Saturday, December 27, 2008

Montreal Awareness Concert

Hello to all,
As most of you know, we're home now until January 3rd. In order to tell everyone about our trip so far, we're having a Montreal Awareness Concert. Basically, I'll be playing some of my old and new songs acoustically as Lauren and I share about our experiences in Montreal and our hopes for the remaining five months of the school. I will post the flyer below:

What: Montreal Awareness Concert
Who: Denny and Lauren Flanagan
Where: Church office at 21521 Surveyor Circle, H.B.
(located off of Hamilton between Magnolia and Newland)
When: December 28th, at 4 PM
Why: To talk about our first three months in Montreal and to share some music

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Two days until we make the adventurous trip home and I am so excited I had to write about it. Dennis is sleeping, the hubby and roommates are off to class, and I need to share my joy with somebody! I found this picture of Dennis and just had to marvel at how much he has grown since we have been here and how nutso his grandparents are going to go when they see him at the airport! I can't help but think about how special this time is: waiting to see all those familiar faces, waiting to show off my pride and joy. That's what this time of Advent is meant to be: a period of waiting and expectation, both patient and anxious, thrilled at the possibility of what is yet to come. This Christmas is truly going to be a momentous one- reunited with parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews- celebrating our own first Christmas with new life. I love this time of year, now more than ever. Here's to packing!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

La Neige!

Winter is here! It's official, no doubt about it: there is an abundance of snow on the ground and more beautiful flakes falling from the sky. Holy macaroni, I never knew it was possible for such a large city to exist in such a climate. I am blown away; $200 million dollars a year is spent on snow removal! I could try to be Optimistic Olive (that one's for you, Jim!), but I'll be honest and say that it is just not for me, LONG TERM (are you relieved, parents?!)... I can handle it and even marvel at its beauty for now, but at this point, Hawaii, Cali, Costa Rica: all sounding pretty nice for next year. I am excited to put up some pictures as it really is incredibly beautiful. It's as if Montreal turned from a huge city to a quaint village overnight; the streets are half as wide and sidewalks barely exist, and everyone seems to walk around much slower. Neighbors are helping neighbors shovel snow to get their cars out, and the rumble of semis and afternoon traffic is muffled by the layer of snow on the ground. My favorite part is the trees- they're completely frozen over and the branches are icicles, with a layer of snow so perfectly covering each branch it seems as if someone personally applied it. What I'm saying is, I feel like I am living in a snow globe: I'm one of those little people walking around the cute little town covered in snow! However, it comes with its challenges. The first day it started coming down, I tried to go out with Dennis in my sweet ErgoBaby Carrier (thanks Ryan and RoseLynn!), only to find he had snow covering his face within the minute. Hmmm... I returned to the apartment to try the stroller. My neighbors must having been laughing at such a rookie, as I couldn't get past our walkway to the sidewalk. Funny now, but frustrating at the time: just when I was becoming a confident, city-going momma, life threw another challenge at me. I'm beginning to see, however, that all my fears and obstacles become exciting challenges and little mole hills when given some good old-fashioned time and confrontation. I can't just stay inside, but I need to be determined to find a way and to just do it despite my fear. I also need to give myself some space and time to be a little more stressed, a little less active, and to come to a place where I actually want to face the challenge. So, as far as the snow goes, I'm developing my own little strategy: ErgoBaby and umbrella when it's actually snowing, because the snow is soft (not slippery) and impossible for my stroller, and then stroller once the snow stops and is iced over. Ooh la la, a winter wonderland, indeed.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Bad Divorce

I just wanted to share a quote from a book that Denny already read and I just started; this struck me as something that has been on my heart and in my mind but I hadn't found the words to express it until now. The author is discussing what he considers a "critical problem of our age", the fact that we have created "a bevy of divorces within spirituality, forcing ourselves and others to have to make unhealthy choices". One of the divorces (meaning a split) is the divorce between morality and social justice and he says:
"Too rare is the case where we see together in the same person, the same ideology, the same group, or the same church, an equal passion for social justice and for private morality, for action as for contemplation, and for statecraft (politics) as for soulcraft (mysticism). What this means is that the person who leads the protest group usually does not lead the prayer group, the person concerned with family values is usually not as concerned with poverty in inner cities, and the social, political agitator generally lacks the interior depth, selflessness, and calm of the mystic. The reverse is also true." (The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser)
Just some food for thought.

Friday, November 28, 2008


It's been a while since we last wrote and a few good things have happened around here since then. November has been a fruitful month for us in Montreal because two whole weeks of it were dedicated to finding our places here in terms of internships and volunteer work. First of all, Lauren and I have both found volunteering opportunities! We originally wanted to find something to do together and we did (working at a soup kitchen), but the health risks posed a threat to lil' D so we opted out. We were bummed out at first because we thought we had finally settled on a volunteering place; nonetheless, the very next day (which was yesterday), Lauren met with a lady who works for an organization called Women Aware ( This organization's mission statement is "to assist and empower women who have experienced conjugal violence through self-help and advocacy in order to improve their quality of life and affect social change." Lauren had a really personable, good meeting with one of the only two full-time staff of this organization. The lady loved Dennis; in fact, Lauren told me that several times their conversation was halted simply to revel in his cuteness. She told Lauren that he was welcome to come along any time she volunteered, which works out really well for us. At almost the same time, I was meeting with an organization called The Yellow Door ( which does a whole variety of things for the community and is tucked in right next to McGill University. One of the reasons I chose to check this place out was because it combined three things that I have interests in: service to the elderly, music, and a direct tie to the university's inter-faith chaplaincy. Primarily, I have scheduled a training session a week from Tuesday for volunteering in the elderly program. Eventually, I hope to take advantage of the music cafe and the chaplaincy as well.
As far as internships go, Lauren (as most of you know) has been involved in her internship for almost four months now, called motherhood. Dennis Michael, or Pass The Torch (his Native American name), is not the sleeper he once was so he's giving Lauren or both of us a run for our money at nap time and nighty-night time. Lauren's patience is blossoming into a permanent character trait. She's a natural! For my internship, the details are yet to be determined but the foundation will be an in-depth study of prayer. I have already compiled a number of books to read through various recommendations and also have begun something called "spiritual direction" at a place called the Ignatian Spirituality Centre. I have met with my director, Sister Mary Ellen (she's been a nun for 52 years!), two times and plan on continuing to meet weekly for the duration of the time I'm here. At the Ignatian Centre they teach you to pray through meditation and contemplation on scripture; something I'm just beginning to learn about! I'm positive that there will be more to the internship than this study of prayer, but at this point am not sure exactly what it will be.
We're spending this coming week out in the country with a neighboring YWAM school. Ironically, we have better internet access out in the country than in the city; so, we'll have more blogs and pictures up soon. Thanks for caring.
Denny, Lauren, and Pass The Torch

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Toronto Trip

Although it's been over two weeks since we returned from our week-long trip to Toronto, I'm determined to keep it fresh in my memory. One way to do that is to write a short blog about it!

Altogether we visited four different kinds of "ministries" or organizations; all four had a profound impact on us--thanks to Pierre, our school director, who organized the whole trip. The first night in Toronto we were beautifully hosted by John Franklin (the director of Imago []) and his wife. Imago is an organization that helps artists raise funding for completing their projects. John, like our director, Pierre, feels strongly that arts (serious arts) have somehow become obsolete in many areas of Christian culture. He is determined to encourage all forms of artistic expression within and outside of Christian circles.
The other ministry we visited was one similar to YWAM called Ignite Youth. It is a team of 7 or 8 people from all over the world who have come together in a specific area in Toronto, Regent Park, to basically help the poor community there. The leader of this organization, Geoff Ryan, also has a church (although he likes to call it a community) and a cafe, where he offers good food to the poor or the street people for very low cost. Geoff was quite a contrast from John. Geoff struck us as a very literal, concrete person who believed the best way to live out the gospel would be to serve the poor and under-priveleged. John, on the other hand, emphasizes the arts, which too often have no relevance when it comes to the poor. A lot of our conversations that week centered around this conundrum: how do we reconcile something as high-class as quality art with serving the poor?
The third ministry we visited was called Sanctuary. This place was an old church turned into a sort of soup kitchen for the homeless of downtown Toronto. What struck me the most about this ministry was what the director, Allen, explained to us about really caring for the poor. He said that caring for the poor did not mean just pitying them, or even feeling sympathy for them (and therefore feeding them); no, the most true, holistic way we can care for the poor is to see them as people created in the image of God who undoubtedly have a purpose and a unique make-up. Now, you might wonder: how do we make that concrete? He said it meant entering into a relationship with them just like you would with any other person. For example, if you saw that person on the street, hungry and without any money, obviously you would help that person. In conversation, you would listen to that person not just out of sympathy, but out of a genuine interest in his/her own life and how it can positively affect yours. It was profound to me to think of serving the poor in this way, not just out of sympathy, but out of a sincere conviction that real relationship is the only way to restore self-esteem and a sense of purpose to these people.
The last ministry we visited was called New Directions. Basically, this organization exists to bridge the huge chasm that has too long existed between mainstream Christians and the homosexual population. The director, Wendy Gritter, coherently deconstructed for us the different traditions of thought on homosexuality within Christianity. She spoke of the different levels of acceptance that exist in different Christian communities.
She started with the churches that view homosexuality as an abomination, and as a sure ticket to hell. Of course, these types of communities are definitely not abundant, but nonetheless still exist. The next level of acceptance are those that see homosexuality as a sickness that needs to be cured. They believe that a person can eventually come around to heterosexuality if he/she gets enough help. After that, there are those who are willing to accept--and not try to change--those with homosexual tendencies, as long as they are not acting on it or, in other words, remaining celibate. I would say most Christian churches fall in to one of the two above levels of acceptance.
The next level would be an acceptance of homosexual behavior, as long as that person is in a monogamous, dedicated relationship with his/her partner. There's probably only a few churches that ascribe to this level of acceptance, comparable to the numbers of the above mentioned zero-acceptance churches. The last level is one of total acceptance of any kind of homosexual behavior, monogamous or not. These people are usually the ones that refer to anything else as oppressive. I don't think there are any Christian churches that would ascribe to this perspective.
It was quite an all-encompassing run down of the present relationship between Christianity and homosexuality. She pushed us to continue the conversation in our Christian communities so that this issue (often viewed as taboo) would no longer remain stale and tucked away.
My feelings are that somewhere along the way within the Western Christian mindset homosexuality became something undoubtedly ugly, horrible,and irredeemable, and yet Jesus never says much about it. So, how do we as Christians approach this issue in a new way that will make genuine conversation possible with the homosexuals around us? Too often we're scared to death of anything that has to do with it. As long as that fear persists, the huge chasm between us and the homosexual population will only grow wider, and nothing will occur except one side blindly judging the other.
For me, this is challenging and I'm not sure how to respond to it exactly. I feel strongly about opening up conversation, and yet am not sure I would have the courage to actually do so in a real life context. But we can start here with this blog and I invite anyone to share their thoughts and feelings on the matter so we can all have a better educated perspective on the issue. One other source is the blog of the director of New Direction, Wendy Gritter. If you're interested, her web address is

Well, that was not a short blog. I apologize for misinforming you in the intro. We'll be back soon with to share more exciting adventures. Thanks for caring.

Denny, Lauren, and lil' D

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mailing Address

A few people have emailed us about our mailing address, so I thought it would be easiest just to post it (we love mail- hint, hint!):

Jeunesse En Mission
1204 Boul. Saint-Joseph
Montreal, QC
H2J 1L6

Monday, October 20, 2008

Denny, here

This is our second blog in over three weeks of Montreal-ness. We still don't speak French, but are understanding much more thanks to constant drowning, immersion--we love it! We're definitely settling into our routines now, getting to know our roommates a little more (not always a good thing), and the city! This city, however, is quite vast and our present exploration of it has only scratched the surface. So much! I've never lived in a big city like Montreal, LA, New York, Toronto, Chicago, San Francisco, etc. but I'm convinced this one's the coolest; in other words, I like what I've seen so far. Actually today in class our teacher asked us about our observations of the city so far; he said to list two or three. I wrote down that the recycling here is amazing (it seems everybody recycles everything), that there's a rich religious history (hugely amazing churches on nearly every corner, although almost all are empty), and a vivacious arts scene (the main difference being that in Montreal arts are not bonus, they're mandatory, essential, indispensable). These are just a few of the things Lauren, Dennis Michael, and I have noticed about our new stomping grounds.
School has been great so far. The first week we talked about Genesis 1, 2, and 3. Our teacher, Pierre Lebel, the director of the school, emphasized the fact that we were and still are made in God's image, and that this is our fundamental characteristic as human beings. It's not our fallen state and brokenness, but our identity as image-bearers of God.
Last week (our second week) we had a non-teaching week which gives us time to look into some of our areas of interest, and I was able to discover some very promising things. First of all, I feel strongly that my music will play an important role in my ministry. The ideal situation entails me being able to share my music at the multiple, multiple venues available, all the while making connections and establishing relationships with other musicians doing the same. I'm also looking into resources for/on contemplative prayer and meditation, something I've been interested in for quite some time. There are many other things available; thus, at this point, the sky is the limit and I'm excited to reach it!
This week (a teaching week) we'll be studying how our faith can be made relevant in a big city context. Our teacher, Glenn Smith, has his doctorate in Urban Missiology (I like that word.) and has been working in Montreal for forty years. It's nice to be taught by people so enmeshed in the city and attuned to its heart beat.
So, the adventures will continue, and we are very excited to experience all of them. Lauren, Dennis, and I are learning so much every day in so many ways. We feel truly blessed to be out here (and sometimes stressed).
Love you guys,

Monday, October 6, 2008

We have arrived! It's hard to believe that this is it: that the seed that was planted last January, over 9 months ago, has developed into this reality we are living today. I had no idea what was ahead of us when Denny came home that 'winter' evening, placed his hand on my still-flat tummy, and announced that 'we' were headed to Canada. So here we are, Denny, Dennis Michael, and I, alone in a big city with a metro for transportation, an apartment shared with three non-English speakers (and one bathroom!), and a very, very cold winter ahead of us. I will be honest and share that the night we arrived, after climbing the steepest staircase known to man with baby carrier (and baby) in hand to reach our apartment, I burst into tears. I was completely overwhelmed by the thought of exposing my precious newborn to heavy traffic, old, squeaky wood floors, and a harsh winter air. My fear of every unknown and uncontrollable was blinding any faith within me. Not only was I alone here, but this school wasn't even for me, right? What was I going to do while Denny stayed busy pursuing his passions and learning how to change the world? As the snow piles up, will I just be sitting indoors awaiting Denny's return for the evening? Thankfully, I married a man who was able to see through my supermom act and discern that I was not well. "He took my shoulders and He shook my face" (in the words of a Sufjan song) when Denny reminded me that I was the girl who dreamed of far-off lands and considered the life of a long-term missionary before we were married. Not only was this my dream, but I am not alone here. While Denny will be busy with this school that is helping him develop his passions, our prime purpose on this adventure is to grow together as a family serving the Lord. I am not alone. Last January, the Lord spoke. He was with us then, nudging us onward, and He is still with us now, with me now. Denny is doing this YWAM school, and will mature and learn a great deal from it, but what I somehow forgot along the way was that our God does not just work in schools or organizations. There is a purpose for me, and for Dennis Michael: to support Denny, yes, but far beyond that. This is our journey and I can now confidently say that God has already begun a good work here in Montreal, in the Flanagans, in me.