When I had a routine 18-week ultrasound for my second child, I was not prepared to hear that she had a serious genetic anomaly, and that her life expectancy would be short, if she survived birth. One of the things that sustained me through the grief and stress that followed was the love of God shown through His people.
Friends and our church family were there for us. The comfort of knowing that I was not alone and that I was loved, helped me cope during those difficult weeks and months. Some of the hardest times were the “words of comfort” by those who told me this was all for the best or that God told them my child would live.
From what I experienced, I learned how to show love through being present, by receiving love and support from God’s people. When I’m with friends who are experiencing anxiety or depression, I try to remember these lessons. At times, I slip into problem-solving mode, and that’s almost never helpful.
The Jan/Feb issue of Faith Today didn’t start out to be a church-themed issue, but that is where we ended up.
And why should that surprise us?
For most Canadian Christians, church is a vital part of our lives. It’s where we find community with other believers. It’s where we teach and are taught, love and are loved, forgive and are forgiven, among many other beautiful and challenging things. It’s where we worship God and where we are restored.
Church is also under no small pressure these days, as our cover story written by Canadian scholar and author Lee Beach says. “If it were true that at one time the Church occupied a place near the centre of Canadian culture, this is no longer the case,” he writes.
Yet, being “Church in exile” or on the margins also gives us a chance to reform, and do things differently and better than ever.
“Exile is forcing the Church to re-engage with its biblical identity as a missional people called by God to go into the world to bring a message of hope, and embody that hope,” says Beach.
Do you have a bucket list for 2017? Author Ann Voskamp (our Jan/Feb Faith Today Interview) in her latest book The Broken Way: a daring path into the abundant life, suggests we think bigger than that. “What if,” she writes, “living the abundant life isn’t about having better stories to share but about living a story that lets others live better?”
I thought of Voskamp’s take on the popular bucket list idea — where you plot out and list off the adventures and accomplishments you want to achieve before you “kick the bucket” — when I read a Globe and Mail article called “Kicking the Bucket List” on Dec. 30.
The article shares the history of “bucket lists,” and how that name entered the lexicon of popular culture about a decade ago. It also names one of the big weaknesses of the bucket list: “When however it comes to those things we value not for themselves but as markers of success and status, one thing can easily substitute for another. You finally get the specific job — the new title of junior assistant associate undersecretary — that you have been coveting. Two months later, it means nothing to you…”
Anyone who has ever crossed an accomplishment or the obtaining of some desired object off their list knows that feeling all too well. We always want more. We are rarely satisfied.
With Voskamp’s rewriting of the bucket list to a kind of “give it” list however, satisfaction is almost always guaranteed. “More than any bucket list of merely exploring the world, you could live an empty bucket list of expending all for the world.” She asks, “Where are the people ready to do the hard and holy things?”
I spoke more with Voskamp about this in the upcoming Faith Today interview for Jan/Feb. You won’t want to miss it. Meanwhile, why not spend a few moments creating a “give-it” list? What gifts and resources can you share with your community, and the world, in 2017? What might be hard and holy — and I’m guessing ultimately very fulfilling — for you this year? What do you have to give? I’m sure that list is longer than you can imagine.
Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. Subscribe today to not miss the Voskamp interview, and have access to some of the best Christian print journalism in Canada.
I admit it. I was one of the few people, it seemed at the time, who didn’t quite love, love, love the New York Times bestselling book by Canada’s best known farmer’s wife: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I loved the concept (and the cover!) but I couldn’t quite relax with Voskamp’s unusual, and to me, too highly poetic, writing style.
When her new book The Broken Way: A Daring Path Into the Abundant Life came out, I was eager to see if I could dive into this one a little easier. I could. I truly enjoyed the book and I jumped at the opportunity to interview Voskamp on her media tour that recently ended in Toronto. When I met her in the lobby of the Park Hyatt downtown, she had just landed back on Canadian soil and was relieved and happy to be heading home later that night after her final event.
We had a wonderful interview, which I taped, and we hope to make into one of our first ever podcasts (stay tuned for details in the near future!). The printed interview will appear in the Jan/Feb issue of Faith Today. If you are a Voskamp fan, I think you will enjoy hearing the heart behind The Broken Way.
I have a “thing” about Ann Voskamp. It’s called envy. Not only of her significant writing ability, but her stillness and openness to the Holy Spirit as well. We are polar opposites – me impatient and easily irritated versus her life on the farm which is in the moment as she meditates over the laundry basket.
Too willing to give in to anxiety – juggling schedules and worrying about things beyond my control – I forget those sparrows and lilies (Matthew 6:25). Not that Voskamp spends her entire day in contemplative prayer – with six children and a farm to oversee with her husband she has more than enough to do – but her writing has that quality which indicates a nature that is calm at its core. This is what’s thoroughly and utterly beyond me.