12 Oct 2019

Blessed are the Head-Nodders

"Blessed" by May Yee Ng
CC BY-SA 2.0 Source: Flickr

A Prayer of thanksgiving for those who have blessed my life in the recent past.

Blessed are the head-nodders: who sits in the pew and nods, encouraging me right at the moment when I feel my sermon is falling flat.

Blessed are the fluff-finders: who tell me when my black jacket has white fluff on the back, so I can look my best at an important meeting.

Blessed are the phone-answerers: the friend who answers my call even when busy, because even 30 seconds of connection brings a smile to both our faces.

Blessed are the collaborators: who commit to working together, trusting me to share in a task too big for any of us to do alone.

Blessed are the name-users: who intentionally interject my name while we are chatting, as though it is a sacred word.

Blessed are the complimenters: who seek an honest positivity to elevate each conversation.

Blessed are the picture-senders: who share their life with me through unremarkable daily  images, or remind me of a long-standing joke with a humorous GIF.

Blessed are the joy-seekers: whose focus inspires all around them to also seek and share joy.

Blessed are the laughers: who go out of their way to share in happiness (and don't care that I'm loud!)

Blessed are the fearless: who agree to do what fear would prevent me from doing (i.e. namely, blessing any snakes at the St. Francis service!)

Blessed are the texters: who send  messages that convey love and kinship, regardless of distance.

Blessed are the gym "hey!"-sayers: who encourage my efforts, with no judgement of my extended absence.

Blessed are the pausers: who pause after asking how I am today, because they really want to listen to my response.

Blessed are the gracious: who don't care about the dog-hair on the floor, because they have come to see me (not a perfect house).

Blessed are the grocery-store-smilers: who are happy to see me, and don't care that I'm not really dressed to be seen out in public.

Blessed are the compassionate: who overlook a slightly delayed deadline, because the work is still done.

Blessed are all my friends: whose very presence makes the world a better place, and inspire me to be the best version of myself.

5 Oct 2019

A Life of Prayer

            Many times, I have been asked what a 'typical' day looks like as a parish priest. My answer is the same - aside from prayer, I seldom know!
            That is not to ignore the importance of prayer - quite the opposite, in fact. Any day can lead to any number of encounters - people asking for baptisms, funeral planning, hospital visits, the list goes on. For me, to be invited to pray with and for people as they journey through life is a tremendous privilege; without daily grounding myself in prayer I know I would be less effective as a spiritual leader.
            This week, that privilege was highlighted tremendously. In addition to my daily office, and pastoral visits, it was my week to lead worship in alternative settings: first, at our local hospital's Veterans Unit - which is always a pleasure to connect with those who have served; secondly, at our monthly care home worship; between the two I joined more than 40 enthusiastic lovelies in prayer and praise. It's a tremendous gift to celebrate being the church with those for whom the building no longer defines church.
            I was also delighted to participate in discussions of Anglican formation at the nearby seminary; sharing some of my research and experience of prayer for personal benefit as a parish priest, and the importance of that prayer when exercising our parish ministry. I also had the great honour to preach and preside at a Eucharist with that community, to literally put into practice what I had just shared.
            At other times this week, the unexpected or unknown was couched in prayer: at meetings, in correspondence about discernment, even in an email exchange with a secular business about a customer service issue. The theme of my week was prayer; and what a great gift that is! As Henri Nouwen claimed, it is the only necessary thing.
            So what does a priest's typical day look like? It looks like an opportunity to pray: in words and in actions, in a church or a hallway, in stress or in calm, in established connections and brand-new relationships. A day looks like prayer: for that I thank God.

28 Sep 2019

Sabbath Rest

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you refused." (Isa 30.15b)

         I've noticed a theme in a variety of recent unrelated incidents: an emailed algorithm-derived book recommendation suggesting that one day a week should be entirely screen-free, a snail-mail flyer for a yoga retreat, a social media advert promising to take care of all my health issues by learning how to meditate (at a significant cost, mind!), overheard conversations on the "trend" of breathing deeply to improve sleep. The theme is undeniable: rest!

            The underlying concern that this suggests to me is that society has forgotten how to do just that -we've turned away from the practice of rest, and have even lost the language. We now are expected to pay significant sums and commit much of our time to (re-)learn how to do what should come simply - and naturally - to us. Our days are busy, our calendars are jam-packed (mine's colour-coded). Our weekends are for catching up on chores (and just-one-more work email!), and we plan our 'vacation' time to maximize our pre-conceived goals and objectives.
            So what about rest? Given how we plan and over-plan our lives, it's no wonder we've dropped the ball on resting. We have forgotten to keep the sabbath.
            Sabbath, of course, is not merely a day off or a square on the calendar, it's not a legalistic demand to be counted in days and hours. Sabbath is a holy time, an intentional commitment to "pray and play", to reconnect with God and with our true selves. It is the restorative rest that brings us home.
            Sabbath encourages us to embrace exactly who we are, rather than trying to fit into a societal mold. It makes us crave the deep breath not just of oxygen, but of the spiritual grace that God continually showers upon us. It provides a grounding not just of the body to the earth, but of one of God's creatures celebrating the multitude of connections with the rest of God's creation. It rejuvenates our souls to be the joy-filled and light-hearted centre of the human that is called to live out a holy ministry.
            Sabbath, as Christians understand it, is a great gift that we are invited to delight in; even in the world of non-stop news and events and gatherings. It can happen any time we wish, when we recognise our disconnection from the source of all love, and make the commitment to desire to return.
            "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience." (Heb 4.9-11)

21 Sep 2019

Season of Creation

            We are currently in the Season of Creation; a delightful (and recently designated) time in the liturgical calendar when we are invited to be especially mindful of God's great creation around us. This is easy when we're observing a stunning sunset or listening to the waves on the beach; less so when we're sitting out a hurricane or feeling that annoying bite of a mosquito.
            In the past few weeks, I've entered many conversations where people have admitted feeling disconnected or out of touch, where they have sensed a general malaise within. They are feeling untethered. I suggest that this is (at least partly) as we have disconnected ourselves from the natural world around us; the creation into which God loved us into being.
            Society tries to provide solutions, meditation classes and spiritual workshops. While I am not opposed to whatever feeds the soul, I believe the solution can be much easier (and less costly!)
            When we are feeling at odds with the world around us, it is time to intentionally re-engage: to be awed by God's creation. Grounding ourselves within creation can be as long-term as we like; we don't all have to go mountain climbing or trekking through rainforests (though those both sound ideal to me!) It can be an act as simple as taking a moment to acknowledge the leaves changing colour in your neighbourhood, or listening to the birdsong in the morning. It can be deeply breathing the scent of the earth after a rainfall, or pausing as you feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. God's creation is all around, and always inviting us into awestruck wonder, praise, and thanksgiving.
            Psalm 24 reminds us that the Earth is the Lord's - and all that is in it. This includes US. We are made as a part of the creation, an integral and integrated part; this season of creation encourages us to prayerfully remember where we belong.

14 Sep 2019

Prayers for the Candidates

Screenshot of https://www.elections.ca/content2.aspx?section=can&document=index&lang=e

            It feels like we just went through this time of year: a slight chill in the breeze, the threat/promise of Pumpkin Spice Everything, the eagerness of getting ready to wear boots again...
            And, as per normal every 4 years or so, the shade of the political posturing.
            Despite the federal election being called just days ago, the campaigning has begun.
            I, for one, tend to look forward to times such as these. As a political animal, with a degree in Political Science, I'm quite keen for folks to develop and present platforms on issues and concerns to the people.  I sit prepared, aiming for an open heart and mind, for the door-to-door visits where I can raise my carefully crafted questions around issues of justice (not of the penal code variety) and goodwill for all. I track polls, I watch the results with my election buddy (oh, the commentary!)... I am an engaged citizen in the electoral process. My vote matters!
            Yet... this election, even in the infancy of the campaign, we're seeing some serious mud-slinging. There's trash-talking on all sides; there are personal attacks and snide remarks and cruel intentions... and it appears that it will continue on this low-road of a path for the duration of the campaign.
            So what's a church-going, God-loving, Christ-following person to do?
            We pray.
            Not to get our own ways, or to have our preferred candidate win. Not to have "our" Party dig up more dirt on "their" Party; not to hope for a faux-pas in a debate, not for any ill-wlll.
            But we pray with thanksgiving for a democratic society that allows for every citizen (of age) to vote. We express gratitude for civil discourse on difficult topics. We recognise the personal challenges that every candidate is undergoing, and the hardships on their families; so we ask for God to bless all of the candidates, all of their families and friends, their staff, their neighbours. We ask for travelling mercies for the campaign trail.
            And we pray that the will of God will be reflected in the votes of the people. We pray for our country, for responsible citizenship, and for an election: "Lord, keep this nation under your care. Bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth. Help us elect trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and thus serve you faithfully in our generation to the honour of your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord." (BAS, 678)