January 17, 2017

Give Thanks? Fake it till you make it - by Rohadi


I remember sitting in a service of a rather large church and couldn't help but notice how repetitive the lead preacher was. On three separate occasions he reminded people to smile, not to anybody in particular, seemingly suggesting it was somehow reflective of a superior faith.

“As my grandpa used to always say, you don't want to look like you've been baptized in lemon juice!” noted the preacher.

Why did this bug me? It struck me as disingenuous but it also alluded to the notion if someone didn’t meet the smile quota then something was wrong with their faith. I didn't roll my eyes, but I did make a mental note to frown for the remainder of the service.

Why did I respond in this way?

Maybe I indeed lacked joy and needed to smile more like the preacher said. Or more likely, maybe I prefer when someone reflects their authentic spirit in the moment, and many times we just don’t feel like smiling. 

We've all gone through, or are going through, present or past struggles. No faith is worth its salt if it hasn’t travelled through the ‘valley of death’ once or twice. In those experiences smiling is hard and sometimes forced. We give the illusion of joy but it's fake.

While traveling through tough times you may have heard something like this, “fake it till you make it.” Advice used to maintain momentum when picking up a new skill or beating an old habit.

Does it work? Have you 'faked it until you made it?'

I have. I think it does work, but the mantra is a bit of a misnomer. 

When we walk into the valleys, when joy seems far from us, it requires real intention to constantly remind ourselves about joy and practice habits of joy.

If you’re ‘faking’ you’re actually entering into an activity—you’re doing something. Doing is participating, an activity that’s less ‘faking’ as it is a liturgy of reclamation. This kind of liturgy practices joy in an attempt to discover joy. In this sense, the rhythm of ‘faking it till you make it’ is a spiritual act of worship! Soon enough (God willing) joy emerges as a prominent reflection of our authentic selves.


Whether you want to smile about that or not is up to you.

________

 You can catch Rohadi online at his blog on church innovation. Check out his adult colouring book, Soul Coats, now available. 

January 16, 2017

Thankfulness in Every Season by Nina Faye Morey


I will extol the LORD at all times;
His praise will always be on my lips.
Psalm 34:1 (NIV)


In his Psalm of praise, David vows to always give glory to the Lord. No matter the time or season of our lives, we should never cease to honour Him and give Him thanks and praise (Psalm 106:1).

Give Thanks to the Lord

I find it easy to be grateful to the Lord for most aspects of our changing prairie seasons. I even enjoy the sound and fury of a sudden thunderstorm on a hot summer day. However, I find it more difficult to maintain this thankful attitude during winter’s storms. I really don’t appreciate the frigid temperatures or icy sidewalks that keep me indoors. However, there are mornings when I wake up to find that my little corner of the world has been magically transformed into a winter wonderland. I’m treated to a spectacular view of a world adorned with sparkling snow and hoarfrost. Then my spirits lift once more. I find myself thanking God and echoing His Word that all His creation is good (Genesis 1:31).

God’s Glorious Creation

Like the seasons of nature, I sometimes find it difficult to be thankful through all the seasons of my life. Just as the turn of seasons causes some of nature’s fiercest storms, we face our stormiest times during major life changes—illness, death, divorce. I may not have control over these stormy phases, but I do have control over how I react to them. I can call on the Lord, or I can choose to turn my back on Him. Even though I may not always understand God’s ways, I need to trust in Him.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on you own understanding;
In all your ways submit to him
and he will make your paths straight.
Prov. 3: 5-6

So although it’s sometimes hard to remain thankful through the stormy seasons of my life, I’m assured that I can stand firmly on the solid rock of God’s promises. He will provide me with stability and strength despite the shifting sands beneath my feet. If I trust in the Lord, I can be assured that He loves me and hears my cries for help. He sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us in times of trouble (Romans 8: 31-39). He will hear my prayers and come to my rescue, giving me a firm foothold once more in the midst of my emotional turmoil.

My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
Psalm 62: 7-8

No matter what negative things are presently occurring in my life, I can be confident that God is working to turn them into something positive. Just as He works in the natural realm to transform a bitter winter into a winter wonderland, He works in the spiritual realm to transform the bad into the good.

And we know that in all things God works for the
good of those who love him, who have been
called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

When I get discouraged during life’s storms, I remember David’s advice to always give thanks and praise to the Lord. Accepting that God’s in control of my future lifts my spirits and brings peace to my heart. If I remain focused on my faith, I know God will have something wonderful in store for me on the other side of the storm (Col. 3:15-17).

My Spirits Lift Once More

January 15, 2017

Thankful In Season - Tracy Krauss

Many others have already expressed the unique feelings of thankfulness that we Canadians get to enjoy during the cold winter months. We are thankful for things like:

That cozy feeling that envelops you when you snuggle under a blanket with a steaming drink after being outside in the elements.

The brightness of the snow as it sparkles in the sunlight on a clear afternoon.

The Christmas-card beauty of hoarfrost on the trees, evergreens laden with snow, and smoke curling from rooftop chimneys.

Rosy cheeks 
and clouds of breath 
and whoops of laughter on the way down the toboggan hill.

I dislike scraping my car windows in the morning as much as the next person. I get tired of shovelling. Sometimes it feels like spring will never arrive...

But I am so THANKFUL to live in a country with distinct seasons. I think this might be the thing I would miss most if I had to move elsewhere. So here's to winter, with all its pros and cons. May we ever cherish the great variety we are so privileged to experience in this wonderful country we call home.


Tracy Krauss writes from her home in northern BC where hoarfrost on trees and shovelling snow are part of everyday life. Visit her website: tracykrauss.com  -fiction on the edge without crossing the line

January 14, 2017

Learning to Give Thanks in ALL Things, Even Winter - Ruth L. Snyder


Several days after I was born, I experienced my first blasts of winter in a Michigan ice storm. However, when I was only six weeks old, my parents whisked me away to Southern Africa. Winter there consisted of temperatures in the low 20's during the day with the rare possibility of frost overnight. We enjoyed fresh vegetables and fruit from our garden year-round. If we wanted to see snow, we had to go to the mountains.



I didn't really experience my first Canadian winter until I was eleven years old. I revelled in the beauty of a fresh downy blanket of snow. The glittering diamonds of sun glinting off hoar frost mesmerized me. But the cold! And the short days! At least skating in Alberta didn't end in a puddle of water like it did the couple of times we tried it in Zimbabwe. And it was definitely easier to pay attention in school when the weather was cold and I preferred to stay indoors.


I have told my husband that I still have African blood. Winter is NOT my favourite season. I would be happy if the cold and snow lasted for a month and then we reverted back to summer weather. However, I Thessalonians 5:18 urges us, "in every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus" (Amplified). Giving thanks is an act of the will I can choose, no matter how I feel.



So what do I choose to give thanks for in winter?

  • A well-insulated house
  • Delicious, nutritious food to eat
  • A warm, dependable vehicle with snow tires
  • A slower pace
  • Frosty, refreshing sunrises
  • Time with family and friends
  • Snow angels
  • God's faithfulness
  • A hot cup of Rooibos tea (a tradition our family brought back from South Africa!)
  • Rosy red cheeks and smiles from my children
  • A lined leather jacket, mitts, and boots to keep me warm
  • An energetic Husky dog who motivates me to go for walks
  • Soft, downy white snow drifting down
  • Horse-drawn wagon rides
  • Glowing, dancing northern lights
  • The promise of Spring
Is Winter a season you resist or relish? What do you give thanks for in Winter?



January 12, 2017

Guest Post by Dayna Mazzuca

Baby, it’s cold outside! I sing to keep my spirits up, after moving from semi-sunny Victoria to frozen through and through Edmonton! Brrrr. But then… then I brave up! And walk—bundled to the hilt of course, and dressed from head to toe for blizzard conditions (my kids say I look like a big marshmallow!). I walk around the neighbourhood and drink in the view through the bare branched trees. So bare and vulnerable, yet strong and sure in the winter. Now and then covered in hoarfrost, they take my breath away.

Sometimes I venture down to river’s edge and stroll (my hubby calls it speed-walking!) along a snowy path lined by trees filled with ravens and chickadees and bird feeders fashioned from milk cartons. I watch the ice take over the river—ALMOST—there always seems to be one open-water spot. I watch braver people than me jog past. I watch dads pull small red-cheeked bundles on sleds. I watch winter.

WINTER IS A SEASON OF LOW, SLOW STIMULATION. Deep breaths. Awesome beauty. Frozen hands and chilly toes and keeping each other warm at night. Guilt-free hot chocolate and long lazy afternoons curled up with a good book. Winter sits and waits… sits and waits. Like a field left fallow. A to-do list tossed in the fire. It brings the luxury of forgetfulness. Of full-throated complaint. Of shared misery. And so much silence.

This morning I was THANKFUL, on my walk bundled to the hilt, to think how the things that feed the soul are not the things the world offers. Boredom. Silence. Shared misery. Breathtaking moments watching ice gather along the edges of a river. A foot massage. The list goes on for as long as my speedy stroll on this extra cold time of the year lasts, and then I hear a word from God. He reminds me of what Jesus told Peter in a season of waiting… “Feed my sheep,” he said. “Feed my sheep.”

And I felt a new thing RISING UP, I sensed that to feed the soul, to extol the things that matter to us most—underneath all our layers of comfort and warmth—was partly what the Lord meant. To feed his sheep is to feed the soul: to remind each other not to fear, that even in the tougher, colder, leaner times, God is in the details as much as He is in the cosmic plan for our life.

As we wait—often for sunnier, warmer weather and times—we absorb deeper lessons that can’t be learned in the jostle and hum of summer. Jesus got his disciples alone to unpack the future; to tell them what trials awaited them in Jerusalem, and what triumph lay just beyond. By learning to trust the details, even the detail of waiting, they learned to trust the bigger plan. To trust God—in winter.