Monthly Archives: March 2014

On Goodness

Hi there,

My good friend Merriam Webster says that goodness is the “quality or state of being good”.

I think it may have been the Psalmist who said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

I know when I taste something good, it usually that means it is bad for me.  I should not be eating it, or at least I should eat it in moderation or on special occasions only, like Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays…

I have been trying to wean myself off of sugar.  It’s pretty darn near impossible to have a sugar-free diet in our culture, but I have been staying (mostly) away from sweets and goodies, including chocolate.

I have been doing well.  I go to my small group, weekly, and will have a little dessert there.

I wonder if the phrase “taste and see that the Lord is good” does not sit well in our stomachs.  We are culturally trained to think if something is “good” for us, it must be bad, a sin.  Think of those chocolate commercials, “sinfully delicious”.

How then do I respond to the psalmists invitation to come – “taste and see that the Lord is good”?

In our church, we have been challenged by the pastor to re-think how we see God.  For instance, if I am worrying about my present situation, it means that I do not think God is big enough to handle it.

“The quality or state of being good…”

John says, “God is good.”  So, how am I to share in this goodness?  How am I to join in God’s quality of goodness?

Paul writes, “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith” (2 Thessalonians 1:11).

By the power of the Holy Spirit!  Not earth shattering, but a truth nonetheless.  We have been called – I have been called, and this gives me at least some comfort that God has everything under control.

2 Peter 1:3-11 affirms Paul’s words.  He writes, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters,[a] make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Again, there is a “divine power” at work, and I get to “participate in the divine nature”.  This is good news.  The bad news is that I have to “make every effort” – I am going to have to act and move because the Spirit cannot act or move without my willingness to do so.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”

Sounds like a tall order!  I thought I was writing a blog about goodness, but I have somehow added knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love to the mix.

I imagine this will take time, so bear with me, and I with you.

Ellie

 

On Angela’s Ashes – Part 2

Hi,

Have no fear.  Today’s blog post will be shorter than yesterday’s post.

I finished reading Angela’s Ashes, and then got myself moderately depressed.  He tells the reader about his sexual experiences, his “self-discovery”, he throws off “religion” after the priest absolves him from what he thought was an unpardonable sin.  He steals money to get to America, but this was done out of desperation.

And yes, it was an enjoyable read and a good book. That said, it’s the 50 Shades of Grey that now fly off the shelves, almost 20 years after McCourt’s book was published.  (His book was like Children’s Literature compared to what is now being published.)

A friend of mine won a novella contest.  When I read her published book (a very exciting moment for me to pick up a book knowing the author personally), there was a lot of sex in it.  I felt I could diplomatically mention this to her, and she told me there was not as much sex in the original story, but that the editor told her to add more sex scenes.  She was at the mercy of the editor, and did as she was told in order to get published.

I can understand the temptation.  Getting published is difficult if you do not want to play by their rules.  Nina, the lady who was killed in Mexico, refused to add more sex and violence to her mystery novels.  As far as I know, she was never published, but was moving toward self-publishing.  She died before seeing her words in print, or before having her screenplay made into a movie.

And, this is where I get depressed.  I admire how Nina stood by what she believed in, but there was a cost.  I don’t want to die without ever having a word published!  (I feel like the blog does not count, but it feels as though it is only my wonderful friends reading it – Not that you don’t count, but I think you know what I mean…I love and appreciate you all dearly!)

Jesus tells us that there will be a cost to follow him.  We have to pick up our crosses and follow him, daily choosing him over the temptations of the world.

Knowing that I am weak, I have to make a choice to come before Him, daily, confessing my weakness, and Him Lord!

My mom sent me an email, and at the bottom was a message that I will badly paraphrase:

  • The Past is over – forget about it.
  • The Future – we can’t see it, so stop worrying about it.
  • The Present – “Present” means a gift, so enjoy it!

I am trying to trust that today, in the present, I am taking small steps of faith leading me into a future I cannot see. I am heading somewhere good, and I know that God has me in His hands.

One of my favorite scriptures is Jeremiah  29:11.  God says,  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Wishing that you would receive a wonderful “present” today.  Be blessed!

Ellie

 

On Angela’s Ashes

Hi there,

I hope you are all well!

I have been reading Angela’s Ashes.  Some of you may have seen the movie released December 25, 1999.  (I did not see the film, and I am just getting around to reading it!)

It is funny and heartbreaking.  There are a few things that have stood out to me.

  • The idealized “America” – Western prosperity – I guess this might have been the reason some of my ancestors crossed the Atlantic to come to Canada.  When I traveled to Sri Lanka, a place where I as a White Westerner is considered rich, I felt “poor”.  I couldn’t keep up with the lifestyle that was expected of me.  I would have to eat at the finest restaurants in five-star hotels, live in the wealthy neighborhoods, etc.  In countries like Sri Lanka, the “haves” and “have-nots” is the reality.  You could not buy 10 or 14 karat gold, it was at least 18 karats, and I could not afford it.  (Middle-class in “America” kind of stinks.  You’re caught in this in-between place, with some literally living pay-cheque to pay-cheque.)  I guess the advantage is 10 karat gold…
  • In Angela’s Ashes, there was one character, the coal-man with the float, who encouraged Frankie to continue his education.  “Books, books, books…”  Education will be the way out of Limerick and Ireland.  He was also encouraged to go to America, where no one suffers from hunger or poverty, always a job to be had.  There is a story about an Irishman working in England during WW2.  He talked about the Americans “throwing money” away.  When the Depression hit in the 1930’s it hit everywhere, including America:

  • The Poverty – the poverty was heartbreaking.  In my mind, the only reason why Frank McCourt survived was by the grace of God.  That is a mystery – how some make it out, and some do not.  About three-quarters of the way through the memoir, I was so depressed.  In my freezer were containers of pumpkin soup I had made some time ago. It was not as good as my butternut squash soup, so I threw it in the freezer.  I usually do a good thorough cleaning out of my freezer every now and then, and thought, ‘If I leave that horrid soup in the freezer long enough, I can throw it out. Guilt-free’  Yesterday I took out a container of that soup, heated it, put some salt in it, and ate a good bowl of it – Note to anyone in small group Tuesday night – we’re having the rest of my pumpkin soup.  It’s too good not to share…bring salt… 🙂  Here in Canada, we’re not faced with that kind of intense poverty.  Frank only had one set of clothes to wear, filthy rags.  He had to beg and steal to get food in order to survive.
  • The “haves” and the “have-nots” were evident in the story.  One lady said it was good Hitler came along; otherwise, they would all be dead.  She knew it was a terrible thing to say, but it was the reality.  War brought prosperity.  It brought jobs to the Irishmen.  They could go to England and work in factories, sending money home to their wives.  (So long as the husbands kept themselves away from the pubs, drinking the money away until it was all gone.)
  • In delivering telegrams, Frank found that it was the poor that would give tips and share their food with him, even thought they had barely enough for themselves to survive.  The rich and their maids would send him away with nothing.  I wonder about that mentality.  We hoard because we are afraid of poverty, of want.  Those that looked into Frank’s ‘red and yellow’ eyes, must have been terrified by the site of the intense poverty, taking their telegrams, and slamming the door in his face.  It was the easy thing to do.  Out of site, out of mind.

  • It was also difficult not to notice the Protestant vs. the Catholics.  It actually kind of amused me, truth be told.  The Catholics thought the Protestants were “doomed”.  I think it was Mikey Molloy, who said the Protestants could do anything they wanted, by way of sinning, because they were doomed anyway.  I thought, ‘Yay, I go to a Protestant church – I can do whatever I want to now…’  (kidding!) The sad thing is there is still such a division between the Catholics and the Protestants, no matter the generation or where you live.  I think we need each other.  I think we can learn from one another.
  • The Catholics have this wonderful, rich, vibrant culture around their faith.  It is a richness that builds Cathedrals, where those who are gifted in carpentry, stained-glass, use their skills to glorify God. They also have the imagination and are Spirit-led, believing in visions, dreams, trances.  There is a mysticism that does not need to be feared, as shown by various scriptures in the Bible.

  • The Protestants have a wonderful, personal relationship with Jesus.  I was blessed in that I was able to see both sides from a very young age.  My Catholic mom, (gasp) , re-married a Protestant.  (This caused some ripples in the Catholic church, by way of Priests, which I do not need to go into – I should mention that both the Catholic and the Protestant churches failed us in some way, being run by humans and all.)  At any rate, I vividly remember being in Sunday School and colouring pictures.  It must have been the Protestants, who taught me that I could talk to God directly because of what Jesus had done for me on the Cross.  I didn’t need to confess my sins to the ‘Church’, or more aptly, the priests.  (This caused some ripples with me old Catholic mom, who feared I would become an atheist.  She must have sent up many prayers and novenas for her little rebel.)  But, I was given a gift in Sunday School, and she didn’t understand it.

  • When we went to Catholic mass, I had to stay with my mom, and listen to the sermons, even if I did not understand them.  I think it was a great blessing to be with the adults, to be a part of Church – the body of Christ.  I can now go into a Catholic church, with all of the formality and tradition, and feel God’s presence there.  This was a big transformation for me last Easter.

One of my greatest wishes, (apart from every single person in the world going to bed with a full belly, and being safe from harm), is that there would be unity in the Church, the body of Christ, that we would somehow get over thousands of years of division, and be the Church in a world that so desperately needs to feel God’s love.

I have not quite finished Angela’s Ashes, but I am thankful to be taken into a world that is so different from my own.

Thank you, Mr. McCourt!

Ellie

 

On Kindness

Hi!

I was just reading from a book my friend lent me.  It was a kind of ‘self-help’ book.  I was trying to decide whether I would begin to read it or Angela’s Ashes.

I decided to go with Angela’s Ashes.  Why?  Because the self-help book used the two words that drive me bonkers – “the universe”.  “The” on its own is fine, but when put in front of “universe”, I want to scream.

Please bear with me…

We are told that the “universe” somehow holds our fate in its hands.  The universe is a living organism –  that is all.

Merriam Webster’s On-Line Dictionary defines “universe” as:

“all of space and everything in it including stars, planets, galaxies, etc./: an area of space or a world that is similar to but separate from the one that we live in/: the people, places, experiences, etc., that are associated with a particular person, place, or thing”

I am almost entirely confused by that last point, but how can “stars, planets, galaxies” answer my prayers?  How can an “area of space or a world that is similar to but separate from the one [I] live in” give me meaning?

When I die, the universe will have no idea – In fact, it had no idea that I was even born or ever existed.

The one thing that drew me to God was that He knew when I was born, He knows that I exist, and He knows when I am going to die.  And, he cares.  He has this quality of loving-kindness about Him.  And, He’s big – bigger than Tom Hanks “Big”…

Isaiah 40:12 says, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?”

Isaiah reminds me that if God holds the universe in His hands, then I am perfectly safe.  He holds me too.

Psalm 63:3 says, “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise thee” (ESV).

There are days I need to remember his lovingkindness – I forget.  I forget that He is taking care of me, that He looks down from heaven and sees me.

And, I forget that He wants to bless me.  I sometimes find it hard to ask for things or maybe the asking part is easy, it’s the receiving part.  Do I really believe that God is “big” enough  to answer my prayers?

Maybe believing in the universe is easier in one sense – We can look out into the dark void, and think “Oh, well, maybe next time.”  But, God, who most of us can agree exists, is a living being.   He is much harder to wrestle with…

Sometimes it can feel like my cries do not reach His ears. It’s like He is not really listening at all, but 2 Samuel 22:7 says, “But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I cried to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry reached his ears” (NLT).

And, now I have to exercise my faith muscles!  I have to expect to receive blessings from God because He is good, because He is filled with lovingkindness!  These things are true.

I have to believe that my cry has reached His ears, and that He is moving – sometimes the answer will be, “No”, sometimes, “Wait” and then there’s my favorite answer, “Yes”, but in any case, I have to trust God, and believe that He causes all things to work for my good because I love Him, and because He has called me according to His purpose for me (Romans 8:28).

I always like to have some music to ground me – The song All I Need is You by Hillsong came to mind – If you want to have a listen, here it is:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV63_Vmf-74

Thanks for reading, what I consider, a rather disjointed blog post.  🙂

Ellie

Question:  Please weigh in – “the universe” versus “God” –

Pictures taken from:  https://www.google.ca/search?q=galaxy&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=8dAtU4fqB6uQyQG01YGgBA&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ&biw=1360&bih=641; IDwDA&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ&biw=1360&bih=641 and https://www.google.ca/search?q=a+woman+being+held+by+god’s+hands&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=cNUtU6CuOOLmyQH5kYEY&ved=
0CAcQ_AUoAQ&biw=1360&bih=641#q=god+holding+me&tbm=isch

 

 

 

Democracy

Hi!

I am taking a short break from my “Ons”.

I was reminded why I don’t read the newspaper, watch the news, or read the news on-line.  It’s depressing.

In the search for a dramatic story to base a screenplay or story on, I bought a Saturday paper.  Yikes!  I saw a man beating a turkey with a steel pole.  Are we really that wicked and horrible?

The short answer is “Yes”, which reminded me of an article a friend sent me about legalized prostitution.

Today is the last day that the Canadian government is receiving our input on Prostitution Laws in Canada.  (I probably should have written this one sooner…)  The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is encouraging us to ‘vote’ for the Nordic model – ‘Abolition’.  I tend to agree.

Essentially, this model means the following:   a criminal law response that seeks to abolish the exploitation of persons through prostitution by criminalizing those who exploit prostitutes (clients and third parties) and decriminalizing prostitutes themselves. These countries have also implemented social programs to help prostitutes leave prostitution (e.g. exit strategies and supporting services).

The article my friend sent me showed how the women themselves have very little empowerment.  I was struck by the fact that the women are deemed ‘self-employed’ (not really in most cases – pimps still exist, only they are called, “the man”).  Essentially, a woman rents a room at a brothel for 175 euros for 24 hours, but in order to break even, she has to sleep with 4 men.

Sure, some make enough money to leave prostitution after a few years, but those who run the legalized brothels, are multi-millionaires.  A far cry from the prostitutes who will in all likelihood not become multi-millionaires given the rates of the room she must pay.

Countries where they have legalized prostitution to ‘free’ the woman, have in fact found that their countries are a haven for human trafficking.   I believe it was a German politician, who called legalizing prostitution a “national mistake”.  Canada cannot follow suit!

If you would like to have your say, you can do so via the following link:

http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cons/curr-cours/proscons-conspros/

Blessings on you!

 

 

On Forbearance

Hi there,

As you know, I am trying to make my way through the “Fruit of the Spirit”.   As I am not the sharpest blogger in the pencil case, I thought I would give some context to why I have been “On” certain subjects.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says:  “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,[a] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (5:15-24 ESV).

Merriam Webster’s On-Line Dictionary defines “Forbearance” as:

“the quality of someone who is patient and able to deal with a difficult person or situation without becoming angry”

Yesterday I learned “Forbearance” or “Patience” from a toddler.   This little guy (I am going to call the toddler a “him” because I only saw “him” from behind).  On to my story –

I went to the YMCA!  It’s fun to stay at the YMCA!  (See video below, below, below…)

Right, I went to the Y to check out membership prices and to get a tour.  (I feel like I need to rant a bit about the discrepancy or discrimination between the Single price versus the Couples price, but since I am trying to be more like that toddler, I will forbear…)

Side note, I just read The Mark on the Wall by Virginia Woolf, and am going to blame my scattered thoughts and inattention from her ramblings…

To continue with my story – My guide and I went into the pool area.  The large pool was quiet. All of the action was happening in the smaller pool, where the kids were.  They were splashing around and having a grand time, except for my little toddler.

You see, his mom didn’t bring the right diapers for him, so he wasn’t allowed to get into the pool.  He needed water-proof diapers.  God bless the Life Guard for trying to see if the Y happened to keep water-proof diapers on hand – Sadly, I think this is a “nay”.  (Let that be a warning to other rogue-mothers.)

My little toddler was standing by the pool, just looking at the kids in the pool.  He was not making a fuss or crying or throwing a temper tantrum.  He was just standing beside the pool in his little diaper.  It was the saddest thing I have ever seen.

I felt so bad for this little guy, and yet, he seemed to have this “quality” about him that Merriam Webster’s On-Line Dictionary speaks of:  “someone who is patient and able to deal with a difficult person or situation without becoming angry”.

Honestly, I can say my little toddler (as I have affectionately nicknamed him) had this “quality” to “deal with a difficult situation without becoming angry.”   God love him!

I find myself wanting to say, “Next time, Mom bring the right diapers for Pete’s sake!  How could you have not known that regular diapers in a public swimming pool would not be allowed? I mean, really!”  I felt bewildered and frustrated and sorry for that poor little boy, standing beside the pool…

He did not even get angry with his rogue-mother…

I clearly have work to do, unlike my little toddler, who seems to have this forbearance thing already figured out.

Blessings!

Ellie

Here you go:  Sing it out loud – The Village People – YMCA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS9OO0S5w2k&feature=kp

Photo of toddler, albeit female, in appropriate pool-diaper taken from: http://www.monkeydoodlez.com/blog/swim-diapers-pool-approved