderful times with friends at a barbecue, time in a wading pool in the city with my parents, visiting a fair and watching fireworks (and I LOVE the fact that our town has everyone stand and sing O Canada before they begin), I pray that we can continue to enjoy freedom enjoyed by few around the world and that we can export that freedom and safety to others.  I also hope that we can take responsibility for improving the lives of those around us who don't enjoy the same high standard of living.

I hope you had a wonderful Canada Day and, for my American friends, a lovely July 4th!