The Thin Thread Of Life

Recently I heard from someone close that her oldest son, a married man with three teenage kids, has been suddenly diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. He’s in his early 40’s. They give him a couple of months. BOOM – just like that, no warning, no early symptoms!!

A few days ago a friend shared how she’d been driving down a rural road recently. Conditions were a wee bit slippery, but nothing crazy. Till the car in front of her lost traction and slid into the path of an oncoming vehicle. The impact killed the occupants of both cars, who all happened to be roughly my age. My friend managed to avoid being part of the accident – just. She was the only witness. All in the blink of an eye.

Later today I’m headed to the funeral of a friend’s mom.  She was older, but not way out there – not by today’s standards.  Recently her health had been failing.  And last weekend she passed away.

It all made me aware, again, that it doesn’t matter if we’re young, or just think we’re young(er), but oh man, oh man, life she hangs on an awfully thin thread. We don’t know – we just DON’T know when our thread will snap.
And, yeah, I know – we can’t live every day with a dark fear of that. But being aware of the gift called “today” is worth treasuring – saying “Thanks” every day we wake up alive. Every day. As well as being gratefully aware that standing in Eternity, ready to receive us, is our Loving Saviour Jesus.

There’s also this piece – earlier today I was blessed to be able to share a significant spiritual conversation with someone. This individual is spiritually aware and sensitive. But not in a living relationship with Jesus. But the conversation we started ain’t done. More will happen. And she’s now on my prayer list – “Holy Spirit, in your sovereign grace please allow me more opportunities to build a bridge between her and Jesus.” Can’t wait to see the next part. Especially knowing that one day her thread of life will snap, too. And what an amazing thing it would be to know that our conversations would be part of her coming to saving faith.

Do you have someone on your prayer list like that?
If not, may I encourage you to ask the Lord to point you towards someone for whom you can begin praying for such opportunities.
And – plan on being here at KCRC for worship later this Spring. We’ve got an exciting series planned, designed to help equip all of us to better have such spiritual conversations with others.

What Are You Expecting?

        What do you expect?
        What do you HONESTLY expect that God will give as a response when you stop once in a while to ask:
        “God, what would you like me to notice?”
        “Is there someone you want me to connect with?”
        “Is there something you want to communicate to me?”
        There’s a bible principle that I think applies in situations like this:
To whoever has more will be given (see Matthew 13:12; Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18; 19:26).
The one who is faithful with little, will be put in charge of much (Matthew 25:23)
There are many ways this functions, but one of them is that when we expect the Lord’s Holy Spirit to communicate with us and directly guide us, when we look for it and are willing to respond in obedience to the communication we receive — when we do that, we will receive more such contact.  But when we don’t pay attention, when we don’t act on what the Lord DOES send our way, the voice of the Spirit will go silent.
Someone passed me this quote recently:
        “The true disciple is an expectant person, always taking it for granted that there is something about to break through from the Master, something about to burst through the ordinary and uncover a new light on the landscape.
        “And I think that living in expectancy–living in awareness, your eyes sufficiently open and your mind sufficiently both slack and attentive to see that when it happens–has a great deal to do with discipleship, indeed with discipleship as the gospels present it to us. Interesting (isn’t it?) that in the gospels the disciples don’t just listen, they’re expected to look as well. They’re people who are picking up clues all the way through.”  [Rowan Williams]
As we continue the 60/60 Journey, may that kind of watchful expectancy be yours.
And, may you find courage to act on what you receive.
And then – wait to see what else will be sent your way.
I’ve got a couple more stories to share this Sunday.
Hope to see you there.

Can We Hear Him?

Peter’s example should stand as a cautionary tale to all those who have not addressed the issues of race and ethnicity nearly as much as Peter, nor received a fraction of the revelation that he did, to humble themselves and pray as David did in Psalm 19:12: “Who can discern his lapses and errors? Clear me from hidden [and unconscious] faults (Amplified).”.

They make the wheels go round

Well, it’s been a busy week here at KCRC.
Actually a busy few weeks.
Annual spring clean up & maintenance.
Partnering with Kemptville’s refugee initiative, and Kemptville Youth Centre – helping them to raise thousands of dollars.
Gathering round a grieving family, celebrating the life of a beloved mom & grandma.
Supporting others through difficult times of surgery and other complicated life issues.
And – week after week, gathering to do a spiritual and mental <reset> as to who and what REALLY matters in our lives, as we gather in worship before the face of God.
Know what makes all of these activities possible?
Volunteers.
Lots and lots of volunteers.
Willing and happy volunteers.
Lending their time and love and efforts in all sorts of different ways – hugging, praying, smiling, crying, encouraging, baking, scrubbing, painting, sweeping, stacking…..
Why, you ask?
Because they care.
KCRC is a community filled with people that love about each other, and that cares about the municipality in which we live;  people whose love and care is a bubbling-up overflow of the love that Jesus first shows to them.
And that, folks, is Christianity at its best.
Connecting in a loving way with Jesus, and then letting that love splash over into the lives of others in generous, free, almost reckless ways — gracious ways.
It is totally awesome!!
I’m so GRATEFUL to be able to part of a believing community, a real community like KCRC.
And pray that as we experience and share this grace-filled life, that others with whom we connect will get a taste of it, and “join the party” – becoming part of the Jesus-following community here.
Will you join me in praying for that?

There For Each Other In The Dull Times

Last Sunday we were thinking together about the “grey zones” in our lives. Remember? The dull, drawn-out, wonder-when-it-will-ever-end seasons of struggle.  If you missed it, the podcast is posted here on PKN.

Funny thing about those times – they often see darker and more confusing when you’re right in the middle of them, than when you are on the outside looking in. Way more than once I’ve listened in to someone commenting on another person’s struggles, saying something like, “Well, if ONLY they’d….” and then out comes the solution. Think this way, act that way – and no problem!

It’s SO easy to judge another person’s situation, their actions, their motives.
Far MORE challenging to take the time and energy to really understand what they’re going through by spending time with them, listening and listening some more. And, before offering the quick fix, taking time to get in touch with the not-quite-together pieces of our own lives. Remember what it felt when we were frustrated? Remember how our energy drained away when we couldn’t see a workable solution? Remember how we wanted to curl up in a corner when things didn’t work out, again?

In Romans 3 we read about the perfect law of God that measures everybody’s life, and declares everyone to be walking a crooked path. In other words, we all have those grey, questionable, not-very-shiny places and pieces to our story. And then comes this interesting phrase – “so that every mouth may be silenced…” (v.19). Whatever else it might mean, I believe that part of what that verse is saying is that when we realize our own incompleteness we become way less likely to judge others and their stuckness or frustratingly slow progress at this or that.

Galatians 6 speaks in a similar way. it begins by telling us as a spiritual community to be active in gently helping those whose lives have come off the rails. Restore them. Gently. That’s what it says in v.1. And then right after that, “But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” In other words, we can all fall. We can all one day wake up to discover a piece of our lives that has blown apart. We can – yes, every one of us – easily make a dumb decision (one we don’t realize is dumb till it’s too late) that ends up creating a huge mess, leaving us in a dull, grey zone for a long long time while we try to clean it up (if we even can).
And then verse 2 – “Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Carry each others burdens.

I’m so grateful that God brought us to be part of the KCRC community.
Because I so appreciate the way this is a community that understands that, and works lovingly and carefully and gently to do EXACTLY that – carry each others burdens.
And I pray for the love and care and encouragement of Jesus to flow in beautiful ways as you continue to reach out to each other, and to people beyond our doors.

Grey zones don’t go away very easily.
And they be so terribly draining.
But when someone quietly and gently comes alongside, somehow it doesn’t seem quite as grey.
And isn’t near so draining.

Thanks for being there!!!

The Lights Went On – And I Don’t Know “Why”

So, guess what?
I turned on a light switch.  Yup, just reached over and gave ‘er a flick.
And you won’t believe it – the lights came ON!
Just like that – poof! – on they went.
You’re probably thinking, “Of course they did, dummy.  They always do.
But wait, I don’t think you get it.
You see, I don’t understand very much about the physics and chemistry of deuterium or U-235 & U-238 atoms, and how they work together inside the Candu reactors that power so much of the electricity in our province.
I used to – but that was many years ago when I was an engineering student at University Of Toronto.
Most of that understanding has vaporized.
I don’t get it – and yet it happens anyway.
And I’m OK with that.  Don’t need to understand everything before using it.
Like the car – used to think that I understood vehicles pretty well, but with all the fancy computers and chips and boards on these suckers today…. not so much.
Anyway, the key turns, the engine hums, and the wheels turn.
Brings me where I need to go, and home even.
All good.
There are all sorts of things in life, come to think of it, where I haven’t a sweet clue of what all goes on behind the scenes and yet I’ll be part of it, use it, live it.
And that includes my faith life.
There is SO, SO, SO much that I don’t understand of how and why things work the way they do.
Beautiful stuff.
And the not-so-much stuff.
Blessings.
And pains.
Every once in a while I find myself asking, “Why?”
        WHY do I deserve to experience such a wonderful blessing?
        WHY do I have to go through such a rough patch?
        WHY does so-and-so have to experience what they do?
Rarely does a clear answer show up.
Mostly what comes is just the inner strength to get through whatever, or the blessed presence of others whose strength makes facing the struggles possible, and makes sharing the joys far richer.
It’s as if God has determined that what he wants is for me to flick the switch, and turn the key, and live my life as best I can during whatever few years he gives to me here on earth.
To live it:
        a/ loving him with all I’ve got.
        b/ caring for and loving those he places in my life as best I can.
        c/ when I’m done a & b, repeat.
And leaving all the behind the scenes stuff to his ultimate power and wisdom.
In the Old Testament story of Job, there are all sorts of words spilled where the suffering man and a bunch of his friends battle round and round trying to make sense of the horrible disasters that invade Job’s life.  Some of what they say is plainly dumb.  Some sounds pretty wise.  It goes on and on.  And then, right at the end of it all, God speaks up.  Not with an explanation, though.  All he does is convince Job’s smarty-pants friends to stop blabbing, and Job, too.
        In the case of Job’s story, we the readers get a little peek at the “WHY” – though even then, we are left with all sorts of questions.
        Job NEVER gets a peek.  He is just asked to keep living, and to trust the final outcome to God.
In the New Testament there is an epic chapter – Hebrews 11 (you can read it here).  That chapter lists name after name after name of people who had all sorts of experiences in their lives — some of them really awful — that could have had them questioning “WHY” again and again.  And I’m sure some of them did.
Many most of them did, at least somewhere along the way.
Like most of us do, at least somewhere along the way.
But at the very end, verse 39-40 of Hebrews 11, the Good Book tells us that they all hung on to their faith, and kept putting one foot in front of the other because they knew, they really knew, they deep down trusted and knew that what we all see and feel and experience in this trip through life is just CHAPTER ONE of our existence.  After death comes CHAPTER TWO.
And that’s the bigger chapter.  The better chapter.  The beautiful chapter.
        What we do and live now in chapter one is just prep for chapter two.
Precisely how it all connects and works is totally beyond us.  Like nuclear fission.
        But it IS connected.
        Trust that it is so.
        And keep living.
        And keep your faith that the outcome remains in the hands of a Great God – even when the stuff of chapter one seems to be going all up in smoke the way Fort McMurray is right now.
Just because you don’t understand, don’t see the logic, don’t experience the answer to “Why”….
    Please don’t quit.
        Don’t quit on life.
        Don’t quit on God.
        Don’t quit on each other.
Pray for strength.
Lean on each other.
Trust that the better day, chapter two, IS coming.
And when you’re not sure if any of that makes sense, or could possibly be true, look to the empty grave of Jesus.
Jesus – who faced some of the absolute WORST that could be thrown at someone.
Including torture and death.
And came through.
Our recent Easter celebrations of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead remind us:
“Remember, death doesn’t have the last word.  Jesus does.”
And he, the Living and Eternal Son of the Creator, the One with the last word, is preparing chapter two for us right now.  And promises to give us eternal life with him.
Trust that it is so.
And keep living.  And loving.

Black Sky, Twinkling Stars… and little ol’ me

So, I got to thinking…..yes, I do that occasionally. Not well, maybe. But I do it.

This time, a bit about the bigness of God.

Happened to be coming home after a meeting.
It was pitch black outside.
And the stars were amazing. Beautiful – a sky full.
The numbers – well, we’ve all seen ’em, how far apart it all is. The size is beyond my ability to understand.
That the light from some of them has taken so MANY years to get to my eye!
Great BIG universe.

And…… (this was a couple of days after Easter).….
The God who is BIGGER than the universe (Creator bigger than Creation) became part of it.
He became part of a tiny bit of that universe.
Here on this tiny little earth.
In order to reach tiny little people and claim them as his own.

It would be one thing for God to do a mass operation – “rake” us in, so to speak, in large numbers.
A huge “scoop” of salvation, as it were.
But that’s not how he works.
Jesus came – a person. Calling followers one-by-one-by-one.
Healing the sick one-by-one-by-one.
Hugging the children one-by-one-by-one.

Almost as if….. could it be???…..
that people matter to him one-by-one-by-one.

BIG GOD.
little me.

Yet I matter.
You matter.

Seems crazy when you stand under the night sky to think this could be true.
Too big. Too grand. Too beyond me.
But then snuggle down with a bible, and THERE IT IS……
Jesus telling us that GREAT BIG GOD cares for us down to the smallest details of our lives (check out Matthew 10:30).

Not just aware of…..
He notices.
He cares.

This Sunday we’ll see that noticing and caring love of God, through Jesus, in the life of a rather insignificant person that most people had written off as a loser and waste of time. (see John 20:10-18)
Yes, the powerful Jesus, who is greater and stronger than death, RISEN from the grave….. THAT Jesus takes the time to notice and care for one of the “low life” of Middle Eastern society of his day.

If you ever feel like that – a loser, waste of time – I do hope you’ll be able to join us and share the experience of seeing the Risen Jesus notice and care for you through his noticing and caring for this person.

And that it may give you hope that the God who so powerfully and wonderfully created all those amazing stars cares powerfully and wonderfully for YOU. Right now.

Easter Triduum – Three Holy Days Not To Rush

This weekend marks the pinnacle of the Christian Year. Since Apostolic times Christians have given special emphasis to commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus as the heart of God’s plan of Salvation for humanity.

And by the second century, historical records show churches celebrating the Great Easter Vigil – a mega-worship event that began on Saturday evening and continued until Easter dawn. Through this service believers would read Bible passages that trace the whole account of Salvation history from Eden through the promise of Jesus’ return. Often new converts were baptized during this service, and then welcomed into the Family of Believers and the celebration of their first communion.

In time the Triduum developed. The word means “three days” – and marks the three day period from Thursday evening when Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Last Supper through Easter Sunday evening when the Risen Lord appeared to his disciples in the Upper Room.

At KCRC we don’t hold services on Holy Thursday evening. Instead, we commemorated the institution of the Lord’s Supper through our Seder service last Sunday morning. We WILL however, worship together on Good Friday and on Easter (see details elsewhere in PKN).

I encourage you to observe your own form of a Triduum in some way that is meaningful to you.
Celebrate it – carefully, intentionally, and without rushing.

HOLY THURSDAY
Perhaps in your evening or dinner devotions today consider reading the account of the Last Supper, as recorded in Matthew 26:17-35. And so launch your three-day period of remembering.

GOOD FRIDAY
Then take time to worship tomorrow. Honour it as a holy day – not just a stat holiday for getting stuff done around the house. Focus in your personal & family Bible readings on the account of Jesus suffering & death. Find some way to remind yourself of it throughout the course of the day.

WAITING SATURDAY
And then comes Saturday. This is the day that most of us miss. We forget about what happened on Saturday. Think about it – if you were one of the first disciples, what would YOU have been doing that Saturday? It was an anxious, dark, LOOOOONNNNNNGGGGG day for them – hiding behind locked doors, trying to come to terms with their shock & grief, certain that everything they had hoped for was now gone. Angry at God, perhaps. After all, HOW could He, if Sovereign, allow this to happen?

Can you take a few minutes on Saturday to quietly reflect and wonder?

And – here’s a good day to pray for those you know whose lives are constantly lived in Saturday-mode…… because of relentless suffering, or shattered dreams, or broken pieces of their lives that don’t seem to find any healing; pray for those who are, perhaps, angry at God. Or wondering where he is. Or why this & that was allowed to happen.

Don’t rush through Saturday.
Give it some holy space.

EASTER SUNDAY
Finally, there’s Sunday.
Ah, Easter Sunday! Day of GREAT celebration!!
This is THE moment when everything changed.
Please consider reading 1 Corinthians 15…. yes, the whole chapter. Especially the last verse.
And be sure – do WHATEVER you have to do to get to worship. Either here at KCRC, or with another community that honors Jesus. This is bigger than Christmas, friends – WAY bigger. Don’t miss it because of some brunch appointment.  Oh, yes, and keep praying for the Lord to grant you an opportunity to invite someone along to worship with you.

So…. there it is:
The Great Triduum – the three holiest days for all friends & followers of Jesus.

Please, friends –
Don’t blow past ’em.
Don’t rush through them.
Take your time.

Worship.
Pray.
Remember.

And believe with all your heart that….
Christ has died!
Christ is risen!
Christ will come again!

Thanksgiving At The Lord’s Table

These weeks of Lent have been an opportunity for the KCRC community to celebrate Holy Communion each Sunday. Someone from the KCRC community came by earlier this week with a book by Ann Voskamp, “One Thousand Gifts.”  In it she reflects on one of the common historical terms for the Lord’s Supper, “The Eucharist.”
The person who brought it was excited by Voskamp’s meditation, and wanted us all to experience it a bit.  So, I got to borrow the book.  It’s WONDERFUL.  I’ll be ordering my own copy.  Poetic, thoughtful, and rich with prayerful biblical meditation….. not to mention that she quotes from one of my favorite books, Alexander Schmemann’s “For The Life Of The World.”

The Lord’s Supper is like a prism – out of one event there emits a rainbow of different spiritual emotions and thoughts……  solemn repentance, joyful thanksgiving, wondering remembering, hopeful anticipation, generous unity, faithful repetition.

Can you think of others?

Voskamp thought particularly of Luke 22:19  “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them…”  Jesus GAVE THANKS.  The Greek word for that is “Eucharisteo” – from which we get “the Eucharist.”
        Deep thanksgiving for the wonder of salvation and eternal new life as members of the Heavenly Father’s family… all because of Jesus’ great sacrifice.  Thanksgiving that sinners such as us are washed clean, clothed in eternal white, and heirs to the breath-taking wonder of heavenly glory!
        Eucharisteo – thanksgiving.
        There are two words that share the same root word – words that give us the English words “grace” and “joy.”
        Charis  – grace
        Chara  – joy
Thanksgiving for the grace that pours into our lives.
Thanksgiving that brings the fruit of joyful living.
Voskamp writes,  “As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.”
She continues, “Eucharisteo, Charis, and Chara – A triplet of stars, a constellation in the black. A threefold cord that might hold a life; offer a way up into the fullest life…”
Thanksgiving – see it in the life of the Saviour……
– Jesus took the bread and gave thanks
        and then the miracle of the multiplying of the loaves and fishes.
– Jesus stood outside Lazarus’ tomb, the tears streaming down his face,
        and he looked up and prayed, ‘Father I thank you that you have heard me…’
        and then the miracle of a dead man rising.
– Jesus took the bread and gave thanks
        and then the miracle of Jesus enduring the cross for the joy set before him.
What do we see here, wonders Voskamp?
Eucharisteo – thanksgiving – always precedes the miracle.
The power of God flows through thanksgiving.
There’s a flipside to that, too.
And here we turn to Alexander Schmemann, the Eastern Orthodox priest whose theology of the Kingdom of God sounds a LOT like Reformed thinking!
He writes, “The only real fall of man is his noneucharistic life in a noneucharistic world.” (“For The Life Of The World” p.18)
Non-eucharisteo, ingratitude, was the fall – humanity’s discontent with all that God freely gives. Eve & Adam were not content with the lot the Lord had given to them, and they grabbed for more.  And FELL.
We, in seasons of discontent, ingratitude, are also WAY more vulnerable to temptation and sin.
In thanksgiving we find wholeness.  Just like the Samaritan leper, healed of his deadly disease.
He is the only one of 10 who remembers to come back and give thanks to Jesus, the Healer.
And when he does, the Master says to him “Rise and go, your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:17-19
Literally “made you well” is the Greek “sozo” – i.e. has made you completely whole.
His wholeness was found through his eucharisteo – thanksgiving.
St.Paul writes, “Is not the cup of thanksgiving, for which we give thanks, a participation in the blood of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16)
“Ah yes!  Dear Lord, your Word is right.
Guide us, we pray, to the Table of your Son this Sunday
with hearts bursting with Thanksgiving for what Jesus has done for us.
Grant us your Holy Spirit so that this Thanksgiving may be rich and full,
and that through it the full salvation of Jesus
might be fully worked out in our living –
as it was in the life of our brother, the Samaritan Leper.”

“Regrets, I’ve had….” – wait, only a FEW?

“Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again too few to mention.”
And so begins the song “I Did It My Way“, written by Ottawa’s Paul Anka back in the late 1960’s – recorded by all sorts of people beside Anka, including Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Sid Vicious,  and the Three Tenors (how’s THAT for variety?).
It’s one of the most popular songs ever – and, so they say, is one of the most popular to be chosen for playing at peoples’ funerals.
One of the most popular – and, I am convinced, one of the dumbest.
Only a few regrets?
Really?
I wonder that all these singers could honestly say that.
I wonder that ANYONE would be able to say that.
Most of us carry some sort of regret around – there’s been something in our life that, looking back, we wish were otherwise.  If only we hadn’t said / done / missed / seen / been……   We can’t change it.  Can’t do a thing about the effects that this less-than-stellar moment in our lives brought on.  It remains just THERE.   A negative mark.
When I sit with people at their deathbed, and listen to their poignant rememberings, often there is a lot of regret that comes out.
Ah – WHAT to do with them?

Let them fester, and it can pose a problem.
So, do…. well, what?

This Sunday we’ll be continuing our sermon series that peeks in at some of the major characters in the time of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection.  And we’ll land at the doorstep of  Judas Iscariot.
Regret?  You bet he had his.
We’ll think about how a very ordinary, average sort of guy ended up in the very dark place he did.
And how easily we could end up there.
And how close Judas was to getting things deeply right in his life…… but  how desperately wrong it all turned out.
Because of regret.
Hope you can join us for worship – Sunday at 10am at KCRC.
If not in person, then via the podcast which will go online Monday morning.