Why we sing…

I came across this, this evening:

I loved it instantly and thought of two recent experiences.

I’ve been making runs out to the farmhouse as I get closer to move there – taking things like my art and other treasured belongings, and just spending time in the house (sometimes alone), as confirmation about the fact that I WANT to live there. My Mom warned me that the birds would wake me up around 5am if I left the windows open when I went to bed.

She wasn’t wrong – I left the windows open and heard the birds greeting the dawn. The crazy thing is that it didn’t bother me. It didn’t upset me. Instead, I felt a small smile form on my lips, my eyes still closed. Then I rolled over, and slept peacefully until I was ready to wake up.

I’m NOT a morning person, and sometimes I think of myself as not particularly outdoorsy. Yet, hearing the joyful song of the birds as light began to bloom again in that corner of the world brought me joy and peace, that I could not have imagined.

The other experience was a more difficult one. A dear friend’s (really, a chosen sister’s) mother is dying in palliative care. We visited her together in hospital . Visiting the dying is not one of my particular gifts. But I’ve always said that if a friend asked for something, and it was in my power to grant, the answer would always yes.

So we went. I prayed, and held her mother’s hand. And after a bit, I asked if it would be ok if I sang to her a bit. My friend told me to go for it. So I sang – just a couple of choruses, just some simple songs of our shared faith. And I don’t know – I can’t know – if her mother heard me. But I know I felt better singing over her.

Yes, we sing – like the birds – to say that we are still here, we made it. But I also think we sing to find our way through the darkness and the unknown. (The Australian Indigenous people have songs they sing to find their way through the barren outback. I’ve always loved that thought about why we sing – to find our way through the wilderness.)

So sing, friends. Whether you have a a “good” voice or not – sing. Sing because you are still here, sing to find your way through, sing to reach deep into your soul and find strength you didn’t know you had.

Sing.

In your car. In your shower. With an audience or without. And if you can manage it, find opportunities to sing with a group of other people – at a church service, at a choir practice, at a concert or as part of the crowd at a sporting event.

Sing.

I promise it will be good for your soul.

Emerging…

I feel a little like I’ve begun crawling out from under a rock, or making my way out of a deep pit. It’s a process, and it will take a long time, I’m sure. But I think I’ve begun to emerge.

In the last week or so, I’ve found myself looking around. Noticing the world and my fellow humans in it – far more than I have been able to over the past few months. I find myself gazing out the window at the buds that are bursting on the trees. Or people watching as I sit in my car at a red light. I’ve been having long conversations and renewing connections that went a little cold during the last two years.

And as I look around me, I see two things: first, there is so much beauty to be found when we choose to pay attention (or when we have the energy to pay attention); and two, everyone is weary. In terms of the pandemic, we are in a season of hopefulness, living with fewer restrictions than anytime during the past two years, but we are also aware that Covid isn’t done with us yet.

Add to that the rising cost of – well – EVERYTHING, the ongoing brutality in Ukraine, the worsening realities of climate change, and the polarization of the political landscape….

We are just tired. Tired of things be difficult, tired of uncertainty, tired of things getting worse rather than better.

And I guess in all of this I simply want to encourage you a bit – if you’re feeling that way, you’re not alone. It’s ok to feel not ok – because our world hasn’t been ok for a very long time. But it’s also possible to find a way forward. To change what you are feeling. It’s hard, and I know that exhaustion of our times makes it even more difficult to put the effort in.

If all you can do is hang on, that’s ok, too. Hanging on is a very good thing, because your circumstances WILL change. Hold yourself gently and give yourself credit for making it through each day.

But if you think you are able to make changes, DO. Do not wait. Figure out one thing you can do today – spend time in meditation/breathing exercises/prayer; start making a regular bedtime routine; eat a vegetable or fruit at each meal; make a list of gratitudes; go for a walk and take pictures of the Spring flowers (then look at them when you are down or struggling).

If you need to, make bigger changes: career, relationship, where you live – make those changes, too. (Make sure you talk this over with trusted inner-circle people, and aren’t making huge decisions based on a bad day or a whim. Make a plan to put larger changes into place gradually, don’t just up and quit your job or move across the country. Running away from what you are struggling with will only make life more difficult in the long run.)

May we continue to press on – making it through the day, making the changes that will draw us closer to the life we have in Christ, and remembering that we are never alone.

Thankful…

I was afraid to post about the severing of the pastoral tie, and moving on from congregational ministry. You just never know how people might react, and there is such stigma around the dissolving of a pastoral tie, even when it is for non disciplinary reasons.

But I have been delightfully surprised. So many have reached out with a kind word, offering prayers and time for conversation. I have felt the support of colleagues and friends alike. It is good for my soul.

So today I am just thankful. And that is another step forward in healing. Never doubt how much good a simple kind word can do for another.

Leaving Church

I remember hearing that Barbara Brown Taylor, one of my preaching and writing heroes wrote a book entitled, “Leaving Church.” It is on my to-be-read list, but that list is always SO much longer than what I’m able to tackle. So I haven’t read it, but the title came into my mind as I thought about writing this post.

My blog has always been an exercise in my own faith – I love that it helps others, but most of the time, I’m writing for myself. I write in order to process experiences, spend time in God’s word, and to keep track of what I was thinking and feeling in a certain season.

Today I want to write about leaving congregational ministry after 15 years. I feel a little like I’m blowing up my life, but the reality is that the last two years have been horrible. Between my own struggles with anxiety and depression (thanks, Covid), the realities of having to pivot several times from in-person worship to online and back again, and the burden of caring for a congregation during these uncertain and painful days, it has all been too much.

I had two choices: keep going until it killed me (it’s already come close a few times), or find a different path. Though I grieved the reality, I knew I couldn’t keep going until it killed me. There are too many people I love in this world, too many experiences I still wish to have, and too much good to be done, for me to be ready to leave at this point in my life.

So the only choice was to find a different path. I admit to you, I toyed with the idea of leaving my faith entirely. Of just giving up faith all together – no more church, no more prayer, no more scripture, no more sacred singing.

But I quickly realized that was my hurt and anger (and, no doubt, the enemy) whispering in my ear. That’s not the Voice I want to listen to. And at the end of the day – I can’t see a sunset without whispering a prayer of thanks; in my darkest nights, I sing the songs of my faith to find my way through the darkness; the scriptures still have the power to reach off the page and wring my heart with their beauty; and though I have been hurt by it, I still wish to serve the church that Jesus died to save.

And the thing is – God isn’t done with me yet. Thank God!

Instead, he quietly laid a path in front of me. For the next couple of years, I will be retraining in order to become a Christian psychotherapist and spiritual director. And it no longer feels like blowing up my life. Instead it feels like hearing the whisper of the Holy Spirit – it feels like listening to the voice I WANT to listen to, the voice of the triune God who loves me.

The pastoral tie with my congregation has been dissolved. I’ve been moved to the appendix to the role in my Presbytery. I have applied to Knox College for the MPS (Masters of Pastoral Studies) program.

I’m other words, I’ve begun taking steps forward. There are still many steps ahead.

My hope is to blog through this process – for myself, of course. But I also invite you to join me on the journey. May God use my experiences to bless and encourage others.

Final Meme Monday for a bit…

Dear Friends, thank you so much for checking out my blog, letting me know what it’s meant to you, and being part of my community. As with so many of us, the pandemic has taken its toll on me. My doctor has recommended a leave and told me that my full-time job during this break is to work on my own health. It’s really difficult to choose not to blog for the next several weeks, but I trust my doctor and wish to follow her best advice.

So this will be my last blog for a while. I’d appreciate your prayers and look forward to returning to blogging once I am back from leave.

In the meantime, there were just too many good Easter Memes to not do one final post. So, let’s go!

This made me giggle, but also made me sad as Ontario is in its third lockdown since the pandemic began (and I pray it will work, because the stories from the ICU are scary!):

An oldie, but a goodie:

If it all happened now, this would be how that episode would go down:

But, SERIOUSLY:

Bunny jokes are seasonal, right?!:

Seriously, bunny:

Ryan Reynolds cracks me up! And that comment – perfect (also, get your jab as soon as you can, and I will pray you stay safe until you do!):

Loooove:

This lovely bit of poetic encouragement:

And this reminder (it’s not just for the parents!):

And finally, this blessing for your day:

Until I return, dear friends, be blessed and be a blessing!

Easter Sunday!

Welcome to Easter Sunday on the blog! May the service be a blessing:

And just because it’s been a while since I shared anything from Fountainview Academy, and this hymn always makes me think of Resurrection Sunday, here is “Blessed Assurance”:

Until tomorrow, dear friends, Easter blessings to you!

Good Friday

So, some of you will know there was a bit of confusion about the time of the service this morning. Totally my fault, but the good thing about virtual services is that they can be viewed anytime. So, here is our join service with Morningside High Park Presbyterian, may it be blessing:

And just for a little extra Holy Week music, here is Andrew Peterson’s haunting Tenebrea, which sets the seven last words from the cross to music:

Until tomorrow, dear friends, may you hold the cross in your heart and keep the Easter vigil as we await the Empty Tomb.

Maundy Thursday

It has been our practice at Graceview Presbyterian, to host a Stations of the Cross drop-in prayer vigil. This year, that vigil is virtual, and has developed into. a little service including prayer from the Central Etobicoke Ministerial, and a Communion. So please grab your elements (anything to eat, and anything to drink – what ever you have on hand is good – last time we did communion, people shared that they had cranberry juice or tea, and I thought it was wonderful that they were willing to recognize that in unprecedented times, sometimes you just have to go with what works!) and may this service be a blessing to you:

Until tomorrow, dear friends, may you be strengthened by the meal we have shared.