Monday, December 26, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone!
Isn't it amazing that God became a baby?
John and I are doing well. We had a few good days with Mom & Dad McAlister and James and Lindsay. And today we celebrated Christmas Ivany styles. We didn't expect to be in Toronto this Christmas, but we are blessed to be surrounded by family. It's so nice to have Kirsten and Josh home - and Kirst's friend Crystal.
I've had a really emotionally volatile month (thank you for your patience, John and Sherri!) but God is good.
Today is boxing day. It would seem that it is the holiday that unites people of all faiths - consumerism! Supposedly in an average day, a North American Christian spends 7 times more time in front of the t.v. than in worship, prayer and Bible reading combined. No wonder we keep wanting more. Yikes. But, as for t.v.... you have to admit - LOST is fairly addictive...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Stephanie Ali

My friend Stephanie Ali died yesterday.
She was 30, and I miss her.
Last Saturday night a few of us went to her hospital room and watched a movie and told funny stories and broke visitors' curfew and it all seemed so normal... Steph didn't seem like she was sick or dying - she just seemed like Steph.
Steph was one of the most courageous people I knew. And she was hilarious. Steph was so talented - she had a flair for style and designed jewelery. We joined the choir in the same year.
Life is unfair and God is mysterious sometimes. Please pray for the Alis this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The lion, the kangaroo and the dinosaur

The kids at our church put on a spectacular Christmas pageant last Sunday. All the main characters from the nativity scene were there, such as the lion, the kangaroo and the dinosaur. Everything went fairly smooth until the lion and dinosaur decided to "borrow" the baby Jesus. Mary was not amused. I think that's why most modern presentations of the Christmas story omit the lion and the dinosaur. I have been assured, however, that they do appear in some ancient Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of Luke. The presence of the kangaroo was a bit of a stretch though.

I'm currently reading The Mountain of Silence by Kyriacos Markides. It's a wonderful introduction to Orthodox spirituality and Eastern monastic mysticism. I'm halfway through and have already been challenged to explore my beliefs of icons and idols, signs and wonders, angels and demons, hell, spiritual direction, illnesses of the heart and the influence and source of negative thoughts. I'm hoping to get Gifts of the Desert, Markides' new book, over the holidays. It will probably have to be a gift from me to me. The next book on my reading list is Living Prayer by Anthony Bloom, which I had to track down from a used bookstore in New York.

We're having a dinner party this evening at Rochelle's parents and have invited 13 of our Chinese friends. Dave and Bev have made some of their spectacular chili and each family is bringing a homemade Chinese dish for everyone to sample. Yumm. Kirst is home for the holidays and is planning some games with her friend Crystal, so it should be a blast. We did this last year and had a great evening.

One more day until I get my wife back. She's been coordinating kettles (Christmas fundraising) for our church this year, and has gone a little wacko. But don't tell her I said so… We head out to my parents place tomorrow night after she finishes her final kettle pickups. Yahoo!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Ecological footprint

If everyone in the world enjoyed Canada's standard of living, it would take four Earths to supply our needs and dispose of our waste. Americans consume even more. Makes you kind of wonder if our part of the world doesn't have some serious vested interest in making sure other parts of the world don't reach our standard of living (because - at the moment - we only have one Earth - so that would means we'd have to consume and dispose a lot less...) Hmmm...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Absence of God

The first chapter of Anthony Bloom's Beginning to Pray deals with the absence of God. Well, not a real absence – God is never really absent – but the sense of absence that many of us will experience at some points in our lives. Here is a snippet from this first chapter:

First of all, it is very important to remember that prayer is an encounter and a relationship, a relationship which is deep, and this relationship cannot be forced either on us or God. The fact that God can make Himself present or can leave us with the sense of His absence is part of this live and real relationship.

If we could mechanically draw Him into an encounter, force Him to meet us, simply because we have chosen this moment to meet with Him, there would be no relationship and no encounter. We can do that with an image, with the imagination, or with the various idols we can put in front of us instead of God; we can do nothing of the sort with the living God, any more than we can do it with a living person.

A relationship must begin and develop in mutual freedom. If you look at the relationship in terms of mutual relationship, you will see that God could complain about us a great deal more than we about Him. We complain that He does not make Himself present to us for the few minutes we reserve for Him, but what about the twenty-three and a half hours during which God may be knocking at our door and we answer 'I am busy, I am sorry' or when we do not answer at all because we do not even hear the knock at the door of our heart, or our minds, of our conscience, of our life. So there is a situation in which we have no right to complain of the absence of God, because we are a great deal more absent than He ever is.

The second very important thing is that a meeting face to face with God is always a moment of judgment for us. We cannot meet God in prayer or in meditation or in contemplation and not be either saved or condemned. I do not mean this is major terms of eternal damnation or eternal salvation already given and received, but it is always a critical moment, a crisis. 'Crisis' comes from the Greek and means 'judgment.' To meet God face to face in prayer is a critical moment in our lives, and thanks be to Him that He does not always present Himself to us when we wish to meet Him, because we might not be able to endure such a meeting. Remember the many passages in Scripture in which we are told how bad it is to find oneself face to face with God, because God is power, God is truth, God is purity.

Therefore, the first thought we ought to have when we do not tangibly perceive the divine presence, is a thought of gratitude. God is merciful; He does not come in an untimely way. He gives us a chance to judge ourselves, to understand, and not to come into His presence at a moment when it would mean condemnation.

Monday, December 05, 2005


What a weekend! My choir concerts were HYPE! God was glorified!
Sunday morning Sherri brought me to an Eco-Sabbath. A group of us got together to reflect on God's creation. It was beautiful. At the beginning we heard a piece of music (Meditation from Thais - Massenet). I closed my eyes and pictured God creating on His great canvas of the Earth. I pictured him sliding his thumb down the Earth and seeing a river starting to to trickle, or His hands reaching into the earth and pulling out mountains. I pictured Him flicking His fingers and seeing trees and forests come into being. It was beautiful.
One of the quotes from the service: "The universe is the primary sacred community...In general, however, we have thought of the Earth as joining in the religious expression of the human rather than the human joining in the religious expression of the Earth. We have consistently thought of the human as primary and the earth as derivative..." (Thomas Berry)
I'm a city girl, and don't often think about Creation, but it was really humbling to realize how long the Earth has been alive and how small a part humans are in it. And yet we hold so much power. The universe has been around for billions of years, and only in the last 50 years have we started to sersiouly destroy it. And the way we're treating the environment, we'll be the first species ever to exterminate ourselves. That's scary, eh? It was humbling also to realize that I often think of myself as a creator rather than part of the creation.
Let's take care of our dear planet - for the sake of generations to come, and for the Artist's sake.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Integrity for life

In Beginning to Pray, Archbishop Anthony Bloom reflects on his fascinating upbringing that saw him living (and fleeing) throughout Russia, Switzerland, Persia, Kurdistan, India, Spain, France, Austria, Yugoslavia and probably a host of other interesting locales. His father, who was a Russian diplomat prior to the revolution, never returned to his old standards of life, choosing instead to work as an unskilled labourer for as long as his health permitted and then in simple clerical duties. He was a strong man who felt that as a Russian he ought to share responsibility for what had happened in his homeland.

Here are a couple of Bloom's memories of his father:

I remember a certain number of his phrases. In fact there are two things he said which impressed me and have stayed with me all of my life. One is about life. I remember he said to me after a holiday, 'I worried about you' and I said, 'Did you think I'd had an accident?' He said, 'That would have meant nothing, even if you had been killed. I thought you had lost your integrity.' Then on another occasion he said to me, 'Always remember that whether you are alive or dead matters nothing. What matters is what you live for and what you are prepared to die for.' These things were the background of my early education and show the sense of life that I got from him.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Walking in the neighbourhood

Today I was walking down a street in my neighbourhood and heard two really loud bangs. tehn I saw guys running away from the gun shots and police running towards them. More gun violence in Regent Park. The thing I found most strange about it was that everything else seemed so normal - parents and young children kept walking down the street, people kept driving by, the wind kept blowing. Just another shooting...
And then tonight I was walking some kids home from squads and one of the girls said, "oh, I prefer this other route. That way we don't have to pass by the crack dealers and they won't bother us." Right. The same girl was telling us last week that she believes that God listens to her prayers because Sunday night she prayed for her mom's safety, and Monday her mom was right by a shooting and didn't get hurt.
I am continually amazed at what kids in my neighbourhood grow up with and become accustomed to. Just another walk in the neighbourhood.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Black & Blue

A very odd things happened to me this morning. I went in for my shower, and noticed that my legs were completely dark blue. At first I thought I was still asleep, and then I wondered what kind of dreams I'd been having. They looked completely bruised. Thankfully most of the blue came off with soap. I guess my new jeans had dyed my legs (which explains the incredible sale price!).
Of course, this also made me think of women who really do have bruises all over their legs and faces, etc. The other day I was walking into my church building and a guy drove by the entrance on his bike screaming, "I'm going to kill you, you b****! I swear it - I'm going to kill you!" The woman he was screaming at was behind the glass windows, and already had a huge bruise on her face.
Violence against women sickens me and scares me. Yes, I know there's also violence against men, but, if you look at the statistics, the type of violence and the severity of it is much worse when it's men against women. I interviewed a woman recently who had the amazing courage to leave her abusive husband. Her name's Ilona. You can check out her story if you want -

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Monday night I was inspired by hearing Vicky Keith. She is a marathon swimmer who now does a lot of coaching and advocacy for kids who have disabilities. Her whole thing is that nothing is impossible. She once swam for over 135 hours continuously. Yeah, 135 hours. That is crazy! In addition to the whole swimming for over 5 days thing in a pool... She swam across Lake Ontario and back. She swam across each of the Great Lakes in 2 months. She thinks it's about having a bit of skill and a whole lot of determination. She's trying to raise $1million to help athletes who are children and who have physicial disabilities. Check it out - She has amazing stories about kids overcoming their challenges too (like a girl who had to have her arms and legs amputated and yet swam across Lake Ontario!)
I think this type of determination is amazing. Truly amazing! I was truly inspired an challenged. I also think this type of determination is the reason I am not an athlete. I hit the pain mark and think, "why on earth would I continue to do this activity?" whereas others hit the pain mark, love it, and keep going.
Although... the other day I took an aquafit class in my building (aerobics in the water). I don't want to brag too much, but I feel confident in saying that I was the most athletic in the whole class. OK, well, I was also the only person in the class who wasn't a senior citizen, but still....

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy Birthday to my dear mom.
She is awesome, and we love her so much! My mom is very kind, generous, fun, supportive and loving.
Love you, Mom!

Used birthday candle

Yesterday I was teaching a class on birth order. There's not much scientific backing for it, but it can be interesting. It's all about how your position in the family (related to your siblings) affects your personality. Did you know that most people would prefer to be the oldest child (heh heh)?
Anyway, I was asking the class about advantages of being the oldest and youngest and middle and only child. When I got to the youngest, this one gentleman said, "there's nothing good about being the youngest - it's just all s***!" He went on to explain that he had the same birthday as his older brother, who was exactly one year older than him. Each year, his parents would wrap up the presents his brother had got the year previous and give them to him. And they'd have a cake for his brother and sing "Happy Birthday" and then take the used candle and put it in his own cake and sing to him. This man was very bitter, and is now estranged from his whole family. It broke my heart.
On a more cheeful note, we got *two* e-mails from Zimbabwe this week saying that they have not forgotten about us and are still checking on the progress of our visas. So, that's good...

Friday, November 11, 2005

Balancing act

Sometimes I feel like a bird. Other times a statue.

Took this pic while hanging out in Ottawa with Heather and Jason. Beautiful shot. I tried to get a similar photo with a living politician, but it wasn’t the month of the year they work.

These days I’m exploring the joy of balancing. In fact, while writing this post (yes, Rochelle, I’m finally posting something) I’m touching my nose with my left index finger while balancing on my right foot. I can’t believe how easy it is to keep typing with my free hand without fallgkiijng… woops. I’m okay. Just a bit bruised where my head hit the monitor.

Now that I’m sitting down, I’ll share some other balancing acts in my life.

Feelings of entitlement & Believing God has a plan for my life

Self-absorption & Being open and vulnerable with God and others

Fostering a romantic spirit & Exposing my tender brain to The Notebook

Trusting that God will get us to Africa & Preparing my heart for possible rejection

Transitioning to life in Africa & Remaining mission-focused while still here

Blogging is a great idea & Blogging is a big waste of time

Chocolate is an occasional food & M&Ms are good in cereal

This is all so wack, but at least I’m making my girl happy by posting. I’m thinking I might make this a monthly event. Maybe even on the same day I do the dishes at home.

So, lurkers, what are the balancing acts in your life? Come on, don’t be shy!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Just a little competitive

I don't consider myself to be a very competitive person, but there are some exceptions, such as board games with John and walking.
I walk fast. Yesterday I was on my usual morning walk, and something unusual happened - a pedestrian passed me. Again, I walk fast, so, when walking down the street, I always pass people, they don't usually pass me. So, I sped up a bit, but his legs were much longer than mine, and he kept getting ahead (PLUS I had already been walking for about 45 minutes - totally unfair advantage!) Basically we raced for about 12 minutes. Now, John thinks that this other person (a businessman) did not know that we were racing, but oh - he did! Yes, he tried to appear casual (as did I), but no - he was into it. By the time I got to the office my face was so red! Yep, sometimes I'm ridiculous.
The last time this happened, when we got to a street corner, the other guy actually turned to me and said, "you think you're pretty fast, eh?" I was mortified. But walking's the only sport I really like...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Yesterday I went to the Humane Society to take a break from staring at this computer screen (and I was missing our bunnies). It made me feel so sad to see all of the cats just staring at me and mewing and looking so... trapped! And then on my way back I saw one of the sex trade workers in our neighbourhood. She was looking in a mirror and singing, "I hate everything about you..." And she looked so caged in and trapped. I actually wanted to punch the guy who was letting her out of his van - and I'm not the confrontational type.
This morning I walked to work (it takes just over an hour) and I was loving just being able to walk and breathe. I was listening to my gospel music and singing along and dancing a little bit. And I felt so very free. On the way here I met a lady from our church who has been an alocholic for most of her life. She told me she's been sober for 3 months. She smiled when she told me - and looked so very free. I also learned that she makes homemade chocolates. Yum.

Monday, October 31, 2005

We're still here!

Yep... we're still in Toronto. You gotta love waiting on immigration papers! But God is good. We've got a place to stay, we've got some temporary work (that means grocery money!), and we actually have some peace (which is AWESOME because we didn't have much peace for a while....)
And there are good things about still being here. We got to do the international Gulu Walk, we got to go to an African mass, we got to go to a mosque, we got to eat sushi a few more times, we're able to keep seeing friends and family...
And we are learning lessons - like patience, and relying on each other to stay sane, and how wonderful it is to have people who understand you, and what it feels like to be somewhere but not to really be there...
OK, that's probably enough dot-dot-dots for one blog. Hoping you are well... :)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Fund-raiser a big success

Tonight was a great night!
My choir (the University of Toronto Gospel Choir) teamed up with The Salvation Army North Toronto band for a concert. We made music, glorified God and fund-raised just under $3500. The money will go to the Howard Hospital - a Salvation Army hospital in Zimbabwe caring for people living with HIV/AIDS (by the way - did you know that 1 in 4 Zimbabweans is HIV+?).
I love my choir so much (ayyyy!) They have meant so much to me as my extended family for the last 6 years. Props to sopranos (of course), but also altos and tenors. I love you guys!
P.S. Happy Birthday to my beautiful friend Anita! Anita is a godly, fun, compassionate and creative person. She is also a very dear friend of mine. Anita and Bram (also an amazing person and good friend) are in Salvation Army training college - meaning that they're being trained to be Salvation Army officers (pastors). They're going to be awesome at this!!! Having good friends has to be one of life's most wonderful treasures.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Mission prep

Rochelle's been bugging me to make a post, so here goes...

We had two wonderful weeks of holiday this October, the first with
Rochelle's parents and the second with mine. Sadly, the second week
was interrupted with a phone call to let us know that our departure to
Zimbabwe could be delayed another four to six months. Not the best
news, given that we've already left work and our apartment. Things
will work themselves out, but we'd appreciate prayer support over the
situation. We're learning a lot about patience and trusting in God...
haven't totally mastered the lesson, however.

We're currently participating in a two-week mission preparation
training course... we're praying for my survival, but we have learned
a few interesting things already. Looking forward to visiting a mosque
and meeting with the Imam.

Trust all is well with you. Drop us a line and let us know.

Grace and peace.

Friday, October 14, 2005

3 good things to do

It's Friday and I'm on holiday, but I've been searching the net a bit today and have found 3 good, easy things to do (note: obviously there are many more, but I don't like really long blogs!)
1. Donate money to the relief effort in Pakistan (and Kashmir, India and Afghanistan). The death toll is already over 20,000, and expected to rise to 70,000 as more bodies are cleared from the rubble. 4 million people have been left homeless. I have a friend (Sadaf) doing some social work in Pakistan. She suggests giving money to a) The International Development and Refugee Foundation ( or b) The Red Cross (
2. Trick-or-treat for UNICEF, raising money for schools in Africa ( If you're too old to trick-or-treat, get your kids to do it, or kids in your neighbourhood. Canada has accepted the challenge to: build/rehabilitate 1100 schools, provide safe water and sanitation for 300 schools, donate desks and blackboards to 600 schools, and contruct 50 teacher training centres to train 6000 African teachers. Get the boxes, collect money, see African kids getting an education.
3. Write a letter in support of human rights. Amnesty International has campaigns you can join, or you can just take on an individual's cause. It's easy and doesn't take much time -
Sometimes we're led to believe that there's nothing we can do about the world's terrible state of affairs. Not true! But it will take (at least) a few minutes, and maybe a few dollars...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Happy 80th Grandma!

Happy 80th Birthday to my beautiful Grandma. She is a great example to me, and I love her very much.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I must say that being grateful greatly improves my quality of life.
Here are some things I'm thankful for... God's love, grace, faithfulness, patience and wisdom; John; hot showers; Africa; so many good, fun, kind friends; freedom; godly grandparents; babies being born every minute; parents who knew/know how to love me and take care of me; Joel, Kirsten and Josh; Sherri, Grace and Johnny; living in Toronto with people from all nations; turkey and chocolate (but not together); clean clothes; sight and hearing; good family (including in-laws!); my choir; my church; my education; music that makes me feel alive; movies that make me cry; peace; smiles from strangers; forgiveness; that aching feeling of loving someone; clean, running water; the hope that I have; my past and my future.
There are so many more, but it's ok - this isn't the only day I can give thanks. God is good.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


It's been a rough few days. A friend of Mine (Matt Truesdale) died in a car crash. I sang at his funeral Tuesday. He was 27 - my age. His parents were really thankful that I came, but it was hard. So many of his friends were there, and they all just looked shell shocked. 27 year olds usually aren't that used to attending funerals, I guess.
Tuesday and Wednesday I visited Bram & Anita, and that was really hard too, because Bram's dad has just passed away. He's obviously really broken up about it because they were really close.
Matt and Bram's dad are in a better place - I believe that. And I admire people whose faith keeps them smiling at times like this, but I find death hard. I've heard we'll be attending a lot of funerals in Zimbabwe... I guess we'll get more used to it. God is good.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Ah, public transit

I've often said that public transportation is one of the cheapest forms of entertainment.
Yesterday I was taking the subway to the doctors'. This older lady got on the subway, and she was taking her seat as the train started to move. She stumbled a bit and then basically fell into this guy's lap. I sat next to her on the other side, and she was looking a bit flustered. She looked at me, and I said, "don't worry - I think it's ok to flirt on the subway." She LAUGHED and smiled - it was so cute!
Then coming home, I was on a crowded subway car, and this teenager started singing, at the top of his lungs, "Old MacDonald" and all these other tunes. It was obvious that his voice was changing, and he kept singing right on the crack of his voice. Everyone on the car was smiling and giggling - what community!
P.S. Props to Kim - who has let me shower at her place every morning this week. Hot water - you've got to love it!  

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Biblical equality

I was intrigued by a post by Steve Court from Wed. Sept. 21 (see side panel). He talked about Biblical Equality and referred us to the website (among other things). All I can say is Hallelujah! Equality between men and women as a biblical concept - go figure!

I'm tired of hearing sexist comments and hearing people naturally accept those comments because they say they're based on the Bible. I'm tired of meeting Christian men and women who think that "feminism" is a dirty word meaning "man-hater" or something. I'm tired of references to how I'm not doing my Christian wifely duty if I'm not cooking for my husband. I'm tired of meeting capable, talented, intelligent Christian women who are being held back in their churches because of their gender. I'm tired of hearing that most women simply can't be effective preachers or worship leaders or whatever because of their "womanly" characteristics.

The Salvation Army was initially revolutionary in its value of women, its acceptance and promotion of ordaining women, encouraging women to preach, etc. May it continue and be radical (rooted) in its view of Biblical equality.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

You never know what you're going to get

Monday night I went to go see Joel in the opera Carmen. He had a fairly small role, but he played it with passion. :) An old friend of mine had one of the main roles. I used to sit next to her in choir (T.M.Y.C.) and now she's this opera star. Amazing!

John, Johnny and I spent the weekend in Ottawa. We had an awesome time with Heather & Jason, and Johnny loved it - it was the farthest he's been away from Toronto, and he was just so happy the whole time.

Part of the reason we went to Ottawa was for me to attend my grade 8 reunion. I was in a "special" class from grades 5-8, and there weren't many of us, so we got close. It was fascinating to see all of these people who looked exactly the same as grade 8; just a lot bigger. I asked the guy next to me what he's up to now. He designs and builds weapons to go on tanks headed for the U.S.A. He used to have a job "monitoring" foreigners in our country. WHAT?!??! He asked me what I've been doing, and I explained about working with newcomers to Canada, then doing social work and now preparing to move to Africa. His response was, "well, don't I feel like a piece of s---!" I thought it would be rude to say, "well, you sort of are."

It's amazing how we can all turn out so differently. You never know what you're going to get.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


When I was a kid, I was sort of fascinated by my Dad's chores. My mom did almost everything around the house, but my dad mowed the lawn and did the vacuuming. I guess I saw these as sort of elite chores, thus the intrigue.
Well, we're staying at the Ryans' and their water heater started leaking Sunday night. We discovered this at 3am, when the basement was flooded. Because of some sort of "efficient" system, it will only be looked at this afternoon. So, I bought a wet-vac yesterday morning, and I've been vacuuming up water from all the carpets - over and over again.
I'm afraid to report that the whole fascination/novelty of vacuuming has worn off.
Only 4 days until we move in with my parents! I can't believe it... time is flying. Please pray for John - this is his last week of work, and I have this horrible habit of stressing him out.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Young and old

Last Saturday I baby-sat my friend's 1.5 year old daughter. I made a mess of the feeding and changing, but we had a lot of fun. As we were playing with all of her toys, I was wondering how her little life would have been different if, like her mom, she had been born in west Africa rather than Canada. Every once in a while, she would come up to me, look me in the face, smile, put her hands on my head and in my hair and then start speaking her own personal language. Talk about prophesying in tongues...
It reminded me of this one day I was at a water fountain and this tiny, crinkled, almost toothless Chinese woman kept smiling at me and talking away to me in Mandarin and raising her hands to me.
They say that people who are touched by the Pope have an "experience" - I wonder if it's like what I felt when this little girl placed her hands on my head, or when this old woman smiled at me and blessed me....

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Customer appreciation

Yesterday we were in Kitchener for James' birthday. I love James (my brother-in-law) - he brings out this kind of silly/zany side of me - which my own brothers do as well. We had yummy Indian food.

Anyway, before we got to dinner, we stopped in at Zellers. My mom-in-law and I got to the counter and the Zellers lady had this huge "Customer Appreciation Week" button on. I, of course, started to talk to her (a trait inherited from Grandpa and then Dad). I smiled and said something like, "Wow! Customer Appreciation week! Is that this week? Are we appreciated?" She grimaced, looked down and said, "I haven't even read it - they just told us we had to wear them." Then she quickly got us through the line. We sure felt appreciated!

It's irresistable to add a moral to this story, so here goes! Let's appreciate people! I've been doing an informal study for years on saying "how are you?" to people behind counters. It almost always throws them off (because that's THEIR line). An upside down sort of kingdom...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Notebook

I saw "The Notebook" for the third time last night - and, again, I bawled my eyes out. True love!!!! It is such a romantic film.
I wonder if I can still be a feminist if I like "The Notebook" so much...
John and I have seen two other films recently - "Crash" and "The Constant Gardener." Both of these movies made me furious. True, I'm not usually the "furious" type, but who could not feel angry about the prevalence and truths of racism and oppression? They're both excellent movies - highly recommended. But they might make you mad. Well, I hope they make you mad...
But then if you're too mad, you can always watch "The Notebook" again to brighten your spirits! ;)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Let's face it....

Some people were just born to model.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Canada failing its poor

Inequality and homelessness are rising in Canada despite a sustained economic boom and repeated federal promises to cut poverty, says an international study.

Poverty is rising among children and new immigrants, the middle class is finding it increasingly difficult to afford education and housing, and there are 250,000 Canadians living on the streets, says the study by Social Watch, a coalition of 400 non-government organizations from 50 countries.

Read full article here.

Why I love Aaron White

Why I love Aaron White (and people like him). A nine-sentence essay by John McAlister

I like Aaron White because he has deep thoughts. Really deep thoughts. But the reason I LOOOVE him, is that he spends almost every available moment helping those hard to love (crack addicts, criminals, prostitutes).

There are many others I know who have deep thoughts. But they seem to feel that they should spend their lives cuddling up with their deep thoughts rather than hugging someone who’s lonely.

I wish more people were like my friend Aaron. Then, they could take all of their super special ideas about God and the Church and dedicate their lives to loving God and serving their neighbours instead of just talking about it. That would be really, really cool.

Get off your butt and do something!!!

This message brought to you by the Friends of Aaron White, a non-profit organization. Donations always welcome.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Jesus Creed

By Brian McLaren

We have confidence in Jesus
Who healed the sick, the blind, and the paralyzed.
And even raised the dead.

He cast out evil powers and
Confronted corrupt leaders.
He cleansed the temple.
He favored the poor.
He turned water into wine,
Walked on water, calmed storms.

He died for the sins of the world,
Rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father,
Sent the Holy Spirit.

We have confidence in Jesus
Who taught in word and example,
Sign and wonder.
He preached parables of the kingdom of God
On hillsides, from boats, in the temple, in homes,
At banquets and parties, along the road, on beaches, in towns,
By day and by night.

He taught the way of love for God and neighbor,
For stranger and enemy, for outcast and alien.

We have confidence in Jesus,
Who called disciples, led them,
Gave them new names and new purpose
And sent them out to preach good news.
He washed their feet as a servant.
He walked with them, ate with them,
Called them friends,
Rebuked them, encouraged them,
Promised to leave and then return,
And promised to be with them always.

He taught them to pray.
He rose early to pray, stole away to desolate places,
Fasted and faced agonizing temptations,
Wept in a garden,
And prayed, "Not my will but your will be done."
He rejoiced, he sang, he feasted, he wept.

We have confidence in Jesus,
So we follow him, learn his ways,
Seek to obey his teaching and live by his example.
We walk with him, walk in him, abide in him,
As a branch in a vine.

We have not seen him, but we love him.
His words are to us words of life eternal,
And to know him is to know the true and living God.
We do not see him now, but we have confidence in Jesus.


Salvation Army grid::blog

A short and unusual post. Why? Because the famous Gordon Cotterill
requested it.

I feel like an SA spy writing in secret code...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Handcuffs and pepper spray

Picked up one of my Regent Park children at Sick Kids Hospital last night. He had an altercation with his principal earlier in the day (ie the principal was chasing him around the playground – at least until the child climbed a tree), and so the principal called the police.

When the police arrived, they got him out of the tree, handcuffed him and threw him into their cruiser. But the kid didn’t like being handcuffed and so started kicking up a fuss in the police car. Then the police pepper sprayed him to get him under control.

Did I mention that the child is 10 years old? He’s got red marks all over his wrists and is still shaken up after the temporary blindness and face-burning episode yesterday. Okay, so the kid went a bit wrangy, but do two police officers really need handcuffs and pepper spray to control a small 10-year-old child?

Today was spent taking him back to Sick Kids for a psych assessment. He’ll probably be off school for a few days at least. Way to start a new school year.

Please pray for this child, his family and the various teachers and other professionals working with him. And also pray that a suitable mentor (I know you’re out there) will be found to watch over him when I leave for Zimbabwe.


Job 29:14 - 17
"I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban. I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a parent to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger. I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth."
I thought this would be a pretty cool epitaph at the end of my life (although I'm not sure if I'll ever wear a turban...)

Monday, September 12, 2005

My sister

My sister Kirsten just moved out to Vancouver to be a student at the War College for the year. Yep - strange name, but it's a Salvation Army training school for people to live with the marginalized in the worst part of Vancouver (the downtown eastside) and to basically share life with them. I'm sure she will have many adventures, and you can read all about them through her blog.

I love my sister very much. She is very bright, very fun and full of passion for God. I admire her confidence, her sociability, her discipline and her desire to go deeper. We don't look a thing alike, but we have a similar heart for God and for others.

It sucked to say goodbye to Kirsten (I miss her already!), but the thing is that we're sisters and we'll always be close no matter how many kilometres or continents separate us. I am the oldest of four kids, and feel very blessed to be so close to my siblings. It's nice to know that you have people who will just always be there for you.

Kirst - I'm proud of you, and I love you so much! I have been praying for you lots.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The love of work

Last night a bunch of us went to hear my cousin - JP Carter - play trumpet with some other jazz musicians. He's really good (and I'm allowed to brag - he's my cousin). A lot of the music was "experimental" so you couldn't always pick out a tune. But what I loved about it is that the guys playing all looked so content - like they were created to play that music. They were in their element.
The other day I opened an account at Blockbuster (video store) and the guy behind the counter talked to me for about half an hour about all the different deals and options. He was so happy. He loves his job.
Ah, to be passionate about one's job...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Giants of the faith

We spent some time this weekend with our friend "Sue." Sue left a 30 year long abusive marriage last May, and is now trying to reconcile with her daughter, and son (whom she hasn't seen in years). Sue has been through a lot and yet always holds on to faith and to the belief that God hears her prayers and will answer them if she is patient. Sue has joy.
Sherri and I also visited Kim, who has been in and out of hospital most of her life, and yet keep smiling, and sharing God with other patients, and holding onto to God unswervingly. Kim has joy.
Women who suffer and yet keep going every day, and keep trusting in God, and keep demonstrating joy. Giants of the faith.

Friday, September 02, 2005

A week with John

It's been an interesting week. I launched - a new online resource for young people that features a daily blog site, a monthly magazine and a biweekly podcast (please check it out); hired a talented, young editor - Ashley Elliott - to replace me (she's going to be great); and started my last month of work (my final day is September 30).

We moved out of our apartment last weekend and put all of our stuff into storage. We're currently house-sitting for Geoff and Sandra Ryan while they're in Australia, so that's our home base for September. In October, we go on two weeks of holiday, which we will spend with both sets of parents. Then, in mid-October, we go on a two-week mission prep course to help us adjust to life in a new culture. Hopefully, after completing the course, we will be heading off to Zimbabwe. We're still waiting for our working permits, but feel confident that they will be approved. But it would be great if you could pray over that process.

Rochelle is up at Jackson's Point spending time with her family at the Territorial School for Music and Gospel Arts. It will be good to have her home on Saturday. We've been so busy lately that we haven't spent much time together. Tonight's mission: planning a romantic date for next week.

My friend *Kieran is beating me at an extended game of Risk. But don't worry, when we resume our battle tomorrow morning, I'm confident that I will become conqueror of the world. Isn't mentoring fun? I'll make sure to throw in a prayer or two between battles...

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A mother's heart

Last week I met an older woman who was talking to me about her daughter, who is dying of AIDS. There was such tenderness in the way she was saying, "you know, when she was a little girl, she was just so nice. I can remember rocking her in my arms when she was just a baby, and she was just so sweet. Such a nice girl..."
Mothers all around the world are suffering for their kids, and seeing them as precious, and little, and nice and sweet. A mother's heart...
They say we'll likely be attending a lot of funerals in Zimbabwe. That's a lot of suffering mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and friends.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


My friend Steph is one of the most courageous people I know. Right now she is battling cancer, and undergoing a stem cell transplant. Steph is a survivor. The nurse told me she never complains.
Steph has a beautiful heart - always thinking of others, and showing an interest in other people's lives. She is also always stylin' (and doesn't look down on people who aren't - whew), she's an amazing cook, and she is hilarious. Steph's faith astounds me. She is wise too...
I have been praying fervently for Steph for over a year, and ask you to join me. Please, please pray for my friend Stephanie. Pray for healing - physical, emotional and spiritual. Pray for comfort and peace for her and her family.
If you want to see her photo, check out the University of Toronto Gospel Choir link on this site, and when you enter the UTGC site, you'll see a moving photo of choir members. She's the third to "appear."
Steph - I love you, and I'm so grateful for the influence you have on my life.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Boundless magazine launches

I'm writing from my empty apartment, sitting on a cardboard box with my laptop balancing on my knees. The moving company came this morning and took all of our stuff away to be placed in storage. It's hard to believe that we'll be moving out of the country in a matter of months.

During breaks from cleaning, I've been doing some work on the boundless website with my friends Brandon and Jeremy. There's still much to tighten up, but we're going ahead and launching the site. The monthly mag is up today, as well as an experiment in podcasting (but I may pull it off the site soon).

Check it out and let me know what you think.

We're off to Galen's cottage soon, so have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


A few weeks ago I was talking with my friend Nedim and telling him how
grateful I feel for my life, and how thankful I am for all the
opportunities I've had (to go to university, to travel, to be part of
614 in Regent Park, etc.). He looked at me, and said that it makes
sense that I have a good life, because I've always had a lot of
choices. He said that most people in this world don't have a lot of
choice - that most people in this world have once choice, and that
that choice usually isn't all that great of an option.

My friend Nedim is brilliant, and - obviously - wise.

I have wasted so much time in my life agonizing over the choices I
have to make - from major life decisions to silly "what movie should
we rent?" decisions. There's that phrase, "the burden of choice" but
shouldn't we just be a bit more grateful that we have so many choices?

I guess I really want to choose well. I want to make choices that will
never forget about those who don't have choice.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Brother Roger's funeral

The funeral celebration for Brother Roger was held yesterday. Here are two excerpts from the address by Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for the Unity of Christians:

The first split that hurt Brother Roger concerned the division between Christians. From his youth he united himself to Christ’s prayer “that all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you” (John 17:21). He wanted to live the faith of the undivided Church, without breaking with anybody, in a great brotherhood. He believed above all in the ecumenism of holiness, that holiness which changes the depths of the soul and which alone leads towards full communion…

The second split that hurt Brother Roger concerned the division between peoples and nations, between rich and poor countries. Every form of injustice or neglect made him very sad. He wanted some Brothers of the community to go and live in several countries with the poorest of the poor, in small groups, as a simple sign of love and communion. This simple witness was very dear to him, like a prophecy in miniature of the Kingdom of God, like a seed of friendship and reconciliation in a world plagued by indifference. For Brother Roger, there was complete continuity between the love of God and the love of human beings, between prayer and commitment, between action and contemplation…

For the complete address, click here.

From Honduras with love

There has been a new guy coming to our church - Fernando - and his
family is from Honduras. We were chatting on Sunday, and I was
mentioning that we might be going to the ballet. I got his number and
called him Monday night to let him know we were still going, and that
he was welcome to come if he wanted. His reply on the phone was
something like, "Really? This is a miracle! This means I really have a
friend in Canada. And not just a friend, but a brother and sister!"
And I got off the phone, and cried (of course).

It reminded me of a couple of years ago when I met another guy from
Honduras - Pedro. I met him right when he moved to Canada, and then
saw him about a month later as he was going down some steps into the
subway. I was calling out his name, and he looked so confused. Finally
he looked up at me and got this huge smile on his face. He said, "I
didn't know that anyone in Canada knew my name."

This is a very cold country, and it breaks my heart that someone could
be here for over a year and not have made a single Canadian friend.
For God's sake, let's love our neighbours.

P.S. The National Ballet of Canada was great. We ended up going with
Joel, Matt and Phil as well. I never thought I'd go to the ballet with
5 guys!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Weekend at James & Lindsay's

We spent the weekend at James (John's brother) and Lindsay's in
Kitchener. It was great fun. We ate well (Lindsay's a chef and James
has a way with omelettes) and had good conversation. We watched
Anchorman, and James took us to the Elora Gorge - and it was gorgeous
(pictures to follow soon in the photo section). We also got to spend
quality time with the kids (cats) - Lytton and Dora.

James has the biggest Star Wars collection I have ever seen. It will
soon be made (more) famous on this blog, but you will have to wait a
bit for pics.

Thanks for the good time - we love you guys!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

My brother's engaged!

This afternoon, my baby brother Josh proposed to Jennifer Burr, and she accepted! They're engaged!

We were at Yonge & Dundas, downtown Toronto. 11 random people came up and asked, "are you Jenn?" and gave her roses. And then the 12th rose came from Joshua, and he got down on his knee.

It was so romantic! God bless this beautiful couple. I pray blessing and joy and love for you. Congrats, Josh and Jenn!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Holy shame

I’ve just finished reading the Ezra-Nehemiah narratives. Many people avoid the Old Testament like the plague (or at least like falling hail, rampant frogs and festering boils), but if you can get through the strange names (and Adonikam took with him Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur) and long lists of numbers (the half share was 337,500 sheep, 36,000 cattle and 30,500 donkeys), there’s some great stuff to experience.

Anyway, as I dodged around the name droppings in Ezra 8, I stopped hard in my tracks at verse 22. Ezra is about to return from exile to Jerusalem with King Artaxerxes’ permission and with rich possessions for the Temple. In verse 21, he proclaims a fast, humbles himself before God and asks for a safe journey (lots of bandits and enemies on the way to Jerusalem from Mesopotamia). Then, at verse 22, Ezra tells us that he was ashamed to ask King Artaxerxes for protection because he had already told the king about how God was so great and that He would watch over him. Ezra realizes that if he truly believes God will watch over him, he doesn’t need the king’s soldiers to protect him. And God comes through for Ezra, leading him to Jerusalem safely.

Holy shame. Most of us are familiar with unholy shame, the kind that pushes us into ungodly actions (such as Adam and Eve trying to cover themselves up in the garden). But Ezra is filled with a type of shame that propels him to holiness.

If we’re going to tell people about how great and powerful God is, and how He is so compassionate, gracious and loving, we’ve got to live that out in our own lives. If we truly believe God has a plan for us, why do we make so many decisions without consulting Him? If we truly trust that He will look after us, why do we get so worried and stressed about things?

Let’s get filled with some holy shame and start living out what we’re preaching.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Brother Roger

During the evening prayer yesterday at Taizé, a woman - probably mentally disturbed - struck Brother Roger violently with knife blows. He died a few moments later. For those of you who have been to Taizé, participated in a local Taizé service or read some of Brother Roger’s writings, you will understand the loss so many around the world are experiencing today.

Please pray for the Taizé community, that it will continue to be a source of renewal for young people (and old) around the world. And for Brother Alois who is succeeding him.

And also for the woman who stabbed Brother Roger.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Crying and driving

I have driven more this summer than in my entire life prior. We've got my parents' car (thanks Mom & Dad) and so I've been driving quite a bit.

For many, many years I was afraid of driving (long story), but this summer I seem to have (mostly) conquered that fear. Two times recently I've been on long drives and I've been listening to gospel music and I've cried while driving. Do not be alarmed - it wasn't enough tears to distract me! But I just realized that God is good, and when we focus on Him, our fears seem to melt away.

Seeing as most people do not have a fear of driving, this may seem like a silly post, but it's been a big deal for me. So there! :)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Monday morning thoughts

Read these today and decided to pass them on...

In the first centuries of Christianity the hungry were fed at a personal sacrifice, the naked were clothed at a personal sacrifice, the homeless were sheltered at a personal sacrifice... And the pagans used to say about the Christians, "See how they love each other." In our own day the poor are no longer fed, clothed and sheltered at a personal sacrifice, but at the expense of the taxpayers. And because of this the pagans say about the Christians, "See how they pass the buck."
- Peter Maurin, in Easy Essays

What we would like to do is change the world - make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended for them to do. And, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, of the poor, of the destitute - the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor in other words - we can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world.

We repeat, there is nothing that we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbour, to love our enemy as well as our friend.
- Dorothy Day, in Meditations

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I'm in love

I have to admit it - I am crazy in love with John.

For a long time I have had the dream of living in Africa. John has
never been to the continent, and I was trying to convince him to go
with me for a summer, but just before Christmas he decided that we
should give it a try - for 3 years! And he has done SO much "stuff"
(paperwork, packing, researching, calling, e-mailing, etc.) to make my
dream come true. And I am sincerely grateful.

John always looks out for me. He's patient with my computer illiteracy
and always takes care of me when I'm sick. He's an awesome cook, kind
and thoughtful, multi-talented, and a good communicator. And, of
course, he's hot - you have to admit it. :)

After a couple months of marriage, I was talking to an older woman who
was visiting our church (a retired officer) and she asked how the
marriage was going. I said something like, "oh, it's great, and I just
love sleeping with John!" "That's nice, dear...."

It IS nice to fall asleep and wake up next to someone that you adore.

Sometimes I just can't believe that I scored John McAlister!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Tractor boy

Since *Kieran (aka Tractor Boy) hangs out with me for most of the day on Saturdays, I don't usually see the need to entertain him for the entire time - he was with me for about 8 1/2 hours today. So after a day of games (I lost at MadGab; Rochelle won - bettter talker!), a barbecue (which I burned) and some classic Goonies viewing (great flick), I let him play around on the Internet while I did some packing.

After a few minutes, I remembered that he still hadn't put together his wooden dinosaur kit (a Tyrannosaurus - ROARRR!) I bought him in B.C. Figuring this was a better endeavour than mindless Internet games, I gave him the kit, and then helped him arrange the pieces. Then I went back to my packing. Every so often he'd call out for help and I'd stop what I was doing and give him a hand. On the third occasion, I realized that I was being an absolute idiot. Why wasn't I sitting beside him so that we could work out the puzzle together?

I'm leaving the country soon for three years. *Kieran and I started hanging out when he was six. He turns 11 in November and will be 14 when I return to Canada. I will miss spending time with him. I will miss watching him grow up.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Amen to simplicity

We had a friend visit from South Africa last year and he was amazed by
our little apartment and simple way of living. I guess we don't really
live the "American dream" but we're happy (and, admittedly, a little
HOT in this weather!)

It's a cliche - but shouldn't we all live simply so that others may
simply live?

I guess that's one reason I'm looking forward to living in Africa. I
want to learn to live without too much "stuff" so that it doesn't get
in the way. Freedom!

Ndafara kukuziva

This was one of the first phrases I learned in Shona. It means, "I am happy to know you." It seemed a fitting title for a blog entry, since I do appreciate all our faithful readers (especially Pernell, as he wrote such kind words about us). And now you all know a phrase in Shona. I’ll share more… if you’re lucky.

We started packing up our stuff yesterday. Other than books, we don’t seem to own much. The assessment by the moving company was almost a joke. The process is supposed to take 30 minutes, but he was done in about two. I guess we don’t own too much, at least compared to North American standards.

Meet the parents

Strike a pose! Oh, so natural. No, these are not professional models—they're our parents.

Pucker up

There's something fishy about this picture...

Monday, August 08, 2005


Today I ran into Gerrard (a.k.a. Gerry) at the subway station. As soon
as he saw me, his whole face lit up in a big smile. It had been
several months since we'd seen each other, because I finished
university back in the spring.

In my two year masters program at U of T, I saw Gerry almost every
morning outside of my school building. He was (and is) the friendliest
panhandler I know. Sometimes I gave him a toonie, once I paid for his
antibiotics, but usually I just listened to him (it actually shocked
me that more of my fellow *social work* students did not talk to
Gerry, but this is not meant to be a judgmental blog!)

Gerry has stories that would break your heart. And yet every day he
would smile at me and say that there was a reason God was giving him
another day. And he kept going. He never seemed bitter about the fact
that he lived on the street while others complained about mortgages or
that he had survived so many challenges in life. He just has faith -
the kind of faith I really admire, because it sees hardship and sorrow
and yet still chooses joy.

I met another homeless man at the streetcar stop today. He was sharing
his life with me, and I said, "yeah, life is hard." He said, "well,
you just have to keep going." Don't you love when you find wisdom in
unexpected places?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Start the packing

This is our last weekend to enjoy our home before packing stuff up. A rep from the moving company is coming to our apartment Monday to survey our belongings and bring us packing boxes. Then we start the process of packing up our stuff so that we can move out at the end of August. We don't leave until mid-October, but we're moving in with Rochelle's parents for September and spending time at my parents early October.

Three months seems so far away, but there's a lot we still have to take care of. Craziness!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Boundless magazine

Before I head out to Zimbabwe, I'm creating a youth website for the Army with my friends Brandon and Jeremy. It's still a work-in-progress, but you can check out the shell of the home site at The content is just filler so that we can play around with various features.

The main site will be very basic, but the monthly mag will feature full flash, engaging graphics and other media. We'll also be posting bi-weekly podcasts on the main site.

The daily posts aren't teen friendly yet (too much effort), but we'll be targeting them directly once the launch date (August 24) looms closer.

The Army's already posted my job opening on their employment board, so if you know of anyone who might be interested, let them know. I think the closing date is August 15.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Happy anniversary to us

Three wonderful years of marriage... and more to come.

And so it begins

Hello! This is our simple (and free) site we've created to keep in touch with you while we're away in Zimbabwe. Yep, that's right, we're moving to Harare.

We've been officially accepted by The Salvation Army to serve as reinforcement personnel in the Zimbabwe Territory. Our term of service is for three years. We are very excited about this privilege and look forward to our ministry there.

While we've already received Army approval, we are still waiting for our residence and employment permits to be accepted in Zimbabwe. We would appreciate your prayer support for this and for our family and friends as we prepare to move away from them. We also solicite your prayers for the people of Zimbabwe and the Army's work there.

We're aiming to leave the end of October. I'll try to convince Rochelle to put up a few posts between now and then.