How long, O Lord?

I was reminded of this excerpt from Psalm 137, today:

1By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
    when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
    we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
    our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
    they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a foreign land?

It was in an article about the exhaustion we are all feeling at this point in the pandemic. Exiled from much of what was normal social life, normal working life, and normal worship life, we are weary. We are wondering how we can sing the songs of the Lord as we continue through the foreign land of this pandemic.

And while my first instinct is to rush to answers – to encourage you to sing any way (you should!), to say the songs haven’t changed (they haven’t!), to say God still listens and empower our praise (He does!), the article I read endorsed simply sitting with the question for a while. Being ok with not being ok. Being willing to lament in a time of sorrow. Being willing to cast our uncertainty and grief upon God, who can take it.

That isn’t a comfortable place for me, but it may be what these days call for. What is one supposed to do in a time of exile except lament? We are in extraordinary, unprecedented times. There are no simple answers right now. And crying out to the Lord int he midst of this complexity, is an act of faith.

So I invite you into faithful lament. Faithful crying out. The faithfulness of being ok with not being ok, when the times themselves are not ok. And I pray you will know God’s presence in the midst of your lament.

We don’t know how long we will be crying out to God, but dear friends, keep crying out, God is bending down to listen.

Meme Monday!

2021 joke to begin (and baby Yoda always makes me happy!):

Bernie memes aren’t dead, after all!:

A little theological joke for you (John just HAD to be different!):

This stellar (and a bit snarky) piece of advice:

Pretty much how we’re all feeling in Toronto in Lockdown:

I mean, really, 98% of pre-school ANYTHING, right? I once coached three 3 year olds in pre-school recreational gymnastics, and this is exactly what that experience was like;

(Or in my case, this morning – a canister vacuum to the face!):

Snort!:

And finally, this blessing for your day:

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

Worship Resources!

Since this whole week Facebook has been showing me memories of my second trip to Israel in 2015, I’d like to start today’s worship resources with this selection from Hillsong UNITED’s album “Of Dirt and Grace – Live from the Land.” This is the album they recorded live at significant locations in the Holy Land. This song is called “Rule” and invites Jesus to “be the love casting out all fear – let Your love rule the atmosphere.” It was recorded at the ruins of the Ahava factory on the shores of the Dead Sea (sink holes have formed around the Dead Sea, and one famously swallowed the Ahava cosmetics factory a number of years ago):

This lovely reminder about how to pray:

This free resource poster of Isaiah 40:28-29 from illustratedministry.com, which is a great companion verse to tomorrow’s sermon, and reads:

28Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.”

This gorgeous song, entitled “Dawn” by Rebecca St. James (featuring Luke from For King and Country), which speaks to me of how many of us are feeling right now – tired of this pandemic, tired of feeling like there is no end in sight. The solution, of course, is to be held by God’s love, to allow him to lift and heal our hearts:

This lovely reminder about courage from none other than Billy Graham:

Until tomorrow, dear friends, may these resources help you prepare your hearts for worship!

Words…

Sometimes we use them carelessly, but words matter. We can all probably remember some of the most formative or most hurtful words spoken to us.

I think of my Dad, embracing me fiercely at a time when I was feeling a failure of a minister, and whispering in my ear, “You are a GOOD minister.” (I still tear up thinking about it…I didn’t even really believe my Dad’s words at that time – I still struggle to sometimes – but it MATTERED that he said them.)

I can still remember some of the hurtful and insulting words that certain bullies in my grade school days hurled at me. I’m 45 years old – I should be over it, but if I allow them to, those words echo in my ears as though they were just said yesterday, not 35 years ago.

I think of the story of one of my friends who honestly believed she was incapable of secondary schooling because one of her teachers told her she wasn’t cut out for it (she just got accepted to a third secondary-school program – having completed the other two – so that teacher has been proven absolutely incorrect in my opinion, and while I am convinced my friend needed a number of year of life experience to clarify what kind of secondary schooling she wanted to pursue, I’m just angry on her behalf that any teacher would discourage a kid from pursuing education.)

Words matter.

So today, I encourage you to choose your words carefully. Use them to build up. Use them to encourage. Use them to bless. Use them to bring light to a dark world.

That’s just what Jesus would do.

Until tomorrow, dear friends, think about the words you use and how they are affecting others.

The power of choice…

I struggle in winter. This is just a fact. It’s a fact of my life that I’ve been well aware of for many years now. Pre-pandemic, I would deal with some of that struggle by getting out of Toronto – going to visit friends down South.

But this year, that’s not a choice available to me. And that’s hard – just as it’s hard for so many others who would love to be able to go away to seasonal homes, visit friends, take a cruise or go spend some time on a beach in warm sun.

Recently my friend, The Janet, said to me that one of the big lies that those of us in middle-and-upper-class North America have been sold is that we have to LIKE the choices that we have before us. That’s been rattling around in my brain ever since she said it. She said, “we don’t have to LIKE our choices to be empowered by making them.” (I used the example of Jesus going to the cross in a recent sermon – it wasn’t a choice he LIKED, but it was a powerful choice nonetheless.)

I don’t like that I don’t have the choice to go south right now. I don’t like that the choice is either stay cooped in my condo or suit-up, layer-up and get outside for some (FRIGID) fresh air. But I am still empowered every time I make the choice to take the time to do just that.

And so, as the first week of February rolls on, I’m making some choices. Even if they’re not necessarily the choices I LIKE. I’m making the choice to get out for walks. I’m making the choice to go to bed at a reasonable hour. I’m making the choice to invest in my health with good food and regular hydration. I’m making the choice to pray as I walk, because in doing so, I connect to my Creator, and am blessed.

And you know what? Good choices (even if they’re not the ones you WISH you could make), pay dividends.

Just this week, I’ve been graced with some gorgeous views on the Humber River Trail as I mentally kicked my own tail to get out there and get some miles walked. Here are a few, so that they might be a blessing to you, as well:

Until tomorrow, dear friends, may you make good choices and find them empowering!

And now, for something fun….

Pastors and church leaders have had to learn to do things differently during the pandemic. I’ve become a film editor as well as a preacher. This past Sunday, I recorded alone in the building on Saturday (rather than with our cameraman on Friday).

It wen well, but I had some bloopers. So just for the fun of it, I made a blooper reel! Enjoy!

And seriously, do pray for your pastors and your tech people – they make it look easier than it is!

Until tomorrow, dear friends, may God fill your mouth with laughter!

Meme Monday!

I mean, anyone else feeling tested by this new year?:

This little reminder that rewatching a fave show or movie is actually a form of self-care:

So Bernie Sanders memes are officially over, then?:

I mean, I think it’s just smart:

Let’s stick with the Yoda theme, for a moment, shall we? (And yes, this is 100% true):

Hee hee (non-Starbucks people: wrong names on Starbucks cups are totally a thing!):

This bit of free advice:

I mean, my girl hasn’t spent much time at home waiting for me, in the past year, but still:

Hahahaha! The poor sloth!:

And finally, a blessing for your day:

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