Light That Keeps the Dark Away

Back in 2015 I wrote a blog entitled, Light or Darkness, and that both find their way into our lives. Since that time I have noted the numerous times that light and/or darkness are mentioned—whether in songs, in writings or in speeches.  Probably the more well-known song about this was written by Leonard Cohen as he stated, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

Recently I was reminded of this light vs. darkness tension. Many in the world celebrated Holocaust Remembrance Day during January. We were reminded of the horrible atrocities committed during WW II by the Nazis. One wonders how so much darkness could prevail in the world. Prince Charles, who is patron of Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, in a tribute speech stated: “We can be the light that ensures the darkness can never return… This is our time when we can, each in our own way, be the light that ensures the darkness can never return.”

Some of us have very faint recollections of WW II. Many were not even born at that time. Does this mean that we can forget all about the horrors of that time? Most certainly not! Somehow, the atrocities against fellow humans continues day after day. Those of us in the comfortable North American scene often only read about atrocities; we are affected very little. However, as we reflect on the recent happening in Washington, DC, we must admit that peace and freedom are very fragile. How little it would take for us to be wrapped up in darkness and tossed aside. All this because we did not allow the crack to let in the light.

If we are the ones to insure that the darkness never returns (although it seems to be close at hand), then we must walk in the light of peace and love. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Darkness is bombarding us from all sides. We can be the light that ensures the darkness never returns. The hatred shown so frequently in many places needs the love which we demonstrate, to drive out this hate.

We are reminded that “perfect love casts our fear” (see I John 4:18). As we continually show love and compassion we can be the light that takes away the darkness. Let us always strive to show that love which projects light.

I want to end this short treatise with some words from The Hill We Climb, the now well-recognized words written and spoken by Amanda Gorman

“When day comes we will step out of the shade,

Aflame and unafraid

The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

If only we’re brave enough to see it

If only we’re brave enough to be it”

A White-washed Canvas—A New Start for 2021

 A canvas filled with life situations

                   Filled with sadness and grief;

A canvas covered with the stories of those who came before

  And wondered where God was when all those troubles came.

A canvas filled with stories of rebelliousness and strife

                  Filled with hatred, pride and uncontrolled revenge.

This canvas, an ugliness that forces all to turn away, can be renewed

                  As the artist compassionately views the scene.

To start afresh a white-wash is required

                  A white-wash that covers all the old

And gives the artist a canvas cleared of all past grief.

When Jesus spoke about the Pharisees

                  Calling them a white-washed sepulcher

Was he providing a cleared canvas ready for a whole new scene?

                  A white-washed canvas

Prepared for scenes with splashes of new colours?

What a wonderful canvas filled with beautiful brush strokes.

                   God’s involved but always stays creatively unchained.

He paints a canvas demonstrating his trademark on the world

                  With brushstrokes showing only good.

God wants every canvas, every stroke and blazing colour

                  To show he cares that beauty shows its face.

This canvas—white-washed—Jesus strokes to paint an all-new story:

                 The lepers have a lease on life,

                  The many fed with fish and loaves,

                  So many others given an abundant life

But more than merely life—

                Their lives are splashy colour strokes

                 That fill the canvas

                  Making it much larger than it looks.

How will Christ fill the canvas of our lives?

                How will the strokes of beauty fill the scene?

And how will this New Year flow onto that canvas

                Prepared so wondrously by Christ for us.

Leaving 2020 to get to 2021

When we entered 2020 we had such high hopes that this would be a great year, filled with activities, travels and family visits. What a crash, when all our plans came tumbling down. Suddenly we all were isolated from our friends, fearful of catching this unknown virus, something called Covid-19. Life as we had been experiencing it became wishful thinking.

We expected this pandemic to run its course within a short time. But one week turned into two; one month turned into two; two months turned into four, then more! Would this never end?  Will we ever get to see and touch our kids again? Will we be able to visit with friends without making sure we keep our distance, wear a mask, and stay in small groups of up to five? Will a potential vaccine really help to bring this horror to an end?

Thankfully, 2020 is coming to an end! The pandemic however is still here. We still need to isolate, to socially distance, to wear masks. However, hope is on the horizon. Vaccines are here and being administered. Our turn will come!

We are approaching 2021 with new hopes and wishes for something different and better than 2020. But wait—was 2020 really that bad?

Here are some reminders of the many great things that 2020 offered:

  1. The opportunity to learn new technology which connected us to friends around the world. This probably would never have happened if not forced by the pandemic restrictions.
  2. This same technology has brought possibilities of having our family connected for special events.
  3. Staying safe has meant no travels to see family outside of Manitoba. However, it did not mean no travel at all. Exploring new parts of Manitoba (or whatever place you are in) has been fantastic. We  have found these day trips for exploration have made our days much more bearable.
  4. Needing to stay socially distanced has given us much more time at home, a time which we have used to work on numerous puzzles and read many more books.
  5. We miss our friends and the close connections, but, again, with new technology, we have “met” via computer to visit, to have coffee or to have a meal together.
  6. Some of us enjoy singing in choirs or smaller groups. The restrictions and safety concerns meant, “No Singing or Music Making”. Creativity brought new ideas to the fore. Soon music groups and choirs were working hard at recording songs in unique ways—all with staying safe at home, yet part of a virtual choir. A challenge met and conquered.

While mulling over all that 2020 brought, I attended our usual Zoom Sunday worship service. Our pastor’s prayer struck a chord. Because of impression it made on me, I need to include it here. For me it summarizes all the riches and blessings that are ours, even as we express frustrations with the restrictions brought on by Covid-19. Thanks to Mary Anne Isaak for sending it for inclusion.

“You, LORD wrap us in your identity and deck us out in the splendour of faithfulness and integrity,

clothes fit to celebrate a dream come true like a bride and groom dressed for a wedding.
Hear, Lord, as we name our joys:

of glimpses of loved ones, even if on the internet.

of warm homes and enough food, even if shared with less company than we desired.

of time for reflection,

of strength when we kept loneliness and discouragement at bay,

of the opportunity to gather for worship.

Gardener God, just as rich soil causes seeds to sprout and grow, so too, you will produce a bumper crop of honesty and integrity among us and among the nations.

We pray for those who care for the earth,

for those who care for education,

for those who care for justice,

for those who care for health.

We pray for the church in all places that we may bear witness to your reign of justice, peace and joy, that there may truly be a bumper crop of honesty and integrity and joy in all the world.

In the name of Jesus, Amen. “ 

So many other good things, too numerous to list. We shall survive, and more than just survive. We have every opportunity to make 2021 a great year. To help that along, we need to stick to the “basics” for a bit longer. Let’s continue to socially distance, to wear masks, to stay apart and away from large groups. And, let’s remember all the joys that come our way every day.

We’ve got this!

Waiting…

Waiting is so hard

We get so impatient as we wait and wait.

Soon we will be past the advent waiting period.

Waiting for the birth of Jesus,

And then it’s Christmas!

We have passed that patience test.

How much waiting can we endure?

Especially if one is a child waiting for that special gift!

Waiting means we are not the ones in charge;

Waiting tells us we have little or no control over the event we’re waiting for.

Is this causing our impatient pacing forth and back?

Is it possible to wait peacefully and not impatiently?

Reflect for a moment on the many in the Bible that waited

And waited until desperation seemed the only route.

Think about the Israelites, struggling in slavery in Egypt;

Think about Samuel’s parents wondering if a child would ever come;

Remember John the Baptist’s folks, who waited decade after decade

Until a miracle occurred and Elizabeth gave birth in her old age.

When we think about the many that have gone before

And the demonstrated patience shown for weeks and months and even years,

Are we not able to endure the short season of advent

In preparation for the coming of the child who was destined to be

Messiah and Redeemer for the world?

The gifts we share remind us of the wonder and the joy brought to us by our God.

But waiting is not exclusive to the advent time each year.

Waiting affects us every day in many other ways.

This year, maybe more than any other we’ve experienced,

Requires extra bytes of patience as we face the Covid-19 bug.

In spring we all assumed that all would be normal very soon,

We could wait that long—if even for a month or two!

But soon we found that Covid would not end without a fight.

Many have become impatient with the tight controls and

Want this all to end, so normalcy could once again control our lives.

Where is that vaccine? It’s been at least nine months—why the long delay?

And now, now that it’s here, why do I have to wait my turn?

Surely if I am to stay alive, I need it now!!

But wait—just as Advent will soon be over.

And the waiting will be done,

So we should always remember

That patience says “Maybe not yet,

But soon, when all is ready for the best.”

Let’s help each other endure the wait with compassion, love and courage.

All in the Same Boat…?

We are still in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Some doubt, others fear, while all of us wait for assurances that we will be all right. How do we describe the situation in which we find ourselves.  G.K. Chesterton stated, “We men and women are all in the same boat, upon a stormy sea. We owe to each other a terrible and tragic loyalty.”

My interpretation of this statement may not be what Chesterton had in mind, but I think he would approve of various interpretations. I venture to say that the common interpretation puts all of us in one vessel, all facing the storm together. Is this how we look at life—we are stuck together and therefore, what happens to one happens to the other. After all, as the common Covid-19 expression states, “We are all in this together.”

We, through this, seek to demonstrate a loyalty to each other, a determination to help one another no matter what. What a lofty goal! Is this possible, especially during a pandemic that is creating so much havoc? Possibly this is something we need to strive towards. Doug Klassen, Mennonite Church Canada, wrote recently, “Throughout history, the Christian church flourished during times of epidemics and restrictions. Early Christians created community by ministering to their immediate neighbours. These communities worshipped together, but the hallmarks of their identity were acts of love and charity to the lonely, vulnerable and suffering.”

Where is the church today? Is it joining with others to state “We are in this together”? I do not plan on spending time on restating the numerous comments made for and against the actions of the church in the face of Covid-19. I am not in a position that I can offer judgments. If we really are together in the same boat then we need to get along and help each other to the best of our ability.

I have found that a sermon preached  by Michele Rae Rizoli, (Toronto United Mennonite), touches on these issues. Rizoli challenged her listeners that, “as a church, we are the body of Christ, our character as peacemakers, justice seekers, mercy extenders, is urgently being called out. We must reveal these traits.”

Rizoli went on to share the following statements which I have gleaned from her sermon. “Let us keep on asking ourselves: What is the Spirit saying. I’d like to suggest three things: Do not judge; Strive for reconciliation; Trust in God.  

“First let’s have a look at Romans 14:1-12 where we read “Do not judge.” The apostle Paul was speaking into a very real community conflict in his time: folks arguing about rules around what was OK and what wasn’t OK to eat, because these things had deep religious meaning for them. People haven’t changed that much, and though we don’t fret as much about food, could anyone else identify with the feelings in this passage? I know I could. What if I changed a few words?

“Have a listen: Some believe in wearing a mask all the time, while the weak do not wear masks. Some desire to gather in person, while others feel safer at home. Those who mask must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who wear them, for God has welcomed us all. Some judge one social distance to be better than another, while others judge all distances to be alike. We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

Rizoli continues, “I find it tremendously unnerving when people are not wearing masks, not wearing them properly or disregarding all the widely agreed upon rules for everyone’s protection. My temper flares unreasonably inside of me and I want to call them names and consider them less than myself. What is revealed is a great lack of patience deep in my gut as fiery darts come out of my eyes and judgmental thoughts fester inside of me. It is not at all a Christ-like attitude. “Why do we judge? Sometimes it is because we are afraid, sometimes it is because we are self-righteous, sometimes it is because we are suffering and we want others to suffer the same. It doesn’t seem fair when they are not following the rules. But if anyone is dealing with this rush to judgment every time you go out in ppublic, it’s pretty clear that Scripture is calling the faithful not to judge. Our true character must be grounded in love for each other, whatever the other’s views and practices.

Rizoli then lead into the second concept: Strive for reconciliation. “Our second scripture passage is at a crucial point in the story of Joseph and his brothers. If you want an interesting read, I suggest you spend some of your time looking at Genesis 37 to 51 – reader discretion is advised. The very very short version, the trailer, for our purposes today, is that Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. He was not treated like a brother. They took his ‘amazing technicolour dreamcoat’ —the special garment his father had given him—covered it in blood and lied to his father that Joseph had been killed. They considered themselves better than Joseph. They created a false narrative. Lots of important things happen as God takes good care of Joseph. At an crucial turning point, Joseph arranges to feed all his brothers during a famine, including their elderly father, and then the father dies. At this point, the brothers become very afraid, because they know that they wronged their brother and that they no longer have their father’s protection. Their true situation, their past sin, is revealed. In this moment we don’t know what will happen next.

“We too as a society and as people are confronted with a shared history where fellow human beings — indigenous and people of colour, for example— were not treated as siblings but rather were traded, sold, mistreated, stolen from. The climate insecurity, the ravages of the virus upon racialized communities, the shameless and hateful political discourse in which we are living, all reveal what was always there: we have not treated each other as siblings, as brothers and sisters who love each other as ourselves, and that is not what God wants for humanity. This is hugely important and now is a time when we are being confronted with it and asked to change. The Church’s true character as peacemakers and justice-seekers is being called out. Now more than ever, we must strive towards reconciliation and Shalom.”

After these challenges, I ask, “Are we really all in one boat, fully loyal to each other”? How do we deal with a pandemic and also deal with our judgmental thoughts. If we are in one boat, we better learn to help each other. Are we able to trust God for directions?  I ask that we learn to accept each other; to be reconciled, and to trust God for the wisdom needed to help each of us get through this pandemic.

The Long Way Around

At a recent breakfast as Susan was reading from Exodus 13 she came to verses 17 through 22. The Israelites had recently managed to escape Pharaoh’s clutches and now wanted to get as far away from Egypt as possible. I can just imagine parents yelling, “Move, move. We need to go, and quickly.” The Israelites were spared as God punished Pharaoh and his people. These slaves had no intention of sticking around any longer than necessary. Everyone was anxious. I am sure they all wanted to move, move and quickly.

But, then we read the story in Exodus 13. Maybe the people were in a hurry, but not God. Let me quote, using Peterson’s The Message.

 It so happened that after Pharaoh released the people, God didn’t lead them by the road through the land of the Philistines, which was the shortest route, for God thought, “If the people encounter war, they’ll change their minds and go back to Egypt.”

18 So God led the people on the wilderness road, looping around to the Red Sea. The Israelites left Egypt in military formation.

19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the Israelites solemnly swear to do it, saying, “God will surely hold you accountable, so make sure you bring my bones from here with you.”

20-22 They moved on from Succoth and then camped at Etham at the edge of the wilderness. God went ahead of them in a Pillar of Cloud during the day to guide them on the way, and at night in a Pillar of Fire to give them light; thus they could travel both day and night. The Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night never left the people.”

Seems that the Israelites wanted to leave the death and destruction as far behind as possible. However, God recognized that this could create havoc. What if they rush right into the midst of another war? They will want to stay far away from any battle and therefore will return to Egypt, where they endured a horrible existence. But, this existence was familiar.

Now, instead of being able to rush along the shortest route away from everything, the Israelites were taken along a wilderness road, looping around to the Red Sea. God, via the pillar of cloud and fire, guided them around the troubles.

This interesting incident should remind us that we frequently try to rush things along. We ask our GPS, what’s the shortest and fastest route. We plan trips and determine to find the air route with the fewest stops, because we need to get to our destination quickly. We may not “encounter war or wish to return to Egypt” but may miss the route that allows for a more relaxed travel situation.

Obviously, the forty-year excursion is longer than anyone would wish. The Israelites certainly wanted a shorter trip. But then, maybe if they had listened more carefully, God might have given them quicker access to the ‘promised land’.

Susan and I have frequently traveled to parts of British Columbia, usually going as quickly as possible. We need to ‘get there’ or we may miss something. In recent years we have discovered that a slower, more scenic drive gets us to our destination in a much better frame of mind. We were able to see many wonderful sights—realizing that the journey may be just as important as the destination. Is this part of God’s strategy—getting us to slow down in order to enjoy God’s wonderful creation, and, to arrive at the destination in a relaxed state of mind.

Think about this for a while. Quick trips may have a place, but slowing down ‘to smell the roses’ may well keep us safer and better equipped to enjoy all that our destination has to offer.

Creativity Fights Covid-19 Doldrums

 After months of negatives concerning this awful pandemic, many of us are weary. The isolation is wearing on us. When will all this end? These seem to be the feelings of many Winnipeggers, and in fact many Canadians. What can we do? How can we get through this? When will things get back to normal?

Possibly we should realize that “getting back to normal” may not come easily, if at all. Therefore, instead of grouching about this, we should use our creativity in making our lives full and rich. What options do we have to make our lives enjoyable and positive? Allow me to mention a few that have made our lives fuller and less isolated.

 When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we wondered how we would be able to maintain our Saturday morning conversations with our Winnipeg daughter. We regularly met at Tim Hortons but now that option was gone. What now? Our son and daughter-in-law, in Toronto, suggested we should all meet via computer—using ZOOM or Microsoft Teams. What a wonderful idea! Now we have been able to expand our “tent” to include others. Sometimes, our elder son joins, but mostly it is the three family groups. We are able to connect with some of our grandchildren as well as our children. What a blessing—pushed to reality because of this pandemic.

When we celebrated Susan’s birthday recently, the kids were again faced with a need for extra creativity.  After all was said and done, we realized that the celebrations had brought us much joy.  Certainly, this could have been done without the pandemic restrictions, but Covid-19 pushed us to greater creativity. Again, a positive from a negative.

Throughout the summer we enjoyed many experiences outdoors. Although Susan and I have always enjoyed touring and exploring, the pandemic doldrums pushed us to take numerous day trips around Manitoba. We tried to find unusual town symbols or other unique structures. What fun it was—and then to post these on social media for others to enjoy vicariously! We probably would have traveled outside of Manitoba and therefore miss all the stories of Manitoba places. Our travels have given us a more positive outlook during these trying times.

For a number of years a group of us have met for coffee at Tim Hortons for a great time of discussion and encouragement. With the shut-down, we no longer were able to meet in this way. However, we were determined to connect.  We soon discovered that a local park provided the physical distancing required. We each brought lawn chairs and our own coffee or tea and sat together apart for a great time of visiting and discussion. This also became a time to share concerns and mention others in our community that were in ill health. Not only were we able to carry on with our traditional Friday coffees, we gained the opportunity to enjoy nature. Now that the weather has changed and we are faced with winter’s cold, we have taken to ZOOM for our times together. We have determined that very little will keep us from sharing time together. Regardless of the negatives associated with Covid-19, we have been able to discover the many positives connected with outdoor gatherings and even indoor ZOOM times.

In this same vein, for many years, we have enjoyed supper out at a restaurant with several close friends. This was a time for more intimate conversations and mutual encouragement. We felt cheated when the restaurants closed and we were left “out in the cold” without our usual gathering place. Just as with our larger Friday group (about 10 people); we soon realized that ordering take-out and meeting in our local park gave us the time to share together.  When the weather was against us, we have been able to move indoors at our condo complex. If restrictions become tight, we may revert to visits via ZOOM. We could always enjoy a meal together separately!

Covid-19 has forced us to isolate from family and friends. However, we have sought to mitigate the feelings of isolation with adventures beyond our home and by learning how to enjoy each day whether at home or on a day trip. We have found ways to communicate together. For some of us, these electronic communication concepts have pushed us to learn new methods. This too has been a real positive. Never did I expect that through these new concepts we would be able to share together with others from around the world. Our church congregation has met via ZOOM ever since the pandemic hit. We now have people joining us from Japan, Holland, United States as well as different places across Canada. What a highlight these times of sharing have become!

As I sit at my laptop and mull over these changes I realize that much may have changed, but much has remained the same. We still connect with friends and family; we enjoy inspiring worship services; we have peace and comfort enabling us to read, play games and do puzzles. For this I thank God daily!

Learning to Receive Care

Back in April, 2020 I wrote a blog, “From Care-givers to Care-receivers” indicating that this transition is not an easy one. After years of providing for and watching over children to help them mature into adulthood, suddenly the tables were turned. Covid-19 forced us to remain isolated from shopping, “restauranting” and traveling. Our children continuously make sure we are safe. They check up daily, they do our shopping and ask about our mental health as well as our physical health. Now we are the receivers of care.  A change that requires acceptance from us.

Now for Part II.

My wife’s 80th birthday was a few days ago. Reaching that milestone, although no longer the old-age marker of a few years ago, is still a significant event. How could I, could we, celebrate Susan’s birthday? The pandemic restrictions meant no big groups, no get-togethers, no parties at restaurants. What could we do?

I was frustrated. I so much wanted this to be special—a time of celebration and thankfulness. I fussed. I schemed. Why was this the year of the pandemic? I finally managed to order a bouquet of flowers, and ordered in a special dinner from one of our favourite restaurants. Not really that much, but it was something. One thought I had was to light 80 tea lights to celebrate. I thought this was a great idea. But then, our son poured cold water on that—we live in a condo with fire-retardant sprinklers everywhere. The heat from our candles would surely cause the sprinklers to open. That would be a memorable mess! Therefore no candles.

I should not have worried and fussed. Remember, I indicated that the care-giving rolls had changed. Both Susan and I soon discovered what that means in terms of celebrations.

We had recently been at our eldest’s for Thanksgiving.  Very little was said about a birthday. But, on the day, both son and daughter-in-law came by to bring gifts, greetings, and a beautiful cake.

Our daughter and granddaughter put up balloons and decorations in their carport for a brief celebration there. The 80 tea lights were put on boards, spelling “Happy Birthday”.

Prior to the birthday, about two weeks before, our oldest son called me privately. He indicated that our youngest, in Toronto, needed the email addresses of Susan’s friends. That’s about all he said. I obliged and sent emails over several days to make sure Jon got what he needed. He too, never said what was planned, only that he wanted to send a message to our friends.
Talk about kids becoming care-givers! Our Toronto son and daughter-in-law prepared a fascinating video with greetings and photos from our friends. What a beautiful tribute. What a great use of our children’s gifts.

What am I saying with all this? Instead of fussing and fuming, I should have received the care our children so willingly give. My wife’s birthday celebrations lasted all day. Afternoon visits from our oldest son and daughter-in-law; celebrations at our daughter’s carport. Then after our dinner for two, the family gathered separately at our computers and joined together on ZOOM to visit and extend birthday wishes. As a final piece, our Toronto kids introduced us to the PowerPoint Birthday Presentation. Except for our one daughter-in-law who had to work, our whole family, including grandchildren, was together celebrating this significant event.

Our children stepped up. They took over the care-giving as we sat back and enjoyed being on the receiving end. This feels so good. Now, I just need to learn that fussing and fuming adds nothing to peace of mind. Our children have it all in hand. We are now care-receivers!

Reach Out for the Things Ahead

Many times I have been forced to think and rethink my attitude about my past. I think I have always suffered from an inferiority complex. After all, I am the youngest of twelve, and someone who felt pushed down while trying to buck the system established in the home. I did not want to be ‘the brother of…’ or ‘the teacher’s son’. I wanted to be myself which seemed to bring me into conflict with parents and siblings. Now, looking back, I wonder how this has affected me today. Also, I wonder whether looking back is really of much help.

Does my looking back rob me of my present contentment? How feasible is it to change my past? Rather an absurd question—what has happened has happened! Nothing can change the past; therefore I need to look forward, not backwards.

Too often my mind runs backwards, agitating my body and mind.  I need to forgive, let go and be free. However, letting go is not easy. The theory is great—the practicality is hard. How do I not look back over my many years? What must I do to move forward?

Several wise persons have given me much food for thought in this matter. Let me end this brief treatise by quoting others.

Doe Zantamata has managed to put my tensions into a rather clear perspective. “Too often, we carry around those things from our past that hurt us the most. Don’t let past pain rob you of your present happiness. You had to live through it in the past, that cannot be changed, but if the only place it lives today is in your mind, then forgive, let go and be free.”

Ella Jane Fitzgerald points out that “It isn’t where you came from; it’s where you’re going that counts.” And, Alan Alda pushes us with the following statement, “Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

I would be amiss if I did not include several statements from the Bible. I find much solace in the fact that God’s Word pushes me (us) to look ahead because the future is filled with hope.

The prophet Jeremiah declared God’s statement, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, CEB)

Finally, in the New Testament, Paul informs us that, “It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. 13 Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. 14 The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14, CEB)

There Will be Leftovers!

Recently our pastor, Mary Anne Isaak, preached from the Bible passage in Mark 6:34-44. Many of the thoughts below come from this sermon. Thanks to Mary Anne for the challenge.

Imagine heading out to a remote lake in the Whiteshell area of Manitoba. What a beautiful location—and what a wonderful time with friends. The person in charge is telling wonderful stories which all seem to have a teaching twist. However, before you realize it, a host of others have joined you wanting to hear these stories. How did this happen? No one seemed to notice, but soon the crowd was overwhelmingly large. Your leader just kept on telling these extraordinary stories. What a wonderful day!

Then, before you realize it, the day is almost over and evening is just around the corner. Everyone is listening intently, but some are getting restless, probably wondering about getting some food—even you are getting hungry, not having eaten since breakfast. What to do? We need to send everyone home, or at least to their campsites.

You catch your leader’s attention who then asks if anyone has any food. A few people come forward with lunch bags of sandwiches and a few apples. Your storyteller is grateful, nods to each one, and then gives thanks for the food. You begin to wonder about this person. With whom will the food be shared—it certainly won’t feed everyone!

The people are hungrier than this. Why not send everyone home instead. But your storyteller leader knows it will be dark soon, and some have a long way to travel. All need some sustenance now.

Does this sound familiar? This is the dilemma the disciples of Jesus faced so many years ago. They had enjoyed the teaching and visiting time, but now wanted everyone to head home. Jesus had other thoughts—feed them before they leave for home! However, when the disciples tally their resources, it really rounds out to zero. What is a small lunch among thousands of people?  Even so, everyoneate … until theywere full. … AND … there were leftovers. What an amazing event—God provided more than enough food. After all had lots to eat, God provided leftovers.

“So here we have it. On one side, God’s dream: Abundance for all. On the other side, human reality: resources get depleted. But it’s not like we have to choose one side and reject the other.” (Isaak)

Let’s think about this for a moment. How does this concept apply to our daily lives? Think about the giving by individuals—many wonder how they do it. But then, God provides physical and spiritual nourishment far beyond any expectation. Or think about the frustrations and worries associated with COVID-19. Many feel they have nowhere to turn. The summer of 2020 did nothing to refresh one’s energy. Personal resources are depleted. What now? In this story in Mark, Jesus shows how God’s dream and human experience come together.

“Mark, as he tells this story of Jesus, echoes the confidence of Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. When my resources are depleted, he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. God’s promise: RESTORATION.” (Isaak)

God’s dream is restoration and abundant living. Jesus shows us the pattern that he will take what we bring, bless it, break it and give it out. At one point, as recorded in John 10:10, Jesus declares, “I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.”

When God is involved there will be leftovers. Our own energy may be depleted; our resources depleted; our lives filled with frustration.

BUT, to emphasize again—when God is involved there will be leftovers! What a wonderful concept to carry into an autumn of unknowns.