A Lovely Little World

Adventures in Southern Ontario

Tag: Faith

Bleeding Heart

I’ve been thinking about why I’m a “bleeding heart” and I realized its because I want the world to exist in that idealistic way. I want a world where love is the norm, where we are consistently kind and thoughtful to each other. I want a world where we help the poor and needy or even more than that, where there aren’t any poor or needy because hope has infected enough people that they help each other and grow themselves.

I want a world where there is NO war, not holy wars or righteous wars or wars for democracy or war to free people, NO WARS!

And I only see the world heading in that direction through bleeding hearts and people who demonstrate radical love and peace and I’d rather err in being idealistic and naive and maybe something good happens than wallow in the cynicism I felt for so long. Cynicism about governments, love and mostly myself.

“It’s said that the biggest determinant of our lives is whether we see the world as welcoming or hostile. Each becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy”. – Gloria Steinem

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas time in the city

Tomorrow is the big day, Christmas Day! In fact, I suspect most people won’t be reading a blog post on Christmas Eve, but that’s okay. I’m writing it out for me anyway – sharing my thoughts this season, and a few of my favourite captures of the people and places I love, (starting with a few snaps from a family session with one of the best girls in the ENTIRE world).

Truthfully, this Christmas has been tough for me. It’s my favourite time of year normally, but some reason, this year single-dom hit me harder than other years.  Everyone around me is settling into relationships, and I’m just not. Not even close. All of that being said, things haven’t been all bad. I’ve realized how grateful I am for the friendships, family and support that I do have, and it dawned on me that if I had to trade all of that for a romantic relationship, I wouldn’t do it. I love my people far too much for that.  I stopped volunteering at the soup kitchen when I started my new job, and I still received presents from people there, which is almost too sweet for my heart to handle, seriously. I get to take photos (and hang out) with friends all the time. My co-workers are amazing, and the kind of people you know will be your friends for life. And I really love my Church.

I didn’t have a lot of time for Christmas adventures this year, but I still got in most of my Christmas movie favourites, and my friends who just got married, still had our annual Christmas movie night, only this year, they made a whole Christmas dinner, which was amazing. It was just on a work night this year, because all of our schedules have gotten so crazy.

The last few years, I’ve done all my shopping online and even though this year, I still did most of it that way, I went with Sarah, Joe and Katrina to pick up a few small things, and that felt really festive…. particularly because they dressed like deranged elves, just kidding guys.

And finally, the city is just so pretty at Christmas. Everything is festive. I didn’t even photograph most of it. Delivery truck drivers wear Santa hats, and formal offices look more playful with fairy lights. My favourite though, is balconies on apartment rises, decorated with colourful lights that you can see from faraway.

And I did make it to a Santa Clause parade, and any Dunnville parade is a treat for very unexpected reasons, (think Star Hollows or Pawnee) but that’s a post for another day.

Christmas reminds you that miracles happen all the time, and that’s something for which to be grateful.

Being Alone, even with faith

I haven’t been able to take much comfort from the assurance God will always be with me.

Lake Erie

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” – Hebrews 13:5 doesn’t have meaning when you feel like you’re on your own facing the challenges of daily life, or at the very least, that God is distant and His direct presence requires some kind of faith I don’t have.

Also, I kind of just want a husband and family of my own, so it’s hard to get peace out of the thought God is present when you want a flesh and blood human beside you.

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My dad died when I was seventeen, and I was grossly aware of his absence and how much I needed him still. At that time, I clung to God’s promise to be a father to the fatherless and although that thought provided temporary relief – it never sank deep enough into my soul to cause life altering change.  Plus what made me so special that God would see me as a prized daughter?

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And I’m not saying that I’ve since got it figured out. I just feel like if we could really grasp the intent of God’s heart, we wouldn’t ever feel alone.

We are alone because we don’t fully appreciate how present He is and use that to our advantage. We are alone because we don’t have a relationship with Him the way that the He offers. We keep Him “on high” instead of beside us.

Isaiah 45: 2 says “I will go before you and will level the mountains”, but instead of providing comfort, verses like “levelling mountains” that make me feel extra alone. Why doesn’t God level mountains for me? Only nothing even that massive, much smaller stuff.

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But I think he wants to.

I think God does want us to trust Him enough to turn to Him. He really is beside us every second. We don’t fully turn to Him because we don’t fully grasp it. God, THE GOD, is right there with you every second and you can turn to Him and talk to Him and He will LOVE it since that’s why He created you and He’ll help you and give you “hugs” in the sense of comfort and all that you need.

But somehow, you have to fully understand, to fully grasp, that you are not alone. And that thought may not make up for your lack of husband, but at least it makes the void smaller and the journey less lonely, and more than that, you can focus on being who are you are meant to be and the beauty all around you because you have to worry or feel pathetic or empty.

Some who’s love is perfect, who will never infringe or hurt you or steal your independence or take all your space is right there loving you. You are in the spiritual presence of the divine any second of any day and the possibilities for that are endless, not based on anything YOU can do, you just have to see it.

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The Garden of Proof

Springtime makes it difficult to feel negative about earth and humanity, at least for me.

We live in a world where flowers grow on trees and in the cracks of cement sidewalks and somehow I am supposed to believe that our world is somehow flawed? It’s hard to focus on “evil” when all you can see is the triumph of beauty over decay. It is true that humankind is determined to destroy all of this beauty, for gain and wealth and progress, and it’s good to remember that although nature and the earth can flourish without humans, we cannot progress without it.

God, as our creator envisioned a beautiful world for us, and made humans in his own image. It’s silly to believe that He didn’t design us (and our world) for good things. Even though we, in our own strength, our flawed and imperfect, that doesn’t mean we were designed to be evil or mean. We were created to be beautiful and to love and that’s what I see when I spend time in the garden. Dirt, dusty walkways, and fresh blooms growing towards the sunlight.

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On war and peace

In November, I was really forced to consider my views on war, as a Christian, but also just as a resident on planet earth… this is the what I wrote, but didn’t publish because of Remembrance Day and also because I didn’t want to offend people. I still don’t want to offend people, but hopefully by now they will have forgotten we had any conversations on the topic.

I vaguely remember the Gulf War. I had no real sense of how big the world was, and I thought perhaps it would come to our small Canadian town. My parents assured me “no”, and that was enough, because I was very dismayed I had missed the week we did pottery in art class as my dad had taken us to Nashville. By the time I was twelve, I had fully romanticized war in my mind. I thought one day I would be brave enough to enlist if I had too, but I knew that would never really happen. War was brutal and you might die, but fighting for freedom and all kinds of glorious ideals, what was more heroic than that? Remembrance Day just passed this week, and I wear a poppy proudly. I am not so naïve to believe that World War II could have been prevent in a non-violent way. I am not glorifying war, I am promoting peace, the very thing that I am convinced all those men and women who really saw the horrors of war, would want me to do. When we say we can’t glorify their heroics because war is evil, we are denying that we only even really know how evil war is, because they went through it. Historically, people have used violence to solve their problems. It’s only been since World War II that we’ve really even had enough peace in parts of the world to have the option to be anti-war. We can look back on all the brutally, and gore, and horror, and see clearly we don’t want to repeat that. Except that, a lot of people still justify war.

This is not any judgement on soldiers enlisted now. They have their convictions, and they are willing to stand up for their beliefs. It may even just be a job or a means for paying for education. My issue is with the larger society that condones war, without considering motives, and furthermore, justifies their inaction to stand for peace, with Christian rhetoric.

Matthew 25:6 says, “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen”. According to the circulating justification, the Bible says we have wars, so that’s that. The Old Testament is full of wars. Jesus is to lead Christians into one final battle with the devil in the end times. Wars are fought for religious freedom. We’re supposed to “defend the weak”. All of this, makes war sound okay, like God says, “yep, that’s the way life is, I’m saying okay to war when your intentions are good”.

Here’s me saying I completely, entirely disagree. I’m not even saying this based on my conviction Canada has no right to be in Afghanistan. Americans gave the Taliban money and weapons to fight the Soviets. They constantly finance the very dictators that are hurting “the weak”. If they feel they messed up (which definitely isn’t what they are saying), then they can have their war with the Taliban. Canada needs to stay faraway from that mess, but then again, I also don’t feel Christians should vote Conservative just because they’re conservative, so what do I know?

Anyway, here’s what I read in the Bible.

2 Corinthians 10:3 “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.”

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.”

James 3:18 “Peacemakers, who sow in peace, raise a harvest of righteousness.

Psalm 34:14 “Seek peace and pursue it.”

Psalm 122: 6 “Pray for the PEACE of Jerusalem”… wait? God instructs us to PRAY FOR PEACE even though He said wars would happen? We aren’t supposed to just complacently accept war as a fact of life?

As to defending the weak…

Proverbs 31:8,9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights all of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

The passage very clearly says to defend the weak, but with our words, even our prayers, not our guns.

I also really like 1 Peter 3:8 “Live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble… whoever would love life and see good days… He must turn from evil and do good; he MUST SEEK PEACE and PURSUE IT.”

Why is God telling people to pursue peace, if He’s so okay with war? If we’re just suppose to accept war as a fact of life? The thing is, bad things happen. War happens. Famine and plague and natural disasters happen. Do you really believe that God is such a cold hearted God war doesn’t break His heart? Do you really believe that He condones it? God, who see the sparrow fall, and knows the number of hairs on our heads, is really not upset by us killing each other and more than that, killing innocent people because that’s just a product of our bloody, greedy, awful murder of a large scale? Our hearts are made with God’s heart as the template. Is your heart so cold that war doesn’t break it? Pray for peace, pursue peace, stand against war and violence and all those things that hurt people, that steal lives, that rob people of the opportunity to enjoy all the gifts God has given them even here on earth.

I am more than willing to hear every argument for why war is necessary, I will not deny that there is some evidence that supports this on occasion. If you use the Bible to support your arguments though, you better be certain you’re right and not just using repeated rhetoric, because I will defend God’s word, even though He’s more than capable of doing that Himself. God is love. War is not. And that my friends, is the truth.

Love

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I saw this on pinterest, and it links to a tumblr page, so I’m not sure the original source, but it’s actually how I’d like to begin this New Year. I think a lot about love, and what it means to love, and I guess, if you’re an atheist or don’t follow a religion, that really isn’t a code that says you have to love at all. This isn’t to say that you don’t personally believe you should, just that there isn’t a greater being telling you it’s required. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to love people just because it’s required. It’s something that I really believe in. Love is the only thing that I think can actually make a difference in the world. So often we just pick a few people that we can tolerate or that we’re born to love, and just focus on them. We may not even continue it past them offending us in some way or another. That’s not what this is about. This is not about sticking by people even when they are abusive or bad for you or repeatedly hurt you. Yes, forgiveness is not a good idea, but so is getting far away from the situation.

I’m meaning… loving people on a more universal score. As a Christian, I’ll write this from what I know. Jesus didn’t look down from Heaven and say, “Well God, that guy over there, he smells funny, or that woman, see her…. she’s abusing the welfare system, she should really get a job and stop popping out children that the system will have to pay for, or that guy is a murderer, or that child is sort of an ugly child… I’m not going to die for those guys. I’m just going to die for the ones that make me feel happy and look pretty and bath and don’t irritate me”.

Jesus died for everyone.

To refer to the obvious “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son”; God isn’t leaving out the ugly children.

For a long time, I thought it was enough to just live my life and give a bit of money or food at Christmas, and in general be kind to people, but not too kind because that’s not required, and may be deemed creepy, plus who doesn’t have a bad day, I’m only human, so when that customer is really annoying, I’ll unleash all my wrath on them…. but I think that’s not enough. Please keep in mind, these are my personal musings, what you feel you have to do may be very different from what I feel for me personally, I can’t know what the right thing is for you.

Furthermore, I never really thought “charity” was entirely required by God, just sort of, something to do like not smoking, but the more I read looking for what the Bible says about love… I realize how much God does ask us to look after others and more than that, to love others.

1 John 3:16, 17

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” Yikes.

Ephesians 5:2

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us”

And seriously, I’m not even giving you a tiny fraction of all the scriptures that tell us to love; I can if you want.

My favourite passage right now though is 1 John 4:16, 18-19.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…we love because he first loved us”.

First off, God is love. I always find that so re-assuring and beautiful, and I cling to that.

I also didn’t really understand “There is no fear in love” until I read the quotation I included at the top of this very long blog post; “our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy”. We have all kinds of excuses to get us out of loving people, but in my case, the reality just is, I’m afraid. I’m afraid of helping someone who will just take advantage of it. I’m afraid of caring too much and getting hurt. I’m afraid of people thinking I’m stupid or silly or naive. When we love with God’s love… there isn’t fear. His love is perfect. He loves even knowing all our flaws, He loves because He can see into our hearts and observe the goodness, but even if He sees only nastiness, HE STILL LOVES US. I can’t even really fathom that, but I know what I feel inside me. That love is the way to go, and I am so far from being there yet, but I want 2015 to be a year where I learn to not be afraid to love. I want to show compassion and genuine good will to anyone I meet, not just the people that love me. If you have suggestions for how to get there, I’m all ears, but this is my start.