TGIW: Ash Wednesday

TGIW: Ash Wednesday

March 6, 2019

What I am Thinking About

It is Ash Wednesday – you may or may not know what that is, but likely at some point in your life you have seen someone walking around with a sooty mark on their foreheads.  It is the day when Christians around the world begin their journey through the Lenten season of the church year.  Lent is the 40 days (plus 6 Sundays) that lead up to Easter and is a time of humility, of remembering our humanity (and fallibility and mortality), and learning. 

A couple of years ago I was at a public meeting after I had received ashes, and someone across the room from me kept trying to get my attention, then mouthing the words, you’ve got dirt on your face!  Dirt!  There!  I smiled, and nodded, I know I mouthed back.  I found myself looking at the face of a very perplexed man – head tilted, brow furrowed, huh? look.  After the meeting was over, I explained the what and why of receiving ashes to him…I am not sure if he understood better, but I did…I better understood why I would carry on all day with the smear of soot on my forehead.

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TGIF: Soul Friends…and right action vs right thinking

Friday January 25, 2019

 

What I am Thinking About

 

Most of us could say we have friends.  I don’t mean friends as Facebook defines it – I have over 1,000 of those people I am connected to for one reason or another.  But friends, folks who we hang out with every now and again.  The ones we laugh with, celebrate with, struggle with, grieve with…drop kids off at school with or ride bikes along the seashore with.

Friends are good, important, necessary for life.

And from those friends, we might have a couple of really good friends – the ones who know all of our baggage, have seen us at our best and worst and just keep on loving us. 

 

But there is this other category of friend.  The ones who really see us.  These are the friends that hear words and know the depth behind them.  They have wandered into dark places with us, not to bring us out but to sit alongside.  These friends know our heart’s longing, our spiritual centre, and can name when we are wandering too far from the place we need to be internally.  I call these soul friends.

Keep reading the rest of this blog post HERE

TGIF: Forgiveness

 

What I am Thinking About

 

Forgiveness.

What a loaded word.

 

The dictionary gives us synonyms such as pardon, absolution, exoneration, defining it as the action of stopping being angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw or mistake.[1]

 

Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.[2]

 

The very word can bring up painful images and memories – it can cause us to think about horrible evils such as the Holocaust, child abuse, rape, and domestic violence.  It can bring forward incomprehensible depths of pain and suffering.  It can also bring to mind those (comparably) teeny seeds of day-to-day annoyance that come with living alongside other humans at home or work, church or school.  Seeds that sprout and grow and blossom into massive thorny bushes that take over the garden of our minds, choking out compassion and grace.

 

But what is involved in the practice of forgiving someone – or indeed, being forgiven ourselves? 

Keep reading this blog HERE and find out about an upcoming discussion group on forgiveness HERE

TGIF: Come and See

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At the Christmas Eve candlelight evening service at St. George’s, more than 250 folks packed the house for a worship service of song, laughter, reflection and blessing.  It was amazing.  And it was also about 75 more people than we typically have on a Sunday morning.  I wonder what drew them to this place that night?

 

What I am Thinking About

“Come and See” John 1:39

Going to church on a Sunday morning isn’t a usual thing anymore – it has become a bit of an oddity. There are a zillion other places to go or things to do and for most folks, it doesn’t include waking up early, getting dressed, and heading into an old building with strangers to sing and pray and learn.  And yet new people come into the church all the time, not just at Christmas.  20 years ago, I was a new person walking into a room full of folks doing just that.

 

I am reading through (or rather, listening through) the book of John.  And John says to his buddies, hey you gotta check out this Jesus guy – he is the one we have been waiting for.  So, his friends go to meet him and ask about what he is up to.  And his answer is come and see.

 

And really, this is the invitation that always exists with this weirdo Jesus and his church of misfits: want to know what we are up to?  Come and see…Come and see this path over here that you never explored before.  Come and see this path that is different from the way you remember walking it as a child.  Come and see a different way, a new way.  Come and see what you have not seen before.  Come and see what you have been waiting for.  Come and see.

 

Interested? Read the rest of the blog HERE

TGIS: Love

December 23, 2018

 

You may have heard it said already – the opposite of fear is not faith, but rather it is love.  Love and fear cannot exist in the same moment.  Love and nerves?  Of course! – ask anyone who has experienced a first kiss, a walk down the aisle, or been reunited with a sweetheart from long ago. 

 

What I am Thinking About

Love.  Surprise!  I have had several love awakenings through my life: that first young love, the love of church community and God I discovered as a teenager, the long-term and deeply rooted love of marriage.  After my daughter was born (10 years ago!) I experienced one of those awakenings.  In the days after her birth, as the shock and adrenaline began to wear off and I learned to adapt to so much less sleep, I became aware of a new kind of love that came with this wee babe.  It was a love I had never experienced, a love I didn’t even know existed.  WOW!  What a love!  I began to see with new eyes: if I love this baby this much, then my mom must love ME this much!  And my neighbour must love his kids this much!  And that stranger, and that stranger, all those people are SO LOVED!  I was suddenly aware of this other dimension of love that existed all around us to a degree that I could never have understood before. Previous to that, raised by a good feminist, I had struggled with the notion of a Father God.  But this awareness of the love that parent holds for their child shed new light on the way I could understand God’s love for each of us on earth.  Now I can relate to a Mother-Father God, parent of us all.

 Want to read the rest?

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TGIS: Joy!

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If you are following along, I am releasing my blog on Sundays during the four weeks leading up to Christmas that we call Advent in the church.  Instead of a reflection on the week, as my TGIFs have been, these are more thoughts for the week ahead, on the topics pertaining to each week in Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

 

Today marks the start of our week of Joy, and I was posed with an interesting question after church at St. George’s today: what about those of us who don’t feel particularly joyful right now?

 Keep reading by clicking here.

TGIS: Peace

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December 9

This morning in worship at St. George’s, when I explained that the second week of Advent is the week of peace, I asked the children what peace means.  There were some less than expected answers: death, church, love.  There were some very typical answers: being kind, listening to others, being still & quiet.  Though the most common was some variation of not fighting with your brother/sister/mom/dad/grandma/teacher…

 

I explained to them that Jesus, and the Jewish people he learned from, and the people who follow him, think of peace a little differently than not something.  Peace is actually a verb, an action word, something you do.  I shared the Todd Parr story, “The Peace Book,” with them, where the author describes peace in terms of reading all kinds of books, helping a neighbour, planting a garden.  He also says that peace is everyone having a home, wearing different clothes, sharing a meal…and, of course, there being enough pizza for everyone.

Want more? Keep reading here: https://www.weirdchurchcumberland.com/tgifwithingrid/

TGI...S? Hope

After a *brief* (?) hiatus, I am back with TGI…S.  For the four weeks leading up to the mystery that is Christmas, I will be reflecting on the weekly church themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.  Sunday being the first day of the week, it is my intent that these thoughts coming out on a Sunday give a little bit to chew on for the week in each of these themes.  These weeks are called Advent, a season of waiting, of anticipation, of preparation.  Advent is about listening for the promises God makes and waiting for those promises to be realised. While everything and everyone around us is in a hurry: shopping, baking, lighting, mailing…we take time to slow down.  This is internal preparation, not external preparation.  This is a time to actively work against the whirlwind around us and go slow. 

Want more? Keep reading here: https://www.weirdchurchcumberland.com/tgifwithingrid/

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TGIF with Ingrid: Making Space for Death

What I am Thinking About

 

I read an article years ago that stuck with me entitled, “The Pornography of Death.” (if you want to read it, email me at info@weirdchurchcumberland.com and I’ll send you a copy).  Set in the foundational understanding that every culture has it’s taboo subjects, it’s rules of seemliness, the (mostly unspoken) parameters of what are acceptable matters for discussion, the author writes of sex as one such subject from our recent past.  And anyone over the age of about 30 can attest to this: human sexuality was (and often still is) a subject that, when broached, breaks the invisible barrier and provokes a particular kind of laughter, shock, or embarrassment.  Gorer suggests that there are two sides to this: prudery and pornography, and that pornography was a response to prudery, sending a certain distortion of sexuality underground. 

 

Now, for us walking around in 2018, we can hardly say that sex is any longer an underground affair – human sexuality, in Western culture, is very often provocative and public.  So what then is the equivalent of our prudery around sexuality in this time and place?  Gorer argues that it is death.  That we are experiencing the pornographication of death; that is, death has become more and more the “unmentionable” in conversation. 

 Want more? Keep reading here…

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TGIF with Ingrid: Sabbath and Sloth

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What I am Thinking About

Sabbath and Sloth are two very old and rather churchy words; today these words sometimes get rebranded as rest/self-care and laziness.  Though, that wouldn’t be quite right. 

 

Sabbath is a spiritual discipline – a time to shed our earthly work and immerse ourselves in what is holy – whatever that means for us.  It is deliberative resting in God.  It is conscious reflection on the grace which God extends, and I am in definite need of.  Sabbath is a reorientation towards gratitude.

Sabbath is hard.

Keep reading this entry here.

TGIF with Ingrid: Flesh and Feminism

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Yup, I was one fish in the sea of 40,000, flapping my fins, eager to be entertained by the legendary Beyoncé and Jay-Z at BC Place on Tuesday.  I couldn’t escape the schools-of-fish metaphor (or perhaps fish in a barrel?) as the hoards moved through gates and around corridors, and eventually spilling out into the night.

I love powerful female celebrities and, while I cannot always get behind Beyoncé’s lyrics, I have a huge amount of respect for the way she uses her celebrity for good (for instance, try reading this https://www.essence.com/lifestyle/do-good-brothers/10-not-so-publicized-times-jay-z-and-beyonce-gave-back/#144754 or watching this http://www.thefader.com/2018/03/18/beyonce-accept-award-humanitarianism )

The concert was a tapestry of these artists’ work through the last (almost) two decades, woven together with story, video, and play.  I was surprised by the tenderness felt between the two (which I had always assumed was publicity but am now questioning my assumption) and the vulnerability they portrayed in sharing some footage and phots of their children.

Nothing surprised me more, though, than the crosses that were everywhere.

Want more? Find the rest of the blog HERE

 

TGIF with Ingrid: Stop!

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Today I am sitting at a retreat centre in Squamish (well, about 17km outside of Squamish and about 12km outside of cell range), doing some consultation work for the wider church.

 

This week what I am Thinking about, what I am Grateful for, what Inspires me, and how I am living out my Faith, are all jumbled together, not separated out tidily.  I hope you are able to glean these four TGIF markers from what I have written, but if not, that is ok too.  Enjoy…

 

The Christian Bible is not one book, as some of you know, it is 66 books smooshed together and bound as one.  There are four we call the Gospels, which tell of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  They are not perfect – they overlap and conflict and compliment one another.  And they are written with four distinctly different voices.  Right now, I am studying the Gospel according to Mark.

 Want more? Read the rest here.

TGIF with Ingrid: Basic Maintenance

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Pumpkin spice latte (with almond milk) in hand, fireplace glowing in front of me…surrounded by strangers and cars.  I am waiting for the oil change at the dealership to be completed and it has got me thinking about basic maintenance for us humans.  What would be the equivalent of an oil change for us?  Tire rotation?  Winter maintenance package?  Tune up? Major engine service?

My spouse is diligent about making sure his truck gets in at every scheduled maintenance time, following the manufacturers guidelines for optimal truck health.  What about our scheduled maintenance?   

Click here to keep reading…

TGIF with Ingrid: Body Flesh Figure Form Physique Corpus

This morning my Dear Daughter (DD) had an appointment to have a cavity filled at the dentist.  What began as nervous reluctance last week at the check up grew into a sharp-toothed, rabid, enormous, ferocious dragon of fear this morning.  The anger, tears, and locked doors were ways my poor DD tried to cope with this dragon of hers, but what I couldn’t help but notice was her body.  The tired slowness of the morning blossomed into the happy chatter that often accompanies breakfast.  And that flower which had turned towards the day and began to open crumpled with the news of this morning’s task. 

….continue reading here.

 

TGIF with Ingrid September 7, 2018: Doubt, Fear, Faith.

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TGIF with Ingrid

September 7, 2018

 

It is still dark.  The candle beside me is glowing, struggling to stay lit.  Slowly it grows, steadies. 

 

I love this time of day – just before dawn.  It is so filled with hope, teeming with possibility; there is something precious, something holy in the stillness.  It is as though the earth is pausing to praise God before the flurry, the activity, begins.  A Creation prayer pause.

 

It is quiet, it is cool…a dog barks, the light begins to shift…it begins.

 

What I am Trusting

I am trusting in God’s direction.  During my morning prayer/meditation practice, I heard the words of Jesus in Luke 5, speaking to the fishermen who had been out all night with nothing to show for their work.  He tells them to put out into deep water and let their nets out for a catch.  Simon answers – ‘we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything!’  Right!?  This is often my first reaction when I get that wave of intuition, that still small voice deep within (honestly, sometimes it is a deep, loud, booming voice!), that God voice coaxing me in one direction or another.  I want to say nope – no way – already tried that, thank you very much. 

But then Simon’s next words are the crux of faith, I think.  ‘Yet.’  It is that moment of pause, that moment of, perhaps, humility when Simon becomes aware that maybe this Jesus guy just might be something special.  ‘Yet,’ Simon replies, ‘yet, if you say so, I will let down the nets.’  And what happens?  He catches so many fish he must call over the guys from the next boat to help him with the haul.

And isn’t that so true for me as well.  When I trust that God voice, and I follow that guidance, nine times out of ten I am astounded at the results.

 

What I am Grateful For

I connect so well with what happens next for Simon in this passage: he crumples in front of Jesus, crying into the dust for Jesus to get away from him – that he is a sinful man.  In other words, who am I to receive from you?  I am not worthy.  My life has had some significant challenges – I have had good times and bad, struggled, like we all have.  And yet in and through and beyond it all, I have been so richly blessed.  My Dad has teased me for years, ‘horseshoes fall out of your butt.’  And I cannot hardly argue.  I have such a good life.  So good, I often find myself crumpled before Jesus in a tearful heap of unworthiness, who am I?  Who am I to receive so much from You?  This is, of course, grace.  God’s love poured out not because I am worthy, but simply because I am.

My gratitude in this comes from the identification I have with this 2,000-year-old fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. There I am, in this old book that so many have cast aside as irrelevant.  There I am, in my initial doubts, my astonishment at the fullness of my nets, and the reverence to the holy right in front of me.

 

What Inspires Me

And what does Jesus do?  He crouches down, lays a hand on Simon and says, ‘do not be afraid.’  A phrase repeated over, and over, and over.  A phrase I could use tattooed backwards on my forehead so that every time I looked in the mirror I would be able to read it.  The crazy thing is that so often our fear is masked: anger, anxiety, arrogance, apathy…and those are just the ‘a’s!  We don’t always recognize fear for what it is, but God does.  God sees our fears and says, ‘hey, its ok.  Everything is ok.  Don’t be afraid.’

And we are reminded, day after day, story after story not to be afraid.  And then, the most beautiful thing happens.  We can begin to hear ourselves saying it to others.  Because we begin to believe it.

 

How I am Practicing My Faith

I will keep on reading the Bible, wrestling around with the sticky bits, and finding myself in it.  The realities of the human experience that are captured in this book are timeless.  When I am angry at God at all the injustice in the world, I can shake my fist along with Amos or question God like Job.  When I am filled with joy I can sing praises with the psalmists, when I am filled with love the words of the Song of Songs resonates in my chest.  When I am hopeless at the hatred in the world I am comforted by the dream of a new heaven given to John of Patmos and written down in Revelation, I am reminded that one day we will all be united in love.

I will keep reading, not because it is easy, but because it is hard.  Because life can be so very hard.  But life can also be so very, very good.  And I can find myself in both of those extremes and everywhere in between in the pages of the Bible.

TGIF with Ingrid August 24, 2018: Wisdom, Community, and Breath

TGIF with Ingrid

August 24, 2018

Well friends, I took a brief hiatus from writing, but I am back!  Thank you for waiting, for reading, for joining me on this journey.

What I am Trusting

Today I am trusting in the wisdom of the ancients who remind us that there is a time for everything under the sun.  In the Old Testament book Christians call Ecclesiastes (Kohelet for our Jewish friends), there is a reading that might be familiar if you are a church-going Christian or a dyed in the wool Atheist: “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die;” (Ecc. 3:1-2, NRSV).  Whether you know it from the Seekers song ‘Turn, Turn, Turn,’ or Bible study 35 years ago, the message is the same.  This week a wonderful and vibrant friend welcomed a brand-new son into the world and a wonderful and vibrant friend took her last breath on this earth.  Life in all it’s fullness. 

 

What I am Grateful For

I feel so blessed by life in community.  To meet a tiny human on his first day and to say goodbye to a woman with faith that could move mountains, to stand graveside with a family in mourning, to laugh in the grocery store with a friend from church remembering a ridiculous moment in the service: this is the stuff of life.  There are so few places other than religious community these days where members from all generations meet, mix, serve, and love together; where we can really know one another, not intimidated by our differences, but celebrating our similarities.

 

What Inspires Me

Today I feel the breath of God outdoors with the relief from the smoke in the Valley.  It is as though all of Creation (me included!) is breathing deeply once more: we can see the blue of the sky, the flowers gaze heavenward, and the trees get a break – they have surely been working overtime.  The word inspire (in·spire inˈspī(ə)r; verb) means to: fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.  As a woman of faith, the fill-er is God, and today God has filled me well with gratitude for the clear skies and prayers of resilience, strength and support for those fighting to contain the fires.

 

How I am Practicing My Faith

By reading the Bible!  I love and hate the Bible.  I love it because of its richness and the depth of wisdom contained in it, because of the beauty of the poetry and the prose, and the real and raw nature of the way our ancestors of praised and cursed God.  I love/hate it because I am constantly challenged to face that which is objectionable within myself, anything in me that gets in the way of my service to God, and actually deal with it so that I can live more fully into my call as a Christian.  And I hate it because there are sometimes I can read a passage that makes me want to stick the whole book in the freezer and not take it out.

 

Today though, after Ecclesiastes came to mind I grabbed my Bible and had a read.  Delicious.  Profound understanding of the realities of our human-ness.  In Ecc. 9:13-18, the author writes of both the wise man (hakham in Hebrew) and wisdom (hokhmah).  The Hebrew word hokhmah can be (and usually is) translated into the English word wisdom, but the Hebrew encompasses a wider understanding than can be held in that one English word.  The Hebrew speaks to a deep inner knowing, made possible through a connection to the Divine.

 

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines wisdom as, “knowledge that is gained by having many experiences in life” and wise as “having or showing wisdom or knowledge usually from learning or experiencing many things.”  Though subtle, this difference is key in recognizing what might colour a modern reader/hearers understanding of this passage (and beyond).

 

I think this subtle difference in understanding is indicative of our hesitation to trust the inner knowing.  This hokhmah is accessible to us all, and yet we separate ourselves from it in the busy-ness of day to day life.  In 9:16, Kohelet states, “Wisdom is better than strength” which a contemporary reader might understand as “experience is better than strength.”  And while said reader might be more comfortable with that understanding, it misses the underlying connection to the deep inner knowing inherent in hokhmah

 

So then I wonder, what deep inner knowing do I follow today?  And what am I willfully choosing to ignore?

 

Photo credit: © Vancouver Island Landscapes

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.