Rhythm of Life
Rhythm of Life
Maybe you’ve heard this comedy routine - two actors are in a conversation that goes something like this:
“I just bought a farm.”
“No, that’s bad. Money was so tight; I had to rent out most of my land.”
“No, that’s good. I was able to buy some cattle with the money.”
“No, that’s bad. They all jumped the fence and ran away.”
“Oh, that’s bad.”
“No, that’s good. When the neighbours came out to help, I met my future wife.”
“Oh, that’s good” . . .
You could continue on, of course, because the story doesn’t end until the life of the storyteller is done. We live in a world of shifting shadows, and often further events change our perspective.
For much of my working career, I sat at my desk beside a monitor that charted the daily Chicago Board of Trade commodity prices. A farmer would put in a pricing and be jubilant if the market ticked up to his desired price – only to find, to his dismay, that the commodities market opened ten cents a bushel higher the next day. The same action that looked good one day didn’t look so good the next.
When the Pharisees of Jesus’ day saw a man carrying his mat on a Sabbath, they zeroed in on his perceived transgression – “that’s bad!” Even when they learn that he’s been healed after 38 years of paralysis, they did not have the compassion to appreciate this great miracle. We judge on a picture that’s very small in scale and we tend to go by mere appearances. Blinded and limited by legalism, the Pharisees never got to “that’s good!”
Jesus also relates a parable in which the owner tells his employees that the wheat and the weeds just can’t be separated until the harvest time without causing harm to the crop. Good and evil are now entwined, but some day that will come to an end, and only God will know how to disentangle them. The human story that began in the Garden of Eden with God seeing that “it was very good” will someday be concluded with a redeemed and restored universe.
And in the end we will all say, “that’s good!”
Our children are now all grown, but many years ago, we used to laugh about how, if my husband and I shared a hug in the kitchen, we would find ourselves suddenly attracting our small children and even the family dog from all over the house. They all wanted to be in on that charmed circle. There was always a way to include everyone!
God’s circle of love, too, is ever-expanding, rippling out and calling people from all tribes and nations and languages, a diverse group in character and abilities. I think about how this was only possible because Jesus, beloved only Son of his Father, “didn’t consider this equality as something to be grasped,” but in amazing love and humility turned and made a way for us to join that divine circle.
How attractive, how magnetic that circle can be for those in need of belonging and meaning in their own lives! God’s great love is not depleted through time and all kinds of circumstances. Over fifty years ago, caring Sunday School teachers gave me a plaque that brightly proclaimed “Love never faileth.” I still have it. The language is archaic, but the truth endures. When we will never run out, when we have so much, let’s open up all we have for others to share. Let’s include everyone who hungers to be part of a loving family of God. In the end, the joy is multiplied and all of us are enriched by it.
We all remember checking on the chrysalis in the back of the classroom every morning in elementary school. In science class we would sketch a picture of what the chrysalis looked like that week and note any small changes. But then one morning, we’d come into the classroom and everything would be different. The energy among the students would be almost electric, students from other classrooms would try to sneak in to have a peak, and word spread through the entire school. The chrysalis had opened, and the butterfly was here. It was a magical moment; after weeks of small changes, barely noticeable, here was this small miracle, with four big wings and splashes of colour. The teacher would spend the day calling our attention back to our Math or English class because we couldn’t help but look towards the back of the classroom to make sure it really happened, that our caterpillar had really become a butterfly.
I had the same feeling when I walked into our S.W.A.G. (Saved with Amazing Grace) Team meeting on Sunday. I remember them being small children, running around the downstairs of the church, falling over on their short legs, being adorable the way little kids are. I vaguely remember seeing them when they were a bit older when I came home to visit from Taiwan and they’d all walk towards the front of the church for the children’s story before running off to Sunday school. But now, now they are these amazing people, that make jokes, have ideas, interact, play games. They have stories and life experiences that they can share and base opinions on. They are butterflies. It’s amazing to me. I didn’t even know it had happened until we were all in Aunt Laurie’s basement, eating cookies and discussing books and sports and sky diving. My favorite thing about this magical moment was watching them interact with each other. This group, they just need a place to come together; our job is to say a short prayer and do a devotion but they do the rest. They are the splashes of colour that will make our meetings magical. Maybe it’s because I am not a mom that this took me by surprise but it makes me so happy. They are the promise of a great year ahead, and I really can’t put into words how pumped I am to be a part of it.
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2
The Christian grade school I attended as a child was in the city of Hamilton, but the area had not yet been developed at that time, so there was still a lot of open space around it. At lunch time, the students would often go out into the nearby field to play and build forts of sticks or goldenrod. If it had rained, there were spots in the field that could get quite muddy.
One day, when the school bell rang, all the other children ran for the building. But the mud had slurped up all around my boots and I was stuck. Eventually, in desperation, I stepped out of them, tugged once more to get them loose and ran in stocking feet, my boots in hand.
Everyone was already in class by the time I got there, so I tiptoed down the hall to the washroom, hoping I would avoid detection and to get my boots clean there. Unfortunately, the Grade 8 monitor was on patrol, and her reaction was: “Look how dirty your boots are! Look what a mess you’ve made! I’m telling!” And I got in more trouble.
Sometimes I think that, even now, it’s easy to be like that monitor. It’s easy to say to people, “What a mess you are!” We stigmatize them so that they find it difficult to clean up their lives. In anger and judgment, we tell them they deserve more condemnation, firmly adjusting our own halo of law-abiding self-righteousness in the process.
Is there another way we as a Christian community could be more loving? What if the response had been something like “Wow, those boots are pretty dirty! I’ll help you clean up so you can get to class.” I would have been so grateful for some kindness when I already knew I had messed up.
When we’ve left muddy footprints of sin all over our own and others’ lives, we feel badly and wish we hadn’t been so foolish. But God doesn’t just look at us and say, “You got yourself into this, and now it’s your problem!” God rescues our feet from the miry clay and gives us a firm place to stand. He sent Jesus to earth because He knew we couldn’t clean up our sin by ourselves. And we as a community of Christ in St. Thomas have been sent to live out that kindness, forgiveness and restoration within our small group, and in the community around us.
Our church community has been blessed since 1991 with a club we call Friendship Club, because friends care about each other, enjoy each other’s company, and look out for each other. We sing, pray, learn Bible stories, enjoy snack, and make crafts together. From the time Roz garlands our necks with name tags to the end of the evening as we join hands in singing, we are reminded that we are all part of a circle receiving God’s love. Music is a big part of expressing our joy, and Annie Robert’s piano playing is always a highlight of our Wednesday evenings.
At Friendship, we listen to each other’s concerns, joys and sorrows, and care for each other as unique personalities. For Helen, the year was always just a prelude for the really important day – her “birt’day,” as in “my birt’day’s tum’n up!” She began this reminder immediately after each birthday to keep us on track for the next year. Randy was our drummer and always got a starring role when we sang The Little Drummer Boy. Roy’s favourite song was “What A Friend We Have in Jesus” and he once waved off my hovering assistance for his reading at a Christmas program as if swatting off a fly, which made everyone laugh. Keith has a delightfully droll British sense of humour. Frankie was always interested in politics and local events, so we dubbed him “Mr. Mayor.” Peter faithfully reminded us twice-yearly to change our clocks. David may be unable to speak, but he understands everything and can write down what he needs to communicate for prayer requests. Marjory would ask about our loved ones, “how’s yo honey?” Tracey loves to make art.
In Friendship, we’ve been blessed with an interdenominational group, mentors and students from a variety of church backgrounds. We just all love Jesus. We’ve seen God provide for our needs and answer our prayers, unconventional though they may be. This includes petitions for a sick horse, new porch steps, various digestive and other ailments not normally mentioned in polite company. The horse recovered, instead of porch steps the petition was answered with a whole new place to live, and our intercessory prayers for healing were heard. There’s an honesty and simplicity about the group that is very attractive. It keeps us coming back week after week, and year after year. At Friendship we can see that each person is important to God, that he values them just as they are.
Our Friends are God’s gifts to us as individuals, and a blessing to the whole church community. We are so thankful for them!