I Challenge You!

Finally had a little break from the busy work schedule of last week! I escaped North to visit the oldest beloved. It means I will have lots of work to do when I get back home, so it may not really be too much of a break, but for now, I am relishing the quiet. An introvert needs her time to recoup, you know!

Today, we worshiped at her church… a younger crowd of Jesus followers meeting together to praise the Lord with a little more flash and flourish than I am used to, but a great Bible based message was given, and I am thankful she has found a place where her faith can continue to grow away from home. The pastor’s sermons are relevant connections to the group living there, intended for their special circumstances and neighbourhood. It is different from ours at home… and that is okay. Which got me thinking about an activity I saw in a classroom about a month ago.

The teacher had a bulletin board displayed with challenges that the students made up for their peers to attempt. Simple things like “write a poem like me”, or “play the game I made for you to try” or “make up a cool emoji to use to describe your feelings”. My understanding is, that it was an exercise to create some student choice, as well as an activity that allowed the students to interact and learn from their peers. I thought it was quite a noble concept for public school — and got me thinking about the world as a whole.

I have many friends who have chosen to home school their children. Others who choose to send their children to private or religion based schools. When our eldest was born, we explored various options as well — even considering Montessori learning. As parents, we want the best education possible for our kids. We also want our values and culture to be relevant and present in the lives of our beloveds as well. For many of us, this includes our faith. Especially at a stage where their development is so poignant to their future lives. Let’s face it – whatever we have exposure to when we are young, we tend to use as part of our future lives also.

But let’s get back to trying to condense my muse into something more concrete. I guess what I am trying to say, is that no matter what our background, no matter what our culture, no matter where we grew up, or what kind of life we have led, we come to the cross on the same level. Yet — we need to learn from — and be challenged by — our fellow humans. Our peers. Different cultures. Different methods of learning. Different methods of worship. To use our five senses in worship, thus allowing our faith to grow in whole body, soul, mind and spirit. Fellow students of Biblical learning, challenging one another in love, to go beyond what we know, to sharpen one another as iron sharpens iron. It’s a Biblical concept that instructs us to learn from each other, to meet together to fellowship, to share ideas and grow in our relationships. It’s part of who God made us to be. The Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’s day knew the law — but Jesus was always challenging them to live out what they learned… with grace and love.

I will be the first to admit that this is not easy for me. I am quick to be negative. I am quick to criticize this or that as not a “proper” method of worship. I, too, have my own biases and preferences. Therefore, I too, must do my research and discover if something is simply tradition, or is it a biblical practice? Can I learn from my peers and be challenged to try something different? Do I choose to hide from the “grey areas” of the faith world and not engage in discussions about difficult topics? Can I learn from someone else’s background? Or worse, will it strengthen my children’s faith by allowing them to be exposed to hard questions? To be confronted by their friends? Or do I hide and protect them from it all? It’s not an easy answer. Are you up for the challenge? I’d love to hear from you! In what ways have you been called to give an answer by others? Has it been easy or hard? Share in the comments!

Strawberries!

It’s berry season!  Despite it’s overgrown spread and lack of attention, our backyard raspberry bush is yielding some bumper crop this year.  We have also been loving the organic blueberries that come via our local farmers markets in summer.  We even tried some haskap berries via our basket of deliveries (Which I discovered aren’t really berries… but are still yummy!).  Hands down, though, our family is big on the fat, juicy delights of strawberries!  The youngest Mitton can down a bucketful in 10 seconds flat!  I love mine with cream or in a smoothie with some banana.  Mmmmnnn… nothing says summer in Canada more than berries!

A few weeks back, we went on our traditional “pick your own” strawberry expedition with grandma. We’ve been doing it for years.  In fact, I can’t ever remember not having a freezer full of strawberries — which is actually ironic because my mother, bless her heart… does not like strawberries. strawberry picking We used to laugh as kids when mom would replace one frozen bucket with another one she had just picked, even though last year’s produce didn’t get eaten.  You see… it’s tradition.  Please… bear with me as I break out in song with Tevye in my rendition of the Fiddler on the Roof’s opening song…dai, dai, dai… okay, enough of that.  Back to strawberries.

Now that I am a mature homemaker, devoted wife and mother, I have taken on the task of processing my own strawberries.  Let me tell you… this is no easy task!  This year we picked about 7 litres… enough for three batches of jam, two giant servings for eating and about 2 cups to put in the freezer for later (the tradition continues — except we eat ours).  The whole process is a very full day’s work.  This year the picking was hot and humid.  We went to the farm early and had our baskets filled in about an hour or so.  Then the real processing begins… washing and stemming the juicy morsels as the red, staining juice drips down my arms and everything turns slightly pink.  I pop a couple super cute berries into my mouth to compensate for the mess.  Then the waiting begins.  I make “no cook” freezer jam (just follow the packet of your favourite brand) which means adding sugar, stirring, waiting, stirring, timing, waiting, stirring and finally pouring.  Making three batches at a time is… well, time consuming.  One year, I didn’t get the timing quite right and I ended up with strawberry syrup instead of jam.  Which is just as yummy on ice cream as jam, so no worries.  After all the chopping, stirring, waiting and drippy messes… the pretty red jars head off to the freezer to be pulled out again in December for decorating and gift giving.  I think all the work is so worth it… and I hope our friends and family do to when they receive their jar come Christmastime!

All in all, the effort and toil brings joy and pleasure to others.  I suppose this is why such things become traditions.  My mom fills her freezer because it reminds her of her own mother.  My kids visit the farm because it’s an activity they love to do with grandma.  Our friends are beginning to expect a jar of strawberry jam at Christmastime.  Perhaps your church has a strawberry social in the summer with loads of strawberry shortcake topped with fluffy whip cream.   I have to agree with Tevye … traditions keep our balance.  It allows us to have some sort of constant expectation.  Often, it’s an enjoyable one that we look forward to… like strawberry freezer jam.  Perhaps the hard work involved makes it even more special.  And the beginnings of traditions… often unknown or lost through the years.  Which begs the question… is a traditional way the only way?

jamI ask because traditions can also be taken for granted… we do something a certain way because we have always done it that way.  Is it wrong?  Not necessarily.  God’s word is full of examples of traditional laws … many of which we still follow today.  They are given to us by God and therefore I deem them worthy of consideration and practice in my faith walk.  Many a saint has grown spiritually from using disciplines and routine.  The caution must come when tradition overtakes our desires to grow with God vs. religious tradition.  It’s about relationship not ritual.  I am not one for change.  Really.  I like things when they stay the same… even when it comes to church.  There is something to be said for tradition.  It keeps us balanced.  But I have learned that time does not wait for anyone.  The ebb and flow of society forces us to move along and find new balances.  Like Tevye, traditions will be challenged.  We must learn and be constantly examining why we believe the things we do… is it biblical or simply a tradition?  In thirty years will it be the same?  Should it be?  Does it need to be?  This being said, God doesn’t change.  He is our constant — kinda like the pectin in my strawberry jam.  He’s the gel that should be the catalyst in our mix.  As long as we add the right amount of sweetness, and allow for some time, a little chopping and stirring brings things back to a perfect consistency.  A flawless gift we can give to our friends and family.

Will you examine your practices and traditions along with me?  Do you simply do them the way you do for the sake of tradition?  Is it good?  Or do you have to examine your reasoning deeper?  Are you just replacing another freezer burnt bucket of thoughts for the same ones?  Becoming more Christlike is a journey, and we have to twist and turn and be pruned and challenged… only then will we produce the sweetest fruit worthy of passing on to others.  It’s work, but it’s worth it.

Worth the Work!