Category Archives: Religion

5 Reasons ( No Wait a Minute….. 13 Reasons) Why I Go To Church

Last Saturday night we had people over for dessert and coffee. We were chatting about our plans for Sunday. When I said we would be going to church one of our guests asked, “Why do you go to church?”  It was a good question and the next day at church I thought about it. I came up with five reasons why I go to church.

Three fellows from my church who helped me set up our church’s Little Free Library.

 1. I like books.  I am our church’s librarian and I also maintain our church’s Little Free Library where people in our neighborhood can help themselves to books or donate them.  My library involvement at church gives me the opportunity to chat enthusiastically with so many people each week about books and reading. I love that. 

My husband Dave sings in a male choir at our church. Here he is playing the harmonica at their Christmas concert.

2. I like music.  Our church has some incredibly gifted musicians and I love listening to them.  On Sunday morning, I get to sing with lots of other people. Many of them grew up in the Mennonite church as I did, and we have a strong choral tradition. For us singing in rich four-part harmony is second nature.  At church, I get to hear and participate in great music-making. 

I work at a Thrift store with women from my church.

3. I like helping others.  Our church has a daycare, a children’s after school club, a mother’s support group, a reading tutor program, a senior’s residence, services for immigrants and a food bank. My church donations help support that work. Along with a group of women from our church I volunteer at a Thrift Store that recycles thousands of items each year with the proceeds going to help aid programs around the world. I feel better about myself when I know I am using some of my time and money to help others and my church facilitates that for me.

Our Mennonite church logo has a dove with an olive branch in its mouth- a symbol of our desire that people live in peace with each other and our belief that change can come about in non-violent peaceful ways

4.  I like to feel hopeful.  Often on Sunday mornings the things I hear at church help me to feel more hopeful about the state of our world.  Last Sunday, for example, our pastor talked about the horror of the mass shootings in the United States but then he reminded us that even the smallest actions on our part can make a difference in the world.  Sharing our love with others, and being committed to the way of peace Jesus taught us, can bring about change in our troubled world. His words inspired hope.

A stained glass window at my church

5.  I like time to be peaceful and quiet.  It is hard sometimes to find space in my week to just think and pray and be silent.  In church, I am not on my computer or looking at my phone.  Our church is a beautiful place with stained glass windows and thoughtful art pieces. It gives me the opportunity to be still and take a deep breath and rest my mind and heart before the busy week ahead. 

Since last Sunday I have thought of even more reasons why I go to church.

  1. I have a chance to meet and visit with interesting people.  
  2. My husband and I have made many life long friends at the different churches we have attended.  
  3. The church has provided my family with tangible support during some difficult times.
  4. The church has given us a moral compass when we have needed to make decisions.
  5. The church has sometimes been a place for me to question, rethink and reshape my world view.
  6. The church has played a role in helping us mark important occasions in our family life- weddings, funerals, child dedications, and baptisms.  
  7. The church is a place where I feel connected to something greater than myself, to the spirit of God, the creative force, the human family.
  8. The church gives me a bridge to the past. I am of Mennonite heritage and the church has been intertwined and entangled with the history and culture of my family for many, many generations. 

I’m glad my guest last Saturday asked me why I go to church. I couldn’t think of all these ideas right at the moment but maybe he will read this and his question will be answered. 

Why do you go to church? Or why don’t you?

Other posts………

Playing Church

Picking A Church Out Of A Cereal Bowl

Thin Places

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An Ancient Sacred Site- Do You Know What Petroforms Are?

We spent Saturday night at our friends’ Jan and Mitch’s cottage at Jessica Lake. Sunday morning we headed out to Bannock Point with them to take a guided tour of a petroform site estimated to be around two thousand years old. We were surprised when our friends from church Carol and Vern and Marge and John showed up. They have a cottage at a nearby Brereton Lake and Marge was the one who told me about the Bannock Point tour. Our guide Adam said the Anishinabe people still consider the site a sacred one and continue to hold ceremonies there. He asked that we treat the site with the same kind of respect we would afford any place of worship. Our first stop was at a rock where people leave offerings of shells, bundles of tobacco, sweetgrass and many other things as a way to pay tribute to the spirits while coming and going from the site. Adam had brought along some tobacco for us to sprinkle on the offering rock if we wanted to. We saw many prayer ties in the trees. Adam told us the colorful pieces of material tied to the branches represented people’s prayers.  At the end of the season, an Anishinabe elder collects them and burns them sending the prayers they represent to the creator spirit.  

Petroforms are features formed by the careful placement of stones to create the outlines of figures or shapes.  The first kind of form we looked at was called a power line. Adam suggested it might represent a story or a song with each stone a chapter or verse.  It might also symbolize a person’s life with each stone representing an important event in that life. Our next stop was at a turtle formation.  Adam told us the familiar Anishinabe creation story about Turtle Island but he also said the turtle formation served a practical purpose since the head of the turtle pointed to the nearest lake.  Following the head of this turtle formation would lead you straight to Heart Lake. Snake formations, like this one, provide directions to rivers and this one’s head points to the Whiteshell River which would have been the route people used to visit this site before the highways into the Whiteshell were built as a ‘make work’ project for unemployed men during the Great Depression. This formation is a woman giving birth to a child. Adam told us that sometimes the stones in a formation can be moved by animals or weather elements and also by vandals who might visit the site. Anishinabe elders are consulted about whether to replace the rocks in their original positions or not. Ceremonies are still held regularly at the Bannock Point site including ceremonies for murdered and missing indigenous women.  This red dress has become a symbol of the movement which tries to find a measure of justice and peace for the families who have experienced this grief. Although Adam had told us not to touch the rocks he said we could touch this Grandmother Rock. Many people come to this rock to pray. Adam also showed us some of the newer petroforms like this medicine wheel with arms pointing in all four directions. Our last stop was this more secluded spot. Adam said there are those who believe ‘little people’ live here. They come out at night to fix any of the petroforms that may have been disturbed.“Those granite rocks are billions of years old,” Adam told my friend Marge as she posed atop one of them. 

I was so glad Marge had told me about this interesting site, a great place to learn more about the religion and culture of the Anishinabe people who came to the Whiteshell long before we cottagers and vacationers discovered it.  

Other posts………..

Zion National Park- A Place of Worship

Aboriginal Spirituality

Giants Elves and Jules Verne

 

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Filed under Canada, Nature, Religion

Thin Places

What is a thin place?  I first heard about thin places in a sermon at my church. A quick look online and I realized the term has been adopted by all kinds of folks in the spiritual, travel and literary world to talk about special places where one feels closer to the divine, the universe, to creation. According to Eric Weiner a travel writer for the New York Times it is a place where the distance between heaven and earth collapses. Here are a couple of my thin places. This is a bridge in a park in Steinbach Manitoba where I lived for nearly four decades.  For many, many years I did a long morning walk and this bridge was included in my route.  It is here I would stop for a few minutes to think about the important people in my life and to say a prayer for each one of them. This is Tao Fong Shan the Lutheran Church we attended during the six years we lived in Hong Kong.  It was a peaceful lovely place and I so appreciated the liturgy of the Sunday evening services that settled my soul and prepared me for the week ahead.  For two years we lived nearby and early Sunday morning I would hike up to Tao Fong Shan which stood on the top of the Mountain of the Christ Wind. There was a beautiful underground crypt where I would go to pray.   During the year we lived in Arizona on the Hopi First Nation our family did lots of hiking but our favorite place to explore and climb was Coal Mine Canyon, a spot of breath-taking natural beauty not too far from our home.  Often we were the only people there.  We’d see so many colorful birds and watch legions of little brightly-hued lizards.  We’d shout out to each other just to hear the lovely echoes. The rock formations were stunning, the sky so blue, the sun so warm. It was a place to feel close to the people I loved and to the wonders of creation. And as I have written many times before our family’s cottage at Moose Lake has always been a place of beauty, peace, and solace for me.  I visit it annually and hope I can do so for the rest of my life. 

What are your thin places?  Are they places close to home or did you discover them on a trip?  Where does the distance between heaven and earth collapse for you?

Other posts……….

The View From the Church

Swimming in a Cenote

A Peaceful Mind and Heart

 

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Filed under Nature, Reflections, Religion

Do You Believe in Miracles?

Do you believe in miracles?  According to writer Rachel Held Evans, that question isn’t important.  The important thing is whether you ACT like you believe in miracles.  People who act like they believe in miracles feed the hungry, care for the sick, hold the hand of the homeless and offer hope to the addict. Sometimes while they are busy behaving as if miracles can happen they just might!
Rachel’s book  Inspired looks at practical ways to interpret and apply Biblical texts. One chapter focuses on the gospel accounts of Jesus performing miracles, including the story where he walked on water.  Rachel writes if we want to ‘walk on water’  in our personal lives and in our relationships with others the first thing we need to do is get out of the boat.   That first step out of the boat might mean showing up for a counseling session or giving an older relative a phone call, getting some exercise, donating to a charity, taking a break from social media or offering free babysitting to new parents.

Rachel says while the New Testament records Jesus’ miracles it does not provide us with a ‘how to manual’. Jesus doesn’t give us a recipe or blueprint.  We need to figure out how to act like miracle workers on our own. That got me thinking about people I know who are acting like they believe in miracles.

Christ Healing the Blind by El Greco 1570

Jesus healed a blind man.  My friend Esther sorts and packs used eyeglasses for the Lions Club.  The glasses are distributed worldwide to people who otherwise couldn’t afford them or wouldn’t have access to them.  My cousin Steve’s volunteer work prevents diabetes patients in Nicaragua from going blind. 

Jesus provided food for the crowds who came to see him. My parents Paul and Dorothy grew grain on their hobby farm for the Canadian Food Grains Bank. That grain helped feed people around the world. My pastor Kathy coordinates the Winnipeg Harvest branch that operates out of our church providing food to folks in our neighborhood who need it. 

Jesus gave new life to a little girl.  My sister Kaaren volunteers at a school that is trying to provide new beginnings to kids whose families face a variety of challenges. My friend Simone serves on the board of a shelter that provides new hope to the homeless. 

Jesus loosened the tongue of a man who couldn’t speak. My friend Jodi has written and published a book that gives autistic kids a voice. She wants their stories and their strengths to be heard and recognized. My cousin Lynne and her husband Rod act as allies with indigenous community members as they give voice to their wisdom. They believe indigenous insights can help us understand political and social issues in new and important ways. 

Rachel Held Evans

Do you believe the miracle stories in the Bible actually happened?  Rachel Held Evans suggests that’s really an irrelevant question.  The real question is……..Do the miracle stories in the Bible inspire you to attempt miracles?  

Note: I was a devoted follower of Rachel Held Evans’ blog. After she died suddenly at the beginning of May I knew there wouldn’t be any more blog posts so I decided to read or re-read all of her books. Inspired was a great first choice.  

Other posts……..

Mending What We Can

Nuggets of Hope for the Disgruntled

Faithless? Definitely Not!

Heaven Meets Earth

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Filed under Books, Religion

Dad’s Treasures (Well Really Mom’s) – Part 3

One of the things my Dad and I found on his bookshelf during our downsizing efforts in his apartment was this old Mennonite Hymnal that belonged to my mother. My mother was a talented pianist and I don’t think I am exaggerating to say that in her lifetime she played for literally hundreds of funerals, weddings, church services and music performances starting when she was a young girl and she would accompany her parents when they sang duets in church. The cover and spine of my Mom’s hymnal were tattered and threadbare, a testament to its frequent use. On the flyleafs of the hymnal were long lists of hymns. Mom referred to these lists while playing a succession of pieces during preludes and postludes before and after weddings, funerals and church services and during the serving of communion.  Mom had an amazing musical ear and will have played most of these from memory. One of the hymns she has listed is In the Bulb There is A Flower. It was one of Mom’s very favorite hymns and we sang it at her funeral.  It talks about how nature teaches us there is new life just waiting to burst forth from seeds, cocoons, and bulbs and how in our own lives there is always the opportunity to explore, to hope, to believe in new and better things to come.   I used Mom’s hymnal this week as I was picking the songs for the worship service I will lead this coming Sunday morning and at the page, for In the Bulb There is a Flower I found a leaf with a beautiful pattern of veins, that Mom must have placed there to press at some point. It was a lovely reminder of my mother’s appreciation for the lessons nature has to teach us.  

In the bulb, there is a flower, in the seed an apple tree

In cocoons a hidden promise, butterflies will soon be free

In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see. – by Natalie Sleeth

Other posts……..

Dad’s Treasures- Part 1

Dad’s Treasures- Part 2

God of Eve and God of Mary

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Filed under Family, Music, Nature, Religion

Why Are Women Always the Example For Sin?

My 96-year-old aunt lives in a Mennonite personal care home in Saskatoon.   On Thursday morning I joined my aunt’s Bible Study group that included six other women in their late 80s and 90s. The leader was reading John 8:1-11 a story about a woman caught in adultery and the teachers of the law who thought she should be stoned.  The leader read………“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say?” Right at this point, one woman in the group interrupted in a loud voice.  “I say if they were going to stone the woman, they should have stoned the man too. “

The room where our bible study group met

The Bible Study leader was a little taken aback but stopped to thank the woman for her comment.  When she was finished reading the passage in which Jesus challenges the Pharisees that the one among them who is sinless should cast the first stone, the leader asked for any responses from the group and the same woman who had made the earlier comment said, “Why do they always seem to use a woman as the example for a sinner in the Bible? The Bible starts off with the story of Eve as a sinner.”  The leader said it was because the Bible was written in a time when there were different attitudes towards women when women weren’t even considered people.  “Good thing that’s changed,” the woman replied. 

Talking about this with someone later they commented that perhaps the woman who spoke up so boldly had been thinking along those same lines all her life.  Now due to her age, and perhaps having lost some of her social filters she is able to share her real opinions, opinions she may have had all along but wouldn’t have dared voice aloud in the patriarchal Mennonite church in which she was raised. 

We often say the truth comes from the mouths of babes or children.  It can also come from the mouths of octogenarian women.

Christ and the Adultress by Lucas Cranach the Elder- 1535-1540

Other posts……….

A Poignant Book

Five Sisters

A Woman I Wish I Knew More About

 

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Filed under Religion, Retirement

Your One Wild and Precious Life

“Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

On Sunday the theme of the sermon in our church was that question from the poem The Summer Day by Mary Oliver. Our pastor talked about people she felt had done incredible things with their one wild and precious life.

One example she gave was Rachel Held Evans a 37-year-old best selling author of four books and mother of two young children who died suddenly on May 4 from a brain infection. I have been reading Rachel’s blog for many years and admired her.  

Rachel was an evangelical Christian but she spoke out long and loud about making the church a place where everyone was welcome including those who were part of the LGBTQ community.  She was a Christian feminist who advocated for an equal role for women in the church and in society.  I especially respected her common sense approach to the issue of abortion.  She encouraged people to vote for political candidates who would actually bring about the changes in society that research has shown reduce the abortion rate. She encouraged hard questions and firmly believed you didn’t need to sacrifice your intellectual integrity to be a person of faith. Rachel was respected and loved by millions. She became an articulate and powerful spokeswoman for people of faith who believed in a very different kind of Christianity than the one espoused by the supporters of Donald Trump.

Evidence of the importance of Rachel Held Evans life was clear as almost every major news source in the United States ran stories about her death.  The Washington Post, The New York Times,The New Yorker, The Atlantic,CNN,CBS,NPR, Fox,  Newsweek and hundreds of others.   A Twitter hashtag #Becauseof RHE soon garnered a host of moving testimonies from people who said their lives had been changed because of her. These tweets were shared thousands of times worldwide. 

Rachel Held Evans was indeed a person who made the very most of her one wild and precious life. She inspires us all to emulate her.

Other posts………

Inspiration from Poet Mary Oliver

Meet Priscilla

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes

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Filed under People, Religion