All posts by JM

Preparing for Lent 2018

Lent image.jpg

This year Lent begins on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2018. If feels like Christmas just barely ended and now we are on to the second half of the wonderful story of God’s love for us all.

There is a misconception that Lent is only for Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, however, I am pleased to inform everyone that Lent is celebrated and observed by believers from a variety of denominations.

Every year I make it clear to people that Lent is not about punishing yourself or making yourself miserable for 40 days. Lent is about joining Jesus in the desert to grow closer to God. Lent is an active way to remember that we are dependent on God for our spiritual strength and that despite having an abundance of material goods, nothing can satisfy our souls except God.

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.” Luke 4: 1-4

Jesus was never alone during those 40 days, the spirit of God was with him. When we struggle it may feel as if God is absent, and the lies we tell ourselves may lead to the belief that God has abandoned us, but that is not the nature of our Lord, he is with us always. The feeling of absence is called emotional and spiritual pain.

God doesn’t test us and we are told not to test him (Luke 4:7). “Testing” others is a form of manipulation and this type of behaviour has no place in a relationship, especially the one we have with God.

In the desert Jesus shows us how to respond to temptations and anything that enters our lives that threatens to remove God from being the most important in our lives; he shows us to respond with truth and the word of God.

For Lent 2018 I will be reading Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, by Trish Harrison Warren. I chose this book because I wanted to learn to be present to the presence of God in my daily, ordinary activities and interactions. And, if you’re wondering what I’m “giving up” for Lent, the answer is nothing. I decided that the words and obsession with “giving up” can easily lead us to focus too much on accomplishing a habitual goal instead of the spiritual experience of gaining a deeper relationship with God. During Lent I will intentionally engage in prayer walks. Walking is something I find deeply meditative and calming. I haven’t been walking much lately and I can see how it has affected my spiritual disciplines and prayer life. Winters in northern Canada can be brutal, and this year we’ve had a lot of snow, and this has been my reason for not doing much walking.

For those 40 days I will be doing daily prayer walks. What I’ve “given up” is idle time that is often spent on Netflix, going to the fridge or cupboard for snacks, Facebooking, or other activities that aren’t adding much to my life. The idea of Lent isn’t to give up things that are sinful or unhealthy for you (these things are best given up forever, not for a mere 40 days). The goal is to engage in increased prayer, reflection, and charitable giving or works.

However you chose to celebrate the love and redemption that God gives us, my hope is that it will bring you closer to him and provide a deeper understanding of the power and strength provided to us by his Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

Oppression Olympics: Keep It Out of the Church

Oppression Olympics in its simplest definition is when marginalized groups or individuals try to one up another person or group who is also marginalized.

It can sound something like the following:

“I always vote. My grandparents were denied voting rights because they were Asian American; I don’t take the right to vote for granted.”

“Well my great grand parents had to live through the holocaust.”

“You think that’s bad, I’m Native American and we had our land stolen from us.”

“At least you’re a male, I’m female and we only represent…”

STOP!

oppression olympics quote

I was recently in a course on with a woman who was incredibly competitive with others in the classroom. Part of our assignment was to tell OUR OWN story. We were each assigned 20 minutes to share the story of our journey of faith and spiritual growth. We each respected the lived experience of our classmates except for one person who used the course to engage in oppression Olympics. Unfortunately for her, none of us were interested in competing. We all gladly gave her the Gold, Silver, and Bronze.

intersectionality-is-real.jpg

As Christians it’s important to remember that suffering, oppression, selfishness, and harm against people is a part of the sinful world in which we live. God is not a judge holding up the score cards with 1 -10, rating us on a scale of least to most oppressed. If we care about more than ourselves we will listen to the narratives of others. It is not possible to listen and compete at the same time. If you are listening you won’t be able to keep score, you will be too busy being present.

It can be draining when so many people and groups are all claiming to be the most oppressed and when there are so many people demanding this and that, some of which can be accommodated while others cannot. We easily become overwhelmed with those who are shouting the loudest trying to be heard by law makers; afraid by all the angry protesters who are letting the world know they won’t back down, or dizzy and cross eyed from reading all the handmade signs with witty phrases about various causes.

I wish that no one was marginalized or oppressed, but that is not possible. I am a woman who is both marginalized and oppressed in a variety of ways by the dominant culture where I live; but I am not the only one who has a story to tell and demands justice. I’m not interested in trying out for the oppression Olympics. I am only interested in ensuring that institutional laws and policies do not continue to discriminate and oppress people.

If people are willing to stop competing and instead listen to what others are sharing, we will be able to recognize the needs of other groups. Competition among humans is what leads to division. When we listen to others wholeheartedly we will replace competition with compassion.

God didn’t call us to compete, he called us to care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Blog: New Year, New Name

 

I decided that for 2018 I would change the name of my blog from God, Faith, & Fitness to Feathers for Your Journey.

When I started this blog four years ago my interests were in losing weight, becoming healthier, and doing so while integrating my faith. After a short amount of time I realized I didn’t enjoy writing about fitness or weight loss, but for whatever reason I kept going and with each passing year I contributed less   posts to this blog.

In 2017 I was happy to go an entire year for the first time in several years without having to go for physical therapy, my pain remained, but it had decreased significantly, and I managed to lose some weight and keep it off (so far). I think 2017 was more successful for me in this area because I didn’t focus on weight loss, food, exercise. I turned to meditation and mindfulness and I believe this helped significantly.

I kept daily reminders to eat healthy posted within sight (in my day planner, on my phone), I was mindful of what I was eating, and regular (not strenuous) physical activity was based on things I enjoy. I decided I wanted my blog to focus on life, learning, and goals without being too narrow and specific.

I discovered the word ‘novaturient’ today; it is when you desire or seek powerful changes in your life, your behaviour, or situation. I learned that I lived in a novaturient manner during 2017. I listed the things I wanted to change, achieve, and eliminate for that year. The best that we can do in life is live with intention without being so goal oriented that you prevent yourself from being flexible. There will be times when your goals have to be altered, eliminated, or put on the back burner for a while.

There is another word I recently learned, it is ‘meraki’ [mey-rah-kee]; it means to do something with creativity, soul, or love. It is the act of putting a part of yourself into whatever it is you are doing.  I realized by the end of 2017 that I had lived with novaturient and meraki in my life. Not everything went as planned, but I was able to grow from unexpected changes and opportunities because I did things with meraki.

Three weeks into 2018 and time feels like it has flown by quickly. I won’t encourage you to make new year’s resolutions; I don’t believe in them. However, I will encourage you to live intentionally this year.

What values are most important to you?

What are your goals and desires?

Who are the kind of people you want closest to you? Who are those you want to spend most of your time with outside of work?

What does money and material items mean to you and how important are both of these in your life?

These are questions we can ask our self any time throughout the year. It’s important to check in with ourselves regularly not only during holidays, birthdays, and tragedies.

However you choose to live in 2018, I wish you all a year filled with pleasant surprises, blessings, spiritual growth, and success.

At Christmas, Free Time is Precious

The Christmas season involves a lot of food, not just any food, but good food! Plenty of drinks, lots of baked goods, and appetizers galore.

I can’t complain about the abundance of food, I enjoy it as much as the next person. I enjoy consuming these festive treats, but I certainly don’t enjoy making them. I, like many other people in my age group and demographic, are more likely to purchase ready made goods rather than make them at home.

Photo by: Helen C athcart

I enjoyed making apple cider this year, but I cheated. I started off wanting to make it from scratch, but the recipes seemed time intensive. Who knew making a beverage could take so much time and so many apples? I decided that my free time was more important than the end product. I have a feeling there are others who feel a similar way.

I believe food is absolutely necessary at any Christmas get together or function, no food, no fun. Others would argue that alcohol is necessary as well, but I don’t drink, so I will peacefully disagree on that point.

All this to say; don’t feel pressure to make home made goods for holiday parties. If it is less stressful for you to go into a bakery or grocery store and walk out with everything already prepared, then go for it! After too many stressful holiday seasons trying to fit in festive events, I learned that I enjoy Christmas much more when I’m not having to spend too much time in the kitchen.

I have to continue watching how much I eat because all my weight loss and discipline can be easily lost to the mindless eating that occurs when hanging out with others. I intentionally make an effort to bring healthier treats and food to gatherings. The last thing I want to do is waste mental space worrying about how much I’m eating and what I’m eating. If food consumption matters that much to you, bring some tasty fruit and vegetable dishes to potlucks; there will always be people who want healthier options as well.

My desire to save time by purchasing ready made items extends to crafts and decorations as well. If making hand made Christmas decorations doesn’t appeal to you, there are plenty of department stores selling items to suit every taste. I eventually got rid of my Christmas crafts board on Pinterest, it was too tempting. They were great to look at, awful to make. If craft making leads to frustration, then give it up. Again, the idea is to make the best use of your free time and energy.

As a child I remember stringing popcorn for the tree. It was a fun activity as a child, but as an adult, I know that I’d rather eat the popcorn. What I find more exciting is going out and purchasing decorations. I save both time and money as well.

Don’t forget to have fun during the holidays. Time is precious and vacations at Christmas is short for most of us. Allow that time to be restful, fun, and fulfilling; only you can define what that is.