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)

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?

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.


I’m the Cause of Broken Children

I’m the cause of broken children and I’m proud to say it!Imparting-Faith-Spread-18

From the very first moment I held my children, my goal was to raise and create an atmosphere in our home that fostered broken children.  I even prayed for it!

From the time I started to teach and minister in my church, my hope was to see and rejoice in the fact that I had a hand in working with broken children.

It should be the goal of every parent.  It should be the goal of every faithful teacher.  It should be every grandparent’s goal.

Be the cause of broken children!

Broken children…broken before the Lord.

Each one of my children have gone on their own journeys with the Lord.  Each one of them said “Yes” to Jesus at a young age and then those tumultuous teen years hit and as much as we tried to mentor them in their spiritual walks, each of them eventually had to find their own way.  It was a bumpy road for each of them.  It’s STILL a bumpy road and I spend a lot of time praying for my children and now my grandchildren as they discover their own faith, rather than just accept their parent’s beliefs without questions.  Asking questions is healthy.  Experiencing God on their own is healthy.  Even struggling to find a church family to better  “fit in” is healthy.  It may mean leaving the church they grew up in and for me that was a tough thing…letting them go.

Selfishly, I didn’t like it when my oldest daughter and son-in-law decided to attend another church after they were married but God had a plan for them with another church family.  They are “planted” and growing in their church.  My heart sings for joy as they serve the Lord there.  My son and his fiancé are also attending another church and both actively serve there.  Although I miss my family all gathered together on one pew with me, I thank God that they are being used by Him for His purposes and building His Kingdom.

My youngest at eighteen is trying to figure out her path.  She readily admits it’s a struggle.  She attended seminary for a year and probably ended up with more questions than answers at the end of it.  Still, I see God nudging her and caring for her even when she doesn’t seem to notice.  He has protected her and loved her and continues to pursue her.  She doesn’t acknowledge it right now, but she will, as long as she keeps her spiritual eyes and ears open to Him and not to the world’s louder callings.  It may require a radical “breaking point” for her before she truly understands how much He loves her.

So, I rejoice for broken children.  For when they truly break before the Lord, only then will they truly be healed!





O Canada


On July 1st, my husband and I are planning to drive his restored 64 Valiant to a Show and Shine in Red Deer.  It is particularly exciting to participate in this year’s car show since my husband made a point of creating the interior and overall “theme” of the car to honour Canada.  It is fitting on Canada’s Birthday to drive the “Canada Car” and enjoy the ride.  From the little Maple leaves embroidered into the upholstery to the illuminated license plate that flashes “Maple Leaf Forever” whenever the brakes are applied, it truly is a cool car.

That said, I will miss seeing the celebrations from Parliament Hill on T.V.  I enjoy watching the festivities each year and I am always moved to tears when our National Anthem is sung.  It is interesting that in a country that prides itself on its multiculturalism and diversity of religion that at least when we sing “O Canada” (Canada’s National Anthem), we remember Who brought us together as a nation.  Sure, many have sought to remove “God” from our anthem; the ongoing battle of separating church from state continues, but on Canada Day that is all but forgotten.  We sing the words with passion and with national fervor!

As I watch the thousands and thousands of people singing ‘O Canada’ on Parliament Hill in front of the Peace Tower, I can’t help but liken the scene to the one described in Philippians, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (vs. 9-11).  It is a prayer and a promise.  One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

I wonder if we Canadians who sing the National Anthem even realize that we sing a prayer to the Father with these words: “God keep our land glorious and free!”  It is impossible to separate church from state when we implore the God of the Universe to “keep” our land glorious and free!

I am always taken aback when I see people stand to sing our National Anthem at sporting events, beers in hand, some of them, and belt out the lyrics at the beginning of a game calling upon God to bless our Nation when later they are calling fire and damnation upon a referee when he makes an unpopular call.  Does God listen to those prayers?

‘O Canada’ was proclaimed Canada’s national anthem on July 1, 1980, 100 years after it was first sung on June 24, 1880.  The music was composed by Calixa Lavallee, and French lyrics to accompany the music were written by Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier.  Many English versions have appeared over the years in fact in 1901 a Toronto doctor; Dr. Thomas Bedford Richardson penned these lyrics:

“O Canada! Our fathers’ land of old Thy brow is crown’d with leaves of red and gold. Beneath the shade of the Holy Cross Thy children own their birth No stains thy glorious annals gloss Since valour shield thy hearth. Almighty God! On thee we call Defend our rights, forfend this nation’s thrall, Defend our rights, forfend this nation’s thrall.”

(Notice the prayer…)

In 1908 Mercy E Powell McCulloch won a competition with these lyrics to go with Lavallee’s music:

” O Canada! in praise of thee we sing; From echoing hills our anthems proudly ring. With fertile plains and mountains grand With lakes and rivers clear, Eternal beauty, thos dost stand Throughout the changing year. Lord God of Hosts! We now implore Bless our dear land this day and evermore, Bless our dear land this day and evermore.”

(Again, notice the prayer…)

However in 1908, the lyrics by Robert Stanley Weir, a lawyer in Montreal, after a few minor amendments, the first verse of Weir’s poem was finally proclaimed as the official English version of ‘O Canada’ in 1980:

“O Canada! Our home and native land! True patriot love in all thy sons command. With glowing hearts we see thee rise, The True North, strong and free! From far and wide, O Canada, We stand on guard for thee. God keep our land glorious and free! O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.”

I don’t know if many Canadians realize that there are several more verses to ‘O Canada’.  I particularly want to draw attention to the last verse.  It leaves no doubt that ‘O Canada’ is more than a national anthem; it is our nation’s heartfelt prayer to God every time we stand to sing it.  Here is the original poem of 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir:

“O Canada! Our home and native land! True patriot love thou dost in us command. We see thee rising fair, dear land, The True North, strong and free; And stand on guard, O Canada, We stand on guard for thee.

Refrain O Canada! O Canada! O Canada! We stand on guard for thee. O Canada! We stand on guard for thee.

O Canada! Where pines and maples grow. Great prairies spread and lordly rivers flow. How dear to us thy broad domain, From East to Western Sea, Thou land of hope for all who toil! Thou True North, strong and free!

Refrain O Canada! O Canada! etc.

O Canada! Beneath thy shining skies May stalwart sons and gentle maidens rise, To keep thee steadfast through the years From East to Western Sea, Our own beloved native land! Our True North, strong and free!

Refrain O Canada! O Canada! etc.

Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer, Hold our dominion within thy loving care; Help us to find, O God, in thee A lasting, rich reward, As waiting for the Better Day, We ever stand on guard.

Refrain O Canada! O Canada! etc.”



The Journey of Blogging

Twitter background 3I had no idea when I started to blog my “Journey Thoughts” that anyone else, other than a few family and friends, would actually read my little blog. I was so busy trying to publish and market my book that my blog was all but forgotten. Once in a while I’d add a little anecdote, an update, or share a snippet of my life experiences while walking with the Father. It was only when I got an email from a teacher in South Carolina who said that my blog “moved her” emotionally and spiritually that I realized God had given me a ministry opportunity here.

One day I “Googled” my name and I discovered that someone had nominated my “little” blog for the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards in not one, not two but THREE categories! Imagine my surprise! Suddenly my “Journey Thoughts” had a much larger readership than just family and friends.  Since that first nomination, Journey Thoughts has been nominated every year since in the Canadian Weblog Awards.  It has won a Canadian Christian Writing Award and I have thousands of followers from around the world.

A father in Saudi Arabia said he had read a story I wrote for Chicken Soup for the Soul to his daughters and they now follow my blog regularly.  I thank my loyal readers, followers and those who share my blog with others on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google and more.

With popularity also comes much responsibility.  I take blogging seriously.  I have noticed in the blogosphere that there are millions of bloggers out there.  There are some blogs that I take time to read regularly.  They uplift and encourage me with their content.  There are others that I enjoy because they write about family, food and fun…I get some of my best “Grandma” ideas about crafts and kid-friendly recipes that I share with my grandbabies.  Still other bloggers talk about the craft of writing, being an author, publishing and marketing and I go to those blogs regularly for advice and inspiration.  There are also blogs that are more confrontational and political in content.  I notice that these blogs tend to have quite an audience and a stream of commenters, some who are very opinionated and occasionally offensive.  When I see that sort of thing I tend to avoid those “worldly” blogs that do not honour or glorify God.  That’s just me.

In a world that is struggling to find hope in what some see as a hopeless world, I have had readers say that my posting scripture or talking about the grace of God is “just what (they) need” at “just the right time”.  I find that interesting.  God leads people to my blog at just the right time.  I am humbled.

I belong to a group of Canadian writers who have been regularly praying for “Word Warriors”, a name someone coined to describe those of us who write from a Christian world view perspective.  I love that!

So I invite you to check out just a few of my favourite “Word Warrior” blogs and please pray for all of us who blog so that the name of Jesus will be lifted high.  Pray that we will glorify Him in all we do, say and WRITE!

InScribe Christian Writer’s Online

Connie Cavanaugh

Kathy Howard

Michael Blackaby

Matt Walsh