A new heart…

At our first zoom Lenten Lunch today, we got talking about how we are all struggling right now. We were reflecting on a passage in Ezekiel where God promises to give his people a new heart – to remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. And one member said she needs a new heart every day now, that she’s really struggling. And across the screen, all the heads started to nod up and down.

We’re all feeling it. We’re all struggling. We all need God to intervene.

So I like this…but I also think it doesn’t quite go far enough:

It’s true, we can make choices to love life and live in gratitude. But there will still be days, times, seasons, when our hearts are weary or hardened and we just don’t have the strength on our own.

The very good news, is that God does not grow weary. God is always ready to give us a heart of flesh if we would turn to him and ask for it.

Making the choice to pray plays a huge role in all of this – choosing to ask God for what we need, but also to listen for what He’s saying to us.

The amazing thing that happened at Lenten Lunch, as we discussed the scripture, our own experiences, current events, and then did some singing together – is that our hearts were renewed. We’d come into the Zoom tired and broken, and left uplifted and with a sense of healing. God is so good!

I know it’s hard, I know you’re tired, I know we all wish that this could be over. It’s ok if your heart is a little battered right now. But God promises to make your heart new.

Until tomorrow, dear friends, ask God to give you a new heart (and then ask him again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that….you get it!).

Meme Monday!

Is it just me, or has it been snowing a lot lately in Toronto? This is an oldie, but a goodie:

I love this! So spot-on:

Oh, he does. He definitely does:

Pretty sure this is what my dog thinks:

I know it’s only Monday, but…:

This is the stage of winter-laziness we are in now:

For my fellow Avengers fans (I gotta start watching Wandavision and cannot wait for the Falcon and Winter Soldier series!):

Ha! Star Wars/U2 mash-up. Yes, please!:

This lovely bit of advice:

And finally, this blessing for your day:

Until tomorrow, dear friends, keep on laughing and thinking and drawing closer to God!

Back to Basics: Prayer

Welcome to the first Sunday in Lent. During this season we will be going ‘back to basics,’ looking at the core principles of the Christian faith. May the service be a blessing to you!

Until tomorrow, dear friends, know that God knows what you need before you ask for it, and God CARES about your needs!

Worship Resources!

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Lent. We begin our journey toward the Empty Tomb. But there is a long way to go before we get there. Sometimes Lent has a bad rap as a season that is dour and dreary, but I like to think of it as a time of pilgrimage – that is, spiritual journey. It is a time when we reflect on our need for a saviour – which means acknowledging our sin – but that is not a bad thing. We can only begin to prayerfully do better when we prayerfully know better. So I hope you will journey with me during this season, with a strong faith that the tomb IS empty, we ARE forgiven, and Jesus journeys with us at this time. Let’s gather some resources to prepare our hearts for worship!

This virtual anthem of “When Jesus the healer pass through Galilee”:

This prayer for the beginning of Lent found on the reWorship blog:

This colouring page from illustrated ministry of the following verses from Mark 1, which struck me as right in line with part of the sermon for tomorrow:

21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

A couple of quotes about what Lent is all about, from a nun named Joan Chittister, which I found quite helpful:

And finally, since tomorrow’s sermon focusses on prayer, this lovely song by David Archuleta, entitled “My Little Prayer,” (at the end of the video he speaks about this as a holiday song, but I think it’s quite appropriate in this Lenten season!):

Until tomorrow, dear friends, may you continue to journey toward Jesus!

Forgiveness, can you imagine?

Lent is a time of preparation. Of journeying. Of moving towards the Resurrection morning in which we will encounter the ultimate forgiveness – the moment when Jesus steps out of the grave, fully alive and having fully defeated the powers of sin and death forever.

As part of our journey, we recognize our need for forgiveness. We recognize, that we have missed the mark of what God has called us to be. That we are broken. That we need help. I find that easy to believe about myself, and I am deeply grateful that. God meets my brokenness with grace.

But here’s the thing – if I know how very good it is to be forgiven, I also need to forgive others. And there are times that is much more difficult. Sometimes I want to hold on to my hurt. Sometimes I want to protect myself. Sometimes I don’t want to recognize that if God thought I was worth it – worth the sacrifice of his perfect Son’s life – then so is everyone out there, And I can only truly call myself a follower of Jesus if I truly seek to forgive those who hurt me.

What makes this somewhat easier is beginning to grasp (however imperfectly) what forgiveness is really about. I appreciate these two thoughts on forgiveness:

Forgiveness, you see, isn’t just good for the person you forgive, it is good for your own soul.

So, dear friends, as we travel through Lent, let’s ask God to help us practice forgiveness. It may just be the best thing we do in this season!

Lent begins again…

I’m always amazed, as I listen to our lay readers read scripture, at how I hear it. Things seem to jump out at me. I’m not concentrating on getting the words right, as when I’m the one doing the reading. Last evening, as we gathered on Zoom for Ash Wednesday I was struck by these words from 2 Corinthians:

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love;  7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

2 Corinthians 6:4-10

Do you see how, when we follow Jesus, things get turned upside down – sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; having nothing, yet possessing everything. So it is with Ash Wednesday – we come, penitent (that is, remorseful, repentant, aware of and regretful for our sin). And yet, we find ourselves accepted, forgiven, loved. It is a dark day, a day in which we recognize our own mortality – you are dust and to dust you shall return – and yet it is also a day in which we are aware of the new, and eternal, life Jesus offers us.

I’ve only had a practice of observing Ash Wednesday for a few years, but I’m grateful for the deep truth and important perspective of this observance. This year, of course, we had to observe the day on Zoom. But we were blessed to do this with the Rev. Janet Ryu-Chan and to have some vocal recordings from Morningside-High Park Presbyterian Church’s Music Director, Marylou Malicdem. May the service be a blessing to you!

Until tomorrow, dear friends, remember your humanity and trust in Christ’s divinity.

Breathe. Just Breathe…

As with many students who studied Hebrew as their theological language in seminary, I grit my teeth when I see “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” used as a name for God. Let me explain – both of these are an attempt to transliterate the “YHWH” name of God found in the Hebrew Scriptures. Jehovah is a bad transliteration based upon a rudimentary understanding of Hebrew use of vowels. Yahweh is a better transliteration, but it still falls short.

The Hebrew understanding of the “YHWH” name was that it was holy – set apart – not for daily use. In fact, once the temple was built and the priesthood formally instituted, that name of God was meant to be pronounced only by the High Priest, only in the Holy of Holies (most sacred space in the Temple), only on the Holiest day of the year. It was a very protected and sacred name.

Ordinary priests, scribes and individuals, were trained to pronounce “Adonai” (Ah-don-EYE), which is equivalent to the English word, ‘Lord,’ whenever they came across the YHWH in scripture.

At the same time, if you try to pronounce this word without vowels (which is how it was ALWAYS written), it comes out like breath. Try it. YHWH.

So Rob Bell, in one of his Nooma (a play on the Greek word for Spirit) videos, talks about God being as close to us as breath. He asks the question: do we die when we stop breathing or do we die when we can no longer say the name of God?

So if all you managed to do today was breathe – especially if it was a day when you were struggling with even that – it may be that you’ve spent the day doing something both simple and incredibly holy.

Never underestimate the power of your breath. Never doubt that God is as close to you and as constantly with you as the next breath you take.

Until tomorrow, dear friends, keep breathing, keep praising the Lord.

Meme Monday!

Quarantine Fatigue is real!:

This sweet piece of advice – give it a chance, even in 2021!:

This still cracks me up:

Gotta love a double entendre:

I’m gonna hazard a guess that they’d be fine:

Valentine’s Day advice for those on a budget:

Single girl’s guide to Valentine’s Day:

See, God does answer prayers, (actually, I love a good salad, but I also love a good donut!):

And Ontario! (though I’m sure Alberta is further back and colder!):

Charlie Macksey always has wise words, keep going, friends!:

And finally, this blessing for your day:

Until tomorrow, dear friends, keep on thinking and laughing and drawing closer to God!