Faith · Forgiveness

Believers Need to Love the Church

There is a disturbing trend I’ve been noticing in those who claim to be Christians. It goes something like this:

I don’t go to church. Oh I love God. I especially love Jesus. But the church? It’s full of greedy hypocrites. They’re judgemental, they’re selfish, they do not follow what they preach. No, I can serve God better without them.

I’m not going to refute the statements above with my own thoughts. I think we sometimes get far too caught up in our own arguments.

Rather, I’m going to let the word of God speak into these lies…

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” 1 John 4:20

You cannot hate Christians and claim to love God. You are fooling yourself. These aren’t my words, they’re God’s!

“Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor your leaders.” 1 Peter 2:17

Interesting that Peter addresses four behaviours that servants of Christ should follow. And the second one is to love the family of believers. Is this not enough proof that God is calling us to love the church?

Want to hear it from Jesus himself?

“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34

“This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you.” John 15:12

“This I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:17

You don’t think Jesus was serious? He repeated it over three times in one speech!! It wasn’t a suggestion. He didn’t say, “Oh, it would be rather nice if you could learn to love each other.”

He commanded it!

If we hate the church but claim to love God, we are fooling ourselves. We are liars.

These are some harsh words for those who can’t stand Christians, yet have the audacity to bear the name themselves.

Now you may be upset at me, for speaking this way. You may think that I just don’t understand the pain you have faced at the hands of believers.

That may be true.

I may not know the pain you faced.

But I most definitely know the pain I faced at their hands. I am not a stranger to the pain people in the church can cause.

A few years ago I was sent away from a church after being brutally wounded by many untrue words. Spoken by people who thought they knew how God saw me, people who claimed to have God’s sight into my heart. In reality, I was misunderstood when asking for help with my children while my husband led worship. I was called bitter, merely for expressing my complete loneliness in the church. I hadn’t accused anyone, rather asked. But I was first harassed, then eventually sent away.

To make matters worse, the pastor himself called up my best friends and told them not to meet with me. Instead of standing up for me, they obeyed.

If this wouldn’t crush one’s faith in the church, I don’t know what would.

But I think that’s our problem, isn’t it? We have placed too much faith in the church, expecting the church to be perfect, that we have completely forgotten who the church is: We are merely sinners in the process of being saved.

This calls for a lot of grace. It is in Christ alone that we are supposed to have faith.

I have never stepped foot back into the church that sent me away. But I would, if they welcomed me. For I have forgiven them. Because the funny thing about forgiveness is that I need a whole lot of it. If I’m not willing to give it out, who will be willing to give it out to me?

Yet, even though I haven’t been welcomed back into the church that sent me away, many other churches have opened their arms to my family. This has brought me so much love for the body of Christ. Yes there are some hurtful people in the church… But there’s also people who have brought so much healing into my life.

There are really amazing people in the church. They are not all hypocrites! Some would give their last crust of bread to feed someone else in need. I have met people who truly open up their homes to the homeless. I’ve met people who pray for strangers as they would for their own children. I have met people who would give their entire savings to help a brother in need, without blinking an eye.

This is the church!!

I’m glad I gave her another chance. I would not have healed from my experience if I have not tried again to meet with a body of believers.

Have you been hurt by a church? Forgive and don’t write off an entire group of people based on the actions of a few. In the world we would call that prejudice. Why do we think any differently in the church?

Writing

Eating My Humble Pie

I’ve always loved a good slice of pie.

As we all know, some pies taste better than others. There’s the premium kind Mom serves at gatherings. It has the perfect crust with that smooth, but slightly flaky texture, so easy to swallow. The filling is sweet, with just the right spices. Then there’s the bakery pies. Delicious, but not quite the same as Mom makes it. And then there’s the pie from the convenience store, which has a shelf life of a decade and tastes like it too.

Humble pie tastes more like the convince store baking. And it’s not sweet, so the sugar can’t hide the flavour… it’s more like a dinner pie made with mixed veggies. Ugh. To top it off, these days I feel like I’m skipping the slice and eating the whole thing at once. And it doesn’t sit well.

Still, there are a few areas where I manage to feel immensely proud.

It just depends where I look.

The source of my pride is and always will be my children. They continually amaze me with their remarkable talents and personalities. Those who lack in “skill” most certainly make up for it in character.

Last week we received their report cards.

My oldest son, Isaiah did fine in his grades… especially after we handed in a couple of late assignments. But what pleased me most is when the teacher talked about the character of my young man. Respectful, thoughtful, always looking to put others first. He said that Isaiah has a good heart, both tender and wise. Trust me, when these words are said about your 13-year-old-boy, you listen.

My daughter got 100% on everything. A perfect report card. I hadn’t known that was possible until last week, but no matter how many times I blinked, there it was. I was more of an 70s/80s kid myself. She got chosen as one of the two girls in her grade at school to attend a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) event.

My next son, stuck right in the middle of five kids, excelled in his grades too. Jonas’ teacher was most astonished at his abilities in Mathematics. She said not only was he a leap ahead of everyone else, but he was brilliant, showing her and the class new methods to figure out problems that she hadn’t ever heard of in over a decade of teaching.

Dallas is also strong in math. He did really good in his other work as well, but he’s also our athletic one. Tells me he’s the fastest boy in his class. Whether this proves to be true, I have yet to see. But I don’t doubt it. He’s always kept me running.

And Emerson, my baby. He amazed me by learning the game of chess when he was four. By the time he was five, he could beat everyone in our family. His teacher was quite stunned when he showed off his skills at school, said that most kindergarteners can’t even grasp the game, never mind master it.

They’re not perfect. No-sir-ree. Sometimes their bickering drives me batty. And when they leave dirty socks on the kitchen counter I want to pull my hair out. But I’m proud of them, because when it comes down to it, they’re amazing people. I feel honored to be called their mother.

Now for the part you’ve all been waiting for:

HUMBLE PIE.

Because no one wants to hear how everyone else is excelling.

We wait for the grit.

We love the grit.

Especially when things aren’t going too great in our own lives.

I think it’s a social media thing: others successes making us feel like epic failures. If we lived face to face with our friends successes, we would feel along with their joy. Now we just watch from a 6″ window into their lives and feel shame.

And in some ways, we should. For having false expectations.

Social media will never give us true relationships because it is only a snapshot into the lives of those around us. The only way social media can become something more is if we decide to finally open the window further and give others a real look into our lives.

So let me open my window further for you…

I’ve been reading a lot lately and it made me realize something: I’m not very good at writing.

Ouch.

Did I really just say that? On WordPress? Among authors? As the handful of followers I have stampede away in droves…

That’s right.

You’re following an average joe. A stay at home mother, whose best accomplishment will most likely be raising five kids. Which is probably a good thing in a generation of fame seeking narcissists.

Don’t get me wrong… I want to be a bestseller. And for much of my life I believed I would be. But now, as I read my work compared to so many good authors, it’s pretty obvious: The wit, brilliance and effortless beauty that seems to come naturally to so many, has most definitely not been bestowed upon me.

I mean, I’ve had my moments.

I won second place in a local city competition for short stories and got a piece published in the paper. My high school teacher kept my best poems and says she still shows them off once in a while. I’m known to be authentic in my writing, which is what I want most of all. I once got a thousand views on a post I wrote. Must’ve been shared by the right person.

By the way, this isn’t me giving up. This is me getting real and putting an honest word out there to writers everywhere…

We just aren’t as good as we want to be.

Journaling my thoughts is one of the most amazing and effortless things I can think of. This makes me a natural writer. My best pieces come out of journal entries and poetry I’ve written. But writing for an audience is tough, gruelling and painful. This is the difference between a natural writer and a published one.

Writing my story was simple. Ok relatively simple.

But editing it and admitting that almost half of my story needs to get shuffled around or rewritten before it faces the publishers has been daunting. I mean, I thought I already finished the work! Now I read and reread every sentence until the words blur together and seem meaningless. But this work is necessary if I want it to be the best.

Almost makes me feel guilty for the way I’ve read books in the past; skipping over pages to get to the good parts. Those authors deserved more than a quick skim of the words they mulled over and over again.

As a result, I’m now back to 30,000 words on my book. Down from just over 85,000. But they’re a promising 30,000 words. They mark my best work. Worthy to be published.

At least I think they are. Maybe the publishers will feed me more humble pie. In fact, I’m expecting it. But it’s not the worst thing that could happen to me. The worst thing would be for me to stop eating at all for fear of being giving this bitter tasting food.

Humble pie may not taste great, but I’ve found it is the most nourishing food for the soul. It’s nothing, if not filling. And it even teaches me; inspiring me to be honest with myself and to learn from my mistakes.

Given enough time, humble pie actually doesn’t look as bad as it sounds. The fact of the matter is, eating humble pie may be my best chance of becoming that bestseller. It might even end up being the key to my success. So, I’m going to eat my pie and enjoy this meal, knowing that someday, I’m going to get a taste of Mom’s Homemade pie again. Until then, this humble pie will keep me alive, so I will be grateful for it.

I may even ask for seconds.

Authenticity

I’m Really Bad at Small Talk

I love meeting new people. It fascinates me how no two humans are alike. Each person has their own likes, dislikes, talents, quirks and remarkable backstory.

But, here’s the problem: usually in order to make a successful first impression, one has to be good at a practice commonly referred to as “small talk.”

And I’m terrible at it.

I make even old friends squirm awkwardly when I meet up with them in the grocery store by saying the dreaded: “Hi. How are you?”

It’s inevitable. I’ll say it. Because it’s the thing to say in passing. Meanwhile, I know how useless the question is, because no one can properly answer it in the ten second amount of time allotted for such a meetup. And for heavens sake, if you’re having a terrible day, you have to lie through your teeth or utter a disheartened “Well… I’m ok.”

I’ve tried the small talk about weather routine, which I cringe at as well. Because who really cares about how cold the day is or how much snow we got? It’s November in Canada for crying out loud, what else would one expect to see??

Or maybe I feel in my introverted type mood and I see someone I really do like. I usually just smile, genuinely meeting their eyes and comment how nice it is to see them.

(Commence the awkward silence as we both rummage through our mind bank of typical small talk questions to ask, none of which we feel like divulging into at the moment.)

Still we want to make a good impression with the people we admire…

How about saying, “How was your week?”

There’s nothing conversationally worse than trying to remember details about your week, especially when you can barely remember what you had for breakfast this morning, then assess them into categories of “good” or “bad”, balancing them out on a scale so you can properly acknowledge whether the week indeed was “good” or “bad”. All within an allotted time of ten seconds so there isn’t too long of a pause.

And please, don’t get me started on how much I hate “icebreakers”. As if telling you my favorite kind of pizza will really warm either of us up.

I like bacon pizza.

No, maybe I wasn’t meant to be good at the practise of small talk…

But ask me my life story and I’ll open up.

Ask me about the book I’m writing and I’ll talk your ear off. How about discussing why Canada likes to add a “u” in to spell colour or favourite, when it looked perfectly fine without the “u”.

Color. Favorite. So much better. I would risk failing a spelling test just so that I could drop the “u”.

Or let’s discuss issues that matter, like why so many people have kids when they don’t want to be around them. Or what the purpose is behind suffering. And what exactly is the point of getting up each morning to repeat the same routine over and over again. Or if there’s a God and how we can know if we’ve found the right one.

Then, I have things to say. Because deep down, I know these topics are sincere. They’re meaningful. So I care to answer them.

But ask me about my plans for the evening and I’ll freeze up like a glacier.

My plans are to fold laundry.

Anyone else out there who hates small talk? Any ideas on making it less awkward?

Depression · Faith · Freedom · Health · Running

I Met Depression… and I Won

A few years ago I was diagnosed with depression.

There are many reasons for falling into depression: Trama. Rejection. Bullying. Death or loss. Harmful world views. Stress. A life-altering event. Hormones. Lack of nutrition or sleep… and the list goes on.

Healing for each soul is a very individual path. So as I share my story of hope, that is all I want you to take from it.

There is hope.

Today I am alive. Joyful. Healed. Whole. And maybe what healed me can help you. But maybe you need to take a different path. That’s OK too.

I’m sharing to bring hope, not to say I have the answers.

In February 2014, I had my fifth child… a son. It was very, very difficult for me to face this addition to my family. Though I loved him more than words can describe, I was exhausted with the other children. I felt that caring for another baby was beyond my abilities and I was burning out quickly.

I remember a comedian once explaining how having a large family felt. He said: “Imagine you are drowning and then, someone hands you a baby.”

We laugh because it’s so true. It’s too true.

I was drowning. Everything I had ever found joy and meaning in, felt distant and out of reach. I didn’t find any pleasure in doing the very things I once loved. Life was dark, and though I saw splashes of color, it didn’t bring peace to my heart.

Fast forward a very painful four years: Spring 2018. I had gone through church hardships, loss of friendships, moving, and building a house. I had let go of my old friendships at the church that had rejected me and my family because of my depression. I was in the process of allowing myself to move on from the deep hurt that comes from being completely misjudged and misunderstood, forgiving them as best I could.

Our family had joined a new church (an act in itself which was hard), made new friends and our “baby” wasn’t so difficult to care for anymore. But I was STILL burdened under this load that was crushing me. I had pushed the pain so far down, that it was coming out in my health. My bones ached constantly! The smallest chore would leave me absolutely immobile for the rest of the day. I needed daily naps.

And deep down, I still blamed myself because I had been unable to make things right. I went over the details in my mind again and again, the burden of my rejected attempts of reconciliation lay heavy on my shoulders. Could I have done more? Should I have done anything differently?

Finally, after one incident where I went outside to clean up some garbage and I found myself sleeping for four hours that afternoon from exhaustion, I decided to see a doctor. After many questions and blood tests, he told me that I was depressed.

However, then he told me something I never expected to hear from a doctor: “There are many ways to go about this, but I recommend that you try gentle exercise before taking any antidepressants.” Immediately, I protested that I had tried to exercise but that it was just too painful. I was too weak.

“I said gentle exercise,” He chuckled, “I’m not telling you to train for a marathon. Just get out of the house, in the fresh air, and walk for 20-30 minutes at whatever pace you desire! And don’t do errands or make it into a chore. Make sure it’s time just for you.”

So in May 2018 I started to walk.

One of the hardest things I’ve done is put on those running shoes. I was so afraid that I would fail at walking. But the words echoed in my head: Gentle walk. Gentle Exercise. Over and over again those simple words challenged my way of thinking and gave me courage to at least try. For me, exercise wasn’t something that could be gentle. It was a way of pushing my body to the extreme. To be the best. To compete with myself and others.

I had never thought of it as something that I could actually enjoy.

I still remember that first walk. The warm air, the slow pace, the music on my phone. The sun shone down on my face. I heard birds chirping around me. I stopped to notice the buds on the trees that were forming. As I walked, suddenly I felt a peace inside that I hadn’t noticed for a very long time. That was it… I was hooked! Not that going out was easy, but I now believed that it could help me. Each day my pace was just a little bit faster and I was able to go just a little bit farther because I finally felt no pressure and my body was getting stronger!

At the same time our pastor started teaching a series on bible memory and the importance it has when we are faced with trials or temptations. During the message, I felt God speaking gently to me: “This is it Heather! This is what you need to get you through.”

I went straight home and downloaded a verse memory app called “Verses.”

I started with memorizing Psalm 34. While I walked, I quoted my verses. When my tears wouldn’t stop, I quoted them over and over. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous person may have many troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all.” When I remembered the rejection of my friends, I spoke these words out loud. Little by little, I added to them. Psalm 139, Oh God… they may think I’m a horrible person, but “Lord, you have searched me and you know me… you are familiar with all my ways!” Then I added Psalm 103. “Praise the Lord my soul. All my inmost being praise his holy name. Praise the Lord my soul, and forget not ALL his benefits. Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. Who satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed…”

As my body and spirit grew stronger, I began to run for short distances. I would run for a bit, then walk in between, all the while praying and reciting my verses. By Fall 2018 I could run 5K (I had never in my life ran a full mile before this) and God had given me the ability to memorize over 15 full Psalms. I knew 10% of the book of Psalms and could bring it with me everywhere! It was in my heart as well as my head.

My greatest fear was losing my ability to run over the winter. I was terrified that I would sink back into my depression. My husband knew this and bought me a treadmill. Not only did I keep up running and memorizing all winter, but by Spring 2019 I had a follow up appointment with my doctor and he told me that I was in full recovery!

I realize that this story may sound too good to be true to many people.

A few years of depression? And now you think you have all the answers??

No. No I don’t.

Remember: This was what worked for me… and let me tell you, if you think my answer is to mental health is: Just go quote some scripture or just go exercise, you have horribly misunderstood this testimony!!

Getting out every day to walk and run, had just as big of an effect on me as the scriptures I was memorizing. Exercise was just as spiritual as God’s word. Because you know what? I believe “Gentle Exercise” WAS God’s personal word to me. And obeying God’s treatment plan for me was hard work! Some days I wanted to stay in my room and mope, eating chocolates and watching Netflix. Or take a long nap. But I forced myself every single day to go out. Some days in the rain. Some days in the heatwaves. Sometimes I hated it. The next day was even harder to go out. Sometimes I was far too busy! It was near impossible at times! The truth is, the road to healing is never easy.

Don’t kid yourself: Healing doesn’t ever come without a cost.

Whether the cost of time, the cost of perseverance, the cost of faith, the cost of money, the cost of disappointments and trying again, the cost of failure and rebuilding hope… there’s always a cost. The question is, are you willing to try?

Or have we become a generation that wants all the answers and victories handed to us on a silver platter?

It’s hard for me to wrap posts like this up in a simple paragraph, because there’s so much to leave you with. Yet one thought keeps running itself over and over in my mind again: Are we willing pay the price?

Fast forward to this fall. If I miss two weeks of exercise, I find myself slipping. Anxiety and depression grow. This path, for me, may just be a lifelong treatment. But isn’t it worth it? For my health? For my joy? For my family? For those around me who can relate to the everyday struggle?

The answer I have to choose daily is: Yes. Yes… it’s worth it. 

Faith

Collecting My Thoughts

Sometimes writers run out of things to say.

Other times writers have lots to say but don’t quite know how to describe their thoughts… so they wait for the right words.

And then there are times when there are so many things to say that everything blurs into one big mess of thoughts… which is where I’m finding myself lately.

I have so much to write about, but over-posting often results in readers skimming through without taking the time to reflect. I want my readers to be able to actually stop and read the words!! I don’t want so much quantity in my writing that the entire point is missed! So my aim recently has been to pack more meaning into fewer words, keeping my posts at under 600 words. It’s actually been quite a good challenge for me!

Today though, I want to share my thoughts, in an unorganized sort of way. I know well-esteemed speakers suggest to focus on one thought and go deeper into it. This way, the human mind – which cannot grasp many ideas at once, can take one piece away from what you’re saying. Today I’m going to go out and do the opposite. If it’s hard for you to follow, go ahead and just take one thought to hold onto as I ramble through them. Slowly reading each thought, then stopping to consider it before moving on to the next is key.

Things on my mind recently:

1) Speaking less really does help people to listen more.

2) There’s so many people trying to be heard, maybe the best thing I can do for this generation is to stop and listen.

3) Why do people blame our technology for the busy and distracted lives we lead? The issue is and will always be the human heart.

4) Our world is beginning to hate children. This annoyance for the gems of our world is even creeping into the church. This deeply concerns me.

5) Everyone talks faith, but I can count on one hand those who are living it out.

6) In the west everyone seems to be depressed or anxious… I hear these words so often I’m sick of them. There are thousands of options to treat the symptoms, but everyone is too afraid to go and actually address the root.

7) I witness millions of miracles daily. I’m typing on one of them right now. I turn a switch and light floods the room. Amazing! Yet I don’t even notice any of it until it’s gone.

8) Friends are either honest or kind. But rare indeed are those who are both.

9) Requiring good behaviour doesn’t shape a child’s heart the right way. Only wisdom and gentle love does.

10) One joyful person is contagious, spreading lighthearted life to everyone they meet. But in the same way, a bitter person spreads their poison like a contagious disease.

11) Those consumed with talk of politics or the church are among the most unhappy people.

12) Daily time with God is more essential than food or sleep. No one seems to believe me. I’ve been told that daily devotions and prayer is an “unrealistic expectation.”

Yet I’ve done it for years because the fullness of good life advice and practical truth are found in God’s word… not in well written books or sermons. Which brings me to my last thought:

13) When God speaks, it sticks! I forget most of the sermons and books I’ve read over the years. But I’ve never forgotten a personal word from God.

Authenticity · Faith · Vulnerability

Exterior Walls

We put up exteriors daily. As if we don’t care about what people think.

As if I don’t care.

As if I don’t notice the likes, the comments or the lack-there-of. As if I’m stronger than those who need to be told every day that they are valuable in someway. As if I don’t need to hear the words of people confirming me and the things I do.

Deep down we just want to be understood, desperately, pathetically.

Humanly.

Listen, as much as you fight it and act like you are above such longings, if you’re human, those feelings are there.

There’s nothing wrong with you.

To the world, you may look confident. Or you may look hopeless. You may look like someone who has it all together or you’re falling apart at every turn. You may even give a phony smile, and say some cliche things. Or you may spew every careless thought that comes from your mouth in hopes of being real and bold.

But whoever you are… you hate it. Because deep down, we all know that that’s not what it’s about, is it?

As if one kind of wrong is better than the other.

Thank God, you are worth more than than your feelings tell you.

Can I just say something here?

Maybe we are all more alike than we want to admit. Maybe I’m just like that too-faced, self-righteous, rich snob we all avoid. That hypocrite in the church pews. That political maniac who rants day and night on social media, believing that those who are on the other side are the enemy. Or the “tolerant” crowd who are tolerant of everyone… except for those who are intolerant.

Maybe, that drunk homeless man, who reeks of alcohol, sitting on the side of the road asking “food” money, is just like me inside.

In fact, I’m convinced of it.

Pride tells me I’m better than all of the above, but there’s one thing that tells me I’m not.

The Cross.

Because on that cross, Jesus gave his life as much for the hypocrite, as for the drunkard, as for the bitter-old-soul who can’t forgive.

Think you’re better? Then maybe the cross isn’t for you.

…Or maybe, it’s especially for you. Because, friends, the ground at the bottom of the cross is equal. And not one of us deserved it.

Pregnancy

Fourteen Years Ago

Fourteen years ago I was seventeen. I held a secret in my heart that only I knew.

Fourteen years ago I walked to the clinic all by myself and saw the doctor who gave me a test.

Positive. I had already known.

“Was this a good thing?” She asked. I slowly shook my head.

“Do you need help?” I did need help. Lots of it. But one long look in her eyes and I knew that I didn’t want the kind of help she was offering.

“I’ll be fine.” I said.

Fourteen years ago, I lowered my head as a guy in my classroom at school mocked teenage pregnancy… little did he know I was with child.

Fourteen years ago, I sat at a thanksgiving meal feeling oddly… thankful. Thankful for the little life that I was soon to be told would “ruin” mine.

Fourteen years ago I fought for the right to keep my own child.

“You’re too young.”

“You’ll throw away your future.”

“Just give it to a family who will actually want a baby.”

I did. I wanted you.

Fourteen years ago, I held my hand over my belly and sang a first lullaby of many. I danced with you. I ran with you. I spoke to you. I chose life. I chose you.

Fourteen years ago, I changed forever.

Because of you.

Now you’re thirteen, a charming young man. Funny. Selfless. Gentle. Nurturing. Wise beyond your years. And all I can think of is how thankful I am for the life I’ve gotten to raise, to know, and love. For the amazing journey you’ve brought me on that all began –

Fourteen years ago.