Tag Archives: faith

Is Faith a Magic Charm?

What Do You See?

Is faith a magic charm? Some people think so, but not me. Faith is not my “lucky rabbit’s foot”, or special hat that will ensure my life goes smoothly. Faith doesn’t protect me from failure, or accident or illness. Faith won’t even keep my loved ones alive. So what good is it?

Faith is that strength from God that comes when I feel totally overwhelmed. When I’m amazed that I actually survived such a tough time, I know that God joins me in life’s journey. Faith tells me that God’s strength will sustain me through the joys and tragedies that come with living. With faith, I will not just survive, but live creatively. My faith is my anchor for living. I will not lose hope. When darkness surrounds me, God gives me enough light for the next step, and that is all I need.

My faith also calls me to journey in gratitude. I am grateful for the abundant blessings I receive. I am also grateful for God’s presence carrying me, leading me through the storms of life. I am grateful that I can trust that there will be new life at the end of the storm.  God will not be defeated.

Forty-five years ago, a sixteen-year-old high school student painted an intriguing masterpiece just for me. It hangs in my living room still today. In the picture, a teenager stands at the water’s edge with her dog. Wind blows her hair and clothes. White caps roll in. Thunderclouds fill the sky. There is a gap in the clouds with just a sliver of sun showing. Sometimes, my guests think the teen is watching a storm coming. Sometimes they see new life in the sun that is peeking through the clouds, bringing an end to the storm. I see faith in that painting. The presence of the son, whether or not he is hidden by the clouds, is always there waiting, loving, giving strength. The teen in the picture can face whatever comes, and whatever has been. For me, that high school student of so long ago captured Jesus’ words, “I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age.”

Does Practice Make Perfect?

Practice Makes Friendship

Last week, during a conversation about kids and sports, a young mom made the following comment, “My child doesn’t like to practice.”

I’ve been thinking about that comment. Sports definitely entail a lot of practice. With team sports, kids practice in groups. They have a coach who gives direction, teaches skills, and usually tries to make it fun, at least when the kids are young. For sure, the children learn that it takes practice to gain enough skill to play the game. They also discover the fun, the support, the strength and the challenge of playing as a team. Solo sports, like skiing and horseback riding, also require practice, instruction that often takes place in a group.

Group practice opens up the opportunity to be challenged and receive praise from your peers. You learn to work as a team even as you learn to accept the uniqueness of skill and personality of each member of the group. Members missing practice are missed by the others. They lose out on opportunities to improve.

We don’t often think about practicing our faith. As in sports, we respect those who have become skillful in living a life of faith. These people find tremendous strength, confidence and wisdom for living because they have a spiritual connection with God. Often these same people are totally committed to caring for others, not just in their church family, but also in the wider community. They appear to have endless energy. How do they do it?

I suggest that faith, like sports, requires practice and self-discipline. When we participate in a church family by coming to worship on Sundays, we are practicing with a group led by a minister or coach. Learning from others, being part of a team, practicing are essential for a strong, healthy faith life. Within the church family, we find support when the going gets tough, together with those who celebrate our successes and grieve with us in sorrow.

 

Without the coach and our teammates to challenge us and offer new ways, we do not become the best player we can be. Without our church family to challenge our thinking and offer new ideas we do not become the most faith filled person we can be.

Yes, you can teach yourself a sport.  Yes, you can learn to play the game, sort of, without practicing with your team. Yes, you can teach yourself about God, sort of. Yes, you can care for others competently without practicing with your church family.  But you will miss out on the joy, the opportunities, the support and the growth that can come when you are part of the team. That’s why we gather together as Christians every week at the church. That’s why we practice our faith together. We know that group practice will not make us perfect, but it will push us to grow in faith.

“Will All Be Well?”

Yesterday Tom and I had a delightful day, celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary. We spent the day surrounded with family. We are truly blessed. Our blended family is an endless source of pleasure and love. We ended the day with granddaughter Ellie’s rugby game and dinner at the Red Lobster. As always, it was delicious, but Shelley, our waitress particularly went the second mile to make sure we were pleased with our anniversary dinner.

This morning we left home early. I needed surgery. The last two months, I have lived with a spot on my chest, growing and changing, while I waited for my turn with a surgeon. Of course, Google showed me pictures of what was actually growing on my body. The doctor did a biopsy. We waited for the report. She called me herself to re-assure me the report said, “not basal cell.” I believed her, but my spot kept growing and changing

My friends and family have prayed and worried with me. Their prayers and their concern have helped tremendously. From this ordeal, and that’s what it has been for Tom and me, I have learned a great deal. First of all, patience and fear require a great deal of energy. I have kept myself even busier than usual in to keep the anxiety at bay. Second, prayer helps. It’s wonderful knowing that others care. Their loving prayer released a strength I needed. Third, I already knew that Tom is wonderful. Over the last two months he has shown me that growing old with him will be the best possible experience. Fourth,my faith keeps me solid. I had no expectation that God was going to just wipe this growth away. I did know in the depths of my heart that God was with me and I would be okay. In the words of the ancient mystic, Julian of Norwich, “All will be well. All will be well. And all manner of things will be well.” No matter what happens.

Today, I celebrated all the way to Lindsay. It was coming off. I could hardly wait. Of course, there was a wait, of over an hour once we got there. I worried the surgeon might be called away to an emergency. But no, like most worries it didn’t happen. Now it’s done. Surgeon thought it was cancer. Has sent it away to be checked. He assured me he got it all and it would not reoccur. Well, I might get a similar type of growth at some point but it would not be related. So now I’m celebrating all the way home.

I am truly grateful. First, to our wonderful country and its medical system. Yes, I had to wait a bit, but I walked into the hospital this morning, had the surgery, walked out and paid nothing. I’m grateful. I willingly pay my taxes for everyone to have this wonderful medical care. Second I’m grateful to Dr. McNab and for his skills. He was kind, gentle and caring and he got it all. Thirdly and most important, I’m grateful to God for all the help over the last two months and for the gift of life. All IS WELL.  I am truly blessed. God’s Spirit is “the wind beneath my wings.”

Jesus said, “I will be with you always, even unto the ends of the earth.”

Love Can Win!

 

Above the front door of our home hangs a simple plaque, a wedding gift from friends. At the time of our wedding, I hardly knew these people, but Tom did. They are ‘sort of’ family – cousins of a cousin. They travelled all the way from Massachusetts to our wedding celebration. Although they are people of deep faith, I am sure they were not aware at the time that they were bringing Tom and me God’s inspiration for our lives.

“May the love that surrounds you today give you the strength to face your tomorrows.” For nearly fourteen years we have experienced the Truth and Grace of that blessing.

Today is Good Friday. This morning I sat down in my favorite chair to pray, to reflect on this day in our Easter story. The sun blazed through our living room window, filling my soul with God’s light and warmth. The scripture readings presented the horror of Jesus’ crucifixion in vivid detail. I couldn’t avoid the cruelty. I didn’t want to feel the pain. Yet as I read, I could think only of the plague of torture, cruelty, greed, violence that seems to be sucking up the goodness in this world as quickly as it is created. Calvary happens over and over again. Family violence, workplace abuse, residential schools, war, cruel dictatorships. Yes, Jesus’ crucifixion happens somewhere every day.

Last night our house overflowed with love. Our daughter, two of her grandchildren and two of our most cherished friends enjoyed food, conversation, memories, hugs. Each one of us was truly surrounded with God’s love. This morning as I think about Jesus, Good Friday, and our world, I am drawing on last night’s love, on the love that God has showered upon us as a family. With that love as my foundation, I have the strength to face the supreme cruelty of humankind. I can give thanks for God’s endless love shown to us through Jesus’ forgiveness from the cross. That love gives me the strength to offer myself in the struggle for goodness and peace.

I read our plaque as I step through our door, and know God’s love has given me hope for tomorrow.

Faith and Fear Walk Hand in Hand

Courage
Courage

I’m not sure what is happening. I know only that I have been reading Psalms, traditional and modern, something new. And now poetry is flowing from my pen onto paper, my fingertips onto the keyboard. I’ve been listening to the confusion, the fear, that is filling our hearts as we hear words of intolerance and isolationism shouted at us through the media. Today, as we approach the first Sunday of Advent, I have two poems for you.

Prayer
Prayer

Lament

Hate is spreading.
Intolerance growing.
The icy fingers of fear
are creeping in
through the cracks of our being.
What can I do?

I teach your love.
I write. I speak.
Some listen.
Your love touches a few.
Hatred has gone viral.
Money and knowledge lead the way
Manipulate the media.

One at a time
That was Jesus’ “way”.
A finger in the dyke.
Can that hold back the flood?
Of evil unleashed.
Destruction, murder, genocide
It’s happened before.
It continues to happen.

God says,
“Only love can defeat evil.”
I know from experience,
God’s love can overcome.
God’s love is stronger than death.
God’s love does bring new life.

Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer,
Help us! Please!

Trust
Trust

Advent/Christmas?

A baby is born?
Bringing Wisdom, Compassion
Is there time?

Intolerance grows.
Fear festers.
Evil’s response to love.
A last gasp.
A last grasp for total power.
How big? How long?

I will trust in God,
who walked on water,
healed the sick,
brought sight to the blind.
I will trust in God,
who died in love,
defeated death
brought new life.
I will trust in God.

I will continue to love,
to love this world into new life.
I will trust in God.

This is my faith.

Plant a Tree? Why?

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Buy a field – Plant a Tree

In both our front and back yards, we have trees – maples and cedars. They were planted by the first owners of our house ten years ago when the house was built. Already they are tall enough to provide a little shade for our lawn. Trees amaze me. They offer so many gifts beyond their cooling shade. They not only give back to the earth; they breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out life giving oxygen. As a child, I learned that trees were my friends, especially one with a big low-lying branch that served as a doorway to my leafy playhouse, up high above my world. Today I am grateful for our trees, even though none are big enough yet for climbing.

Planting trees is a sign of hope for the future. In today’s world, their slow growth means that the planter may not be around to enjoy the tree’s blessings. I think of education as a planting trees. High school youth can become impatient with school. What use is this? When will it be over? Do I really want to do this homework? Especially today when the world is so chaotic, job insecurity is an epidemic. Post- secondary education is a monumental expense, yet education is also a sign of hope for the future. 

Living a life of faith is a sign of hope for the future of our world. It’s easy to say, “Why bother? God doesn’t care.” I believe that God does care. In the Bible we read about the prophet, Jeremiah. War was raging around him. His own king had imprisoned him for speaking out about his own people’s behavior. Jeremiah had warned his king that linking up with Egypt would not save the country from the Babylonians.  From prison, Jeremiah listens to God’s message, “Buy land in your hometown. There is a future for you and your people. The day will come when you will prosper again.” And so Jeremiah makes the purchase. (paraphrase of Jeremiah 32:8-15)

Living a life of faith today means that we, too, are called to speak out about climate change, justice issues, and God’s promises. We too are called to take action, to make room for people different from ourselves, to feed the hungry, to get our education, to plant trees for the future. We are called to be like Jeremiah, and invest our lives for our future and the future of the world. We are called to trust in God’s promise for a new world filled with love and justice and joy.  

Yes, like our trees, the world’s growth towards goodness for all is slow. Still we can see growth happening. Already, there are small patches of shade here and there around the world. Already there is food for some who were hungry, freedom for some for some who were imprisoned unjustly, peace for some who were at war.

We can step out in faith and add goodness to God’s world. Each loving act, each step for justice, each gift of loving mercy for ourselves and others makes a difference. We can be God’s blessed trees, a breath of new life in this world. We can live God’s plan for us. We can be God’s hope.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  (Jeremiah 29:11

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God’s Spectacular Rainbow

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A few weeks ago I took this picture standing on my front step at home. My camera did not capture the startling beauty of two complete double rainbows, each color glowing and vibrant. This awesome gift from God lasted more than fifteen minutes. The experience touched my heart. I am truly grateful. This morning, as I focused on Psalm 118, the following poem/psalm poured forth from my pen. I feel called to share it with you.

God’s Spectacular Rainbow

God’s rainbow arch
holds me in its cradle.
God is with me.
Nothing I do is wasted.

God uses me.
God uses all things, beings actions,
to bring goodness.
God holds the light
and the darkness.
God blends them together
INTO WISDOM.

God’s loving power
doesn’t depend on me
my faith, my understanding, my feelings.
This is my hope.
I will trust in God. 

“This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

  (Psalm 118: 24)

Why Bring Your Child to Church?

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“I know what I can do to help my classmate,” said five-year-old Indigo to her parents. They had read the school’s note about her classmate’s mother who was in a Toronto hospital, after being seriously hurt in a car accident. “I’ll ask my church family to help me. They like to help people and they don’t want people to be sad.” The following Sunday morning at Keene United Church, little Indigo took the microphone and confidently asked us to join her in raising money to help her classmate’s family with gas and parking for the endless trips to Toronto. That morning, Indigo collected $360 plus a mountain of prayer.

Of course, the Spirit of generosity in our church family is important, but I tell you this story for another reason. Today many parents invest money and time for their children’s participation in sports in order for them to learn teamwork, self-esteem, leadership skills and benefit from the physical exercise. Occasionally one of them is good enough to be drafted for the big leagues or earn a university scholarship.

Indigo’s mom brings her to church because she knows within her church family, Indigo will learn those same values and so much more. Already, Indigo knows when she hurts, her church family cares. Already at the age of five, Indigo knows she can depend on her church family to help her when she wants to help others. Already, Indigo has soaked in the knowledge that she is accepted as God’s precious child in her church home.

As the years go by, Indigo will more deeply understand the strength that comes from being welcomed and loved just as God created her. She will remember that she didn’t have to “make the team” at church. She’s been a part of the team from her very beginning. Through our teaching and example, Indigo will have gained confidence in God’s free gift of forgiveness, discovered the wisdom and comfort the Bible offers her and accepted the assurance that comes from knowing that she is never alone. God is with her always.

Why bring your child to church? The church family offers love, acceptance, assurance, strength, confidence – these are values all parents want for their children. We hope Indigo will cherish belonging to the Keene United Church family for a lifetime. The gift of faith in God is hers to enjoy for always. Already, she has learned a “way of life” that has empowered her to help others.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

 

What Can a Small Group Do For You?

This group a little younger than some of us, but we're just as lovely.
This group a little younger than some of us, but we’re just as lovely.

Every month, I gather with friends for our book club meeting. Although we saw each other often at church, we formed this group because we wanted a stronger, deeper relationship than a few minutes over coffee on Sunday mornings could give us. Besides, I was retiring and would be leaving the church family.

Our monthly meetings are cherished by each one of us. Yes, we dutifully choose a book each time. Most of us read it. Sometimes we discuss it for five minutes, sometimes half an hour. The book discussion isn’t really our reason for gathering.

We come together in friendship seeking love, laughter and support for our tears. Family problems, aging parents, celebrations are all on the menu each month. We have built a precious community, as we share food and life.

In today’s world we have to be intentional about developing community. The extended family that once gathered round is usually separated by distance. City living can bring anonymity. Even country dwellers tend to be isolated from their neighbours.

We have Facebook friends, but for me a few words printed on my computer or phone screen is not enough. I need to voice my concerns and joys. I need to see my feelings mirrored in another’s eyes as I speak. I need to feel the human touch of comfort and joy as we give each other hugs. Our precious book club brings God’s new life for me.

I suggest you try setting up your own group. We started small – just three. Now, six years later, we’re seven, a perfect size. You don’t have to be all the same. In our group, some are mothers, some grandmothers, some single, some married, some working, some retired. Faith, and love of reading, good food and laughter are our common ground. Build an intentional community for yourself. As you trust and share, your life will be touched by God’s love.

Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)