“THE FAMILY” — Lent, Day 6

community

On sojourns around YouTube, I’ve become a fan of listening to Christian music while surfing Facebook or writing blogs.   One of my particular favourites  is “Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace)” by Hillsong Worship.  (You can watch it here.)

One of the most fascinating things about watching Christian music videos on YouTube is this…

YouTube comments are infamously known as one of the places that is basically a Wild West online.  A good comparison are the boards on 4 Chan.  People hide behind usernames and fake profiles.  They have free rein to post the most disturbing and damaging comments online with very little, if any, moderating happening.

But yet–despite all of this, I began perusing the comments left on the these videos and I found myself uplifted by the emotions and thoughts people all over the world were leaving.

Here are some samples:

“13,493,763 people have clicked and listened to this song, that means over 13 million people are either praising the lord or for the first time experiencing God….i believe that is something to celebrate more often then people realize.”  –DragoonZell

“Hi Guys, I just want to share that whoever is reading this, that these last few years have been tough…rejected time and time again, struggling to get employed, overcoming bad vices. I felt like a total wreck but Christ suffering has taught me to stay true to my faith and I can truly say something mysterious has been guiding me to the right path recently and I’m very thankful for that. Stay strong my fellow brothers and sisters who are suffering out there in one way or another. Just remember, Christ will answer your prayers if you sincerely and intently pray according to His will and not for your own selfish desires. God Bless.”  –nvnjo

I will never, ever forget having a particularly rough night while I was on vacation in Florida, and I walked out to the deck, the moon was shining brightly over the ocean and the waves were crashing on the shore. It was the middle of the night, it was quiet, as if I was the only one awake. As I started singing, tears streamed down my face, slowly but steadily. And through a shaky voice, I kept singing. It was then God spoke ever so clearly and said “This is what it feels like to worship Me through feeling broken.” I will never forget that. That as I lifted my hands and with a shaky voice, sang these words. And ever so clearly hearing God tell me that I could be broken and worship. ” -IKECH545

It’s absolutely amazing how many people are posting their experiences, their life stories.  Even more amazing is reading posts where people are asking for prayer and hundreds of posters will type out a quick (or lengthy) reply, a prayer of support reaching through the wires of technology to someone possibly thousands of miles away.

Through the gift of technology, we have become an international family, celebrating together our faith, our beliefs.  Whether you grow up attending a small or large church, you can quickly become very set in your view of the Christianity and the Christian community.  But as we reach out to each other, to those in need around us, our eyes WILL be opened to the world around us, to the millions of other believers who are celebrating life with us.

 

Oh I can see it now
Oh I can see the love in your eyes
Laying yourself down
Raising up the broken to life
-Hillsong Worship

 

DAILY PRAYER:  LORD, thank you for the gift of technology, for being able to reach out quickly to those internationally who may need a word of encouragement or prayer.  Help my eyes to be opened to the community in need around, specifically to my brothers and sisters.  Amen.

“WORK PLACES” — Lent, Day 4&5

o-8-hour-work-day-tips-facebook

Our workplace can be formidable and provide difficult trials for us at times.
Most of us probably have jobs to make a living in the world.  Our jobs are all different and challenging in their own unique ways.

For myself, working in healthcare, perhaps one of the greatest difficulties is learning to how to communicate with co-workers but not become caught up in the gossip and judgement.

In a work place that is dominated with females, it is extremely easy to fall into the habit of disseminating each other in brutal detail, when we should be seeking to encourage and lift each other up.  But working day in and day out at the same job can be hard on our spirits and as such–our behaviour.

Being on maternity leave from 2015-2016 opened my eyes up to the reality of how I treated others that I worked with and how I needed to change to reflect my beliefs.

This is the reality that we are all faced with:  work can be exhausting and can wear down our spirits and our hearts.  Perhaps it is a sign to consider moving into another job or career.  Perhaps it is a check point, a warning flag that we need to re-evaluate how we behave.

As I consider my future and whatever may lay ahead, I want to know that I was a positive influence on those I worked with, that I did my job to the best of my capabilities.

 

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the LORD and not for people.
Col.3:23

 

Whatever your life’s work is, do it well.
Martin Luther King, JR

DAILY PRAYER:  LORD, give me strength to be a rock when work may seem like a storm about me.  Help me shine as a light through each long day; give me patience even when I feel worn thin and unappreciated.  Amen.

“BE STILL” — Lent, day 3

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We cannot know what lies ahead,
the day we are in may seem fearsome and long;
we cannot think of what is behind,
the night unending, an open song.

In moments where all is taken away,
when we struggle to find an answer so small;
there’s a reason, there’s a reason, we know–
but our hearts yearn to be master of all.

The time will come when we must believe
that he is covering us with his love.
The greatest gifts we will ever receive,
come from him, the Father above.

Do not be disheartened;  simply be–
take a moment to be angry, take a moment to breathe.
You are not alone, we have been there before.
There’s an open window next to the closed door.

Be still and and be patient–you are almost there.
The waiting may be heavy and difficult to bear;
but in the stillness and quiet you will hear him say,
“I have loved you, I still love you, I will show you the way.”

 

 

The Lord will fight for you while you keep still
-Exodus 14:14

 

Be still and know that he is God
Be still and know that he is faithful
Consider all that he has done
Stand in awe and be amazed
And know that he will never change
Be still
-S.C. Chapman

 

The quieter you become, the more you can hear.
-Ram Dass

“PATIENCE” — Lent, Day 2

patience

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:2

 

As I drove down a highway today with a screaming child in the backseat, the thought reverberating through my head was: “WHY ME?”  I threw items toward the backseat into his lap in a panic.  My phone.  My iPod.  Blocks.  A book.  A purse.  Cheerios.  A bottle of water.  Nothing could stop the screaming.

Finally I gave in and pulled over onto the shoulder. Trudging around the car to the frantic toddler,  I felt flashed of rage and frustration overwhelming me.  Adjust the seat belt.  Tuck the blanket back in.  Find the missing soother.

Everyone says it and it’s true:  as a parent you are stretched and stretched, sometimes beyond what you believe you can bear.  In becoming a parent myself, I have faced moments of extreme “stretching”, where I wonder how much more I can take.  In these times, we are faced with one of the most difficult virtues:

PATIENCE.

Each of us have our versions of sayings that relate exactly to this.  Perhaps the most popular I have heard is “good things come to those who wait”.  We can all agree that patience is not easy to master, especially more difficult for some than others.

With that in mind, I want to urge myself and you to take a moment and reflect on an area of your life where you need to be more patient.  Perhaps you have a hope or a dream that you are waiting impatiently for; perhaps you have a need that you desperately are anticipating an answer to.

We all are.  We all have reached that point where we simply do not know how much longer we can wait.  We have all been tested and tried.

This Lenten season, let us consider how we treat others and how we could demonstrate more patience and kindness towards them. I am learning with you. I am learning to be slower to speak, more patient even as my instinct is to roar with frustration and anger.

The answer you are waiting for is coming.
Be still and wait.
Be patient.

 

“Quite honestly, most people are quick to “write someone off.” But our God is a God of the second chance. Learn from One who is patient with you, and you’ll learn to be patient with others.”
Woodrow Kroll

 

DAILY PRAYER:  Lord, grant me patience to wait for answers, patience to respond with love and kindness, patience to give time and love to those in my life who need it.  Thank you for all the patience you have shown me.  Amen.

“Courage” — Lent, day 1

As March begins and the first day of LENT is upon us, I would like to spend this season not only as a time of fasting, but as a time of reflection.

When I consider the 40 days leading up the death of Jesus, one of the first thoughts I have is:  how could Jesus, knowing what was in store for him, continue walking down the path that led him to his eventual death?

This is why my first reflection on LENT is COURAGE.

lion

C.S. Lewis put it most succinctly with these words:

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

Or as a pastor once said memorably in a sermon, “Where courage is not, no other virtue can occur except by accident”.

As I was contemplating the immense courage and bravery it must have taken Jesus to walk down that road, I also thought of all the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for the freedom of others.   Those who have suffered through conflicts and have even offered up their lives for the greater good… How did they do it?  How did they make the choice to put the needs of others ahead of their own?

For some of us, every day requires a bit of courage;  sometimes we even struggle to get out of bed.  I want you to know that you are not alone.  We are all fighting the same battle and we all need courage to face some days.  When you think of your future and when you feel afraid, remind yourself that others have been right where you are.   Remember that God does not forsake us and he will supply us with our needs, with the strength and courage we may need to face our circumstances.

I leave you with this verse:

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your GOD. I will strengthen you and help you.
-Isaiah 41:10A

DAILY PRAYER:  Lord, give us courage when we cannot find our way.  Help us to face our fears and worries with courage, trusting that YOU have the perfect plan for us.  Amen.

 

Inside the O’Briens ~ Lisa Genova

Inside the O'BriensInside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Lisa Genova is a masterful story-teller. What makes her work so interesting is her education is neuroscience which manifests itself in her books as each work delves into a different diseases/syndromes. Still Alice was early onset Alzheimers, Left Neglected was left neglect syndrome, Love Anthony was autism.

Unfortunately, I have found her writing to be less interesting as her newer works are published. I did not enjoy Love Anthony very much and felt the same way about Inside The O’Briens.

Joe O’Brien is a Boston police officer who finds himself facing the devastating diagnosis of Huntington’s Disease (HD). As he comes to grips with the reality of the disease, the effect it had on his mother and it effect it slowly has on him, we learn much about the disease and how it is characterized in people.

Unfortunately, I found the novel was quite disjointed. I wanted to remain in Joe’s narrative (as he IS the protagonist who is suffering), but for some reason Genova chose to delve into the mind of certain other characters with no true explanation on WHY she chose them specifically.

We certainly understand that she is attempting to show the effect that HD has on families — as it is genetic and children of those diagnosed with HD have a 50% chance of inheriting the positive gene and thus the disease itself.

However, I felt that the novel skipped around far too much and didn’t delve enough into the individual characters. There was too much going on; Still Alice felt much simpler and easier to follow, creating more of an impact on the reader.

While I sympathized for the family as I read the book, I didn’t find myself able to truly *FEEL* their anguish as they all suffered from the disease in a myriad of ways.

I so wish that Genova had focused the novel a bit more, as it could have been much more emotional and moving than it ended up being. Perhaps the most important goal of the novel is achieved anyway though: educating us on the truth of Huntington’s Disease and hopefully helping spur on more research into it’s eventual cure.

2/5 for what I had hoped would be better.

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The Spectacular Now ~ Tim Thorpe

The Spectacular NowThe Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Besides, it doesn’t matter if it’s real. It never does with dreams. They aren’t anything anyway but lifesavers to cling to so you don’t drown. Life is an ocean, and most everyone’s hanging on to some kind of dream to keep afloat.”

The Spectacular Now is an interesting read.

Sutter Keely is all about living in the moment and the moment usually involved knocking back some alcohol and enjoying the small things in life. It quickly becomes very clear that Sutter is an alcoholic and it is fascinating as the reader to watch him justify his drinking and the consequences of his actions.

He is coasting through senior year of high school, not paying attention to assignments or exams. He drinks through his classes and part time job. He loses his girlfriends in succession due to choices he makes under the influence.

But yet…Sutter is an endearing character even in his darkest moments, such as lighting in brother-in-law’s suit on fire in the closet. You root for him and you desperately want him to face the realization of what he is doing with his life: wasting it.

Eventually Sutter meets Aimee who is a straight A student, a girl who has been through emotional devastation, a person who doesn’t know how to stand up for herself and speak her truth. Sutter decides he will help her become a stronger person and thus begins their relationship, romantic and otherwise.

The Spectacular Now reads as a coming of age story and the ending is very realistic. In a way, it’s disappointing because as the reader you want…something more for Sutter. You want him to grow and walk away from his experiences a better and deeper person.

I can’t go more into detail without ruining the ending, but I do recommend this book–it’s a great coming of age story. I watched the movie before reading the novel and I view both pieces as separate works because of the minor variations. I recommend both highly.

4/5 for an easy and painless read.

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When Breath Becomes Air ~ Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Even though it is only September, I believe I can say with certainty that When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is by far the most stunning, heart-breaking and beautiful book I will read this year. My greatest fear is that with this review I will not be able to do justice to this work.

In this auto-biography written by himself, Paul Kalanithi–it just strikes me now that it is interesting he does not label himself as Dr. Paul Kalanithi–is finishing up his neurosurgeon/neuroscience residency when he is diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer with metastases to the brain and spine.

The book has a prologue written by Abraham Verghese (who himself penned the most excellent book Cutting for Stone) and the epilogue is written by Paul’s wife Lucy. In between the prologue and epilogue are a couple hundred pages divided into two parts: one primarily dedicated to Paul’s childhood (although he touches on that fairly briefly) and journey through medical school, the second on his life post cancer as he struggles to accept his diagnosis and live with it.

It’s a quick read–I finished it in a couple hours, but I also found I simply could not put it down. As a reader we are aware that Paul has been writing these sentences knowing he does not have long to live. This somehow creates an importance and urgency to this book that propels you forward through it.

His writing is both technical (most likely due to his training in medicine) and yet poetic. He philosophizes in a way that isn’t too deep or confusing for the every day man to understand. There were many times when I would stop, go back, re-read a paragraph or sentence because it struck such a deep chord inside of me.

A couple of my favourite quotes are as follows:

“The physician’s duty is not to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence.”

Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”

Nearing the end of the book, he lightly touches on his religious beliefs in a very genuine and gentle way:

“The main message of Jesus, I believed, is that mercy trumps justice every time.”

We know from reading the description on the jacket of the book that Paul died in 2015, 22 months after his diagnosis. Knowing this somehow makes each word and pronouncement that much more weighty.

This book was truly a privilege to read. I can’t write anymore because I feel that one needs to read it for themselves. You will not regret it. Admittedly, you may find yourself relentlessly sobbing during the final couple chapters, but the message is so important for everyone.

“You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.”

5/5 stars. Don’t pass this one by.

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The Supreme Macaroni Company ~ Adriana Trigiani

The Supreme Macaroni CompanyThe Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani is the final novel in the trilogy of the Roncalli family and the Angelini Shoe Company. I had read the first novel The Shoemaker’s Wife and had given it 3/5 stars as I found it to be a decent light read. I did skip the second novel and picked up the third one as I found it on a random stack of books at a book outlet event. Did missing the second novel affect my enjoyment of this book? I doubt that.

The problem with this novel is…it’s just extremely boring. It opens with Valentine Roncalli (main character) becoming engaged to an older man Gianluca something (I even forget his boring name) and immediately jumps into the two of them driving to her family home for Christmas dinner and the ensuing dramatics of the American-Italian family. Even the dialogue between the family, which I think was supposed to be snappy and comedic, falls flat. After several chapters and pages wasted on the family’s reaction, wedding plans and eventual wedding day…skip to the honeymoon in New Orleans…big fight because Valentine and Gianluca haven’t deeply delved into what their life will be like post-wedding.

Then she gets pregnant, tries to manage the company, the inevitable and truly expected happens… Honestly, the entire book just seemed like a giant cliche that made me want to set it on fire. The characters were entirely one dimensional and boring; the plot line—well, what’s plot line??? This has to be one of the most boring books I ever read.

The strange thing was, I did enjoy the first novel. This book did not sound anything at all like the author’s previous writing. I have no idea what happened to Trigiani to change her writing voice so drastically, but it seems as though she didn’t give a flying fig about this novel. Perhaps she was halfheartedly attempting to finish up the series.

Whatever the reason, it’s a terrible novel and definitely belongs on my “Books to Never Read Again” list. Avoid avoid avoid at all costs.

Sorry, Adriana.

1/5

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Come Rain or Come Shine ~ Jan Karon

Come Rain or Come ShineCome Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Come Rain or Come Shine is the eleventh novel in the Mitford series by Jan Karon. I have the entire series multiple times and own all the novels, so I was quite excited to finally read this most recent work. (I was waiting for the paperback version, as usual.)

I have read many reviews on Goodreads about this novel and I would guess that most of them had the chief complaint of Karon’s work being noticeably absent of narration specification; many readers were confused by the narrative switching between characters and having to guess by pronouns who we were reading about.

In reply to that I have to say: you probably should never read any Russian literature or even any classics. You were confused by some *fairly obvious* character point of view switches? Thank God you have never attempted to read any classics. Not only that, people claim that this narrative scheme was not of Karon’s typical writing style, to which I have only to say: PHOEEY. In many previous novels, Karon wrote small excerpts from different points of view, which I personally had occasionally found far more confusing than CROCS.

Mainly, CROCS focuses on the wedding of Dooley Kavanagh to Lace Turner. As already mentioned, the novel rotates the narrative through many different character’s eyes which is refreshing. I only had a few minor issues with the novel that I will quickly list–

1. There was a brief mention of Barnabas, but I didn’t feel the reader got the Barnabas ending that we deserved.
2. The ending was a bit saccharine sweet, even for Karon.
3. The actual book felt different. The pages were much thicker than the format that her novels are normally released in. I believe this is because the novel was actually shorter than her other works. It’s a small complaint, but still.
4. The focus on Mink Hershell during the wedding was out of character. Who was he even? No one cares. Write more about Pauline.
5. And finally, more Father Tim! I suppose Karon is possibly moving her narrative to Dooley and Lace instead as perhaps she will keep writing about them? Whatever the case may be, we all know Father Tim is heading into his twilight years, so can we please have one more solid novel featuring him and his thoughts ONLY? Thanks in advance, Karon.

All in all, I was quite happy with this novel. I finished it in less than 24 hours and I have an active 10 month old underneath my feet and in my lap.

4/5 and hopefully there will be another Mitford book *fingers crossed*.

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