Noticings – May 5, 2021

NOTICINGS…

May 5, 2021

I just noticed something. I forgot to write Noticings today. I’m writing this as I’m sitting down late Wednesday afternoon with a cup of tea after my workday, and only now did it occur to me that today is Wednesday. Maybe I’m not alone. Are the days kind of blurring together for you these days too? We’ve been at this Covid stay at home stuff for over a year, so you’d think we’d be settled into this rhythm by now. But generally we’re not. This whole year has been terribly disorienting on many levels. And we’ve still got a ways to go.

We used to frame our lives by the activities we did. Certain days meant certain doings in certain places. We’re still doing lots of things (at least I hope you are), but we’re mostly doing them from home. We’ve lost that association of place with activity, so our days are becoming blurry, losing some distinctiveness. Sunday mornings we still gather for church, but it’s on your couch. Monday mornings we still gather for our Porch scripture discussion, but we all do it from home now. Etc. Etc. We don’t get to go to the church, and interact with real, live people. It’s not an outing anymore. (Does that make it an ining?)

For people like my spouse and I who are fortunate to be able to work from the safety of our home, our challenge is that work and leisure happen in the same space. That can make it feel like you can’t escape it, like work never ends. Funny how it doesn’t work the other way with leisure never ending. Right now I’m enjoying a cup of tea on my couch, and I’m working. The lines are very blurry. The days are very blurry. The ending date of this pandemic is very blurry. My eyes are very blurry (all this screen time has had an effect on them).

Is anything in focus? I hope so! I hope you can focus on your family and loving one another. I hope you can focus on your faith-deepening journey and love one another. I hope you can focus on this present moment (whatever the heck day it is) and know that you are not alone, you are loved, and you are God’s. I pray that that’s not blurry at all!

And now that I’ve finished writing Noticings I can focus on enjoying my tea. The blend I’m sipping is called ‘Serenity Now’! Yes please, Lord! Happy Saturday everyone. (Tuesday? Friday? Whatever.)

 Shalom,
Rev. Larry

 

Noticings – April 28, 2021

NOTICINGS…

April 28, 2021

I’m moving. Just houses, not churches. No, we haven’t found a place yet. We’re still looking. No, we haven’t sold our home yet. Buy one first, then sell. Yes, we’re well aware of how volatile and wild the real estate market is. I’m really looking forward to moving because then we’ll finally be out of this awful stage. I’m living in a shambles! There are boxes everywhere – piles of keep this, throw that – rooms painted, or waiting to be painted. The drywall person was here doing touch-ups last week. Today the window folks are swarming around replacing all our foggy windows. Geez, home ownership is fun! (Did you notice I switched to sarcastica font there?)

We’re getting very close now to being almost ready to sell when the time comes. Then when the house gets listed I won’t be living in a shambles anymore – I’ll be living in pristinely cleaned, elegantly staged (with someone else’s furniture), pillow-land. That may be worse! But it’s all temporary. For now, for today, I’m living in a shambles. And I’m kind of getting used to it. I can now walk by piles of boxes and cluttered messes and not think much about it. I’m growing accustomed to my shambles – maybe even starting to ignore them. But deep down I wish it was all tidier, and more orderly, and more of what I desire instead of what I’m willing to tolerate.

And then I wonder if God looks (metaphorically speaking) upon my life and thinks to Godself, “Wow! What a shambles! And I ain’t talking about the house! There’s piles of stuff everywhere: there’s a hundred half-finished self-improvement projects, there’s a teetering stack of woulda-coulda-shouldas in the corner, and more than a few boxes of yabbuts in the hallway. How does he live like that?” It’s a fair question. Some days I think about all those inner shambles, and some days I worry that I’m starting to ignore them.

I wonder if God wishes my inner spiritual world was tidier, and more orderly, and more of what God desires, and less of what God just tolerates. And then I remember that God doesn’t really think like that – humans do. God just loves. And loves. God loves my shambles – AND God desires the best for me, which is to be working on doing better with my shambles of a life. Now, I certainly wouldn’t want to live in an elegantly staged pillow-land within myself either. That would be awful – and phony. But I’d sure like to have less shambles. Since I can’t buy a ‘new house’ for myself I guess I’ll have to think about renovations. Anyone know a good contractor? I heard good things about some guy named Jesus…

 Shalom,
Rev. Larry

Noticings – April 21, 2021

NOTICINGS…

April 21, 2021

Well of course it is. Snowing. In late April. Like we didn’t have enough disheartening stuff swirling around in our lives lately. We wake up on what should be a beautiful, warm, sunny spring day and discover that it’s none of those things. It’s cold and snowy and very un-spring-like. But maybe it can still be beautiful? Maybe we might celebrate the uniqueness of it? Maybe we can be glad that it’s given us something fresh to talk (complain) about?

Maybe I can find a way to theologize about it – like how the unexpected can break through at any moment and profoundly impact your life – like how nothing is impossible just because it’s improbable – like how as this present trouble recedes we’ll feel that much more grateful for the returning warmth. Nah. I’d rather gripe! Crappy cold weather, in a crappy never-ending pandemic, with crappy restrictions, and crappy prospects for getting back to something like normal. Harrumph!

That felt good! It’s good to let your feelings out and not push them down and try to squelch them. It’s good to release all that disappointment and frustration – as long as you do it in a safe and healthy way and not at the expense of another person. Go ahead. Shake your fist at the snow. Let it be a symbol of how it feels like everything is working against us these days. Let it represent your frustration or anger with our current state of affairs.

And after you’ve had a good, long, loud, cathartic release – take a deep breath – and look again. It’s falling very gently. The trees are gleaming and shining. It’s all fluffy and pure and clean. We’re not supposed to be out and about anyway, so we can just enjoy the natural loveliness of it all from the warmth of our homes. And yes, it will be gone in a little while, and things will get back to a kind of normal, and the weird April snowstorm of ’21 will become part of our lore.

I suppose I should invite you to go out and make a snowperson, or lay down and make snow angels, or go for a walk and try to catch snowflakes on your tongue. Those sound like fun. As for me, I’m going to pour another cup of coffee, sit by my fireplace fire, and think warm thoughts. And I’m going to be grateful – mostly because I know it’ll warm up soon so I don’t have to shovel! Strange days indeed.

 Shalom,
Rev. Larry

 

Noticings – April 14, 2021

NOTICINGS…

April 14,  2021

Two things happened to me out of the blue on Saturday. One I should have anticipated; the other was pure windfall. Both of them captivated my emotions. The windfall was that as we are packing up our house preparing for our upcoming move (house, not church) we are discovering long-hidden treasures. Out of one such tucked away box I pulled some music gear, including a guitar ‘stomp box’ that I purchased long, long ago, and had kinda sorta thought I still had but hadn’t seen it in over a decade so figured it was gone. There it was – in mint condition. I’ve been playing much more electric guitar lately so I was delighted to rediscover it. I plugged it in and played it – and it sounds absolutely glorious! Out of curiosity I looked up its value on a music site. Let’s just say that ‘vintage’ pedals like that are selling for outrageous amounts of money now. I’m not selling. I’m going to play through it and savour it.

The other thing, the one I should have anticipated, was that it is the anniversary of my parents’ deaths. They died a year less 4 days apart, several years ago. For whatever reason I hadn’t noticed the dates (Sunday and today) approaching. The journey from the elation of rediscovering a lost treasure to the sadness of remembering lost parents was lightning fast, and not very pleasant. Such is life. Sometimes, out of the blue, things bubble up (or leap out) and overwhelm you. Sometimes it’s hard or sad things like grief – and sometimes it’s delightful things like little green guitar gems. It’s life – sometimes bittersweet, sometimes painful, sometimes joyful. These unexpected moments teach us and shape us.

The Easter message is about the eternal rhythm of dying to what was and rising with the new. But that doesn’t mean to close the book and forget what was. It simply means to let it go – to not hold on to what was too tightly because that prevents us from living in the now, and being open what will be. We get to take those memories and happenings with us, but they are only part of our story, not our whole story. Easter says to let go of the hold ‘what was’ has, and embrace ‘what can be’. I’m going to get a twinge of sadness and grief every year at this time. The spiritual learning is to not stay there dwelling on the past for too long. Acknowledge it, embrace it, honour it, learn from it, and then let it go again, and turn toward this glorious new day with new life and new possibilities – and new/old guitar pedals! Dying and rising. Ending and beginning. Losing and finding. Letting go and embracing the new. Happy Easter.

 Shalom,
Rev. Larry

 

Noticings – April 6, 2021

NOTICINGS…

April 6,  2021

I am on study leave this week so there will not be a worship service livestreamed from Faith United this weekend (April 11th). Zeljka and I will return at our usual 10:30 am time on Sunday April 18th.

Rather than try to arrange for a pulpit supply minister to come in and learn our technology in this strange season our Faith United Council decided it would be better to offer our congregation some other online options. One of the positives to emerge from this season of pandemic is that there are now hundreds of United Churches offering online worship. Here are a few options that I would recommend (again):

Parkdale United Church – Ottawa
Rev. Dr. Anthony Bailey is widely regarded as one of our denomination’s best preachers. Their service is at 10:30 am. Click the link to access their website, and then scroll down a bit for the video.

Wall St. United Church – Brockville
Rev. Kimberly Heath is a fine preacher who serves in Brockville. Their service is at 10:00am. Click the link to directly access their live service.

Metropolitan United Church – Toronto
Rev. Karen Bowles is the interim minister at Metropolitan, long one of the “tall steeples” of the United Church. Their service is at 10:40 am. Click the link to directly access their live service.

Or, if you’re the adventurous type, here is a link to the entire catalogue of known United Church online services. You could find something from anywhere across the whole country!
United Church Online Worship Map

Or if you’re the really ‘un-adventurous’ type, here’s a link to Faith United’s ‘the Sunday after Easter’ service (from last year).
Faith United (April 2020)

I hope you enjoy your online worship with our friends and neighbours across this United Church of ours. And I look forward to being with you again on the 18th.

 Shalom,
Rev. Larry

 

Noticings – March 31, 2021

NOTICINGS…

March 31,  2021

Last night I received my first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. I had mixed feelings about getting it. Not for one millisecond about whether I should or shouldn’t be vaccinated. That was easy. A no-brainer as they say. I was, and am, convinced that everyone – EVERYONE – should get vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible. Yes, that means you!

What was holding me back was that I was deemed eligible ahead of many others because I’m a clergy-person, and as such I’m assumed to be in increased contact with many health-vulnerable persons, including conducting funerals. In my particular expression of ministry that is less true than it is for many of my colleagues. At Faith United we are so blessed to have a dedicated and passionate group of pastoral visitors who regularly keep in close contact with many of our Faith United faithful who are not able to keep connected in the easy ways that most of us do. I am so, so grateful to this visiting and care team. Their ministry is vital and essential to Faith United.

But the reality is that I don’t do a lot of that. So when the invite came for clergy in Durham Region to get the vaccine I was hesitant to sign up. I thought I should yield my invitation to those who more urgently need vaccination. What I learned, however, is that there is a lag between supply and demand. The vaccines are available, yet the eligible groups are not signing up as quickly and fully as they could. Simply put, some folks appear to be NOT taking advantage of their opportunity to be vaccinated. So part of the invitation to clergy was to help show that vaccinations are safe and to promote people signing up. That’s good enough for me.

Dear friends in Faith. Please sign up to be vaccinated against Covid-19 as soon as you’re eligible. If you need help navigating the sign-up system please let us know and we’ll get you help. The faster we get the vast majority of our population vaccinated the sooner we can get back to so many of the things that make our lives together wonderful.

I have now been vaccinated, and I would not have done so if I didn’t think it was safe. Trust the science. Trust the wisdom. Trust that we all want the best for one another – and the best way we can all love one another in this current crisis is to all be vaccinated and eliminate the spread of this horrific illness.

I know, it’s Holy Week, and maybe you were expecting a more ‘religious’ Noticings. Here it is! THE most religious thing I can think of. Love one another, as Jesus loved us. Do what is needed to love and protect one another. Sign up. Get vaccinated. In this current moment, I cannot think of any greater love someone could show another than to be vaccinated when the opportunity allows itself for you. All the church services in the world cannot trump the simple act of loving others. Today, love is a shot in the arm.
I got mine. Get yours. Love one another.

 Shalom,
Rev. Larry

 

Noticings – March 24, 2021

NOTICINGS…

March 24,  2021

I guess we were due. In this extraordinary past 12 months where we have not been able to gather in-person for worship (or anything!) we have had to rely on technology – for just about everything. Well, as you probably know, last Sunday that technology failed us. I have dubbed it a tech-tastrophe! (You know how I love making up words!)

It began with some video problems. Mysteriously, two of the videos wouldn’t load into the worship program. That’s why we were a few minutes late starting. Frustrated, I resigned myself to having our scripture reading show upside down(!). Little did I know that was just the start. Realizing during announcements that there was no sound (well, apparently there was but it was so very quiet that only fancy speakers could pick it up) we tried to troubleshoot that problem. I would rather have been in on the jokes that were flying in the YouTube chat box. Y’all were having way more fun than me! J

We couldn’t solve the sound problem so we signed off, ready to record the service and upload it later in the day. Guess what? No sound on the recording either. So we set up a cell phone to record through the air – but that needed a power cord, and in the plugging in of the extension cord (the first one not working, of course) I accidentally unplugged the computer and we had to reboot and reconnect. The actual worship part went well – except that my guitar battery died – and we didn’t have that kind in the sound booth (of course), so I used my little guitar that luckily was in my study at the church. After worship I went to transfer the recording from the computer onto my thumb drive. Guess what? The 1.1 GB file was too big for my 1.0 GB thumb drive (of course). “I know,” I said, possessing just enough tech savvy to make me dangerous, “I’ll just edit the ends and make the file a bit smaller.” I did so – but incomprehensibly when I saved the file (waiting, and waiting) it was actually larger than I started. Seriously! So I had to come back later with a bigger thumb drive.

Next came the video editing. It went pretty smoothly (thank God!) – but it took a long time. Then the video ‘rendering’ process took forever, and the YouTube uploading, and in the end our worship – with boomy, echoey sound – was available for viewing – at 10:45 pm. Only missed our worship time by 12 hours! Yup, it was a complete tech-tastrophe!

As I said at the start – I guess we were due. We’ve had over 50 worship broadcasts since Covid torpedoed us and apart from one Sunday when a truck had physically knocked down an outside internet wire we have not lost a single service due to technology problems, until now. That is a great testimony to the faithfulness and passion of our Communications Team! That we all just went with the flow (and I didn’t get any nasty complaint emails) is a great testimony to how we trust that everyone at our church is doing the best they can, and if things go wrong, well, they just do. That’s life.

I don’t have any profound insight or noticing to offer about our tech-tastrophe. I just thought you might enjoy hearing the whole story. It has a happy ending – today I was at the church and tested the software out – and it worked. I heard sound! Now I can sleep tonight!

 Shalom,
Rev. Larry

 

Noticings – March 17, 2021

NOTICINGS…

March 17,  2021

On the weekend I attended an online meeting for a group that focuses on spirituality and spiritual deepening. As we gathered, and fell into our spiritual groove together, we shared how things were for us these days, and we were each asked to offer a word to describe what was stirring for us. The word that came to me was ‘emerging’. Some of that emerging is nature doing its thing – days lengthening, temperatures warming, signs of spring awakening. Some of my sense of emerging was personal too. There’s the emerging anticipation of my family selling/buying real estate this spring, the emerging hope of vaccine acquisition and distribution which will eventually lead to returns to some long unavailable rhythms, and the emerging realization that Lent is just about over and Holy Week and Easter are right in front of us. (See below.)

But the most profound emerging for me has been that I wrote a new song last week! Apart from some kids songs, and a couple of new choruses for old hymns, I haven’t done any ‘serious’ song-writing for a couple of years now. I noticed a couple of months ago that some lyric and music fragments were starting to emerge. And then in preparation for an upcoming awareness and fundraising event (March 27th) for our ministry partners in El Salvador I found myself offering to contribute a song. Except I don’t have any El Salvador songs. Well, at least I didn’t. Now I do! I took a really evocative set of chords that had been ‘emerging’ for me and married them to some poetry I had written while in El Salvador a couple of years ago, and with a bit of massaging the song emerged. Singer-songwriter James Taylor says that for him the songs are already there waiting for him, and he just has to get quiet enough to listen. Then he says he gets to be the first person to hear them into being. This is profoundly true for me. I had to get quiet enough to hear the music. That is easier said than done when the noisiness of one’s brain is swirling like a whirlwind.

You can only do so much to get quiet. Your circumstances sometimes only permit you to go so far. It’s unreasonable to lay on an expectation of peaceful, silent bliss when your life is anything but peaceful and silent. But when it does start to happen – when you can feel something emerging – that nudge, that twinge, that inspiration, that extra bit of noticing – I hope you will try to give it some attention and intention. It comes out as songs for me – it could be something else entirely for you. It’s not the thing that matters – it’s the quiet – and letting God’s Spirit move – and then receiving what emerges.

 Shalom,
Rev. Larry

 

Noticings – March 10, 2021

NOTICINGS…

March 10,  2021

Did you know we’ve been at this for a year now? I’ll be saying more about it on Sunday, but this weekend marks the one-year anniversary of our last in-person worship before we had to make our shift to online. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Faith United had been offering online, live-streamed worship for a few years before Covid. You could be forgiven if you didn’t realize that. First, most of us didn’t really need it because we could worship in-person. Second, well, to be honest, it wasn’t very good. I mean, it was ok, and it was something, but we didn’t really put a lot of energy into it because we were so focused on our usual in-person worship. We had a camera at the back of the church – to give the feeling of being in a chair in the sanctuary – and from time to time we’d zoom in on the preacher, or the choir, or the screens.

But then when Covid forced us ALL online we quickly realized that our online experience, such as it was, wasn’t nearly good enough. So we adapted. And over the months (year!) we’ve continued to adapt. Now (at the risk of sounding immodest), when you tune in on YouTube for Sunday worship with Faith United you get a pretty good online experience. We’ve rearranged the sanctuary and created a ‘set’ to broadcast from. Zeljka (our music facilitator) and I are both quite close to the camera. We have variety through video scripture and music ministry. We are not on the cutting edge of innovation, but we’ve created what I think is a very engaging and intimate connective space. Even though we’re not together, we still feel togetherness.

Here’s the thing. Happily, thankfully, finally, in a few months (maybe September or October?) we should be able to safely return to in-person gatherings. Awesome! Fantastic! But what of our online presence? What about the community of worshippers we have who don’t live close enough to Faith to drive in? Or those who were previously unable to participate in-person but who now can because the online experience is rich enough? What might worship look like when we return? If we put the camera at the back again we’ll lose all our online intimacy. If we put a camera right in front of me and I focus on that then those gathered in-person may feel disconnected even though they’re right there. Clearly, some sort of ‘hybrid’ worship design is needed. Indeed! But what? How?

So we’ve begun a conversation. I posted these questions in our Facebook group, and I’m hoping anyone who reads this Noticings will feel free to offer their wisdom, and insight, and experience into our discussion too. You could send me a note anytime!
Please give these questions some prayerful thought:
What are the aspects of online worship that you would like to see continued even though we’ll be back in-person? (eventually)
Should online worship be an ‘add-on’ extra, or equal with our in-person, or should in-person be the ‘add-on’ to our online church?
Would you consider worshipping from home as a regular thing or an exceptional thing (come fall)?

I haven’t worked this all out yet, but I’m thinking I’ll put together a diverse group of Faith United folks who can help me guide and frame this conversation. I think it may be one of the most important conversations a church can have at this time – and those who choose not to have it, or choose to just “go back to how it was” are going to face very hard times in the future. The reality is that lots of folks really like their online couch-church experience. Not to say online should be the only thing – but for some it’s their preferred thing. This will be our big question as we navigate 2021: How will we be church together in the season ‘after’ Covid?
I’m looking forward to your creativity and passion as we go!

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

Noticings – February 17, 2021

Noticings…

February 17, 2021

Today is Ash Wednesday. It’s the day that begins the liturgical Season of Lent. Lent is a time of introspection, prayer, and preparation for Holy Week and Easter. Ash Wednesday launches the season with a day of confession, repentance, and commitment. If we were in-person we would light candles, sing hymns, pray prayers, and receive the “imposition of ashes” on our foreheads (or wrists). The ashes are a deeply spiritual symbol of letting go of what was, and remembering that we are not alone in our journeys. We are loved. We are held by God’s Presence. The traditional Ash Wednesday language uses the word “dust” to symbolize the precariousness of our existence, and it emphasizes the “rending” of garments which in Jewish culture is a sign of great sadness and mourning. Yes, it’s pretty heavy spiritual lifting!

I prefer emphasizing renewal on Ash Wednesday – and a commitment to journey through the Season of Lent with intentionality and prayerfulness. As I impose ashes on a person’s forehead I always say these words: “An ending and a beginning. You are marked in love.” The ending is what was. The beginning is what will be. There is much possibility in what will be. And there is mystery, and the unknown, and probably some angst about venturing forth into it. That’s where the second part comes in. “You are marked in love.” The ashes are a visible sign of the ever-present love of God. A visible sign of an invisible grace – that’s the definition of a sacrament!

While we can’t be physically together for Ash Wednesday this year I will offer you two ways to mark the day.
1. Join Moderator Richard Bott and the General Council staff for “A Litany of the Masks for Ash Wednesday.” This recorded video of the General Council chapel service offers a time for prayer, scripture, and will help us prepare for our Lenten spiritual practice. You’re invited to attend with a short piece of string or yarn (20 cm), or some Lego, or a string with seven beads, or a ribbon and seven buttons…and some glue! And please bring your mask. (You don’t need to wear it, but please bring it.)
It is available anytime on YouTube by clicking this link.

2. Join me tonight at 7:15 pm for a special Ash Wednesday edition of “Songs Along the Way.” It’s not a full Ash Wednesday service, but the song is very introspective, and the prayers are expanded to include the Ash Wednesday themes and imagery. (Still just 10 minutes long.) It is pre-recorded, but I’ve enabled the “live chat” feature for anyone who would like to be online together with me and others at 7:15 tonight.
You can access it at our Faith United YouTube channel anytime afterward as well.

One: May the blessing of God go with us
All: as we journey together in wonder.
One: May we trust in the Way of Christ
All: and walk in his peace.
One: Surely, God is in this place and every place!
All: On my Lenten journey, help me notice!

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

Noticings – February 10, 2021

Noticings…

February 10, 2021

We’d invited them to do it, and we’d prepared for it, but it was a little uncomfortable. Ok, at times quite uncomfortable. This spring my wife and I intend to buy a house in the country with trees, and elbow room, and scenery. I’m prepared to make a 30ish minute commute to Faith – although that’s significantly more than my current commute which is about 30 seconds. In order to buy our dreamy retreat we have to sell our current home. And that’s why we had two visits from our realtor and ‘stager.’ Times being what they are the visits were both via video call. To prepare we spent the weekend dutifully cleaning and decluttering our house. Well, the first round anyway. We know we have many more rounds to go. And they weren’t shy to tell us that!

We’re not pack rats, or hoarders, but neither are we neat freaks. Plus we have the overflow of two adult children who have varying amounts of clutter cluttering up our clutter! There is lots to love about our current home (especially if you’d like to buy it in a couple of months!), but I confess that as I was holding the iPad and walking them through the house all I could see was the clutter. As we turned on all the lights the clutter leapt into clear focus. It’s everywhere. The task of getting in there and clearing it away is going to be monumental. But it’ll be worth it. It needs doing. We’ve put it off for too long.

I can’t help but connect all this to my spiritual life. The tie-in with Lent, which starts next week, is blatantly obvious. The season of Lent is all about introspection, and allowing God’s light to shine into the hidden corners of ourselves and reveal the clutter. Friends, we’ve all got spiritual clutter. All of us! Some of our ‘stuff’ is just untidy, or careless, some is pretty messy, and some may well be downright ugly. We could choose to ignore it and keep the lights off. But that’s not very spiritually healthy. So in Lent we do our spiritual spring cleaning. We let down our guard and let God’s light shine. Did I mention how bright that light is? And how it reveals stuff we may not want to see? “We’d invited them to do it, and we’d prepared for it, but it was a little uncomfortable. Ok, at times quite uncomfortable.” The big difference is that God’s light, while incomparably bright, is also warm and loving. And God will work with us on our decluttering. We are not given a list and
marching orders. We are given a hug, and a hand. And then we need to get to work. Something to think about as Lent looms.

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

Noticings – February 3, 2021

Noticings…

February 3, 2021
This morning I laid in bed and listened to the wind bluster, blow, and swirl outside. It sounded cold and forbidding. Now, one of the positive developments of our current situation is that I have found my running legs again. I’ve been running in the mornings. So when I heard that nasty wind raging outside I thought to myself, “Thank God I run on a treadmill!” Had I been an outdoors runner I may very well have just rolled over and gone back to sleep. But I didn’t. And I had a lovely (warm) run this morning, sweaty and smelly and watching TV.

Then I thought about church. (No, not because of the sweaty and smelly part!) I thought about how this massive pandemic disruption in our collective rhythm has functioned like that nasty wind this morning. We can’t stop the wind, but we can decide how best to navigate our way through it. Instead of rolling over and going back to sleep – instead of saying, “Oh well, the church building is closed and we can’t gather in-person so I guess I’ll find something else to do on Sundays,” you chose something different. You participate in worship online. I don’t know if you do it from a treadmill but I do know you’re watching. Our view numbers are wonderful, and your continued financial support has been remarkable. And on top of that you are reaching out supportively to one another, connecting (appropriately) socially, and participating in various church food drives, knitting campaigns, landscaping, and more. You didn’t roll over and go back to sleep. That’s awesome.

Winds are always going to blow. Calamities are always going to befall. Such is life. We all have some choices as to how we’ll respond. As far as church goes, I think we’re all pretty fed up with not being able to be together, but we’re not going to let obstacles keep us from being the church together. We have adapted and continue to adapt. We find ways to do things as best we can. We love, love, love. I’m grateful for you and the ways you’ve adapted with us. And I’m really glad you haven’t rolled over and gone back to sleep. The treadmill calls!

 Shalom,
Rev. Larry

Noticings – January 27, 2021

Noticings…

January 27, 2021
It took me 30 minutes to shovel it from my driveway. It took my neighbours 10 minutes to scrape it from their cars. And it took my dog Billie 10 seconds to have her entire head covered in it. The difference was me and my neighbours complained; Billie was in heaven! It was a sight to see. She’s always loved the snow, but yesterday when we took her for a walk it was like she had discovered something brand new. And it was the best thing ever! She was so excited by the snow that she was literally running circles around us trying to stick her face in every single snowflake there was. She didn’t want to miss any of them. So much snow. So much fun! When she started diving head first into snowbanks all we could do was laugh.

You could say (and of course I will) that she was utterly present to that present moment. This is one of the great gifts that dogs have, and a great lesson that they can teach us. I remember seeing this wonderful cartoon that showed a person walking their dog. Above their respective heads were thought bubbles. The human’s thought bubble was filled with desks, papers, cars, tools, offices, kids, computers, phones, etc. The dog’s thought bubble contained exactly the same things as the scene around them; trees, flowers, birds, grass, other dogs, sunshine. While the human appeared to be on a walk they were actually still fussing about their life. The human was ruminating about the past, and worrying about the future. Their thoughts were everywhere except being present to that present moment. The dog, however, was fully present, drinking in the sacredness of that gift.

Yeah, I know, dogs are simpler creatures, and humans don’t have the luxury of just letting all that other stuff go. We have to work. We have to make money. We have to solve problems. Dogs just get to go for walks, play with toys, and dive headlong into snowbanks. I can’t live a dog’s life. But my dog and her ridiculous, joyful antics in the snow yesterday shook me out of my overcrowded thought bubbles and focused me on that present moment. I saw her joy, and I felt joy. I saw her revelling in the moment, and I found myself revelling. It was about as sacred as it gets! I don’t know if I can get as excited about shovelling my driveway as Billie gets about playing in the snow, but I’m hoping that next time I pick up my shovel, or go for a walk, or sit at my computer and type up a Noticings, that I’ll try to quiet my swirling thoughts and look for the joy in the moment. If I can get half as much out of this moment as my doggo got out of our walk yesterday I would be blessed beyond measure.

 Shalom,
Rev. Larry
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