One I the fun things about being an Associate Minister is that I occasionally get invited to preach at other congregations. My colleagues know that I don’t have to preach at my own congregation every Sunday, so I can spend some Sundays away. I love worshipping at St. A’s and I believe it is important to help lead worship and participate in worship even on those Sundays when I am not preaching. But still, it is a special thing to be invited to share my gifts with other churches.
This Sunday I will be preaching at Knox Presbyterian Church in Midland where my friend the Rev. Alton Ruff is minister. Alton has duties as an Interim Moderator at a two point charge in his Presbytery. So while he is leading those congregations in worship and Annual Meeting activities, I’ve been asked to preach at Knox.
I am excited about this. I love the drive up to that part of Ontario. I love that I will get to visit friends. I love that I will get to worship in another corner of
The Kingdom, before returning to the place to which God has called me.
Though I will be physically away from home, spiritually I will be right at home. Jesus prayed that all his believers would be one. Anytime I am with the church – I am home and amongst family. That’s one of the most precious things about belonging to God.
My prayer for you, wherever you worship this Sunday, is that you will know the joy that comes from belonging to the world-wide family of God. That whether you sit beside brothers and sisters who are well-known to you, or whether you are away from your usual church family, or even if you are not physically able to be in a sanctuary this Sunday – you would know you are part of something bigger than yourself and that you are loved by brothers and sisters who do not even know your name now, but someday will party with you in Heaven.
I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
John 17:20, 21 NLT
My folks have been in town for the last two days. They came to attend the stage production of War Horse last night (the tickets were a birthday gift from my brother and I) and then celebrate Mom’s birthday with a family dinner this evening.
I’ve said this before, but I am incredibly thankful for my parents. Even when they arrive at my house with other things on their agenda, they still find ways to do things that help me out. Yesterday, they arrived around noon and I came home and visited with them for a few minutes. Then I headed back to the church for a number of meetings throughout the afternoon. Mom texted just before she and Dad were going to head to Toronto for the show, and I made it home before they left (I love living next door to the church).
I walked in the house to find that they had vacuumed, tidied up, and mopped the floor for me. To me this is one of the greatest kindnesses in the world. Especially on a week when I am feeling ill and don’t have a lot of energy for doing that stuff myself.
My Mom is awesome. She is my confidante, my cheerleader, my person to bounce ideas off of…if you’ve heard a sermon of mine that you liked, chances are that my Mom helped me focus and form my ideas during one of our nightly phone calls. She is the person I call when things are falling apart and the person I call when things are falling together.
I know I am extremely blessed to have the kind of relationship I have with both my folks. But since Mom’s birthday is coming up in just a few days (Dec 1st…we never celebrate any birthday on its actual DAY in our family!), I thought it would be good to take a few minutes to honor my Mom today.
Mom, you rule, even when you drive me crazy, and I am blessed to be your daughter.
Honor your father and mother, as the Lord your God commanded you. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
Deuteronomy 5:16 NLT
So I decided to do a ‘photoaday’ project for September. I thought I’d try blogging about the photos as I post them. Then the stomach flu hit. Suddenly I found myself 3 days behind at the very beginning of the project. Ugh.
So tonite I will blog 3 photos and hopefully tomorrow I will be back on track. Here we go!
#FMSPhotoaday Sept 1: You, now:
My social media friends might be a little sick of this photo by now, since it’s been on FB and Twitter today. But I really think it is the best pic of me right now. Taken on Friday, at the home of my chosen-family in Oshawa, I like this photo because I actually like the way my body looks in the picture. I have blogged often about my weight loss journey. I have had both great successes and great struggles with it during the past year. I have discovered that losing a pile of weight doesn’t fix all the problems in your life. It doesn’t solve any of your self esteem issues. I have trouble recognizing the changes in my body. But the journey continues. And I am learning to be thankful even in the midst of my struggles. This pic represents all of that to me.
FMSPhotoaday Sept 2: Father:
My Dad is a great guy. And one of the biggest joys of my summer was watching him interact with my chosen-nephews when they and their family came for a visit at the farmhouse this summer. So this is my Dad giving Nate a ride in a wheelbarrow. The great thing is that this was about 5 minutes after they arrived. It took Dad no time at all to find fun ways to engage the boys. When I was a kid, my Dad was the guy who’d run through the woods at my grandparents’ cottage with my brother and I, toy guns in our hands and laughter bubbling out of us like crazy people. I loved getting to see an echo of that as my Dad interacted with these precious boys and their little sister. My earthly father is a blessing (to me, and to many others!) and a reflection of my Heavenly Father.
#FMSPhotoaday: Sept 3: Far Away:
This is the view from the table where my Mom and I dined while we were in New York State this summer. This is the patio at Stonecutter’s pub at Belhurst castle, on the shores of lake Seneca in the Finger Lakes region. It was a gorgeous day and Mom and I were having some great girl-time together. That was right in the middle of the summer. Now the fall has begun and this feels far away in more than the physical sense. Still, this pic is a great reminder of how good it is to take a rest, get away, and find yourself renewed.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s photo & blog!
Today I had the rare opportunity to sit in worship and listen to my Father preach. It struck me as I listened, that there was a time when I did that every Sunday. And it struck me how long ago those childhood times are.
Listening to my Dad preach is a return to my roots. It was in those childhood days of watching and listening to my Dad that I learned most of what I know about leading worship. My Dad likes to tell me I am a good preacher, but as I listened to him today, I knew that any ability I have as a preacher has its roots in listening to him.
We are each our own person when we preach, but we also share phrases and language and theology. And that is kind of a beautiful thing. I love the thought that I am myself, but I am also my father. I love the thought that his fingerprints can be seen in me.
I am blessed to have been given great roots. I grew up knowing that I was loved more than I could ever imagine by One who died for me. And that out of that love, God had granted my folks the ability to love others. And God granted me the same ability.
I am convinced that it is because of such strong roots that my life flourishes now. And today, I have been reminded of my roots and I am thankful for them.
Yesterday I drove out to what is affectionately known in our family as “the farmhouse,” to spend the majority of my vacation there. The Farmhouse is my parents’ summer place, and a place where our family gathers to spend time together for holidays.
As my brother and I drove out there, I was thinking about the idea of ‘home.’ I was thinking how I was leaving my home in Brampton to drive to a place that I consider home in Madoc. Then I thought of my parents’ house in Belleville and how that is also home. Maybe home is where ever I am surrounded by people that I love, by family. Maybe home isn’t so much a physical place or a certain address. Maybe home is more a state of being. I like that idea.
There is a lyric in a Larry Norman song that goes “this world is not my home, I’m just passin’ through…” The point Norman is making is that we were made for eternity, not for this finite world. His home, then, is Heaven – a place of eternal relationship with a loving God. I believe that Heaven is our real home. Our ultimate home.
But I also believe that Heaven is as much a state of being as any other home, rather than a destination or a specific address. Heaven begins here and now, as we seek to live in relationship with the Living God through Jesus.
Still, I am glad to be blessed with more than one home in this world, while I am passing through.
Tonite during the video part of our weekly study, The Divine Conspiracy, John Ortberg told a story about his daughter. When she was upset he or his wife would say to her “Honey, honey, honey, I know, I know, I know.” When she grew up enough to start speaking, they would hear on the baby monitor that she would self-comfort. She’d wake up from a scary dream and say to herself, “Honey, honey, honey, I know, I know, I know.” These had become words of comfort and of love for her.
So one of our discussion questions had to do with what sort of words from God would be the equivalent to our own “Honey, honey, honey, I know, I know, I know.”
When I was a kid, my Dad would say to me, when I was afraid, “It’s ok, it’s going to be fine. I wouldn’t tell you that if it wasn’t true.” My Dad’s voice saying “I wouldn’t tell you that if it wasn’t true,” is one of the most comforting sounds in the entire world to me. And I think the equivalent would be all the times in the Bible that God says “Do not fear, I am with you.”
There is something so comforting in just knowing that our Heavenly Father is with us. He does not leave us, he does not forsake us. I wish I could share the peace I find in that that thought with everyone I meet. I wish I could go around handing out that certainty and comfort to all those in need of it.
So this week is the week for visitors at my house. I have a friend who will be spending Sunday and Monday with me, my folks are dropping their dog and my brother off on Wednesday before thy head out of town, and then on Friday my folks will be back and we will celebrate my Dad’s birthday.
In anticipation of this I have been cleaning. I am not big fan of cleaning, and usually I need the fact that visitors are coming in order to motivate me. It’s funny how I can be really motivated in some things and totally unmotivated in others. It’s also funny that having some people come to visit – who are family and have seen my house at its worst – is all the motivation I need.
I am not sure if that says something unhealthy about how I want to represent myself as more of a neat freak than I am, or if it says something good about the fact that I want guests in my home to experience a clean, comfortable environment.
I like to hope it is the latter (though I suspect it might be the former). I like to hope that having a sense of Christian hospitality has something to do with it.
Whatever the case, what is certain is that I will be spending most of the day tomorrow in preparation for my guests between shopping, cooking, cleaning, and other chores). Two blessings are obvious to me in this: first that I have a home & food to share; and second that I have people to share them with. God is good!
For many people the word vacation conjures up images of warm sand beaches and exotic destinations. Not for me. I’ve never been much of a traveler, though I have been to some amazing places. For me, vacation means driving out to my Mom and Dad’s place (the Farmhouse, if it is summer, or their house in Belleville if it winter) and spending some time with them.
We don’t do that much. Today, for example, we took the dogs for a walk, had coffee with some friends, did a little shopping, took the dogs for a second walk, went to the movies and had supper together. Tomorrow, we’ll take the dogs for a walk, have coffee with friends, drive down into Prince Edward County so I can visit a favorite yarn shop, and have supper together.
For many this is not a particularly exciting way to spend vacation. But for me, it feels like utter indulgence. I am able to spend time with those that I love, to do things that I enjoy (but often don’t have time for in the hustle and bustle of every day life), and rest. And all of that is so very good for my soul.
I am struck by the idea that in this quieter pace, I am at worship. That getting up in the morning and looking forward to what the day might bring; that being able to go with the flow and change my plans as needed; that simply having the time to give a few more hugs to my folks and a few more cuddles to my dog – these are all acts of worship…or at least they are if I acknowledge that God is the giver of all good things in my life (which I try to do!).