TGIF with Ingrid July 20, 2018: Love, Service, and Reflection

TGIF with Ingrid

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July 20, 2018

Today began very early – I rose at 4am to catch a 6am flight via Vancouver to Toronto.  I am travelling as an elected commissioner from the Comox-Nanaimo Presbytery of the BC Conference of the United Church of Canada to attend our national denominational gathering that happens once every three years.  This gathering is called General Council and it is the 43rd such meeting since The United Church of Canada was born in 1925. This is where we discern the will of God for our church – reviewing the work of the previous three years (and more) and looking ahead to the next three years (and beyond).  If you want to check out more about this, please visit https://generalcouncil43.ca and say a prayer for me and the other 300 or so commissioners from across Canada headed to Oshawa for this week-long adventure in worship, policy, polity, fellowship, and voting.

 

What I am Trusting

The Holy Spirit!  Strange things happen at these denominational gatherings – where church nerds (like myself) gather from every nook and cranny of our fair country to hash out the details and business of what the Holy Spirit is stirring in us to do (or not do!).  Outcomes are not guaranteed.  Expectations of the status quo are often eclipsed by a collective discernment that we are being nudged (ok, sometimes shoved) in a different direction by our shared Holy Lover and Challenger.  While I am a veteran of Presbytery meetings (smaller local groupings of churches) and Conference meetings (provincial gatherings of all the churches in a larger geographical area), I am new to General Council.  The most common piece of advice that has been dispatched to me is, “trust the Holy Spirit to guide your decision making and voting.”  What a cool job I have. 

 

What I am Grateful For

This week marks Pride Week in the Comox Valley – a celebration of love and gender identity in all forms.  I am so pleased to be a part of a Christian denomination that holds no barriers to full participation – including leadership – to Christians of the LGBTQ2+ community.  This year marks 30 years since The United Church of Canada removed those barriers at a General Council like the one I am on my way to.  For those of us who entered the church since 1988, this is the only church we know.  My first minister was an ordained woman who happened to also be in relationship with another woman who was also an ordained minister.  For myself and others in my similar age bracket, we never witnessed the struggle or the unfolding ramifications of that denominational decision.  We know the refuge and the safe place the church became for so many folks who were forced to leave their homes and other faith traditions because of who they are and how they love.

Since I am away all week, I will be missing the Comox Valley Pride celebrations and events.  I am so grateful for members of the St. George’s congregation who came forward to participate in the main event – making sure there was a tent, lollipops, information, etc. – and to make a public statement of faith in our community that where there is love, there is God.  The 1988 decision has had a lasting impact on our church and our neighbourhoods and has not been without much internal (and external) conflict.  And yet we carry on – holding God’s light and hope in our unique United Church way in the world.

 

What Inspires Me

Last week at the Children’s Summer Daycamp at St George’s, one of our congregation members came to share some of his astronomical knowledge – and I mean that in both senses of the word!  He has a tremendous amount of knowledge about astronomy and came and engaged the children with all sorts of wonderful items, videos, and stories.  In chatting with him, he says that God’s bigness and particularity is revealed in the created cosmos all around us, if we have eyes to look.  He used to write articles for the now closed Cumberland United Church newsletter, and I invited him to share an article with my readers – please find it below!

Inspired by Dave this week, I have been star gazing.  Noticing the brilliance in all that surrounds us, from the intricacies of our galaxy (and those beyond) to the minute details etched into the back of a leaf.  I give thank to Dave for this reminder to slow down and look up in awe at God’s majesty.

 

How I am Practicing My Faith

After my ordination/graduation, I was gifted an incredible book by a dear friend and long time (and newly retired!) minister in the Comox Valley.  It is called “Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness” by Nan C. Merrill and has become a fabulous companion in my prayer and reflection time.  I love LOVE the psalms, the way they reflect the rhythms of life, make space for both adoration and anger at God and the world, and hold the majesty and mystery of what it means to walk in faith.  I will leave you this week with one that I read yesterday morning that filled me right up:

 

Psalm 110

The Beloved says to all who will hear,

            ‘Come, walk with Me.  Let us

            give birth to a new Earth!’

 

For, the Spirit is the One who makes

                        all things new, and ever

awaits our ‘yes’ to the Dance!

Those who offer themselves freely,

                        without reserve,

            are guided through life’s rough

                        paths.

Light beckons to light; divine dignity

            adorns all in holy array.

The Promise holds true forever,

            to all generations!

‘As companions of the Most High,

            Come! Claim your home in the

                        Universal Heart!’

 

You, O Divine Breath, dwell within

                        our hearts; with

            unconditional Love, You assuage

                        our fears.

You call us to holiness, to justice,

                        and integrity,

            to free those bound by oppression,

            to bring light where ignorance

                        and darkness dwell.

Come! Drink from the streams of

                        Living Water.

            Come! Feast on the Bread of Life.

 

GOD’S HEAVEN  by  David Hodgson

You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter.

Psalm 74:17

     Ever wonder why the days are so long in the summer and so short in the winter? The length changes throughout the year. In the summer, around June 20 or 21, we experience the summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year. And in the winter, December 21 or 22 is the winter solstice, or shortest day.

     The answer all depends on Earth’s tilt. In the course of one year, Earth orbits around the sun. It does not complete this trip, however, with the North Pole at the top and the South Pole at the bottom because Earth is tilted. In fact, it’s tilted just about 23.5 degrees. So at different times of the year, either the northern or the southern hemisphere is tilted toward and is therefore closer to the sun.

     In the northern hemisphere, Earth is tilted toward the sun in the summer and away from the sun in the winter. The solstice marks the turning point, when the days begin to grow longer (in the winter) or when they begin to grow shorter (in the summer). At the solstice itself, however, the sun appears to stand still in the sky for a few days before and after. The word solstice, in fact, comes from the Latin for sun + to stand still.

     But then why, if the solstice is the turning point, is June 21st considered the first day of summer and December 21st the first day of winter? This odd fact is because while the hours of daylight are changing, the oceans need to catch up. Oceans take a long time to heat up and cool down. In June, they are still cool from the winter, so the warmest days happen in July and August. Similarly, the oceans hold onto the warmth of summer long after the barbeques have ended. So the coldest days usually happen in January and February.

     Even stranger, Earth is closest to the sun between January 3 and 5, but since the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun, the nights are long and the weather is cold.

     People from many different cultures have held solstice celebrations for thousands of years. Our distant ancestors, dependent on hunting, gathering, and growing, the seasons and the weather played a central role in their lives.

     In the northern hemisphere, passing the winter solstice meant the return of the sun, which seemed to be disappearing. Many religious and cultural traditions celebrated the rebirth of sunlight after this dark period. The summer solstice, on the other hand, was a time to celebrate renewal, life, fertility, and the potential for a good harvest. It was celebrated through outdoor feasts with singing, dancing, and bonfires.

     Ancient buildings have reflected people’s fascination with the sun. Stonehenge is perhaps the best known of these stone structures. Another prehistoric stone building, in Newgrange, Ireland, and dating from about 3,300 BCE, allows sunlight to penetrate to the back of the cairn only at sunrise on the winter solstice. The neolithic cairn at Maeshowe on the Orkney Islands lets in the setting sun on the same day. And the Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming, one of 40 or more similar “wheels” found in the Rocky Mountains, serves a similar astronomical function.

TGIF with Ingrid July 13, 2018: God is Here

TGIF with Ingrid

July 13, 2018

What I am Trusting

This year, St. George’s United Church has partnered with Habitat for Humanity North Island as our focus charity.  We held a fundraising garage sale (we raised $2000 which we matched for a donation of $4000!) and have members and team spending time onsite at the build location on Lake Trail.  Rev. Ryan and I have also offered morning prayers and devotionals onsite for those who are working (every other Thursday).  Rev. Ryan was up Thursday and I went to listen and support him and those who were building.  He shared the story in John about Jesus walking on the water and urging the disciples not to be afraid, and reminded us all that over and over again, Jesus told them, tells us, not to be afraid.  Because God is present.  Ryan said that sometimes, especially when we are participating in a social program or charitable project or some other philanthropic work, it can feel like we are chipping away at a boulder with a pen knife.  Perhaps.  Until we remember that we aren’t the only ones at work.  God is there too.  God was there first in fact.  And God will be there after we are finished.  I am trusting that God is here, and I do not have to be afraid.

 

What I am Grateful For

I had to offer an apology this week for hurting someone I care about.  In my irritability (I had a headache for nearly a week which was thankfully corrected by my chiropractor) and my tiredness (did I mention there is summer day camp at our church?) and my frazzle (my spouse is working) I responded without the love, tenderness, and grace this person deserved.  Today I am grateful for relationships where we can tell one another the truth.  She told me that she was hurt and confused by my response.  I am so glad she did, because in that moment I was able to recognize the ways in which I was not living into my call as a Christian, to live in love, and that I hadn’t taken much time for rest.  I apologized for my behaviour and asked for forgiveness which was readily offered to me.  Honesty is so important, and I know that there are folks that cannot offer or receive honesty (even in love) but I am grateful for those in my life who are willing to risk being honest about how my behaviour affected them, and gracious enough to love me through it.

 

What Inspires Me

This week I am inspired by all those who fall down and get back up to try again.  Folks who don’t give up despite the scrapes, the bruises, the broken bones and broken relationships.  I suppose that we have all been these people in our lives – we would hardly be human if we weren’t resilient and determined, if we didn’t keep moving even when we thought we couldn’t. 

 Inspire: if we go back to the mid 14th century, the common understanding was “to fill the mind/heart with grace” or “to prompt or induce to action”, coming from the Latin “to breathe upon or into” or figuratively “to excite or inflame”.  Going even further back we get to the word pneuma (pnein) in Ancient Greek which is often translated as spirit or God’s breath…but can mean “influence or animate with an idea or purpose.”     

And so, as I consider these everyday try-againers in our midst, I am brought to wonder about their inspiration.  My faith tells a story of folks who are propelled forward by God, enlivened and breathed upon to be filled with the strength to carry on.  It is a powerful consideration – that our determination, our perseverance, our yearning for better (our hope!) comes from a place deep within us that screams “LOVE!” and compels us to move forward.  Perhaps it takes some of the pressure off of us too.

 

How I am Practicing My Faith

This week I wanted to share about a group called Renovaré.  They describe themselves as providing practical resources for cultivating a life – the with-God life – that makes us like Jesus from the inside out.  They have printed resources (the Bible I read is filled with wonderful additions, reflections etc.: you can find it here) articles, and a weekly Podcast.  This past weeks was entitled “Abundant Simplicity” and gently invites listeners to tear back the clutter of life, relationships, possessions, and schedule – anything that keeps us from the abundant life God invites us into.

I would invite you to check out www.renovare.org and explore what they have to offer that might strengthen your relationship with God or, as they would put it, your with-God life.

One of the best lines I took from this podcast was “don’t start a spiritual discipline unless Jesus invites you to do it!”  In other words, don’t decide for yourself what your practice is, trust that the Holy Spirit will tell you what she wants you to do.

 

TGIF with Ingrid July 6, 2018: Mental Wellness and Play!

TGIF with Ingrid

July 6, 2018

 

This week I am thinking about mental health.  If you are a living, breathing human person, I trust that this has been on your mind at some point too.  Likely you, or someone in your inner circle of family and friends, has faced a mental health crisis or a long-term diagnosis that seeps into all facets of life.

Our metal health and wellness begins at our first breath (likely before that) and carries right on through to our last breath (and perhaps beyond?).  It is a piece of our overall health and wellness for our entire lives and we are juuuuuust beginning, as a society, to recognize this and take it seriously.

 

What I am Trusting

This week, as we finish the last bit of preparation for Summer Day Camp at St. G’s next week, I am keenly aware of how mental health is affected from events in our childhood – even as we move and function as adults.  I know that some mental health challenges are triggered by traumatic events, and others are to do with chemicals and connections in the brain.  Regardless of how and why these challenges arise, I think that childhood experiences that root and ground us in love and belonging dramatically change our outcomes if (when) we encounter these problems.

In the United Church of Canada, I have heard story after story of Summer Camp and Day Camp programs being a life-line for children who experience bullying, incredible pressures, and flat out rejection at school and/or at home. 

I pray and trust that next week, as we welcome more than 30 (!) children into the doors of St. George’s, we can provide a place where they are assured of their place of belonging and assured that they are loved. 

 

What I am Grateful For

I am so incredibly grateful for the help and support that I and other members of my family have received through the years with regards to mental wellness.  And grateful to be able to pass along what has so freely been given – to act as a conduit through which God’s love and healing can infiltrate the world that so desperately needs it.  I am grateful for the countless souls who stay up late monitoring crisis lines; for the outreach and social workers, the police officers and firefighters and paramedics that are often the first points of contact; the doctors who take seriously the patients brave enough to cry in their offices.  Grateful for the everyday folks who notice when someone doesn’t show up somewhere and follows up in tender care.

 

What Inspires Me

Wednesday I had the privilege of spending the day with some fantastic youth and young adults who have totally inspired me.  Three of them are the co-ordinators for the Comox-Nanaimo Presbytery Summer Day Camp program that travels from church to church, starting with St. G’s, through the summer offering faith-based programming, one week at a time.  One is our new Summer Student Assistant at St. G’s, plus four other youth volunteers.  We spent the day together in prayer, reflection, play, exploration, leadership development, and storytelling. 

I got to spend a lot of time with this age group in the last church I served, and Wednesday reminded me of how much I love and appreciate the way youth think and see the world (and how much I miss that work sometimes!).  I am so thrilled that we have such enthusiasm and generosity in our midst and can feel the Holy Spirit stirring something incredible.  I cannot wait to see what comes to be!!

 

How I am Practicing My Faith

This week, and likely next week too, I am living into my faith through play.  I am introducing the children at St. G’s to Flat Jesus (a faith-based play on the popular book Flat Stanley).  This week they will colour their own Flat Jesus to take along with them on their Summer adventures…because even if you aren’t at church every week, Jesus is there with you!  I want kids (and grown ups too!) to remember that everywhere we go there is room to pause and remember that we are all precious children of God, that our picture is on God’s fridge, that there is nothing we can do that can separate us from the love of God.

And that God likes to play too!  Silliness with our stories and exploration of our faith in weird and quirky ways no doubt pleases the God who created puppies and otters and seven year old boys and other playful rascals.

 

And truth be told, I know that my own mental well-being is greatly served through play.

How can you play today?

Ingrid and Flat JEsus Reading.jpg

TGIF June 29, 2018: Summa Summa Summatime

TGIF with Ingrid

June 29, 2018

Schools!  Out!  For Summer!  If you are like me, you just got that song stuck in your head for at least three hours 😊

Today is the first full day off of school for elementary students in the valley (high schoolers got out earlier), so as I write this I am surrounded by the noise of relaxed and rested children, happy to have some space to breathe (that is, not having me nag at them to get ready on time for school).  We are all in this place of taking space today: I am still in my pjs, coffee in hand, dog in my lap, listening to the beautiful rain outside.

 

Ella and Xander Summer Break.jpg

What I am Trusting

Love.  It has been the theme of the week.  Tuesday, I did a funeral service where the Scripture was 1 Corinthians 13, those familiar lines, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude….” Thursday, I led the morning devotional at the Habitat for Humanity North Island build on Lake Trail (Habitat for Humanity is St. G’s partner charity for the year), and while the Scripture was different, the sentiment was the same.  Love.  In my sermon preparation for Sunday, the same theme arose.  Love.

It isn’t always obvious, Love.  I don’t mean that flirty, fun, powerful, consuming love of new partnership.  I mean love with longevity.  Love in the real, busy, messy, ups and downs of life.  That love is a verb, an action word.  That love shows patience (even when we are ready to pull our hair out), that love acts with kindness (despite having received the opposite), that love, as Paul writes to the church in Corinth in another letter, “stands shoulder to shoulder all the way, your surplus matching their deficit, their surplus matching your deficit.” (2 Cor 8:14, MSG).

We don’t act in this love because we are amazing people – this love comes straight from God.  This is the Biblical love that we come to know through that Jew from Nazareth (Jesus!) – love that sticks with us, that challenges us where we need to be challenged, and doesn’t keep a record of our wrongs, but stays with us until we are so full up that it spills out onto others.

 

What I am Grateful For

I suppose I am grateful for love too!  This love-in-action was clear as a bell this week at the church.  There is the daily work of feeding nearly 100 in the Sonshine Lunch Club (soup kitchen) – only love can compel all these folks to get up early, get the soup on, get the sandwiches made, the coleslaw dressed, etc.  Love was at work as we gathered together the leftovers from the garage sale to benefit Habitat to take to Too Good To Be Threw Thrift Shop.  Love fueled the ladies of the UCW in their baking and hosting the funeral of a long time friend and pew-neighbour.  Love was harnessed as the safety gear was strapped on at the building site for Habitat.  Love was in action this morning at 6:30 when I was woken up (on the first day of Summer Break!). 

 

What Inspires Me

Maybe this is getting redundant, but this week, you’ve got it, I am inspired by love.  Inspired by the tireless love at work.  Love isn’t always obvious, until you start to look for it.  Then you see it in every generous action, in every kindness, in the daily slog of showing up for others.  Love, it turns out, surrounds us and fills our lives.  I am grateful for the eyes to see it this week, and I hope you can too.

 

How I am Practicing My Faith

In the change of routine in our house that comes with the end of the school year I am thinking about how the routines of our faith practices will change as well.  Our family prayer alarm chimes at 8am and we will continue to gather around the table for our daily reflection, Bible reading, and prayers to get our day started on the right foot.  I think it is good to change things up every now and again with faith practices – like anything, they can grow stale and we can lose sight of what they are there for when we just go through the motions.

I will be trying out some new practices through the summer, and I would encourage you to do the same: try something new, let go of a routine that has become…too routine.  Find a new way, a new prayer app, read a new reflection book in the morning, begin a practice of daily examen (reviewing your day with God before bed so God can identify with you the treasures and the places you may need some work on).

I’ll keep you posted what I try out!

TGIF June 22, 2018: ...from the forest...

TGIF Friday June 22, 2018

This week’s reflection is coming to you from Coombs Country Campground, and so posting it to the website might be delayed because the Wifi here isn’t entirely reliable!  As I am writing, I am sitting at a picnic table surrounded by trees and good friends (and many children!), breathing deeply the fresh morning air and feeling very grateful.

 

What I am Trusting

This week I am trusting the end of things.  The kids school year is winding down, my long journey into graduate school and through to ordination is complete, and I am preparing for the funeral of long-time St. George’s member Bev Pisto.  The book known as Kohelet in the Jewish tradition, Ecclesiastes in the Christian tradition, tells us that there is a time for everything, a season for every activity under the sun (3:1), and in the newness of Spring, the long days of Summer, not to mention my penchant for optimism, I often fail to slow down enough to fully experience the endings.

There is such beauty in the end.  Whether it is the end of a long era or the end of a life well lived, I can trust that endings are just as precious as beginnings, and often just as tender.  I can recognize the joy and the grief that comes with endings and the opportunities for relationship.

 

What I am Grateful For

I am grateful for long term friendships.  We are camping this weekend with friends that predate our children, predate our marriage…maybe even predate Todd (my spouse) and I knowing one another!  Folks that we have lived life with for years.  Friends that we have run into conflict with and found a way forward with.  Friends that have seen us at our lowest and highest points, and who have also let us see their life struggles and vulnerability.  We have walked through the birth of multiple children and the loss of multiple parents.  Our children have known one another their whole lives.  As I watched their teenager I remembered with tremendous love the way that he used to wear a Spiderman costume everywhere and noticed that the sweetness of his character may have matured but the essence remains.  I see these friends and they see me.  Really see.  This is the stuff of life.  And it is beautiful.

 Then...

Then...

 ...and now.

...and now.

What Inspires Me

The unsung helpers of the world.  The people who show up, again and again, and quietly do their part, adding to the love, the flourishing of the world. The folks who make sure we have coffee after worship, that arrange everything for funerals, who tinker away at things making them all work smoothly, that show up early in the morning to get the coffee and soup on for the Lunch Club (soup kitchen).  The ones who never care for acknowledgement (but we do it anyway when we can) and without whom our churches and communities just couldn’t function.  Thank you to the everyday heroes.

 

How I am Practicing My Faith

Sometimes practicing faith is as simple as existing in the world, in various circles of friends, as a Christian.  This weekend, these same friends and others we were camping with, were asking my perspective on things, as a Christian.  And being able to witness to love – particularly as folks are erroneously using the Bible to justify some horrendous actions – is a faithful, and often courageous act.  If you (yes YOU!) reading this are a person of a faith tradition, I would encourage you to spend some time this weekend, in the weeks ahead, considering and writing out what the secular world calls an “elevator speech”.  15 seconds of why you go to church or why you are a person of faith that you could offer without stumbling or mumbling.  When was the last time you considered this question?

TGIF June 15, 2018: Vulnerability

TGIF with Ingrid

June 15, 2018

 

This one is coming to you a little late, but the thoughts have been brewing nonetheless – just haven’t had time to jot them down.

 

What I am Trusting

Tuesday was the final meeting of Coffee and Conversations that Matter, a monthly discussion group on things spiritual, held in the Whole Glow Café in Cumberland (who generously donates their space).  This conversation was entitled “God Who?” or “What Are We Even Talking About When We Talk About God?”  Folks gathered at 10am and 7pm for two very different conversations, based on who was there and what was on their hearts and minds for discussion.  I am trusting this week that we humans have this deep yearning for connection – both with others and with something greater than ourselves.  I choose to call that something greater God – which I know is a very loaded word for some.  I believe that God so loved this world that God just had to throw some skin on and hang out with us for a while (that guy Jesus gives us a glimpse of what God is really about).  I also have a keen sense of the God within and all around – the active presence of love, of urging towards life and justice and peace and goodness from deep within, and I call that the Holy Spirit.  I trust that despite barriers of language, which can both help us and hinder us, the pull towards connection and love will ultimately be stronger than our fear.

 

What I am Grateful For

Risk.  In these conversations, there were several moments where someone in the discussion took the risk of being real, of letting their true, vulnerable selves out into the room.  And when they did that, it opened up the group in such a tender and beautiful way, allowing for others to engage in a more raw way.  I am so grateful for the bravery and tenderness I was able to participate in over the course of this series and the connections so many have made that will carry on beyond these gatherings.  I am grateful, too, that there has been so much positive engagement and encouragement in this series that we will pick it back up in the Fall!

 

What Inspires Me

Connected to what I am grateful for this week is what inspires me.  I am inspired by the everyday courage of friends and strangers who risk loving out loud by sharing themselves and their passions in the world.  It is a hard thing to love.  It is an even harder thing to love out in public, through our sharing of self through words, through works of art or music, dance, and 1,000 more things.  When we do this, it is almost like uncovering a wound that isn’t healed.  We risk others sticking their fingers in it, we risk it getting dirty, we risk being sent away in shame for what is hidden underneath.  And yet folks risk it.  Everyday.  All the time.  I am inspired to uncover my wounds more often, trusting in the greatest love to overcome whatever the world may heave my way.

 

How I am Practicing My Faith

Through my yes and my no.  In the evening conversation in Cumberland, there was some discussion about the ‘hey how are you,’ ‘fine,’ conversations we all have, multiple times per day, and, really, how meaningless ‘how are you’ has become.  And how jarring it can be when someone answers truthfully with a ‘not great, my marriage is falling apart,’ or ‘my father is dying,’ or ‘my cancer is back.’  And that in that moment of risk (see above) we have the option to say yes or to say no.  It is a split-second decision where we consider our to-do lists, appointments, other commitments, and our common humanity.  Saying yes involves leaning in with a tender curiosity, entering a place of vulnerability with this person who had the courage to tell the truth and being fully present to them, allowing them to disrupt our carefully planned out lives.  And the amazing thing about slowing down to say yes, yes I will make time for this because I believe we are both worth this, is that in our real, raw connectedness there is an electricity, a pulse, a holiness that exists within and between us that is rare and awe-some and life changing. 

This is not to say that I am always great at the yes, because I have kids to pick up and dinner to make and a gas tank to fill up and and and…but I want to have, I am working to have, a life where there is some wiggle room.  I am working towards a posture of yes because it has been my experience that God most often shows up in the most inconvenient interruptions by the least likely of people.  And I would hate to inadvertently say no to God because of my own busy-ness (and sense of self importance!).

TGIF June 1, 2018: This Untied Church of Ours...

 TGIF June 1, 2018  As I write this, I am sitting a round cloth covered table, decorated with beautiful symbols of the Christian faith, inside the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.  The Annual General Meeting of the BC Conference (BC area) of the United Church of Canada is underway, the meeting (May 31 – June 3) where we do the business of the church as well as worship, fellowship, and growing together in Scriptural reflection.  The meeting culminates in a Sunday morning worship where candidates are ordained to Christ’s ministry in the Untied Church.  What I am  Trusting   Today I am trusting the United Church of Canada.  As I look around me at 400 or so faithful ministry personnel and lay people giving of their time in a chilly conference ballroom to ensure the continued good practices of the church, I cannot help but feel hopeful for the future.  As we argue about discuss re-structuring, region-naming, proposals etc., I feel the hearts of these people all around me working together, trusting in and listening to the direction of the Holy Spirit to lead us into the unknown future trusting our Scriptural witness that tells us God is making all things new.  What I am  Grateful  For  Well friends, Sunday morning I will be ordained, and I am feeling so very, very full of gratitude.  I began this journey in 2007 when I slipped up and let my friend Carmen know that I had felt God’s call (a secret I had been previously keeping quite well).  Carmen promptly told another minister who encouraged me to ask my church for a discernment committee, a group who came around me in prayer and wondering to figure out just what God had in mind.  After 18 months, to my surprise (and perhaps dismay!) we discerned that God’s call was to Ordained Ministry in the United Church of Canada.  I began my Master’s program in 2010, and graduated in May of this year with my children, family, and many, many friends cheering me on.  I am so thankful that the United Church recognizes my call and has supported me through my training and formation to join in this long and ancient lineage of servants of Christ’s church.  What  Inspires  Me  This morning our 400+ cohort was led in worship by the Children at Conference: the 30 (or so) 7 to 13-year olds gathered to grow in faith and understanding of the workings of the church.  WOW.  What a worship it was.  Thoughtful, heartfelt, honest, Trinitarian, theologically grounded, fun, creative, vulnerable. I am inspired by the faithful (and too often unsung) leaders of our children in the church who spend their lives teaching and unpacking our ancient stories of faith, ensuring that they are rooted in the love of God known to us through Jesus, and build community in new and creative ways.  I am made confident in the  present   reality  (not future) of the church when I hear the prayers of these young Christians and I hope that you will join me in learning faith from children.  How I am Practicing My  Faith   God is the #1 relationship in my life: it is not my spouse, it is not my children.  And in order to live that priority, I need to spend time with God.  All the time, every day.  Prayer and meditation are key elements of my day-to-day life.  Nobody likes a friend who only talks to them when the poop hits the fan, but we appreciate the friends who chat with us, share their highs and lows with us, and genuinely listen to what we have to say.  I try to be best friends with God.  AND I am forgetful and busy and distracted and lazy.  Yesterday, at the retreat for new ordinands, my “prayer alarm” went off in the midst of my sharing in the talking circle.  That’s right, I set alarms at intervals through the day to remind me to pray.  Because I want it to be my highest priority, but I am not just naturally inclined to do that.  So, because I need some help with discipline, I set these alarms, and bells ring out from my desk, from in my purse, from the bottom of the beach bag, on my night stand, and I stop what I am doing to connect with God.  Sometimes its just a ‘Hi God, thanks.’  Sometimes I light a candle and read from one of many books of prayers stashed about my home, office, or car.  Sometimes I am driving, sometimes on my knees, on the beach, folding laundry, walking the dog, sitting outside the church with the folks who come for lunch each day.  But when I stop whatever I am doing to acknowledge the Creator of the Universe who so loved this creation that they had to thrown on skin and hang out for a while and lives and moves in each one of us, I am better and the world is better because in that instant I pause to notice the volumes of love that surround us, always.

TGIF June 1, 2018

As I write this, I am sitting a round cloth covered table, decorated with beautiful symbols of the Christian faith, inside the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.  The Annual General Meeting of the BC Conference (BC area) of the United Church of Canada is underway, the meeting (May 31 – June 3) where we do the business of the church as well as worship, fellowship, and growing together in Scriptural reflection.  The meeting culminates in a Sunday morning worship where candidates are ordained to Christ’s ministry in the Untied Church.

What I am Trusting

Today I am trusting the United Church of Canada.  As I look around me at 400 or so faithful ministry personnel and lay people giving of their time in a chilly conference ballroom to ensure the continued good practices of the church, I cannot help but feel hopeful for the future.  As we argue about discuss re-structuring, region-naming, proposals etc., I feel the hearts of these people all around me working together, trusting in and listening to the direction of the Holy Spirit to lead us into the unknown future trusting our Scriptural witness that tells us God is making all things new.

What I am Grateful For

Well friends, Sunday morning I will be ordained, and I am feeling so very, very full of gratitude.  I began this journey in 2007 when I slipped up and let my friend Carmen know that I had felt God’s call (a secret I had been previously keeping quite well).  Carmen promptly told another minister who encouraged me to ask my church for a discernment committee, a group who came around me in prayer and wondering to figure out just what God had in mind.  After 18 months, to my surprise (and perhaps dismay!) we discerned that God’s call was to Ordained Ministry in the United Church of Canada.  I began my Master’s program in 2010, and graduated in May of this year with my children, family, and many, many friends cheering me on.

I am so thankful that the United Church recognizes my call and has supported me through my training and formation to join in this long and ancient lineage of servants of Christ’s church.

What Inspires Me

This morning our 400+ cohort was led in worship by the Children at Conference: the 30 (or so) 7 to 13-year olds gathered to grow in faith and understanding of the workings of the church.  WOW.  What a worship it was.  Thoughtful, heartfelt, honest, Trinitarian, theologically grounded, fun, creative, vulnerable. I am inspired by the faithful (and too often unsung) leaders of our children in the church who spend their lives teaching and unpacking our ancient stories of faith, ensuring that they are rooted in the love of God known to us through Jesus, and build community in new and creative ways.  I am made confident in the present reality (not future) of the church when I hear the prayers of these young Christians and I hope that you will join me in learning faith from children.

How I am Practicing My Faith

God is the #1 relationship in my life: it is not my spouse, it is not my children.  And in order to live that priority, I need to spend time with God.  All the time, every day.  Prayer and meditation are key elements of my day-to-day life.  Nobody likes a friend who only talks to them when the poop hits the fan, but we appreciate the friends who chat with us, share their highs and lows with us, and genuinely listen to what we have to say.  I try to be best friends with God.  AND I am forgetful and busy and distracted and lazy.  Yesterday, at the retreat for new ordinands, my “prayer alarm” went off in the midst of my sharing in the talking circle.  That’s right, I set alarms at intervals through the day to remind me to pray.  Because I want it to be my highest priority, but I am not just naturally inclined to do that.  So, because I need some help with discipline, I set these alarms, and bells ring out from my desk, from in my purse, from the bottom of the beach bag, on my night stand, and I stop what I am doing to connect with God.  Sometimes its just a ‘Hi God, thanks.’  Sometimes I light a candle and read from one of many books of prayers stashed about my home, office, or car.  Sometimes I am driving, sometimes on my knees, on the beach, folding laundry, walking the dog, sitting outside the church with the folks who come for lunch each day.  But when I stop whatever I am doing to acknowledge the Creator of the Universe who so loved this creation that they had to thrown on skin and hang out for a while and lives and moves in each one of us, I am better and the world is better because in that instant I pause to notice the volumes of love that surround us, always.

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TGIF May 25, 2018: Enjoy the ride!

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Enjoy the ride...

TGIF May 25, 2018

 

What I am Trusting

On Tuesday morning Todd (my spouse) and I went for what was supposed to be an hour-long trail ride on our bikes out at Seal Bay Park.  After getting turned around a couple of times after some wrong turns, and then back-tracking to get back on the right path, the ride ended up closer to two hours long.  I couldn’t help but see this as a life metaphor: we head out on what looks like a trail that will bring us to where we want to go but along the way we take wrong turns, cover the same ground, go back, try again, and end up a little sore, a little dusty and with some bruises here and there.  Now, I could’ve focussed on the fact that we didn’t know where we were some of the time, but I chose to enjoy the ride: the good company, the pleasant surroundings, the blood pumping. Because ultimately, that was what we were there for anyway – not to just get back to our car and get to work.  The journey will for sure get us dirty and leave us sore, but I cant trust it today as exactly what it needs to be.

 

What I am Grateful For

Monday was Victoria Day, and the kids and I spent the better part of the day in Cumberland at the parade and celebrations.  I ran into so many friends from church and the other communities I am a part of; after nearly three years in the Valley, I am blessed with wonderful relationships that go beyond the “hey how are you” in real and meaningful ways.  I love the Comox Valley and am so grateful that it now feels like home.

 

What Inspires Me

Tuesday night was a public meeting in the City of Courtenay to go over the initiative between the City and BC Housing/Government of BC to build new, supported, modular housing units for those experiencing or at risk of homelessness.  At the time the meeting was scheduled to start you couldn’t get in the door – City staff were directing folks into the hallways to listen in via speakers.  Many of the folks who would be eligible for these units are regulars in our drop-in and lunch club programs at St. George’s and many of us in the congregation know them well.  We had some fear that NIMBY (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NIMBY) would overwhelm the meeting and drown out support. Wednesday morning one of the drop-in volunteers who had arrived at the meeting early enough to get in and speak reported that those in attendance were about 70% in favour, and those who were in opposition had some fears allayed by the community members who spoke in favour of the project.  I am inspired by the folks in the neighbourhood who see the humanity of these folks when so many are unwilling to.

 

How I am Practicing My Faith

I love listening to Taizé music when I am doing yoga, meditating, or trying to focus.  Taizé is an ecumenical (Catholic and Protestant!) Christian monastic community in France that has become an important pilgrimage site, especially for youth and young adults.  The Taizé community encourages their community members and visitors to live in the spirit of kindness, simplicity, and reconciliation grounded in prayer, Bible study, sharing and communal work. You can find more on their website https://www.taize.fr/en and you can find some of their albums on Google Play or iTunes (and on CD I am sure too!!).  My favourite is “Ubi Caritas” because it takes you on this meditative journey starting with bells, and including a psalm and a reading and many, many songs.

What do you listen to for grounding and/or inspiration?

 

TGIF Friday May 18, 2018: C'mon Holy Spirit, set the church on fire!

TGIF May 18, 2018

 

The Holy Spirit has been on my mind this week…maybe it is because it is Pentecost – the time in the church year when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ disciples after his ascension – and so I have been reading and reflecting on these texts.  Maybe it is because I feel a renewed sense of God’s holy presence when I can feel the hot sun on my face and the cool wind at my back.  Maybe it is because of all the exciting initiatives coming up at St. George’s!  Who knows…all I know is that dwelling on the Holy Spirit is always  a good thing to do.

 

What I am Trusting

I am trusting in the Holy Spirit!  I am trusting in God’s presence within and around me.  I am trusting that the Spirit will stir in me an ability to love and serve that world that I cannot muster on my own.  And I am trusting that as I put one foot in front of the other each day, God will guide me and walk with me every moment.

 

What I am Grateful For

I am grateful for the days (like today) when I am tuned in to notice God’s presence.  This is not always an easy thing, especially in the day to day, regular bits of life.  For me, when I am in the highest points of life and my gratitude cup overflows, I can see God everywhere: in that tree!  In the laughter of a child!  In that hummingbird at the hanging basket on my deck!  In the face of my barista!  I also have a keener sense of God’s presence in the most painful places of life: slowly entering the dark bedroom of a friend who is crippled by depression, at the bedside of a young mom whose cancer diagnosis is bleak, as I drop earth on the lid of a coffin in a funeral service.  I trust in and am grateful for God’s presence in suffering.  Where I have to work a little harder to notice that God is all around me is when I am folding laundry, emptying the dishwasher, driving to soccer, scrambling to make dinner after dance class. 

 

What Inspires Me

Today I am inspired by folks who are willing to get real.  To get messy.  To get vulnerable in order to grow in love and deepen their journey with one another and with God.  It is risky to show up as our real selves, to tell the sometimes ikky truth of what is lurking in our innermost thoughts.  And yet God keeps bringing into my life these amazing and courageous people who share their broken beauty, striving for something better.

 

How I am Practicing My Faith

I love listening to podcasts for different perspectives on things, especially faith.  If you are looking for a 30-something perspective on faith in the United Church of Canada, check out http://illumin8faith.com/.  Maybe you are sick of that perspective from Ryan and I, so here are some other ones to check out, depending on your particular flavour:

https://homebrewedchristianity.com/

https://commongroundscast.podbean.com/

http://www.christianhumanist.org/tag/christian-feminist-podcast/

https://robbell.com/portfolio/robcast/

Have you got a good one?  Share it in the comments section!

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TGIF May 11th, 2018

TGIF Friday May 11, 2018

I am sitting in the Whole Glow Café in Cumberland this morning sipping on a steaming cup of joe and munching on a delicious breakfast cookie.  I love the sense of community here in Cumberland, the chit chats and laughs I get to have with folks who come into the café while I’m working away.  Here are my thoughts for the week…what are you trusting?  What are you grateful for?  What is inspiring you this week?  How are you practicing your faith or spirituality?

Don't forget to join me at either 10am or 7pm on Tuesday May 15th for Coffee and Conversations that Matter at Whole Glow Cafe at 2713 Dunsmuir in Cumberland when we will be chatting about prayer.

What I am Trusting

This is one of my favourite times of the year: it is warm and sunny during the day but still cool and crisp overnight.  The sunshine of the daytime lifts everyone’s spirits and it seems to help us all slow down a little.  The coolness of the evenings and mornings lends itself to a certain coziness.  I am trusting and leaning into this slowing down where neighbours linger a little longer to visit, where we catch a whiff of the sweet blossoms opening around us, when we find ourselves wrapped up in a blanket on the patio in the evening with fingers curled around a warm mug of tea. 

Slowness in our culture of speed and productivity is an act of rebellion.  I am going to rebel and trust in God’s springtime cycle that encourages slowing down and noticing. 

 

What I am Grateful For

On Monday evening I graduated from the Vancouver School of Theology with a Master of Divinity degree.  I am the first in my family to receive a graduate degree and I am so filled with gratitude for all the hands that helped along the way to get me here.  All the meals that were made while I was studying, all the childcare that was offered while I was in class, all the prayers for perseverance through the tough times and all who celebrated each win along the way.  I am grateful for a mother (and grandmother!) that taught me the value of educated women in society.  I am grateful for a spouse that has encouraged and challenged and supported me through these past years of study.  And I am grateful to have finished!!

 

What Inspires Me

This week my daughter had her bicycle stolen from the bike rack at her elementary school; Monday morning the principal found a cut lock in the schoolyard.  We are a family that does our best to cycle to school most days when the weather shifts, it is a fabulous way to start the day and clear our minds to be ready for whatever comes at us.  We also just love cycling together as a family, especially while we are camping (which we are this weekend!).  We thought this theft would bring some grief with it, but it was taken with remarkable acceptance and grace by Miss E.  At the dinner table last night, we were talking about the incident and Mr. X noted that probably whoever took the bike either needed a bike or needed some money for food so they must need it more than we do.  Indeed.

 

How I am Practicing My Faith

This is sort of stealing from the what I am trusting section of this blog, but I am practicing my faith today by wading into the slowness.  As a Christian, I believe that God created and loved the world so much that he just had to throw some skin on and hang around with us for a little while (Jesus!).  Which teaches us a lot about how we are to love.  When we love someone we just need to be with them sometimes.  Not doing, doing, doing but just hanging out.  I am loving my neighbours when I am just standing around chatting.  I am loving the new mom who pops into the café and I stop work to play with her baby.  I am loving the earth when I lay down barefoot in the grass, close my eyes, and feel that sunshine on my face…I am loving myself as a child of God when I do this too.

TGIF Friday May 4th, 2018

TGIF May 4

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Today is affectionately known as “Star Wars Day” and our kids celebrated heading off to school with their Star Wars shirts and Miss E with her hair done up in three buns just like Rey (the Leia buns were a close second choice).  I know that the rhythms of congregational life are deep in them because whenever someone says “May the 4th (aka may the force) be with you, they will often respond, “and also with you.”

What I am Trusting

This week I am thinking about the rhythms of life as a human being and the liturgical rhythms of the church. By this I mean the cycles of life of both people and the church and how much freedom there is in being a part of a tradition that honours that ancient cycle.

It seems we are often expected to be fine (Fine…FINE…I'm FFFFFINE!!!!) but no one can be fine or good all the time. No one should be fine or good all the time. The richness of life is found in the exhilaration of new love, the sorrow of loss, the bursts of unexpected joy, the lament of grief; the richness of life is found in the ups and the downs.  I appreciate that the cycles of the church give permission to have or a container for personal seasons of lament, of joy, of preparation/anticipation, and just ordinary time. 

This week I am trusting in the beautiful cycles of life that all of Creation partakes in and that we are held in by the church.

What I am Grateful for

I had my final interview for Ordination in the United Church of Canada on Wednesday and I am grateful for the relationships I have built along the way in this journey.  To know and be known be others in a place of vulnerability is such a gift, one that I do not take for granted.  These relationships are years in the making and a huge blessing.  (p.s. – they recognized my call and training, I will be ordained June 3rd!)

What Inspires me

This week I was chatting with Eddie (name has been changed for privacy), a regular in the soup kitchen at St. George’s United called “The Sonshine Lunch Club”.  We were outside enjoying the sunshine on the front steps of the church together talking about love.  Eddie was sharing with me about how he just wants there to be more love in the world, and he wants to do his part, so he is going to go play some music on the corner – not to make money but to share love.  Eddie surely could use some money, but as I left my office later that day, I could hear the sound of Eddie’s guitar and harmonica, and I waved as I drove past, noticing there wasn’t a case laid out to receive…just a gift to our neighbours in the form of a song.

How I am practicing my Faith

As many of you know, each morning I get up at 6 am, grab a cup of coffee and get into the big brown chair in my living room that my children call my “prayer chair”.  I light a candle and lately have been using an app called Pray As You Go which offers about 12 minutes of music, scripture, and reflection.  After that I spend some time writing in a prayer journal, chatting with God.  Lately, my 6-year-old son has been joining me and I am learning how to share this precious time of mine, holding in tension my desire for personal contemplation and my call as a parent to teach and make disciples of my children. I know God must be having a chuckle as I learn how to let go of my need to have things just so and embrace the tenderness of this little person learning to develop his own relationship with the Holy, squished in beside me on the big brown chair.

Welcome to TGIF with Ingrid!

Hello Friends!

I wanted to give you a window into my weekly faith walk and invite you to join in.  Maybe this is something you want to read a little about before diving in, maybe this is the practice you have been looking for.  Each week on Fridays (or *ahem* shortly thereafter) I will be updating this blog space with my TGIF:

What I am Trusting, what I'm Grateful for, what Inspires me, and how I'm practicing my Faith. 

I hope that you will add yours below in the comments section, and feel free to comment or email me (ingrid@stgeorgesunited.com) with anything you're wrestling with or surprise spiritual victories that you want to share.  Blessings on your journey!

(ps - this is a practice that I picked up from Brene Brown)