A Safe Refuge

hugs

When my mother died, I received a wonderful letter of comfort from a church friend. She talked of the emptiness that comes when both parents die. Parents can provide a safe place of refuge. Many of us have learned that no matter what happens in our lives our mother, or father, or both will love us anyway. Even though we’re adults they still hold us as we cry, just as they did when we were children. That kind of safety is a priceless treasure.

As I read the letter my mind turned to Jesus’ story of the lost son Lost and alone, the results of his own life choices. This son turned toward home where he knew he would not be turned away. Even if he was reduced to the level of the lowest servant, he would be fed and sheltered. When he approached his childhood home, his father ran to meet him and gathered him up in a warm and loving embrace. (Luke 15: 11-32).

My mother had given me that kind of love. My safe refuge was no longer physically with me. I mourned her leaving. My church friend’s words reminded me of two things. First, I had already provided that same kind of home for my children. During the storms of life, they knew that they could find refuge with me. I remember actually saying that to one of mine. No matter what happens in my life or yours, you will never be rid of me. I will love you always.

Jesus said, “if your child asks for bread would you give him a stone?” If you can give that kind of love, then God’s love is so much greater.

As I grieved my mother’s death, I was comforted by this scripture. My earthly mother may no longer be with me, but God is with me. God’s loving arms enfold me. Even when I have turned away, God’s love is with me, waiting. In God we have a safe refuge. I’m grateful.

Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? … If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Can I Pray? Yes!!!!

Talking With God
Talking With God

Is praying a human rights violation? Our Canadian Supreme Court thinks so.

I have another question for the Supreme Court. As a person of faith, “Is NOT being allowed to pray also a human rights violation? Is this atheist’s right to NOT hear a prayer more important than my right to pray?

Since time began people all over the world have struggled to gain the right to pray publically without interference. In our country today we fight to maintain our right to freedom of expression. Somewhere along the line we have lost sight of the fact that freedom of expression applies to people of faith as well as people who have no faith.

Maybe the problem arises from fear of the power of prayer.  Over my life time I have learned that the power of prayer is real and effective. Consulting with God makes a difference for me and for the group.

One thing I know for sure. No law in our land can keep anyone from praying silently. Taking away the right to all outward signs of prayer, cannot take away our ability to pray or the effectiveness of prayer.

Try arriving early for your meeting. Sit in each chair around the meeting table. Pray individually for each group member (including the atheist) and for guidance for the group as a whole. If for some reason you cannot arrive early, practice your prayer at home. I have personally experienced the peace, the wisdom, the harmony that such a prayer ritual can produce.

Even with this Supreme Court Ruling, gov’t leaders can begin meetings with a time of silence, leaving members free to pray, or make a grocery list. The world can drive us quietly underground as we pray, but the world cannot keep us from praying. For that I am truly grateful.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18  

Are You Enjoying the Journey?

Puddles Are Fun!
Puddles Are Fun!

On the first beautiful spring day of 2015, I woke to an intense sunshine transforming the grungy late March snow into a sparkling carpet.

Just a few more hours of working on the marketing plan for “Dipping Your Toes in Planning Small Group Devotions”  and I’ll be ready for the book launch, I thought as I turned on my computer. “Come play with me!” the sun shouted as it danced across my keyboard. A telemarketer interrupted my work. OK, God, I hear you, I thought. I’ll go for a short walk.

I called my friend in Montreal. “Hi Nancy. It’s Janet,” I said when she answered. “Want to go for a walk?” I heard her confusion in the pause that followed, then laughter.

“With your cell phone, of course. OK,” she said. I envisioned her settling into her rocking chair by the phone.

For the next half hour, we roamed my neighbourhood. “This brilliant sunshine is conquering the snowbanks,” I said. “Tiny muddy lakes are forming everywhere.” I watched two toddlers splashing delightedly. “This reminds me of splashing in the puddles with my grandson, Chris, when he was two,” I said to Nancy. “We both ended up with sodden socks. He was such fun.”

“Now, I’m walking past a clump of white birch, their bare limbs dancing in the breeze. I think they’re celebrating spring, too,” I told my friend.

We had a magnificent walk filled with memories and peace. As I turned back down my street, I said, “Thank you, my friend, for sharing this wonderful walk with me,” I clicked the phone off. Guess there are some good things about these cell phones, I thought and tucked it into my pocket. I opened my door and I prayed. Thank you God for dragging me out of my “fast lane”.

I offer you this advice. Don’t just quote the clichés and think, “Wish I had time.” Take that walk. Give God thanks for creation. Life is about the journey not the destination.

“The heavens declare the glory of God;  the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2)

Hallelujah! Christ has risen!!!

Good morning everyone. At our home the sun is shining. Joy is overflowing in our lives. Yesterday, at church, we were blessed with a baptism. What a wonderful way to celebrate the resurrection.

Yesterday afternoon we gathered with some of our family to play a game, go for a walk, enjoy a meal. We laughed a lot. We missed those who are far away. We celebrated with a our grandson who leaves in two weeks for a job in Vancouver. His adventure intermingles joy and sorrow for all of us.

Yesterday was Easter. Today we can have the possibility of a new beginning or a return to the same old. What is your choice? Mine is to once again start each day with gratitude. God has given us Easter. New life is ours. I am grateful. Hallelujah! Christ has risen!!!!

 

Holy Saturday

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Today as part of my morning prayer and meditation time, I read Stan McKay’s reflection in the Bible Study book Longing for Home.  Stan based his thoughts on Psalm 127:2-3  The psalmist is remembering the exile of the children of Israel. “On the willows there we hung our harps. For there, our captors asked us for songs and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”

I had been thinking about Jesus’ friends as they lived through that “inbetween” day we call Holy Saturday. Their sadness, their questions, their anger, their fear – it would have been overwhelming. How could they sing and dance in the midst of their grief. How could they continue to live.

Stan McKay ends his reflection with the story of one of the hymns in our United Church Hymnbook – “Many and Great, O God, Are Your Works” I have felt God’s push all day to share his story with you.

“The Dakota (Peoples) resisted the expansion of settlement into their territory, the north central plains of what is now the United States. The U.S. cavalry hunted Dakota warriors, and on one expedition, 18 men were captured. They were brought back to the fort and sentenced to death by hanging. In the morning as they walked across the compound to the gallows, the Dakota men sang a chant which the soldiers believed to be pagan. The army’s linguist later translated the song to what is now # 308 in Voices United.” (Stan McKay)

For those who don’t have access to Voices United here are the words of that hymn:

“Many and great O God, are your works, Maker of earth and sky. Your hands have set the heavens with stars, your fingers spread the mountains and plains.  Lo at your word the waters were formed, deep seas obey your voice.

Grant unto us communion with you, O star abiding one. Come unto us and dwell with us, with you are found the gifts of life. Bless us with your life that has no end, eternal life with you.”

Their song did not change their execution, just as our statements of faith, prayers and songs don’t remove the cause of our grief. Holy Saturday, is the the “inbetween” time, the time when we face the pain in our lives and wait on God. It’s the time when we focus on God’s promise of new life. It’s the time when we see the buds on the trees and give thanks that there is a light on our horizon to guide us home.

Blessings to all of you.


Easter Is Coming!!!!

Good Friday?
Good Friday?

Christians are talking about Easter. What does it mean? For some, Easter is just another long weekend. For youngsters, the Easter bunny comes. For Christians, Easter is a journey from the pain of Good Friday to the joy of Jesus’ resurrection. We call this week “Holy Week” – the last week of Jesus’ life as a human being walking this earth.

Jesus begins his week angry with the injustice that is happening everywhere. At the temple in Jerusalem, he flips over the tables of the money changers who are cheating the poor. He sets the frightened sacrificial animals free. His voice thunders out across the courtyard, “It is written, my house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.” And that is only Monday.

By Thursday, he has set up a last meal with his friends. He knows what’s coming. He needs their companionship in his pain. He offers them his last bits of wisdom. “Remember me. Serve others. Trust in God.” And finally after all the torture, all the pain, comes the relief of death.

Many of us have walked this journey with a loved one. My mother suffered with a cancer so excruciating the strongest drugs brought no relief. Yes, death can bring release.

We have named the day of Jesus’ death “Good Friday” for two reasons. It brought Jesus release from his anguish, and it was the first step toward his transformation, his new life. For Jesus and for all of us, death is not the end, it is the beginning: the beginning of a new life. That’s the Easter story.

This coming week, think about your life, pick out the glimpses of new life – of Easter – that mark the guide posts in your journey through joy and sorrow. Watch and pray. Know that Easter is coming as surely as the sun will rise every morning.

“Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!”  (John 20:18)