Knowing peace…

I’ve been thinking about this since I first saw it, close to two weeks ago. I know for many (myself included, at least at times!) peace has been hard to come by in this time of quarantine. There are just too many unknowns – people are wondering if they will have jobs when they are allowed to work again, how their children will be cared for once they do go back to work, what the financial implications of all of this be, whether they or someone they love will be seriously ill.

With all these questions, finding peace can be difficult. Difficult, but not impossible.

For Christians, an important part of knowing peace is knowing God’s presence. It’s in those times when God feels distant, that we most struggle with finding peace. But the Bible tells us that God is with us always. That promise is found in both the Old Testament and the New.

In fact, it is one of final things that Jesus says to his followers, after he has risen and before he goes back to heaven.

We can know peace, because we know God’s character: God is steadfast, strong, and true. His promises do not fail.

So until tomorrow, dear friends, may you know peace even in the midst of not knowing what comes next. May you trust the promises of God, and know that God is with you always.

Kindness matters…

The thing about kindness is it becomes easier to practice regularly when you put yourself in the shoes of another. It becomes easier when you know more, when you consider the reasons that might contribute to another’s behaviour.

In the early days of the pandemic, I read some tweets and social media comments irate about people wandering aimlessly through the grocery store, instead of efficiently gathering what they needed. And I agreed with the irritation of the people commenting.

That is, until I found myself wandering back and forth through the grocery store because I was so anxious about being there and about trying to adhere to physical distancing, that I seriously could not think my way through what I needed and how to be efficient getting it.

Back in early March, before we were officially in a state of emergency in my area, I was at a grocery store, in a long lineup having some very critical thoughts about the woman in front of me who seemed to be buying half the store’s inventory.

I cringe when I think about how I judged her, because I didn’t know her story or why she was buying so much. Since then, I’ve had a friend buying for a number of different households when she had to be at Costco to pick up prescriptions needed by her immediate family. Since she has to be there anyway, she messages friends and family before she goes, and offers to pick up whatever they might need. In this way, she both limits the number of people that have to go to that store, and limits the exposure of the people (some with serious risk factors) for whom she shops.

She’s done shopping for me when I was having trouble being able to get certain foods, or when I could not get a reasonable time to do a curbside pre-order. And I’ve been so grateful, I honestly don’t have words to express it.

These are just two instances in which I feel that God has taught me something in the midst of this pandemic, which made it easier to be kind in my judgment of others.

You may have seen this:

None of us know what someone else’s boat looks like. To paraphrase one of my friends: some people are weathering this storm in nothing but a leaky dinghy.

So let’s work at being kind. Let’s work at not making assumptions about someone else’s situation or motivations.

Until tomorrow, dear friends, know that God is kind to you, and God is delighted when you are kind to others.

The God who never sleeps…

Sometime in my late teens/early twenties I came across a song by Chris Rice entitled “Smellin’ Coffee.” These lyrics struck me:

I remember reading You’re the God who never sleeps/and while I’ve been sleeping, You’ve been singing over me..

I loved that thought. That as I slept, unaware, God would be singing blessings and peace and love over me. I hadn’t thought about that for a long time, but then I came across this recently:

And I breathed a little easier.

There is a sense of hyper-vigilance in all of the uncertainty in our world these days. Like we have to know everything, be on top of all the facts, take in all the stats.

But our God is the God who never sleeps. And he’s singing over each of us. So I’d like to encourage you to give up your worries, your fears, your hyper-vigilance to Him as you lay down to rest at the end of the day. And I pray that this will help you sleep.

Until tomorrow, dear friends, may you know that even as you sleep, God is singing over you.

Praying thank you…

I found this in my travels on social media, recently:

Now, you could get into theological arguments about whether this is true. And there are probably arguments on either side. But, I admit I like the spirit of it. Maybe I’m naive to think so, but I assume if you’re praying “Thank You,” you are engaging your faith in God. However you might define or describe God, the impulse to say thank you suggests that there is someONE to thank, and that you understand something of the richness of the gifts you’ve been given.

One of the thing that sometimes breaks my heart as a faith leader is the difficulty that congregants express in knowing how to pray. People feel that they have to be perfectly eloquent in their prayers. Or that there are “right” words to say and “wrong” words to say. They think that they need flowery language, or to never have an awkward pause in the midst of their prayer.

We put too much pressure on ourselves!

God just wants us to talk to him. About our heartbreaks, about our joys, about the things for which we need to thank him, about the things for which we need to ask his help.

He’s not worried about our eloquence or whether we lose our words at times. He cares where our hearts are at and that we want to communicate with him.

So friends, be encouraged. Say thank you to God often. Trust that he knows what you’re trying to say, even when you can’t figure it out yourself.

Until tomorrow, dear friends, I leave you with this song by Andrew Peterson, which asks that great question – don’t you want to thank someone for this?:

Meme Monday!

(Another round of fun and insightful memes for your enjoyment, and to give me a bit of a break from writing!)

This reminder to be grateful for the technology we have while in quarantine:

This epic take on the measures we are all observing:

Might have mentioned this one in yesterday’s sermon:

This faithful advice on the best way to follow Jesus:

Not sure who needs to hear this today, but just in case it is you:

And, finally, this blessing on your day:

Until tomorrow, dear friends, remember that God is good, find reasons to laugh, be kind to each other and pray daily!

CHRISTMAS for these hard times..

What?! Christmas?! Yes, you read that right – today for worship, we are having a little Christmas. It’s Mother’s Day! And so we are looking at the passage Luke 2:1-20, which is the birth narrative in the Gospel According to Luke. I hope it will be a blessing to you and that it will feel celebratory, even though we can’t be together.

Let’s start with a little bit of prelude music, as Eric plays for us.

Bob Twynam, Clerk of Session at Graceview, has done this week’s reading:

Our first hymn is “Oh come, all ye faithful” (on the pump organ that some of you have noticed in the background of previous musical recordings from Eric!):

A litany of thanks for our Mothers on this physically-distanced Mother’s Day:

~ submitted on the re:worship blog by Rev. Dr. Libby Grammer, Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Martinsville, VA. https://fbcmartinsville.com

A bit of special music – the Rev. Dr. Morley Mitchell, performs “The God of the mountain is still God in the valley”:

Here is our video sermon:

And our final hymn is Once in Royal David’s City:

Until tomorrow, dear friends, may the presence of Christ comfort you in these hard times.

Worship resources…

It’s become my practice on Saturdays, to post some extra worship resources, in the hope that these things will be a blessing to you as we prepare to gather in worship (in the comfort of our own homes) tomorrow. Tomorrow’s worship will have a twist to it – so these things don’t have too much to do with tomorrow’s “some assembly required” service. But nonetheless, they are meaningful and offered to lift your spirits on this day or in the days to come.

First, this FREE reflection on selected verses of Psalm 31 from the good folk at illustratedministry.com – they continue to put together family worship resources each week during this crisis. These resources are great for kids, but I think also meaningful for adults!

This lovely version of Siyahamba/We are Marching from my friends Shelagh and Rob, who are “singin’ in the kitchen,” again!

And for something different, just because it’s too beautiful to not share, this short film of the cherry blossoms at High Park (thanks to Graceview Elder, Maureen Screen, for sharing this!):

Until tomorrow, dear friends, please know that God is with you, each and every moment.

Love…

So, I f you asked me to sum up the Christian Faith in one word, that word would be love. It’s what Jesus came for, what he taught, what he died for, what he rose again for…it is the mission he passed on to his disciples.

And preachers are great at encouraging their people to be more loving. To ask themselves what Jesus would do. That’s a good thing. People should know us by our love.

But I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we receive love. This is less-talked-about in sermons. Nadia Bolz-Weber spoke about this in a beautiful sermon she wrote for Maundy Thursday, back in April (that was – what – 10 years ago now?!). She wrote about how Jesus was so good at receiving love. That he did it with grace and strength, not shying away at all. That Jesus models for us how we should receive love.

And then I was watching an Andrew Peterson video clip on YouTube, and he spoke about how easy it is for him to believe God loves others, but how hard it is to believe that God loves HIM.

Both these things resonated with me. I find it hard to receive love (or sometimes even simple compliments!). I find it easy to heap love upon others.

I’m working on that. Trying to be better to gracefully accept love when it is given to me. And I want to encourage you to do the same. I know you’re good at giving love! But how are you at receiving it? How are you at believing you are actually WORTHY of it?

Ultimately, that is how God addresses you: beloved.

Until tomorrow, dear friends, please work at believing that God loves you, that God feels you are worthy of his love.

A day off?

I’ve had a couple of friends remind me that it’s ok to take a day off from blogging. Usually they say this when I’m complaining over text about trying to come up with something to blog about that day. And I tend to reply that I’m too stubborn to take a day off. I like to create my own problems and then complain about them!

But seriously, even as I struggle to find something to say (it’s getting harder the longer this goes on!) each day, I also find writing a daily blog a meaningful way of helping. It is my gift to my church family, and other loved ones.

I wasn’t sure how to express or fully explain this. But as I was scrolling through my photos on my phone, I found this:

These blog entries are my footprints! They are meant to lead others in faith, to encourage others to keep going, to bless you in the midst of these hard times.

I encourage you to find ways to make your own faithful footprints. It could be as simple as a kind gesture to your quarantine roommates (your spouse, kids or other household members that are sheltering in place with you). It could be making a phone call to someone who will be happy to hear your voice. It could be asking someone to pray for you when you’re having a hard day, and offering to pray for them as well.

Until tomorrow, dear friends, keep making faithful footprints and trust that God will use your faithful footprints to lead others to a growing relationship with Him!

The creatives…

In the midst of quarantine and pandemic, with all the difficult news that has come at us – flooding in Fort Mac; the shooting in Nova Scotia; the loss of military service members in the helicopter crash off the coast of Greece – it has truly been a gift to see the creatives stepping up in amazing ways.

I’ve shared on my blog before about John Krasinski’s “Some Good News” youtube show. (And if you follow me on Facebook, you know I start my Monday mornings with a coffee and an ugly cry while watching that week’s episode.)

But there are seriously so many beautiful things being done to lift spirits and encourage others.

The makers are making things better. And when they are doing their creative thing – whatever that may be – they are reflections of God. God is the ultimate creator and when humans engage in creating beautiful things, they are in the image of God. (That’s not the only way to be in the image of God – I don’t want any non-creative people feeling left out. You might be in the image of God by being kind, or generous, or honest, or by spreading peace and joy and love!)

I want to share with you just a couple of the creative endeavours that have brought me some joy.

First, Dominique Grant – a Toronto-born singer and songwriter, wrote “Till We See the Sun” and sung it to her neighbourhood about a month. It got a lot of attention in our city, as people shared the footage. Today, she released this video of the song, made by people all over the world contributing a bit of footage of themselves.

Subscribe to Domanique Grant here.

And second, Kurt Tocci makes short videos that are incredibly fun and creative. He’s done a couple in which he dressed up as different Disney characters and re-wrote the lyrics of their songs to be quarantine-related. And today he posted an “Avengers in Quarantine” video. So fun and funny!

Subscribe to Kurt Tocci here.

Until tomorrow, dear friends, find ways to be in the image of God. Be kind, be generous, be honest, be creative. Be BLESSED!