United With All Creation

The last couple of weeks I have been taking my morning coffee and heading off to the tidal bore view situated on the banks of the Bay of Fundy. Most mornings the tide has been out and you can see the red mud flats which glisten in the sun. Some days there are flocks of seagulls that dot the landscape. As I watched them I couldn’t help but wonder if this is their morning coffee as they sit and enjoy the beauty of this place.

Part way up the hill stands an old maple tree. It’s base is big, gnarled and showing its age. At one point it splits into several other large branches and then the smaller ones flow out from there. Each branch is unique but twisted and woven around the others.

I wonder about this tree’s story – the years of growing and becoming; the storms that it has weathered; the moments of new life and growth; and the people who have stood beneath its branches.

There is the belief among some spiritual disciplines that everything in creation has a soul or spirit. As I stand beside this tree its spirit is very real. There is something amazing about simply being in its presence! There is a strength and a peace that floods my soul as I connect to its energy.

Yesterday, as I sat beside this tree I was drawn again to the Psalms. I returned to the office and opened to Psalm 92. With the sacred story before me and the image of this mighty tree in my mind, these are the words that flooded my soul:

   Creation  (inspired by Psalm 92 and my tree)

We are blessed by Divine presence

Love that shines like the rising sun

Faithfulness that cradles like the night

Even in the midst of chaos

when all the world seems in turmoil

there is a hope that empowers

and a promise of new life that lingers.

Like the tree that takes root and

grows with strength and dignity

remaining healthy and fruitful even in old age

so too are the children of the earth.

Rooted in love and connected with life

we are grounded and our foundation is firm.

So we raise our voice to sing the melody of praise

United with all creation!

 

Blessings, Valerie

In the midst of this… Bubbles!

“I lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence does my help come?”   ~ Psalm 121

This is the psalm that has been running through my heart these last couple of days. Dealing with loss and difficulties of any sort is not an easy thing. Whether that be the death of a family member, the loss of a job, dealing with stressful family situations, difficulties at work or the many other things that can turn life upside down. In the midst of this we wonder sometimes where we will get the strength the deal with the next bump in road. Where will our help come from?  Psalm 121 goes on to talk about the Divine presence that is very real and surrounds us through all the comings and goings of life. 

Yesterday I visited with a friend whose husband died a few months ago. It was the first time we had a chance since then to connect and share some time together. During the visit we talked about lawn bugs, broken clothes lines, feelings of aloneness, grief and sorrow and bubbles. A lot of our time was reflecting on those things that have been able to help in the journey, the moments when the Divine presence is real. We also talked about what is not helpful – cliché’s that simply do not speak to the situation; questions that really should not be asked, like “Do you think you will find someone else” and other such things. In the midst of this my friend shared one story that, I think, sums up what Divine presence looks like and the kind of help that really makes a difference when the shadows are threatening to overwhelm. With her permission, I want to share this with you.

“One day, after her husband’s death, my friend was home alone. She was feeling deeply her loss and had been crying. In her words “I looked quite the mess!” There were things however that needed to be done, like taking out the compost. She wiped her eyes and proceeded to carry out this mindless but necessary task. As she neared the end of the driveway the two little girls from next door approached. They said hi and some other idle chit chat and went on their merry way. Later that day the girl’s Father called to let my friend know that the girls noticed she was upset and they wondered why. He told them about the death of her husband. Not long after the girls arrived at the back door with a bottle of bubbles. “Do you want to come out and blow bubbles with us?” they asked. My friend was not really feeling it but decided she would. They blew bubbles together, told stories and laughed as a huge bubble landed right on my friends face. The next day the girls returned with a bottle of bubbles and a note explaining that these were for her for when she felt sad. When she did she could just go outside and blow bubbles, laugh and feel better.”

Inspired by psalm 121

I lift up my eyes and I wonder…

I wonder where my help will come from.

Will there be moments of laughter again?

Will I ever feel “ normal”?

Then the voice of children

A knock on the door

Bubbles galore.

Running through the grass

Wind in my hair

Laughter ringing in the air.

This is holy  this moment sacred

I know the presence of Divine

Since that day my friend has blown her bubbles – sometimes alone and sometimes with her young friends. She has found strength in these moments and is able to take one more step toward healing and wholeness. 
My prayer is that if you are in this place of shadows you will take a moment and blow some bubbles and open yourself to Spirit.

Blessings,Valerie

Our Mission as Christian

Good morning

 

On Saturday I poured my regular morning coffee and set out to check in on social media . I came across an article about an Anglican Church that had welcomed a Muslim community into their space. It was a wonderful story of solidarity, unity, community and love. It was, I thought, an example of what can happen when people move beyond the differences and embrace the common bond we share as brothers and sisters of the Universe.

 

Then I continued reading some of the comments posted and began to feel sick!! Such fear and hatred from people who call themselves Christian ranting about how wrong this picture is. Some comments talked about how the Christian way is the only path to the Divine and that people who believe otherwise must be converted. One comment suggested that the Christian God and the Muslim God are different. One person named that to see a Christian Minster and a Muslim kneeling in prayer side by side was a mockery of the Gospel.

 

I found myself wondering:

                What Bible do they read? What Jesus do they know?

 

When I read the stories of Jesus, in whose footsteps I have chosen to walk, I do not find Jesus turning anyone away. In fact, the opposite is true!

Jesus was about breaking down barriers, crossing lines of division, and opening doors of dialogue. When he broke bread with community I do not recall anytime when he said “ you must believe everything that I do and treat those who don’t with distain.”  I do remember that he said “ all the law and the prophets can be summed up in this manner. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbour as yourself.”  And St Paul reminds us that  in Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female but that we are all one.

 

Someone asked what the point of evangelism is if we do not expect that others must believe what we do. I thought about that for a minute ( only a minute) and this would be my answer:  As a follower of Jesus my task is not to shove rhetoric and doctrine down someone’s  throat. Rather my task is to live into the vision that Jesus had. To do that I must model love, compassion, justice, joy , forgiveness, reconciliation, community and so much more. I am responsible for creating space where every child of the Universe has the opportunity to experience Divine presence and live to their full potential.

 

Last winter Chris and I wrote a piece of music for the “Choirs for Comfort “ and I think these words reflect what it means to be an evangelist and to live the dream of Jesus

                                “ When we all sing together

and draw on each person’s melody

                                Our voices will grow stronger,

our message will ring clear

though we are different

we can still show unity.

 

When we all sing together

And in true solidarity we stand

The light shines through the darkness

Our vision becomes clear

We can work for justice in the land”

 

This is what Jesus calls us to do. The day that we stand side by side, hand in hand with people regardless of race, religion, colour , creed, sexuality, gender … That is when we will have fulfilled our mission as Christian.

 

May it be so.

 

Blessings

Valerie

 

Reminders of the Week

 

Mark your Calendars Now!!!!   Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra in Concert.  August 30th 7pm. Tickets are on sale now!!! All proceeds from this concert will go to the ongoing work of the church.

 

Don’t forget  every Wednesday at noon free concerts at the church featuring local artists!  Bring your lunch and have your soul fed!

A Glimpse of the Sacred

Good afternoon!!

On Saturday I had the privilege of celebrating a wedding on the beach with a family from our congregation. It was amazing! The sun was shining, a slight breeze blowing and people gathered from all over. Some came from as far away as Florida for this gathering. When I arrived people were sitting in chairs around the property, laughing and chatting. Some people were on the beach enjoying the warm waters of the Northumberland Strait. Some were tossing balls or just running through the grass. People of all ages, shapes and sizes gathered to celebrate. AS I mingled with those gathered and took in the scene before me I could not help but think “ Now this is a slice of paradise!”. I was reminded of the story in the gospel named for Matthew where Jesus talks about the Divine Realm being like a wedding banquet. Here , in this moment, I believe we truly experienced something sacred and were given a glimpse of the world as it should be.

After the wedding I headed back to Truro to attend a concert that was taking place at the church – Alan Syliboy and the Thundermakers. Now I will admit that there was a part of me that was simply ready to go home and call it a day but I felt I needed to be present at the church so that is where I went. And I am blessed because I did! What an evening of deep spirit, the thinning of the veil between human and Divine, and food for the soul. The evening began with two young dancers from the Mi’kmaq community. One was a “Jingle Dancer” and we were told that these are dances of healing. The other was a “Butterfly Dancer” whose dance is done in celebration and gratitude. To watch them move transported one to another place. I could feel the power of their movements and joy of creation. I took some pictures as they danced and this is my favourite:

 

 

Following this came the offering of the band . There were many things that were exceptional about this but one that I want to reflect on briefly. The lead singer invited us to experience a prayer chant in the Mi’kmaq tradition. Before he began he explained that when the Mi’kmaq people sing a prayer chant they do not use words because they believe that the Creator does not speak as we do. The Creator speaks the language of the heart and so we must pray with the heart. Then the community drum began to beat, accompanied by some sounds from the stringed instruments that are difficult to explain and then Mr. Francis began to chant. Within moments I could feel the energy in the room change and there was a connection with something beyond this physical realm. The haunting sound simply filled the air and I could feel an embrace that was peaceful and comforting. For a brief moment I was cradled in the arms of love and my soul rejoiced.

While Jesus never talked about this as being the Divine Realm, in this moment I have no doubt that we were given a glimpse of the sacred and Divine and human met.

 

Blessings
Valerie

I Wonder “But How?”

Good morning!

As I sit to the computer this morning and prepare to write my reflection there are many things running around in my head. It has been a couple of heavy weeks since I returned from vacation – heart attack, cancer diagnosis, pregnancy issues, other illnesses, and a couple of deaths. As I reflected on this earlier in the week I could hear my friend Donna’s voice (Donna is one of the people who died this week and with whom I have been journeying for a little while) say “Psalm 46 has been my companion on this journey”.

In Psalm 46 we read these words “God is my refuge and my strength a very present help in times of trouble.”

I thought about these words and found myself wondering “but how?” How is this thing we call God able to provide us with strength and comfort and peace? Now you might be wondering why I, an ordained minister in the church, would be grappling with a question such as this. After all, this is what I live and breathe. It is what I try to communicate in a variety of ways every day. However, even for me, there are times I still wonder. There are times when I struggle to see the sense in the things that are going on around me. There are times when the presence of the Divine seems very far away and even absent. And when there are multiple things happening that seem to be unjust or just plain wrong, when there are people around me who are suffering and it makes no sense, even I have those moments of uncertainty and I wonder where God is in the midst of this. I wonder….

Then, more often than not, something happens! Something that lifts the veil and speaks to my soul in such a way that the sacred is tangible and real. These are the moments that remind me of a power and energy in the universe, which people call by many names, that is indeed a comfort and strength . This presence is something that weaves into your very being.

Yesterday, into the midst of these two weeks of not so good stuff, came such a moment. We drove to Woodstock to check in with our daughter, Terri, and to visit for the afternoon. I was given the most amazing gift! It was very hot by mid-afternoon so my grandson and I walked down to the river for some cooling off time and some water play. For two hours I stepped out of the everyday world and was invited into a world where rocks became boats and horses and best friends, sticks became rafts, grass became homes for the water people, little fish became whales. Laughter, imagination and story became the order of the day. Divine presence was there in every word, in every moment of laughter and in the times of silence. It was a sacred time and I indeed felt comfort, strength and peace.

This morning I sit at my computer to compile my thoughts and find myself in the midst of another one of these moments. The window in my office is open and outside a young girl is painting. Her voice lifts through the air and into my office. What I hear is this “I love my daddy. My daddy is the greatest. I love my daddy.” In a tune of her own creating and in the words of her heart she brings a lift to my spirit and a smile to my lips. It is a sacred time and I feel strength and comfort and peace.

So how is, what many call God, present and able to bring strength? Exactly like this.

May it be so for you.

Blessings
Valerie

Reminders of the week

Alan Syliboy and the Thundermakers Saturday at 7pm!!!!!

The Universe Rejoices When We Are One

Good morning!

It is hard to believe that July is almost over and vacation time is now behind me. Monday saw a return to work and that meant planning time for Chris and me as we looked to the rest of the summer and into the fall. As always, our time together meant lots of laughter and the conversation moved in many different directions. In the midst of planning we began to look at some of the psalms and in a blink of an eye we were discussing the idea of creating a new resource inspired by the psalms – music and poetry.

As I thought about this through the day my creative juices began to flow and a sense of excitement grew at the prospect. The psalms, for me, have always been a great source of energy, comfort, joy and peace. When my spirit needs renewal it is to this collection that I most often turn and I find that my soul is fed and my spirit is lifted up. As I read them there is a deep connection with the ancestors and I can feel the divine energy present in this moment.

I have, from time to time, reflected on a psalm and written a paraphrase or a piece that is inspired by it. Sometimes those new words take some time in coming and at other times they come rather quickly. Yesterday we were looking at Psalm 133 which is one of the readings for an upcoming Sunday. As we continued our talking I had a pen in hand and the psalm was in front of me on the computer and in a few brief moments the psalm took on new life for me.

Inspired by Psalm 133

How wonderful it is when all our relations live in unity!
The water rushes over the rocks;
the wind whistles in the trees;
the birds join their many voices
and in a symphony of praise the universe rejoices
With the rising and setting of the sun
all creation is blessed and we are one.

This Saturday we will, once again, join with our brothers and sisters in the community to walk in Truro’s second annual Pride Parade. A moment of unity and solidarity where we rejoice together in the diversity that is all creation. For a time, we will set aside our differences and we will acknowledge and that we are connected in the great web of life and that the universe rejoices when we are one.

Blessings
Valerie

Reminders of the Week

Saturday at 1:30 we will gather with other united churches at the main doors of the stadium on Lorne Street. Wear bright colours. I will have streamers and the Church banner. See you there!!!

August 5th at 7pm – Alan Syliboy and the Thundermakers!!! Live Music, Live Art Tickets $20 in advance at the church office or $25 at the door .

Alan Syliboy was born and raised in Truro, Nova Scotia. Living in the Millbrook First Nations community, he journeys through his life with a demeanor of strength. Alan has built an ever growing list of accomplishments throughout his lifetime, although many people are most familiar with his beautiful and unique works of art that captivate and inspire us. Here we will share just a small portion of some of his great contributions to the world of art.

Alan has traveled world wide, graciously sharing his gifts with us all. He traveled to France multiple times throughout his career participating in shows and trade missions. He was delegated by the Department of External Affairs of Canada to take part in a trade mission to Japan where he was joined by several other Nova Scotian companies. He obtained an agent and was involved with exportation of his works. He also took part in Art demonstrations at Ludwig Beck store in Munich, Germany.

Alan was once again short listed for the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award for:

The Thundermaker (2013) Multi-media installation, by Alan Syliboy. Nominator: David Diviney
An established Mi’kmaq artist, Syliboy’s artistic vocabulary is inspired by the indigenous petroglyphs of Nova Scotia. His immersive installation The Thundermaker is built around the recently discovered and translated Mi’kmaq legend, “The Stone Canoe,” in which the Thundermaker story is embedded. The installation begins with a circle of text panels illustrated with Syliboy’s drawings, and culminates with a tipi containing a projected animation film of the story. The animation was executed under the artist’s supervision by Nova Scotia Community College Digital Animation students. The artist’s work People of the Dawn was a 2010 Masterworks Finalist.

As Alan walks through this life he has made everlasting contributions and impressions that will teach and share his culture for generations to come. His art will continue to present the Mi’kmaw people with pride and his visions give us all a glimpse of his culture’s true beauties.

Tell a Story or Two and Listen

Wednesday’s Wonderings

My mother was an English teacher and taught in a small, one room, school in Brigus NL until she married. In the late 1940’s it was not common practice for a woman to continue working after marriage so she left formal teaching and soon had children of her own. I don’t remember her ever formally teaching us as we grew but she did instill in us a love of the English language, of literature, and of learning. My sisters and I have, each in our own way, carried on her passion for education and writing. This past week my sister, Beulah, launched a website staring her writing.  (Check her out at www.beulahbouzane.com) Some of her pieces are filled with fun and silliness, some are of a more serious nature. All of them contain nuggets of wisdom, insight and wonder and each one reflects something of the everyday to which we can all relate.

With her permission I want to share one of her reflections called “Henry” 

” So is the PowWow going ahead” I asked ” Oh yes! They are all meeting over there – trying to decide whether it should be inside or outside” Then he sat a spell to tell one of his stories.
“Henry’s the name. I’m from New Brunswick. Been here three or four times, years ago, but not for a while now. Then the boat broke last week and you see, I had an “Oh Well” day. Ordered the part right off and headed over here to dance and listen to some stories”

” So, are you a storyteller?” I asked

“I’m a dancer and a storyteller. Don’t know much myself. Cup’s only half full most of the time so I like to listen. Then I’ll tell a story or two and when I run out of knowing, I listen some more. Lost 12 years of my life to a bottle wine one time. Not so anymore. Now, I tell a story or two to someone else who needs to hear. They know I’ve been there so I can relate. And then I listen.”

Then he walked away to dance, tell a story or two, and to listen.

Quite often at the end of worship I use the words – may we see the face of Christ in everyone we meet. When I read this story of Henry I immediately thought of Jesus. Here, in this brief moment, my sister had received the gift of sitting a while with Jesus. As she shared the story we too are offered this privilege.
When Jesus told his stories there was always a piece of wisdom, a moment of insight or a word that spoke to the soul. As I listen to Henry’s words what jumps out for me is the phrase “I had an ‘Oh Well’ day and then I came here to dance and listen to some stories”. 

Isn’t that simply wonderful!!!!

We all have those kinds of days. Times when things don’t go as we expect. Perhaps there is a bump in the road or the sun doesn’t shine as brightly as we need. When that happens, imagine what would happen if could just dance, tell a story or two and listen! 

May it be so.

BlessingsValerie

Reminders of the week:
On Saturday, July 29th we will be joining our brothers and sisters in the Colchester area United Churches to march in the pride parade. Details of where to meet will come your way shortly .

Eating Twinkies with God

It is early morning, the sun is rising and the birds are singing. In the distance I can hear dogs barking. The universe is waking up. Just inside the house there is a small voice singing along with “the Backyardigins” and I know that I am truly blessed!

For the last week and a bit we have been on an adventure with our almost 4 year old grandson. And what an adventure it has been!! From playgrounds to wildlife parks; from ocean to lake; from fishing to swimming we have travelled amidst squeals of laughter and deep conversations. It has been amazing!

As I reflect on this I am reminded of a story that goes like this: ‘once there was a little boy who decided to run away from home. He packed a lunch and headed off. He made it to the park when he decided to sit for a rest. He sat on a bench next to an old woman who was feeding the birds. He opened his pack and offered her a Twinkie. She smiled the biggest smile. They sat for a long time eating twinkles and feeding the birds. Finally the young boy decided perhaps he should go home. As he turned to leave he gave the old woman a big hug and she gave him the biggest smile. When the boy arrived home he was met by his mom who asked “where have you been all day?” He responded “I’ve been eating twinkies in the park with God! You know, God has the biggest smile!” Meanwhile the old woman also returned home and was met by her son. He asked “what have you been up to today?” She responded “I’ve been eating twinkies in the park with God. You know, I didn’t realize God was so young.”’
For the past week I have laughed and played and snuggled and eaten twinkles in the park with God.

My prayer for each of you is that you too will find that bench, feed the birds and eat twinkies with God. 

Blessings, Valerie

A Move into Adulthood

This morning as I scrolled through Facebook I saw pictures galore of amazing young men and women dressed for prom. This is graduation week for many. Such a sense of accomplishment which is paired no doubt with some apprehension. High school is over and now a new chapter begins. Some are headed off to another round of school, others are taking up jobs and perhaps moving out on their own for the first time. Whatever tomorrow holds this is also a move into adulthood with different responsibilities and new adventures.

In the book of Ecclessiastes chapter three we find these words:
” what do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the business that the Divine has given to humanity. Everything has been made beautiful in its time and eternity has been set in our hearts yet we cannot fathom from the beginning to the end. I do know that there is nothing better than for us to be happy and do good while we live. we should eat and drink and take pleasure in all our toil for this is the divine gift”

For those who are graduating this week I offer these words to you as you move into this part of your journey. There are so many possibilities that lie just beyond the horizon waiting for you to discover. My prayer for each of you is that you will step out in faith, be willing to risk, and embrace what life has to offer. May you have strength for the difficult parts of the journey and the courage to be all that you are created to be.

For those of you who are not graduating but perhaps facing a different transition I offer these words as reminder that life, despite the difficulties, is good. May you have the strength to see beyond the dark times and to embrace the light that is divine gift. May you be open to the surprises that come with the dawn of each new day and may you be all that you are created to be.

Blessings
Valerie

Thirst Has Been Quenched and Souls Set Free

Good Morning!                                                                                                                                Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

This morning when I opened Facebook one of those memories that it likes to remind us of was front and centre. It told me that in June of 2015 Chris and I launched our first song book “Singing Faith Today” and Tidal Bore Music was born. Since that time we have published two other songbooks and a worship resource. As I think about this it seems surreal. How did this ever come to be? Never, in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be writing hymns and songs or that they would be sung by people and congregations across this country.

I reflect on this and I think of all those things that line up to make dreams reality. It does not happen in isolation and sometimes as spirit moves the unexpected happens. There are many reasons why I am able to be where I am and countless people who have nurtured and empowered me. However, this part of the journey began with a call, early one day in March of 2011 asking if I would consider applying for a call to First United Church in Truro. A pivotal moment that opened doors I didn’t even know existed.

I find myself once again hearing the story of the Woman at the Well, which many of you know is my favourite sacred story! Coming to First United was like coming to the well for me. Here I met strangers who looked into my eyes, listened to my story, shared theirs with me and indeed set my spirit free. As I drank from the waters of this well I have been given the courage to step outside my comfort zones, grow, change and soar to new heights. 
It is not only what I have been able to do and become that comes to mind for me though. Here, at this well, we have met on common ground and the sacred is present among us. I see it in those who join me here and I have witnessed many others grow, change and deepen their faith. Thirst has been quenched and souls set free!

So today I am thankful for the unexpected; for the movement of spirit; for companions on the way and for wells that never run dry! My prayer for each of you is that you will be open to these things, embrace the possibilities that lie just beyond the horizon and be renewed by the waters of life!

Blessings ~ Valerie

Reminders of the Week
Friday at 6:30pm ~ New Moon Drumming Circle in the Parlour
Sunday  10:30am ~ Worship ~ This week as we gather we will mark Aboriginal Sunday

DON’T FORGET TO KEEP VOTING   www.thisplacematters.ca  “Windows into the Future
I will begin vacation this coming Sunday following worship. I will be away until July 22. During that time Rev. Roger will be on call and worshipping with you each week. If you are in need of Pastoral Care, please remember to take care of each other!

Summer Lunchtime Concerts Begin!!!!  Wednesday June 28th.  Come to the church at 12:15, bring along your lunch and have your soul fed!