Monday, December 17, 2018

The Third Advent: the Grace of Christmas Joy


Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King! 


Let’s be real – there are days when the stuff we have to deal with has the power to sap the joy out of the entire week. Our own worries, stresses, disappointments, pressures, conflicts, and sadnesses have that capability, let alone circumstances around the world that we cannot help but be affected by. And for many people, the Christmas season – a time when joy is supposed to be at a premium – is often when the lack of it is intensified.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Second Advent: Love Goes to War





“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.” Rev 12:1,2

“and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7

There is a scene described in the twelfth chapter of the book of Revelation that takes away my breath every time I read it. It’s a version of the Christmas story that we do not see depicted on Christmas cards and it brings to mind those surreal battle scenes from the Lord of the Rings movies. It’s the passage that I turn to when I start to lose sight of God’s love for me and the bigger picture of what is really going on around me. 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Awakening to the Wonder of Christmas, Advent Week One




“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)." 
Matthew 1:23 

For more than 700 years God’s people waited to see the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of one who was to be born to a virgin and known by the name Immanuel, the one who was to inherit the throne of Israel’s greatest king, David. Now, the announcements of the child who was conceived in a young virgin woman fanned into bursting flame the hopes that had been smouldering for eons.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A meditation for confession and redemption

Father in heaven, gracious maker of my being, of all that is seen and unseen; the giver of all that is good, and the sustainer and light of life.





You are the one who is deserving of every ounce of praise and glory and honour I can eke out of these bones, and it is to you that I come in this hour. 

I come naked in my frailty, in my humanness, in my failure, and in my need of you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

An offering of presence in my neighbourhood

Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash
In the parable of the good Samaritan Jesus provided a provocative answer to the question, “Who is my neighbour (that I must love as I love myself)?” What Jesus revealed in his story is that there is not a person in this world to whom we can point and say, “He or she is not my neighbour.” The literal answer, though, is that our neighbours are the people who live next door to us, across the street, and down on the next block. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

When seasons change, things may get ugly

This was last week. Last week fall was my favourite season. The colours were at their best, and everywhere you looked there was another glorious scene to salivate over. But then October faded and cued November's cold rain and powerful gales, and today, in my yard, I am fighting despair as I stand almost knee deep in leaves. Yesterday I could feel the elation of last week seeping out as I drove past a patch of bare forest, naked and brown. I felt sorry for the trees, all stripped of their radiance, but then the thought struck me that the woods were simply in transition. It's temporary, and how lovely is it going to be in our next season, when all that brown will be blanketed in dazzling white and be made beautiful once again?!

Transition in life is often a time when things don't look very pretty. It's an in-between stage where, like the trees, your old wardrobe is being taken away before you get your new clothes - ew, scary!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Roll Call: Who is present?

“At the very beginning God created the heavens and the earth as the place of his presence …. The Scriptures, from beginning to end, tell the marvelous story of God returning his presence to all creation. It was always God’s intent to be with his creation in the fullness of his presence.” David E. Fitch, Faithful Presence 

Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash
Being present in our own lives has become increasingly challenging; there is so much noise all around, so many opportunities and activities available to us, and so many distractions make it so difficult. Being aware and tuned into God’s presence around us can be doubly challenging. I suspect, though, that if we were not distracted to God and what he is up to around us, then we would be present in our lives as well. This last week the prayer I’ve been repeating several times a day is simply, “Help me to be present to your presence.”

Thursday, October 25, 2018

In Going Where Questions Lead

Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash
Questions, questions, questions…

There are usually way more questions than answers in my personal head space. They disrupt my peace, put little worms in my brain, and stir up a sense of discontent. Often, I find that my questions put other people off, too, because they show up on my face as a quizzical, observant expression, or a little frown that is causing permanent horizontal lines across my forehead. They give my eyes a serious gaze that is often mistaken for aloofness or something worse – I’m so sorry about that!

My questions have me sifting through data that I collect through watching and listening to the buzz around me. I also read lots and I ask other people big questions that sometimes further their sense of discomfort. (Again, I’m sorry!) I sub-consciously analyze the data, dismiss some of it, and file possible pieces of answers somewhere in my memory banks, in my journal, or on a bookshelf. Sometimes I can’t even formulate the questions that have me searching although I know what they are when the answers come!

The important thing that I’ve realized is that God is always at work in my questions. Always. They always lead me back to him, and to dimensions of him I didn't know before. It is in them that, sooner or later, it is revealed to me what his heart is, where he is leading, and how he is present in my life or in the world around me. As it turns out, God is the one who plants the questions knowing I will search until I find answers. With that revelation, there will be no more apologies!

These last two days I attended a workshop in London, Ontario called Into the Neighbourhood and, hallelujah, I got more answers than I may ever have gotten before in two days’ time. Some of them I’ve been pondering on for years! I’m going to be unpacking these answers for a long time and I’m also going to be doing experiential stuff in which I’m expecting God is going to show up. After all, if he planted the questions that led to these answers that are sending me on this trajectory, does it not stand to reason that he will be present in how things unfold?

I hope that by now you're intrigued! There's so much to talk about, ideas and thoughts I'm looking forward to fleshing out, so I hope that you’ll be checking in with me periodically to catch up and see how this all rolls out. See you back here soon! 

Blessings and grace,
Helena 

P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about the Into the Neighbourhood workshops or organization that hosts it follow this link to Forge Canada

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Four Things I Forgot

“...do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price.” (1 Cor 6:19, 20a)

I was startled by the words of the Apostle Paul that I read one morning last week.  I’ve read them before, of course, but they startled me anyway. Too often, in my head, I have to be the one reminding God who I am, what my name is, what’s going on in my life and that HELLO... I'm over here!! I feel like I have to implore him not to forget about my details, and plead for a sign that my number will come up at some point. These feelings intensify massively in valleys where the shadows loom dark, and the voices of fear, worry, grief, and sorrow are deafening. But last week, the tables were deftly turned, and the question of who was remembering – or not – was pointed to me. There were four things from Paul’s words which I needed to remember.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Conversation with Lini Sopoco: living under cancer's shadow



A few weeks ago I spent the morning with my friend Lini to talk about what's been going on in her life the last few years. I had to mull over our conversation for a while before sharing it here because it’s a big story. I realized it would be impossible to try to capture everything for this blog, so I gave up. You’ll have to wait for her to write her book if you want the whole scoop! Our conversation moved from Lini’s kitchen, where we filled our mugs with cinnamon-spiced coffee, to her cozy sun room, to her front yard where I asked questions and jotted my notes while she pulled vines from her fence. Besides my request for this conversation, I had asked her to show me how to make a grapevine Christmas tree and she graciously obliged me with both! 

I feel the need to insert a qualifier before going any further. As readers will already know by the title of this post, this is a story of woman who has, thus far, survived cancer. I am sensitive to the fact that many of you have loved ones, as I do, whose stories turned out differently. They are not here any longer, and it is, by no means, for lack of prayer or faith in the power and goodness of God to heal. With that, I am clarifying that Lini’s story is not a faith-healing story, but it is a story of one woman's unorthodox and courageous response to an unwelcome diagnosis. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

A Thanksgiving meditation


I'll give thanks to the Lord always, and I'll say it again, I give thanks, because God's steadfast love  never ceases and his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is his faithfulness!

The heavens and the earth are filled with his glory; the handiwork of his fingers  is evident everywhere.

I see his glory when I crane my neck to look up into the heavens on a clear night; my mind cannot grasp the vastness of the skies, but he knows every single star by its name.

How powerful is this God?

And when I walk through the forest by day I revel in the blazing tapestries there. 

I think about the miracles in a single droplet of water;

and the complexities of the microscopic worlds within each cell;

and the billions of worlds within this tiny patch of the world, 
invisible to the naked eye and oblivious by-passer, but 
quietly, efficiently, steadfastly, 
season after season, 
carrying out their marvellous functions.