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Olive’s rating: 5 stars out of 5

I absolutely loved this book. Parker Palmer did an excellent job of painting a picture of what safe communities of people look like and how they help individuals toward living an undivided life of integrity.
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olive chan —  October 4, 2011 — Leave a comment

In our process of clearing space for baby, we have been giving away a lot of stuff. On Sunday after church service, we set up a little table with two boxes of goodies to give away. Let me first explain this: one of the beautiful things about the people in our congregation is the range of cultures and socio-economic backgrounds represented there. So very quickly, various people we did not know came by and snapped up a whole bunch of our stuff. Watching them find new treasures was a joy.  But it was also tinged with a bit of sadness. You see, some of the items I had bought years ago – I knew both the price I paid for them as well as the sentimental value they carried. So while it was a joy to see peoples’ eyes light up as they found something they needed, I found myself longing to stop them and invite them to sit down so I could tell them the story behind what they were holding. I longed to ask them their name and hear what their story was.  I wished they would appreciate these things as much as I did.  That they would treasure these things as much as I did.

Reflecting on this experience on the way home, I wondered if this is maybe something of what God feels when we revel in His grace and gifts without stopping to thank Him or taking time to hear His heart.  I wondered, too, if this new way of identifying with God was one of the reasons we are encouraged to practice generosity.

His grace afterall is free. But it is also terribly costly.

Tim and I had an interesting conversation with a friend last night.  In the course of our conversation, we stumbled upon this question, “Does growing your knowledge of a person enable your love for them to grow?”

For example, when I married Tim, I could wholeheartedly say that I loved him.  But in the last 3 years, I have gotten to know him so much better than the day we got married.  So my love for him now includes all those dimensions of him (positive and negative) that I had previously not known.  Likewise, our friend yesterday shared with us something that we hadn’t known before, so now, when we think of our friendship and the love we have for our friend, it includes that added dimension.

Or perhaps the love itself does not grow.  Perhaps what grows with knowledge is the awareness of what our love encompasses.  After all, love is a choice.

As it relates to God, I can say today that I love God, but each day as I discover more of Him and experience more with Him, that little word takes on richer and fuller meaning.

Any thoughts?

photo credit: Caro Wallis via photo pin cc


olive chan —  May 17, 2011 — 1 Comment

The Lord’s Supper.  The Lord’s Table.  The Holy Meal.  The Eucharist.  Communion.  These all refer to the same sacrament that has marked Christ-followers through the ages.

I grew up knowing that it was a sacred practice but not really thinking of it as anything more than crackers and juice that we would have every first Sunday of the month to “remember the death of Jesus.”  When I moved to Vancouver, I started attending a service that celebrated it weekly.  I’m not sure if it was the frequent repetition of the act or something the Holy Spirit was working in me (probably both), but in the last half a year, I’ve noticed that this practice of partaking the bread and the wine (in my case, juice) began to take on deeper meaning for me.

This past Sunday, as I came up to the communion server and tore off a piece of bread, I was embarrassed that the bread came off in a big chunk.  I was left holding a lot more than what I usually would take.  As I knelt to receive the bread dipped in juice, I told God as much.  I felt Him respond to me, “I wanted you to have a bigger piece today.  It is a symbol of the extra portion of grace I want to give you.  You will need a large measure of grace in this coming week.”  In that mysterious moment, He nourished me and promised me sustenance for the week ahead that I already know will not be an easy one.   


olive chan —  May 7, 2011 — 2 Comments

Thirty years ago today, you welcomed me into the world.  You probably had no idea what you were getting yourselves into.  But perhaps that was a good thing.

Today, as I mark 30 years of being alive, I wanted to publicly say THANK YOU.

Mom, words cannot express all the things I have learned from you and all the ways you have influenced me.  Despite the fact that you did not grow up with a mother of your own, by the grace of God, you managed to be a most excellent mother to me.  Thank you for deciding to leave your job and commit your days to rearing me starting the day I was born.  I treasure the time you invested in me, the attention you gave to me and the way you listened to me, disciplined me and encouraged me.  Thank you for discovering and learning along with me.  Some of my favourite childhood memories are of us watching our little patch of garden grow and planting different things each year.  Thank you as well for your passionate love for Jesus.  I learned from your example how to look for and see God in the everyday situations of life.  You inspire me.

Dad, I am so proud to call you my father.  You are a model to me of what hard work, perseverance and patience look like.  Thank you for providing for our family and working the long hours when I was young.  Thanks for setting time aside to come and support me in my countless ballet recitals, art shows and theatre productions.  Thank you for believing the best in me and treating me with respect and trust.  You did not have the privilege of growing up knowing your dad.  In spite of that, you became an amazing father.  Thank you for consistently seeking after God’s heart.  I will always remember the many early mornings where you would sit at your desk pouring over the scriptures.  I learned from your example how to keep seeking after God no matter whether times are good or difficult.  You inspire me.

Mom and Dad, as I continue to grow and mature, I find myself appreciating you more and more.  You are truly both quality people and I am so thankful God chose you to be my parents.

Congrats on 30 years of parenting!  I love you.


olive chan —  April 17, 2011 — 3 Comments

My husband and I are at the stage now where we are starting to think about starting a family and all the questions that come along with it.  One of those questions relates to what neighbourhood we might want to settle in where the kids would grow up.  Most people would advise us to think about what schools are in the neighbourhood and whether we would want our kids to attend them.

We generally like where we live right now.  It’s central in the sense that there’s a large grocery store right across the street, a great new library down the street and new developments going up all around us.  We’re also right next to a bus line and a ten minute walk from the skytrain.  When it comes to schools, however, it’s a different story.  You see, our neighbourhood is in the middle of transitioning from low-income to mid-income (which is why we were able to afford this apartment in the first place!).  This translates to schools historically filled with kids from troubled homes and broken families.  Our neighbourhood is also full of immigrant families, which means the schools have lots of immigrant kids.  [Edit: I say this with much respect to immigrant families, but also acknowledging the added challenges for immigrants in this city.]  All this to say, the educational reputation of this area isn’t exactly envied.

I was thinking about this the other day and I started to wonder.  What if staying here in this neighbourhood is a mission for our family?  What if our family is one of the few “healthy” or “stable” family that our kids’ friends would consistently have in their lives?  What if our kids’ classmates’ moms and dads need encouragement and we’re the ones to bless them?  What if it’s not all about our own children getting “the best education” and “being successful”?  What if, in being surrounded by the brokenness in the world, our children learn to be more compassionate?  What if they love justice more because they see how injustice affects friends they love?  What if God chooses to bless our kids and protect them because we embrace His people in this neighbourhood?

It’s risky, I admit.  Because what if our hopes are not realized and our kids are the ones affected negatively by their classmates?  Would it be worth that risk?

I said to my husband earlier today, if Christians moved only to places that had good schools, that wouldn’t be very Christ-like, would it?

So here it is, a dangerous and uncomfortable stirring in my soul.  An invitation to trust boldly and to choose love over fear.  We are still in the process of decision making, of course.  But this is definitely one area I’m looking for confirmation from God for.


olive chan —  January 26, 2011 — Leave a comment

In the short span of four months, I was in two car accidents that resulted in the total loss of a car.  The first one was pretty cut and dry: I was rear ended.  That was that.  The second one left me feeling more uncertain.

I was hit on a Friday afternoon.  I had to wait the entire weekend before I could find out how much damage had been done to the car.  And I had to wait even longer to find out whether I would be held responsible or not.  Over that weekend, I thought much about the accident and replayed the scene over and over in my mind.  I thought about the other driver, who accused me of not driving safely.  I felt anxious, afraid and angry.  As I tried to fall asleep, the thought occurred to me, “Jesus paid it all.”  Jesus paid for my mistakes, just as He paid for the other driver’s mistakes. 

I hated the feeling of uncertainty.  By all evidence, I should not be held responsible (and in the end, I wasn’t).  But I could not know for sure until I got the letter saying so.  Feeling so uncertain about this verdict made me very grateful that at the end of this age, when we stand at the Final Judgment, I can be certain that I will be declared innocent.  

Being in two accidents in four months also left me feeling insecure about driving.  I felt like vowing to never sit behind a steering wheel again.  But as I thought about it, I knew that to make such a vow would be to let the drivers “out there” control my decisions.  It would essentially be allowing fear to dictate my life choices.  And that wouldn’t do.  Because I had decided long ago that I would not let fear choose for me.  Jesus paid for my freedom and I would live in it.  I would trust that God would protect me and I would believe that His angels surrounded my car.  After all, as my husband says, “We’re invincible until we die.”


olive chan —  December 24, 2010 — Leave a comment

With Christmas just a day away, I have been pondering the various characters found in the Christmas narrative.  It occurred to me that if Joseph was like me at all, he could have had the following conversation with God:

[Setting: A stable in Bethlehem.  A few hours after Mary delivered baby Jesus.  Joseph makes sure both of them are sleeping and steps outside for some fresh air.]

Joseph [looking up at the night sky]:  
God, I’m so sorry for how this turned out. I really didn’t mean for your Son to be born in a stable.  I’ve failed you miserably, haven’t I?  I can’t believe how improper a place we ended up in!  I’m so embarrassed.  I could have called ahead or sent someone to book a room for us at least.  But then again, it would have been unlikely that anyone would have taken us in, especially when Mary was so close to labour.  People don’t want the messiness of a birth in their house, especially not the birth of a child with questionable origins…  Anyway, again, I’m really sorry God.  You trusted me with taking care of your Son and I’ve already botched it.  I wish I could provide better for Jesus – and Mary, too.  [Sighs.]

Under the twinkling stars, Joseph hears this response from God:
Joseph, Joseph… relax!  You’ve done your best.  It was honourable of you to have brought Mary with you to Bethlehem, especially when everyone could see she was pregnant.  You put your reputation on the line for me.  That matters to me.  Besides, now that you’re not at the inn, I can invite whomever I want to come visit!  The shepherds will be here shortly.  You know, Joseph, don’t be so hard on yourself.  I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.


Have you felt like Joseph?  What is God’s response to you?


olive chan —  September 19, 2010 — 1 Comment

Generally, I don’t post about my marriage but today I am feeling particularly thankful.  So in this rare moment, I will risk sounding like a sap and share a bit of what I usually keep private.

I had always wanted to get married, but I hadn’t truly expected to.  When Tim and I were making the decision about whether or not to take our friendship to a deeper level and explore the possibility of getting married to each other, it came as a bit of a surprise to me.  And the main reason I said yes to dating him was because I felt like God was clearly telling me to give it a chance. 

Little did I realize how much grace God wanted to pour into my life through the person I now call my husband.  Perhaps it was my independant spirit that always resisted the idea of being taken care of, but I think that being in this covenental relationship has finally given me a place of safety where I don’t always have to have it all together.

Take today as an example.  Today has been a particularly difficult day for me.  I’ve felt sluggish, exhausted and even my bones are achy.  The most frustrating thing is that I can’t even begin to suggest a cause for this blah-dom.  Tim went out over lunch and came home to find me still in my pajamas, curled up on the couch, attempting to sleep the day away.  His reponse?  He held me and told me he loved me.  Even in my blah-ness. 

It’s times like these that I struggle the most to love myself.  Yet there he was, telling me he loved me.

Perhaps this is my imagination running wild, but I can picture this happening.  God looked at me and thought Olive sure doesn’t get my grace. I need to send a special agent. Who should I send?  Oh, I know.  I’ll send Tim.  He’ll be my daily reminder to her that she is unconditionally loved.

Thanks, God.  Your special agent is accomplishing his mission.  


olive chan —  June 8, 2010 — Leave a comment

I recently watched part of “Entertaining Angels,” a movie about the life of Dorothy Day.  One scene in particular moved me deeply and has stayed with me till now.  (You can watch it here.)  In this scene, Dorothy comes home to find her good friend Maggie stealing all her money for a drink.  In a fit of rage, Maggie assaults Dorothy.  Just as Dorothy is about to fight back, she suddenly softens toward Maggie and says to her, “I see the light in you.”  Dorothy then proceeds to speak of all the redeeming qualities she sees in her friend, rendering her defenseless against grace.

In scriptures, Jesus tells us two back-to-back parables that illustrate to us this extravagantly gracious nature of our God.  In the first, a prodigal son is unexpectedly welcomed home (Luke 15).  In the second, a sly and sneaky manager is surprisingly commended for being clever (Luke 16).  God sees the good in us and doesn’t hesistate to call it out by naming it.

I once heard a psychologist explain a graph called the JoHari window.  It describes, in four quadrants, the relationship between what we know about ourselves, what we don’t know about ourselves, what others know about us and what others don’t know about us.   The psychologist also made a remarkable observation:  for most people, the majority of what they don’t know about themselves but others know about them are positive things.

As I’ve reflected on this idea that most of us go about our lives having no clue about the goodness that lies within us, I am moved to ask God to help me be a person who both sees and calls out this good in others.  Afterall, this is what God does as well.