"All words are symbols that represent unspeakable realities. Which is also why words are magical." (Donald Miller tweet)

Friday, December 12, 2014

honesty on Outrage-Free Friday

Well - it's Outrage-Free Friday.

Um ... one of our friends has been dealing with significant health challenges after being rear-ended on the highway by someone who didn't even slow down ... so almost all of this week has been spent at hospitals or on the phone with various members of the very slow-moving bureaucracy of our health care / legal / insurance system. Frustrating barely begins to describe it. Some of you know what that's like, I know.

Thankful that there is a health care system at all.

Thankful that each person I talked to was responsive and kind,
even if they couldn't be entirely helpful.

Thankful that a few of them looked me right in the eye and said, 
"She's very fortunate to have you and your church supporting her." 

The next time you hear someone bashing religion,
maybe pause to mention to them
how much money is saved by the government,
how much is added to the fabric of a community,
when faith groups step into the gap.

One evening this week, I came home to discover our door ... our outside door ... ripped from its frame and lying on the kitchen floor.

Thankful for a street with several neighbours
on whose door I can knock late at night.
We have great neighbours.

Thankful for police who come in a timely manner,
who are honest about the low odds of catching the person,
but are compassionate and kind.

Thankful for parents who live in the city,
for a Dad who comes down to nail a door shut,
and a Mom who says, "I have extra supper ... come on over."

Thankful for social media,
through which friends can say,
"Hey - you ok? Praying for ya."

Super thankful for Spike - aka Trucker-Boy - 
who talks me through weeks like this,
reminds me of what's good,
encourages me to keep going,
even while he navigates snowstorms and break-downs.

I was invited several weeks ago to attend an event hosted by this group yesterday, to hear this speaker. Considered asking to be excused from the event, halfway through this week.

Thankful I didn't. It was excellent. I'm glad I was there.

Did you know that (based on Revenue Canada numbers),
people who practice their faith regularly
(i.e. attend their faith group once a week or more)
are engaged in philanthropy
at approximately three times the rate of people who don't?  

So ... onward. Not sure today will be entirely outrage-free ... but I'll do my best.

You with me?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

christmas chaos and cheer

For the next week, I'm flat-out running. It's Christmas. It's final exam time. It's chaos.

One of my friends is undergoing some cognitive testing,
among other things,
after a car accident a few weeks ago.

Someone ever-so-cutely suggested
that perhaps I needed some cognitive testing too.

Listen, if it'll get me someone
to wash the dishes at my house,
I'll take it.

I just sent a long email to my awesome assistant pastor, in her response to, "Hey - what can I do to help with Crossfire Christmas Chaos?" And then sent a shorter - but still longish - email to my very excellent mom, in response to HER, "Hey - what can I do to help you host the family at Christmas?"

Dear God, thank you for moms and assistants.

Anyway - most of the time, I just chat meaninglessly here. But - if you're local to me - you're welcome at any of our Christmas events. They're all free, except for this Sunday evening's show with the terribly fabulous Jeanine Noyes. That's $15 a ticket, and I assure you - worth every nickel.

Here are the details of all of it.

Crossfire is at 458 King Street West, in Hamilton, Ontario.
Between Pearl and Locke. 
In Canada. We're in Canada.

Free parking onsite.
Because we're just that good.

Gotta run!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

different spaces

Sunday was a little different from the usual.

Of course, there was our morning service. Honestly, I just have to tell you ... the group of people whom I get to pastor are simply wonderful. Sunday had it all ... heartfelt worship as we sang together ... we gathered in little groups and prayed together ... we interacted with Scripture together ... we shared the Lord's Supper together ... and then we sat around and chatted with bowls of soup together.

I really love my church.

Sunday afternoon, Spike and I stopped in at the grocery store, on our way out of town. Walked past a woman outside the door who was politely asking for spare change, responding with, "No, I'm sorry, I don't have any." It was a moment later that I realized what I had seen as I passed her. Terrible bruising and swelling, covering half of her face.

Someone had beaten her up.

I bought her a sandwich and a coffee, and gave her my card on the way out of the store. It took awhile for images of how the beating might have happened to stop flashing through my mind.

I can't comprehend the rationale behind personal, physical violence. There are a lot of things I don't understand. This is one of them.  

Sunday evening, we relaxed with food, laughter and friends at the home of The Crusty Professor. This is now a firmly-cemented friendship - probably one of the most unexpected ones I've ever had - and it makes me smile and shake my head in amusement.

So Sunday was a little different.

Grateful to interact with people.

In all these spaces.

Friday, December 05, 2014

angels in bureaucratic places

Yesterday I had to go to the university to speak to an academic advisor during their very limited "drop-in" hours. It was just over a technicality. The system wasn't letting me register for my next class, and I needed them to do ... something ... to fix that.

I was pretty grumbly about it, to be honest.

"Stupid online system that doesn't work ..."

"All the way to the university,
park several blocks away,
wait for who knows HOW long at a stupid drop-in ..."

"Oh suuuuure, you can make an appointment,
but that requires being able to actually get through
to a real person on the stupid phone ..."

You get the idea. To be fair - my grumbling was based on years of nearly quitting altogether from time to time, simply because of the entirely unnavigable website and bureaucracy

Aaaanyhoo, I needed to register. I'm way late for registering for this next course, because of this technical difficulty.

So I went. Parked (and set the timer on my phone for an hour, after which my car would be ticketed), walked in to campus (mentally grumbling the whole way), found the building I needed, took a deep breath, smiled and walked in.

The person at the desk smiled back, indicating a pile of forms and a bowl of candies.

"Just fill in this short form ... have a candy if you like ... and they'll be right with you."

I glanced around with resignation at several others waiting, and the person at the desk clarified. 

"They're all first-years, waiting for a different academic advisor. Yours isn't busy - she will just be a moment."

A minute later, my name was called and I went down the hall to Kelly, who was looking through my files and records. She assured me she would fix the technical difficulty, and then followed up with, "Let's just do this...." Took out a pen, scratched out "4" and wrote in "3". 

"So you just need to do three 4th-year courses now, not four. OK?"

"... Uh ... OK ..."

"And an elective. Any course at all. Whatever you like."

"OK ... oh ... I took an Anthropology course a few years ago by mistake.
It was a great course, but it didn't count for anything.
Does that count now?"

"Absolutely," she said. "So that's done. So you just need three 4th-year courses, that's it."

"OK," I said, stunned.

"Now," she said. "Which course do you want to take in January?"

"Any one at all that fits the requirements," I said. 

"OK ... hmmm ... they're all full ... but of course someone might drop one ..."

I nodded. I'm familiar with that part. She talked me through the list, mentioning one course that sounded interesting, and has a professor I've had before; I really liked him.

"That's an HB course," she said.

"Oh, ok. ... wait, what's HB?"

"Hold back," she smiled.

"Ooohhhh ... wait, what is that?"

"Oh," she said. "That's when they hold back seats for late registrants, just in case. Why don't you just go see Olga, upstairs, give her this ... and this ... and she'll get you a waiver and register you in that course, or whichever course you like. OK?"

"OK," I said. "Um ... thank you so much!"

Went to the 6th floor. Saw Olga. She smiled, reviewed my records, waived the hold-back, and registered me. 

Walked across campus to drop off a pastoral reference at another department for a student who's in my church.

Walked back to my car, with four minutes to spare.

Used those four minutes to dance and shriek joyfully in the middle of the street.

!!! only 3 more courses to go !!!

And a very happy Outrage-Free Friday to you too!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

cookies in class

Last night was the final class of the semester. It's the time of year when I wonder if I will eeeeever finish this degree.

Cookies help.

The prof brought cookies last night.

And then a student ALSO brought cookies.

So that helped.

I've quite enjoyed this course, to be honest. The reading was ... kinda awful sometimes. Like, "bang my head on the wall and wail despairingly" awful. And I suspect that in the end I will receive the lowest grade of any class I've had so far.

... yep ... sigh ...

BUT ... I've learned a great deal, and the learning has been both applicable and enjoyable.

So I'm OK with that outcome.

Final exam in a few weeks. It's worth 35%. It's gonna require a lot ... A LOT ... of studying.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

an idea for my bank

Dear Bank:

We bank online. Have for years.

We also have a budget. A plan for our billions. I know - crazy talk, right?

Here's my idea: merge those two things. On your website. You have all my other information stored - bills I pay, savings goals, transaction records, everything. I'm pretty sure you know my original hair colour, and I suspect you also know if the person with the same last name as mine who was hung for treason in Ireland a century or two ago, was actually related to me.

So I wouldn't think this is too difficult for you.

I would love, LOVE if you would embed a simple Excel spreadsheet in that online banking space, just for me. A place to keep track of which money is for what thing. So that our billions stay on track. And so that I don't have to transfer the .002 cents of interest into my own spreadsheet in another window. I want it aaallll in one place.

Like this:

OK? Ok.


Monday, December 01, 2014

new friends

Last Friday I got up at 4:30.

In the morning.

I was trying to get a head-start on what was going to be a tremendously busy day, at the beginning of a ridiculously busy weekend. There wasn't time to fit in One More Thing.

Not even a wafer-thin dinner mint.

But then I was invited to breakfast with Ukrainian friends-of-friends.

"At 9 AM"
"Today??!! Like, in an hour from now??!!!"
"Ya - can you come? We really want you to come."

I had no time for breakfast with strangers. I was already missing a breakfast meeting that didn't really need me there.

However ... one simply makes time for Ukrainian friends and friends-of-friends. So I went to the office, pressed the "print" button on a thousand flyers, and went to breakfast.

And now Spike & I have three more friends to visit, next time we are in Ukraine.

They came to our church supper on Sunday night. One of them offered to sing a couple of songs - beautiful.

They brought candies for everyone - "a gift from the President of Ukraine," they said, laughing.

Because they're Roshen candies
- and "Roshen" is right in the centre of President Poroshenko's name
- it's his candy company.

Or was.
I think he may have sold it when he became President.
Not sure.
I haven't talked to him recently.

They also brought a really beautiful gift, for me.

Ukrainians always bring gifts. 

Ukrainians also smile and warmly invite you to stay in their home the next time you come. And it is explained ever so gently that they don't say that as a matter of politeness, like Canadians do.

They mean it.