Lenten Devotion for March 30, 2023

Because of your grace, we are.

Because of your love, we act.

Because of your spirit, we pray.

Because of your gospel, we live.

Because of your presence, we worship.

Because of your welcome, we are transformed.

If it had not been for you, Lord,    

We would not be.

So it was, so it is, so it will be,

For now and forever. Amen

This prayer was part of the Good Courage devotion for today. I love its simplicity and its poetry. I take comfort in the impression it offers of God, who is present as the source of all we truly need, to become who we are truly meant to be.

What is less comfortable, and comforting, is the soft-voiced reminder that because of that constant Divine Presence, transformation is not only possible, it is more than likely inevitable, if I am to continue to grow into the something, that until its season, in the words of a favourite hymn is an unrevealed mystery that God alone can see.

As the hymn reminds us, transformation is a matter of life and death. The new life is born out of change and loss.

Lenten Devotion for March 26, 2023

Lent is the church’s annual journey towards the moment on Good Friday when we remember the death of Jesus. Does this season prepare us?

Are we ever actually ready to face death? The death of Jesus? The death of a loved one? Our own?

Today’s Good Courage author digs into their own experience of grief over the death of a relationship, as a way to remind us of a pattern we recognize.

There is a movement from loss and grief towards new possibility, and new life. We see that cycle repeated daily with rise of the sun, and its setting in the evening. We’ve learned to trust it will rise again tomorrow.

We see it in the cycle of the seasons. (Although here in Essex County, lately it’s felt like we can have all the seasons in one week.) Generally, at this time of year, we watch for the retreat of winter, and the signs that spring is emerging. New growth, the greening of the fields and trees, the return of birds we said goodbye to the past fall.

The writer also reminds that the smaller deaths, the changes and losses we experience, have the benefit, not always apparent or appreciated at the time, of making space in our lives for the “new”.

As long as we live, this can be true. Relationships, occupations, interests, activities, busy-ness which claimed much of our time, fascination, resources and energy may wind down, or fade away, die.

Can we remember that, in those times of pain and loss? Can we tell ourselves, ” I grieve what is now missing, but I trust that there will be something new.”?

Lenten Devotion for March 7, 2023

We like to watch some competitive reality shows. Our current favourites include The Great Canadian Baking Show, and The Great Pottery Throwdown.

On the pottery show, amateurs are challenged to push their creativity and pottery skills to new heights. We grow attached to them, and it’s always a bit sad to see one of these kind souls eliminated at the end of an episode. We know they have a full existence beyond tv, but still.

There is another moment on the show that has some of the life, death, and new life vibe of the scripture that was part of today’s devotional reading from Good Courage. The quote was from 1 Corinthians, and it’s a fairly well known one about “treasure in clay pots”.

On the pottery show, competitors are often asked to complete a technical challenge- to throw as many pots of a certain style in a brief allotment of time. They are judged on how well they match the example they were given, the consistency in size and shape and stylistic features, and the sheer number of successful pots.

As they approach each competitor’s work area, one of the judges carries a metal bucket. When he sees a below standard pot, he mashes it with a quick slap of his palm and scoops the flattened clay into the bucket. Presumably the clay will be used again, fashioned into something wonderful.

We know it’s just clay. We know that each potter on the show has likely done the same to their failed pots, in their own workshop, many times.

Still, to see anyone’s creative efforts summarily reduced to be recycled is a little heart-breaking. (I feel that way about some of the sentences I cut from pieces that I write- it’s called “killing your darlings”.)

There is comfort in the assurance that beyond affliction and despair we have the promise of a life beyond this one. But I still flinch when I see some one, or something I care about being flattened.

Lenten Devotion Day Two Feb 23, 2023

The Good Courage devotion for today invited us to notice the gifts of nature, and to consider what they may tell us about the Creator.

I am about 12 hours later than I’d planned, in posting this today, because nature gave us an ice storm last night, and a power outage. It also gave us a significantly quieter, and simpler day.

We are even more grateful this evening, now that power has been restored, that most days we don’t have to think about whether the house is getting too cold, or how will we cook. We are very comfortable, and aware that many are not.

I spent time in the yard this morning, piling broken branches, and sawing at tree limbs. Our neighbour has a very tall white birch that split in several places, and some of it landed on the roof of our shed. It’s a beautiful tree, and it was sad to see it harmed.

It was also remarkable to see how far the tree limbs are able to flex under the weight of the ice. As the day warmed, and the ice melted, I watched the branches recover some of their former stance.

There are, of course, parts of the tree that did not survive. We have pieces of white birch on our back lawn, that will be cut down into generous lengths for Christmas decorations we are already planning for next winter.