25 Jan 2020

Make a Joyful Noise

"IMG_1069" CC BY-NC 2.0 by tambrieann. Source: Flickr

            One of the great joys of my ministry is the opportunity to be church in a variety of venues. This past week, I was sharing in worship at a local care facility. There is a weekly gathering, and local clergy have a rota for providing services. I absolutely love spending time there.
            There's a new member of that community. He suffers from some memory loss, and some hearing loss, and a bit of vision loss. One thing this gentlman id NOT losing, however, is his love of singing. ESPECIALLY hymns!
            So much so, that when our service indicated it was time to sing, he didn't bother waiting for the others to get to the right page. Or for the pianist to start playing. He just started singing. With gusto! With enthusiasm! With volume!
            Truly, he sang with the joy of the Lord. He was going to let the rest of the facility hear his love of Jesus - whether they wanted to or not. He wasn't in tune... or tempo... or range, really. But he made that joyful noise.
            And: so did the rest of us. The pianist skipped bars to catch up to him, we hastily adjusted hymnals to adapt. We sang alongside him, as best we could keep up. We smiled at one another, and our hearts lifted. He inspired us to be more open in our singing than we normally are: and we did so joyfully and unrestrainedly.
            This man made a joyful noise - and by doing so, brought joy to us all - and through us all. Wouldn't it be great if we could all find something that gives us that much joy, and then used that joy to share the joy of the Lord that dwells deep in our hearts?

18 Jan 2020

Rate This Translation: on love and ice cream

            Last weekend, the east coast was getting ready for another storm to hit. Predictions were coming in: rain or snow? How much precipitation? How many bags of #stormchips would be necessary?
            Somewhere in there, a serious communication went out, that changed the conversation. A forecast of "freezing rain or ice pellets" was translated (by a computer) to "freezing rain or ice cream."
            Needless to say, the comments began. Had we left the mainland to become a dessert island? Were we in for a Rocky Road? Would our ice cream Sunday resort to soft serve if the temperatures rose? There were even some fast food comments on (Mc)Flurries and (DQ) Blizzards.
            There were some really creative comments from folks - everyone seemed to behaving a good time about it (even the agency that had posted the original got in on the fun!). We all knew it was a translation error, had a laugh, and carried on our way. (After sharing it several times, of course.)  
            The "rate this translation" feature obviously received some lower-then-normal scores (and the posting agency had quickly amended the post). One word changed the whole tone and message of a paragraph-long communiqué.
            In life, sometimes our translation comes out wrong. We misread a situation, we misunderstand a comment or context. And while it's not always as amusing as ice cream streaming from the sky, with a little bit of grace and patience we can sort out the intended meaning. We can ask for clarification from the source, we can ask a person what they meant, we can presume that autocorrect is (incorrectly) involved.
            If we're willing to do this, we can avoid lots of potential confusion and conflict; but we have to be willing to do it.
            Maybe our challenge for this week is to look at the world with the same forgiveness that we use for weather forecasts: allowing space for correction as needed, presuming any error was unintentional, and embracing humour as it can creep in. Not all of our messaging is going to be perfect: how we respond to those oops moments will show the world how we will respond to them. (Ideally: with love. And ice cream.)

11 Jan 2020

Missing Puzzle Pieces

         I like puzzles.
         This isn't a huge surprise to anyone who knows me. Case in point: currently sitting on my dining room table are a mystery novel, some new (and new-to-me) jigsaw puzzles (there was a sale!), and my crossword-a-day calendar.
         What I don't like, however, is missing pieces.
         A who-dunnit novel with plot gaps or that tries too hard will just annoy me (and sometimes end up the topic of a less-than-flattering conversation). A jigsaw with missing pieces is, to me, just waiting to be upcycled or recycled. (This summer I had a puzzle with an unintentional *extra* piece... and still feel sorry for the person whose puzzle came incomplete!).
         And crosswords - well. My new daily crossword calendar provided significant malcontent in its first week - there were missing clues. As the puzzles had been transcribed from their original publication into the calendar limitations, some of the clues were dropped. As much as 5% of the clues: absent.
         Sure, I could try to put together what the puzzle was meant to be from the other words, but that's not the point. Without the actual clues, I could not properly complete the puzzle. Frustrating, to say the least; and with the possibility of becoming quite a mess.
         Yet from that I pondered how often we do just that in our relationships: we put things together from our best guess, without actually having the necessary information. We fill in the gaps as we would have them, but maybe not as they are intended. And in doing so, even with the best of intentions, our inaccuracies can inadvertently create a mess.
         As I interact with folks, one of the things I say a lot is "Can you tell me more about that?" It's a phrase that I find helps to give me more information about a scenario, so that I'm less likely to fill in the gaps with my own suppositions. It's incredibly helpful as I continue to learn about people and traditions, and as we work together in our shared ministry. It helps to minimise the guessing, to reduce the chance of my own projection, and to better collaborate in whatever desired outcome is being sought. It shifts a puzzle into an understanding.
         I like puzzles, but not with missing clues; and as relationships function best with clarity and clear communication, "Can you tell me more about that?" is a very helpful tool.

4 Jan 2020

Learning To Let Go

Comet and Edwina (and the other Edwina)
          My new dog Comet is having a grand time exploring her new home and surroundings. She checks out the house (room by room, seemingly hour by hour). She checks on her human (who doesn't like a cold nose in the ear at 3am?). She's a curious one: yet her favourite toy always goes with her.
            Edwina the Elephant was one of the toys this girl brought from her foster home - she had loved (read: chewed) it so much that it was falling apart - so a second (intact) Edwina came as well.
            Edwina, either the first or the second, goes everywhere. Edwina goes with her to the window for gazing, and to the bedroom for sleeping, and to the kitchen for eating, and to the door to greet guests, and she even tries to take it outside for our walks. When we return home, Comet blasts into the house to find Edwina. The purple elephant is a constant fixture.
            One of the things that Comet has started to realise, however, is that if Edwina is in her mouth, nothing else can be. She can't pick up the balls that are thrown, she can't eat her food or drink her water, she can't receive treats. In early days, she would sit on Edwina if she *had* to put the toy down.
            It's not as though Edwina is under threat of abduction; I have no intention of taking the toy away, and Watson has shown no interest in it whatsoever. (Watson, in fact, is so smitten, he tries to give her all of his other toys!)
            As time passes (it's barely been 3 weeks!), Comet is starting to trust more. She's now able to move out of a room for a few seconds (usually to sing to a passing squirrel, or perimeter-search the kitchen with hopes of mysteriously-appeared cheese), before going back to check that Edwina has not run away.
            As her trust increases, her need to hold on to Edwina is decreasing. Resultantly, she is experiencing more and more things - more toys to play with, more corners to sniff, more simplified access to post-walk treats. It's a gift to watch her begin to trust both myself and her situation with her most prized possession, in such a way that she is opening herself up to new things.
            I recognise that all of us have our own version of Edwina: something in our lives, which (for good or for ill) we are not willing to put down. Something that is taking up prime position in our lives, our hearts and our minds, and denying new experiences. And I wonder what it will take for us to have the faith and the trust that everything IS okay, and that there are new things awaiting us.
            Our Edwinas may not be purple elephants, they may not even be tangible: but they are there. It's up to us to have the faith to trust that it's okay to let it go - and to be surprised by what God will put in our path when we're ready to receive.