Saturday, September 29, 2012

Walking the Prayer Labyrinth

When I saw on our Lake Louise retreat schedule that we were to walk the Prayer Labyrinth, I wasn't too impressed. I had seen this sort of thing before...I was happy to try it, but I felt sure that I would just be walking around in circles. If given the choice, I would much rather connect with God out in the woods, or by the lake. But I was totally unprepared for my experience in the Prayer Labyrinth, and absolutely entranced by the mystery of it. From the moment I stepped onto that path, I knew that I was meeting God. With every step I took, and every turn I made, I felt the undeniable presence of the Holy Spirit, convicting me and challenging me as I journeyed, not just along this painted path, but on the road that we call life. I could hear the sound of the log fire in the grate, the soft music as it played, the shuffling of others as they meandered along this same winding road. I could see candles as they flickered, the feet of others as they passed me by, the hands of those raised in prayer. I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, the emotions of my friends as they made their own way on this journey, the energy in the room as God Almighty stooped down to meet us. And all along, all I wanted to do was reach the center of the Labyrinth. I truly yearned to be in that place of peace and calm, where others where. But it took me a long, long time to get there. Many times I thought I had reached it, only to discover that the path took me away from the center, out towards the edge again. And when I finally stood in the middle of that Labyrinth, I did not want to leave. For the longest time, I was unable to tear myself away. But as in life, I knew that I must journey back. I set out to return to the real world, but I knew that I was not returning alone.
How often do you get to meet with God in such a powerful way? Find a Prayer Labyrinth. Walk a Prayer Labyrinth. Prepare to meet God in that sacred place. It will impact your ministy, your life, your heart, and your soul. I know that I can still meet God in the woods, but the Prayer Labyrinth at Lake Louise was an experience that I will never forget.
This is what the Lord says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." Jeremiah 6:16

Friday, September 21, 2012

No Choice

Click on the photo to see
the dog on the paddle board
A few weeks ago I was sitting enjoying a picnic on a beautiful beach when I witnessed an unusual sight. A man was coaxing his dog onto a paddle board. It was not an easy task. The dog was very reluctant to climb aboard, but after much pushing, coaxing, and lifting, the man managed to force the dog on to the back of the board, and launched out into the lake. I watched as the guy paddled the board further and further away from the shore and out into deep waters. The dog never moved. The two were out on the water for a long time. I lost sight of them, and it was a while before I saw them returning to the beach. The dog was in exactly the same position, and only moved when the paddle board grounded on the sand. Then he hurriedly jumped off and scampered away. He had been safe all along, and had participated in what had to have been an amazing adventure. Being on that paddle board had allowed that dog to go much further out into the lake than he would ever have done by himself. But then again, he had no choice in the matter.
We who serve in Children's Ministry have a choice. God never forces us to step out of our comfort zone...but if we don't, we might miss an amazing adventure that we would never experience by ourselves. So what will you choose...God's big paddle board adventure, or the safety of the beach?   

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Communion For Babies?

It was 1989. My youngest son was just a little baby, but he kicked his legs in excitement as we knelt at the altar rail and the pastor approached him with a large piece of communion bread. My baby devoured it greedily and I held him tight, waiting for the little individual glass of grape juice that I knew was to follow. I felt a little anxious. Our church had just finished a lengthy debate about whether or not children should participate in communion. Their questions and arguments stlll rang in my ears. Can a little child really understand the deep significance of bread and wine? Don't children need to attend classes, so that they can be taught to approach this holy sacrament with the reverence and respect it deserves? Is this really appropriate? We never had communion when we were children. 
As a young mother, I, of course, strongly disagreed, and was thrilled when the resulting vote went in my favor. I knew without a doubt that as my baby reached out his chubby little hand to receive that glass cup, God would be smiling just as much as I was. But disaster was about to strike. I watched as my baby folded his fat fingers around the little cup, gulped down the grape juice, licked all around the rim just to make sure there were no droplets left, and promptly threw the glass on to the tiles below, where it smashed into a million tiny pieces. I was mortified, and I swear I could hear 'tut-tuts' behind me. But the pastor carried on as if nothing had happened. Months later, the congregation would laugh about that incident, as the Methodist church in England learned to embrace children at the communion table.
How glad I am to be part of a denomination that practices an openly inclusive table, where all are welcome! After all, who among us truly understands the deep significance of bread and wine?
This Sunday, our church family will celebrate communion together..the common meal. And as our babies and children reach out their chubby little hands to participate in this holy sacrament, I just know that I won't be the only one who is smiling.