Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Coffee Shops

I enjoy my coffee, especially mid-afternoon with a nice sweet snack. I'm enjoying a cup as we speak with a chocolate bar. Right after a work out. It's all about balance. :)

Coffee is a huge part of culture in Canada. It's plain by coffee shops called "Coffee Culture" and the numerous Tim Hortons locations found in almost every town and city. People need their daily dose of caffeine. It seems Starbucks in huge in the US, but here it seems Timmies rules. The closest Starbucks is like 45 minutes away, and thus I've only visited once.

Having said that, I must say I don't visit coffee shops very frequently. Usually no more than once a week, and then it's normally a Tim Hortons. I also don't go for the specialty coffees either cause I can hardly justify paying $4 or $5 for a drink. It can run a lot of money out of your pocket, a little bit at a time. I used to work in a coffee shop and it's actually kind of sad how much money people can come in and spend in a day on coffee. Somehow it has become a very acceptable addiction and people rarely speak of the money spent on it.

I do like visiting different places on occasion though. There is a new small one that opened up in our town last year called The Perc and I've been there a couple times. I wish I went there more often simply to support the good cause. What's so special about it? For one, they sell organic fair trade coffee, so I can thereby support smaller coffee growers who need the money more than the big guys. Places like Tim Hortons will not disclose where they get their beans. Also, this coffee shop offers employment opportunities to youth who are facing employment challenges. They even use 100% compostable cups, so it's even environmentally friendly (if you do compost them.) Their coffee is good and I can drink it feeling like I'm supporting a good cause. These kinds of small businesses need more public support than they get.

Last week, I visited Cravings and I enjoyed that experience as well, which also serves fair trade coffee. They have a great menu of drinks, light lunches, baked goods and chocolates. I could go crazy in there, like a kid in a candy store. The atmosphere is cozy and homey and there's cute giftware displayed for sale. You have to be willing to pay a little more at places like this, and I suppose that's why I don't go to them frequently, but they are nice.

So, if you like coffee, go out of your way if necessary once in awhile to support a smaller place that is actually doing some good. And as for a side note, the first time I visited one of the above places, I was in a hurry, running late for work, very distracted and nearly walked out without paying. If you're considering stealing, I advise you not to try it. Chances are you'll get caught before you get to the door. Embarrassing!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Prayer Journals

It's been a year now since I started keeping a prayer journal. I used to write down prayer notes in my regular journals when I still did that, but never kept a focused prayer journal. I started it when I read Wrestling Prayer by Eric and Leslie Ludy and in the past year, I've filled many pages.

Why keep a prayer journal? That was my question too. I'm not sure what my reason was when I started, but one thing I like it for is to keep my prayer times focused. Very often when I go to prayer, I forget things and my mind and thoughts wander. Having a detailed list of things to pray about keeps me focused. Keeping a prayer journal also allows you to keep track and go back and see how God has answered.

Something I have avoided doing is sticking to a format. My journal entries vary. Some are just list of things to pray about. Some are cries of pain and my need for God's help. Some are just brief accounts of where I'm at spiritually. I don't journal everyday. Some days I have nothing significant to write down and there's times a couple weeks go by without me pulling it out. But I do try to use it regularly and take time to specifically spend in prayer.

In the past year, I've prayed about many things. Friends, family, my future husband, relationships, church, work, missions, ministry, for those hurting or in need and direction in life. I've prayed for a vision, passion and a purpose. I've prayed about different opportunities. I've prayed to show God's love to those around me. I've prayed for provision and health, in which God has answered in many ways. I've prayed about hindrances in my life and sins God has convicted me of.

I've prayed for God to prepare me to be a godly wife and mother, to be a help meet for the man He will one day bring to me, for a better understanding of what marriage is, and to keep myself pure. I pray for Him to guard over my husband and to prepare him to be the godly leader and provider of our home, to be a man of character with a deep love for God and others, a man who will make a difference. At times, I have sought contentment with tears as I wait on Him.

There's even been times where I've just earnestly prayed for a desire for prayer and the Word. It's okay to be honest with God if you don't feel like praying. We can't come to God unless He draws us. Our desire to pray and read His Word comes from Him. Draw nigh to Him, seek Him, and He will draw nearer. Plead for desire if need be. You don't have to be ashamed.

My journal bears record of a lot of joys and tears, ups and downs. It tells of how God has answered. Sometimes it hasn't been in a way I would have expected or even liked, but I have to trust that He knows best.

Try keeping a prayer journal. You don't need anything fancy. A plain spiral bound notebook will do. That's what I use right now. You don't need a formula. Just write what's on your heart. One day you will go back and be amazed at what God has done.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Radical Review

"This month, I had the privilege of reading Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream by David Platt. I had long heard and read a lot of good things about it and it currently ranks #2 on CBA's best seller list. Although I must say I'm surprised. Radical's message is certainly not a popular one in the church today, but it is a very necessary one and nothing short of biblical."

Read the rest of my review at Lighted Lamp.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Torn Between Desires

Do you ever feel like you don't know what you want? Do you have multiple desires that you can't have all at the same time or that directly contradict each other? Do you have decisions to make and can't decide what to do?

I'm in that place right now. Actually, I've been here for a long time. But now I feel the even greater pressure of it. I have to make decisions. Big, possibly life-altering decisions. I'm dealing with excitement and massive fears as I consider the possibilities and wonder what will happen.

To an extent, I'm in a season in my life right now that I've long wanted. I have extra time to spend at home, time to read, write, think, study different books, cook, bake, etc. and yet, I'm not quite satisfied. I can't help but wonder if I'm not simply catering to myself, my own wants and desires. Am I not supposed to be using this time, to serve, to give, to sacrifice my own desires for others? Is that not what God has called us too? Was I not created for more than I'm living right now, and deep down, don't I desire that?

Don't get me wrong. I do desire to serve God and other people, to use this time in my life to further His kingdom. But can I do both? Can I really strive to fulfill my own desires and serve God at the same time? As much as I want to and insist there must be a way to make it all work, or a perfect balance, I haven't found it yet. I doubt it exists.

At some point, I have to sacrifice something. As I look at my desires, options and various possibilities for my life, I realize that all of them will require sacrifice somewhere. Whether it's time, finances, job security, or my countless wants and selfish pleasures, at some point, I will have to let go of some or all of those things.

I have to decide what I want and what I will do. But more than that, I have to decide what truly matters in life. I have to decide whether I will follow my own agenda or surrender to whatever plans God has for me and give myself for His cause.

It's not an easy choice. I can't sit on the fence my whole life. I have to decide. You have to decide.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Does It Matter?

The work we do can often get discouraging. We can't help but wonder every now and then if what we do really matters or makes a difference. Does anybody care? I feel this way frequently about this blog. I spend time thinking and writing, but do people actually read it? Like it? Respond to it? Am I just wasting my time? It's easy to fall into this rut.

But very often when I feel like I'm tired of thinking up things to write about, or feel like it's all useless, I get a comment or message from somebody saying how they enjoy or are blessed by my blog. It matters that somebody cares and that I'm not just talking to the wind.

My blog is largely a place where I try to figure out life. If people want to get to know me better, this is a good place to start. Some of the things I write on here may not be true. Sometimes I'm wrong and that's okay. It's a part of learning and growing. There are things I write about that may not be popular among other people. There's things that both more "conservative Christians" and more "liberal Christians" would disagree with, although I don't quite like putting it in those terms.

The truth is that the things I write will not please everyone. If I had to please everyone, I would have to quit altogether. My desire is to live a life and write in such a way that is pleasing to the Lord, but I'm still prone to mess up a lot. Some people want to hear the truth and some people don't. I was reminded of Proverbs 3:1-4. Although there are scriptures that tell us living a life pleasing to God may bring persecution, verse 4 there tells us that we can also gain favour in the sight of man when we live a life pleasing to the Lord.

The things I do and write do make a difference. I was reminded of that again last week in several ways. I may be young, but people are watching and listening. And for my older readers, my advice is this: there are many people, especially young people who are looking for godly examples or mentor-figures in their lives. Don't be afraid to be one of them. What you write, teach and live out matters. It makes a difference.

It's disappointing when you write an article you're excited about or want feedback on and nobody comments. Now, in saying this, I don't want to make you feel guilty, but I would encourage you to respond to writers or anybody else for that matter. If you like what they have to say, tell them; if you disagree, tell them gently. Remember (and I need to tell myself this a lot more often) to disagree with the idea and not attack the person. Although God's approval is ultimately what matters, we as humans need reassurance from others as well. We need to know that it's making a difference. It's what keeps us going.

If you haven't yet, I would encourage you to read Stirring Up Inspiration. It's an article I did in January where I discuss feelings of inadequacy, fears we face about making our thoughts and feelings known and the influence we have on those around us. I ask questions and suggest ideas that may not be popular among some. Forgive my rambling in the beginning of it if you find it annoying.

I don't know exactly what God would have me accomplish in my life or through my writing, but judging from the feedback I have gotten and the doors it has opened, I do have influence. It may be small, but it certainly doesn't go unnoticed.