Our “Stay Connected" page is a way that we, as a church community, keep up with each other. Life is fast right now, it’s something we’ve never experienced before. We’ll be posting thoughts, ideas, reflections and words of challenge and encouragement here. Check back often…and stay connected!
Faith in a Lifeboat
As many of you know, Wilda Thumm was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and was scheduled to go to Hamilton on Monday, March the 30th. One of the many effects COVID has had is to indefinitely postpone urgent medical treatments for those who need them.
Wilda was able to speak to this very real and very important issue on CBC’S, The Current a few weeks ago. The link to the transcript can be found below. She was able to thoughtfully explain the situation of so many and bring her personal ideas and feelings about the need to address this serious issue.
The good news is that Wilda was able to get surgery at Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton a few weeks after this interview. She has had her stem cell transplant and is recovering there. She is in good spirits and doing well.
Here is her sign off from her last update…
So thanks for all of your wonderful thoughts, kind acts, and prayers.
I will send another update in a couple of days, I am in very good hands, the medical teams in this unit do this all the time, they are THE specialists. And they are all very kind and nice too.
Hugs to all,
Playing card games used to be a very important pastime for me. Euchre, President (played under a different name), and Wizard (also played under a different name) filled my adolescence and young adulthood growing up. Friendships grew over these games as my friends and I learned about each other, our level of competitiveness and an ever-improving skill at manipulating cards; Rob always seemed to turn up a Jack in Euchre…
When Lori and I first started dating, back in University, we would often spend time getting to know each playing cards, usually rummy or euchre. I remember with great fondness playing euchre with her parents, as I was one of the few people in Lori’s family that ‘got’ how her dad played the game (9’s are never euchred and count on your partner for 2 tricks, sometimes 3). The strength of my bond with her dad grew over those card games.
Over time, Lori and I grew tired of playing rummy and we went looking for more challenging games to play with a deck of cards. We found pinochle. This game taught us a lot about ourselves and each other. How we handle learning a new challenge, how the two of us dealt with an equally strong desire to win and how a relationship with strengths based on mutual caring and respect can blossom into an amazing love.
Fast forward to the spring of 2020. This week I hit a wall with what is available to watch or listen to on the various streaming services. Its not that I have seen it all, it just feels that way. The stories and the songs all start to sound the same. So, we broke out the cards, and after a couple of games of rummy we searched out the rules for pinochle again. The face to face time, reminiscing about the past, and being present doing something we both love, has been a blessing for both of us.
A deck of cards, a great friend and partner, and time spent without screens is something I hope to continue long after our exercise in social distancing is complete.
During this time of isolation, I have developed my love of photography and nature. Every day I visit my friend the forest and look to capture the beauty in everything. I really enjoy finding the obscure treasures in nature and sharing it with others. My favourite shot is what I call the heart at root. May my photos bring snapshots of joy to your life.
How did they do this?
(Part 2 of Our New Reality)
They Practiced the Presence of God
In the OT God’s people had to go to the temple if they desired to be in the presence of God. The temple is where God resided. Feasts and holidays were opportunities for gathering in God’s presence. They were significant in the lives of God’s people in many ways…not the least of which was community. The Levites were responsible for facilitating those gatherings, removing distractions, communicating with clarity and enabling the people to commune with God. They lived their lives in the shadow of the temple…never out of God’s presence.
Our reality is similar. We do not have to travel to be in God’s presence. He is present with us every moment of every day. We are never out of his presence.
How do we live our new reality out knowing we are still in God’s presence but not each others? What are we doing to create and build community?
They Fueled the Fire
Like the Levites, we are called to fuel the fire of faith. In Leviticus God instructs that there was to be a fire that was lit that would never go out. It was the responsibility of the Levites to keep it lit. They lit the fire, chopped the wood to keep it lit, scheduled people to guard the fire, arranged for the moving of the fire when it was needed. They were the keepers of God’s fire.
Fire does many things. It lights our path, keeps us warm and cooks our food. It is a gathering place for many or for few. Around it we share stories, we share space, we share life.
Fire is all consuming. What is left is very different than what was before. The refiner’s fire comes to mind…
Our job is to keep the fire lit. Our job is to encourage, challenge, create, support, connect and inspire!
How do we live our new reality out knowing we are still called to keep the fire lit? What are we doing to connect and inspire?
They Lived in the light
The Levites had no land, no inheritance. They did not have what everybody else had. They were working ‘without a net’ but this enabled them to be single minded in purpose and action. God had made it clear that he was all they needed. They were called to rely on Him alone to meet all of their needs.
I imagine that this is far less romantic than it sounds. They were human and had the same desires, the same ideas, the same fears and the same worries. Trusting God with everything is never an easy venture even on calmest of waters.
Right now there are many whose faith is being tried and whose trust is being tested. There are many in need of a great many things. Can we, like the Levites, live in the light? Can we think about our care for the temple in a new way? Can we set up ‘Cities of Refuge’ that will help and heal? What does that look like?
How can we live in our new reality knowing that we are called to live in the moment and live in the light? What does this new season require?
Our New Reality
I don’t think many of us knew or ever imagined in March that when we ‘closed our doors’ as churches, we would find ourselves where we are today. We spent Good Friday and Easter Sunday locked up in our homes. No extended family or friends, no egg hunts or shared tables. And now, almost a month later, as the weather begins to slowly turn from winter to spring and the sun sweetly beckons us outdoors, we are still truly living in the unknown.
I honestly don’t remember what I thought that last Sunday in church but I know it wasn’t this far reaching or life altering. If I had been able to see where we were headed I would have savoured it more…enjoyed the moment…squeezed every last drop from the grape.
Oddly enough I’m reminded of the Levites of old. They were responsible for many things when it came to the gathering of people and the practicing of faith. In many ways, they were the ones who ‘got it done’. Though not all priests, they were leaders of people. They were the caretakers of the temple in every way. They were guards, they were janitors, they were worship leaders, they were administrators, they were contractors and they were caregivers. Outside of their temple responsibilities they also maintained the ‘cities of refuge’ for the broken, the lost and those in need.
They created spaces for people to encounter God.
I’ve been rolling these ideas around in my head for the last week or so. How did they create these spaces? How can we create those spaces given our new reality?
I’m going to explore those questions in our next few ‘stay connected’ entries…and I welcome your thoughts and feedback.
Bikes for Migrant Farm Workers
We were so excited to be in the planning stage of a Raffle and Silent Auction to raise funds to help Rev. Alex Valle and his ministry with the Mexican-Jamaican Migrant Farm Workers Mission. We were planning such fun afternoon, but unfortunately given the times we are in, we made the decision to postpone it until next spring. We think the fear of congregating even when the emergency is over, coupled with the community dealing with the financial hardship that has occurred probably would hinder the success this spring. We still want to do it, but it will be one year later.
However, even during these times we were thrilled to receive some cash donations for this cause. A cheque for $1080.00 has been mailed to CBOQ who will forward it to The Mexican-Jamaican Migrant Farm Workers Mission. Also, we have a bike which will also get use this season. Pastor Alex Valle is very appreciative of this. If anyone has a spare bike, when the emergency is over, we would be pleased to deliver it. We are not seeking any further cash donations at this time.
On March 15th I shared this story. Many were already being cautious and were not at church or perhaps were enjoying Spring Break, at any rate I thought I would retell it.
This is a story of a woman from the Waterdown area. She was grocery shopping. While she was in the store a summer rain storm hit pelting down. As she left she noticed several migrant farm workers get on bikes and ride away. One man was left trudging off to the farm. She asked if she could give him a lift. He initially declined but she insisted. While on the ride she asked him why he didn’t also have a bike. Then she thought I have a bike at home I am not using. She told him she would fix her bike and get it to him. He didn’t react in a joyful way. Maybe he didn’t understand or maybe he wasn’t sure it would happen. However, when she returned to the farm with the fixed bicycle he was so overwhelmed he cried. This speaks to the importance of a bike to people generally isolated, but also the value of a kind act.
Next year with renewed zeal we will organize again. In the meantime, if you do have a spare bike please contact Jody at 519-821-0178.
A time of deep reflection . . .
What this time has to teach us:
Why do we fear reflection? I believe we fear reflection because we are taught to suppress so much that when we do reflect it’s overwhelming and consuming. We do not learn how to sit with who we are and accept ourselves enough to stand up and keep walking. Actually arguably I believe we are taught how to do this from the day we were brought into this world. We were just not cognizant of it because it’s through a metaphorical manner. For example; a baby learning to walk, it’s a practice, as is acceptance and self reflection. Yes it’s going to feel like you’re falling and you cannot get back up again, but when you do stand and walk, you are unstoppable. There is an art to reflecting, one we often suppress by distraction, because we fear ourselves, who we used to be, and our flaws. Reflection can be overwhelming and bring ourselves a great source of relief. Ironically this time reflects how suppressed we are as human beings.
Hopefully we are taught to practice reflection and acceptance more in our day to day. There are many lessons in connection as well, I have learnt so much about connection in this time. I’m observing people are becoming far more intentional and this is a dream come true for me. I believe especially in today’s society some people have issues of flakiness. Or just struggle to be intentional in relationships. Now I see people are learning the importance of reaching out to one another or initiating ways to connect. I’m also learning that physical presence goes a long way. I have read too many dystopian novels that anticipate a future where connection is through the internet. It’d be my greatest hope to see that people realize the internet can only truly foster so much connection. There’s something about sharing space, presence, and air with someone. Even sharing silence is a wonder.
The internet is lonely in my opinion and only fabricated a false sense of connection. I do believe it can be a source of connection but not a means of replacing it. Another poignant lesson being taught is the environment’s wake up call. The earth is using this time to create a visual in just how much we’ve damaged the earth. We are people who need proof to be taught and this should illustrate how much we need to change and what we can do to change. Lastly we are continually learning how to creatively use our time, remind ourselves of simpler age’s, and to start things we were “too busy” to do before. We are learning to connect with those around us, our family and to be happy to be in the presence we are in. Right now prove’s how we can all come together and unite. This is a blessing in disguise, a time to listen, and a time of reconciliation and healing.
I grew up in a time when ‘Christian Artists’ had to be squeaky-clean. They weren’t of course cause none of us are…they just had to keep up the pretense of being thus to make the rest of us feel comfortable.
Rich Mullins was different…
He was brilliant and belligerent. He was child like and childish. He was generously kind and generally cantankerous. The struggle that it was to be him was never far from the surface. You could hear it in his music. You could feel it in his lyrics. And if you ever got the chance to see him in concert it would typically overflow in a passionate rant at some point.
His music always met me right where I was. I didn’t have to pretend I was something I wasn’t. He was OK with me being me and he helped me see that God was too.
I’ve been listening to a lot of him during this time. His music seems to echo the starkness and the newness of all this. To me there is a deep-seated loneliness that is met by the restless, raging fury that they call the love of God.
I’ve been listening to a lot of music in general and playing lots too! You could say…in an odd but profound way that I have been reconnecting with playing music. I’m not playing because I have to, because it’s part of ‘my job’, I’m playing because I need what it can give me right now. I need the change of mental landscape and emotional space. I need the discipline of learning something new and investing in my skill.
I’m not sure what does that for you. For me it’s music…always has been.
If you have a chance…take a listen to Rich. Here are a few of my favourites:
The Love of God
The Colour Green
We Aren’t as Strong as We Think We Are
If I Stand
And I’ll leave you with this…
I had a party with a group of friends last Friday night. It was “essential” that we get together. The youngest member suggested a virtual meet-up and facilitated our gathering with the Zoom account she uses to offer her yoga classes.
It was a big success even if we couldn’t hug or cozy up to each other as is our custom when we’re together. I sequestered myself in my bedroom with the door closed so as not to disturb my husband and two sons. One of them would later comment that we were loud! As I said, it was a success.
We’re getting together for lunch this coming week. I just need to keep my food away from my laptop. It could be a disaster when I start talking with my hands and send soup flying.
I also took part in a video conference with work colleagues that same week and it was good to hear and see them. It’s been a month since we have been at the office together.
Another video conference connected me with the three ladies that I travelled to Cuba with for a week-long media tour just as the pandemic was ramping up. We were a week into our 14-day self-quarantine at the time and it was so good to find out how they were doing and to actually see them again.
The most rewarding connection made via video link was with my brother-in-law Gord, who lives at a long-term care facility. Gord is mentally challenged and has a limited vocabulary. My family wasn’t sure how he processed the experience but we were able to see each other and express our love and care in the only way possible these days.
While we all work to flatten the curve and aren’t able to actually visit each other, we can be thankful for the other ways that we can stay connected.
I SEE HOPE
I see hope as new growth presses up through cold ground
As birds share their morning song
As days grow longer
I see hope in the smiles of strangers as we pass
As we give each other distance
As we keep each other safe
I see hope in an empty emergency room
As we protect our most vulnerable
As we stay home
I see hope in gratitude shown by others
In supportive signs and acts of love
As we all do what we can
I see hope that we can make it through this
That we can do better moving forward
As we find a safe place to land
Listen for the Guidance You Need
Excerpt from Word by Word by Marilyn McEntyre
“Christ in mouth of friend and stranger," St. Patrick reminds us in his ancient prayer that enumerates the many ways Christ may be present to us. God’s guidance comes most often from human sources, buy only if we listen for it. “Notice what you notice," I suggest to my students as they read.
This is also a good practice for those times when a word we need to hear comes up “randomly" in a casual conversation. Or when a friend summons the courage to broach a delicate topic. Or when a child asks an uncomfortable question. Notice the images and phrases and sentences that come to you in periods of silent prayer or meditation. Notice where irritations arise in the midst of daily living together, and where you feel suddenly affirmed.
The obvious sources of guidance are reliable – common sense, Scripture, family members who know us all too well, friends, leaders, and teachers with proven competence and compassion. Less obvious are the subtle way the Spirit summons us to attention, breaking into conversations that have become routine with a new word of life, bringing us up short with someone’s objection to an examined assumption. When we listen for guidance, we listen differently, more humbly, more openly.
A wise woman once told me, “Listen for God’s voice everywhere. And don’t forget that the Spirit may use the people who annoy you to teach you." Precisely the word we need may come from a sullen nineteen-year-old with a nose ring, or from the bore who corners us at a party, or from an officious neighbour. If we listen widely and willingly – not indiscriminately, but with the intention of discerning what may help direct our steps and hone our choices – our lives will be rich with surprises.
Listening like this consistently takes practice. Listening beyond our resistances and prejudices (can any good things come out of Nazareth – or from the other side of the aisle?) may lead us into territory where our assumptions may at least be examined, and our conclusions modified.
From Jaya James
JESUS WAS A GREAT STORYTELLER
Jesus was a great storyteller.
We’ve talked about this before. His ‘sermons’ are all deeply rooted in a care for, and understanding of the mundane and everydayness of our lives. Whether he is talking about fig trees or grape vines, farmers sowing seeds or shepherds looking for lost sheep, his ability to weave common experience into his interactions and his teaching is what drew his listeners in.
Right now, for many of us, the mundane and everydayness of our lives is just a little overwhelming. As of today even more stores and restaurants and parks and trails will be closed and unavailable for us as employees and customers. Our routines and spaces seem to be closing in on us.
And here we are…entering Holy Week. It’s a week where we remember, reflect, celebrate, spend time with extended family and friends. None of that is possible this year. We will be remembering and celebrating as individuals or individual families this year. Of course we will use the great gift of technology to do what we can do to fill the void but it will only take us so far.
So here are a few ideas for us this week to take joy in our everydayness…
Spend time thinking about and laboring over a meal. Think about the ingredients and why you use them. Think about the flavours and feel you are hoping to achieve. Bring meaning to the fuel that your body needs to live and breathe have its being.
Spend time listening to music that moves you. Write out the lyrics and speak them as a poem. Sit still (like I did as a kid in front of the record player) and concentrate on the music not the things you’re doing while you’re listening to the music.
Spend time reading through a gospel. I prefer Matthew during this time because of Matthew’s purpose in establishing Jesus as Saviour and King but just choose one. Don’t try to reap some great new profound truth…let the words find a place in your soul and in your mind.
Spend time connecting with and old friend or family member. They may live under your roof…they may not. If you’re not sure of who that might be for you, I’m guessing that if you are still for a moment one will come to mind.
A CANDLE AT MIDNIGHT
Mary Jo Leddy wrote a book on her work with street people which she entitled, “We Beg To Differ". She got that title from some graffiti that was written on a wall in Toronto. The whole statement was:
When we light
A candle at midnight
We are saying to the darkness
We beg to differ.
What stands out for me is the line, a candle at midnight. A candle is small and in the day time throws little light. But in the darkness it does make a difference. This reminds me of the small acts of kindness that I have experienced when I have been in a dark place. As an example, 45 years ago when Willie and I moved to Guelph, we knew no one in this community. We were moving from London where my family lived and where we attended the church that I had grown up in. Back then some people were not comfortable with inter-racial marriage. I was anxious about whether we would be accepted. Coming down the stairs of our porch several days after we moved into our new home, a neighbour across the street was getting into her car. She called out, “Hi, neighbour, welcome". I smiled and waved back. But what went through my mind was, ‘We are going to be okay’. A number of years later I tried to thank her and tell her how much it had meant to me. She was surprised that those three words had been so meaningful and important to me. Such a simple act; but for me she was a candle at midnight.
Perhaps this is what we can be for each other during these times of uncertainty. It could be a phone call, a text message, an email to someone to touch base, to let them know that we are thinking of them. When we are going grocery shopping perhaps we can call someone, for who getting out is harder, to see if we can pick anything up for them. Many other small things that help keep us connected and that remind us that we are a community. That community stretches beyond our church to our neighbours and to the agencies helping our neighbours.
Here are some examples on how we can help:
1. Chalmers Food Bank has requested cash donations so they can buy what is needed.
2. Hope House has requested dish soap, shampoo, tooth paste, female hygiene products especially pads since they have tampons. Hope House is finding it harder to buy in bulk because the stores are guarding against people hoarding. They are able to get their fresh produce through a wholesaler.
Throughout scripture when God appears to people often the first words spoken are “Fear not”. The first part of Isaiah 40: 10 succinctly summarizes why we need not fear, “So do not fear, for I am with you “. In the coming days and weeks may we each sense God’s presence directly through His Spirit but also indirectly through each other as we reach out to be community in new ways.
A parent-child relationship can be a truly amazing thing on levels that we barely think about. As a parent, I want to protect my children from the harsh realities of the world and offer them a face of peace and love. I will hold the fear and anxiety so they don’t have to. In turn, they explode with joy and laughter and a care-free attitude that quickly lets me forget the troubles outside my door if only for a little while.
We like going to the movies. We don’t go often but when we do, we get the Costco movie passes that have the snacks included. This is the best part for the kids. They get a slushy, popcorn and the little canister of m&m’s (which are usually gone before the previews end and the movie begins). These little moments have been put on hold for a time, but instead of allowing the disappointment to overcome us, we are creating new moments that are truly special.
My kids recreated a movie theatre experience for us. We had to collect our tickets and wait until the doors opened at 8. They made a poster, a ticket collection box, staff name tags and a concession stand (chocolate chip cookies and guacamole-what a combo!). Some of them even had the full 3-D experience with glasses, minus the lenses. We crowded into our living room movie theatre and spent the night together.
We’d love to hear the creative ways you are spending time in isolation. Send us your stories and pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take care, Amy
To quote a friend from work, this has been one of the most interesting weeks of our lives. Since January, Lori and I have been participating in the Enneagram study group, which has been a great time to meet members of our community (both from First and others), and to find out some very interesting things about my personality makeup…
I am a number 5 on the chart – sometimes called the thinker or the observer. So it is in my nature to observe what is going on, and I am feeling blessed. This is a scary time, but the leaders in my immediate surroundings (my boss and the executive group at work, and Debra, Brent and the SLT here at First) are working in a calming way to help us all work our way through this crisis. Outside a few empty aisles at the grocery store and an extreme reduction in traffic, there has been very little signs of panic that could easily have gripped our society. Some of that is due to the leaders in our midst. We need to continue to pray for guidance and support for these people in our lives, but we should also show our gratitude, for these people that have shouldered a heavy burden. Most didn’t sign up to be a leader in troubled times. Mistakes will be made – some will fall into fear-based decision making – so continue to pray for their support.
As a flock, or employees we need to continue to stay calm, keep our physical social distance and maybe take a cue from our youth. Connections can be made through the miracles of technology – We are even ‘doing church’ that way for now. God is with us, helping us through the troubles that this broken world throws our way. I pray that His spirit will be there to support you in the darkness and that you can be his light as you are called to be.
I’ve always liked doing puzzles on a visual level. Putting things in their place in a way that creates a whole and having that whole be something that is nice to look at appeals to me and whatever weird idiosyncrasies I possess. Apparently they are also good for using both sides of your brain at the same time and enhancing spacial recognition as well as improving short term memory…if I remember correctly! Lol
Here’s what I’ve been doing as I have been puzzling this week. When I pick up a piece I have attached a name to it. I started with my family, then extended family and friends and church family and have used the time that piece is in my hand as a time to think and pray for each person individually. It’s been a quiet and meditative exercise. And the cool visual has been to watch as all the connections and relationships in my life have come together to create the full picture.
So if you’re puzzling over these next weeks I highly recommend this approach. And if you are looking for a puzzle to do, let me know. We’ve got a few extra over here!