Archive for April 2010

Journal #14

April 22, 2010

                January 31, 2010: Today was the day that I went to Princess Street United Church in Kingston to share my faith. Yes, this church originally had nothing to do with my internship, but it became a supportive pillar, half way through this journey. The Minister of the congregation had asked me to share my faith journey with the charge back in September at the Presbytery meeting; however I was not sure how the opportunity would arise; but, most of all “Why would I do that?” This question was ringing in my mind. My logic was, “I am here to do my internship and focus on my goals”. This charge was appointed and I will not falter. I wonder now, if this “logical” reasoning stemmed from laziness and my comfort zone.

                To talk about January 31, we need to go back to December 20, 2009. To see how my “logical” calculations were crushed by the Love of God that this congregation showed me. December 20th was a very busy day and the day was not over yet; it was still busy in the evening when we got home around 3:30-ish. Gary and I arrived to the apartment pretty late in the afternoon and had to go back out in an hour or so to attend and participate (for me) in the Christmas Cantata (I had not been part of a cantata for 27 years, so this was a Joy). In between attempting to wind down and getting ready again, the minister of the Princess Street United called me from her cellular phone and asked if she can drop by for a minute. She said that she has something for me. She was coming by before going to her home herself, I guess, she was running late too. She was almost at my place. About 30 minutes or so later, she arrived and gave me an envelope from the U.C.W. (United Church Women) of Princess Street United. The women had wanted to wish me a blessed Christmas and support my journey. They had a cheque in the card, which was a BIG surprise.  

                See, the same morning, at each of the congregations where I am interning they offered Gary and I Christmas cards where there were financial gifts also. Gary and I were floored by this outpouring of love. How is it possible that strangers, who barely know us, extend a helping hand? Yes, I can understand that the pastoral charge where I am involved with, they got to know me and our story. How Gary and I are struggling financially, but a U.C.W. who has never met me all the way in Kingston?  Who would do such a thing? Often, we think twice to help our own family members and keep record of how much we have given and when we have done so; and yet here are STRANGERS “physically” but United in Spirit extending their helping hands.

                During my break back home for Christmas and New Year, God’s spirit woke me up and made me realize that goals and keeping up with our plans are good, but we need to be flexible to reach out to ALL people. “God so loved the WORLD”, the world includes all of humanity, therefore it includes the Princess Street United Church congregation also. When I came back to Portland therefore, from my break, I shared my desire to go and share my journey at a Sunday morning worship service before the end of the month, with my colleague, the minister of this charge. I also shared it with my supervising minister and they both thought it would give so much wealth to my internship experience and encouraged me to do it. On January 21st, I advised the minister of the Princess Street United that January 31st is a good day for me to be with them if this works with their schedule. It was just right.

                I had an idea what I wanted to share and do, but I was not 100% comfortable. There was a storm in my heart, something new needed to break in and get me out of the “familiar”. I received the bulletin for the service and for the reflection time, it indicated, “My Journey”. I looked over my reflection and convinced myself that it was what I wanted to share, so I printed, punched holes and tucked it well in my binder for Sunday morning.

                Sunday morning arrived and I started to head to Kingston (That is where the church is, on Princess Street). The drive was at least 45-55 minutes, so I absorbed the beauty around me with my sleepy eyes first, but grew awake with the beauty that surrounded the highway.  I attempted to listen to music but had to turn it off a few times, because there were still waves crashing through my mind. My reflection was not good enough for this morning if I was to share “MY JOURNEY”, as indicated in the bulletin. “You cannot start a journey in the middle”, was the voice echoing in my heart. After a long struggle on the drive there, when I parked my car in front of the church, the decision was made, “OUT GOES MY PRINTED REFLECTION”. What a learning curve! I am always afraid to speak without any notes, because I am scared of mixing different languages, because there have been times that I have spoken “ArmEnglish”, as Gary says… So, I have always had the fear of doing so from the pulpit too. But today was the day to let go of the paper and focus deep into my heart allowing God’s Spirit to guide my words.

                Here we were, at the moment of truth.  Before the church service, I met a few people from the choir and one gentleman gave me a book. It is a fictional story taking place in Lebanon. I thought that was so amazing and kind of him, to bring that book to give to me, knowing that I was born in Beirut, Lebanon. I accepted it joyfully. I will definitely read it one day. The service was filled with wonderful prayers and songs and it was so good to be sitting and absorbing God’s grace so freely. When the time came and I went up to share my story, I had my binder with me, and started with a word of thanks, but the rest was all flowing out of my mouth calmly and cohesively. Looking around the congregation and realizing how people were listening attentively, made my heart rejoice. Seeing a few closing their eyes prayerfully (I know those who are tired and fall asleep, these people were not) once in a while and reflecting, made me be grateful to God for this “breakthrough”. After the service, meeting the congregants one by one and shaking their hands was just a great delight.

                What joy it is when we allow the Spirit to work through us. Bring down the walls of separation. Allow the Spirit of God take us out of our comfort zones. Allow ourselves to share the grace that we have received so abundantly from God through others, through Strangers. At the threshold of a new decade, 2010, what new actions are we called to embrace, and or what old actions are we asked to discontinue from doing? Turn off the voices around you, especially the voice of the Self. Give up the “I”. Turn off everything like I turned off my CD player in the car for most of the drive down to Kingston. Prayerfully, Silently, seek God’s voice to be audible – Pray that Heaven can be visible on earth because of YOUR acts of Kindness, Gentleness and TRUTH –  to ALL of humanity and not only to those  you like.

Journal # 13

April 11, 2010

January 26, 2010: Have you ever done something without really wanting to do it, but after doing it, you have been blessed more than you can imagine? Well, since I left Laval and came back to Portland on January 6, Gary has had a terrible sinus infection and has been feeling very lousy. So, one night after hanging up the phone with him, I decided I am going to drive home on Sunday, January 24th and surprise him. I spoke with dad (my father-in-law) and set the wheels in motion. The secret was going well, until I forwarded an e-mail to Gary, two days before the appointed Sunday, that had a line at the end wishing me a safe trip home. After I hit send, it hit me like a brick. But, it was too late. I called Gary right away to see if he had read the e-mail yet. He was reading it as I called. Well, the cat was out of the bag. I was disappointed that I could not surprise him, but on the other hand, he sounded so much better. The anticipation of seeing a loved one I guess does more good than we can imagine. So, I was glad that I messed up.

The weather was great for a January afternoon and the drive was easy. The two-and-a-half hours passed fast and I arrived in Laval at six p.m. right on time for supper. It is always great to come home. I have realized that home is the best place on earth, but I only got to learn this because I was away from it. Earlier in my life, I always wanted to go away on week-end get-a-ways and vacations, as much as possible. Now however, I have grown to love to come home and enjoy the embrace of my family, my friends and the comforts of the home.

On Tuesday January 26th, Gary needed to go downtown to meet someone for about three hours and he asked me if I would go with him. Just to be with him for the drive and “Just be with him”. At first I was reluctant and did not want to leave home, but then, I realized how much it would mean to him, so I went. Arriving downtown and dropping him where he needed to be, I continued to go on to the Christian Book store in Westmount to get a few things for Youth Group, etc.  Meanwhile, I was thinking of a very special teacher from Concordia University and I truly wanted to see her. While I was driving, something inside of me pushed me to go and drop in at the Theological Department at Concordia.  This is where I completed my BA in Theological Studies in 2007. So, this place will always have a special place in my heart.

Higher education was always an unattainable reality for me. I always thought only the rich and the powerful can attain such realities, but God had turned the tables around and granted me the honour of achieving this milestone. This was all done because of Grace.

My mom called Canada the Promised Land. Now, I am able to see what she meant. We are truly blessed to live in a country where we have the freedom of speech and opportunities to continue higher education. Yes, we can still do so much more. Our Government must do a lot more, but when I compare where I came from to where I am now, I praise God every day.

So, I arrived on Bishop Street and parked my car right in front of the Theological Department’s offices and saw the teacher I was yearning to see. She had just walked in the office and I saw her from the road. Still my excuses were many. What if she has appointments and cannot meet with me, what if, what if. I walked up to the office and greeted her. What a joy it was for both of us. We visited for an hour and a half and enjoyed an amazing time of fellowship. We prayed together and I left for the bookstore.

Why did this day stand out for me? Because, I learnt a few lessons once again. First, put others’ needs before yours and you will be blessed. Second, do not let excuses be your way out of what the Spirit is leading you to do. Always be ready to act with love. Maybe my excuses were stemmed from laziness and reluctance, but I am glad that I was able to stomp on these feelings and conquer them with Grace to enjoy a blessed day, which is more than just a day in Montreal, but a day worth living in.