The heart of the matter…

LandscapeI have a love hate relationship with twitter and other forms of social media. I’m amazed at all the conversations that go on and the inexhaustible ocean of information stokes the flames of my insatiable curiosity. It’s hard for me to put down the iPad as I find one more reason to be incensed by the political dramas that play themselves out in the twitterverse.

There are times when I’m overwhelmed by the noise as I try to wade through the material always looking for meaningful stuff. But far too often I find myself distracted from my every day life in ways that I regret later.

So I begin to wonder about pressing the delete button on the alternate universe that is my social media life. And then I read something as powerful as this piece on forgiveness http://t.co/hszg2EpHkx and I’m reminded that sometimes it is worth combing through all of the noise.

The blogosphere is just another opportunity for us to share with others a little bit of who we are, in the hopes that we can connect with others in ways that are both supportive and challenging on this road to becoming human.

Social media has it’s downfalls.  Most times what’s out there is messy even downright hurtful, but even in the midst of all  of that distracting noise, we get an opportunity to glimpse hope and healing. Social media can open us to community.

Navigating through the streets of my city is not so different than figuring out my way through this new world of social media. There are things and stories that distract and keep me focused on insignificant things and then in the midst of that daily life, I’m presented with a story, a shared moment, that take me deeper into the world of community and spirit as together another human being and I discover what it means to share this humanity with one another.

I don’t know about you but I yearn for those times when we get to authentic relationship with one another. Not the outward appearance that we project to the world for our protection and our safety, but those times when we connect in ways that get us to the heart of the matter, genuine and authentic relationship.

You and I are just trying to figure it all out. In the midst of it there is a lot of noise that drowns out those moments in which we can get to the heart of the matter. Then someone comes a long in a moment in time shares from the depths of who they are and we are both changed.

 

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The Dawning of Hope – An Easter Sermon

9101400819_fecd977022_o (2)Over the past couple of weeks you might have come across a powerful series of photographs published by the New York Times showing the stories of reconciliation between some of the victims and perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide. (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/06/magazine/06-pieter-hugo-rwanda-portraits.html?_r=0)

The Rwandan genocide took place in 1994 after the death of the President. Hutus began targeting Tutsis and by the end of the turbulent 3 month period over 800 000 Tutsis were killed and 250 000 people, mostly Tutsi, fled the country as refugees.

20 years ago, in the aftermath of an ethnic blood letting, I’m sure it was hard to see the resurrection promise of new life as they surveyed death and destruction. As tears streamed from their eyes, I imagine that Christophe Karorero, Viviane Nyirama, Cansilde Kampundu and others featured in the photographs couldn’t see themselves reconciling with the ones who had brought them so much pain in the Good Friday of the Tutsi people.

It was only after years of working through the pain and sorrow were they able to see hope. One survivor, Mnganyinka said, “I was like a dry stick; now I feel peaceful in my heart, and I share this peace with my neighbours” (see link above).

When we’re in the pits of despair, we don’t always get to hope very quickly. It isn’t usually until we’ve had some time to think, some time to heal, some time to process that hope pierces the great sorrows of our hearts and allows us to see the risen Christ.

But this roller coaster ride that we take during Holy Week makes our heads spin as we go from crying Hosanna, “Lord save us” at our Palm Sunday service to “Crucify him” as we read the story of the Passion of Jesus. This weekend as we go from the despair of seeing God die on the cross to the hope of the resurrection, we can make the mistake of thinking that if sorrow lasts too long, there is something wrong with us.

When we are blinded by pain and sorrow, we are more than ready to get out of the darkness that engulfs us. We are ready: ready to grasp joyous victory of hope returning from the dead; ready for hope to turn the world upside down; ready to give birth to something new in our lives.

But sometimes even in the midst of a faith that holds tight to the promise of resurrection that hope is still elusive. Even as we raise our voices to sing, “Now all the vault of heaven resounds” we still yearn for the fulfillment of that hope in our every day world. As we raise our voices in Alleluia, we long for our sprits to ascend from the depths and find their home in the heart of God.

I think the gospel of John captures that perplexity about what was happening as the disciples went to the tomb and were confronted with an empty one.

I think the New Testament itself is a way of coming to grips with what that empty tomb meant to the disciples, to Israel and to the world.

As I read John’s account of the resurrection, I wondered if Mary felt much like we do in our own grief as she travelled to the tomb that day to connect with the One over whom she grieved. And I’m not surprised to find her confused and perplexed as she meets Jesus after finding the tomb empty that first Easter morning.

John describes her as being beside herself with grief because she had no idea where they took her Lord’s body. Her Easter surprise, her hope was standing right there in front of her and she couldn’t see it for the tears in her eyes and the clay in her feet. She was human and those feelings of grief consumed her so that she couldn’t see the hand of God. She was so wrapped up in her fear that she couldn’t see the dawn of a new day that would give new hope not just to her but to the whole world.

It makes me wonder just how many times we have our own Easter surprises staring us in the face and we can’t see how God is giving birth to new things until we’ve had some distance, until we look back at our own footprints in the sand and realize how God was with us during those tough times.

So when the joy of being an Easter people eludes us; when we desperately need the hope of the risen Christ we gather together with others who hope.

  • Together we tell each other the stories of our faith.
  • Together we hear the stories passed down through the centuries of new life.
  • Together, as we sing we begin to see the risen Jesus.
  • Together we rest in the promise that even if our eyes are clouded with tears and our hearts are weighted down with anxiety, we can live in hope.

For the next 50 days we celebrate Easter. It is a reminder to us that resurrection and the hope it brings takes time to see because of those tears cloud our eyes. But just as Jesus took time to visit with his disciples at the tomb, in the upper room and on the Road to Emmaus, so too will Jesus come to you.

Rwanda itself is only beginning to see the hope of the future as they share their stories and in their faces, we see that the hope of the Risen Christ can be ours too no matter how dark the present.

So if the grip of grief and death have you in its’ claws this joyous Eastertide; if the alleluias sometimes get stuck in your throat in the midst of the heavy burdens we carry, remember that you are not alone as you walk this Easter journey. Christ is standing nearby waiting for the moment when your eyes will catch a glimpse of the dawning of hope.

Before you know it, your own Easter surprise will and you will be able to shout alleluia with Mary, alleluia with Peter and alleluia with the disciple who loved him.

Alleluia, Christ is risen.
Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Amen.

 

255 Days

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“Mommy, you’re going to die in 255 days,” was the jarring comment I heard this morning while preparing breakfast for my clan.

But it got me thinking as I went for my walk later, how would my life change if I knew I only had 255 days left…

To be honest, it was pretty uncomfortable to think about. Yes, I would get to see my youngest child go to school but I wouldn’t get to see her finish her first year, let alone be there for all the graduations along the way. And my heart cried, for her, for our family and for me.

So just what would I do…

  • I’d go for ice cream as many days as I could stand. (Woodlands and Scoops, here I come!)
  • I’d play board games until my family got tired of them.
  • I’d start my own end of life book club and finally read War and Peace, maybe with my mom and sister if they’d like to do that! http://theendofyourlifebookclub.com.
  • I’d visit all of the places I dearly love like Goderich, Edmonton, Camrose.
  • I would have deep, heartfelt conversations with family and friends I’ve both remained in touch with and reconnect with some I haven’t.
  • I’d explore some new places with my family. (I think we’d all need to take the year off to do it).
  • I’d finish all my scrap booking as one last gift to my husband and children so they could remember all of our precious times together.
  • I’d spend more time playing almost anything my daughters wanted to.
  • I’d decorate cookies with my beloved nephews and sing silly songs with my lovely nieces.
  • I’d go swimming, learn to ride a bike and find all kinds of adventures to do with my children.
  • I’d spend as much time with my husband, daughters, mom, dad, sister, brothers, in-laws, nieces and nephews as humanly possible.
  • I’d try to live in grace and worry less about doing it right.

But the thing is, it’s not just about what I’d do but about what I’d stop doing.

  • I’d stop worrying about the dishes and the cleaning.
  • I’d try not to hold grudges.
  • I’d forget about what people think about me so much and live.
  • I’d try to reconcile all my relationships in the moment and not wait for some long awaited time in the future that may never come.

So if I’d do all those things and refrain from these others, it’s made me think about what I’d prioritize each day. I think I’m going to go right now, print out this list and try to live each day as if it were my last…not because I think my daughter is a prophet but because I don’t want to have any regrets at the end of the life I will live.

Paralyzed by my own expectations

I’m having a difficult time writing this next blog post. I’ve got about 9 posts on the go and I just can’t finish one of t7368998274_14fb709716_o (2)hem. Try as I might, I can’t seem to write just the precise sequence of words that will somehow measure up to my level of expectation.

My mom reminded me of that today that my need to be unique in a perfect sort of way has haunted me all my life.

I can think of so many areas where this was the case. My whole life’s experience with physical activity is just one example. Piano, riding bike, singing alto and learning to knit are all areas where I expected to excel the moment I began. When I didn’t, I just assumed I wasn’t any good at whatever it was that I was learning at the time. End of the story. No hard work and determination for me.

This year, I decided to take up piano and started taking lessons from my daughter’s teacher. I’m proud to say that 6 months later I am now playing hands together and working in Grade 3 books. I still can’t believe that the music that I hear comes from these fingertips.

Thanks to my husband’s influence, this last decade I’ve been trying to live by his motto, if at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Lately, I’ve been reading studies in educational psychology that show the need for grit in the face of failure(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaeFnxSfSC4). Mozart himself may have seemed like a genius but in fact he was practicing daily the piano almost twice as long as his contemporaries (see linked video).

One reason that I kept at piano this fall is because my teacher wouldn’t let me stop practicing a piece until I had mastered it. I tried to hint to her for weeks that I should move on to something else because I just wasn’t any good at it and still she kept assigning it for another week, giving me valuable advice on how to practice. She showed no judgement but told me when it was getting better, even when I couldn’t hear it myself. I can’t tell you how good it was to move from that Grade 1 level book that I had been in for years.

One of those things that keeps me trying even when I’m failing is the feeling that I’m supported and loved even when I fail. I think that’s why it’s been so much easier lately because I know that the love that I experience is firm and steady, not changing at the whim of any circumstances. Through my relationships with my husband and others I have met throughout my journey, I am feeling more deeply the love of a great God.

It is love and acceptance in those moments when I’m struggling where I find the grace to sustain me in the midst of all of my failures and shortcomings. It is in those moments that I’m able to persevere.

I just hope and pray that I too can impart that love and acceptance to my children. Lord, hear my prayer.