"As long as there is snow in the forecast, I'm not switching bikes."
That was my mantra, but after such a balmy March, it was wearing thin as April moved along. Surely, snow on April 10 will just be an inconsequential fall of flakes that leaves no trace. That's what some fo the numerous snow days meant earlier in the week. So I took out the Skyline yesterday.
Well, whaddaya know? The forecast snow really did start to pile up. So it was back to the fatgirl tonight.
“I told God I never wanted to do [Thing A],” practitioner of
[Thing A] quipped wryly.
Why is this person so
happy with their ministry? I thought to myself. Dear God, please don’t make me do things I hate.
I recall this scenario playing out a few times in my
childhood, particularly during my time in YWAM.
It occurred to me recently that I am currently actively
participating in or philosophically committed to a number of things
that were anathema to me as a child. Happily. By choice.
I said I hardly wanted to move off the farm, that living in
my rural town would be the closest I’d get to urban living. And I figured the
only thing I learned during a two-week urban ministry experience was that I was not in any way meant for that kind of activity.
Now I live downtown by choice, look with disgust and scorn
on suburbs, and love to vacation in densely populated cities. Formerly the country
bumpkin, afraid to go anywhere, I’m now comfortable in areas of town others
fear; I enjoy the shabby downtown mall and movie theatre that aren’t cool
enough for the suburbanites and have instead become the village square for the
city’s newcomers – both those from from the Global South and the Canadian
North. It is a value to
me that as a function of where I live and where I go, I encounter people who
aren’t like me, people whose situation challenges me.
I said I didn’t know what kind of career I wanted as long as
it wasn’t becoming a teacher. And I certainly didn’t like kids.
Now I am certified to teach ESL and I regularly volunteer with young teens at a homework club and in a school classroom. I eagerly take my
nieces and nephews on special outings, and persistently steal other people’s babies at
Even in more banal ways, my old self has been turned on its
head. I distinctly recall the terror of crossing the main street in my sleepy
town, particularly the one time when there was actually a car to deal with and
no crossing guards on duty. (Of course, my friend’s dad wouldn’t run me over,
but it was still scary!) Now, it’s only at unfamiliar intersections or in new
cities that I don’t boldly jaywalk across city streets – and even then sometimes.
Any of my high school classmates would laugh themselves
silly if you called me athletic, yet my adult pastimes involve physical
activity. Somehow, I'm looked upon as an alpha cyclist (though my ridiculous fall yesterday hearkens back to my klutzy childhood). "I don’t dance!" I maintained against all cajoling onto the dance floor.
The qualification I levied on that statement remains – no meaningless
spontaneous gyration – but dancing has become my absolute favourite activity.
So I am encouraged. God is trustworthy. God is not capricious
and vindictive, insisting we learn to like what he wants, but gentle and
patient albeit perhaps a tad mischievous, leading us on journeys of learning, confounding
expectations in the process.
Christmas Day has passed, but we are still in the season of Christmas, made famous, though rarely acknowledged or understood, by the "12 days of Christmas" song, so I post my seasonal editorial here, slightly revised from its first, published version.
In the scope of
history, there was nothing new about the shift in government this past October.
Routinely, Canadians tire of Conservative austerity, welcoming Liberal prodigality
with a wave of votes. A few terms later, the tide reverses; Canadians clamour
for Conservative restraint after Liberal excess. The cycle repeats.
Yet, this election
upset felt different to many. People spoke of the landside change less in terms
of policy and more in terms of emotion: hope.
In some ways, the
rhetoric of fear that permeated the pre-election landscape is found in our
conference and churches as well. How did this happen to followers of the author
The things we fear
As millions of
displaced people seek shelter, we in safer corners of the world are afraid. We
fear the refugees who long to enter our borders. Their needs could overtax our
social system. Their differences will test Canadian values of freedom and
We’re afraid of
people from other religions. Recognizing the potential for violence in our own
holy book, we fear the seeds of violence Islam might sow. A neighbour might be
a terrorist. Worse, devout new blocs of religious could edge out our corner on
the spiritual marketplace.
We’re afraid of
the sins of the church. We don’t want to talk about the harm Canada perpetuated
on indigenous peoples. As Mennonites, we hide behind our historic isolationism,
distancing ourselves from the residential school mistakes of both mainline denominations
and the government.
The fear burrows
into our own church. There was fear at our study conference. We’re afraid that
people who don’t fit our categories of normal will disrupt our churches. We’re
afraid the widening culture of “anything goes” will drown out the Bible’s call
to a narrow path, and that dissonant personal experiences will shake our
convictions from their mooring in Scripture.
We’re afraid our
churches will shrink or that our denomination will fracture apart. We worry the
money will simply run out.
But, whose church
is it? Ours or God’s?
Turn to the light
Advent and looking toward Christmas now. Just as the twinkling LEDs of our
decorations usher cheer into the lengthening night in our northern home, so the
Christ-light of hope, peace, joy and love pierces even the darkest social or
The temptation to
despair is natural. Across humankind, our default is set to fear. That nearly
every book of the Bible contains some encouragement not to be afraid suggests
the hearers were routinely leaning in that direction.
staring into the abyss of our problems, the Bible urges us to turn our gaze to
the light, to the One who commands his servants from Genesis to Revelation: Don’t
be afraid, because…
I am your protector (Genesis
15:1, Judges 6:23, Job 5:21, Ezekiel 3:9).
I have heard your crying (Genesis 21:17, Daniel 10:12).
I am with you (Genesis 26:24,
I will deliver you (Exodus
14:13, Numbers 21:34, 2 Chronicles 20:17).
I will grant you peace (Leviticus 26:6, Psalm 29:11, Proverbs 3:24, John 14:27, Romans 5:1).
I will fight for you
I will provide (1 Kings 17:13).
I am your salvation (Isaiah
I will cause you to prosper (Jeremiah 17:8).
I will make you a blessing (Zechariah 8:13).
I will give you the words to say (Mark 13:11).
I care about you (Matthew
10:31, 1 Peter 5:7).
I have a purpose for you (Luke 5:10).
I will rescue you (Acts
I am the beginning and the end (Revelation 1:17).
Sometimes there is
miraculous intervention, but just as often, God simply assures that he is with
us and he cares. In that knowledge, we can set our hearts and minds at ease
whether turmoil engulfs or troubles dissipate.
not cause us to fear; the deeper truth is that the Creator’s reach extends into
every darkness, Jesus walks with us through the deepest valleys and the
Spirit’s guiding light cannot be snuffed out.
As we string our Christmas lights, let’s call the
church to its own revolution of hope, based not a new government (that will
inevitably introduce bad policies), nor on well-meaning leaders (who will eventually
disappoint), but on the Prince of Peace whose coming into the world we celebrate
at this time.
May we heed the words of the angel that
first Christmas: “Do not be afraid…” (Luke