Peace…

Today is the Advent Sunday of Peace. I find myself at the farmhouse for an overnight while I await the upgrade to the electrical service that will pave the way for central heat. We won’t accomplish central heating this year, but we will be ready to get it done in the Spring thaw. So I’m happy to be here, happy for the step forward that will take place tomorrow.

I’m also at peace. There’s just something about this house and the acre of land that it sits on… it’s good for my soul. It’s a place of peace and rest for me.

That is desperately important in a world like ours – a world of strife and toil. A world in which violence strikes the most vulnerable and wars never seem to cease. It’s important, in a world like this, to find peace. Jesus understood that when he said:

Just like our hope, our peace is found in Jesus. He understands the trouble in our world, but he has also overcome it.

This Advent, may we seek peace and promote peace. May we shine a light of peace into our homes and neighborhoods. May we know that peace comes from the child we are waiting for.

Singing Saturday…

I’m feeling less wordy and more musical today, so I thought I’d share one of my favourite Advent hymns. I only learned this hymn a few years ago, and it’s joyful tune always makes me smile.

Here is a bit of background about the hymn:

“People, Look East” first appeared in The Oxford Book of Carols (1928). The lively tune, a traditional French carol BESANÇON, which earlier appeared with the anonymous text, “Shepherds, shake off your drowsy sleep,” provides a festive setting for this wonderful Advent text. In the last forty years, this hymn has gained increasing popularity, as evidenced by its appearance in a number of hymnals in the United States.

Key images of the season are abundant. “People, Look East” is the direction of the rising sun and, in the history of Christianity, the direction of the coming Messiah. In stanza two, the bare earth is waiting for the seed that will flourish in the reign of the Promised One. In stanza three, the stars that guided the Magi shape the “bowl” of the heavens, giving signs of hope beyond “the frosty weather.” The angels’ song, in stanza four, sets “every peak and valley humming,” an oblique reference to Isaiah 40:4, “Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low. . .”

Except for one word that changes in the last two lines of each stanza, the poem and its musical setting give the sense of a refrain. “Love,” in turn, is defined as “Guest,” “Rose,” “Star,” and “Lord.”

This joyful Advent hymn has the spirit of a Christmas carol, but with an imaginative Advent text. Singing this carol is indeed one way to prepare both our homes and hearts for the coming of the Savior

https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-people-look-east

May this Advent hymn bless you as you listen!

Faithful…

Sometimes you come across a verse of scripture that you know you’ve read before, and it just strikes you in a new way. That happened to me while looking for an idea for today’s blog. I read this:

Fo He who promised is faithful. That is the reason we can hold to hope. Because God is God – unswerving, steadfast, faithful.

Hold to hope when our hope is I’m God, is like holding to a spire of granite in the midst of a rushing river. The water may swirl and slosh and threaten to tear us away from the rock, but the rock itself will not be moved.

He who promised is faithful.

So this Advent, may we hold on to hope, knowing that the hope. May we know He who made the promise. May we know He is faithful.

Waiting…

I was reminded by a classmate this week that waiting is hard. It’s hard to sit in expectation, not knowing what the future will bring.

In Christianity, we enter into this mode – expectant waiting – at the high holy seasons of the year. During advent, we wait for the celebration of Christ’s coming into the world. During Lent we journey towards Jerusalem – Jesus’ betrayal, suffering, death and resurrection.

We already know the outcome of these stories: the Christ child WILL come into the world, the tomb WILL be empty on the third day.

And yet, we find it important to our spirituality to wait for these times of celebration. We find it important to walk the difficult road. We don’t just rush straight to the joy, we focus on the uncertainty and the importance of trusting God to do the ultimate good for all humanity.

I love Advent. I love watching the lights go up and the trees appear in the front windows of neighborhood houses. I love singing the songs of expectation and hope. I love knowing that God is with us, even when we are ‘just’ waiting.

This Advent, may we all put our hope in God. May we find that hope in God is the best place we can be, even when the waiting is hard. May waiting make the celebration all the sweeter. May we be blessed.

Some thoughts on hope…

The days since March 2020 have been hard. The pandemic may be grinding to an eventual end, but it’s not the definitive, victorious, CLEAR ending we had hoped for in the early days.

It turns out that a pandemic – much like any other disaster – leaves all kinds of scars and altered realities in its wake. Our hospitals continue to struggle, people are burned out and thin on compassion, students are not where they should be after two years of interrupted schooling, and all the problems we had before Covid (climate change, poverty, nations that look to dominate others, violence, famine….) are still there. They didn’t magically disappear while we were all focussed on case counts and mask mandates and vaccination rates.

It’s enough to drive one to despair.

So I was grateful and greatly moved when I read this in my Facebook feed this past week:

Our hope might be beaten, might be spitting out a tooth, but DOES rise for another go.

And at this time of year, we are reminded again that our hope is Jesus. The child who comes into the world helpless, but nonetheless will overcome the world, will overcome death. A hope like that isn’t easily beaten or dismissed. And in that we know our hope rose again on the third day, and after a time, ascended back to heaven – our hope is eternal.

It’s a thought I reach for when the world drives me towards despair. And it has never let me down.

Our hope is eternal.

This season, may we reach for radical hope, and find that its name is Jesus.

So it begins…

Despite my best intentions and many thoughts and ideas for blog posts, I just haven’t been on top of it since the early summer. But today, Advent begins. And I find myself wanting to return to my practice of blogging during the high holy seasons (Advent and Lent). I won’t make promises about Lent – it all depends how school is going at that time. But I will endeavor to blog regularly during Advent this year.

Say what you will about social media – but one of the things I love about it is that I have many friends who share my faith on social media. And they often post things that help and enrich my faith. Take this, for instance, posted by the Rev. Becky Rousehorne-Lau:

As we observe the Advent Sunday of Hope, as we enter into the Season, may we be irrational. May love bloom bright and wild in us. May we have abundant room for the child – and for each other.

I look forward to journeying through this season with you!

The last few days…

Sometimes in the flow of a vacation, days pass easily, and almost without notice. Good things happen, and you enjoy them, but maybe don’t take the time to do anything to hold on to those memories. I’m always a little wary about that. I don’t want to forget the good times and the memories. So this post is dedicated to just that. The last few days of memories.

We mad a 10+hr road-trip from Jupiter, Florida to Miller’s Creek, North Carolina. I love road trips. I guess that is because as a kid, when we hit the road for a long trip it usually meant we were going up go Thunder Bay to see my grandparents, who I adored. I love a day spent with good tunes and the road stretching out before us. I love watching the landscape change and wondering what the lives of people who live in different cities and towns and rural areas are like.

The day after our road trip was Canada Day. It was pretty much as perfect as a Canada Day away from home can be. Lotsa hanging out, relaxing, watching Canadian things (Schitt’s Creek and a Jays game – first Canada Day they’ve spent in Toronto in 2 years, and they did us the honour of winning) and eating Canadian foods (chips and dip – I know, not specifically Canadian but very Canada-Day-friendly – poutine and Nanaimo bars). We ended the evening with sparklers on the porch, and then sat in the dark for a bit watching the fireflies in the field across the road. Perfect.

Today, we headed out for a drive to see the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was beyond breathtaking.

All my life there have been places that hold a kind of mystical quality in my mind. Places that I’ve heard the name of since childhood, or at least for decades, and never really expected to see with my own eyes. Narnia-esque places, you could say. There is little as an adult, that is as delightful as finding myself (sometimes quite unexpectedly) in those places. I felt that at the Sea of Galilee, I felt it when Tracey and I visited the Coral Castle in Florida (of Andrew Peterson song fame), and I felt it today driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains (with John Denver’s “Country Roads” running through my mind).

I’m thankful for good days, good friends, and the joy of unexpected places.

I guess it had to happen sometime…

After 2.25 years of avoiding it, Covid found me this week. Actually, it found my hosts in Florida and none of us knew it until we’d all spent enough time together that it was a done deal for all of us.

The good thing is the timing – we are all triple vaxxed at this point. And our plans for this week were easily adjusted. So we are staying in the house and waiting out our quarantine time.

The only symptoms I’ve been feeling are a slight headache and exhaustion. I’ve slept about 24 hrs out of the last 36. I was definitely asleep more than awake yesterday. And then slept for a full 9hrs last night. This is not anywhere near normal for me. But if it is the worst thing that I must deal with in fighting the virus, that’s just fine with me.

It’s odd to think back to all of the fear and confusion of March 2020 – when we were afraid to touch anything and seeing another person on your sidewalk or in your grocery aisle could make you jump out of your skin. I’ve heard too many stories of people devastated by this disease: whole families who died separate and alone in hospital; people who should have weathered it fine but ended up staring death in the eye; those who continue to struggle with debilitating symptoms a year or more after infection.

And I guess what I mostly want to express is gratitude. For all those who have worked so hard to save or to comfort the sick and the dying. For all those who sat in a lab running tests that lead to the development of the vaccines. For all those who got their shots, masked up, and made the difficult decision to not spend time with a wide array of others.

My prayers are with the burnt-out healthcare workers, and all those who continue to grieve those they’ve lost to the pandemic. And I invite you to pray with me, dear friends. So many have lost so much in the last couple of years. So many of us have struggled.

So many are still hip-deep in the struggles, wondering if they can make it another step.

Let’s use our prayers to ask God to give strength, comfort, hope and undying love anywhere and everywhere it is needed!

And meanwhile…

A year ago, I couldn’t have imagined being where I am. I couldn’t have imagined leaving a life and a career that – sadly – were no longer bringing me joy and fulfillment. I couldn’t have imagined standing up for myself and saying – enough.

And – again, sadly – I couldn’t have imagined the pathway God has laid out before me. I should know better than to ever doubt that His Grace will always be more than I could ask or imagine…but every time I find myself stunned by it. Stunned that He really loves who I really am. Stunned that when I’m at the end of my rope, He’s just not anywhere close to done with me yet. 

And so I find myself sitting by a lovely pool, on a warm night. I just watched a truly spectacular sunset. I took a nap and read some of the book I’m loving, today.

And you know what? Slowly, I am letting go of the hurts of this last year. They still sting me from time to time, my blood boils when I think back on things, but I am also getting to the place where I regret nothing. 

I don’t think I’m at forgiveness yet – and I may not be for a while. But I can feel its approach. I will get there, just as I got here, in  God’s good time. 

And meanwhile, step by step, he is leading me back to myself. Not to the me I was, but to the me that I have become and am becoming. Because, after all, He’s still not done with me yet. 

And meanwhile, I am making space for myself – space to rest and to heal and to allow what is new to emerge. 

And meanwhile, I am blessed to reconnect with friends, to share laughter and silliness, deep talks and best scars. 

And meanwhile, my eyes are trained on the beauty of the world around me. I forgot, in my darkest times, that life really IS beautiful. I am remembering and recognizing it again.

So, dear friends, wherever you find yourself, may you know that God is not done with you yet. Whether you are thriving or just surviving, trust that God has you where He needs to you to be, and is laying out a pathway for you that is better than you can ask or imagine.