Tag Archives: joy

23 Days Until Easter


The days are getting longer, the sun stronger, and the snow is lasting for a shorter time.  These are sure signs of spring, of rebirth of our natural world.  The reawakening of mother earth.  Along with this people’s spirits are lifting and thoughts and dreams are focused more on the short summer (in Canada anyway) which is on the horizon.

This brightening can be seen in the church as well.  Sure, we are still in Lent for our worship services, but at choir practices and planning meetings the focus has moved on the joyous celebration which is coming in a mere 23 days!  We are still practising our hymns for Lenten services but now the end part of practise is focused on the cheering crowd of Palm Sunday and the weeks of celebration which begin on Easter morning.

So, hang in there! Easter, rejoicing, and spring are coming!! 

Part 2 – Come As The Real You: Dressing to reflect what we stand for


The coming week at our school is Anti-Bullying Week.  Our Humankind group has put together a week of themes and activities to shed a light on, and encourage a change in the bullying situation in our school and society.  On Wednesday we are asking people to come to school as the “Real You.”  

I bought a blank t-shirt to decorate.  What did I decide to put on it?  On the front there is an happy face surrounded by things for which I stand up; peace, justice, love, equality, freedom, etc.  On the back I put a big check mark with the words, “Do What’s” above it.

Come As The Real You: Dressing to reflect what we stand for


The coming week at our school is Anti-Bullying Week.  Our Humankind group has put together a week of themes and activities to shed a light on, and encourage a change in the bullying situation in our school and society.  One day we are wearing our pyjamas to reflect that the school should be a safe and comfortable place for everyone within the walls.  One day we are looking for our Anti-Bullying superheros.  Friday will be Blue Shirt Day which is a national campaign to eliminate bullying.

Our other main theme day reflects the power of peer pressure and bullying to make people hide themselves, whether literally in corners hoping not to be seen, or less directly by changing how they dress, changing their hair, or not taking part in activities they enjoy.  On Wednesday we are asking people to come to school as the “Real You.”  I have explained it as showing the inner you, or the things for which you stand.  For instance, if you come off to others as a tough and scary person but really have a soft heart and care for people you might come dressed as a teddy bear, a marshmallow, with a big heart on your t-shirt or something like that.  You might put what people see on the front of the shirt and what people may not know on the back.

I have been trying to decide what to wear.  First I will wear jeans and a t-shirt because I am really an informal person.  I bought a blank t-shirt to decorate and now I am trying to decide what to draw or write.  There is some inherent danger in putting inner feelings and thoughts out there for other people to see.  If they were ever inclined to bully you, this would give them excellent ammunition.

I am thinking of putting a stick person type head representing me with a cross around my neck.  Above my head in thought bubbles I would have the words Peace, Love and Justice.  Filtered through my faith, those are the three things for which I am willing to stand up.  Above that I will put words or symbols to represent the various “causes” that I work for.  I could put organizations names, problems we fight against, people who need our help or other things.  Should I have the causes wrap around to include my back?  I am still quite undecided.

My minister had a couple interesting suggestions.  She first said a big check mark.  I immediately thought about my role as a teacher and how much I dislike having to grade student work.  That was not her thought.  For her it would represent that I always try to do what is right.  I suspect this idea will find its way into a campaign for Humankind another year.  Her other idea was just to draw a straight horizontal line to represent wanting to make everyone equal.  (As I typed that it made me think of the scripture saying the valleys will be exulted and the mountains made low.)  These ideas are far less wordy and would require explanation for people to get the point, but maybe that is the point.  It is easy to skim over a bunch of words isn’t it?

I’ll let you know later what I end up doing with my t-shirt.  As we begin the third week of Advent lets all focus on showing for what we stand, and work to bring joy to those in our communities who are the least joyful.

What Are You Giving Up For Advent?


This morning I was standing in line at the cash register at a local store.  There was Christmas music playing in the background, and I became aware that all three of us in line were toe tapping etc. to the music.  I noted this to them and suggested that it must mean that it was early in the season as later on we would likely be complaining about being tired of hearing it.  We had a nice chuckle, and one of the women noted that it wasn’t even December yet.  When I commented that Advent starts tomorrow one of the women asked what I’m giving up.  I said that we give things up for Lent and not Advent, and that it is a good thing!  That got me thinking…

We actually give up many things during Advent don’t we?

  • We give up common sense with respect to our eating habits.  Our best intentions with respect to eating healthfully typically go out the window as the chocolate, candy and home-baked sweets are set out to tempt us, and big family dinners go on and on!

  • We give up on our budgets as we buy special clothing for Christmas parties, and get caught up in all the Christmas shopping hype.  Out come our credit cards and we lose track quickly of how even really great prices can be too much if you buy too many things.

Neither of those are good for us, but there are more things given up during Advent and Christmas…

  • We relax those tight fists on our purse strings and donate more to charities and causes.  Knowing this it is the main time of year for organizations such as World Vision to put out catalogues of items so that people see something concrete to go along with their monetary donation.  Along with our money we loosen up and give more of our time and talents at this time as well.  People go out to entertain at nursing homes, work to collect food and clothing for food banks etc.

  • It is a time to give up on despair, to be replaced by the hope that comes with the birth of the Messiah.

  • We give up on arguments, feuds, and wars (remember hearing about the troops in the WWI in 1914 meeting in no-man’s-land to celebrate Christmas) and accept the gift of peace from the Prince of Peace!

  • We let go of our inner Grinch and, in joy, we smile, sing, and celebrate the birth of a baby boy!

  • And finally, out goes our loneliness as we accept the love of God and the constant presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

So it turns out the question the woman asked me in line this morning was pretty insightful after-all.  What will I give up for Advent?  How about you?

Praise Notes: The Book of Praise Ten


Tenth in a series of posts that go through hymns in The Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. 

Hymn #34

God be merciful to me

Psalm 51
Pressburg (Nicht So Traurig)
Paraphrase, Psalter 1912
Music: Geistreiches Gensangbuch (Freylinghausen) 1704
public domain
 
God be merciful to me; on thy grace I rest my plea
Plenteous in compassion thou, blot out my transgressions now;
my transgressions I confess; grief and guilt my soul oppress;
I have sinned against thy grace and provoked thee to thy face.Wash me, wash me pure within; cleanse, oh cleanse me from my sin;
I confess thy judgements just; speechless, I thy mercy trust.
Thou alone my saviour art; teach thy wisdom to my heart;
make me pure, thy grace bestow; make me thus thy mercy know.

Gracious God, my heart renew, make my spirit right and true;
from my sins oh hide thy face, blot them out in boundless grace.
Cast me not away from thee: let thy Spirit dwell in me;
thy salvation’s joy impart; steadfast make my willing heart.

The paraphrase has a perfect rhyme and rhythm scheme which if spoken might make it seem a bit trite.  Sung however it has a nice flow.

The tune for this hymn is not one you want to spring on a congregation with whom it is unfamiliar.  In a minor key with half-tone changes in note from bar to bar (F# in one bar with F in the next) it will take some time for it to become comfortable.  Assuming your choir can sing it, I advise having the organ (piano) play it all the way through and then just the choir for the first verse and then the congregation joining as they are comfortable.