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What’s Around the Corner

Feb 2, 2018   //   by admin   //   News  // 

Well according to the calendar, what’s right around the corner is February. I suspect many of us are beginning to breathe a sigh of relief that we are indeed over the mountain top of winter…or at least we hope so! On the other hand, there are those who embrace the winter season because they love the crispness of the winter air as they ski down the snowy slopes and still others relish the coming of January because it means they are heading for the warmth of the sunny south, or enjoying cruises to mark special occasions!!! What is also around the corner in the church year is the season of Lent. In case you are already wondering about when it starts, there won’t be much of an excuse to miss it this year because Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day …February 14th !!!!

That’s quite a paradox of celebrations don’t you think? Around one corner there might be that special “goodie” that we give ourselves permission to indulge in and around the next corner is the traditional question “What are you giving up for Lent?” Early church father, Irenaus of Lyons (c.130-c.200), wrote of such a season in the earliest days of the church, but back then it lasted only two or three days, not the 40 observed today. In 325, the Council of Nicea discussed a 40-day Lenten season of fasting, but it’s unclear whether its original intent was just for new Christians preparing for Baptism, but it soon encompassed the whole Church. How exactly the churches counted those 40 days varied depending on location. In the East, one only fasted on weekdays. The western church’s Lent was one week shorter, but included Saturdays. But in both places, the observance was both strict and serious. Only one meal was taken a day, near the evening. There was to be no meat, fish, or animal products eaten. Until the 600s, Lent began on Quadragesima (Fortieth) Sunday, but Gregory the Great (c.540-604) moved it to a Wednesday, now called Ash Wednesday, to secure the exact number of 40 days in Lent—not counting Sundays, which were feast days.

Gregory, who is regarded as the father of the medieval papacy, is also credited with the ceremony that gives the day its name. As Christians came to the church for forgiveness, Gregory marked their foreheads with ashes reminding them of the biblical symbol of repentance (sackcloth and ashes) and mortality: “You are dust, and to dust you will return” (Gen 3:19). By the 800s, some Lenten practices were already becoming more relaxed. First, Christians were allowed to eat after 3 p.m. By the 1400s, it was noon. Eventually, various foods (like fish) were allowed, and in 1966 the Roman Catholic church only restricted fast days to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. It should be noted, however, that practices in Eastern Orthodox churches are still quite strict. Like all Christian holy days and holidays, the time of Lent has changed over the years, but its purpose has always been the same: it is a dedicated time of spiritual discipline; a time for renewal, self-examination, prayer, inner contemplation and reflection in preparation for Easter. According to the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke it has been traditionally regarded as a commemoration of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, before he began his public ministry. Spiritual disciplines such as observing a true Lent takes time and a commitment. Lent offers us that opportunity to set aside some dedicated time to become aware of where we are in our life and what is important to us. It invites us to look deeply into the mirror of who we are, what’s working in our lives and perhaps what’s not working so well for us. Reframing the “giving up” sense of Lent to focussing our awareness of the blessings or gifts in our lives can be a radical shift in cognitive thinking and our attitude of gratitude. We cannot change what we are not aware of and acknowledge. Here at Forest Hill, during the season of Lent there are 2 opportunities to dig deeper into your spiritual nature.

1. If you like to do your own personal contemplation, this United Church Daily Devotion entitled “Why I Believe”, on faith and discipleship offers candid, thoughtful reflections. It is an excellent choice. Along with a study guide it explores what it means to follow Jesus, remain faithful, and choose hope, especially during times of uncertainty and doubt each day. There is an order sign-up sheet on the bulletin board by the coat racks. The order will be placed on Monday, February 6th. The cost is $18.00.

2. If you enjoy conversation and a shared learning experience consider this your invitation to join a group of us who will be exploring the book “The Gifts of Imperfections” by Brene Brown. We will discuss the obstacle guideposts which hinder us from living authentically and wholeheartedly. This book comes highly recommended by many who feel it has been transformational in their lives. The group will meet beginning on Wed Feb 21st at 7:14 in the Fireside Room. The book is available at Chapters or on Amazon. Please let Rev. Ellen know if you are planning to join us. Bless now O God, the journey we travel together; assured of your companionship around every corner we turn!

Rev Ellen

Why I Love Christmas

Jan 7, 2018   //   by admin   //   News  // 

I really like Christmas. I know that’s not a news flash but it never hurts to say it. Of-course, part of saying an obvious statement like that begs the question, why? For me, it celebrates my faith that God loves this world so much that God becomes one of us in the flesh.
There are other incarnation stories from the ancient faiths in Greece or Rome where gods came to earth but, they did so by putting on a human disguise with no willingness to give up their power or become vulnerable like a child. In our story God is born, and nursed and helpless like any human child. In our story this child is taught and only comes to the awareness of his divinity when he is in his late twenties or early thirties. Even then most scholars would say that it was the early church and not Jesus,Himself, that placed the name of Jesus on the same level as the creator God. Amazing – a humble God in an age when humility by those who have been given power, is so rare.
I want to add, that knowing this story pushes me to be humble as well. I know I have power and privilege simply by being born into the dominant culture of our country. I know I have power because I am one of ‘the ministers’ working in the
church. I know I have power because I can pick from the better half of life’s menu. Christmas challenges me to reflect on my life and choices so that I’m not just putting on the disguise of a Christian but that the child-like awe and wonder of it all
becomes truly part of me.
I often hear people say that the presents and celebrations are mostly for the kids and that is largely true. But for Christmas to be important, we as adults must ask what is in it for us? Shouldn’t there be something in this for us beyond the smiles of
the kids. As mature Christians, we shouldn’t just borrow joy and excitement from them. We have to bring some of the joy and excitement too and in ways, perhaps, only adults can.
Let me suggest to you the big difference. More than most children, we can list all the things wrong with the world and all the problems with our own society. We can spill gallons of ink on our neighbours and other countries and their destructive
potential.
We can see a shadow of despair growing in so many of our population, particularly among the young. Everywhere we look we can see darkness. So when we celebrate the birth of this child, who is named Jesus or ‘God Saves’, we have a better
appreciation of just how big a job that is and how much we need that saving grace. We and our world really need this child and the hope he brings. When we allow this child to give us the greatest of gifts which is ‘hope’ then we really have something life changing to offer the children in our lives and in our world. The gift of hope which we are called to receive from Jesus and then pass along doesn’t fit under the tree. But it will be far more important in the lives of those smiling children than anything else that we can give them. BUT, we must believe it its true and let his Spirit infuse our lives.
And that is why I love Christmas!
Merry Christmas, Gary

Gratitude is My Attitude

Jan 7, 2018   //   by admin   //   News  // 

“We are grateful. You have given us this day and have given us this way to say “Thank You”. We thank you for giving us what we need to be grateful.
We know our thank you is as fragile as we are;
 it can be crushed by the care of the moment
 it can disappear in the heat of the day
 it can be blown away by the winds of suffering
 and so we ask You to take our small thank you into Your great act of Thanksgiving.”
(condensed from Radical Gratitude by Mary Jo Leddy, pg69-70)
For myself it is when I have lost a dear one that Christmas takes on a deeper The book Radical Gratitude has been a part of my library for many years and I am no longer surprised when it, yet one more time, draws my attention…when I need a royal nudge to pause and to remember there is always something to be grateful for in my everyday moments. I know firsthand how challenging it can be to say that simple “thank you” or to move beyond the words when the world around me is crashing down and I want to shout anything else but “thank you!!” However, with a little willingness to change my attitude, I have also learned (sometimes the hard way!!!) that it is okay to feel less than thankful as long as I don’t stay there. Just like the rest of our emotions, a sense of gratitude can come and go as quick as the flame is lit!
Radical gratitude invites us to move beyond taking life for granted and to move beyond our sense of powerlessness in changing ourselves and the world we live in. Our Master Way-Shower, Jesus, exemplifies the richness of an intentional attitude of radical gratitude. Jesus knew He was born a child of God and with that came a life dedicated to putting weight to his words in radical actions; that which we give away multiples, ignites and sustains!. So it is, that when we daily affirm an attitude of gratitude for even the smallest gift of life in a day, we are nurturing, growing and sustaining our faith and hope. We become the possibility of creating something new in the world. We become the possibility of becoming someone renewed.
As we move into the busyness of the Advent and Christmas season before us, may we make time to pause and affirm the reason we celebrate Christmas; may we be radically grateful for the birth of Christ – the ground of our hope, our joy, our peace, and our love of all life in, through and amongst us.
Ellen

The Messenger: January 2018

Jan 7, 2018   //   by admin   //   News  // 

To Read More Click Here: JAN 2018

The Messenger: December 2018

Jan 7, 2018   //   by admin   //   News  // 

To Read More Click Here: DEC 2017

Inbetween Month of November

Nov 23, 2017   //   by admin   //   News  // 

November is often a strange in between month. It seems like it is almost always a surprise when it comes and winter with it. Growing up on PEI we would say if it hadn’t snowed by November 11th then it would snow on the 11th.

Four of my five sibling and I played in the Legion band so we were always outside either playing while it snowed or standing in snow on Remembrance Day. And even though we knew it was coming we rarely felt prepared for it.

I think life is like that. We can intellectually know we are getting older and more likely to lose family and friends. We can
intellectually know we shouldn’t be climbing certain ladders or lifting certain weights and yet we do and pay the price. We just aren’t prepared for the changes of life. They are not welcome I wonder if we were to look at life through the lens of our national celebrations if we could see these unexpected changes, differently. For example November is sandwiched between the October celebrations of Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en (All Saints eve) and the December celebration of Christmas. So between thanks and remembering the saints in October and the new beginnings of December we have the reminder of loss in Remembrance Day. As well as the reminder of the coming death like state of winter. I wonder if we really gave ourselves over to be thankful for everything in our whole lives could we face those changes easier? I wonder if remembering all those men and women who died in the prime of their lives in war would help us appreciate all the extra years we have been given and be satisfied? And I wonder if we could really appreciate the promise of new life born in
the Christ child had we not first faced the reality of the long slumber of winter and our own deaths?
For myself it is when I have lost a dear one that Christmas takes on a deeper meaning than egg nog and Santa’s sleigh. I see in Christ’s birth a hope that our culture is uncomfortable talking about. Because, this hope comes in the midst of
painful and costly loss. November helps lead me to a deeper emotional and spiritual experience of the world because it allows time to savour the saints in our lives and give thanks for them. As I finish this, I am aware of families in our congregation who are going through the upheaval and pain of loss. May this November be a time to celebrate the lives of those who have touched you with love. Then in December we will celebrate with you the promise of new life born in a stable. Until that time, may we offer you warmth, love and prayer in this in between month of November.

Peace Gary

The Messenger: November 2017

Nov 23, 2017   //   by admin   //   News  // 

Click here to read more:NOV 2017

“What Matters?”

Sep 30, 2017   //   by admin   //   The Message  // 

Last Sunday after the blessing of the prayer shawls, one of the congregants stopped to chat with me. She shared that seeing me up at the front with the purple triangle shawl wrapped around me, talking to the kids about the comfort and love stitched in the shawls as a way of letting someone know that we care and are thinking about them, a dear friend came to mind…. a friend challenged with stage 4 cancer whose favorite colour is purple. She asked, “Would it be alright if I took that purple prayer shawl to give to my friend?”
“What matters?” What matters are those thoughts, words and actions that connect us to one another; relationships that are born, nurtured and stitched into the matrix of our lives as reflections of God’s matrix of all life and love.
What matters is the willingness and openness to dig deeper past the often time surface human wants and needs to that which centers ourselves…to that inner sanctuary where we touch the matrix of God’s life and love….to where the seeds of love, trust, possibility and hope are nurtured.
“What matters?” Gracious hospitality given and received…to others and to self!
May this profoundly simple question, “What matters?” keep our curiosity alive and well in the days ahead!
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously. Micah 6:8 (The Message)
Ellen

The Messenger: October 2017

Sep 30, 2017   //   by admin   //   News  // 

To Read More Click Here:   OCT 2017

“LIFE IS A GREAT GIFT, A GREAT SURPRISE!”

Sep 6, 2017   //   by admin   //   News  // 

These words close the book, “We Walk This Path Together” by Brian J. Pierce, OP that I have just finished reading. Its wisdom is thought provoking and I highly recommend it if you are open to digging deeper into the spiritual grounding of your being. I do have to admit that this quote niggles at me…Do I really believe it? Do I really live as if life is a great gift, especially when lemons show up in my life?
It was this past March, while browsing in the Bookshelf in Guelph, that this book captured my attention. I tried to find another book, but it was not to be…this book was coming home with me! Surprisingly, (or perhaps not so) it was the same week, when over a Wednesday lunch, my colleague just happened to say, “Did you know Forest Hill is calling a half time Pastoral and Christian Development minister?” Was God inviting me to walk the spiritual path with Forest Hill? This book turned out to be a very important part of my discerning this call to Forest Hill.
My immediate thought was, “No, No, No!” but there it was….that undeniable and insistent Holy nudge saying “Yes, Yes, Yes to the invitational gift and the surprise. And as the saying goes, “The rest is history.” So here I am – three weeks a newbie, and already feeling so warmly welcomed. Heartfelt thanks to so many who have already offered me gracious hospitality.
It has been a pretty busy three weeks as I navigate my way around and through all the many activities that happen both within and outside the walls of Forest Hill; all the while taking part in the Readers to Runners camp. Sometimes my head swirls as I try to take in all Forest Hill is about. I am so very excited to become a part of “Holy Currencies” as a positive path to sustaining healthy church ministry. I have confidence that as we journey along the path before us together, we will have the opportunity to affirm that life truly is a great gift and a great surprise. What better prayer can we offer for all that is before us, than “Thank You God for …the gift of life and the gift of surprise…..for blessings seen and unseen.”
Please do drop by; I am always ready to share a cuppa and conversation and I welcome any suggestions of how I can accompany and support your spiritual health and well-being, as we “journey on this path together.” May we always be open and receptive to the newness and gifts of each day that the Creator has in store for us!
Ellen

 

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