Are you playing hooky from Church?

Don't Go to Church 4_ezrI am admitting to something that happened eons ago, but I suppose confession is good for the soul.  During the 1972 Canada-Russia hockey series I (along with my friends, Jean and Tanya) smuggled our transistor radios into math class and under the pretense of looking extremely studious during the class, we were in fact paying much closer attention to our radios listening to Foster Hewitt’s play by-play of the historic games, than listening to our Math teacher drone on about integers.  I suppose you could call it playing hooky while still being physically in the class.  I remember I had expertly concealed my headphone under my long hair.  Mr. Ruxton, our math teacher, bless his heart, turned a blind eye to the perceived ruse we thought we were perpetrating in his class.  It was only when a goal was scored and all three of us jumped up and cheered, without realizing we were still in class, that Mr. Ruxton frowned and then laughed at us when I said as an explanation for the outburst, “We are so EXCITED for math!”  He shook his head while the rest of the class giggled “busted!” and then he motioned for us to show him our radios.  We sheepishly obliged and then he asked, “What’s the score?”   I hated math but I loved Mr. Ruxton at that moment!

The next time I played hooky was during my second year of university.  I had enrolled in a linguistics class at the University of Victoria.  It was an elective course required towards getting my teaching degree.  It seemed EVERY second year education student had heard that this was a “gimme” class (meaning you only needed to attend, write the final and rarely did anyone fail this particular class).  140 students packed a small classroom the first day to hear a professor with even less personality than the teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off give his eighty minute lectures.  If you arrived late, you had to lean against the back wall for the entire ordeal.  After three lectures, I was looking for ANY excuse to drop the course, unfortunately I needed the course to get into my practicum year.  On the way to the fourth lecture, my fiance and his ne’er-do-well friend, Mike, waylaid me en route to the class and asked if I would like to join them for coffee at the Student Union Building.  They were in between classes and had a couple of hours before they had to be back.  I didn’t need much convincing, so for the next twelve weeks, I never attended another linguistic class, choosing instead to meet Mike and Charles for coffee.

Now kids (my kids especially), I don’t recommend this as an acceptable way to pass a course.  In fact, I am slightly ashamed of myself…slightly…

Leading up to the final for that course, having only attended three lectures, I spent a horrific, stressful weekend “cramming” for the exam by reading every linguistic book written by that professor.  (If his lectures were boring, his text books were equally so.)  I nearly cried when they put the test paper in front of me, knowing I was so unprepared.  So no one was more shocked than I was when I actually passed the course!  I was ecstatic until I heard that everyone else had scored an “A”.  Apparently one little essay question worth about 20% (one I left blank) was based entirely on a lecture he had given in the eighth week.  Knowing I had the chance to raise my grade point average significantly with that mark and instead I opted to play hooky, made me a little weepy.  A missed opportunity lost forever.

For some, going to church is not a priority in their lives, but for our family it is.  When my husband and I got married, we made the decision to plant ourselves in a church family and attend our home church every Sunday.  Certainly there have been Sundays missed over the years due to illness or holiday, but for the most part, we have worshipped regularly in our home church on Sunday mornings.  It has become an integral part of our life.  My three children grew up in our church.  From their days in nursery to College and Career our kids have been involved with the church.  Our church family has become as dear to us as our blood family, and in some ways we are more connected to some of them because we see them more often than we do our own family members who live so far away.  It was my church family that ministered to me when I went through breast cancer.  It was their daily visits and prayers that sustained me.  I know that I can call on any number of them for anything and they will be there.  They are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and our bond is that close!

Still there are some Sundays I will admit (I’m still confessing…) that I would much, much rather stay in bed and sleep in.  As much as I love getting together with my  church brothers and sisters, there are some Sundays I’d just rather curl up at home and play hooky.  Especially on those bitterly cold days we have in the winter months here in Alberta.  I would rather not get out of bed, get dressed, put on makeup, get bundled up to get into a cold car and drive to church.  The temptation to play hooky is great!  Oh and of course, let’s not forget those summer months too.  I know it’s necessary to make the most of summer because it is sooooo short a season here in Alberta but I noticed a sign on a neighbouring church the other day that read “Enjoy the summer, we’re closed until September”.  I suppose they figured it was better to close up for the summer rather than face empty church pews each Sunday while their congregants were on holidays.

Seems like a great idea…or is it?

When I read something like that it only adds fuel to all my other excuses for trying to rationalize my need to play hooky from church.

“Honey, you go.  I’ll have lunch waiting for you when you get home.” or “It’s a big church, certainly no one will even notice I’m not there today.” or “I’ve been in church every Sunday since Christmas…”

Yeah, after a while the excuses start to get pretty lame.

So then I decide to bargain a bit.

“How about if we stay home today, and I’ll make it up to God by reading the Bible more next week.”  (Oh, I forgot, I’ve been playing hooky from Bible reading for a while too… eeeeek!)

It is just about at that moment a light bulb goes on over my head and I realize that I need to check my heart condition.  Usually when I wanted to play hooky from something, it’s because my heart wasn’t in it in the first place.  In the case of my math class…well a hockey game took precedence over algebra.  To be honest ANYTHING could take precedence over a math class :)  My heart was definitely not into suffering through boring lectures in linguistics, but as I have told my kids throughout their school years, sometimes you’ve “got to do, what you’ve got to do” for the greater good.  Too bad I didn’t listen to my own advice way back then.

When it comes to spiritual things, including wanting to attend church (or not) or keeping up with Bible readings, or daily devotions etc., if I am considering playing hooky from these things, it’s because my heart just isn’t into it.  There can be numerous reasons for this.

1. Sin – the enemy has gotten a foothold somewhere in my life and I’m not willing to acknowledge it.

2. Spiritual Warfare – the enemy is attacking me knowing that if I “follow God with all my mind, heart and strength” he will not have access to me.

3.  My heart has lost interest.  A serious illness that needs immediate attention to find the root cause.  (Usually it has to do with self taking control of my actions instead of allowing God to have control.)

For some people, this malaise can last a day, a week, a year, or a lifetime, and when I start seeing and feeling the symptoms in me, I know I need to check my heart health immediately.

Recently I had a disturbing conversation with someone close to me who said they were “taking a break from God for awhile”.  How do you even do that?  I understand wanting to play hooky from church but from God?  I pondered on what the ramifications would be if the situation was reversed and God decided that He was going to “take a break from us for awhile”.  What if God played hooky from us?

“For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matt. 13:15)

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Dusk & Dawn

castle-mountainI taught a creative writing course at the Christian school I teach at and I promised to highlight some of my students’ work on “Journey Thoughts”.  I know you will join with me in applauding their outstanding work and I hope you will be as moved as I was by their inspirational writing!

Dusk & Dawn – a poem by Timothy and Elijah (Grade 8 students)

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” – Robert Frost

Exposition – by Timothy

I stand here on this peaceful dusk,

As sunset starts to gleam.

A golden shade of peacefulness

Majestic sunset’s beam.

The world is tired, filled with wear,

The villages asleep,

And soon to wake, when dawn sets in,

When sunlight becomes deep.

 

The mountains stand in harmony,

Protecting those who sleep,

The summer air caressing them,

For no, they do not weep.

And so they stand there purposely,

For fear they do not know,

And they protect whole-heartedly,

Beneath the moonlight’s glow.

 

And now the moon shines high, oh high,

And lights upon the stream,

That ever peaceful midnight scene,

This tranquil, lovely gleam.

A single shining moonlight’s sheen,

For blissful summer’s stream,

I stand there in the half moon’s glow,

This peaceful summer’s dream.

 

I stand here on this silent morn

The dawn is coming in

The river seems it’s ever still

Before the morning’s in.

The world hath not awakened yet

The silence here so grand

And such a lovely morning scene

This peaceful country land.

 

The sun comes peeking through the clouds

And lights upon the trees

That turn all luscious shades of green

Like gentle summer’s breeze.

It makes them dance so gracefully

Such bliss it fills my soul

As river ripples peacefully

And life now feels so whole.

 

A Kayak comes, two men aboard

The silence takes them too.

They are part of morning’s scene

As sun comes smiling through.

The harmony enlightens me

And I’m part of this scene

Sitting by the lazy river

Morning so serene.

 

Body – by Elijah

God creates these wonderful scenes,

That take your breath away.

It’s an image of intricate artwork,

So look at this beautiful day.

Just one of God’s amazing perks,

So come on and play.

The scenery around you is unbelievable,

Think for a moment and pray.

 

Coda – by Timothy

We are safe ‘neath His mighty hand,

We are His masterpiece.

Created in His likeness,

His love will never cease.

He will not tire, will not fail,

For sins He did repay.

We are safe ‘neath mighty gales,

And He’ll guide you today.

So do not fear, whatever falls,

For grace shall guide the way.

I Swear…*NOT!*

In keeping with this week’s theme of gentlemanly/womanly respect for one another, let me address another issue on the topic…swearing!swearing-pain1

As an educator, a Mom and a grandmother, I like to stay up on all the “buzz” going on in Hollywood and in the entertainment industry because, let’s face it, we’d be sticking our heads in the sand if we didn’t think our kids and grandkids are influenced by what they see on T.V., the movies and the music they listen to.  As a parent it is my responsibility to give wise counsel if I think my kids are watching or listening to something that to me may seem inappropriate or contrary to their Christian upbringing.  I am NOT a censor.  Let me make that clear.  I do not outright ban content my kids are exposed to in the media.  Instead I try to create learning opportunities and we have had several teachable moments through the years discussing the merits or foibles of some T.V., movies and music they like.

When my son was fourteen, he came home with a CD that he had purchased with his own money.  He had heard the band on the radio and really liked one of their songs.  On the way home from the store he asked me if we could listen to the album in the car.  (My kids know that I like to “preview” their movies and music, even if the content may not be to my liking…I still listen politely… even if I still don’t get “Screamo” music.)  Within fifteen seconds of popping that CD into the player, we had already heard three “F” bombs dropped in the first song’s lyrics.  My son looked at me a little guiltily and then he ejected the CD hastily.  At home we looked at the album cover and in almost miniscule printing on the back label was the warning: “Explicit Lyrics”.  My son had spent his hard-earned allowance on that CD and what I did next made a huge impression on him.  I calmly went to the drawer and cut the CD in half with some scissors.  Wide-eyed he gasped, “Mom!  I could have taken it back to the store and got my money back!”  I again very calmly said, “Would you want some other kid buying this album?  It’s better we just get rid of it and not let it be sold to another kid.”  Amazingly, my son did not argue and I never had to cut another CD in half again.

Now, I know my kids, now as adults, have spent money on questionable movies, CD’s and the like.  If truth be told, it is nearly impossible nowadays to avoid renting a movie, or watching a show on T.V. or even listening to music, where offensive material is not present.  In fact, I heard a report that many of the Hollywood Award shows have obscenities actually “scripted in” to the programs because vulgarity will quickly ensure the program will be watched (if not that night, on the internet after the fact) and would give more notoriety to the stars who swear as they give their “thank-yous”.  I am rather shocked that with the same breath a star says “Thank-you” to friends and family (and even God) for their success, they also lace their acceptance speech with foul words.  Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture?

The other day I was at the mall with my grandchildren and a group of young teenaged girls walked past us.  Their giggling conversation was an assault on my ears as they used every known obscenity, in what I can only assume was in their limited vocabulary, to talk to each other.  I wanted to cover my grandson’s ears so he wasn’t exposed to those words.  I glared at the girls but they didn’t even seem to notice.

Several years ago we celebrated my son’s graduation and hosted his after grad party in our home.  What impressed me maybe even more than 50 young men and women not drinking alcohol that night, preferring to have a Dry Grad celebration instead, was the fact that I did not hear one swear word all evening.  They spoke to one another with respect, even if there was a lot of teasing and joking especially during a heated game of Dutch Blitz!  I couldn’t help but think that they take the scripture from Ephesians seriously: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”  (Eph. 4:29-30)

The entertainment industry would do well to take that scripture seriously too…but will they?

 

Gentlemanly/Womanly Respect

I wrote this post several years ago but it bears repeating after my husband and I witnessed an appalling scene at the Calgary Stampede last week.  A young man and woman got into quite an altercation at one of the eating venues on the fairgrounds.  The language these two young people hurled at one another loudly caused me to cringe.  If “sticks and stones” break bones, I’m sure the obscenities and vulgarities left a scarring, shattered imprint on their hearts as well!

I have been involved in a series of conversations lately with regards to men and women treating each other with respect…namely with their actions.  One Facebook discussion focused on whether or not women like men to help carry heavy grocery bags etc. for them.  Interestingly enough, most women who responded enjoy it when a man acts in a “gentlemanly manner” towards them.  In fact, I had to comment that my sweet husband not only carries heavy bags for me, he opens doors for me, never gets into the car without first opening the door for me, and he walks on the outside of the sidewalk (nearest to the curb) so if water or mud should splash up from a passing car, he would get splattered, not me!  It’s just a little thing, but it speaks volumes to me how he treats me with gentlemanly respect.

So it begs the question…is acting in gentlemanly or womanly respect an outdated concept for BOTH men and women?

Let me give a recent example…My sweet children, bless their unrefined little hearts, have no problem belching (or worse) in front of friends, family and members of the opposite sex.  My son takes pride in the fact he can belch the entire alphabet!  Now, I understand that in some cultures it is a form of a compliment to belch after an evening meal thus indicating to the host that the meal was well appreciated, however I am appalled when my children decide the dinner table is an appropriate place for a belching contest … and I KNOW it’s not to applaud my culinary skills!

I have noticed that the youth today do not care who opens doors, just as long as someone does.  It’s more or less a race to get in or out the door anyway.  I get a little irritated when they barrel into one another, or worse…ME…when I am trying to go out a door.  Not cool…especially at church!

There have been countless times where I have had to put up chairs and tables for a church event, while more robust young men stood around and watched me.  The idea of helping me never even crossed their minds.  Thank goodness I have no problem asking for help even though they might grumble and complain the whole time!

Now I am overgeneralizing…we have an amazing group of youth at our church, and for the most part, they are polite and respectful around me, but still I see that acting like gentlemen and “young ladies” around one another is a foreign concept to them.

There are definitely some theories as to why this is.  The feminist movement in the 60′s and 70′s caused women to want to be treated as equals and over the past thirty years men have done just that.  Men do not stand up on the bus for a woman anymore so she can have a seat.  In fact, I saw an exchange years back where a man offered his seat to a young woman on the C-Train, and she swore at him!  No wonder, men do not treat us with respect!  Men have allowed women to “pick up the tab” at restaurants and have in many ways become subservient in the home and some may even say in the church.  The spiritual leadership in the home has fallen in recent years to wives, with men relinquishing the role that according to scripture is a duty that must rest with the male head of the household.  (Ephesians 5:22-33)

I direct you to read a great blog on modesty I read recently.  The author gives a good interpretation on what “biblical modesty” is all about.

So I’m interested in knowing your thoughts on the subject.  Is gentlemanly/womanly respect a thing of the past?  Is it too late to train our children to be respectful of one another?  Should we be teaching appropriate etiquette to our children or is that too a thing of the past?

Clap Along if You’re Happy It’s Friday!

Are you ready for the weekend??  We went to the zoo the other day and I enjoyed spending quality time with my husband, two daughters and of course my grandson and granddaughter.  How fun it was to see three year old Jaxon interact with the various animals as he mimicked them and yelled out, “Hi Mr. Giraffe!”  The Calgary Zoo has recovered well from the massive flooding from last year and although our beloved elephants and polar bears are no longer in Calgary, a decision by zoo officials to have them go to larger and more accommodating zoos for animals their size, the “Penguin Plunge” is definitely a new highlight.  So for today’s Friday Funnies, let’s celebrate the start of another summer weekend.  “Clap Along” if you’re Happy for the weekend!

It's Friday

Feelin my Friday

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It's Friday (2)

 

Summertime Reading

I have told my students that to be a great writer, you must be a great reader.  Summer is MY time to read.  I remember my fourteenth summer when I decided to read the good-booksentire Edgar Rice Burrough’s “Tarzan” series and then the “Mucker” books as well.  I think that year began the summertime tradition of reading as many books as I could before school started again.  There was the summer of “Anne”, reading the Anne of Green Gables series and a great summer of “Janette”, buried in Janette Oke books.  Oh and who could forget the summer of “Peretti”, where I was left on the edge of my seat reading his supernatural thrillers?!

Now don’t get me wrong, I also read during the rest of the year but summer gives me the time to really immerse myself in a series or read stand-alone books by the same author.  Also it is the most relaxing thing to do while camping, or sitting at the beach, or on those rainy summer days.  So I’ve decided to make a fun little poll for READERS ONLY!  Here is a list of 81 of my favorite “classic” books.

How many books from this list have you read?  Just for the record, every book I’ve listed, I have also read.

 

25 Encouraging Scripture Verses for Summer

summer-timeMy husband and I have always considered ourselves “summer people” and yet God has planted us in Alberta that boasts a winter that can last eight to nine months of the year.  *sigh*  Still, when summer does roll around, usually during the Calgary Stampede week :) , we put on our cowboy hats and prepare ourselves to make the very most of the summer, as brief as it is!  I praise God that He created this summer break for us to rest, refresh ourselves and renew our spirits.  Enjoy these “summertime” scripture verses as you capture a few rays of sun…or Son as the case may be :)

Genesis 1:3  “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”

Psalms 74:17 “It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter.”

Amos 8:1  “This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: a basket of ripe (summer) fruit.”

Matthew 24:32  “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.”

Proverbs 10:5  “He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.”

Proverbs 30:25  “Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer;”

James 1:17  “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Proverbs 6:6-8  “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!  It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”

1 John 4:1-13  “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.”

1 Thessalonians 4:16  “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”

John 14:3  “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Psalms 89:36  “that his line will continue forever and his throne endure before me like the sun;”

Judges 5:31  “So may all your enemies perish, Lord!  But may all who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength.”

Psalms 113:3  “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.”

Matthew 13:43  “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Revelation 7:16  “‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.  The sun will not beat  down on them,’nor any scorching heat.”

Isaiah 18:4  “This is what the Lord says to me: “I will remain quiet and will look on from my dwelling place, like shimmering heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.”

Song of Songs 2:12  “Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.”

Psalms 107:9  “for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

John 4:14  “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Psalms 93:4  “Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea—the Lord on high is mighty.”

Genesis 8:22  “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

1 Thessalonians 5:10-11  “He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

Ephesians 2:8-9  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Matthew 11:28-30  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Unless stated otherwise all scripture used on Journey Thoughts is from: THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.