This is Canada’s weekend to celebrate our abundant blessings. God is good!
Yes, it’s April Fools’ Day
it’s Easter Sunday.
But the resurrection was no joke.
Those nails were real
as were the thorns
painfully drawing blood
that ours might be spared.
He was removed from the cross
and buried in a tomb
sealed behind a boulder.
But three days later
He was not there.
The tomb was empty.
He had risen
as He said.
He overcame death
to promise us life.
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We’ve arrived at the second weekend in March. Did you remember this is when our clocks jump forward an hour (not on their own, of course; you have to change them) and our bodies rebel at losing an hour’s sleep?
I dislike these biannual time changes. There was a purpose for Daylight Saving Time way back in 1916 when it was first introduced in Germany to save electricity, but I’d be happy to keep one or the other — either Saving or Standard time — and not have to change back and forth.
What I DO like about mid-March is the coming official start of Spring on March 20th. We’ve finally taken down the front door plaque that says ‘Winter Welcome’, because winter has worn out its welcome around here. I’m tired of it. I want the snow to go away and let the buried crocuses show their cheery colours. It’ll be a while before the mini-avalanches disappear. Our shake roof relieved itself of several loads, one of which landed on the back deck, and I imagine that pile is going to be there for a while.
My hubby likes to say we are an Easter people, and Sunday morning at our church one more candle on the Lenten wreath will be extinguished, bringing us another week closer to Easter. As the Lenten material says,
“Lent is a season that focuses our attention on discipleship. It pushes us to examine ourselves and the many ways we have turned away from God. Rather than a shallow giving up of personal pleasures, Lent invites us to give up those things that have pulled us away from God and take up those things that draw us toward Him.”
I like March. It’s a forward-looking month and right now I’m all about saying goodbye to Winter and looking ahead to all that is to come.
Now, it’s an hour later than my clocks are proclaiming. Time to change them and go to bed, even if it’s a bit early for me. I’m going to need all the hours of sleep I can get tonight!
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Our world sure is a troubled place! Every newscast I saw today featured shots of hatred in action: fighting, killing and destruction.
Today was the second Sunday in Advent, and we began the worship service at my church by lighting the second candle representing Peace. (The first candle last week was for Hope.)
There are lots of platitudes about peaceful living, but they might not mean much to people who are mired in turmoil and war. “Where is God,” they ask, “when good people are hurting?”
All I can answer is, “He’s right beside them, hurting, too.” This world isn’t what God intended, it’s what we’ve made it. People are quick to take potshots at others with their words, their hands and their weapons, and the innocent get caught in the crossfire. It’s painful and sinful, and oh, how God’s heart must ache!
In this season of “Peace and Goodwill towards all people” we see random acts of kindness and generosity all around — goodness is emerging in small doses, if only for a few weeks. Would that we could start a movement that would promote peace year ’round.
Why couldn’t we?
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.
Make every effort to live in peace
with everyone and to be holy;
without holiness no one will see the Lord.
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December 1st. It’s not even 4:30 p.m. and already it’s pitch black outside. At least, it is until the outside Christmas lights, recently strung along the roofline around our back deck, suddenly blink on and shine through the windows to illuminate the family room.
Advent arrives this weekend and we’ve begun some of the annual decorating. We have a friend who mocks our early start because, for her, Christmas doesn’t begin until December 24th.
But the season passes faster with each successive year and now we no sooner put out our favourite items when it seems time to pack them away again. I like to savour the season for as long as possible so I begin when Advent starts.
We often refer to it as the Season of Waiting, or of Preparation and Anticipation, but Ann Voskamp‘s comment strikes home:
Advent is a whole lot more than waiting for Christmas, Advent is a whole lot more than preparing for Christmas — Advent is ultimately about preparing the way for the Light of Christ in a world dying for light. Advent is a whole lot more than passively waiting for the King — it’s about participating in the work of the Kingdom of God.
It does make me wonder, though, why we wait until December to show compassion and generosity, as if the need exists only within the parameters of the Christmas season. Surely “the work of the Kingdom of God” is a 365-days-a-year thing.
Perhaps we need the Christmas season to remind us of this. To give us a nudge out of our complacency and into action. To focus on the One who came as a Child and changed all history. To remember that he said,
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. [Matthew 25:40]
Yes, the world is “dying for light” and too often we feel there is little we can do to make a difference. But even as small blips of light can illuminate a room, so in this Advent season we can reflect God’s love, hope, joy and peace into the world and help brighten someone’s darkness.
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Even during the misery of the flu — amid the stuffiness, sore throat and headache, ribs sore from coughing, and the inability to sleep — there are things for which I am thankful.
Last night at 4 a.m. (technically I guess that would be this morning but it was still part of my night), I sat in my recliner, cuddled under a cozy afghan, and stared out at the well lit snowy landscape. Full moon had been just the night before, so it was still very bright. As I glanced up at it, I discovered a hazy lunar halo. Of course I had to wrap the afghan close and step out onto the deck to take photos. Yes, I know it wasn’t too smart, given my state of health and the -6 C chill, but I couldn’t let the opportunity pass.
Solar and lunar halos are fascinating. There are light cirrus clouds, hardly visible, containing millions of tiny ice crystals that refract and reflect the light. When I researched this, I learned these lunar halos are unique to the person seeing them…
“The crystals have to be oriented and positioned just so with respect to your eye, in order for the halo to appear. That’s why, like rainbows, halos around the sun – or moon – are personal. Everyone sees their own particular halo, made by their own particular ice crystals, which are different from the ice crystals making the halo of the person standing next to you.” *
Had I been sleeping soundly, I would have missed this special phenomenon that was uniquely mine.
“O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good.”
January’s full moon is known as the Wolf Moon, or sometimes the Snow Moon, although the latter is more often attributed to February’s. Winter moons often seem especially clear when seen during a crisp cold night, but thanks to the high cloud, this one was hazy.
Still, it brought to mind the haunting tune and words of the Huron Carol:
’twas in the moon of winter-time
when all the birds had fled,
that mighty gitchi Manitou
sent angel choirs instead;
before the light the stars grew dim,
and wondering hunters heard the hymn:
“Jesus your king is born, Jesus is born,
in excelsis Gloria.”
Christmas is well past, but the miraculous news will never be outdated: Jesus is born! This winter moon provided the perfect opportunity to reflect on what our Christmas celebrations were all about.
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Wishing you a blessed and peace-filled Christmas!
~ ~ ~
It IS December! It’s been December for almost two weeks and I’ve been doing December things, just not blogging about it. I’ve been “M.I.A.” while rejoicing in the arrival of Advent, accompanying hubby on a tree-finding outing, digging through storage boxes for Christmas decorations, beginning the traditional baking spree, writing notes and addressing envelopes — all those seasonal activities that accompany the anticipation of “the most wonderful time of the year.”
This Christmas our entire family, including several dogs, are coming here to celebrate with us! It will be a faith-filled, festive, and perhaps somewhat chaotic holiday together.
Given the snowstorms here this past week and now the forecast for two weeks of frigid sunshine, there is every possibility that it will be a White Christmas, too. What more could one hope for on our usually balmy west coast?
That’s a timely question. What is our hope this Christmas … indeed, every Christmas? Throughout Advent we wait for the miracle of God’s coming, both as a babe in the manger and again in our time. Why? What are our expectations? A good question to ponder as we prepare our homes and our hearts for Christmas.
Every so often something grinds me to a stop and makes me consider my age. Music isn’t usually one of those things. Oh, there’s always the knowing look when a particular genre turns up on the truck’s radio and I change stations because I find it jarring. Someone is bound to think, “Old fogies are in control of the radio dial again,” but I assure you I would have switched it just as quickly fifty years ago.
No, what has me thinking about my age today is the number of years music has been impacting my life.
Even if I discount how readily family gatherings during my childhood ended up around a piano, or with a violin or melodeon, to sing favourite songs, and if I focus only on the years of my own active participation, I’m stunned. Why? Because they really add up, and I’ve never considered myself to be particularly musical.
There were the occasions while the grownups visited, when I closed myself into my grandparents’ dining room and struggled to plunk out one-fingered melodies by ear on their piano. There was also one summer during which my hubby served a prairie mission field, when a parishioner undertook to teach me some elementary piano basics on the out-of-tune church piano. And the year the organist in another congregation patiently took me through the first three Royal Conservatory grades. Ha! I was so self-conscious that no matter how much I practised a piece to perfection in solitude, I could only stumble through it during the next lesson.
So how I ended up years later leading a children’s choir can only be attributed to the sad fact that in our small congregation there was no one else capable or willing to volunteer. I wasn’t capable either, but apparently I was willing to try, and I persevered for several years.
Then, in 1994, seven months after arriving in our present congregation, I faced another plea to help — this time it was to direct the senior choir — and despite retiring four different times, I somehow ended up directing for the better part of the next nineteen years.
From my first exposure to church as a teenager when I was conscripted to join the choir, up to last year when my lack of voice and breath control convinced me it was time to stop, I’ve also sung in church choirs.
My ‘active participation’ in music leadership covers almost six decades! I must be really, really old! What’s more amazing to me, however, is that I still have only a rudimentary ability to read music. I’ve blustered my way through it all without being qualified, although I’ve certainly been opinionated.
For instance, as a choir director I have strong feelings about the purpose of a church choir. Perhaps that’s why I reacted to an article our associate pastor pointed out on Facebook recently. It offered “four functions to explain why the church choir exists” and emphasized that there was a specific order to the priorities:
“As the director of a church choir I use four functions to explain why the church choir exists. Those priorities help determine the programmatic choices that our music ministry makes. The functions are in a specific priority order, but I also believe each function is equally important as they must be present to have a vital music ministry. The four functions are to lead and enliven the congregation’s song, to sing music that the congregation cannot, to serve as a small-group within the church for faith formation, and to sing beautiful and challenging music to glorify God and to edify the congregation.”
My top priority is found nestled in the wording of her last one: to worship and glorify God and to help the congregation do the same.
You don’t want to know how many times I’ve lectured my choirs about this. If asked, they could probably repeat my words from memory: “What we do is never a performance. We’re here to assist the congregation in the worship experience.” I’ve always believed a choir’s sole purpose is to support the ministry, providing musical leadership for the corporate expressions of prayer, petition and praise.
While the author and I may differ on the order of priority, we do agree on other aspects. “A church choir’s job is not just to sing beautifully,” the article continues, “but rather it is to minister to the congregation and to each other in a variety of ways.”
I can’t provide statistics, but I’m pretty sure the majority of church choirs are comprised not of professional-quality singers but of volunteer members, many of whom love to sing but don’t know how to read music. I encouraged anyone who wanted to be involved whether or not they had technical skills. I gave out guidance on a need-to-know basis, keeping it simple for the sake of those who really didn’t care about it (or who might already know it).
A quarter rest? Ah, that would be the one that looks like a sideways seagull, dipping its wings for a one-beat rest. That’s it. Period. Some remembered the rest’s name; others remembered the seagull illustration. Either way, they understood the symbol meant not to sing for one beat.
Yes, it’s important to give our best when it comes to worshipping God with our voices, but I believe God honours the heart’s intention, not the voice’s perfection. I didn’t have the expertise to teach all the musical complexities and nuances, or to require them of my choristers. In most cases the music was learned by rote memorization and repetition to the best of our amateur ability, and then sung with joy.
That’s what I remember most about all those years participating in church music teams: that each one of us took joy in the shared musical experience of being part of a unique ministry.
Yes, that and how very many years it’s been! Goodness, I’m old! 🙂
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In church Sunday morning the children were asked what they saw that was different in the sanctuary. One youngster immediately pointed to a banner on the chancel wall: “Hope”. Another acknowledged the Advent wreath with its candles. Hope was our focus on the first Sunday of Advent. As the first of the candles was lit, we read the liturgy…
We wait in hope.
We wait for God to be revealed.
We wait for God to tear open the heavens and come down.
“We wait in hope for God to be revealed … for God to come down.”
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