jeswidrick@gmail.com

jeswidrick@gmail.com
jeswidrick@gmail.com

11 June 2020

truth

I've been thinking about the word "truth" lately.

Truth is a controversial word.  It seems simple:  the quality or state of being true; in accordance with fact or reality (from Oxford Languages).

The problem is, truth can be relative.  Don't get me wrong, I do believe in absolute truth. I mean, the truth is, there is no such thing as a square circle.  The truth is, if you drop something within gravity's pull, it will fall.  I also happen to believe that absolute truth exists within the spiritual realm: there is a God.  I am not him.

The way I'm thinking of relative truth is in the way of the old story of the blind men and the elephant.  Each of the ten men spoke the truth about what they saw through their fingertips.  But the absolute truth of what an elephant looks like was found in the combination of their ten relative truths.

A lot of people talk about "my truth."  People want to speak and believe their own truths about things.  I used to have a problem with that, because I didn't understand how truth could be different for different people.  But everyone has a side.  Everyone has an opinion.  Everyone has a unique experience.

I've seen relative truth divide people, and it makes me sad. I wish we could all listen to each other's truth with open ears and hands.  I wish we could validate each other.  The phrase, "I see you" is being thrown around a lot these days, but I wish it was more heartfelt, not just the latest buzz phrase.

The absolute truth is, if two or more people have a common experience, there will two or more truths.  It's for us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. It's for us to hear each other - for me to hear you without rising to my own defense, and you to hear me without rising to your own defense.  It's for us to realize and acknowledge that we do not have the corner on the market for truth, that our personal version of the truth is not necessarily THE truth. It's for us to be humble, conciliatory, willing to own our part in the other person's truth, willing to be kind and gentle in our presentation and in our hearing.  It's for us to present our own truth in a way that doesn't aim to maim another person. It's for us to be honest with ourselves as we tell our truth to each other, admit our desire to lash out, to make others embrace our truth, to deny the truth of others, and to resist that desire.

Maybe if we combine our relative truths to see the whole, we can tend to each others' wounds, offer each other grace, and continue in gentle relationship with one another.  Maybe we can clean up the mess of this world.

08 May 2020

#irunwithmaud


Today, Ahmaud Arbery should be celebrating his 26th birthday with his family in friends.  It's not Covid-19 that is keeping them apart, but the fact that he was gunned down while out for a run on February 23rd in a Georgia neighbourhood. The perpetrators, with close ties to the law enforcement community, went free until yesterday, over two months later.



This morning, I ran. The dreary, drizzling weather seemed appropriate, nature weeping for lost souls.

I thought about this young man's family, and prayed for them in their grief.

I thought about the state of this country's justice system, that it would allow such a heinous cover-up, exposed only because of public outcry on social media.

I thought about the fact that as a woman, I often run, not necessarily afraid, but nervous.

I thought about God, the Creator of Ahmaud Arbery, nature, and us all.



Genesis 1:26a Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness." 27 God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  28a God blessed them.

Here are some things God didn't mention when he created us:
~ race
~ religion
~ gender identity
~ superiority

We are ALL image bearers, all of us together! We can't be image bearers alone, without every nation, every tribe, every language, every colour.  When God created, there was no such thing as religion, race, gender identity, or any of the other things that separate us.  There was only God, man, woman, LOVE.


Be love, friends.
Be image bearers.
Be love.




14 April 2020

grief day

Yesterday was a sort of "grief day".

I ventured out to pick up a few things from the store: milk, veggies, jam for the local food bank, dog bones, and the ever-present wish-list item, toilet paper. At the store, I donned my mask and walked to the entrance. There was an employee guarding the door to make sure people lined up and waited, at the appropriate 6-foot intervals, because they were limiting the number of shoppers. I wasn't allowed to bring in my reusable bags. As I entered, I was instructed to exit by the entrance at the opposite end of the store. 

While in the store, signs directed me, one way down each aisle and reminders abounded to observe social distance. The paper goods aisle was bare, but for a few lonely packages of paper towel - no toilet paper for me, again. Other items were also beginning to be in short supply, with employees spreading the stock out on shelves to make it look less alarming.

Another employee was directing people at the checkout, mask firmly in place. When I finished with my self-checkout, someone else came behind me, armed with a spray bottle and paper towel, to give the station a thorough wipe down before the next customer could enter. And as I left the store, a man on spoke into a two-way radio, relaying the exit of one person to the entrance guard.

As an introvert with grown children, I love staying home. My husband has a stable income. As someone who has had the privilege of travel, I've visited and lived in third world countries, where every grocery list is a wish list, and a grocery store is a tiny storefront with a narrow aisle in, and a narrow aisle out. I've cooked from scratch and used a community spigot for water. I don't have the shell shock that many families and individuals find themselves experiencing right now.

So many westerners have never been touched by want, or the kind of uncertainty and lack of perceived control of these past few weeks. Suddenly they can't have what they want in the store. They can't come and go as they please. They can't go out and have their food cooked, plated, served, and cleaned up. They can't go to the gym or the salon. So many parents are scrambling as they try to work from home and occupy or school their children for the first time. Families who were dependent on two incomes are down to one, or none, without notice. 

My sadness is for them. But it is also for the others, because I hear them. I hear the other side, scoffing and sarcastic: 

"Oh no, they'll have to actually cook and clean!"

"They can't just have what they want? Poor, privileged people!"

"They aren't homeschooling! They have no idea what it's like to do all the work like homeschooling parents do!"

"Oh, so they have to entertain their own children. What a trial!"

"Huh. They can't just do what they want.... Pity!"

Yes. I understand. Many in the western world are privileged. They've not had to struggle or go without. Sometimes it can feel like just desserts to see the wealthy experiencing what the rest of the world deals with on a daily basis. But I feel compassion just the same. To be thrust into the bewildering panic of the unknown, the confusion of performing activities rarely or never done, the overwhelm of suddenly not being able to provide wants and needs for self and family -- these are difficult and scary things.

My prayer: May we all develop deeper character. May we be more kind. May we think of others more often. May we grow more generous. May we offer help more readily. May we hold our wants more lightly, passing them over in favour of others' needs. May we be more grateful. May we give thanks for the many things we take for granted. May we be less critical and more supportive of each other. May we all see with clearer eyes what we have to offer and what we have to learn, and may we engage in both the offering and the learning with whole hearts. May we seek more to bless than to receive.

Amen.

10 April 2020

covid-19 easter

Because it's Easter weekend and most of us will be celebrating differently than we are used to in light of Covid-19, I'd like to share what it means to me to be a follower of Jesus.

For most of my life, being a Christian meant observing the rules.  I didn't feel quite good enough, but surely if I could just do the right things, and do them properly enough, I'd be acceptable.  But about twelve years ago, that began to change.  It's been, and continues to be, a very long process with lots of hiccups along the way, but I'm coming to understand that following Christ is not about rules.  

God created me. He loves me. Before I ever decided to "be a Christian", God wanted to be in my life.

Having Jesus doesn't mean life is easy. He doesn't promise that with him, all will be well.  I experience grief, pain, loss, and hurt. I deal with the reality of disappointments, not getting what I want, and worry about the safety of my family.  

The difference that Jesus makes for me is that I'm not alone.  When I receive bad news, when I'm angry or afraid, when something bad happens, when I can't be with people I love, I'm not alone. I'm not guaranteed protection in this world.  But I am guaranteed that in all things, I have the presence of Jesus.  

I've been in screaming emotional pain, so bad that I don't know how to take the next breath, so bad that I can't speak.  In those moments, when I just want to die, I experience his presence.  There's no way to explain it, except that somehow, the next breath comes, and then the next, each a little easier than the last.  The pain remains, but I'm able to stand up under it for the next moment. 

I've felt completely isolated, cut off from all who love me, misunderstood and judged, like I'll never be able to approach community again.  In that moment of absolute aloneness, I've felt him drawing near, assuring me that I'm not a plague, that I am indeed, loved.

I've felt the despair and utter hopelessness of depression so deep that I can't think of one good reason to live; I can't bring myself to worry about the person who might find me, I can't see my way through the fog to the idea that anyone might miss me.  I can't care that I might be selfish or self-absorbed.  And somehow in the middle of that pit, God's presence has come and lain beside me.

Relationship with Jesus means there is one person in my life who understands me completely.  I am wholly known, and wholly loved.  Jesus knows the ugliest parts of my heart and soul and accepts me.  He doesn't love me because... or if... or when.... He loves me. Period.  

12 March 2020

i am a leader

I recently had the opportunity to read a pre-launch copy of a book called I Am A Leader: When Women Discover the Joy of Their Calling by Dr. Angie Ward, and I want to tell you about it.

First of all, a bit of history.  Angie and I "met" when we were both part of an online writing course together in 2017.  We didn't have a lot of interaction through the course, but when she decided to write this book, she put out a request for women to be a part of her research, and I responded.  I filled out a questionnaire and then had a Skype interview.  It was a great conversation, and when she acquired a publisher, I readily agreed to be on her launch team, which afforded me the pre-read.

Now, I have to mention that this whole "calling" thing has been on my mind for a number of years.  Some Christians believe that everybody has been given a specific calling.  Others believe that our calling is to just do the thing that we find in front of us to the best of our ability.  I was sort of vacillating between the two because I like the idea of God being one who knows me intimately and has a Purpose for me (remember The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren?  Yep, I read that).  I think most people long for purpose, spiritual beliefs aside.  But I've never really believed in my value enough to really believe there's a Purpose for my life.  So that's the backdrop to my journey through Angie's book.

I Am a Leader was so helpful.  Angie offered succinct definitions of what purpose and calling mean, and then she delved into the things that stand in the way of a woman discovering her calling.  The book became a guide as I processed what it means to be a leader and how to embrace that role, and figured out how my gifts and dreams are a part of my calling toward leadership as a woman.  All of this, as I mentioned above, has been swirling in my head for a long time.  Angie's book helped me organize it.

Something that I really loved about the book was that it included throughout, thoughts from many of the women Angie had interviewed during the research process.  These were refreshing, thought-provoking, informative, and reassuring. I appreciated her desire and effort to represent women everywhere who are on the journey toward calling as a leader.


You can pick up a copy of
Dr. Angie Ward's book on Amazon through this link:
https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B07T44CC4V&preview=newtab&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_gSLHEbCZRN1YB

10 October 2019

the value of being

I spent the last two weeks driving around the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Utah.  As much as my summer trip hiking the Appalachian Trail had me marveling at the macro-lens beauty in the flowers and fauna around me (consider the lilies), this trip had me captivated, reveling in the incredible majesty of the rugged, snow-capped mountains, treacherous rims and breaks, piercing blue skies, rolling fields as far as the eye could see, and the all-around vastness of the American west.

By time I was preparing for my flight home, I felt tears threatening.  It wasn't so much because I was sad to go home; I mean, I missed my pup dreadfully! #petmom  Rather, I felt so full of the beauty and glory, that I was overwhelmed almost to the point of shutdown.  Maybe I'm weird, I don't know, but I felt like I didn't have any more room for the feast of colour and wonder that surrounded me.  I suppose if I lived out west, I might become less affected in about a decade or so, but on this, my first trip to the region, it was all-encompassing.

Sometimes people talk about the sense of being small and insignificant when they are surrounded by the expanse of stars in an open sky or the craggy peaks lost in the clouds.  King David the poet wrote a psalm expressing this very thought, a feeling I have shared. Psalm 8:3-4 

But on this trip, I carried a constant sense of being seen and known in the midst of the grandeur.  I  could almost hear the divine whisper, "Yes I made all this loveliness, and I made all the loveliness of you, my most precious, valuable, amazing piece of art.  You are more treasured than all the stars in the sky, more significant that the highest towering peak.  I see what I've made around you, and I zoom in on your heart and soul.  As you marvel at the mountains, the angels marvel at you."


I have wrestled with the notion of my worth for most of my life.  I know many people share this struggle, and wonder, "Why am I here?  What good am I?"  On this trip, in the sweeping vistas I somehow caught a glimpse of the value of my being:  simply because I exist, I have worth.  How's that for something to wrap your brain around?  Try it... simply because YOU exist, you have worth.


Because I believe in God, I believe in more than the happenstance of the Big Bang.  The more I see of the world in both broad view and close-up, the more convinced I am that there had to have been intention behind the formation of the universe.  But my belief in God also leads me to cultivate a relationship with Jesus Christ, his son, and that's where my comfort in being known is found.  I take solace in knowing that the hand that paints the glory of a sunset, holds my own hand, and that I am loved. 

24 September 2019

consider the lilies

For our 25th anniversary, my husband and I went hiking for a week in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, along the Appalachian Trail.  The hours of quiet, the breezes, scents, sounds, and views were like water to my soul.  The hard work of shouldering a 30+ pound pack on the up-and-down of a steep and rocky terrain, allowed me to enter into a kind of meditative state where physical pain simply rolled in and out of my consciousness, duly noted and fading as I walked, thought, prayed, and listened.


We saw so much beauty in the sweeping vistas and in the macro lens, but it was the macro that got me thinking one day.  I love taking pictures of flowers and mushrooms, snails and butterflies, snakes and chipmunks, all the fascinating things we see in nature.  I wanted to stop at every third step, to snap and share the beauty of creation with others.  As we walked through a narrow tunnel of tall wildflowers, I felt almost an obsession to take a picture of every one, and then I got to thinking about the flowers on the other side of the hill, where there was no trail, and I wanted to find them and take pictures of them as well, even though I knew it wasn't possible.


What struck me that day was that the beauty in this world IS.  It's just here.  Not because of us or for us.  There is a daisy in a field somewhere that I will never see, just as gorgeous as the one in front of me at this moment.  No human eye will ever see it, and yet its beauty remains.  I'm filled with awe at the reality that MOST of the beauty in this world will go unseen by the human eye.  Why is it there?  What is its purpose?



I think there is one who sees every flower, every blade of grass, every humming bee.  The Creator of the beauty, he sees all of it and loves it.  Something about this makes me...content.  Maybe it's just freeing and refreshing to remember that everything is not about me.


There is a verse in the Bible that says, "Consider how the wildflowers grow: they do not labour or spin thread. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was adorned like one of these." Luke 12:27 CSB  


 I rest in the knowledge that nothing in the universe goes unnoticed.