Tonight was the first ever Blue Christmas Service at St. Andrew’s. I’ve always struggled with the concept of a Blue Christmas Service – I always enjoy the sparkle and joy of the Season. So to take time to focus on the struggle with grief or loss didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me. It seemed like something that would jar me out of my joyful celebration.

However as we sang, prayed and lit candles this evening, I found something precious. A space of silence and breathing in the midst of a hectic and stressful season. This year, I have struggled to find my footing in the celebration of Christmas. I have loved every moment of worship that I’ve had since returning from Israel, but in between moments of singing and praying and listening to the word, I have found myself cranky and out-of-sorts. I think this has to do with wanting time to process all that we experienced in the Holy Land, and not having the time to do it. It also has to do with all the things on the “to-do” list which normally would have been done by now.

I have felt harried and frustrated and lacking in rest. So though I am not struggling with any particular grief or loss, I am struggling nonetheless. And this service ministered to me. My hope and my prayer is that it also ministered to all who attended, all who came broken and weary and weighed-down.

My hope is that if you are feeling that way, you too may be ministered-to during this season. That you may find a space to breathe, to reflect, to heal. And that the One who was wounded for us all, the One by whose wounds we are healed, would bring you comfort.

He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles
were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.
Isaiah 53:4-6 NLT

So many good things…

Yesterday was a great day. One of those days when your heart is so full and your spirit so uplifted that you wonder if you might just break apart at the seams. I fell into my bed exhausted last night without enough energy to eek out a blog post, so I am doing what I have rarely done, and blogging in the morning rather than the evening. I will try to round up all that happened yesterday (and I already know I will fail to convey it properly!).

This year General Assembly took time to highlight some “good news” stories within the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Here is what I heard:

-congregations CAN change and grow and experience new life…often (sadly) this happens once the stench of death is in the nostrils of the congregants, once they are staring at their tombstones. With so many of our congregations in dire straights…maybe (just maybe!) we are on the door of a true revival in the PCC

-Ministers need to be healthy – emotionally, spiritually and physically. I know this, but my friend and colleague the Rev. Matthew Ruttan spoke boldly and honestly about his own time of failing health, his struggle and the steps he took to regain his health. He spoke about getting a counselor and a mentor, he told us that the provisions made for clergy to get counseling in our benefits package is not enough. It made my heart sing to see a colleague willing to make himself vulnerable at the front of the court, for the sake of bringing an important message to those who needed to hear it. He reminded us that our congregations cannot be healthy if our clergy are not healthy.

-small churches can make a big difference through strategic partnerships with community organizations. Lynn Donovan’s story of St. Andrew’s Picton’s “circle of friends” – a term used to describe the church’s relationship with artists, musicians, and organizations within Prince Edward County, who help the church make a difference to the community around them – was nothing short of inspiring.

-Kennon Callaghan has important things to say. His name came up in many of the good news stories. I would encourage churches to check him out and see if they might learn from him.

-good news is life-giving. Again, this is obvious…but also vitally important to remember. We are good at beating ourselves up. As a denomination we suffer from low self-esteem. But low self-esteem is not healthy. It is not life-giving. Negative talk becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We NEED to hear the good news. We NEED to share the ways that God is at work among us. We NEED it like we need water or air or the news of the Resurrection.

There is more that I could share, I’m sure. But in the interest of keeping this to a digestible length, I will share just one more thing. Our worship last night was beautiful. There was such diversity in that service – there was a rockin’ praise band, classical instruments, a mass Korean choir singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic in Korean, there was printed responsive liturgy, there were extemporaneous prayers. The word was passionately preached. There was silence. There were men’s voices and women’s voices.  There were lay leaders and ordained leaders. There were younger voices and older voices. And over all of it, was the unifying Spirit of the Almighty God. I wish I could have brought every Presbyterian into the room. It was easily one of the best services I have been at in my life.

I need to express my deep gratitude to God, who indeed made us one in worship last evening.

In this together…


I have always believed that since God is an ever-present, ever-loving community (that’s what the Trinity is really all about), and since we are made in God’s image, we are made for community. We are not made to do this – any of this, life in general – alone. We are meant to be in this together.

Now, having said that I am a single girl and an introvert to boot. I spend a fair amount of time alone (or at least with just me and my animals). And the introvert in me craves that solitude. I not only like a day where it’s just me, Koski and Fatcat. I need it.

My vocation requires me to be in social situations. And don’t get me wrong – I love the times I spend with my congregation (whether as a whole or in specific groups). I need those times, too. It is good to be with people who believe in what I believe in, who share in prayer and song and relationship in general. But one of the ways I know that I am an introvert, is that when one of those social situations comes to an end, I am exhausted. And what I want most is to sit quietly in my house.

Despite this, one of the biggest gifts God has given me in Ministry, is the opportunity to minister as part of a team. It may seem a contradiction, but I work better in a team. I think better. There is someone I can turn to when I am second-guessing my thoughts or plans. When one of us is tired, the other can pick up the slack. Some weeks I get to actually sit in worship on a Sunday morning and listen to good preaching, and some weeks Geoff gets to sit and listen. We are, each of us, blessed on those weeks. I am so very thankful that we are in this together.

The following passage from Ecclesiastes is under the heading “The value of a friend,” in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Often it is read at weddings, but in this instance I mean nothing romantic or sexual by it. It is simply true that in ministry, as in most other areas of life, it is better when you don’t have to go it alone.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone? And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NRSV

Been thinkin’…

One of my regular readers mentioned to me the other day that she has been missing my posts. I really appreciated that, because it’s nice to know that this little project has an impact on others and that when I don’t get around to writing, that also has an impact.

For the last week or so I’ve been taking some time to myself. I have ideas for blogs, but many nights I have gone to bed without writing them. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I just needed a few more days to think.

Sometimes it’s good to go quiet for a bit. For the most part, I love my blogging time. I love the fact that it settles a centres me. I love the practice of writing each day and I find my brain has been working even when I wasn’t in front of my laptop writing up a blog. But sometimes, you just need a break. Sometimes silence is a good thing.

Sometimes we just need to be still. We live in a world that rushes past, and stillness can be a deep spiritual discipline. A whole new kind of worship.

Having said all that, I believe my time of stillness has come to an end and I plan on blogging regularly for the forseeable future.


I have this tendency to become obsessed with the things I like. I become obsessed with a certain preacher – listening to their podcasts every week, reading the books they’ve written, following them on Twitter. But I do this with other things, too. Sometimes it’s a certain movie or tv show or novel. Sometimes it’s a song.

Right now it’s a song. Right now it’s Gotye’s “Somebody that I used to know.” I first heard it on American Idol (one of my tv obsessions), and then it was covered on Glee (another obsession). I bought the single the other day and occasionally I just throw it on repeat on my laptop or in the car, and listen over and over and over and over…

Told you I was obsessed. My friend Amanda posted a cover of the song by an acapella group called Pentatonix on facebook the other day, and I absolutely love it. So I just had to share it in this post.

I think this song has caught me up for a number of reasons. First of all, most of us know what it is to have a broken relationship – romantic or friendship or even a member of our family. Most of us know what that “now you’re just somebody that I used to know” feeling is all about.

Second of all, I love that both sides of the story are presented in the song. First you get the guy, who is clearly bitter and still hurting. But then a female voice comes in and reminds you that there are two sides to every story. I like that. It is true, and it pushes the song beyond your average “bitter break-up” song into something more conversational and more real.

Third, I like the instrumentation on Gotye’s version of the song. It’s slightly off-centre. The xylophone and the other percussion gives the song a sense of whimsy that contrasts beautifully with raw anger and bitterness of the lyrics and vocals.

Sometimes in the world of church, we categorize music: that which is worship and that which is secular. But I have always believed that there isn’t a really clear line between the two. God has given us the gift of being capable of making and enjoying music. I believe that any time that gift is used (in a way that doesn’t cause harm), God is honored and worship occurs.

So today I am thankful for the God-given gift of music.

It is finished…

It has been a really busy week for me. After some time off at the beginning of the week, I have found myself rushing from one thing to the next. Today was the busiest and tomorrow will be no different. Of course, this is also a week when I am preaching. It never fails, right? (I shouldn’t complain. My friends who are not Associate Ministers face this every single week…where as, I only have to feel the sermon-crunch one-out-of-every-four.)

I got home late this evening and wanted to just go to bed, but instead I spent some time online, chatting with a friend. We ended the conversation about 20 minutes ago and I had decided to go to bed and deal with the sermon (which really only needed a read-through and a final thought after the work I put into it last night) early tomorrow morning.

But I am so pleased to say that I didn’t do that. Instead, I took a moment to run through the sermon and amazingly (the Grace of God at work, people!!) my final thought presented itself almost immediately. So now, the sermon is finished and I am thankful. It is a privilege to preach God’s word to those who belong to or are seeking for His Kingdom.

It is finished! AMEN!

Healing Power

At the end of each cycle of our Alpha-and-other-courses on Wednesday nights, we have a healing service. It is the strangest thing – it is just a simple little service. My order of service was hand written with the call to worship written in tiny, probably-only-legible-by-me writing at the top of a sheet of paper that had been torn in half. It’s not slick and professional and produced. In many ways it has less planning and effort put into it than any Sunday service.

And yet it is the most powerful thing. I am always amazed at how exhausted I am afterwards and I can only chalk it up to the fact that I have been in the presence of the risen Lord and He has been at work.

I am astounded at the people who come to this service. I love that some of them walk up to me and say “you know what I need prayer about, Rebekah” and others tell me their story for the first time. I love the honesty of the prayer requests. You know – there is just something great about someone saying plainly what their pain is. It is actually kind of cool when someone says – for example – I’ve been constipated and its very painful. There is no artfulness about that, it’s just honest. And that makes it beautiful.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. In James we read: ” The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16b, NLT)

Sometimes I am just amazed at the how much honor there is in my vocation. I am honored to have been part of this service, once again.


Touching the Cross…

Today, during our Good Friday service, the congregation was invited forward to place a card at the foot of the cross. We were invited to write something for which we need forgiveness on the card, or to leave it blank (because God knows what you are thinking/feeling anyway), or simply to come and touch the cross. It was such a powerful moment. Especially since Rosemary had just preached on the fact that the crucifixion isn’t something that happened 2000 years ago, it is something that happens today. Every time we mistreat each other or turn away from God.

After the service, a comment was made on my Facebook that we ‘truly touched the cross.’ I loved that. It was how I felt, too. That in this act of coming forward, of offering our cards (whether we’d written something on them or not), of laying a hand on the black wooden cross that stood beside the communion table, we’d drawn close to the cross of Christ.

Personally, what I found there, was beautiful. It was a moment of sadness, and yet joy. Of loneliness, and yet community. Of understanding the shame of my sin, and yet finding forgiveness and acceptance in Christ.


Indulgence & Worship


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!).