Sunday, 5 April 2020

of Singing and Unity In Midst of the Pandemic

With most non-essential public gathering places now closed due to the Corona Virus (COVID 19) pandemic, including institutional churches, I imagine Sunday mornings have become a bit strange for many Christians. Perhaps it is even more strange now with today being Palm Sunday and the Easter season once again upon us. Who would ever have imagined church buildings being closed during the most holy of seasons in the Christian calendar?

Having left the institutional church about 17-years ago, closed churches is not really an issue for me personally. I have long since discovered life as a child of King Jesus outside of institutional church walls. Still, this morning I am mindful of my brothers and sisters in the Lord for whom this is a strange anomaly. I am reminded too of what an elderly sister once said to me many years ago when a church we both attended was about to permanently close the doors. She looked at me and said, "Where shall we go?"

My purpose this morning is not to debate the pros and cons of the institutional church versus the non-institutional church. There is already plenty out there on that subject that one can read if so inclined, including on this blog. I know that without that normal Sunday routine, and especially now with Easter upon us, there may be some mixed emotions brewing for many. My purpose this morning is simply to pray for you, my brothers and sisters who would normally be on that institutional church pew today, that in the midst of her closed doors, God might bless you and give you His peace.

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (Jesus; John 17: 20-23)

Prior to picking up my computer to write these words this morning, I found myself once again in my usual Quiet Place. As I was reading Scripture and meditating, with my faithful fur-baby lying by my feet, a classic hymn from yesteryear was suddenly on my lips:

"O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed! Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee; how great Thou art, how great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee; how great Thou art, how great Thou art!"

So my dear friends, today as it seems that we hear nothing but the constant rolling thunder of the current global pandemic, I pray that our precious Lord might give you a song of praise on your lips and an oversized measure of peace in your heart. May your soul also break out in singing, How Great Thou Art, and somehow therein, find peace.

No matter what this crisis holds for us next, may you and I rest in the knowledge that none of this has escaped God's knowledge, and though we may not understand it, may we know that God is still very much in control.

"The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make His face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn His face toward you
and give you peace."
(Numbers 6: 24-26)

Peace and Blessings my friends; God is still very, very good. 😊

Friday, 3 April 2020

The Baby Cuddler

Hello friends.

I was thinking today about God-given gifts. The Bible says, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers(Ephesians 4:11); all admirable gifts, to be sure. However, I believe there are plenty other God-given gifts as well that are not even mentioned in the Bible, at least not specifically by name.

I believe that God also called me to also be a pastor for a season of my life. I even went to seminary and studied theology and all the usual pastoral courses. Many great memories and blessings in that season, to be sure; I don’t regret them for a moment. However these days, I think God’s calling on my life may have evolved a bit. These days I’m wondering if God hasn’t called me to be a …

Baby Cuddler.

Laugh if you will, but here in the twilight of my working years, with retirement coming closer and closer, I’ve been thinking a lot about retirement activities. There is all the usual stuff that some retired people do; they catch up on reading books, perhaps writing books, learning new hobbies, etcetera. I have all those on my bucket list too, but I also have another; become a baby cuddler.

One of my dream retirement activities is to volunteer at our local hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) as a baby cuddler. My wife and I have had significant experience in NICU’s between our own kids and grandkids. Unfortunately not all parents and grandparents are able to spend as much time in the NICU when their little ones are born as we were able to do with ours. Fact is, those precious little lives need cuddle time, but what happens when parents and grandparents cannot regularly be there to offer those needed cuddle times? The newborn suffers for lack of it. My dream volunteer job is to be a NICU Grandpa, sitting in a rocking chair, and cuddling babies when their families cannot be there. I cannot imagine anything more fulfilling. 

Becoming Opa.

Perhaps one of the ways that God has confirmed that dream NICU volunteer position is in the way He has also gifted and blessed me with the ability to calm down my own infant grandchildren to the point where they fall asleep in my arms. I was able to do that with my grandson when he was younger, and I can still do that with his little sister now. It’s a beautiful and precious gift that I am very thankful for.

If I were asked for the secret, I'd have to say that there is no magic formula, at least none that I am aware of; I am simply Opa. What does this Opa do to calm down a fussing baby? He holds them tight and rocks them in his arms. He prays over them, talks softly to them, and even sings to them. Then, it’s not long at all before that precious child naps peacefully in Opa’s arms. I wouldn’t trade that for all the world’s wealth! 

Hush, little baby, don’t say a word,
Opa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.
And if that mockingbird won’t sing,
Opa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.
And if that diamond ring turns brass,
Opa’s gonna buy you a looking glass.
And if that looking glass gets broke,
Opa’s gonna buy you a billy goat.
And if that billy goat won’t pull,
Opa’s gonna buy you a cart and bull.
And if that cart and bull fall down,
You’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town.

Suddenly nothing else really matters. The stressors of the workplace suddenly drop off, the bills piling up on the dining room table are forgotten, and the incessant ding of social media notifications is scarcely even noticeable.  Now what was I getting all worked up about again? Hmm. Whatever it was, clearly it wasn’t as important as these precious moments.

God as Cuddler.

As I thought further about that, it occurs to me that those moments are a lot like the way God calms us down when we get a little fussy. One of my favourite verses out of the prophets is Zephaniah 3:17, which reads,

“The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

In these troublesome times of global pandemic, job losses and uncertainty, a lot of us get a little tense and fussy too. But like a loving Opa quieting his unsettled grandchild with singing, our loving God quiets our troubled spirits with singing too. Have you ever thought of God as singing over you? I love that image! Ever wonder what song God would be singing to us? After all, He knows all the greatest of songs; even wrote some Himself through the psalmist. Maybe He would start by sing this favourite of mine,

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow;
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

Yes, our world is on edge right now, but there is good news. In the midst of this sickness, God is still our resident NICU Grandpa, our “Abba, Father” as Jesus referred to Him (Mark 14:36). He is creator God, Abba, Daddy, NICU Grandpa - the Lord our God - yes He. Meditate upon that again: “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

None of us really knows how this whole pandemic will play out, but that’s okay; we don’t have to know. While we may not know what tomorrow holds, we can know Him who holds it: Almighty GOD. Can you feel His love? Can you sense a more calm spirit within you? Can you hear the melody God is singing over you right now as He gently rocks you in His arms? Can you feel a peaceful nap coming on?

So do yourself a favour; turn off the news and social media for a while and rest in His love, and know that because He lives, you too can face tomorrow. Yes, rest in that.

Peace and Blessings, friends; God is good.