Nostalgia 

Nostalgia 

Currently, my morning routine is to get up, get coffee and yogurt, sit down, and prepare to write.  I do that most times by reading a few select emails.  It’s good to pick and choose what you read.  For lots of reasons.  I choose to be inspired and informed. That limits me to reading Sean of the South and my newest newsfeed 1440 Daily Digest.  Like many days, the news is not so good, but there is always balance in the Digest.  Today I learned that South American countries are now topping the list of pandemic hotspots and that scientists discovered unknown deep water creatures that now will go into “what we know about the world, we didn’t know before”.  And I read Sean.  I can count on being engaged, touched, challenged or just plain thankful that someone can write and capture something important.

Sean is developing into a master of people engagement.  Not only does he get the best of insights, he gives the reader a take away.  Something to mull over, or pay more attention to in life.  You gotta read his thoughts today, but my take away was a deep appreciation for our eldest, who bring memories and stories to ground us.  The thread of his story revolved around a new radio station run “illegally” by elders.  The music is nostalgic, bringing up sweet and winsome memories for listeners.  DJ’s tell life stories that are connected to the music, bringing precious moments back to life as the song plays.

Music does that for us.  If its not brand new, and you have heard it before, likely there is a memory that will surface.  Each decade, especially the popular tunes, will pull us back.  We may remember a special friend, a party, a break-up that found consolation in the endless playing of a song.  Music pulls us to the deep parts of our soul.  Like prayer, sometimes we can’t express our feelings, but in the work of the Holy Spirit, God understands our needs.  Music works its way into our soul, opening up an awareness to our true self, uncovering that which we diligently try to forget, due to the pain or unfinished reconciliations in our soul.  Music brings to light at different times, in different measures and beats, sorrow, joy and consolation.

In these days of world shattering change due to the pandemic, we are facing isolation, unknowns and uncertainty of the future.  Our immediate future is being scripted by best practices and careful gatherings.  Gatherings of family, friends, neighbors, gatherings for worship, bible study, missional and service are under the microscope.  We are holding a huge basket of nostalgia around these events.  We desperately want and need this part of making our life full, by sharing it with others.

Holding these nostalgic moments up for examination is a way to make it through this challenging time.  The thing about nostalgia is that we know without a shadow of a doubt, that the memory, the moments we remember, will never come again.  I think being nostalgic allows us to embrace the moment, the music, the event of the past so clearly that our souls are fortified with what ever feelings were felt, and we feel them again.  We slip in and out of nostalgia without harm or fear, for its bigger benefit is a visit without regret, strings or pain, rather a renewed appreciation for what has been.  Nostalgia does bring a bittersweet feeling, a bit of sorrow and sadness for times past, but can be overridden by the sweetness one feels about the treasure brought back to light.

Nostalgia has its place in moving forward too.  It takes that which we would like to have again, and firmly seats the reality that it will not ever be that way again.  We can not re-do what has been, for minutiae and magnitudes of circumstances change.  So nostalgia brings with it a reckoning.  We can’t go back, we will go forward.  

Right now we are all wrestling with how to go forward.  We want what was, but nostalgia tells us, not again.  There is a new way of being together, of listening to music, of singing and gathering and worshipping our Lord.  Perhaps even this time will bring about a nostalgia… such as:

 “Remember when we couldn’t gather in big groups, and we missed it so?  But remember the precious new sense of the presence of God that remained the same, regardless?”     Or

“Remember when we couldn’t sing in church, enjoy our choirs?  But remember how the loss for that time made space for a way of worship that brought new experiences of God with us?”

May we look back in appreciation, and look forward in anticipation.  God is unchanging. 

I love you, I am praying for you.  Pastor Lisa

For Sean’s morning post: 
https://seandietrich.com/category/uncategorized/

“Onward Christian Soldiers”. An old but rich hymn about the true effort of all Christian’s to be aware of the spiritual battles we face, and to proceed forward in faith and trust that God will lead us.  This time in the life of the Church as we face isolations by pandemic, there is no doubt of the physical concerns, but make no mistake, it is a spiritual battleground for all followers.
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Learning to Listen

One of our Own Cokes Chapel members shared a recent experience with me that was so meaningful, I asked her to write it so you could hear her story.  I pray you will be as inspired as I am!  You are loved and prayed for. Pastor Lisa

Learning to Listen 
 As I’ve aged, I’ve become more aware of a little voice that speaks softly and quietly in my mind.  I’m sure it was there when I was younger, but I don’t remember hearing it…probably because I was just too busy to listen, plus the fact that I was not as close to my God as I am in my older years.

I’ve had several occasions in the past few years where I heard it, listened to it, and followed what I was being told, and I’ve discovered that it comes to me to make my life fuller and more enjoyable…and in a couple of instances it has even saved me from harm.

My most recent occurrence happened two weeks ago.  Len and I had made plans many months ago to travel to our home town in Midland, Michigan, to bury our beloved daughter Penny’s ashes in our family plot there.  My younger sons were going to fly in from Wisconsin and Virginia, and we were all going to spend a week together at our oldest son’s home in Midland.  Given the virus, we all went back and forth about whether we could social distance and carry out this plan, or whether it was wisest to postpone it until later when we would be safer to travel, etc.

As I climbed into bed one evening, just before the decision had to be made, there came that special little voice again, telling me to “stay home…don’t travel…Penny will understand…do it later”.  The next day we cancelled all arrangements that had been made and advised our sons of the change of plan, of which they understood and were much relieved.

We would have arrived in Midland the evening of May 20th, and would have been at the local Sleep Inn there.  Later that night, two dams burst and our hometown area was flooded for many miles all around us.  Over 11,000 people had to be evacuated from our town that night, and that certainly would have included Len and I, as well as our sons from out of town.  Our son who lives there has a very small home and would not have been able to provide accommodations. Given that all hotels in the next town over quickly filled up with the overflow…I just don’t know where we would have ended up that night, as well as the rest of the time we were to be there. And, if that wasn’t enough…the Cemetery is in the flood plain too and I’m sure we would not have been able to lay our daughter to rest the next day as planned.

Yet one more time where listening to that beautiful little voice and following it truly paid off.  I pray that all of you hear Him speaking in your hearts and minds and that you will listen and be blessed as I have.

God bless you all during these extremely difficult and challenging times…I can’t wait to gather together again very soon.

Linda Wozniak

 
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Memorial Day

Memorial Day

Today is a day off for many.  Memorial Day was established so that we are mindful of the many who have served our country to protect and defend our freedoms, and given their life while serving.  I would suggest that we are out of touch with Memorial Day.  I don’t think it is purposeful, its just that we tend to get wrapped up in what is going on around us.  We forget, because we are worried about the pandemic, we forget because we are concerned with what will happen tomorrow, we forget because the news tells us so much to worry about.  

Today is for remembering, not forgetting.  I can not help but think of the many wives, husbands and families in our historic past that sent their loved ones off to fight for our freedom.  It was without any assurance that they would return.  There were no cell phones, there was no daily update on a television or email that made news current.  Those left at home waited in a place of worry for months, sometimes years.  Sometimes they wouldn’t know someone survived until they saw a strange, gaunt man stumbling up the road to their home.  The closer he got, the more familiar the figure became, though more slight, but still, there was something about the way he looked, that made coming home real for that family.  Many more waited and never saw a return.  Some received news years later of burial in a foreign land.  Others still wonder where their loved one fell, who gave him or her a last honorable moment over the body.  The Vietnam War was the first war that brought war into our homes.  The suffering and violence of daily war shocked us, but prepared the way for more of the same.  Sadly we see more than enough death now on the screen to almost immunize us from the sorrow and humanity that surrounds the loss of life.

The day that America was attacked in New York, on 9-11-11, we could not help but experience the humanity of that moment, the horror of lives that were ended without any sensibility.  Innocents who were living one moment, and the next were gone.  It was then, again, that we saw Americans going in to protect the survivors.  The rescue effort led by local firefighters, police, first responders, who in turn lost their lives, moved the whole nation into a new awareness of sacrifice and selflessness.

Each of those who have stepped forward to protect us, saying “our freedom is worthy of my life” deserves some time of consideration today.  We don’t need to know their name.  God does.  Families left behind name them for us.  We can honor their sacrifice today by saying a prayer of thankfulness, a prayer of consolation for the last moments of a life given for our continued freedom, a word of humility for such bravery and love for humanity, and finally a promise from the heart to remember the cost that has already been paid so we can live free to speak, worship, gather (yes, gather!!) without fear of retribution.  

Pandemic has changed our perspective for this time, but it will pass.  Most of what we are enduring is by our own choice, for our own health.  Even without all the answers, we still have choices, wisdom, discernment and faith.  A faith we choose. A faith we live.

Today’s words are not complete without the remembrance of another who gave His life for our freedom.  Freedom from sin, separation from our Creator, who by His sacrifice gave us a choice to be reconciled to God by the simple act of repentance.  Believing and confessing His death for our eternal salvation is the only cost we must shoulder.  Jesus Christ died for each of us that we might know peace, reconciling love and mercy in the presence of God now and in eternity.

Say a prayer of remembrance for our Lord and Savior, who came to give us the spiritual freedoms that carry us through days of sorrow, wars, troubles in our homes and in our nation.  Pray for hope for this world, that suffers and struggles, might come to know the truth that God desires good for each and every one of us.  Ask for courage to continue to live and speak the Word of life to all we know.

God is always remembering us, knows each of our deepest fears, pains and hopes.  Pray that the world might hear the name of Jesus Christ, and may peace continue to make its way into the hearts of humanity until all the world is held in peace by our Creator.  Until then, may our memories of the many sacrificed lives of Americans, give us a deep desire to live and work for peace, starting with our own life.  So that those who died fighting for peace did not die in vain.

How do we come to peace?  Someone asked a prophet thousands of years ago, how do we live righteously. keeping relationship with our Lord? His response still stands. “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6:8

May the remembrance of Jesus Christ and the many who have died for our freedom, humble us and bring us to live for peace and for salvation of all people.

Pastor Lisa

 



Honest

Honest

As I reflected on today’s word, praying, and listening, I didn’t like the words I got.  I didn’t think you would want to read them. I didn’t want to make this writing about me, but about where is God today, how are we living into God’s promises.  So the word honest came.  That I can do Lord.

Before I tell you how my spirit is, let me ask, “How are you? Really.”  I do care, I will listen, I will pray with you and for you.  Keeping that in your pocket, I am going to pretend you asked me the same question. Honestly, I had one of those nights that seemed endless, with waking, tossing, and turning.  I went to bed with some concerns on my heart that worked its way into my sleep. Amazing how our body responds to troubles, pain, sorrow, etc. isn’t it?  

Like you, I am weary of the confusion of news that is on every tongue.  It no longer brings any comfort to hear “the latest news on the virus and how to live”.  If we could just face into the truth – we really don’t know much.  Changes in protocol and projections for the future keep us all on tenterhooks.  That means we are all left hanging – not a comfortable position to wait. The various suggestions for safe healthy practices leave us unsure, questioning who really knows and what IS the truth, leaving us more and more distrusting of any information.  That in its self is sad that we struggle to believe what we are hearing.  It can also lead to dangerous decisions, should we discount what is the best science and the most recent data being provided.

The loss of congregational worship and gatherings is a constant grief.  I am concerned for the family of Cokes, missing our opportunities to work, serve, love, and be the witness for Christ, where so many of us find life-giving energy.  I, like you, am grieving losses of friends and suffering with you when I learn of your losses.  The nature of pastors is to accompany others in this time.  The virus has changed all that, leaving me feeling I have not done what I can/should for my “flock”.  

That is more than enough to tell.  We all have these real experiences that affect us.  It might show up physically, emotionally, or spiritually.  The one thing that I do know is that with God, I will find purchase in my soul.  There is where all the God work begins.  When our soul is in distress, we have the Lord to call on.  All the promises from Genesis to Revelation reveal that God does not leave us, is with us in our wilderness travels, in our darkest moments, in our questions and fears, without fail.  Sometimes telling the Lord where you are helps.  It does for me, for as I name, God speaks into the expression, reminding me of times Jesus faced the same, or calling up stories of God’s promise to Noah.  Endless Words of God will address the minutia of our life, if only we will pause to listen.

In the midst of honestly not good times, bad days, moments of confusion, or crisis there is always hope.  Trust in the Lord to hold you.  Listen to the Lord for the Word that will bring calm and peace.  Live into the faith that we proclaim, allowing God to be the center of our soul.  God with us is the game-changer.  

Does this change us?  I pray so.  It changes me. Maybe not in an instant, but there it is: the peace that passes understanding.  The assurance that all is well, for God is with us. The beautiful words, “All Will Be Well” resonate through the hardships and trials to give God perspective to life.  

Being a follower of Jesus Christ is a practice, a journey.  We are always growing either towards or away from God.  These times of pandemic and of life in general, without the added pressure of world crisis, are part of learning to live more like Christ.  Less of me, more of Christ.

Honestly, what more can I say?  I love you, pray for you and look towards the Lord for direction, hope, and joy.  In that, I can be confident.  All else is as nothing if I can not do this today.  May it be so with you.

Pastor Lisa

P.S. If you check your pocket and need to talk, I am here.  Reach out and let me know by email (ldempsey@cokeschapel.org) and I will give you a call.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Psalm 73: 25-6

“Be Still My Soul” by David Archeluta.  A former American Idol contestant, singing with such beauty and heart.  Be blessed as you listen.
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Blank

Blank

Just following a theme here.  Yesterday I noticed the word “Rename”, which started my devotional thoughts.  Today I noticed that the new “Page” I was to rename actually read “Blank” and then when I tapped it, I was told to “Rename”.

How about that.  Just when you think you have seen it all, you haven’t.  I have created a new page so many times that I had just learned to dismiss the beginning.  I am no scientist or behavioral studies guru, but it appears that we do this with many parts of daily life.  We dismiss or move past beginnings more often than we think. We have repetitive actions that we get comfortable with, and in essence, turn off part of our engagement with what we are doing, because it is something that is necessary, but doesn’t require our full attention.  You might call it an automatic response.

With the impact of the pandemic still looming large in headlines and the world still struggling to quantify safe practices, we are all on edge about the right thing to do.  For most of us, it would be safe to say that the “right thing” looks like doing what we used to do.  However the deep impact of tremendous shifts in healthcare, work, home, and daily activities has begun to take hold.  By that I mean, we are finding out that maybe what seemed “right” was not the only right way to do things.  It is being said that medicine has leapt forward ten years in its ability to treat and consult by email and online video appointments.  We are finding that someone can do our shopping for groceries and have them delivered, removing the burden of time for that slice of life.  While there are many down sides to the shelter-in process, there are benefits that will remain as good options.

My heart and prayers these days are with the Church.  We naturally want to return to what we have done together as the Church.  However the deep impact of the pandemic is with us there, too.  It begs the question, though what we were doing in the way of worship and gathering seemed “right”, is there something more that we should be listening to, searching out for, asking God, “What would you have us do?”.  Have our repetitive actions caused us to gloss over beginnings that could inform our return to church?

We already know that the shape of gatherings will necessarily have to change to keep our community safe from potential spread of the Covid virus. For now, no choirs, no singing, no collective communion, no hugging, shaking hands.  Lots’ of no’s!  However, is this a blank page, a fresh opening for God to say, let’s go back to the beginning? “What is worship about?”  Should we be asking, “How can our worship be an expression of worship that is pleasing to God?”?  Honestly, I believe that the last question has been re-written over time to read “What is pleasing me about worship?”.  We have become consumers to worship.  I don’t think it is intentional, its that we like what we like.  We are comfortable with what makes us feel good.  

We are at a crucial, unprecedented time in Church, with an opportunity to become a blank page as we will begin again. The cessation of all we know about being the church in worship and gatherings has prepared us to see church anew, to invite God to write upon our hearts.  Rather than fill gatherings with what we are used to or comfortable with, is there a deepening awareness God is impressing on our spirit?  More holiness in our worship? Less preaching and more reading of God’s Word?  More testimony, less….?  Will we ask of the Lord, “What do You want of us as the church?”.

I believe this is a rare and precious time for Church to open itself to the Holy Spirit.  Clearly, this can be a time of struggle against the tides of sameness for sake of comfort, and move into the stream of seeking what is pleasing to God.

I am a blank page, write on me, Lord. Write on our collective consciousness, how we can be more of You and less of us.  As individuals and as the church. May it be so for the sake of Jesus Christ, who established the church.

I love you, am praying for you.  You are God’s child and the face of Church to the world.

Pastor Lisa

“Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.” Acts 20: 28

The Church’s One Foundation by Samuel Sebastian Wesley, sung by Daniel Choo
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4096 Lower Fayetteville Road, Sharpsburg, GA

SharpsburgGA 30277

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Rename

Rename

Each time I open my IPad to write, a fresh new blank page faces me.  However, the header reads: “Rename”.  This causes me to focus on what idea, subject, or thing on my heart that I trust God to provide.  Today, when I read “rename” again, for probably the thousandth time or more, it stopped me.  Immediately I am reminded of the many stories throughout the Bible describing encounters with God.  As God is revealed, often as not, the person is renamed by God.

Renaming is a significant signpost in biblical life.  It signifies an encounter that is life-changing.  Not just for the message given, the new land provided, an anointed position of priest or leader, but a change in spirit.  A new understanding of who they are in community is couched in the name that gets attention.  Others, in speaking their new name, essentially confirm the formation of someone now called and set apart for a God-given task or role.  The renamed begins to see God at work in their life, fulfilling promises, being assured of God’s presence, with name providing constant reminders to who they are in the eyes of God. 

Abram’s story in Genesis has followed God, leaving family and familiar country, waiting on Sarai to provide him with heirs, God comes.  Abram was 99 years old as God says,

“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.

I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.”  Genesis 16: 4-8.  Abram, meaning “high father” became Abraham, “father of multitudes”, and not to be left out, Sarai was renamed Sarah, “mother of nations”.

Jesus renamed Simon, to Peter, meaning “rock”.  Peter was the strong disciple who would provide a foundation for the church to be established. There are other indications that Jesus called Levi, Matthew; the brothers James and John, Sons of Thunder.  That sounds more like a nickname.  A description of their way of being a disciple.  Where they went, there was increased activity, commanding teachings.  There must have been a personality that influenced the changes in name.  

I was happy to read that Abram was renamed at the ripe age of 99.  It says to me that age is no barrier to God reshaping our understanding of who we are spiritually.  We seem to have the idea that aging means slowing down, letting others step up to active serving, and being a disciple.  In God’s economy, there is no difference in how one can be of service to God.  Age or location are not barriers to fresh spiritual directions.  As we find ourselves in a new place, God will not only speak but show purpose for the new location.  Location in this sense may not mean a physical move, but a spiritual and emotional relocation.  

I suspect that we are all wondering how God is at work in this new land we are living in.  New decisions about going, doing, serving.  God is with us, even though there is no map or written word for how we go forward.  We. Like Abram or Sarai, may not become “all-new” but find God is building on who we are for new understandings of how to be more in the will of God.  

That is big. Being in the will of God requires that we listen, be open to what is being put before us, considering how God is intending us to move forward for the building of the kingdom.  Spiritual discernment is listening to the ‘more of God and the less of self’.  It is trusting the Word and assessing the truth.  It is walking humbly and serving with faith.  

These days are turning points for us all.  Are you gaining an awareness of the movement of God in your life?  Are you hearing a fresh understanding of how to live out your discipline life?  If not a new, expanded role, is there a nickname that Jesus is reminding you of?  Is it one that will strengthen you and give you charge to act and do more for Jesus?

Being uprooted from the familiar is the start of discernment.  Take time in these days of change to listen for God.  Mark the awakenings of insight and guidance the Lord is revealing.  Speak of it with a trusted believer, have your understandings be confirmed by others. Make it real by speaking and then, live in the promise of God with you.  

I love you, am praying for you and listening for God with you.  God is with us!

Pastor Lisa

“He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?”  Mark 8: 34-36

Laren Daigle “You Say”.  Discovering who we are as we listen….



Nostalgia 

Nostalgia 

Currently, my morning routine is to get up, get coffee and yogurt, sit down, and prepare to write.  I do that most times by reading a few select emails.  It’s good to pick and choose what you read.  For lots of reasons.  I choose to be inspired and informed. That limits me to reading Sean of the South and my newest newsfeed 1440 Daily Digest.  Like many days, the news is not so good, but there is always balance in the Digest.  Today I learned that South American countries are now topping the list of pandemic hotspots and that scientists discovered unknown deep water creatures that now will go into “what we know about the world, we didn’t know before”.  And I read Sean.  I can count on being engaged, touched, challenged or just plain thankful that someone can write and capture something important.

Sean is developing into a master of people engagement.  Not only does he get the best of insights, he gives the reader a take away.  Something to mull over, or pay more attention to in life.  You gotta read his thoughts today, but my take away was a deep appreciation for our eldest, who bring memories and stories to ground us.  The thread of his story revolved around a new radio station run “illegally” by elders.  The music is nostalgic, bringing up sweet and winsome memories for listeners.  DJ’s tell life stories that are connected to the music, bringing precious moments back to life as the song plays.

Music does that for us.  If its not brand new, and you have heard it before, likely there is a memory that will surface.  Each decade, especially the popular tunes, will pull us back.  We may remember a special friend, a party, a break-up that found consolation in the endless playing of a song.  Music pulls us to the deep parts of our soul.  Like prayer, sometimes we can’t express our feelings, but in the work of the Holy Spirit, God understands our needs.  Music works its way into our soul, opening up an awareness to our true self, uncovering that which we diligently try to forget, due to the pain or unfinished reconciliations in our soul.  Music brings to light at different times, in different measures and beats, sorrow, joy and consolation.

In these days of world shattering change due to the pandemic, we are facing isolation, unknowns and uncertainty of the future.  Our immediate future is being scripted by best practices and careful gatherings.  Gatherings of family, friends, neighbors, gatherings for worship, bible study, missional and service are under the microscope.  We are holding a huge basket of nostalgia around these events.  We desperately want and need this part of making our life full, by sharing it with others.

Holding these nostalgic moments up for examination is a way to make it through this challenging time.  The thing about nostalgia is that we know without a shadow of a doubt, that the memory, the moments we remember, will never come again.  I think being nostalgic allows us to embrace the moment, the music, the event of the past so clearly that our souls are fortified with what ever feelings were felt, and we feel them again.  We slip in and out of nostalgia without harm or fear, for its bigger benefit is a visit without regret, strings or pain, rather a renewed appreciation for what has been.  Nostalgia does bring a bittersweet feeling, a bit of sorrow and sadness for times past, but can be overridden by the sweetness one feels about the treasure brought back to light.

Nostalgia has its place in moving forward too.  It takes that which we would like to have again, and firmly seats the reality that it will not ever be that way again.  We can not re-do what has been, for minutiae and magnitudes of circumstances change.  So nostalgia brings with it a reckoning.  We can’t go back, we will go forward.  

Right now we are all wrestling with how to go forward.  We want what was, but nostalgia tells us, not again.  There is a new way of being together, of listening to music, of singing and gathering and worshipping our Lord.  Perhaps even this time will bring about a nostalgia… such as:

 “Remember when we couldn’t gather in big groups, and we missed it so?  But remember the precious new sense of the presence of God that remained the same, regardless?”     Or

“Remember when we couldn’t sing in church, enjoy our choirs?  But remember how the loss for that time made space for a way of worship that brought new experiences of God with us?”

May we look back in appreciation, and look forward in anticipation.  God is unchanging. 

I love you, I am praying for you.  Pastor Lisa

For Sean’s morning post: 
https://seandietrich.com/category/uncategorized/

“Onward Christian Soldiers”. An old but rich hymn about the true effort of all Christian’s to be aware of the spiritual battles we face, and to proceed forward in faith and trust that God will lead us.  This time in the life of the Church as we face isolations by pandemic, there is no doubt of the physical concerns, but make no mistake, it is a spiritual battleground for all followers.
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Learning to Listen

One of our Own Cokes Chapel members shared a recent experience with me that was so meaningful, I asked her to write it so you could hear her story.  I pray you will be as inspired as I am!  You are loved and prayed for. Pastor Lisa

Learning to Listen 
 As I’ve aged, I’ve become more aware of a little voice that speaks softly and quietly in my mind.  I’m sure it was there when I was younger, but I don’t remember hearing it…probably because I was just too busy to listen, plus the fact that I was not as close to my God as I am in my older years.

I’ve had several occasions in the past few years where I heard it, listened to it, and followed what I was being told, and I’ve discovered that it comes to me to make my life fuller and more enjoyable…and in a couple of instances it has even saved me from harm.

My most recent occurrence happened two weeks ago.  Len and I had made plans many months ago to travel to our home town in Midland, Michigan, to bury our beloved daughter Penny’s ashes in our family plot there.  My younger sons were going to fly in from Wisconsin and Virginia, and we were all going to spend a week together at our oldest son’s home in Midland.  Given the virus, we all went back and forth about whether we could social distance and carry out this plan, or whether it was wisest to postpone it until later when we would be safer to travel, etc.

As I climbed into bed one evening, just before the decision had to be made, there came that special little voice again, telling me to “stay home…don’t travel…Penny will understand…do it later”.  The next day we cancelled all arrangements that had been made and advised our sons of the change of plan, of which they understood and were much relieved.

We would have arrived in Midland the evening of May 20th, and would have been at the local Sleep Inn there.  Later that night, two dams burst and our hometown area was flooded for many miles all around us.  Over 11,000 people had to be evacuated from our town that night, and that certainly would have included Len and I, as well as our sons from out of town.  Our son who lives there has a very small home and would not have been able to provide accommodations. Given that all hotels in the next town over quickly filled up with the overflow…I just don’t know where we would have ended up that night, as well as the rest of the time we were to be there. And, if that wasn’t enough…the Cemetery is in the flood plain too and I’m sure we would not have been able to lay our daughter to rest the next day as planned.

Yet one more time where listening to that beautiful little voice and following it truly paid off.  I pray that all of you hear Him speaking in your hearts and minds and that you will listen and be blessed as I have.

God bless you all during these extremely difficult and challenging times…I can’t wait to gather together again very soon.

Linda Wozniak

 
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Memorial Day

Memorial Day

Today is a day off for many.  Memorial Day was established so that we are mindful of the many who have served our country to protect and defend our freedoms, and given their life while serving.  I would suggest that we are out of touch with Memorial Day.  I don’t think it is purposeful, its just that we tend to get wrapped up in what is going on around us.  We forget, because we are worried about the pandemic, we forget because we are concerned with what will happen tomorrow, we forget because the news tells us so much to worry about.  

Today is for remembering, not forgetting.  I can not help but think of the many wives, husbands and families in our historic past that sent their loved ones off to fight for our freedom.  It was without any assurance that they would return.  There were no cell phones, there was no daily update on a television or email that made news current.  Those left at home waited in a place of worry for months, sometimes years.  Sometimes they wouldn’t know someone survived until they saw a strange, gaunt man stumbling up the road to their home.  The closer he got, the more familiar the figure became, though more slight, but still, there was something about the way he looked, that made coming home real for that family.  Many more waited and never saw a return.  Some received news years later of burial in a foreign land.  Others still wonder where their loved one fell, who gave him or her a last honorable moment over the body.  The Vietnam War was the first war that brought war into our homes.  The suffering and violence of daily war shocked us, but prepared the way for more of the same.  Sadly we see more than enough death now on the screen to almost immunize us from the sorrow and humanity that surrounds the loss of life.

The day that America was attacked in New York, on 9-11-11, we could not help but experience the humanity of that moment, the horror of lives that were ended without any sensibility.  Innocents who were living one moment, and the next were gone.  It was then, again, that we saw Americans going in to protect the survivors.  The rescue effort led by local firefighters, police, first responders, who in turn lost their lives, moved the whole nation into a new awareness of sacrifice and selflessness.

Each of those who have stepped forward to protect us, saying “our freedom is worthy of my life” deserves some time of consideration today.  We don’t need to know their name.  God does.  Families left behind name them for us.  We can honor their sacrifice today by saying a prayer of thankfulness, a prayer of consolation for the last moments of a life given for our continued freedom, a word of humility for such bravery and love for humanity, and finally a promise from the heart to remember the cost that has already been paid so we can live free to speak, worship, gather (yes, gather!!) without fear of retribution.  

Pandemic has changed our perspective for this time, but it will pass.  Most of what we are enduring is by our own choice, for our own health.  Even without all the answers, we still have choices, wisdom, discernment and faith.  A faith we choose. A faith we live.

Today’s words are not complete without the remembrance of another who gave His life for our freedom.  Freedom from sin, separation from our Creator, who by His sacrifice gave us a choice to be reconciled to God by the simple act of repentance.  Believing and confessing His death for our eternal salvation is the only cost we must shoulder.  Jesus Christ died for each of us that we might know peace, reconciling love and mercy in the presence of God now and in eternity.

Say a prayer of remembrance for our Lord and Savior, who came to give us the spiritual freedoms that carry us through days of sorrow, wars, troubles in our homes and in our nation.  Pray for hope for this world, that suffers and struggles, might come to know the truth that God desires good for each and every one of us.  Ask for courage to continue to live and speak the Word of life to all we know.

God is always remembering us, knows each of our deepest fears, pains and hopes.  Pray that the world might hear the name of Jesus Christ, and may peace continue to make its way into the hearts of humanity until all the world is held in peace by our Creator.  Until then, may our memories of the many sacrificed lives of Americans, give us a deep desire to live and work for peace, starting with our own life.  So that those who died fighting for peace did not die in vain.

How do we come to peace?  Someone asked a prophet thousands of years ago, how do we live righteously. keeping relationship with our Lord? His response still stands. “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6:8

May the remembrance of Jesus Christ and the many who have died for our freedom, humble us and bring us to live for peace and for salvation of all people.

Pastor Lisa

 



Honest

Honest

As I reflected on today’s word, praying, and listening, I didn’t like the words I got.  I didn’t think you would want to read them. I didn’t want to make this writing about me, but about where is God today, how are we living into God’s promises.  So the word honest came.  That I can do Lord.

Before I tell you how my spirit is, let me ask, “How are you? Really.”  I do care, I will listen, I will pray with you and for you.  Keeping that in your pocket, I am going to pretend you asked me the same question. Honestly, I had one of those nights that seemed endless, with waking, tossing, and turning.  I went to bed with some concerns on my heart that worked its way into my sleep. Amazing how our body responds to troubles, pain, sorrow, etc. isn’t it?  

Like you, I am weary of the confusion of news that is on every tongue.  It no longer brings any comfort to hear “the latest news on the virus and how to live”.  If we could just face into the truth – we really don’t know much.  Changes in protocol and projections for the future keep us all on tenterhooks.  That means we are all left hanging – not a comfortable position to wait. The various suggestions for safe healthy practices leave us unsure, questioning who really knows and what IS the truth, leaving us more and more distrusting of any information.  That in its self is sad that we struggle to believe what we are hearing.  It can also lead to dangerous decisions, should we discount what is the best science and the most recent data being provided.

The loss of congregational worship and gatherings is a constant grief.  I am concerned for the family of Cokes, missing our opportunities to work, serve, love, and be the witness for Christ, where so many of us find life-giving energy.  I, like you, am grieving losses of friends and suffering with you when I learn of your losses.  The nature of pastors is to accompany others in this time.  The virus has changed all that, leaving me feeling I have not done what I can/should for my “flock”.  

That is more than enough to tell.  We all have these real experiences that affect us.  It might show up physically, emotionally, or spiritually.  The one thing that I do know is that with God, I will find purchase in my soul.  There is where all the God work begins.  When our soul is in distress, we have the Lord to call on.  All the promises from Genesis to Revelation reveal that God does not leave us, is with us in our wilderness travels, in our darkest moments, in our questions and fears, without fail.  Sometimes telling the Lord where you are helps.  It does for me, for as I name, God speaks into the expression, reminding me of times Jesus faced the same, or calling up stories of God’s promise to Noah.  Endless Words of God will address the minutia of our life, if only we will pause to listen.

In the midst of honestly not good times, bad days, moments of confusion, or crisis there is always hope.  Trust in the Lord to hold you.  Listen to the Lord for the Word that will bring calm and peace.  Live into the faith that we proclaim, allowing God to be the center of our soul.  God with us is the game-changer.  

Does this change us?  I pray so.  It changes me. Maybe not in an instant, but there it is: the peace that passes understanding.  The assurance that all is well, for God is with us. The beautiful words, “All Will Be Well” resonate through the hardships and trials to give God perspective to life.  

Being a follower of Jesus Christ is a practice, a journey.  We are always growing either towards or away from God.  These times of pandemic and of life in general, without the added pressure of world crisis, are part of learning to live more like Christ.  Less of me, more of Christ.

Honestly, what more can I say?  I love you, pray for you and look towards the Lord for direction, hope, and joy.  In that, I can be confident.  All else is as nothing if I can not do this today.  May it be so with you.

Pastor Lisa

P.S. If you check your pocket and need to talk, I am here.  Reach out and let me know by email (ldempsey@cokeschapel.org) and I will give you a call.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Psalm 73: 25-6

“Be Still My Soul” by David Archeluta.  A former American Idol contestant, singing with such beauty and heart.  Be blessed as you listen.
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Blank

Blank

Just following a theme here.  Yesterday I noticed the word “Rename”, which started my devotional thoughts.  Today I noticed that the new “Page” I was to rename actually read “Blank” and then when I tapped it, I was told to “Rename”.

How about that.  Just when you think you have seen it all, you haven’t.  I have created a new page so many times that I had just learned to dismiss the beginning.  I am no scientist or behavioral studies guru, but it appears that we do this with many parts of daily life.  We dismiss or move past beginnings more often than we think. We have repetitive actions that we get comfortable with, and in essence, turn off part of our engagement with what we are doing, because it is something that is necessary, but doesn’t require our full attention.  You might call it an automatic response.

With the impact of the pandemic still looming large in headlines and the world still struggling to quantify safe practices, we are all on edge about the right thing to do.  For most of us, it would be safe to say that the “right thing” looks like doing what we used to do.  However the deep impact of tremendous shifts in healthcare, work, home, and daily activities has begun to take hold.  By that I mean, we are finding out that maybe what seemed “right” was not the only right way to do things.  It is being said that medicine has leapt forward ten years in its ability to treat and consult by email and online video appointments.  We are finding that someone can do our shopping for groceries and have them delivered, removing the burden of time for that slice of life.  While there are many down sides to the shelter-in process, there are benefits that will remain as good options.

My heart and prayers these days are with the Church.  We naturally want to return to what we have done together as the Church.  However the deep impact of the pandemic is with us there, too.  It begs the question, though what we were doing in the way of worship and gathering seemed “right”, is there something more that we should be listening to, searching out for, asking God, “What would you have us do?”.  Have our repetitive actions caused us to gloss over beginnings that could inform our return to church?

We already know that the shape of gatherings will necessarily have to change to keep our community safe from potential spread of the Covid virus. For now, no choirs, no singing, no collective communion, no hugging, shaking hands.  Lots’ of no’s!  However, is this a blank page, a fresh opening for God to say, let’s go back to the beginning? “What is worship about?”  Should we be asking, “How can our worship be an expression of worship that is pleasing to God?”?  Honestly, I believe that the last question has been re-written over time to read “What is pleasing me about worship?”.  We have become consumers to worship.  I don’t think it is intentional, its that we like what we like.  We are comfortable with what makes us feel good.  

We are at a crucial, unprecedented time in Church, with an opportunity to become a blank page as we will begin again. The cessation of all we know about being the church in worship and gatherings has prepared us to see church anew, to invite God to write upon our hearts.  Rather than fill gatherings with what we are used to or comfortable with, is there a deepening awareness God is impressing on our spirit?  More holiness in our worship? Less preaching and more reading of God’s Word?  More testimony, less….?  Will we ask of the Lord, “What do You want of us as the church?”.

I believe this is a rare and precious time for Church to open itself to the Holy Spirit.  Clearly, this can be a time of struggle against the tides of sameness for sake of comfort, and move into the stream of seeking what is pleasing to God.

I am a blank page, write on me, Lord. Write on our collective consciousness, how we can be more of You and less of us.  As individuals and as the church. May it be so for the sake of Jesus Christ, who established the church.

I love you, am praying for you.  You are God’s child and the face of Church to the world.

Pastor Lisa

“Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.” Acts 20: 28

The Church’s One Foundation by Samuel Sebastian Wesley, sung by Daniel Choo
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4096 Lower Fayetteville Road, Sharpsburg, GA

SharpsburgGA 30277

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Rename

Rename

Each time I open my IPad to write, a fresh new blank page faces me.  However, the header reads: “Rename”.  This causes me to focus on what idea, subject, or thing on my heart that I trust God to provide.  Today, when I read “rename” again, for probably the thousandth time or more, it stopped me.  Immediately I am reminded of the many stories throughout the Bible describing encounters with God.  As God is revealed, often as not, the person is renamed by God.

Renaming is a significant signpost in biblical life.  It signifies an encounter that is life-changing.  Not just for the message given, the new land provided, an anointed position of priest or leader, but a change in spirit.  A new understanding of who they are in community is couched in the name that gets attention.  Others, in speaking their new name, essentially confirm the formation of someone now called and set apart for a God-given task or role.  The renamed begins to see God at work in their life, fulfilling promises, being assured of God’s presence, with name providing constant reminders to who they are in the eyes of God. 

Abram’s story in Genesis has followed God, leaving family and familiar country, waiting on Sarai to provide him with heirs, God comes.  Abram was 99 years old as God says,

“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.

I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.”  Genesis 16: 4-8.  Abram, meaning “high father” became Abraham, “father of multitudes”, and not to be left out, Sarai was renamed Sarah, “mother of nations”.

Jesus renamed Simon, to Peter, meaning “rock”.  Peter was the strong disciple who would provide a foundation for the church to be established. There are other indications that Jesus called Levi, Matthew; the brothers James and John, Sons of Thunder.  That sounds more like a nickname.  A description of their way of being a disciple.  Where they went, there was increased activity, commanding teachings.  There must have been a personality that influenced the changes in name.  

I was happy to read that Abram was renamed at the ripe age of 99.  It says to me that age is no barrier to God reshaping our understanding of who we are spiritually.  We seem to have the idea that aging means slowing down, letting others step up to active serving, and being a disciple.  In God’s economy, there is no difference in how one can be of service to God.  Age or location are not barriers to fresh spiritual directions.  As we find ourselves in a new place, God will not only speak but show purpose for the new location.  Location in this sense may not mean a physical move, but a spiritual and emotional relocation.  

I suspect that we are all wondering how God is at work in this new land we are living in.  New decisions about going, doing, serving.  God is with us, even though there is no map or written word for how we go forward.  We. Like Abram or Sarai, may not become “all-new” but find God is building on who we are for new understandings of how to be more in the will of God.  

That is big. Being in the will of God requires that we listen, be open to what is being put before us, considering how God is intending us to move forward for the building of the kingdom.  Spiritual discernment is listening to the ‘more of God and the less of self’.  It is trusting the Word and assessing the truth.  It is walking humbly and serving with faith.  

These days are turning points for us all.  Are you gaining an awareness of the movement of God in your life?  Are you hearing a fresh understanding of how to live out your discipline life?  If not a new, expanded role, is there a nickname that Jesus is reminding you of?  Is it one that will strengthen you and give you charge to act and do more for Jesus?

Being uprooted from the familiar is the start of discernment.  Take time in these days of change to listen for God.  Mark the awakenings of insight and guidance the Lord is revealing.  Speak of it with a trusted believer, have your understandings be confirmed by others. Make it real by speaking and then, live in the promise of God with you.  

I love you, am praying for you and listening for God with you.  God is with us!

Pastor Lisa

“He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?”  Mark 8: 34-36

Laren Daigle “You Say”.  Discovering who we are as we listen….