All posts by johncarr

THE MEANING OF THE MORNING (Stephen Haughland)

The other day I met up with a friend whom I often see during my morning walks. It was quite early, but the sun was rising, the day was warm, and there was time enough for a good visit before continuing on.

It was a perfect Morning, and a perfect day to be a Morning Person, just as this article is the perfect opportunity to do a shout-out to all the Morning People living in our midst!

So, are you a morning person? Perhaps you live with one, or know of one! I’m sure God created as many Morning People as he did members of that other illustrious demographic commonly known as South-Paws!  (Yes, I’m a South-Paw, and I admit it freely!)

So, dear Morning Person, tell us what it is about the Morning that beckons you from slumber? What is it about the morning that keeps your head from staying too long on your pillow?

To begin. Morning People are those who usually function best IN the morning. Once awakened they immediately get moving, and they are most creative and productive during that time of day when the sun has risen and the world is starting to stir. Morning People love clear skies and sunlight, and if you happen to be a morning person, you are blessed!

Then, there’s folks, like me, who (once) belonged to that opposite demographic – called “Night People.” We’re the folks whose alertness increases the closer it gets to midnight, and whose preferred hour of awakening is somewhere nearer the “Crack of Noon”. No doubt this is why Night People are often mistaken for “Afternoon People.” But that is a grievous error and not at all true!!! (LOL) But, it really doesn’t matter, of course, because God’s world always has enough space for all kinds of persons, regardless of the hour for which our internal clocks are set!

That being said, today I hope to offer you a very good reason to become a Morning Person, and it’s a reason that has nothing to do with when we awaken, but everything to do with pleasing God.

And that’s because a Morning Person, in God’s eyes, is any person whose kindness and caring brings a new and brighter Morning to the person whose life is filled with darkness, or grief, or gloom. A  Morning Person is anyone who is willing to offer even just a little light to someone in need.

A Morning Person trusts God, and listens when God says: “Fear not that your light is too little! Go and help another to be a little more at peace, to have a little more courage, a little more hope, or find a little more grace.

That’s how you can best share that Light which always Shines! That’s how you best give to others that Dawn which breaks the deepest darkness!”

“Anytime you help another find even just a little joy, that’s the same as bringing them a brighter morning! Anytime you help someone to sing, or to laugh, or to pray, or to find truth, that’s the same as bringing them a brighter dawn! That’s how you become a Morning Person in the best sense!”

God knows and so do we, just how desperately our world needs Morning People. God knows, and so do we, it’s not enough to have a morning only when the sun rises in the sky, or only when another day on the Calendar begins. God knows, and so do we, there will always be someone who needs a New Morning in the middle of the day, or the middle of a dark night. God knows, and so do we, there will always be folks who need a New Morning, a New Dawning, in their heart. In their soul. In their life.

Today, let’s let God help us to be The People of the Morning. He Can. He will.

And we can, too, if we keep remembering the words of His Son.

He said: ”You are the light of the world!  He also said: “Let your light shine!”

Rev. Steve.
Westminster Church, Chauvin

First year of ministry during a pandemic: a reflection (Elias Mendes-Gomes)

Very early in my faith journey I had an inkling that I would serve overseas. In college, though my major was theology, I took several classes on philology, language learning, ethnography, contextualization/indigenization, cultural anthropology, etc. The aim was to acquire tools that would facilitate future adaptation to a new culture.

A popular concept at the time was that of bonding proposed by Thomas and Elizabeth Brewster. Their research on imprinting in certain species (which happens when an animal is abandoned immediately after birth prompting them to attach to a surrogate mother, including other animal species or even a human being). The well-known picture of psychologist Konrad Lorenz being followed by goslings is a good example of the phenomenon.

Studies of human infants follow along the same reasoning. When mothers and new-borns are separated at birth, babies can become attached to a surrogate mother, including a doll or a particular nurse.

Critiquing the “compound mentality” of the traditional mission movements (in which the recruits are welcomed into a bubble by the expat community), the Brewsters proposed that – for those working in different cultures – the first few months in a new setting are crucial, as their senses are bombarded by a multitude of new sensations, sights, and sounds; an experience akin to that of a birth. Emotionally and physiologically they are ready to bond to the new environment and language, like a newborn.

Although this was written having mission personnel in mind, I believe the same principle applies to the first year of ministry in any community. It is during this time that we are in a state of unique readiness to develop a sense of belonging to the new environment.

Having been introduced to congregational ministry just a couple of months before the CoVid-19 lockdown, I feel cheated out of the opportunity, which sounds rather selfish. I am aware that the global pandemic has killed more than two-and-a-half million people across the globe, countless people have lost their livelihood, and many more have been touched by strained relationships and mental health challenges, but I still grieve my situation.

You may be surprised to learn that grief can be a reaction to events other than death. But, as a friend recently pointed out, we don’t just grieve when someone dies; we grieve whenever we lose something.

I grieve the loss of the dynamics that should have occurred in a first-year of ministry. It is in this period that bonding happens with both the pastoral charge and the surrounding community, which should bring about a sense of belonging. Sadly, we cannot recreate what ought to have happened.

Though we are all affected by the reality of grief brought about by CoVid-19’s dramatic changes, as followers of Christ, we do not journey through grief alone. Scriptures assure us that ours is a God who cares, who even stores our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). We can count on God’s comfort. In the midst of your personal grief, I hope you will, like myself, find solace in this promise.

The Rev. Elias Mendes-Gomes
Faith Presbyterian Church, Fort McMurray (AB)

From Bondage to Freedom in Christ Jesus (Charlie McNeill)

I was asked a rather novel question about a year ago, and the question popped up again in the last few weeks.  One of the saints within the congregation asked me if I thought the Covid19 virus was a plague?!

I answered the question with a question.  Did she use the word plague in the Old Testament Biblical sense of God visiting plagues on the Egyptians to free the people of Israel from bondage?  She indicated that was exactly what she was asking!

A year ago we talked about it. I thought we concluded the conversation when I honestly said I didn’t know!  In saying I didn’t know I suggested that I wouldn’t presume to be able to plumb the depths of the divine mysteries!  Such weighty questions calls us to seek God out in prayer and be asking God to unpack rather involved and complex questions!

In fact I don’t think upon reflection that sort of question can be answered in 50 words or less!  I am not sure that God would give a simplistic and partial answer to such a weighty question!  To be fair to my friend who asked the question I doubt she would expect to sit down with God for 5 or 10 minutes and get the Coles Notes answer to that question!

My friend is the sort of person with an inquiring mind and heart!  She adheres to the gospel admonition to seek, ask, and knock.  If she doesn’t get an answer right away or if she doesn’t receive an answer that satisfies she keeps looking!

So the year rolled by and again the question was on her mind and heart!  Was the Covid19 virus a plague?!  At the end of a Bible study, which had nothing to do with plagues, she raised her question again!

Again I asked if she meant Old Testament liberating plagues?  She indicated that was exactly what she meant!  We unpacked it a bit more, and I am thinking that before too long we will talk about it again!

There is a pastoral, theological and Biblical need within this sister in Christ, and so we will continue to wrestle with the weighty question!  If nothing else she has made me wrestle with the question, and carry the question around with me as I go about God’s business through the work done!

In being called to journey with her a thought crossed my mind the other day!  The act of liberation which God enacted for the people of Israel in freeing them from Egyptian oppression was revolutionary!  It took a people, who had long forgotten how to be a people, and forged them through the fires of bondage, the plagues, and finally the journey to recreation into God’s people!

The recreation was not instant.  It took time and in fact for God’s people, then or now, we are a work in progress!

In the Old Testament context God was freeing the people both physically and spiritually!  God was also speaking truth to power – most notably the powerful and power of the then Egyptian empire!

With that in mind if Covid19 can be likened to a plague are the powerful these days being called to critique their use of power and to transition to a Godly template of power for service?! By the same token are those people who have the ways and means to more readily weather the storm of the pandemic being taught anything?  We aren’t the powerful in society but we are the more fortunate who benefit from our society’s largess.

Is God critiquing us?  If so what is the critique?  More to the point are we willing to embrace God’s critique and run with it?  Or do we need more severe plagues to get our attention?!

The Old Testament Exodus plagues spoke to everyone, critiqued everyone, and called everyone to listen and respond to God in kind!  If this is what we mean by the Covid19 virus being a theological plague – then maybe it is!

Whether it is or not isn’t so much the point!  In doing theology its not so much about other people and their behaviour but our own!  Theology at its best has nothing to do with finger pointing!  Rather it has to do with wrestling with God and God’s truth for our own lives, contexts, realities, and then taking and living God’s remedies!

Those remedies lead from bondage to freedom in Christ Jesus!

The Rev Charlie McNeill
Knox Presbyterian Church, Lloydminster

Motherhood and God (Janet Taylor)

There are wonderful images of God as a mother in the Bible: in Hosea 11:3-4 God describes himself as a mother helping a child to grow. Other Scriptures describe God as a mother bear, a mother eagle, a nursing mother, a woman in labour, and a mother hen.

One of my favourite passages comes from Isaiah 66:13. “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” And at no time was this passage more important to me than ten years ago.

My husband and I made frantic arrangements to get from Victoria to Winnipeg on a bright April day in 2011, after receiving a call from our son telling us that our eldest child, a daughter, had been hit by a car. “It’s bad,” he said bluntly. “You’d better get out here now.” By the time we touched down in Winnipeg at 9 pm that night, our son’s silent, tearstained face looking up to us as we descended the escalator told us we were too late. She had been removed from life support while we were in the air, at about 6 pm local time.

I would not wish the depth of grief and pain which followed upon my worst enemy, even were I in the habit of making such wishes. Christian grief counseling helped us heal, and I identified that one coil of my grief was wrapped around the idea that I had failed as a mother. Like most parents, I had committed to protecting my children at all costs. Yet it seemed when my daughter needed me most I believed I had failed. I was not there.

But God was. A woman bystander, who later said that an unexplainable compulsion came over her, ran out to my daughter and gently smoothed her cheek as she lay on the asphalt, surrounded by onlookers under the bright spring sun. Leaning in close, she whispered over and over, “It’s OK…I’m here…I won’t leave you,” the exact words I would have chanted had I been there. God, in his infinite compassion, provided a mother for my daughter, and, “as a mother comforts her child,” continued to hold me in his loving embrace while I healed and went through the difficult process of forgiving myself, accepting that my best-held intentions were still bound by human limitations, and eventually thanking God that his compassion and love know no boundaries of time or space.

Faith in God is not a shield which protects us from the pains and losses of human existence. But faith in the God who is not only the Father of creation but also the compassionate, loving Mother of his wounded children can hold us close when we stumble, when we are deeply wounded, or when we judge ourselves unworthy. The mothering images of God give us a special comfort and courage to face anew whatever comes into our lives. Whether our earthly mothers are saints or sinners, or like the rest of us are a complicated mix of both, our heavenly Father is also our creating Mother who protects, nurtures, guides and upholds us. For this, thanks be to God, and I pray you have a blessed Mother’s Day.

The Rev. Janet Taylor
Braeside Presbyterian Church, St. Albert, AB

Controlling the Things We Say (Rodger McEachern)

There is a lot of hostile and caustic speech in political discourse, on social media, and private conversations between individuals and groups. One does expect this amongst those who hold no Christian affiliation, but amongst Christians, this should not be! As James in his New Testament letter writes,

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig-tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (3.9-12, NIVUK, 2011)

James is saying that for a Christian to praise God one moment, and than to use his words to curse another person is not natural – it is not consistent with who they purport to be as followers of Jesus Christ. He likens such persons to be like a fig tree producing olives or a grape vine producing figs! There is to be a consistency between one’s faith in Christ and one’s works (in this case words). James echoes what Jesus had taught,

43 ‘No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognised by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn-bushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6.43-45, NIVUK, 2011)

In other words, our words reveal our true self: our beliefs, our values, our attitudes – what is “stored up in his heart.” – whether it is of God or demonic (James 3.7).

It matters what we do, as well what we say and how we say it! For example, we are to work for justice, James calls this “(r)eligion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1.27, NIVUK, 2011). We are also to be holy, “to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1.27). To be holy is to be like God, it is to imitate Jesus Christ, it is to have a pure heart, cleansed by the Holy Spirit, and our holiness will be reflected in what we say, as well, as in what we do. It gives God no honour or glory if we pursue a just cause yet curse those whom we are not in agreement with.

In the months ahead, within our congregations and denomination, issues will arise that we are passionate about: issues of justice; issues of Biblical truth and doctrinal orthodoxy; issues pertaining to policy and practice. We will use our words to defend our positions, and hopefully to convince our opponents concerning the rightness of our positions. Sadly, whether intentional or not, the temptation will be also to say things that will cause hurt, to discredit those whom we disagree with, even to ‘demonise’ them and to force them into a position in which they concede defeat and submit to our ‘wisdom’. To use James’ words, “this should not be”; instead, our words and works will be submitted to the wisdom of heaven,

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3.17-18, NIVUK, 2011)

Written by Rodger McEachern
Callingwood Road Church
16 February 2021

The Ides of Winter (Lydia Calder, MillWoods PC)

In early January I sat in a dentist’s chair, my mouth filled with all the paraphernalia that comes with preparing a tooth for a crown.  While leaning over top of me the dentist and her assistant were lamenting the end of the Christmas season and dreading the dreariness to come.  “I hate January and February,” the one said, and the other agreed.  “There’s nothing to look forward to.” 

These early months of each year can be depressing. From a physiological point of view winter’s “shorter” days and less sunlight disrupts our internal body clock and that impacts our moods.  Plus, all the Christmas festivities are a memory, but the holiday bills have yet to be to be paid.   As some wit once said, “Tis the season to be melancholy.”

 I happen to look forward to February since my birthday falls a week after Valentine’s Day, but I also admit I’m glad it is only 28 days long.  February is truly a dreary month.   It is literally the middle of winter – the ides of winter, as it were. 

The soothsayer’s warning to Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s play of the same name prophesied his betrayal and death: “Beware the Ides of March.” Shakespeare’s words have stayed with us, branding the phrase with a dismal connotation. 

 For us, in 2021, the ides of winter comes with particularly heavy baggage.  2020 will go down in history as being an especially challenging year, but as Covid 19 continues its stealthy path through our world the relief we hoped for has not arrived. We have an ongoing sense of darkness and gloom.  Spring may be on its way, but in the meantime we must beware the Ides of Winter. 

The devotional book I am using this year is called Prevail, a word which encapsulates what I need to do to survive in these unusual days.  For several days the Scripture readings were from Exodus and Numbers.  It struck me that the barrenness of a winter landscape can be likened to that of a desert.  Although one is cold and the other hot, both can be unfriendly, unforgiving places where any wrong turn can have fatal consequences.

Like the Israelites of old, I have a very real sense of aimless daily wanderings while waiting for the promised land.  And like them, I am prone to negativity and grumbling.  I have so much time on my hands, but little motivation. I have so many blessings, but my mind dwells on the things I cannot do.  I cannot hug my granddaughter, go out to a restaurant, have a friend over for coffee, walk through the stacks at the library, go to church in person. I cannot hop on a plane to visit my son in Ontario. I am earthbound.

 I am also earth focused. The debris at my feet prevents me from seeing the magnificence of creation. If I could just lift my eyes from the dead leaves on the dingy snow and instead look up at the stars that dot the heavens I would see anew the power of the God of the universe.

 David found inspiration for his psalms as he looked up…

Ps 19:1   The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

 Ps 121:1,2   I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

 Looking up reminded David of God’s ultimate power and unending love.

 Stephen Hawking wrote, “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do… It matters that you don’t just give up.”

Lydia Calder,
Mill Woods Presbyterian Church

Click here to listen to “Look Up, Child”  by Lauren Daigle

PADRE’S PONDERING In support of Mission Ready: Spirituality/Religion (Ken MacRae)

Happy New Year. For all who thought that 2021 couldn’t be any worse that 2020, let me just say that it has definitely got off to an interesting start! My only political commentary at this time is to encourage everyone to pray for our neighbours to the south. The events that happened this week in the States are disheartening to say the least. I pray that cooler heads will prevail, and that the violence will end and peaceful discussions carry on. People have a right to protest but that right ends when people get hurt or killed!  Ok…enough of politics…for now.

For many of us we have returned to work. (One handed claps are heard across our units!) I hope that we got some rest and had some fun. Most of us have put away our Christmas decorations. For some people I noticed that their tree had a theme or some sort of fashion statement. Some people ensured all decorations were silver. Others may have done an angel theme in your home. My wife and I have a memory tree.

We have the pine cone made by our son when he was in primary school. We have our ornament that shows the year of our first Christmas together as husband and wife. (I’m not saying that year for it was before many of you were born! Yes… I’m old. Be quiet!)  We have ornaments from many of the countries we have travelled together. We have a curling beaver and a golfer to remind us of sports we love. We also have various ornaments that show our faith and love for the Lord such as a nativity ornament from the Vatican. We have added an Inuksuk and a polar bear to remind us of our time in the north. I couldn’t find an ornament of a frozen car battery or a raven large enough to carry away small cars! Over the last month I was able to look at the tree and was reminded of the many blessings my family received over the years.

As I put away the ornaments I reminded myself that I’m not getting rid of the memories. They will always be there. Or there until I’m old and senile and can’t remember anything (I admitted to being old in the previous paragraph…not senile. My wife might say otherwise!) In the Bible we are told that after the birth of Jesus, and after the shepherds went to see the baby Jesus, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19. We can choose to remember the good times or be mired in our bad memories. Learn from the past. Ponder your past. Focus more on the good to motivate you.

What new memories will we get this year? What new adventures awaits us. What people will we meet who we can laugh with? What people will leave here and what new people will we encounter. Some of us can be fearful of the unknown. I choose to have as much fun as possible wherever God sends me.

I’ll leave you with words from the last comic strip of Calvin and Hobbs done, by Bill Watterson in 31 December, 1995. The final words of Calvin were, “Let’s go exploring!”

Padre Ken MacRae

LORD, GIVE ME FAITH (Stephen Haughland)

But not just any faith.

LORD. Give me a Faith Like This:

Lord. When I am praying, and know not what to say. Keep me praying anyway. Even without the words.

Lord. When I am singing, and cannot remember the tune. Keep me singing anyway. Even without the music.

Lord. When I am listening,  not caring to understand. Keep me hearing anyway. Even without agreeing.

Lord. When I am stumbling,  afraid of falling down. Keep me moving anyway.  Even when I must crawl.

Lord. When I am walking,  by sight and not by faith.  Keep me believing anyway. Even without a reason.

Lord. When I am looking, with eyes unwilling to see. Keep me focused anyway.  Even when I am blind.

Lord. When I am holding, that which can never be possessed  . Keep me willing anyway.  Even when letting go.

Lord. When I am building, that which cannot be finished. Keep me interested anyway.  Even without reward.

Lord. When I am dreaming,  that which is only imagined. Keep me plodding anyway.  Even beyond my zeal.

Lord. When I am speaking,  truths I have not earned.  Heal my spirit anyway.  Even when I am humbled.

Lord. When I am living,  entangled in,  enraged by, this world’s unfairness.   Keep me loving anyway.

Hopeful, anyway.  Joyful, anyway.

Even when I am surprised.

Even when I am the cause.

LORD. For your highest glory.

For our greatest good, take all.

All of my anyways.

Let  them provide for me a way.

To give my life.

Away.

LORD. GIVE ME A FAITH.

LIKE THAT.

Rev. Steve
Westminster Church, Chauvin AB.

Faith, Faithfulness, and Patience [Brenda Brewer]

Where do I begin? I was asked if I would write a blog for Faith Presbyterian Church, Fort McMurray, AB.

For those who know me – one of my sayings is, “The good Lord helps those who help themselves.” Soo… on that note, if I want God’s help, I had better get started.

Another of my sayings is, “Do onto others as you would have them do unto you,” so I need to do my part here to honour this request.

This year, 2020, has been a most challenging, anxious and frightful year; however, the CoVid-19 restrictions have brought about some very memorable and pleasant events in all our lives. Our immediate family times together have multiplied, we listen to each other more, we stay in touch with each other by phone, text, videos, facetime, and “drop–in visits, just because.”

Our gardens and lawns have flourished more than ever this year. WHY? We are giving time to these blessings that the good Lord has provided for us – care and attention is what they need and it gives back as we are enjoying the fresh air, watching the veggies and flowers grown under our watchful eyes.

Our lengthy walks in the trails have made us more conscious of the wild life, birds singing, meeting others on the trails and not to mention improving our physical well–being.

Why, even my golf game has improved because I am so grateful that I am able to be outdoors and doing an activity that I enjoy [Regardless of the score!].

All of these Blessings come from the Grace of God, which we can be so Thankful for.  As I observe others around me [physically distanced] people have slowed down and, as the saying goes, “are taking time to smell the Roses.”

We have more time to listen to each other, to read, to meditate, and to look out over the backyard and “Give thanks “ where thanks is due.

Faith Church has survived many “ups and downs,” throughout its history here in Fort McMurray. The Church started out in a private home, then school classrooms, auditoriums, other church buildings, back to schools again. We have suffered through lack of space, lack of funds, lack of congregants but the good Lord has been with Faith Church all the way and helped us “see the light” and press on.

Faith Church has survived through 2 major floods [2013 and 2020] and a forest fire [2016] since our congregation has been there. Faith Church will survive this pandemic as well.

Beginning on March 22, 2020, Faith Church live-streamed its Sunday morning worship services from the lower level “Meeting Room” at the manse. As of October 18, 2020, Faith Church is doing in-house worship service and live-streaming at 1:00pm in the sanctuary at St. Thomas Anglican Church.

Faith Church may not have a permanent church building, but “The Church is the People” and God is with us wherever we gather. Thank the good Lord, we have a good Shepherd who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ and shares this with his flock.  Amen to that.

The Disciples did not always travel “on easy street” and neither has Faith Church especially during this CoVid-19 era but we need to put our trust in God and allow God to be with us each day and night. Trials and tribulations will come to us but they will give us strength, improve our character, and our determination to keep ‘moving forward.” A good friend of mine would say, “When things are not what they should be, then take in to the Lord in prayer.”

We can thank God for his presence and his word that has the power to bring us wisdom, patience, peace, love and caring for each other and the world and our belief will see us through today and tomorrow.

Take care, stay safe and God Bless you.

Have a very Blessed Merry Christmas and good health and wellbeing for 2021.

Brenda Brewer
Clerk of Session
Faith Presbyterian Church
Ft. McMurray, AB

Empathy – a Different Spin in the Context of COVID-19 (Charlie McNeil)

I had an interesting and instructive object lesson in empathy in this time of COVID-19.

The congregation received a parcel card in the mail.  We were told that we could pick up the parcel the next day from the auxiliary postal outlet in town.  So I put the parcel card in my pocket, and went about my business.

The next day I went over to the postal outlet to pick up the parcel.  I arrived at the postal desk, and no one was there.  So I rang the bell once as I was instructed to by the posted instructions.

Then I waited.  It wasn’t a long wait, nor was I in a hurry.  For a change I didn’t get impatient.

Out from the stock room door came one of the employees. The employee had a trolley with a number of bulky items on it.  I noted the person’s body language which seemed to indicate that he was having a bad day! The way he dumped the trolley confirmed that.  Clearly he was having a bad day!

When he arrived behind the counter, he asked me in a rather brusque manner what I wanted?  I handed him the card and indicated that I was there to pick up a parcel.  He scanned the parcel and then asked for identification.

I showed him my driver’s licence through the clear plastic screen.  He looked at it and then at the parcel card.  I was going to put my licence away when I was again asked to see it.

I thought I was being helpful by reaching around the plastic barrier and showing my licence a bit closer.  Seems I was dreadfully wrong!  In no uncertain terms and rather rudely it was indicated that I needn’t have shoved my licence into his face!

“Sorry,” was my outer reaction.  I won’t share my internal one!

He then indicated that the address on the parcel card and my address on my licence didn’t line up.  I told him that that was probably because the address on the parcel card was the church and as minister, I didn’t live there but had my own home address.

He nodded and then went looking for the parcel.  Eventually with some help from a co-worker the package was found and handed over.  I thanked the employee and went about my business.

I was a bit perturbed by the treatment and was tempted to speak to the manager about the rudeness!  Then I thought – why was the employee having a bad day?  Did some previous customer give him a hard time?  Did a supervisor chew him out for something that wasn’t his fault? Were the precautions for COVID-19 getting to him and having to deal with those not wearing masks etc?

Truth be told I have no idea and don’t need to!  It’s none of my business!  Except to say that maybe just maybe I can cut the guy some slack.  Everyone has a bad day and deals badly with their bad days sometimes.  These days it may well be all the more so!

Have you ever done so?  Have I?  Sad to say for me I have acted badly on bad days.

I also thought about three of our family members who work in retail, and some of the stories they’ve told about dealing with the public.  I have witnessed their professionalism and people smarts.  They have taught me a thing or two!

One gospel segue speaks to this.  In his public ministry Jesus taught about turning the other cheek.  This teaching was a conscious, and deliberate way of taking the sting out of a bad situation.  It also gave alternatives to the usual human reactions. Bad situations can all too easily escalate.  When they do no one is the winner.  In fact, everyone loses.

I came away from that incident the other day realizing that empathy is a gift to others but also to ourselves. Instead of carrying around a lot of angst, through empathy we let it go.  Instead of complaining we reflect on life lessons.  Instead of continuing the spiral of vexation we create spirals of love, understanding, and grace!

Good gifts to share with others as well as ourselves.  It can make all the difference!  Especially as we navigate through these days!

Blessings for the journey!
(Rev.) Charlie McNeil
Knox Presbyterian Church, Lloydminster