Tag Archives: worship

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.

A Church on the Move! #travel #church #refugees #family

September 27   Day 29   A Church on the Move.

This morning we returned to St. Andrews-Wesley United Church for Sunday worship. God’s Spirit filled that sanctuary in a very tangible way. Fabulous music poured forth from the organ and gospel choir. Today, they presented Bibles to all the children who were in grade 4. Today they were having a special congregational family meeting to discern how they were going to help in the world refugee crisis. Today the Very Rev. Dr. Gary Paterson spoke about his experience as Moderator over the last three years. Once again I heard God say, “I am doing a new thing.” Our United Church is on the move. Yes, we’ve struggled over the last ten years, but there are glimpses, “tiny green shoots of new life” , bursting forth across this land. New life for our church is beginning. Tom and I experienced it first-hand this morning.

As we were walking back to our condo after church, we talked with two women, one from Windsor and one from London. We shared our experiences of the church service and of Vancouver. When we said goodbye at the corner, I gave them each one of my cards and suggested they check out my books. God continually gives me an opportunity to promote my books.

Tom spent the afternoon with Alex and Bonnie and of course had a wonderful time. I ran errands with our 23 year old grandson, Chris. He’s great company, a wonderful young man. We had lunch together and shared ideas and opinions. At supper time, Bonnie, Boris, Alex, Tom, Chris and I gathered around the table in Bonnie’s apartment for a family dinner. Before and after supper, Chris played with his toddler cousin. Alex laughed and laughed as he and Chris made funny noises, played catch, and built with the duplo blocks. Tom and I are so blessed to have a blended family that is full of love. Oh yes, God was definitely present with us tonight sharing our joy.

A Windy, Rainy Sunday #travel #church #grandchildren

September 20  Day 22

St. Andrews Wesley United Church
St. Andrews Wesley United Church

Usually the highlight of Sunday for me, is worship. Sunday morning with my home congregation is always special, not just because I enjoy seeing our friends, but also because the strength of the faith and love we share lifts and carries me.

Sunday morning in a strange church when we’re travelling carries its own brand of the extraordinary. This morning was no exception. St. Andrews-Wesley United Church must be the biggest United Church if not the biggest church building in Vancouver. The beautiful sanctuary with it’s traditional pipe organ speaks of the awesomeness of God. This morning a men’s choir (about 30) from New Zealand were guests. Between the regular choir, men’s choir, and that organ the music was amazing. I felt like I was part of the heavenly hosts that sang at Jesus’ birth. A young girl (about ten) read the scripture with the assurance of someone who felt totally at home in her church. The entire service lifted me and filled me with energy for the week.

Inside St. Andrews Wesley - The service over, the organist stays to visit.
Inside St. Andrews Wesley – The service over, the organist stays to visit.

Before church, there was Alex (age 18 months). Our grandson is an early riser. Bonnie texted us at 6:00 a.m. to tell us we could come over anytime. Happy, and content, Alex is a joy even at 6:00 a.m. We had a lovely time with him and his mom and dad. Actually, all day Alex has been a delight.

This afternoon we had a nap to compensate for our early start. We talked to Grandson Chris (age 23). He suggested we get together after his work tomorrow. Our phone call done, we returned to Bonnie’s for another wonderful dose of Alex as well as a yummy supper. Now it’s 9:00 p.m. We’re back in our condo and thinking about an early night. Tom is checking out places to square dance tomorrow afternoon while everyone works.

Once again, God was with us. I felt God’s presence every time young Alex smiled but especially when we arrived early this morning. He came running to Grandpa his arms outstretched so happy to see him. I believe God put us together in families so we could love and care for one another. We are totally blessed.

Resting With God #travel

September 6   Day 8

St. Boniface Cathedral Ruins - facade looks like new
St. Boniface Cathedral Ruins – facade looks like new 

Today was a day of rest for Tom and I. God’s presence was apparent right from the beginning. The highlight of the hotel breakfast for me, was a plate of gluten free bread at the buffet. I greeted the woman who was replenishing the sausages with a smile and a cheery, “Good morning. I want to thank you for the gluten free bread.”

Her face lit up with satisfaction as she said, “You are very nice. They’re not all nice here but you are.”

Well, that made my day. I sat down, ate a few bites and then went back to her and said, “It’s easy to be nice when you are so nice to me. She reached out and gave me a hug.

“Thank you,” she said.

It was just a simple, tiny interchange and God was there.

We went to Charleswood United Church. The minister is a former classmate from seminary, Michael Wilson. Wow, he has become a fabulous speaker over the last 25 years. The service was based on Mark 7, the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Michael connected the world’s dilemma about the continuous waves of refugees coming out of Syria and other places with Jesus’ compassion fatigue, concern for his own people and his eventual caring response to the Samaritan woman. He talked of the need for our compassion in this world crises. He challenged us to live out our faith as individuals and groups by sponsoring refugee families here in Canada. God touched my heart as Michael spoke and during the Sacrament of Communion that followed. I am grateful for my desire to worship God even on holidays, and for our choice of Charleswood U.C.

This afternoon we went to the Winnipeg Museum. Arriving at 3:30 meant we had only 1 ½ hours before closing. Such an amazing place needs an entire day. We were impressed by the dioramas crafted by local                                          artists. Certainly I heard God speak of the need to treasure God’s world that took billions of years to create. Afterwards we walked through the ruins of St. Boniface Cathedral which we had seen from yesterday’s boat cruise.. The colossal façade adds beauty and majesty to the city.

We had supper and searched out an ice cream store in “the Forks”. Mine was triple chocolate brownie. Wow! It sure was good. I pictured God smiling and having a taste. After all the Bible tells us Jesus enjoyed good food. What could be better than an ice cream cone. A perfect ending to a restful day.

Dipping Your Toes

Tonight I finished the first draft of my new book, “Dipping Your Toes in small group devotional worship planning.” At least that’s the working title. I will probably shorten it to “Dipping Your Toes” and then add a second sentence in slightly smaller print. I’m totally excited about this book. I know it is wanted and needed by lay people of every denomination. Already, I have had amazing feedback from those who have read the first few chapters. “Dipping Your Toes” is due at the editors on January 16th so I still have time to review, rework and revise. When I have the first service in close to final form I’ll send it out for all as a sample. This is a marvelous way to begin the new the new year. Thank you God.

Are You Having a Spiritual Heart Attack?

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Are You Having a Spiritual Heart Attack?

by Janet Stobie

This morning I read, “Though weighing only 11 ounces on average, a healthy heart pumps 2,000 gallons of blood through 60,000 miles of blood vessels each day.” A healthy heart is amazing. Poorly treated, our hearts will eventually malfunction. Our whole body may shut down.

In the bible, the word “heart” is used to represent the center of our thinking, emotions, reasoning. Our spiritual heart is the “command center” of our spiritual lives. Again, poorly treated, our spiritual hearts will also malfunction and then our lives get lost, twisted, filled with misery.

Like physical hearts, our spiritual hearts need exercise, nourishment, and rest to function well. What does that mean? Caring for others through giving with love of our time, talents and resources is fabulous exercise. Reading bible passages and discussing their relevance with others is excellent nourishment. Time spent in worship and prayer, or relaxing with family and friends gives us the spiritual rest we need.

The other day I asked my upset friend, “Are you making time for the things you know help you to feel good about yourself and your life.” She smiled and shook her head. Then tears rained down her cheeks. “The demands of family and work have taken over. I just haven’t the energy.”

When we neglect our own self-care, we experience spiritual heart attacks. Suddenly, we’re struggling to be the loving, caring persons we want to be. Jesus offers us wisdom with “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” God has created each person to be spiritually loving beyond our wildest imagination. All we’re asked to do is love ourselves enough to keep our spiritual hearts healthy.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)

Peanut Butter Blessings

Between the ages of two and eight, my middle son David, limited his diet to peanut butter and jam sandwiches plus an apple now and then. Trying to convince David to try anything else meant inciting total war between David and his dad. And when we accepted a dinner invitation, our childless friends were insulted when young David turned up his nose at their delicious roast beef dinner. Totally frustrated, I asked my doctor for methods of varying David’s diet. The doctor replied, “if he eats peanut butter, bread, apples and drinks milk, he’ll be fine. If you’re worried give him a daily vitamin and let it rest.” Grateful, for the peace this philosophy brought to our home, we accepted David’s diet choices. Today, as a vegetarian his diet is still different from mine.
I think sometimes many of us think our way of practicing our faith,  is the only way that a person can live a spiritually healthy life. I believe Jesus offers us much the same message as our doctor. If you believe in God, and live with love and respect for your neighbour and yourself, you are receiving the staples, the bread and peanut butter of faith. Sure, there is lots of variety out there. Whether you kneel, stand, sit, or lie down to pray is not important. Just remember to pray. Whether you gather together with others or worship on your own in the great outdoors, the important thing is to offer God your gratitude and praise for the abundance you enjoy. Worshipping alone may mean you miss out on the support, the learning and the fellowship of church membership but you’ll get by, and you can always take the odd vitamin shot of communal faith at Christmas and Easter.
Rather than trying to argue people into your way of believing, try looking for the staples, the bread and peanut butter of faith that a person does have and give thanks for those blessings.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22: 36-40