Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year Resolutions

What a time the New Year brings for fresh beginnings, new challenges, and big changes. I've been thinking about mine, and I've decided that this year, I'd like to focus on three things internally, rather than on looks, or money, or jobs, or grades. And here they are.

1. I want to be happy with who I am every day of the year.
I'm tired of being unsatisfied with this part of me or that part of me. I'm going to just be happy with every part of me - The whole me that God created. So, my new year challenge is to look everyday in the mirror and say, "This is the me God created and I'm thankful for everything He's created me to be."

2. Everyday, to recognize that God is enough.
Sometimes I feel like I need something else to make my life complete, and more often than not, it is that I feel lonely. In other words, that I'd like a boyfriend. Not that I'm desperate - I'm really only looking for a guy that I could marry someday. It's just that, well, I'm sure we've all been in bed at night and wished that we were not quite so alone. But my challenge is that, whether or not God brings me that kind of someone, that I am fully content and satisfied with and in God. That I recognize that God is enough for me. His love is unconditional and awe-inspiring, and that I am fully His and He is mine.

3. To listen attentively to everyone around me without interjecting a comment. And then to respond with an answer that reflects that I've listened carefully to them.
I am a generally impatient person. I like to get to the point. But then again, it is so necessary to take the time to fully listen to someone before jumping in and interjecting comments, as I've learned many a time while looking quite foolish. So my last New Year's resolution is to listen actively to those around me. And respond only once I have done so.

And this brings me to the end of my three New Year's resolutions. If I accomplish these, well, what I change that would bring! :)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Washed by Rain

I love the rain.

At the end of November, I had been doing a lot of reevaluating of my life and decisions, as well as straightening out my relationship with God. I'd been feeling as if I had been straying from my path with God, and had lost track of how far I'd gone. I needed renewal, to know that I was forgiven, and that God was willing to continue to be my Father.

On one of these days of contemplation, it was pouring rain outside. I looked out, saw the sheets of rain, and had a sudden urge to jump outdoors and dance. While I restrained my dance moves, I did go outside, and while my hood started up, I eventually just shoved it off and let the rain soak my hair through and through. I was completely and utterly drenched as I walked through the rain, but as I did, all I could do was smile.

Literally, I was beaming.

I felt better than I had in so long. The rain washed every bit of make-up off my face, it took any beauty out of the clothes I was wearing, and made my hair cling to my head, straightening all my curls with the weight of the water. In that moment, I was completely and totally real. I was plain. I was me.

It felt like God washing me of everything that people might perceive me to be on the outside, and leaving only the real me - whether that me was an attractive lady or a drenched rat. Those fifteen minutes walking in the rain were as pure and untainted as I'd ever experienced, and the joy that poured out of my heart after that walk was unquenchable.

Before a flower blooms, it needs both sun and rain. I think that's a good analogy for life. We go through periods of joy and we go through periods of struggle, but both allow us to grow into the people we are today. The periods of joy remind us of the blessings that God's given us, and the relationships we're so fortunate to have in our lives, whilst the periods of suffering allow us to work through difficult situations, improve our character, and face these same situations with confidence if they ever emerge again. We need both to "blossom", so to speak.

Sometimes, the best thing you can be is washed by rain.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Love

Today, I experienced a moment where I stopped, and said to myself, that is the kind of parent I want to be if God ever blesses me with a child.

I was at the Christmas Eve service at my church when the pastor called up all the kids to the front of the service to have them help the adults remember the verse Philippians 4:4: Rejoice in the Lord always; I say it again, Rejoice! (It worked.)

As all the kids filed onto stage, his little daughter of 3 or 4 also came up on stage, and started running over to her dad with her arms spread. It was a moment that made your heart melt.

The pastor's response, however, was what really hit me. Instead of pretending to be a head hauncho guy at the front of the congregation, he got down on his knees, spread his arms open wide, and told the entire audience that this was his little girl and he welcomed her with a big hug. And then after cuddling her, he asked her for a little kiss, and she came right over and pecked him on the lips. Not only that, but after finding out that no one was on stage to hold her hand, he continued by saying that she could "stay with daddy" while he was preaching!

It was a Jesus/a-ha! moment that touched me so immensely. The pastor did not pretend to be anything he was not - he is both a dad and a pastor, and he's both at the same time, and both are equally important. His daughter knows that her daddy loves her no matter the time or the place, and he's going to love her like no tomorrow whether he's in the middle of a sermon or at home tucking her into bed.

In that moment, the pastor was showing the humility of Christ. He didn't pretend to be someone above the attention of a child, but someone who valued that child above everything.

It was Christmas love, Christ-style. And I can only hope and pray I have the same for my own kids some day.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

To... Pro-crastinating... At least I'm a pro at something.

So I really should be researching for an essay. But here I am instead. My good, trusty old blog, that absolutely no one reads. Surprise, surprise.

Well... I guess I wanted to write about loneliness. Kind of how I'm feeling right now. A little bit like a hermit trapped in her apartment, trying to do an essay but wishing she could be talking to someone else. I guess this blog is getting all my chit-chat now. At least you can't talk back to me and tell me that I should be concentrating. And now I'm realizing how very bored my readers would be getting if there were actually people reading this. Sorry - here goes.

Loneliness is insightful. It's sad, and yet at the same time, it allows you to realize the dire need everyone has for human connection and interaction. When you're all by yourself, then there's this instant desire to check facebook, to call your family or friends, to write a letter, or to simply leave your lonely nook and find a friend. Or at least, this is how it is for me. And I think, judging by the immense number of university students on facebook right now, despite it being exam period, that I can safely assume this is the case for others.

It's comforting in a way, to know that we are programmed and wired this way. I like the fact that people need each other - rather than this economic or realist assumption that humans are "self-interested." There's this need in us to connect with someone else. For someone to listen, to understand, to engage in life with us. And that excites me! I am actually dependent on other people, whether or not I like it or want it or ever admit it. I am dependent on them for support, for an ear, for a hug, for a conversation. And that's a bit of a humbling thought.

We can't do things alone in the world. We are never independent. Every successful leader had a friend, a family, a partner, a teacher, a prof, a coach, who pushed them to go where they went, to be who they were, to serve how they served.

There is hope in loneliness. Reach out for the ones around you, and know that the best way to travel life's road is hand-in-hand with a friend.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Here's to Hope

The other day, I was sitting at the table, enjoying a lovely squash from a local farmer that I had cooked up with some curry and cinnamon, an started to think about one of my dearest friends. She's this lovely little spunky girl, who I'm still trying to figure out. I love her dearly, but most definitely, she's a cynic at heart. Anyways, I was sitting there and thinking to myself about how extremely different we are, and yet extremely similar. It's very strange.

We are both IR students. We are both passionate about human rights and environmental issues. We both say what we think. We are both pretty spunky - though in different ways. For me, I'm spunky in big crowds. In little crowds, I kind of clam up and have a much more difficult time getting my thoughts across. For her, she clams up in front of crowds, and in smaller settings, says EXACTLY what she thinks. I also express myself best through writing. She expresses herself best through speaking.

But here's the main difference: She's a cynic. I'm... hopeful. And I think that it really makes a difference, in a lot of ways.

If you didn't already notice, the world is terrible. Every day, thousands of people die from hunger, hundreds are killed in conflict, women are raped, children are kidnapped and forced to fight as soldiers, dictators oppress, and people are hurt. And you know what, all through history, there's been abuses. There's been slavery, there's been apartheid, there's been colonial imperialism, there's been the oppression of the media, the sub-human treatment of women, the torture chambers of the Medieval period, the wars of Christendom, the wars of Islam, and the list goes on and on and on. Let's just sum it up: the world is a great big disaster. Sometimes, it's enough to make you want to jump out a window. A really high window.

But here's the thing: You can look at those disasters in two different ways. The first is to say that they exist, will never change, and then jump out a window. I'll call this the depressing view of the world.

The second way is to say that the problems exist, that they are terrible and awful, and then try and do something about them. I'll call this the hopeful view of the world.

My world view has always been the second one. And to be honest, I think that... I think that it has to be.

Hope is believing that there's something better, that there's something beyond what is here and now, and that while it's going to take a long time to achieve, that you're going to believe it's possible and work towards it while you're still able to. It's seeing a world where love, peace, kindness, goodness, and where truth, honesty, and justice prevail.

And while right now, these do not seem possible, I have to believe that one day, we'll be a bit closer.

I think that Jesus never wanted us to just wait for heaven for everything to be perfect - I think that heaven starts right now, the moment you become a Christian. God works in your heart and takes over your hands, your heart, your mind, your feet, and you make heaven right here. Or at least, God does through you. But we have to HOPE. That is the key - nothing will or can happen without hope. We cannot simply accept what is. We've just to push for what could be.

Here's to Hope.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

To a love I'll never understand.

A lovely, kind and beautiful friend of mine was reading a bible passage with me the other day, and I read over one of my very favourite bible passages. And if you didn't already guess, I'm going to share this with you! Lucky you. ;)

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long;/ we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

That verse strikes me silent every time I read it.

I guess that I just, I can't really accept it. Because there's so many times I mess up. So many times when I feel like I don't deserve that love. I don't deserve someone to love me that way. Golly wolly, sometimes I won't even like a guy because I'm like, he'd be better off with someone else. I'm not good enough, or strong enough, for him. I can't even imagine that GOD, the almighty one who was so humble that he died for me when I hated and scorned him and rejected him, when I pierced his hands with nails and watched him die on the cross. He loved me through that. He was like, "One day, Rachel is going to lie, to hurt her parents, to fail her friends, to mess up and make some serious mistakes, she's going to be a failure in my eyes, but I'm going to love her. Because I know who she can be, and I know who she wants to be."

You know, they say it takes a lot of faith to believe in God.

I think it takes a lot more faith for God to believe in us.

And a lot more love. Although, I don't even think the word "love" can adequately represent Christ's passionate loyalty, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, parenthood, justice, and devotion towards those who choose to surrender themselves to him and ask him to enter their lives.

I appreciate the bible a lot. More or less, because everyone in it is a screw up. A complete and utter mess. Noah gets drunk and naked, Abraham decides tells God he doesn't believe him, Jonah chickens out, tries to run away, and then tells God to strike down a whole city dead, David sleeps with someone else's wife when he's already married and then kills her husband once he finds out she's pregnant, and Peter is just so darn obstinate that he tells Jesus to send down a fire ball on a city that doesn't accept them. And these were God's chosen leaders.

I guess it just amazes me every time to realize that maybe, although I screw up, God's going to love me anyways. Overwhelming - but I guess that's God for you. Can't really fit into my little human mind very well.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

To Realizing the Humanness of People

I've realized lately how very easy it is for people to generalize their 'enemies' as non-persons. They hurt me - therefore, they are evil minions. They have no reason behind their actions, they have no feelings, no heart, no emotion. They are simply pure evil.

And to be honest, I've done it too - ranted on about someone whose hurt me, been in a generally grumpy mood after being around someone difficult, breathed heavily and stormed across campus to get out for a walk after someone offends me.

It's absolutely selfish and ridiculous of me.

First of all, I'm not recognizing that, 1) This person probably has a reason for treating me as such - whether it's been the tipping point of an already bad day, the outward expression of some general inward pain, or perhaps payback for something I did earlier to hurt them, whether or not I know what this is. And 2) I'm just as guilty for speaking harshly, being opinionated and stubborn, and hurting people (although I admit, I can be really clueless about this - so tell me when I do!)

I guess that the most important thing that I can do is recognize that everyone, absolutely everyone, is human. We all mess up, we all make mistakes, we're all jerks at some point or another. Including me. If I don't forgive, then what kind of person am I? If I only love my friends, and not my enemies, then what makes me a better person than any other "schmo" - as my friend likes to call them? Even the meanest of people love the people who are nice to them. I'm no better than they are if I never give them a second chance. And I certainly hope others will do the same for me when I mess up - although I won't expect it.

Anyways, I'm going to confess that earlier in the semester, I'd been going through a really rough period and was taking it out by talking about the people who were hurting me/making life very difficult. But then I realized that I actually felt worse after doing that then I would have if I had just forgiven them.

And so, I ask for forgiveness for having not forgiven those people who I should have. And I'm trying hard to change that part of myself. No more complaining about life's difficulties - I'll start working on myself instead. And there's a lot of work to start on. Indeed.

Better start chipping away.