Worship Resources!

In Zoom Bible Study this week, I referenced a song entitled “The Silence of God,” by (of course) Andrew Peterson. In the difficult days of 2020, this song seems entirely appropriate and extra meaningful. (And I just realized that’s Audrey Assad on the keyboard – I’ve featured some of her music on the blog before):

Andrew Peterson always makes me think of my Dad and singing with my Dad, cause we’ve done duets of some of AP’s music, so I thought I’d re-share this video of my Dad singing “God of the Mountain (is still God in the valley)…:

A prayer for our world:

And these thoughts on hearing God’s voice:

Ouch! But also…sadly true sometimes.
Autumn is one of those seasons in which I feel like I’m constantly seeing God’s voice in the midst of creation.

Until tomorrow, dear friends, may your hearts be ready to hear (and see!) the voice of God.

Heavy…

We are all carrying heavy things right now. We’ve been carrying heavy things for most of the year. Friends of mine who are usually endlessly energetic have confessed to being tired. Others have found that they are struggling with mental health in a way they never have before. Some are struggling to make ends meet, and others are finding they don’t have patience to deal with even small bumps in the road.

Some seem perfectly fine. (But I’m pretty sure they aren’t.) Just because they carry it well, doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy.

So this is your regular reminder, as tired as you might be, to always approach others with kindness. Everyone is carrying heavy stuff right now. Everyone.

The kindness you extend to another may just help lighten both their load, and yours!

On friendships…

Here’s the thing. In every trying season I have been through in life (and, O Lord, there have been some such seasons!), God has provided people like this for me:

Often these people came into my life unbidden and without me searching for them. Often they have been dropped into my life for a season in away that can only be credited as a gift from God. Sometimes they have stayed for good, and other times they’ve only been in my life for a season or two. Sometimes they’re in my life for a season or two, and then not for many seasons, until our paths cross again and we reconnect.

The trick, I think, is to trust that God knows what we need (and what we don’t need) when it comes to the people in our lives. The trick, I think, is to hold on loosely – to allow the ebb and flow of friendships and mentorships without trying to make people remain a season longer than they are meant to. It sounds an awful lot easier than it actually is.

But if you’ve been in my life for a season or many, I’m grateful that God brought us together. I pray that I have learned from you, that you have learned from me, and that whenever the time comes to part, we will find we’ve left each other better than we found each other.

Until tomorrow, dear friends, take a moment to thank God for the people He has brought into your life and the lessons he has taught you through them!

Gratitudes!

With Thanksgiving being weird this year, one of the blessings to come out of the strangeness is that so many people have been saying how they still have a lot for which to give thanks. I’ve heard that from people who have much and people who spent the day alone. I’ve heard it from people who enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving turkey feast, and those who had pizza or other non-traditional foods.

So I think it is entirely apropos to take a moment to name our gratitudes. Some people do this gathered around the table as a part of their traditional dinner, but since so many were not able to gather around a table with others, let’s take the time now to mention three things for which we are thankful.

Here are three of mine:

  1. Zoom. I know a lot of people are “zoomed-out” as the pandemic continues and so many activities are moved on-line, and I get that. Sometimes I’m tired of Zoom, too. But in recent days, two things have been very life-giving to me on Zoom: one is Bible Study (the experiment of leading a Zoom Bible Study with a dear friend and colleague of mine has been going really well, despite occasional technical difficulties!) and the other is a Zoom time spent with friends of mine from Florida on Sunday evenings. It’s a time that we get to chat and laugh and tell stories and have a glass of wine together. Often I’ve said to Tracey that someone should invent instant travel so that I could come hang out with her more often. Zoom has given us that opportunity. What a gift!
  2. The bacon-wrapped turkey breast I bought as part of weekly groceries which was soooooo good. It was inexpensive, it was enough for me and I can tell you I’ll be buying that again, I hope! It was nice to have the taste of Thanksgiving even though my dinner was consumed in front of the computer screen while FaceTiming with my family in Belleville. (Not to mention the smashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and roasted root veggies…yummy!!)
  3. Koski. I’m always thankful for my dog, who has been extra cuddly lately. When we go out for a walk, she gives me a huge grin and hits my hand with her nose to say, “I’m happy, Mom!” She continues to be a joyful companion through the strange days of 2020.

I hope that you will take some time to write about or name out loud the things for which you are grateful. Giving thanks to God for blessings big and small is a deeply faithful way to respond to uncertain and difficult times.

Until tomorrow, dear friends, keep on giving thanks!

Meme Monday!

I feel like a 2020 joke is always the way to begin Meme Monday. This one made me laugh, but also is true!:

Tell me I’m not the only one. I mean, I’m a well educated, independent woman but I do this EVERY SINGLE TIME:

Ok, new life is always a blessing but tell me this didn’t crack you up:

This little reminder, that even as pandemic fatigue sets in, we need to keep the layers up:

Hee hee hee!!!:

One of my cousins posted this, and I laughed and laughed. The phone phobia thing is real:

Totally fell for it. Totally:

I’m not sure this is the right way to do it, but sure sounds like fun:

I don’t usually wade into political jokes, but this was just too good to pass up:

This reminder of what it’s all about:

And finally, this blessing for your day:

Until tomorrow, dear friends, keep giving thanks in all cirucmstances!

New Beginnings start with thanksgiving…

Today we celebrate Thanksgiving. Not in the way we want or had hoped (at least not in my city). But as I said to my congregation today – there is still so very much for which to give thanks, even in 2020. So. Let’s worship!

Let’s begin with Eric’s prelude, “We gather together” KREMSER, arranged by John Carter:

Our Scripture passage is Hannah’s prayer of praise, from 1 Samuel 2:1-11:

The sermon video:

Our hymn of Response is To God be the Glory, from Royal Albert Hall:

And the postlude this week is “Will Your Anchor Hold?”:

Until tomorrow, dear friends, keep on giving thanks to God!

Worship Resources!

It’s a Thanksgiving more challenging than any I’ve ever experienced in my life, this year. With the recent restrictions in Toronto, I won’t be able to join my family in Belleville to celebrate. And I admit I’m sad about that. It makes this Thanksgiving feel odd and uncomfortable. However I am grateful for technology that will allow me to be there virtually. I am grateful for good, nourishing food. I’m grateful for the presence of my dog, who has just been incredibly cuddly lately. I am grateful for a community of faith who joins me in worship (in-person or online) and in prayer. You see, even in tough times, there is much for which to be thankful. So despite the complicated emotions of this Thanksgiving celebration, here are some resources to help you give thanks with a grateful heart.

Let’s start with my friend Shelagh, singing #803 in the Book of Praise, Come ye thankful people, come:

A Thanksgiving prayer for you:

— from Bread for the World’s Banquet of Praise. 

This fun mash-up of Praise to the Lord/Joyful Joyful by Shane and Shane:

A few thoughts on gratitude as part of the life of faith:

Until tomorrow, dear friends, keep giving thanks to God for his good gifts!

In need of comfort…

When the days feel scary – and let’s admit that they feel scary on a week when my city has set case number records more than once, and new health measures have been announced – I seek comfort.

The two things that I find very comforting are:

  1. Having friends pray for me. Just knowing that others are lifting me up in prayer is huge. So would partner with me on something? If you hit like on this blog post or leave a comment, I will know you are praying for me and I will be saying a prayer specifically for you, too.
  2. Music. Especially music that speaks of God’s promises, reminds me that He is with me, or touches upon moments in my walk of faith where God’s presence was especially powerful. So I want to share one of those with you, now.

This is “Street Called Mercy” from the Hillsong UNITED album, “Of Dirt and Grace – Live from the Land.” The album is full of songs recorded live at significant places in the life of Jesus in Israel.

Just seeing the steps and stones of the Via Dolorosa, and the shores of the Dead Sea brings me comfort. It reminds me that once, the living God of the Universe took on flesh and blood, and walked in this world. And I’ve been blessed to go walk in some of the same places He did, with brothers and sisters in Christ. (It also makes me smile that the song begins with the words “Tired of endless walking, not knowing which way to go, I collapsed on a street called mercy, I was found in You.” Anyone who has done that walk knows how endless it feels, how easy it is to get lost, and how exhausting an undertaking it is. There’s a metaphor there for us as we continue to weather this pandemic.)

Until tomorrow, dear friends, may God’s comfort surround you, uphold you and give you strength.

All of us…

In the midst of all the difficulty, exhaustion, disappointment and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have also been incredibly brilliant moments of human kindness and achievement. I’m still moved to tears when I think of the Italians singing from their balconies in the hardest days of their lockdown back in the Spring.

It’s been pretty amazing to see how some of the creatives have pivoted and reimagined how to bring people together around art in a time when we are not able to gather.

This is a beautiful example of that.

My friend, Shelagh Tyreman, participated in a virtual choir production for Choral Canada’s National Youth Choir of Canada alumni this summer. The song, “All of Us,” from the work Considering Matthew Shepard (Composer: Craig Hella Johnson; Text: Michael Dennis Browne and Craig Hella Johnson), speaks to the fact that it is only in love that humanity has any hope. And that it takes all of us, living in love to make life what it ought to be.

Matthew Shepard was a young, gay American whose violent murder in 1998 prompted hate crime legislation in the States. His life, and tragic death, continue to inspire works of drama, documentaries, and songs and other pieces of art.

I am especially moved by these lyrics:

Most noble Light, Creation’s face,
How should we live but joined in you,
Remain within your saving grace
Through all we say and do
And know we are the Love that moves
The sun and all the stars?
O Love that dwells, O Love that burns
In every human heart.

“All of Us,” from the work Considering Matthew Shepard (Composer: Craig Hella Johnson; Text: Michael Dennis Browne and Craig Hella Johnson)

Friends, there is no nobler impulse than love. There is no greater purpose to life than to live it in love – love of others, love of the created world, love of the One who created it all, love of the One who laid down his life for ours.

And while I absolutely want to honour the original inspiration for this song – the right of all people to live free of hate crimes regardless of sexual orientation – I also think it is incredibly poignant for this moment in the pandemic. As case numbers rise, it will take all of us. All of us choosing not what we might want, but what is the best, kindest, most loving action to keep others safe and healthy.

But here’s the thing – we all have the power to make a difference. We all have the power to change the course of the Fall and Winter. I encourage you to use the power you have to make a difference. It will take all of us.

Dear friends, until tomorrow, be united in love.