Monday, March 18, 2019

Beetle Drive

Sunday was St. Patrick's Day and there were lots of people wearing green to church, but the party began the day before. SPPC held a beetle drive. No, we weren't racing hard-shelled insects. We were playing a game and having some fun.
Of course, "fun" at our church always includes food!
Studying the rules?
Green, green, green and some  very odd beetles.

Some may wonder if the fix was in because the preacher won! Here he is with his loot, a toque and a chocolate bar.  

He won a medal too and showed it off during the children's story on Sunday morning.
Maybe the next party will be a contest to see how many presbyterians can fit in a beetle.

Monday, March 11, 2019

What I Did Last Year

About this time last year I decided I should read the Bible cover to cover.  So I started at the beginning as you would with any book and quickly found that once I got into Leviticus and Numbers that I needed to find another way to accomplish my goal.  I was already using a Bible app call YouVersion so I signed up for a plan that would lead me towards the goal of the Bible in a Year. 

The introduction to the plan reminded me that the Bible is God’s love letter to each one of us.   Each day started with a devotional that asked the reader to follow this pattern: 
  • ASK-God to connect with you, slow down, pray for God to be present
  • READ- the selected section of Scripture slowly, take note of what stands out for you
  • REFLECT-how might God be speaking to you, thank God for speaking to you through His word
  • RESPOND-speak directly to God for what you have learned, look for ways to live out what you’ve uncovered

I wish I could say I was able to keep to the daily schedule but I was able to finish the readings in a year and two weeks!  
Now comes the best part, the blessings that came to me.  

  • Weekly Bible study at church became more interesting as I was able to see how one part of the Bible we were studying related to the whole of God’s message.  
  • Sunday sermons began to fit as part as a whole and I was excited to see what I would learn next. 
  • I have become very curious about the story of God’s people in the Old Testament and I can see how this part of the Bible relates to me as a Christian.

During this journey through the Bible I also found some aids to help me meet my goal.  I found that the Bible app I use would also read to me so I listened to the Psalms as well as reading them.  The poetry opens up when heard aloud.  When I had a question about something I was reading I would search for explanations and found that the videos produced by the Bible Project were excellent in helping me to see the whole picture.  In fact there is a video available for each Book of the Bible that relates what is happening in the book and its relationship to God’s plan revealed to us in His Word.

This year I am using other YouVersion plans to Delve into the Old Testament.  I have completed one on Covenant History, and will continue with a study of the Prophets and the Writings.  There is so much information available, it is free, easily accessible and will feed your soul.  Why not give it a try? 

Monday, March 4, 2019

For the gardeners among us, this cold, snow-laden February has been a trial. By the end of the month, I should have had my roses pruned, the fruit trees pruned and doused with dormant spray. 
The crocus would
March 2018
ordinarily have laid a blanket of colour under the birch tree. 
Warm weather would  have had me itching to get seed in the ground, or at least in the cold frame.        Given the weather this past month 
none of that has happened. Even the geraniums in my planter boxes are hiding in a styrofoam box to shelter them from the frost.
  The gardening columnist in the local paper acknowledged that the season was a month late and warned that gardeners needed to be ready to leap into action the minute the soils warms up--and the snow goes away!
  At SPPC we might not be “leaping” into action with the warm weather, but we are moving forward with “Beyond 20/20.” The prayer team has posted prayer requests for the work of the church.  (See here for more details.) 
  The transitions team has already provided assistance to people dealing with major life changes, like illness or grief. Our medical system has many helps for those who need home care, or re-housing, or a support group, but sometimes those aids are difficult to find. We have people at SPPC who have experience in hospital and community settings. Their knowledge can make a huge difference in negotiating the ins and outs of different types of care. If you are reading this post and are not a member of SPPC but would appreciate some help, please ask. The church is a “light for the world” not a private club.
  The in-reach team is looking for blanks in the services we offer to our members. One of the easily identified needs is a ride to church. As people age, they often must give up driving. Located as we are in the countryside, SPPC has a big parking lot. We recognize that most people will drive to get to us.  There is a bus now, that stops at the roundabout outside the church, but bus schedules don’t always match personal schedules. So, we have a number of volunteer drivers to help out. Again, if you wish to attend service or some other event at SPPC but need a ride, let us know. 250 656-2241.We’re glad to help.
 The out-reach team is looking for new opportunities to serve the community. Of course, many of our regular programs are open to non-member,e.g. Friendship coffee on Thursday mornings, Bible Study on Wednesdays, and a sympathetic ear any time. Pastoral office hours are Thursday and Friday mornings.
  So, the weatherman promises that spring will come. I have my seeds ready, my pruners sharpened and my garden plan drawn out.  When the soil warms, I’m ready. 
  At SPPC we have our helpers standing by. We’ve asked God for guidance, and we sincerely desire to serve our neighbours. The season is now.

Monday, February 25, 2019

How Firm a Foundation

This week seems to have run on a single theme in my life at SPPC. The theme of "foundations." 
On Sunday morning Rev. Irwin preached on God's covenant with the people of Israel, when He gave them the ten commandments. This was "the" definitive foundation of the Jewish nation.

Also on Sunday, we held our annual congregational meeting. This is the time where the congregation reviews its work and its goals and ensures the two align. At SPPC the worship of God is of prime importance. We also care deeply for one another. Those priorities are evident in the reports of the various committees and in our budget. We also give generously to mission work, underlining our care for the whole people of God.

In Bible Study, we discussed Isaiah 43:1 - 44:5.  These passages proclaim, once again, Israel's failure to live up to their side of the bargain Moses made with God. They are to be God's people, He'll provide, protect, treasure and raise them up to to be the light of the world, but they must obey His laws. Despite their dismal record, God does not forsake them. The scripture recalls Israel's exodus from Egypt and God's care of them.  We're back to those foundations of our faith.
For anyone familiar with Handel's great oratorio, "Messiah," the passage resonates with music. The phrases "make straight in the desert a highway" and "every valley shall be exalted" sing from the page. 
Even my non-musical friend said to me, "Isn't there a hymn?"
"There's always a hymn," I replied. Here it is, "How Firm a Foundation, Ye Saints of the Lord," with notes from the late Dr. Cecil Kirk.

Stanza one lays out that the Bible contains the solid foundation of our faith. "How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord/ Is laid for your faith in His excellent word."
In stanzas two to five, the speaker is God. He reminds us of his mercy to Israel. "Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, I, I am the God and will still give thee aid."  "When through the deep waters I cause thee to go," references the parting of the Red Sea.
"The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine," brings to mind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, where the flame did not burn them.
The hymn concludes with God's assurance that He will never leave us or forsake us. Satan may do all that is within his power to shake the foundations of our faith, but ultimately that foundation is Christ and He cannot be overcome by Satan.

For me, this has been a powerful week of reassurance of God's faithfulness and the immovable foundation on which we build our faith.
Sanctuary flowers, Feb. 24

Monday, February 18, 2019

Snow Day!

Like most of the Greater Victoria area this past week, SPPC had to hang a "closed" sign in the window.  Roads were treacherous, the parking lot was inaccessible, and care for our parishioners urged a "stay at home/stay safe" attitude.

Sunday the sun shone and roads were passible. Our parking lot has been ploughed so we were open for morning service.

Our valiant secretary, Patricia, worked from home then waded through the snowbanks on Friday, to produce a bulletin for Sunday morning, despite the weather.

Our loyal choir, unable to rehearse on Thursday, pulled together an anthem on Sunday morning.

Stalwarts of the Vision 20/20 committees posted reports and gathered information and suggestions in the hall after service. 

Well done, everyone. I'm not sure the Old Testament writer envisioned a snow storm when he wrote these words, but they seem apt for the week that is past. 

"But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work."    2 Chronicles 15:7


Monday, February 11, 2019

Mission in Action

For the past few months, SPPC has been raising money for our mission work by selling soup and meat pies. Sunday, we upped our game with a luncheon after service.
The House Upon the Rock Ministry has undergone some hard times recently, with Dr. Wendy's husband, Pablo, needing life-saving (and expensive) surgery. As well as supporting his wife, Pablo runs the Christian radio station. He is a vital part of our ministry in the Dominican Republic.

Lunch, as usual, was delicious and "gratefully received." The money donated at the door will be  used to defray Pablo's expenses. As well as paying for the surgery, he needs follow up treatments.

Money is always useful, but prayers are sorely needed. And if you every wondered if prayer is effective, let me tell you about Pablo. He had to remain in ICU for ten days. During that time 200 people from his church gathered outside the hospital and said prayers for him. During that time, no one on ICU died. Four members of staff accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Prayer is a powerful witness.
Please continue to pray for the House Upon the Rock and their ministry in the Dominican Republic and for Dr. Wendy and Pablo and Sharon and Paul and all who work to bring the light of Christ to the people in that part of the world.
Special thanks to Darlene, Joan and Diane for organizing this event and preparing the food.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Winter Blahs?

How to beat the winter blahs? One way might be to blindfold your minister emeritus and take him for a walk around the sanctuary. 

Another way is to celebrate birthdays. We had a lot in the first month of the year, but Blanche is a great example of longevity. I'm not betraying any secrets when I reveal that she is over 90.

How does she do it? One answer may be Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church.
Study after study confirms that those who attend church regularly, live longer, more satisfying lives.

A study published in Journal of the American Medical Association in 2016 found that women who attended church more than once a week had a 33% lower chance of dying than their secular peers in the same time period.
Another study found that regular attendance at church (or synagogue or mosque) decreased the body's response to stress leading to longer life spans.
Another study out of Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health identifies a social support network, an optimistic attitude, self-control and a sense of purpose in life -- all associated with churchgoers-- as possible reasons for the relative longevity of those who attend church regularly.

Others suggest that sensing we are part of God's plan imparts self-confidence to deal with the issues of life. At a biological level, that reduces stress contributing to fewer instances of high blood pressure or diabetes, depression and suicide.
In our age, many claim to be "spiritual but not religious." From a health point of view, those who practice their faith alone, do not reap the same benefits as those who are part of a faith community. Being part of a social group--like a book club or a sports team--may fulfil the need for community, but without a shared sense of meaning and a common vision of the meaning of life, these groups fall short of the health benefits of a church congregation.

We love to celebrate birthdays at SPPC. There is cake and singing and laughter and Christian love abounding. Why not join us?