Blast from the Past

Family reunions. High school reunions. Weddings and anniversaries. Ah, and of course – we all love that delightful sighting of a summer fling from years ago. Many of us have experienced these blasts from the past – and they tend to cause us to examine ourselves asking, “I wonder if he thought I looked older”, or “I don’t think she recognized me in this outfit…” These encounters spark the question, how have I changed?

Yesterday I sat across from a lively university friend I hadn’t connected with for a few years. She has changed in amazing ways! Her eyes danced with vibrancy as she told me about her business and passion to help people live their best lives. She still has challenges, but she talked about them with new strength and resiliency – with a deep down certainty that things would be ok. Since university, Marie has started her own venture to help others reach their fitness and wellness goals. As she told me about her own journey, she said her new joy is not so much about body transformation as it is about character growth and a mindset switch. Science shows there is a deep down fulfillment that can’t be compared with when we foster healthy thinking.

Marie told me excitedly about a study that shows the way you choose to think about food actually affects how effectively your body processes that food. This makes sense because anxiety and fear have countless negative effects on your overall physical health including: aches, pains, weakness, digestive problems, and a weakened immune system.

Marie consistently chooses to replace anxious thoughts with a healthy mindset. She is enjoying happier days as a result! Fear and anxiety take up a lot of brain space in North America and studies show that 95% of the things people worry about never actually happen.

We can’t thrive with fear and anxiety building nests in our minds. God didn’t make us for worry – Jesus inspired his friend John to write, “Perfect love drives out fear.” This happens in a person’s heart and brain – and it changes people for the better! In your brain – the acceptance of God’s love, which is never based on your performance but on His grace established on the cross, kicks fear out! Receiving this mindset changes and liberates people to live their best lives! Sometimes we don’t want to make changes because we are afraid to fail. The truth is if we take risks – we will fail. The good news is God’s love is unchanging and always dependable. The grace extended through Jesus’ death and resurrected life is always certain – you can set your life on it and count on it lasting!

When your mind is set on the perfect love of God, you are strengthened to perceive life’s circumstances with faith that God is in control and He is on your side. With these thoughts percolating, worry seeps out of the brain and your body functions more effectively – you change for the better and your life is enhanced!

So don’t dread your next blast from the past, wondering whether that person will think you have changed in positive or negative ways. Instead, live with the confidence that as you set your mind on perfect love – you will be changing for the best!

Art, Health and Wholeness

Do you feel like you can’t keep up to the treadmill of your life? Like everyone else and the world around you is moving faster than you can clomp along? Yesterday, I felt the track of the tread as I rushed to pick up sketchpads and get to school to facilitate an art session with high school girls between lunch bites. In the past, my solution would have been to push harder to catch up in all the ways I felt behind … but I am learning there is a better way to live…

Yesterday, as I pulled the classroom door closed behind me and the art session began – I was reminded that instead of running faster to catch the busy – we can choose to stop. To step of the tread and readjust the speed.

The art instructor gave colors and hues of all kinds – the girls opened the massive sketchpads and began drawing and coloring self-portraits – “A healthy self.” The room was calm. Rich, vibrant and explosive colors invaded the white space of sketchpads and creativity oozed like melting butter around the room.

Near the end of the session, the instructor asked the group to consider the questions, Who am I? Who do I want to be in the future? How am I growing in to that person? These reflection questions helped all of us to consider what is unique about us, what is important to us, and how should we be spending our time in alignment with our values. This empowers us to live true and authentic lives.

This is satisfying – and society is in a desperate claw seeking deep down satisfaction.

Creativity (anything that we create with originality – this could be a strategic plan, a short story, or a new cloth diaper design) connects us to our authentic identity and helps us to live in the zone that says,I know who I am. I know what is important to me, and I am empowered to live according to those values. I do not live to meet to the expectations of others and I am not driven by the treadmill of societal pressures.”

When we make creativity  a priority, research shows we thrive.

“Stuckey and Novle considered more than 100 studies, concluding that creative expression has a powerful impact on hearth and well-being on various patient populations … engagement in the arts have a variety of outcomes including a decrease in depressive symptoms, an increase in positive emotions, reduction in stress responses, and, in some cases, improvements in immune system function.” – The Huffington Post

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszntmihalya said during his TED talk, “When we are involved in creativity, we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life …” 

PhD Cathy Malchiodi says, “It’s our capacity to actually “create” where we begin to live more fully, experience transformation, and recover the core of what it means to heal. It is your authentic expression through art making, music, song, movement, writing, and other forms of arts-based imagination that are central to the equation of why creativity is a wellness practice.” – The Huffington Post

Walking through the Royal Tyrell Museum with students this week reminded me that God is the Master of Imaginative Ingenuity. The replicas were stunning!

“All of us are the work of your hands” – Isaiah 64:8

So instead of looking to the busy treadmill to provide fulfillment, health and wholeness – look to The First Extraordinary Designer, for this is where we find ourselves.

A Mother’s Day Hope Float

“I had never felt so desperate … Like I couldn’t go on … I thought my life was ending…” Winnie’s words were slow and real as she recounted her own mothering journey as a newcomer to Canada. She battled hopelessness for years while raising her baby girl named Hope.

As she told me her Hope story, she gazed up from behind tinted glasses and said, “When Noah built the ark, it didn’t just appear. God gave specific instructions about how to build the boat so it would float. God made us to float too – but we’ve got to pay attention to His instructions.”

The ark is a ground-shaking symbol of hope, restoration and protection. It evokes images of rounded rainbows that fill skies around the globe and speak hope to all who gaze on these rich rain-stained rays. The image of the rainbow, of Hope, transcends culture, color, language and worldview … it shatters biases and misunderstandings and unifies the hope-hungry world. It shouts fresh anticipation to human hearts from pole to pole, and is painted by the finger of God for this very purpose. Just as Noah’s boat was meant to float, we are all meant to live with hope.

There was another kind of Ark before Jesus came to set the world free, the Ark of the Covenant. This Ark carried the presence of Hope Himself … Warrior man David danced with rowdy passion at the sight of it.

The presence of God is the hope-sprouting goods we are meant to feast on and is available to all through Jesus. I was chomping bites of it as Winnie recounted the stories that have marked her mothering years. There were seasons of trials, uncertainty, sickness and fear – but in the midst of it – Winnie tells two defining moments when God subtly spoke Hope to her heart, once through a television sermon and another time through the mouth of another struggling mama. It was these two distinct moments when Winnie had absolute assurance that God’s presence was with her, and Love was on His way. Her circumstances had not changed, but Hope changed her heart and propelled her with energy and courage to walk on under the rainbow banner of God’s presence.

Love always hopes. (1 Cor 13:7) and God is love.

I saw God’s present-day Ark-Building instructions being carried out by two other mighty moms this week.

Rebecca is journeying through her first year of motherhood and told me about a key to contentment that unlocks joy. She said she avoids comparison chatter about her little one and overlooks the buzz about first year landmarks and baby accomplishments. She avoids reading content that may tempt her to evaluate her worth as a mom measured up or weighed against anyone else’s. She looks for baby health and lives in moments and finds life by following these instructions, “Let everyone be sure to do his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work done well and won’t need to compare himself with someone else.” – Galatians 6:4

There isn’t room for thoughts of envy and joy to co-exist in a brain and feelings of greed and gladness cannot mix. Rebecca’s choice to heed God’s instructions keep her hope floating and I was inspired by the size of it in the midst of life-waves.

Janice, another mom, runs a school on a Saskatchewan First Nations Reserve. She daily cooks breakfast and lunch for many students, assists in the classroom and cares for several children at home.

As Janice told about the school and the fourteen-year journey of keeping it running in her community – the focus was not on the struggle … although she could choose to focus there … The thrust of her story centered on God’s provision and presence through it all. Janice follows God’s Hope-building instructions, “Fix your eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2) and “Be strong and courageous, put your Hope in God” (Psalm 31:24).

Winnie, Rebecca and Janice have very different life experiences, but they have all built Hope rafts that bob with endurance and laugh with authentic joy. We were all made to float, and enjoy the thrill of brilliant blessings and persevere through unruly waters knowing that Hope is present and Love is on His way. Float on through life, my friends! Have a Hope-filled Mother’s Day!

Pass the Pen

On a Monday I sat at a banquet celebrating literacy in Saskatoon. The festivities included dancing, performances, local artists, and keynote speaker, Bill Waiser. On the cover of Bill’s fascinating historical account, A World We Have Lost: Saskatchewan Before 1905, there is a photo of a Bison looking out at the vast Canadian plain. During his keynote address, Waiser explained that the perspective of the Bison is reflective of his publication. He wanted to tell the story of Saskatchewan’s history from the perspective of Canada’s First People. He wanted to give voice to their stories.

Throughout the evening, stories of Aboriginal people were told in a variety of ways. Lights flickered elegantly while people laughed and experienced captivating dance and music that told stories of the past and of today. The commemoration was spectacular and great progress is being made as stories are told. However, there is still much rebuilding to do.

Literacy is defined as: The ability to read and write.

Voltaire said, “Writing is the painting of the voice.”  

Malala Yousafzai wrote, “So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons.”

When someone’s story is silenced – they become disenfranchised. Marginalized. Isolated.

People are empowered when they have a place to tell their story – from their perspective. Dignity is restored. Unearthed pride buds. Future hope is charted.

Earlier, on that same banquet Monday, literacy and Canadian Aboriginal peoples were the subject discussion of our English classroom. The voice of Documentary Producer Hannah James filled the room as we learned together. Like Bill Waiser, James tells the stories of Canadian First Nations people on Global News 16X9. The TV segment explores the reality that many families in First Nations communities face the challenging choice to send their kids away to school or keep them at home without an education.

The storytelling film says, “We see an Ontario district where the literacy rate is as low as 21%. This statistic is among the lowest literacy rates in the world” … Our classroom is shocked. Then, through the screen, we meet Shannen. She was a girl from Attawapiskat First Nation on James Bay. She attended school in portables that were cold and mice-infested. She courageously and boldly gave voice to her education story – reaching out to whoever would listen. She said, “It’s hard to feel pride when your classrooms are cold and mice run around … Those younger students are still thinking that those portables are real schools.” Shannen passed away in a car accident at 16 years old, while travelling a long journey to school. Her legacy and story lives on and continues to influence and sanction other young people to tell their stories.

On a Wednesday, I attended a the film Release at Saskatoon’s Broadway theatre called She Has a Name. The movie, written by Andrew Kooman is about the trafficking of children in sexual slavery and tells the true story of 54 women who were left to die in the back of a broken down semi-trailer on the side of a Ranong road in Thailand. After the film, a justice-fighting-friend Cassie Van Camp, along with other members of Saskatoon’s Hope Restored Canada told the stories of sex trafficking in Canada … in Saskatoon. Through stories, the voices of abused men and women were given room and space … and knowledge became the responsibility of all present.

Yes, literacy is power.

Story-telling is strength.

And knowledge is responsibility.

When we hear someone’s story, we are responsible to act in ways that give honor and dignity where it has been taken.

Bill’s publication. Hannah’s documentary. Shannen’s appeal. Kooman’s flim. These are earth-shaking forces that bring change and healing – and each unique perspective spreads through words. Literacy. May we be people who actively pass the pen so untold stories can be scripted. By doing this, we ascribe worth to all humanity.

“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly…” – Micah 6:8