Are we there yet?

At one time or another we have all heard, or said this: “Are we there yet?”  It comes mid-way through a long journey that seems to never end.  We are tired of travelling, and can hardly wait to reach our destination.

Lent is a 40 day journey to Jerusalem.  It parallels Christ’s journey of temptation in the wilderness, and Moses’ and the Israelite’s flight out of Egypt on their way to the Promised Land.  For centuries Christians have set aside these days to reflect intentionally on their lives, and to develop certain practices that would cultivate faith, like fasting, or giving to those in need.

I remember one year “fasting” from coffee, and I’m pretty sure my family and friends heard me whining, “How far away is Easter?  Are we there yet?”

Whether we have decided to give up coffee, or alcohol or sugar; or whether we choose to add a new discipline like reading the Bible or meditating, Lent is good for us!

The Health and Healing Committee of the Bancroft – Carlow Pastoral Charge of The United Church of Canada takes our physical health seriously and are Walking to Jerusalem this year.  We are inviting folks to add exercise to their lives by walking, or doing chair yoga, or playing a sport.  A half hour of any exercise is equal to 5,000 steps and we need 12,300,000 steps to make it from Bancroft, Ontario to Jerusalem by April 25th, Palm Sunday.

How can you get involved?

You can get a record sheet from the church office and keep track your steps.  You can email or phone in your weekly count by calling 613-332-1900 or emailing stpaulsunitedchurch@bellnet.ca.

You can join us on Mondays at 6:30 at N.H.H.S. to walk and talk together.  This will start February 26th.

Of course you can always join us on Sundays for worship when we will be checking the map to see how far we have yet to go.  St. Paul’s United in Bancroft starts at 9:45 am and Carlow United in Boulter starts at 11:30 am.

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It’s not a dog fight! It’s a God fight!

What do you think of when I say the word: evangelical?  I’m pretty sure many of you will call forth images of too-white, toothy grins, $5,000 suits, and that bitter after-taste that comes from ingesting an artificial sweetener.  God is spelled with a “w”: Gawd! and Jesus has 3 syllables: Jaysuzuh!  And you remember what your mother always said: “Never trust a woman whose hair is bigger than her butt!”

It’s time to redeem the word, and the Outreach Committee of St. Paul’s United Church is trying to do just that by sponsoring the next Croft-Talks where a Jew, a Christian and an Atheist walk into a theatre…  sounds like the opening line to a bad joke; it isn’t, but hopefully we’ll get a few laughs.

This will be an intelligent and humorous conversation refereed by Barb Shaw.  There is good news in the United Church, and we want to get the word out.  Faith, for us, isn’t about being right but about honouring others and sharing in dialogue.  Questions are welcomed; scholarship is encouraged, and the mystery of God is something to be lived not solved.  There’s a prophetic quality to the gospel that continuously calls for economic justice, ecological justice, along with social justice.  We are an evangelical church, only with a different gospel.

Come and join us for the greatest debate ever told at the next Croft -Talks on March 29th at 7:00 pm at The Village Playhouse.  Cost is just $5.

 

Hockey is where we come from

Somewhere in our souls is a spiritual Canada. Most probably,

Its bedrock is of snow and ice, winter and the land. And if

We were to penetrate it a little deeper, chances are we would find a game.

Taken from Home Game by Ken Dryden and Roy MacGregor

 

Judge Thomas Chandler Haliburton, the creator of Sam Slick, was the first person to describe the evolving sport of hockey in the first part of the 1800’s when he reminisced about his boyhood time at Kings College in Windsor, Nova Scotia: “boys let out racin’, yelpin’, hollerin’, and whoopin’ like mad with pleasure…hurley on the long pond on the ice.”

Hurley was a field sport originating in Ireland and transplanted to colonies like Canada. Winter presented both a problem and an opportunity. Playing hurley with a ball on a frozen, Canadian landscape offered many challenges like reduced speed and control; then someone moved it to the frozen ponds of Hants County, added some skates and a wooden disc, puck: hockey was born. It has known many names: Hurley-on-ice, Wicket, Ricket, Break-shins, and Alchamadajk (Mi’kmaq for Hurley on Ice).

The sport spread with evangelical speed from the upper reaches of the Annapolis Valley to Dartmouth and Halifax, and Pictou County. The rules evolved as did the sport until the first organized game of Hockey was played on March 3rd, 1875 in Montreal.

When you read the stories of our, Canadian, hockey greats, like Gordie Howe, or you talk to our local hockey greats you will hear similar stories about the love, the pure joy, and delight of the game. You will hear how they played every chance they got, and how the time flew by and how the community came together on cold, winter evenings to cheer on the home team. This is the game we celebrate here in Bancroft: this is Bancroft!

It was Monday evening about 6:00 pm and my Dad was checking the Beer Store parking lot for the “boys.” And sure enough there they were: the Lowry boys, Mark McGhee, and others. The Jr. D Jets had finished their season on Sunday, but it took less than 24 hours to start a game of pickup in a parking lot using clumps of snow for goal posts.

It is in the spirit of this game that Hospice North Hastings and St. Paul’s United Church have come together to celebrate Hockey Day in Canada on February 13th at 11:00 pm at the parking lot across from the TD Bank, followed by hot dogs at the Playhouse and the movie, “Skating to New York.” Come out and join in the fun.

For those of you who truly believe that Hockey is Canada’s religion, come out and have fun in worship for Holy Hockey Sunday, February 14th, at both St. Paul’s United in Bancroft (9:45 am) and at Carlow United in Boulter (11:30 am). Come out and celebrate the heritage of hockey and wear your favourite hockey jersey.

 

Lent: a journey to goodness

Lent is a six week trek into the wilderness, spiritually speaking. It is a season of fasting in preparation for the great feast of Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday, February 10th this year, and runs until sunrise on Easter morning: March 27th, 2016.

The word Lent comes from the ancient Saxon meaning: Spring. It’s like spring cleaning. It’s a time to give up the consumptions that consume us. For some of us it is the food we are addicted to, or the compulsive behaviours like playing computer games or shopping. These are the kinds of things that distract us from Goodness in ourselves, in each other, and in all of creation.

Whether you are a Christian or not; whether you believe in God or not, Lent is a good time for all of us to resolve ourselves to pursue Goodness with all our being. The same way that practicing a sport like hockey or yoga makes us better, Lenten practices make us better human beings.

The Hebrew Scriptures talks about what a good fast looks like. The writer of Isaiah, speaking to the readers as if speaking for God:

 

Is not this the fast that I choose:

To loose the bonds of injustice

To undo the thongs of the yoke;

To let the oppressed go free,

And to break the yoke?

 

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

And bring the homeless poor into your house;

When you the naked to cover them…

Isaiah 58:6-7

 

Whatever fast you choose to partake in this Lenten season, may it encourage you to be a goodness provocateur and a full participant in God’s purpose for the world; may we all be in solidarity for the sake of God’s proclaimed fast to stand with those on the edges, the hungry, the oppressed, the homeless, the stranger.

The Bancroft – Carlow Pastoral Charge is providing you an opportunity to begin this fast with music and meditation on the evening of February 10th at 7:00 pm at St. Paul’s United Church in Bancroft. This is a celebration of the presence of Goodness, and an opportunity to set our intentions to cultivate justice in our lives, in our community, and in our world. Following that the sanctuary will be open every Wednesday at noon for a time of personal prayer and meditation.

 

 

The vision first and then the Mission

Over the Sundays in September the people of the Bancroft – Carlow Pastoral Charge of The United Church of Canada will be reflecting on the vision God has for us, and how we can see that vision fulfilled through the mission and various ministries of the churches.  This conversation started last Sunday, September 13th, we reflected on being, not only a place of celebration, but a people whose very nature is the party.  As I reflected on the scripture I had chosen and this vision in the days leading up to that Sunday, I could hear the Junior Choir from 20 years ago singing: “I am the church!  You are the church!  We are the church together!…The church is not a steeple…the church is a people.”  The choir made that our first anthem of the season.

I selected my favourite scripture too!  The story of the wedding feast in Cana as told in John 2.  The bible tells us that Jesus turned 120 – 160 gallons of water into wine.  What a party that must have been!

I’ve often said that leading worship isn’t “rocket science.”  All we have to do is be more exciting than the laundry because that’s often the activity we’re competing with on a Sunday morning.  How dare we be less exciting, and yet it happens.  We are called to be a place and a people of celebration so let’s pull a little bit of that water out; seek the grace of Jesus to change it by his Spirit into spirits!

Spiritual “Spanx”

A couple of years ago I wore this lovely black dress that someone complimented, “You look nice; that dress is so slimming.”

“Spanx you!” was my response.

In 2000 a woman developed a form of undergarment, made largely of spandex, that was lightweight and slimming: Spanx.  It managed to hold and conceal most bulges, bumps and cellulite without a whole lot of discomfort.

Cancer has made me feel vulnerable.  Like showing up at a function without my spanx, or worse still nothing at all.  But upon reflection I realize that vulnerability is a good thing.

“Wait a minute, Lynn, that’s not what society tells us.  Society and media tell us we’re to be strong, and independent…self-reliant!  Vulnerability is something to be avoided, right?”

Several years ago I took a course on Sexuality and Spirituality at Queen’s University.  One of the things that we discussed was that for intimacy to occur, appropriate vulnerability was necessary.  Although there is a place for the “dry hump,” you really can’t make love with your clothes on.  In order for true intimacy to take place one must strip and reveal all to the other.  In order for something to be conceived, and for new life to take shape vulnerability is a must!

It got me to asking what is my “spiritual spanx,”…what is it that’s getting in the way of this kind of vulnerability – the kind of vulnerability that is pleasurable and life giving?  And is this experience of cancer encouraging me to embrace my vulnerability and allow it to produce something beautiful?

Here is my list of things that make up my “spiritual spanx:” my experience, my degrees, my fitness and physical strength and beauty, my words, my gifts, my successes and skills, hard work and full calendar, my insight and discernment, my creativity, my title and position in the community. All of things are great, unless I’m using them to hide behind.  There’s a song in Voices United, The United Church of Canada hymnal, entitled, “Will You Come and Follow Me.”  In one of the verses it asks, “Will you love the you, you hide?”

This experience of vulnerability has been good for me, because it is asking me to love myself and share myself and open myself up to others so that together we may conceive in us the possibility of a better world, even a world without cancer!  In many ways that’s what the Relay for Life is about, it’s about shared vulnerability.

So what does it mean for me to have Cancer?

When I was about 10 years old, at the dinner table one evening I got quite indignant with my Dad, because he refused to build me a cat house!  He’d built a lovely, aluminum sided dog house for my brother’s new dog, but wouldn’t accommodate the needs of Tigger, my cat.  My indignation grew when everyone else at the table burst into laughter.  It was many years later before I got the joke.  The last few weeks for me have been like that.

I went into the appointment with my gynecologist expecting to hear everything was fine, and that all we needed to do was tweak my hormones, and the last thing I expected to hear was, “So, we found cancer.”  It might have been the confusion that confounded me.  You see I was healthy, healthier than I’d been in years.  I ate right and exercised regularly.  I was strong and fit.  I couldn’t possibly have cancer.  To be honest the first thought that went through my mind was, “I guess I’ll be getting some time off.”

When I told people that I had cancer, everyone of them had the appropriate response – they got the joke, meanwhile I nonchalantly talked about surgery, and pathology, and possible treatments.  Even when I called to cancel my appointment to donate blood in late-May and they told me I could never give blood again, I still didn’t get it.

I’m not sure it was the waiting or the fighting with my doctor that finally made me realize the weight of this diagnosis, but about 1:00 am on a Saturday morning it hit me.  I got it, and I wasn’t laughing!  I had cancer!  I would forever wear the yellow T-shirt and walk with the survivors at Relay for Life.  My life had changed forever.

I decided I needed to unpack this for myself, and really think about what it meant for me to have cancer.  I felt vulnerable: where else was it hiding in my body, like a guerilla fighter waiting to attack.  I was scared, and I felt helpless and needy, and…the list filled a whole page of my journal.

In some ways I’m hoping that this time for me will help me be a better me for whatever time I have left.  (By the way, I still plan to die skydiving at 98!)  I have paintings that need to be painted, and I have a sitcom to write…cancer has kicked me off the pot!