Elevator Conversation

He joined me in the elevator this morning. He was Black.
 
A Black man and a white woman riding an elevator, particularly in our multi-ethnic neighbourhood, is a non-event, as it should be. Certainly, there’s the common elevator awkwardness of spending 30 seconds with a stranger in what is essentially a closet, add to that COVID-19 restrictions that now only allow two people on at a time. But otherwise an everyday benign occurrence.
 
Given the recent and rampant news of racism in the States, this ride makes me notice and wonder about him.
 
It took me that full 30 seconds of making our way silently to the ground floor together to work up my courage. “May I ask you something? How are you doing with the recent news of George Floyd?”
 
I held my breath as I witnessed him navigate the tricky waters of figuring out my intentions.
 
My own lack of sensitivity made me tear up for the position I’d put him in, that I would bring up the news that would highlight our differences and put him in the hot seat to answer.
 
As much as I’ve come to welcome what I call this “gift of tears,” which springs up most often out of empathy or gratitude, I felt really stupid in that moment. It was a release, I suppose, of tension and sorrow for how the divide between black and white communities is magnified, how wariness is brought into relationships with friends and encounters with strangers.
 
And then, bless his heart, he started consoling me. I mean, this was not my intention at all.
 
We left the elevator together and stood in the lobby for a while longer as he graciously shared how he was doing.
 
“It was intensely painful to witness. I take it personally. I am grieving for my people, for the racism that is in the US and here too. There is no comprehending it, but it is a warning to all of us and requires our participation. We have to work against it. We can’t let this come between us.”
 
He asked my name and told me his. Nick.
 
For #GeorgeFloyd for #Nick, we must keep working to bridge the divide. A good place to start is in the elevator.

Easy to judge, hard to love

It must be that judging others comes naturally to us as humans, or perhaps is a habit easily acquired. Because it is no work to judge someone else, really. It is so simple and effortless, we can do it sitting down. We can even judge others without personally engaging with the subject matter or people involved. We can do it without research! It only takes a headline to brew our heated condemnation.

When I’ve judged others, I’ve felt like I’ve worked, though. I’ve felt good about the “balance” I’ve set aright with my views. I’ve felt justified in my dismissals. I’ve felt the emotional rush of my well-crafted opinions. Yes, there is satisfaction in judging others that would lead me to believe I have accomplished work. But I shouldn’t be deceived that there are rewards that extend beyond my own gratification. Truthfully, even those are fake rewards – a deception that breeds destruction.

The true rewards come when I open my heart to others, when I love first instead of judge, when I engage in a posture of grace. This is no easy habit, but it is worthy work.

I was reminded of this when I read an old Facebook status of mine posted 8 years ago, a quote from Deitrich Bonhoeffer. It struck me then and fresh again today.

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others, we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as ourselves.

Lord, help us love.

Ask

Ask.

It’s such a small word and, on the face of it, so simple.

In the gospels, Jesus tells his followers to ask. And he doesn’t say it just once.

Ask for provision. Ask for help. Ask and it will be given to you.

The promise of ASK is that you will RECEIVE.

You almost get the impression that Jesus wants to answer our prayers!

I have over the years, but more purposefully lately, put this small word – ask – to the test, to take up Jesus’ offer. I’m trusting him that this isn’t a mind game. He isn’t holding out the carrot just so I’ll pull the cart.

To ask is to trust. I want to trust the Lord. I will ask.

Though I’ve had increased eagerness to ask, I’ve also been surprised to find within me a resistance to asking – a desire to say instead, I’ve got this one, or this doesn’t require God’s attention, or I don’t want to…

I’ve needed help and instead of asking, I’ve chosen to worry, I’ve chosen to wallow. How strange.

I’m not sure what the barrier is to getting to the asking, but now I’ve got the word written big on my wall and in my heart: ASK.

I’ve been asking.

And I’ve discovered a few important things:

  1. The first is that the Lord cares about the minutiae. I have very specifically asked and the Lord has very specifically met my needs, ranging from a just affordable car repair and a surprise financial gift to cover the rest, a healed and healing friendship, plus inner peace, joy and increased faith, to name a select few. This is uniquely thrilling to consider that the Almighty God is so intimately aware of our needs and ready to meet them.

    Let me clarify, this is no prosperity gospel. This is not a get rich scheme. The Lord gives us [more than] enough – a sustainability of life and faith.

  2. The second is that I have sensed more than ever the Lord’s closeness. To ask is to acknowledge that he’s within earshot. Even closer! He’s hears our heart-whisper. He interprets our groaning. He reads my journal! That’s OK, I’ve asked him to. Even the instant peace of placing our circumstances in his hand is a beautiful answer to prayer because it is to know he is close.
  3. Asking also means that you necessarily have to let go of pride. If you’re not asking then you must believe that you do not need to. This is the wandering we are prone to.

    In the gospels, even the skeptics asked Jesus questions, though they had the wrong motives and evil intent. Jesus still answered. He still offered a worthy challenge, a beautiful nugget of truth even as he acknowledged their hardened hearts.

    Eventually, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, those who should have known him best, being unable to trap him nor to receive the life-giving truth he offered, STOPPED ASKING. Matthew 22:45 is, to me, one of the most heart-breaking verses in the Bible, “…from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.”

  4. If you ask questions of the Lord, he will ask questions right back. Your faith with be tested by what he asks of you. Because this is not a one-sided relationship. The purpose of the exercise is not to “receive a sign” to make Jesus prove himself to you – as if he needs to #clapback – but to ask in faith believing in the Lord’s love for you and power to answer.

Do not be afraid to ask. Take Jesus at his word. Ask and you will receive. Don’t stop asking. Keep asking. Ask. Just ask.

Going Grey – The End of a 2-Year Experiment

Yesterday, royal watchers celebrated the 63rd anniversary of the Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. 63 years ago, HMQ first took her oath to uphold the laws of England and of God and to profess the true gospel. Then a crown was placed on her head, symbolising the  honour and authority bestowed upon her.

Today, there’s another, less famous celebration of a crown of another sort, the second anniversary of growing out my grey hair. It all started with a tenacious little Bible verse that I couldn’t get out of my head.

Grey hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.
Proverbs 16:31 (NIV)

I wondered what I was missing by covering a physical trait that the Bible deemed honourable. I decided to carry out a two-year experiment to understand better both our cultural views and Biblical truth about grey hair by growing out mine.  Continue reading

Beauty: The Bigger Story

Very grateful to Cheryl Weber and 100 Huntley Street for taking a moment to talk beauty – just a piece of “The Bigger Story.”  Capture

I’m trusting that the message would reach the hearts of those who need to hear it, that it would be a stepping stone to freedom from many women. We all have beauty stories. I’m taking a guess here, but they probably contain brokenness, hurt or confusion. Let God transform your story and find healing.

New Year’s Eve Self-Talk

New Year’s Eve always involves a little self-talk. This is me talking to me and maybe to you too.

At 42, I’ve had enough life experience to tell me that it’s not worth chasing the high you’re deciding on tonight, which is intended to last throughout 2016. Here’s the sober truth: fat can’t be flushed, regrets won’t disappear, the lottery won’t make you rich, s/he is not the answer to your problems. Even as I speak it, I know there’s a “but” in there… This year I’m getting rid of the “but.” (By all means, enjoy that play on words!) Continue reading

Faith like Olu (Part II) – in a word

Olu, our Nigerian friend, the refugee, changed his Whatsapp profile picture.

Take that, Justin Trudeau.

Olu recently started to ask for something. Have I heard about any jobs? Do I know of any work? Can we put the word out for him? Olu is hard-working, excellent in customer service, energetic, a go-getter, a quick learner… He doesn’t need to convince me, I’m sold. Except I have no leads, I have no contacts, I’m new to Toronto myself. I don’t even know where to direct him. Continue reading