“Revelations”

August 18th

I believe that we Humans are both physical and Spiritual beings. We are made of mundane chemicals arranged in quite spectacular ways to give us our material bodies. We are also filled, animated and informed by God’s own essence, the Spiritual component that is as important as our physical selves.
God’s Spirit is in control. It not only gives us life, it directs that life so that we might honour our creator. Each and every person that was, is or ever shall be is filled with this common elemental essence. We are all Godly beings, united in our Creator’s heart, yet each of us is a unique individual.
Just as our bodies can break down or become ill, our Spiritual selves can also suffer injury and malaise. If we don’t take care of ourselves by praying regularly, studying God’s word, doing our best to follow Jesus’ example and joining together to help and support one another, the Spirit within us suffers.
Just as we have to protect our bodies against dangerous or unsafe conditions, we have to protect our Spirits as well. There are those distorted, bent people who have allowed their minds and spirits to decay into selfishness, greed and malice. There are physical temptations that encourage us to be selfish and our own egos can lead us to become hungry for power and filled with a sense of undeserved self-importance. Some even suggest that Satan has a hand in leading us astray, although most evidence points to that evil creature as being more of a deceiver than actually causing bad things to happen by him- or herself.
God created us for God, as companions and as stewards of Creation. We were created in God’s image. Since God reigns over all things, that image is both physical and Spiritual, a literal embodiment of God’s essence, driven by God’s own wisdom and power, albeit on a much smaller scale.
God’s vastness cannot be contained in one body or one gender, and so there are many unique variations on the theme of God’s image. None is lesser or greater. Each of us is precious in God’s sight. We are equally loved and equally valued by our Creator.
Being created in God’s image, our highest calling is to reflect our Creator’s wisdom, creativity and love. We weren’t given life and Spirit for our own ends; our existence is meant to honour and praise the One in whose image we were created.
Together we express the otherwise inexpressible, each of us revealing a unique aspect of God. In the wisdom, goodness and creativity of others we catch a glimpse of God, just as they catch a glimpse of God in us. Together we reveal the Creator of the universe who is both physical and Spiritual…
…and 100 percent love.

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“Awareness”

July 7th

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden recently tweeted: “The stage is not my life—my life is my life”. Interesting thought. For some people, the performance, the job, the duty, is indeed their life. It’s what feeds them, what drives them, what gives them meaning and identity. Take away that aspect of their lives, and they are nothing, empty shells with no purpose or sense of self.
For Jann Arden, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Who she is and how she identifies herself is not on stage; her life is elsewhere. Certainly her life includes performing, but I don’t think it revolves around it.
What struck me most about her comment wasn’t what she had to say about herself, but the fact that she knows who she is so well. Not everyone is quite so self-aware. I would even go so far as to say that some folks haven’t got a single clue about their true selves.
That might seem a bit extreme, but it isn’t. In my dealings with others I’ve seen women caught up in unhealthy relationships because that’s where they think they should be. Despite the pain and lack of fulfilment, they fail to realize that there are other, better, options, because they don’t know who they are. As a result they identify themselves by being in a relationship and being in love, rather than choosing relationships that honour their true selves.
It happens with people caught up in their work or people who have no clue what to do. Because earning a living matters more than living fully, some folks lose themselves in their jobs. Or, because they don’t really know themselves well enough, because they’ve never had the chance to be who they feel they should be, or have had their gifts and talents affirmed, or because they’ve never even had a chance to see what they’re good at and what make them feel complete, many folks drift through life not sure who or what they are.
As God’s children, each of us has worth and value. We may be flawed and failing, as one author puts it, but we are also equally weird, wonderful and worthy to be loved. The trick is figuring out just who and what we are and where we fit into God’s big picture.
How do we figure that out? We go with our gut about what feels right and good to us. We ponder what matters to us and try to sort out whether or not it’s what we’ve been told by others or what we’ve determined for ourselves to be true. We pray. We risk. We try. We pay attention. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth the effort.
Only when we know who we truly are can we live life fully and joyfully. And, as a side bonus, when we know ourselves we can live and use our gifts and talents in a way that helps others live their best lives and maybe even empower them to know who they truly are, too.

“Poof!”

June 30th

And, poof!, with the earth’s motion of a few degrees around the sun, our days have started to get shorter. That’s it folks. Slowly but surely, thanks to our planetary orb’s ceaseless motion around Ol’ Sol, the Summer Equinox has passed and nightfall will come ever so slightly earlier and the dawn will be a tiny bit delayed until the Vernal Equinox arrives and turns things around.
Don’t despair! We’re still on the winning side of the equation and our days will remain longer than our nights for quite a while. Summer is just getting under way and the temperatures are rising, the crops are growing and days and days of fun, vacations and glorious weather remain.
But those days are limited so if it’s your favourite season enjoy them now! Do what you want to do and go where you want to go because the coming days will never be repeated. Each 24 hour period marked by the rising and setting of the sun is a one-off event, unique and special in its own way. Yesterday was nothing like today which will be completely different from tomorrow. Sure, summer will return next year, and the year after that, but it won’t be anything like the one that we’ll experience this year, or the one we recall from last year.
Every day, indeed, every moment, is a unique, blessed gift. Some pass by with great fanfare and excitement, some slip by with the subtlety of the Summer Equinox. Some are best forgotten, some will be forever remembered, but not one, not one single day, is to be missed. It might be a start of a new adventure, a moment of rest, a single step along the way or a challenge to be struggled with, but each day, every single moment, forms part of our story, part of a life as unique as every day that ever was, is or is yet to come.
Within those precious days and moments, God has given each of us a life worth living and making the best of. God has created each of us as uniquely weird, wonderful and loveable beings that deserve all the love we have to share. And just like every moment that comes our way, everyone that enters into our lives is worthy of our attention and love.
Sometimes a person’s presence is fleeting. Sometimes it lasts a lifetime. Some people make our lives better. Some, not so much. Yes, we have to work around the challenging people, just as we have to struggle through those challenging days, but our struggles can make us stronger and better. We can’t avoid them, but we can work through them.
And in the end, we’re back to the fact that life is a fleeting, precious gift and that every moment counts, whether it’s a playful winter’s day, or another summer afternoon looking out the office window. Receive each day as the gift from God that it is and make the most of it, just as God does with the unique, weird, wonderful, loveable gift that is you.

“Caution”

June 23rd

I don’t know about you, but I often get pulled aside by folks for a little “private chat”. Most often it’s about something I’ve said or done, so I’m always ready to listen and to figure out how best to deal with whatever the situation might be. Sometimes, however, it’s a “word of caution” about somebody else, a little warning that such-and-such is a certain type of person, or has a reputation for something-or-other, and I should be careful with them. There are times when that cautionary note is accompanied by the phrase “you should be careful who you deal with because people are watching.”
The implication of these little conversations is that I don’t want my reputation sullied by associating with, well, you know, “those people”. I know that usually there is no malice intended and that the folks that take me aside are genuinely concerned that I always appear in the best light, but those little cautionary tales have a very different effect from what is expected. When someone takes me aside to caution me about somebody else I usually end up being far more wary about the teller than the person they’re telling me about.
Of course, if I’m being warned about a violent criminal that might cause me or those around me harm, or being informed that someone needs extra special care because they are particularly sensitive due to a challenging life situation, I’m all ears. To be protected or to know to protect someone is important. But when it’s about one person’s perception of another, I always take the news with a great number of grains of salt. I know that people mean well and I appreciate their concern, but I also know that there are always two sides to a story and that it’s important for me to hear that story directly from the person being talked about.
In any case, as someone who always tries to see the best in others, I find that I can get along with most people. And, if they are less than savoury in the eyes of others, I don’t really care how that reflects on my reputation. Christ talked with the good and the bad folks. He didn’t care about His reputation; he cared about the people he was with and loved them not because they would offer him a leg up or make Him look good, but because they were deserving of His love. That’s it, that’s all.
I am indeed cautious with how I appear. I am cautious that I appear (and genuinely am) loving and caring towards all people and that what people see in me is a reflection, however pale and poor, of Jesus Himself.

“Grounded”

June 16th

A good builder makes sure that every sound house must a good foundation. A foundation that is strong, straight, level, plumb and true is the key to building a house that will make a worth, lasting home.
While the foundation hold the house up and forms its base, the foundation must also have a firm footing. The ground within or upon the foundation is set has to be stable. It can’t shift or settle or drift away because it supports the foundation, keeping it from cracking or tilting and ensuring that it stays put. If a home is going to strong and stable, then its foundation must work with, or compensate for, the ground upon which it is placed.
We humans also seek solid and stable footing, but not in a physical sense. We’re mobile, both physically and mentally. We travel from place to place as well as growing and maturing over time. Because of this motion and progress, we can’t be permanently attached to the ground with a firmly fixed foundation. So our stability isn’t a physical thing; it is, rather, a spiritual, mental and emotional grounding, a sense of knowing who we and where we belong.
We are grounded by our family and our history. Knowing that we belong and where we’ve come from helps us to explore ourselves, our world and new things because we always have a place to fall back on. Knowing who we truly are, what matters to us, our strengths and our weaknesses allows us to navigate our existence confidently, to face whatever challenges may come and to grow and mature as we learn more about ourselves, our neighbours and life in general. Knowing what we believe, even if imperfectly, and who we can trust lets us explore the unknown and try knew things. Knowing that we are loved, that we are of worth in the world and that our own love helps others feel worthy helps us to face our struggles and to be our best even when challenged.
To be grounded is to have a sense of belonging and purpose that goes beyond our own selves. When we are grounded we can reach out to others, follow an unknown path, explore knew ideas and opportunities and to grow and mature into who God has created us to be.
And it is in God that we are all grounded and find our true identities. God created us as the ultimate form of self-expression, fashioning us to not only reflect God’s own nature, but to live according to who and what God is.
As followers of Jesus, the ultimate expression of God’s nature, we are grounded in a God of love, justice and compassion. Through Jesus, we find common ground as beloved children. Grounded in Jesus we are freed to explore what it means to love as we are loved, to serve as we would be served and to see and recognize God’s image in and through one another.

“The Spirit Has Spoken”

June 9th
“The Spirit Has Spoken”
The Priests in the earliest history of the Israelites used to cast lots to make their decisions. It was believed that God would manipulate the toss and His/Her will would be revealed. Two stones, called Urim and Thummim, were kept on hand, in the Priest’s breastplate, ready to help determine the will of God.
We modern Presbyterians don’t use such devices. We pray and then vote on things in order to make our decisions regarding jGod’s will for our congregations or at higher levels of our church government. We believe that through prayer and discussion we can come to a consensus as to what the Holy Spirit is asking us to do. We reveal that consensus by means of a vote.
Just this week, after years of discussion, prayer, debating, prayer, meditation and a great deal more of prayer, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada voted for full inclusion of LGBTQ people. That means that whether your gay or straight, you can be married and ordained within our denomination. No exceptions. Everyone is in. No one is out.
I believe that this is God’s will as reflected in the vote that was taken. The majority of voters expressed their belief that the Holy Spirit was indicating we needed to change. Our vote, therefore, was not simply based on the whim or will of a physical group of people. It was based on the movement of the Holy Spirit, a Spiritual influence on physical minds. Through the Holy Spirit, God spoke to the Presbyterian Church in Canada and said: “Please make sure that everyone in your church is allowed to be married and ordained, regardless of their sexual orientation.”
This significant vote is not the end of the process. It is the beginning of a year-long process of further discernment. The General Assembly will now seek the will of the larger church to finalize the choice to be inclusive. Ultimately, this will come down to another round of voting, another round of listening for the Holy Spirit’s affirmation of the choice already made by the General Assembly.
It’s an exciting and nerve-wracking period in history for the Presbyterian Church in Canada. We are trying to honour and serve God fully and faithfully with this decision. I believe that full affirmation and inclusion of LGBTQ people is long overdue. It is, after all, about loving one another as Christ loves us. Jesus told us to love one another as we would be loved. In this case, we are choosing to right a wrong. We are finally seeing LGBTQ people as peers and equals, fully worthy of love and all the privileges and rights offered within the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
In order to right this wrong, we have prayerfully and thoughtfully sought God’s voice. Through the vote recently taken, the Holy Spirit has spoken and moved us forward. This is not simply a human choice. It is God’s own voice calling us to love everyone and to include them fully. Gay or straight, we are all God’s children. It’s high-time we see and affirm each other as such.

“General Assembly”

June 2nd

This weekend, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada will take place. The Presbyterian Church in Canada is the particular brand of Christianity I practice, and the General Assembly is our big annual meeting where the assorted committees, teams, groups and other like things discuss and decide all things pertaining to our particular way of following and serving God.
Fully one-sixth of the ministers in our denomination, along with a matching number of Elders, will attend the General Assembly. Having lay and Clergy people present provides balance between the two aspects of service. Together, under the watchful gaze of the Moderator, they will hear from all of the groups working within the PCC and then work together to make informed, God honouring decisions about how our church will conduct itself.
It’s a big, important thing, this General Assembly. It is a unifying force that brings people from across the country together so that they can help our denomination thrive and grow. It brings together different perspectives and provides a forum for them to be examined and reflected upon. And it gives individuals from across the country an opportunity to meet one another so that the nameless “other” from far away might become a friend and a brother or sister in Christ.
It’s that opportunity to meet with other people that I appreciate the most about our General Assembly. Of course, the reporting, debating and decision-making are vital to the health of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, but it’s the chance to meet with other Presbyterians and hear from them, discuss our various points of view, and maybe have my heart and mind change, that I value the most.
Mind you, it’s not my turn to go this year, so that’s a bit disappointing, but I will be there in Spirit, praying for my friends and colleagues as they work together for the good of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. And, more broadly, I’ll be praying for all Christians and every denomination throughout the world, as they meet and talk and debate and grow in their own way, so that God might be honoured and Jesus be served. After all, while we give ourselves different titles and organize ourselves according to whatever we think binds us together, we are, in reality, one great General Assembly of sisters and brothers working together to God’s glory.