Friday, March 25, 2011

Lord, Please Grant Me The Open Hands of a Child

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (New International Version, ©2011)

Generosity Encouraged
 6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.



He sits in a stench of non-apologetics, wild beard like unkept dread-locks, this misplaced Rastafarian, invisible and oblivious to the hustle and grind of the PATH - Toronto's underground walkway.  Passed by like nothing more than a shadow - like nothing more than a speed bump on the ramp reaching up into sunshine.  Like nothing.  His sad little nickels jingle weakly in a dirty paper cup, a tired attempt to draw attention.  There's no guessing his age, he appears ancient, wrapped up like a mummy in rolls and rumples of faded plaid.  Eyes, moist and glassy, peering through matted hair and pain, begging for a moment of human contact, slumping deeper into his bed of torn Toronto Stars with each hurried step that avoids and shuns.

We are a group of twelve, a jovial rainbow of chaos echoing off the tiles.  We see him from a long way off, a lump in the centre of the floor.  I am tightening my grip on my purse, plotting a path that will keep me as far from his pile as possible, already deciding that I won't meet his eyes.

The twelve year old breaks away, rustling through her bag until she finds her wallet, kneels down right in front of him - fake cowboy boots on a corner of his paper - empties every coin she has into that dirty paper cup - *plink*, *plink* ,*plink* - looking him right in the face, eyes void of disgust and rich with compassion.

And then her brother, eleven years old, breaks away, digging in his jeans pocket, letting his treasure *plink* onto his sisters and with every *plink* that man sits a little straighter and with every *plink* my heart breaks a little bit more because I realize just how selfish I am.

Lord, please grant me the open hands of a child.  Give me a generous heart that will set aside my own selfishness in order to better someone else's life.  Make me a joyful giver,  a willing giver, a generous giver.  Make me like a twelve year old girl who would give it all for nothing more than a smile.  Lord, make me more like You.


Alanna Rusnak shares her life with her husband, three children, and a cat she's trying hard not to love.  She has attended HMC for her entire life and been on staff since 2003, currently fulfilling the role of Creative Communications.  You can find her over at her own blog, SelfBinding Retrospect.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Laying It Down

On Sunday, Pastor Paul challenged the congregation to lay something down as an act of sacrifice because "with less of you there is more of God..." Matthew 5:3b The Message.  Responses varied from the giving up of physical items to the commitment to set aside negative character traits.  Below is a list compiled from the responses.  Feel free to add your own sacrifice to the list or to let us know how God's been working through your offering by using the comment link below.

Activities
  • blogging
  • decorating
  • drawing
  • eating out
  • extra sleep (if it takes away from devotions)
  • going out for coffee/tea
  • hockey
  • movies
  • unnecessary shopping

Character
  • always being "right"
  • anger
  • doubt
  • entitlement
  • fear
  • grumbling
  • judgmental thoughts
  • laziness
  • need to control others
  • negative thinking
  • procrastination
  • self indulgence
  • selfishness
  • unkind thoughts and words
 Food/Drink
  • bread 
  • candy
  • chips
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • diet pop
  • dessert
  • doritos
  • foolish eating habits
  • hamburgers
  • overeating
  • pizza
  • sweets

Media
  • 1/2 hr television a day (to read God's Word instead)
  • celebrity television shows
  • computer/video games
  • facebook
  • psp
  • television
Money
  • control of money
  • give more to those in need
  • new furniture


Time
  • 20-30 minutes every day (to write a note of encouragement for another)
  • busyness
  • making time for more Bible reading
  • my one hour after work to myself (give this hour to others (my kids, parents, etc)
  • wasted time
Other
  • live more simply
  • occupational privilege

[click here to listen to Pastor Paul's sermon]

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A History of Lent


Written by: Brian Austin

For me, Lent has always been more of a puzzle than a practice. Forty days of fasting sounded like a long time. A lover of good food who has always associated fasting with eating nothing, I had selfish reasons for not looking closer. I found it baffling as well, that the 40 days actually add up to 46. Is my math that bad, or is it someone else’s error?

The word Lent itself is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words lencten, meaning "Spring," and lenctentid, which literally means "Springtide," or “March.”

As early as 203 AD, confusion existed over how one should prepare for Easter. In a translation from Greek to Latin, a 40 hour fast came to be understood as a 40 day fast, a significant change that became firmly established at the council of Nicea in 325 AD.

This preparation time carries remnants of the Jewish celebration of the Passover – fittingly enough, for Jesus was crucified during Passover as “The Lamb of God.” The language has changed from the “unleavened bread” and “bitter herbs” of the Passover meal, yet a surprising number of parallels exist. Shrove Tuesday (Feast or Fat Tuesday March 8, 2011) is celebrated much like the preparation for Passover week, eating everything that will be abstained from in coming days. From that point on, some type of fast or abstinence is practiced in many Christian traditions. Most of these traditions predate Catholic or Protestant designations, although they are preserved predominantly within the Catholic church.

The 40 day fast at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry seems to be the strongest link to the duration of Lent. But Sundays, celebrated by the early Christian church as “Resurrection Day,” continued to be celebration days even through this somber period. In some traditions Sundays are feast days in the midst of the fast. In others, specific abstinence is still practiced, especially from any red meats. Almost all traditions permit fish.

The fast itself is but a small part of the tradition—perhaps not even the most important part. Confession to God and confession and restitution to others shows up repeatedly in ancient and modern writings about any authentic practice of Lent.

What would it do in my life if, as I anticipate the pivotal point in the Christian calendar each year, I intentionally gave 40+ days to preparing my heart, my mind, and even my body, for an intense focus on the sacrificial death of Christ, followed by the triumph of His resurrection? What would it do in the lives of those around me if for 40+ days I actively searched for ways I could bring healing and reconciliation?

Maybe - just maybe - Lent deserves more than a shrug. Just maybe, the early church and more traditional present day churches have it right in choosing to give up something for these 40+ days, while making an extra effort to focus on the One who made Easter a reason to celebrate and THE pivotal point in history.

For further reading, much of it scholarly but still fascinating, go to:









Friday, March 4, 2011

Something's Happening...


Is there more to being a Christian than having my sins forgiven?  What does spiritual growth look like?  
How do I know if I'm growing  in Christ?

If you've pondered these questions and failed to find a good response, or you've been struggling to grow in relationship with Jesus, then our SPIRITUAL SURVIVAL COURSE is for you.

Join us, beginning on March 20th, for a 5-week, Sunday afternoon (1-2:30 pm) journey as we dig deeper into the morning message and learn how to practice the ancient disciplines.  Growing in Christ is our goal.

This family friendly course will include intergenerational worship, age specific learning times, opportunities for practical application and it will culminate with a weekend retreat at Stayner Conference Bible Grounds (May 6-7).

Because good things aren't usually free, there is a small cost involved.  The whole series (5 afternoon sessions and the retreat, including travel, meals and accommodation) will cost an adult $52, a child (3-10) $26, or a family $130.

Sign your family up for this adventure by March 16.

More information will be available on the registration form (which you will receive in your bulletin this Sunday or download from the HMC home page).