Day 40 – God speaks

It’s early in the morning.  I got up specifically to write this post out of a mix of obligation and inspiration (oblispiration?).  Those are the times when you wake up and say to yourself, You should probably write this down.

Of course I had to check Twitter first and was encouraged to get off Twitter and back to the blog by Anne Lamott‘s 140-character plea to, Seize and steal time to write, however & wherever you can–it’s a debt of honor.

There is something about this compulsion to write.  It’s so strange how God places this fervor in you to observe the world around you  and then find words for what you see.  It’s a bit of a madness. For instance, while J-M and the girls were planning what is to be a fun-filled long weekend, complete with beach days, BBQs and baseball, I was thinking to myself, I sure hope I get time to write.  Where oh where was this drive in high school English?

And to those who checked in yesterday, I’m sorry I didn’t post on Day 40.  My excuse is that Day 40 had to happen first before I “reported back.”  But the truth is, my family hijacked my plans and took me out to have fun instead.  I’m not complaining, just redirecting the blame.

So allow to me recap. I’ve been praying for direction consistently for 40 days.  During those 40 days, I have not eaten after 2 p.m., except for Fridays and three cheats celebration dinners. An undefined, but persistent desire to go deeper in ministry is what drove me to this fast, hoping to hear exactly what the “deeper in ministry” part was to look like.

I am happy to say that God was faithful and answered my prayers.

I didn’t write that sentence easily. I want to be sure I’m not conjuring up a “happy ending” to this fast, something to please me and you that this was worth the effort.  Of course it was, in a kajillion ways, but  I would not say God sent lightning bolts from the sky or a great heavenly finger to write on my kitchen wall.  In any case, I don’t believe he speaks that way.  If he had sent the finger, I might, in my sinfulness, ask him why then he hasn’t spoken up more about my Dad’s MS or a friend’s heartache or poverty and all the injustice in the world?

I believe God does speak clearly, consistently and powerfully.  He speaks through scripture, his word, which is a plumb line for discerning his will in this life and the next.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature…. (1 Peter 1:3-4)

I encourage you to read the rest of that, about how we can increase our participation in that divine nature. Amazing, spine-tingling stuff.

A word should also be said here about handling scripture with reverence, in the company of believers, guided by the Holy Spirit.  But in short, we have access to God’s answers for all our questions.

God also speaks through others and this has been my experience throughout this fast.  I have been given tons of advice and encouragement – some conflicting!  Again, I returned to scripture to measure the words I received.  If they line up with what scripture says,  I accept – and wholeheartedly.  And God bless you for saying so!

Throughout the fast, God spoke clearly, like portions of food, replacing what I wasn’t physically eating. I received his word in bits and pieces.  Every bite from him was full of spiritual nourishment established by the peace he gave me when I digested it.

For my questions, I received the answers either no/not yet or keep going.

Let me start with the no/not yet.

God has made it very clear to me that “deeper into ministry” does not mean bigger.  I’d had some suggestions from people, that perhaps my role was being broadened from just working within my congregation to ministering on a larger scale with an outreach to others beyond our church.   I don’t doubt that God can move in mysterious ways and use the things one does on a small scale to reach out to others in areas or ways you could never anticipate.  But to change my focus at this time is out of the question.

First of all, I am very green – I have spent just one year leading the women of our church – this ministry alone extends my abilities to the max.  Beyond this, is the focus of our ministry.  Over the past year we’ve been purposeful about getting away from the common trappings of women’s ministry (fundraisers and friendly gossip, to name a couple).  We’ve been diligent to make sure that our focus is to grow closer to Jesus and to each other.  For the upcoming year, I believe we are to add to that by reaching out to others in our community.  That means finding the lonely, the needy, the desperate who hide behind closed doors, in our own neighbourhood.  I think it’s all this growing closer to Jesus business.  We’ve found out that’s where he’s always heading and we want to go with him.  This call is clear and so my personal pursuits cannot be any different.  I’m staying local.

As for the keep going message:

I have received an overwhelming response to this blog in the past 40 days.  No one would say that I write well – and neither would I –  but what joy to hear from others that they have been moved, challenged, affected, or convicted by something I’ve written!  I am not deceived – I may have a specific demographic who doesn’t mind the frivolous chit-chat mixed in with an exhortation, and a couple of typos for good measure.  But the few who respond to it, who see Jesus in it? Well that means this madness isn’t for nothing.  It’s for something.

To be clear, I do not wish to “be published” other than to click that button on the blog, but just to be faithful to write it all down.

I have the additional blessing of being paid to write.  My position as Social Media Journalist (decoded: blogger) for the Free Methodist Church in Canada, although part-time, is a huge privilege.  I want to fill the parameters I’ve been given to full capacity, “Telling our Stories” about God’s faithfulness within our churches.

Another part of the keep going message is my being available.  I love that I have been able to offer my time for what would otherwise be considered interruptions.  What a gift to know that when someone wants to go for coffee to chat, I can say yes, how about today!  Or if someone wants to meet to pray, yes, how about right now!  I have able to volunteer at a friend’s store for a few days over the past two weeks because she really needed the help.  I have been able to do stand up for another friend’s impromptu wedding.  If God can use me during this time of unemployment, I will not say no to that.

I will write more about this 40-day experience. For one, what about this problem of bringing home a regular wage?  Just a quick preview on this – Mom’s wise words that if God calls you to something, he will certainly provide the means to fulfill your calling.  We’ve known that well in our lives before, and I claim it now.  You can be praying for J-M to be receptive to this also.  His suggestion?  To add a “Donate Now” button to this blog.  Also to my t-shirt.

There has been so much jam-packed into the last 40 days.  I’ve been looking through my journal, comments and e-mails from others received since May 22 when this all started.  The picture is clear.  God speaks through all of it.

Word on the Street – Part II

Hard to believe that less than a week ago we were experiencing a snow storm and today the whole world is baring their pasty legs and BBQing their dinner.

Since my foray into said snow storm to check out our downtown (why didn’t I wait just one week?), I’ve since heard from other concerned Barrie citizens about why it isn’t thriving, including but not limited to the following reasons:

  • dirty
  • poor parking
  • expensive parking
  • expensive merchandise
  • unsafe
  • high turnover of stores
  • hard to find what you want

My fav comment of Word on the Street – Part I was from Rebekah Ferguson who said our downtown has a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality.

I would agree with every one of these comments. But there’s more to it than just the negative stuff.  There are some really great spots and it would be great to support those stores we do like downtown, that do not fit into the descriptors above.  Is it possible that patron-power can combat some of these problems?

Here are the places I visited last week.

MacLaren Art Centre

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time going into an art gallery without thinking how lovely the art would look on my walls.  Wouldn’t you know it, Maclaren is displaying all the art for their Benefactor Art Exchange.  This is an opportunity to borrow REAL art through a payment plan (which is tax deductible).  The program is so great for local artists to get their art out there and in homes (if you love the piece you’ve borrowed for a year, you have an option to purchase it).  I heard today that only 10% of the proceeds are kept by Maclaren.  The rest goes to the artists!

Most of the pieces are gorgeous.  Some are absolutely hideous.  They tell me it’s all art.

Simply Tea & Chocolate

I don’t love the name, but I do enjoy this little tea shop.  They teach you how to drink tea.  They have over 75 flavours of tea to choose from, but my favourite, and their most popular, is the Raspberry Champagne white tea.  It’s as rich as it sounds.  My love for this flavour made me buy a special tea pot to brew it in some time ago and I always go back for refills and some more tea training.

I often run into familiar faces at Simply Tea, which will always make me want to come back.

The downfall of this place is the unfortunate view out their window.  In the summer, you can see the whole bay… and the Hooter girls who serve customers on the balcony outside.

Page & Turners

I love Chapters, but I want to love somewhere else. I want to be a loyal shopper at an independent bookstore, somewhere to hang out and share the love of books with other book lovers.  And I wanted Page & Turners to be that place.  They have the structure for it: an old building, leather chairs, big bookcases.  What they do not have – or didn’t have today – is customer service, a friendly guy behind the counter. There is a guy, but he was on the computer and I suppose he was letting me browse as book lovers are wont to do.  The book shelves were empty, many books faced out I presume to take up space.  I purchased a book and got an arbitrary 10% off.  The guy didn’t explain why and I suddenly felt too lazy to ask.  This is not the place I will love.  Not today.

Update: Just got the word that Page & Turners will be closing its doors this month.  Not enough business.  Hard to know why, but I could take a guess.

My Paris Apartment

Heard some good things about this place, so I thought I’d check it out.  Another guy on a computer behind a desk.  I’m not a huge fan of antiques, but there were some nice pieces in there.  At least the prices made me think they were nice.  The way they were set up felt like they’d just been dropped off and were about to be picked up.  No information was offered about the antiques.  I could have become interested in a couple lamps in there, but they’d need work.  Most of their furniture needed work. They’re called “Project Pieces” for just such a reason – but I had to look that up on the internet for find that out.    I am not a Do-It-Yourselfer and I have a few unfinished projects of my own in the garage to prove it.  Shabby chic-ers should check this place out.

Our House

Our House is jam-packed with great gift ideas, including jewellery, candle-holders, kitchen gadgets, dinnerware, clothing accessories, and bath and beauty products. And what’s this? It’s also jam-packed with people!  It was all abuzz when I ducked into the store to get out of the snow storm.  I had to ask if it was always like this.  Yes, always.  Ever any slow times?  Never.  And they’ve been around for 18 years!  While I was there, I watched a woman spend $250 on a Pandora charm and figured they were “making the rent” pretty easily.

Red Tulip #2

Red Tulip recently relocated to the South End, but have kept a small boutique on Dunlop Street East.   In fact, this store is Red Tulip #2.  When the sales clerk suggested I check out their store in the South End, I wasn’t sure why. Because I was already right there. In her store. Downtown.

I kinda like that although she was microwaving her lunch when I came in, she refused to eat it in front of me.  She insisted on giving me her undivided attention and even filled me in on the neighbourhood goings-on.  Here’s the scoop:

  • Sobey’s is going into the Foodland Location at the corner of Collier and Mulcaster.
  • Zest left because of personal reasons not because business wasn’t good.
  • Paper Merchant left possibly because it’s a specialty store and people aren’t using paper anymore.
  • A downtown business can be quaint, but it’s a lot of hard work.

She also assumed that parking was the biggest barrier for customers.  I almost agreed with her till I eyed a shirt for $175.  Does our downtown have the clientele to buy clothing at these prices?  If you appreciate the customer service, it might be worth it to you to pay extra.  But if you hate the parking, you can always go to the South End!

With the sales clerk’s help, I did find a t-shirt in my price range, which she called as “cheap as chips.”


Lakeshore mews is a little road that runs behind Dunlop Street, which once again is unfortunately landmarked by being across the way from Hooters.

Awkward Stage describes itself as “an environmentally conscious clothing design house.  Nostalgic with a modern twist, the line captures the imagination of art nerds and pin up girls alike.”  Alana, owner and operator, is the “Queen of all, maker of things.”

I bought a dress from here last year in the summer.  So perfectly pretty, made out of retro bed sheets.  I was wearing it one day and my mom asked me where I bought it.  I said “Awkward Stage.” My mom thought I was referring to the fit of the dress and said, “Don’t worry, just lose 5 lbs. and it will fit better!”

The place felt empty last week during the snow storm, but I’ve seen it full of clothes and people.  A friend had an art show in their small gallery.  I felt cool just to be there.  I’ll feel cool in that dress once I get out of my awkward stage.

Le Petit Chapeau

Why don’t I wear more hats? I wondered when I walked into Le Petit Chapeau.  There’s romance to it.  And the woman does beautiful work. This milliner has a special kind of snobbery which is the impetus for her success.  Admitting to how-could-you-leave-your-house-like-that!? inspiration for her work, proven by a recent blog where she wrote four long paragraphs of the atrocities people wear when they go out in public (i.e, jogging pants to a bridal show).

While there, I tried to figure out how to get invited to an occasion that would allow me to wear one of her cocktail hats.

The magic is where the hats reside.  I didn’t feel as compelled to own one once I left.  But I did feel that I should dress up a little more.

Since that day, I’ve been back downtown twice, where I went to The Magpie Bead Co., back to Simply Tea & Chocolate and checked out Anchique, the already done shabby chic decor store, which took over the lease where Zest was.  Highly recommend all three.

On my downtown TO DO list for another day:  Absolutely Fabulous – Upscale Consignment store and Old Forester Book Store – maybe THIS will be the book store I’ll love?

What do you love about Barrie’s Downtown?

This article, Buying Local:  How It Boosts the Economy, has great suggestions that anyone can put into practice.  We are buying more than a product when we buy local.

The church is not the gym

I hate it when people leave our church. It breaks my heart. They have their reasons, and a broad range of them, which I’m forced to acknowledge and accept. But it means our fellowship is broken. It means I don’t get to see them. It means they are removing themselves from our care. I wonder if I could have done more to keep them with us. I just hate it.

A light bulb went on for me recently when I realized that some people have not actually left. They just aren’t coming! If you can imagine, this got me excited!

And then concerned. Because why aren’t they coming? This is when you hear the excuses instead of the reasons.

The other day I ran into someone at the mall who said:

It has been a while since I came to church. I really should come out. It’s just that it’s hard in the winter to get up early in the morning.

Might I also say that I did not ask why they hadn’t been at church. I’ve stopped asking. Not because I don’t miss them, but because they say things like this.

I give this person credit for her painful honesty. But what made her think that this is an acceptable thing to say, to me, someone who wakes up on Sunday mornings in the winter? I’m not being self-righteous, it’s the truth of it, certainly as a Pastor’s Wife.

No, this is something someone would say to their personal trainer… A-ha! People treat going to church like going to the gym!  They know they should go. They know it’s healthy for them. They know that if they are disciplined about going, they’ll see changes–Stop. Just stop. The church is not the gym.

Ironically, we meet in a gym. Make that a gymnatorium. Which defines as:

The most craptastic multi use performance space in the world… second only to the cafegymnatorium… When you see a gymnatorium you know your day will suck.

I hope you pulled out the operative word “multi use.”

Yes, we have basketball nets, floors with shock absorption, poor acoustics, zero ambiance… and you can play volleyball on Monday nights where you worship on Sunday mornings. But that’s too obvious. I believe other churches with wooden pews, pipe organs, and stained glass windows hear excuses like this as well, “My bed is too comfy.”

We do a different kind of body-building at church. We, collectively, you who attend and you who believe while you sleep, are called the Body of Christ.

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)

When you stop attending, you miss out in one of the greatest blessings: doing life together. Having your people in your corner when you are in pain and celebrating your victories. That’s the benefit.

If the cozy family vibe doesn’t getcha, how about this? What about the call?

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. (Romans 7:4)

…so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:5)

We belong to Christ and each other. To clarify, this is not an “assimilation” type of belonging. (I may have to do another post called The Church is not The Borg.)

Just for kicks, I referenced again for the word “belong.” And like gymnatorium, they hit the nail on the head:

loving someone as much as your life.

Perhaps we’ve forgotten that whomever belongs to us should mean the most to us and vice versa. God proved this by literally giving up his life out of love for us. But we can’t get out of bed.

Let me clear, this isn’t about rules or points for perfect attendance. It will not be necessary for you to swipe your membership card at the door. God designed the Body*, so that we would love one another, build one another up, work together for the benefit of his Kingdom, to know what it is to be a part of something infinitely greater than we are on our own. Sunday mornings are a regular opportunity to get in on that. If we understood the call and the blessing of belonging, we would want to do this as frequently as possible.

*How and why God designed us to be the Body of Christ… is worthy of a proper Bible study. Do a word search for “Body of Christ” at to learn more about who you are and where you belong.

Through the snow

I knew I would have to get up early to shovel.  Weather reports yesterday had said to expect snow squalls and up to 15 cm accumulation.  Really, though, that means nothing to me.  John-Mark manages the snow removal department in our family.  If it wasn’t for the fact that he’s in Ghana for two weeks on a mission trip, I would just anticipate a prettier view out my kitchen window.

Today I’ve learned that up to 15 cm  is snow above your knees when you open your door to the world outside.  Up to 15 cm means visible shock as you process what it would take to physically move the snow to hit asphalt.  Up to 15 cm means hoping you can remember where the shovel is and how to run the snow blower on your own.  Up to 15 cm also means a whoop from the kids as they grab their snow gear and run outside ahead of you.  Apparently up to 15 cm forecast turned into 30-40 cm reality.

It was lonely at dawn, out on my driveway.  The road, normally busy, was still asleep.  After I figured out it needed to be plugged in to work, our snow blower broke the silence with a pathetic whirr.  The thing is made out of tin cans and cannot even get through the first layer without high-pitched whining.

I tried to remember John-Mark’s instructions to me.  Think of the driveway as a rib cage.  Make the spine down the middle and then extend the ribs out to one side and then the other.  One rib at a time.  That’s right.

I pushed and shoved and heaved our little snowblower to make a squiggly spine and yelled at my daughter to grab a shovel. We’re gonna be here a while.

Neighbours started showing up, dotting the road.  I don’t know my neighbours well. I’ve always blamed the traffic for that.  But there’s something about a shared burden that can draw a friendly wave from four doors down, or a shrug from across the way.  Hands cupped to yell, “Can you believe this?!” from a person whose name you don’t know.

As more and more folks made their way out of hibernation, the street scene became jovial.  We laughed between grunts as we worked and somehow this was becoming fun.  There was victorious “right on!” when someone found the sidewalk.

An hour or so of shoveling and whirring, people retreated indoors.   A few doors down, across the way, a truck pulled up to the driveway.  I’d never met those neighbours and it looked like I wouldn’t today.  A maintenance service, three men pulled out two massive snowblowers and a shovel.  Within 10 minutes, the driveway was finished and they were gone.  Those of us who remained looked a little dejected.

I started to think, I could finish this later, right?  I could take a break.  I could race my car through the chunk at the end if I had to get out?  Vehicle ramming was the precisely the way we dealt with snow in our first year of marriage. I could relive the good old days when we couldn’t afford a shovel.

My next door neighbour was the last to arrive on the scene.  He pulled out his beast of a snowblower, twice the size of mine.  He walked right over. Before even starting his driveway, he finished mine.  I kept yelling, Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! at him over the roar of his snow blower’s engine.  He eventually ignored me.

Another neighbour said we’re expecting 15 cm of snow tonight again.  I now know exactly what to expect.