I love music! I could go on and on about my favorite musicals, songs, hymns, and liturgies. There are times that I am easily distracted when reading (especially the Bible) because I will read something that will cause a song to come to mind based on or similar to what I was reading and all the sudden I’m singing rather than reading. Or if I am listening to music while working sometimes I get distracted by the music and I find myself singing more than working. Just the other night I had trouble falling asleep because of the songs playing through my head, and there are days I wake up with a song stuck in my head and I wonder what I must have been dreaming about. All that’s to say who doesn’t get music stuck in their head? But do you ever have a song that gets stuck in your head and as it keeps repeating over and over you realize that that song is speaking to something going on in your life? Or one of those times you are in your car and a song comes on the radio that was what you needed to hear? I am sure that we all have stories of these moments of the power of music in our lives. Of the ways that the words of songs can express what we are feeling better than we could. The way that music can reach us when we are felling low and raise us up.
Recently for me this happened with a beautiful Brazilian Kyrie that was used at an online prayer vigil my diaconate held. It is called “For the Troubles and the sufferings/Pelas dores deste mundo,” (you can take a listen to it here www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIGhNbCe0dM) the lyrics are:
For the troubles and the sufferings of the world,
God, we call upon your mercy:
The whole creation’s laboring in pain!
Lend an ear to the rising cry for help
From oppressed and hopeless people.
Come! Hasten your salvation, healing love!
We pray for peace, The blessed peace that comes from making justice,
To cover and embrace us.
Have mercy, Lord!
We pray for power,
The power that will sustain your people’s witness:
Until your kingdom comes,
The words struck me as how poignant they were for all that is going on around us right now from a global pandemic, to the continued violence toward our black and brown skinned siblings. From our country’s treatment of immigrants, to environmental issues, and so much more. It put words to some of the prayers on my heart that I was struggling to put words to myself. The power of the ancient refrain “Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy,” lifted up as prayer when we aren’t sure what to pray ourselves.
Music is a powerful force that goes back centuries. Some of the earliest music that was written down were the liturgies of the Early Church. But even before that we had the Psalms, a collection of hymns and prayers composed throughout the history of ancient Israel. The Psalms express a wide range of human emotions from praise and thanksgiving to lament and questioning. As we read through the psalms or as we listen to the radio we likely each encounter words and music that touch us deeply. They may speak to the songs and sighs of our hearts that are sometimes too deep for words. Or they may express our joy and move us to dance. Studies have been done about the healing power of music. How it can help us express emotions and feelings that are either too hard to express ourselves or that we didn’t even know we were holding onto. Music can move us to tears and to dance. It can move us to sing along and to action. It can help us lift up the prayers on our heart when the cares of the world seem too much to bear.
If you are struggling to find the words to pray these days, take a look through the Psalms or turn on some music, to see how the Holy Spirit might bring you the words you need through the words others have written.
Talking with your kids about death
Dealing with death is one of the hardest things for kids to understand. All too often, parents sweep the hard conversations under the rug leaving their kids "holding the bag" of emotions and grief without the support they need. Here is a practical approach to helping your kids deal with death, loss, suicide, and grief. http://www.myparentingwithspirit.com
Outdoor Worship Update
As you know, Shepherd of the Valley reserved space in Kleiner Park for evening worship services on August 2nd, 16th, and 30th. We made the decision to reserve the space in early July, when our county was first coming out of COVID-19 restrictions. Our plan was to reserve early and assess the situation as the time approached.
August is almost here, and Ada County is still in a state of flux. COVID remains prevalent, gatherings are restricted, masks are required in public. Though we always planned to follow safety guidelines if and when we gathered, neither we nor the Park Bureau feel that meeting in person would be safe at this time. After consultation with the parks, we have obtained a full refund for our August reservations. We will not be meeting in person during August.
If the COVID situation improves, we will likely try outdoor worship again in September. Until that point, we will dedicate August to expanding our online video offerings. We will continue to meet virtually via Zoom for Bible Studies and discussion groups.
For those asking, we have discussed parking-lot services as a possible way to get together without risking virus transmission, but we’ve found that keeping apart in that kind of situation is near impossible. We end up choosing between unsatisfying separation or unsafe contact. For now, we’re avoiding that dilemma altogether and limiting ourselves to remote services.
We continue to pray for the members of Shepherd of the Valley who have tested positive for COVID-19 and for all across the world who are suffering because of the virus.
We also ask your continued support during this time. Your prayers, participation, and donations matter. We’ll continue to keep you apprised of our progress. As always, find us at myboisechurch.org or on Facebook @SOVBoise.
Travel and Grief in a Pandemic
This week I was supposed to be in New York spending some time with my family for my dad’s 60th birthday. When I booked my flight back at the beginning of June, we still had low numbers of new cases in Idaho, I had an e-credit to use from a different cancelled trip from this fall, and flights were as cheap as I have ever seen them to Albany or Syracuse. I booked my flight knowing that things could change and I might not get to go, but I would not have guessed that it would be because of New York State restrictions on travelers from states, including Idaho, which are experiencing over a 10% increase in their weekly average of cases. Even though I tried not to get too excited, and I talked about it more as a hopefully I will go, having to cancel has still been tough. Knowing I was so close to getting to see my family and now having that change again because of the pandemic. Canceling plans is getting harder because of all the unknowns around when we will all be able to easily make plans again. It is hard not to know when you will get to see and hug your family again. And many of us are experiencing this in these days of travel restrictions and increasing cases.
We are all in a time of learning and figuring out new ways of doing things. I know I am not the only one who has had to cancel travel plans or events because of the chaos going on in the world around us these past few months. In the midst of all of the cancelations and changes we may have feelings that we don’t know how to express. Small things might be making us feel big emotions, especially as all the small cancelations seem to be piling up. We may wonder, is grief over the cancellation of a trip really grief? The answer is yes. A loss is a loss, no matter how big or small. And with loss comes grief, as we process and cope with what we have lost. We have had to cancel and change plans, probably multiple times, and that brings feelings of loss. A loss of what was planned and hoped for. A loss of a vacation or time with friends and family. A loss of certainty and routine in our daily lives. We are all experiencing loss in some way right now, therefore we are all experiencing grief in our own ways as well.
In this time where some of us are experiencing great losses, it can be easy to try to compare our own losses to the losses of others. To tell ourselves that the loss of a trip or event is not a loss when compared to those who have lost loved ones and jobs. To feel that a trip is not something big enough to feel grief over. However, it is important to remember that no matter the size, a loss is still a loss. And just like we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, we also should not compare our losses to the losses others are experiencing. It is not fair to ourselves to diminish what we are feeling, because grief over any loss is real and valid. It can also be important for us to name our loss, because naming it can help us process it. It can be helpful to talk about it with others to process externally what we are feeling. Especially because right now we are often subconsciously processing more than we realize with all that is going on.
As we continue through this time full of cancelations, unknowns, and loss, I pray that you have spaces to connect with others and to share and process how your losses are affecting you.
There was at once nothing unusual and everything unusual about that late service I attended earlier this year. Although attendance was rather light that day, most everything else was rather ordinary. Some—but not all—of my usual late service people were there—Jim, Don, Sylvia, Betty, Laura; the Praise Band was in its usual top form; the New and Old Testament readings were read; and Pastor Dave’s message was another thought provoking one. We were even beginning to get used to worshipping in the round for the remainder of the spring and summer.
But some things were different. Pastor Dave administered Holy Communion that Sunday as the 50 (or so) of us gathered in a big circle, something I hadn’t ever remembered in my 11 years at Shepherd of the Valley. And rather than passing the offering plate, we were asked to place our offering in baskets located around the center doors.
And there was something else.
Deep down, I knew something that not everyone in the sanctuary knew. It made me pause on several occasions during the 56-minute service. I found myself starring longer at our beautiful stained glass, and in particular, the second one from the from the front on the right side: “Atonement.” I’ll admit it, my emotions got the best of me during that service. I could barely look at Jim, sitting at a distance next to me, without shedding a tear. I could barely recite the Lord’s Prayer without quietly weeping. I knew March 15, 2020 would be our very last in-person service together--and for a while.
Earlier in the week, we had called for a special Council meeting to be held at the conclusion of that late service. We had some usual agenda items, but nothing more important than discussing our future and the manner in which we would continue to worship. After reviewing local COVID-19 infection rates and potential risk to our members and guests, we unanimously decided to suspend all in-person gatherings at SOV, something none of us wanted to do, but something that had to be done. At that meeting we also developed our guiding philosophy for an eventual re-opening: we are a community of God; we will worship again together when we ALL can safely do so. Our meeting then turned to the nuts and bolts of virtual worship. We are so blessed to have Pastor Dave, Paul, Troy and Whitney with us leading these efforts. In no time, they had a plan that would allow us to not only be “together” on Sunday mornings, but also introduce us to new ways of thinking about how a community of God can effectively function. And Sara Manning has been a huge presence here as well.
More than four months later, and here we are. There has certainly been some confusion along the way as to why we continue to worship in this different way. For example, some churches across the country have continued to gather in-person by simply defying executive orders, and in some instances with devastating consequences. And here in our state, while places of worship were allowed to reopen on May 1 (during Stage 1), in that same stage, it was recommended that all gatherings were to be avoided!
In anticipation of reopening for in-person worship, two ad hoc committees were created, one of which is providing recommendations specifically on cleaning protocols for our interior and the other of which is providing general recommendations on safely worshipping together. Each committee has provided recommendations to Council, and we are in the process of reviewing these. I want to thank the members of each committee for their thoughtful comments and guidance, and for keeping in mind the safety of all our members and guests as we move forward.
Last month, Council was delighted to see recommendations from the Reintegration Committee regarding outdoor summer worship! We reviewed and considered all recommendations and, as you know, we now have a plan in place for a series of evening outdoor worship opportunities at Kleiner Park in Meridian. Since then, however, the number of infections in Ada County has substantially risen, as has the positivity rate in testing. This has led our county to revert back to Stage 3 for the time being and the inability to have more than 50 people gather together in- or outdoors. We will communicate a final decision about our scheduled August 2nd outdoor worship this weekend, but please understand that we are likely needing to adjust our schedule based on our current, unfavorable conditions.
And so, we continue to worship in a different way. But what a blessing it has been. Pastor Dave’s virtual services and video blogs not only have continued to keep us connected, but have also reached individuals far and wide—individuals who have been searching for a safe space to hear God’s word. Virtual bible studies and conversations are ongoing—remotely! And through all of this, we haven’t missed a beat to be of service to others in need, especially to those right in our own community. But don’t get me wrong! I’m the first person who wants to be back at church, sitting in my usual spot.
We are a community of God and we will worship together again—in person—when we all can safely do so. In the meantime, I continue to think about all of you, praying for our continued safety and health, and looking forward to seeing you—and those stained-glass windows—in our sanctuary very soon. Blessings to each of you.
Geek and Greek Podcast: Ep. 82
Ep. 82 - The Bible! Some folks claim it's in the infallible guidebook for life, answering all our questions. Others say it's archaic and has too prominent a position in Christian circles. Justin and Dave try to parse this out. In what way is scripture still relevant? Check it out!
The Geek and Greek podcast is a show where two reverends talk honestly and clearly about faith, Christianity, scripture, and life.
Follow us at GeekAndGreek.com!
We are pleased to announce that Vern and Gloria Domeier were wed in a ceremony at Shepherd of the Valley on Saturday, July 18th. Congratulations to the Domeiers and best wishes for your future together!
What do you think of when you hear the word wilderness? For most people they probably think of a location or a place that they have been that may seem isolated or away from “civilization.” A place in the middle of a forest, up a mountain, or maybe even in the middle of the desert. In the United States we even have the National Wilderness Preservation System that helps preserve some of these places from our world of land development. But there is another type of wilderness that we can experience that is less about natural places and more about us and our connection to others. You might call it a personal wilderness. When you are experiencing a time of wilderness you may feel isolated and disconnected from family, friends, or communities that you are a part of. Feeling the disconnection from having a normal and regular routine to your daily life. Or you may feel disconnected from your faith, or from God. I want to first acknowledge that this is a normal thing, especially in this unprecedented time we are living through, and it does not make you a bad person or a bad Christian for feeling disconnected or in a wilderness. The Bible is actually full of stories about people who experienced wilderness moments. From the Israelites who literally spent 40 years in the wilderness waiting to enter the promised land, to Job and his spiritual trials, and even Jesus who spent 40 days in the desert wilderness being tempted by satan.
In this time of a global pandemic, of social and physical distancing, and still not having in-person gatherings at our church, I would guess that many of us have experienced our own wilderness moments over the past few months. I am an introvert and all of this has been hard on me, so I can only imagine how difficult it must be for those who are extroverts and crave interaction with others. This time has forced us to find new ways to stay connected to our friends and family, even those that are nearby. This time has forced us to find new ways to worship and connect with our church communities. Some of us may enjoy this new way of digital worship and others may be longing for the day that we are back together. To gather in community.
When we are in the midst of a wilderness moment it can be hard to see God’s presence. To see how God is active through those around us, or how God is present in a world that is so full of brokenness and violence. When I am in one of these moments I am often brought back to the
“Footprints in the sand” poem:
Last night I had a dream. I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonged to me, the other to the Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that at many times along the path of my life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it. “Lord, you said once I decided to follow you, You'd walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
The Lord replied, “My precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of suffering, when you could see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
For me this poem is a reminder that even in the moments of wilderness, the moments of feeling isolated and alone, that God is always there. God promises to be present with us, and just because we cannot see or fell that presence does not me that God is not right there supporting us through the wilderness.
I pray that you can find hope in the promise that whether you are aware or not God is always with you, even in the wilderness.
Geek and Greek Podcast: Ep. 81
Ep. 81 - How do faith and culture intersect? Justin and Dave tackle one of the most complex issues of modern religion.
The Geek and Greek podcast is a show where two reverends talk honestly and clearly about faith, Christianity, scripture, and life.
Follow us at GeekAndGreek.com!