Routines

Routines

Everyone has one, even babies!  Things that are set into place to help us feel grounded, in order.  Without routines, we wander, lose awareness of what is important for our mental, physical, and emotional life.  Loss of routine affects all of these parts of us – and as we are finding, it affects us spiritually.

We develop routines that surround us with comfort, assurance of place, and for some, a particular routine can become “base”.  The place that we can go to for a reset of all the other parts of life.  By now, I hope are you beginning to identify the particular base you routinely take part in that brings comfort, peace.  Our base routine provides a sense of being filled to a measure of wholeness, preparing us for the days to come.

Right now, we all are looking to replace empty spaces of routines that have had to change due to our “sheltering in”.  It may be that you are not in the category of at-risk, so your routines have not had to change.  However, the ripple in the pond, the changes made for some affect a wide circle of others.  Worship and gatherings are my biggest change.  The regularity of worship and being together as a community is a routine that Jack and I have chosen as base.  

We have a choice these days to reset our base or remain baseless, empty, wandering, and looking for that safe place to re-fuel our soul. Once we have tasted of the connection to God in a certain way, we begin to believe that it is the best, only way to do so.  It’s human to think that we know the way and hold on to that routine.  

However, being set in our ways is not the way of God.  First, the obvious thing is the use of “our”.  Finding true worship is not about us, but about unseating all of us to be fully turned to God to worship.  In fully worshipping God with heart, mind, and soul we are moved out of ourselves to be joined in never-ending worship that continues all times and all places.  It seems to me, that as we empty our self to worship in praise and joy, that is how God comes to fill us up.  

Our routines for worship have given us space and place to know God and be filled.  However, like the Israelites in Exodus or later with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, followers had to learn how to worship away from the temple, without many of the structures that surrounded worship. They learned as we are learning, that we have become dependent on structures more that we should.  There, I have said it.  Perhaps, just maybe we have let our routines become our god, our regular ways, our tools, and structures sublimate our full engagement of worship.  This is dangerous territory. It might step on our toes, get our hackles up, and if so, perhaps that is the revelation for us.

If worship is in the beginnings of change for the good and safety of our community could not God be in the midst?  Facing into stripped-down worship with routines out the window puts us firmly in the position to examine what IS pleasing to God.  What does God desire from us?  From Old Testament to New Testament, words clarify that God desires our worship to be centered on the Holy God who was and is unchanging, faithful, and full of mercy.  The destruction of the temple made real for the people of God that God does not need a place, nor should we become enamored of a place of worship, or song or dance to bring us to worship.  

God is pleased when we come open, seeking, and worshipping the fullness of God.  Creator, Redeemer, Savior.  All in all.  No matter the place, circumstances, or expectations for what we want, we release all our routines to be freely ready to embrace God in praise, wonder, humility, and joy.  More of Him, less of us.

Routines bring comfort, security.  More than any routine, may we discover that God is our center.  We can find comfort, assurance, and direction for our days when we pray, worship, give over to God all our holdings.  God meets us where we are no matter whether it is in the humble chair we sit in at home and pray, or as we dig in the dirt or walk outside, the presence of God does come.  

Be open. Trust in the Lord to join us alone and as we gather, to provide and fill us to be God’s people. In strength and hope, we go forward to embrace whatever ways open to us, for God desires our hearts and gives to the seeker.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

I love you, am praying for you, and worship our Lord in spirit with you.

Pastor Lisa

“Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come before him. Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth. The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The Lord is king!” Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.”  1 Chronicles 16: 28-34

“Here I am to Worship” by Chris Tomlin. Take a moment to listen and worship our amazing God!
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One Name

One Name

How is it that one name can become so weighted that it speaks, shouts, and demands that we respond.  It can only be so, because for so long, time and again, we have sat and watched, shaken our heads, felt bad, been mad, and somehow, some way, moved on.  The circumstance is negated until… it happens again. And there is no ignoring the truth.  I have failed.  We have failed. 

We have failed out brothers and sisters.  We have failed our neighbors. We have failed friends and loved ones.  We have failed our Lord and Savior in our faith potential.  

We can make excuses, blame circumstances, look for reasons to say it wasn’t my fault.  The truth is that wanting to see change is heavy.  How do we turn around a lifetime, centuries of perceptions about anyone who looks different, talks different, worships different that we do?

One person at a time.  One story at a time.  One confession at a time.  One solid commitment to speak out, speak up, demand, act, for the sake of the one who has been ignored, silenced, killed for nothing more than the color of their skin, their difference. We must put the heart back into our view of humanity.  We must see with the eyes of Christ and the merciful grace of God.  

It means confronting our own bias, looking and listening to our mind.  What assumptions are we making instead of listening?  Take our own internal temperature if you will.  Check our vital signs for truth revealed.  Like going to the doctor, things will get uncovered.  God will make sure of it.  So, the way you grew up, is no longer an acceptable excuse for demeaning, ignoring, shaming, excluding, dehumanizing others (black, oriental, the “other” not like us).  We must examine our heart for that which has become so routine that we no longer hear the bias and inflection when speaking down to others.  The list is long.  I have one. You have one.  We all have one.

God will lead us to the examples of when we have not loved one another.  Stories, manners, poor judgement will surface. It will hurt.  Not nearly as much as we have inflicted on others, but it will make you ashamed.  I have been.  Thoughtless comments, laughter at an unkind joke, silence in the face of injustice.  

For people who know me, I have earned a nickname that has been attached to my way of staying with certain things.  Bulldog.  Yes, I graduated from UGA.  But it has nothing to do with that, and everything to do with being stubborn and staying with and through circumstances, difficulties and refusing to give up. It’s nothing I should be proud of, because I have also learned that being that way (stubborn) can be hard on those around me.  It means that by persistence I may wear people down rather than win them over (working on that…). It means that the success may well be at a cost that I had not reckoned.  There are those who will remain behind, left in dark shadows I would rather not remember, as I am dropped from their life. But regardless, there are times to be stubborn for the better good, most especially for my own soul.

I don’t have any stories of how I was treated unfairly because of my skin color.  I do have stories about being disenfranchised for being a woman.  Nothing about any of my stories comes close to the stories that have been and are still being fleshed out before us.

The intimate stories I do know that are attached to someone of color shame me.  But that is their story to tell.  My story is one that I choose to write today and live each day forward.  Bulldog it all the way to my soul and back out into the world with every ounce of strength and faith that it demands.  I will not be silent anymore when I witness bigotry, injustice, thoughtless comments that diminish the humanity of another.  I will remain vigilant to the forces that work to keep those of us quiet for fear of creating a stir, when it means the pot needs to be stirred.  The only thing I want to stick with me is the desire to please God.  Pray for me, and I will pray for you.  Call me out in my failures and in love may I do the same? I am committing to have courage, trust and a singleminded desire to do better, love more completely and keep this ever before me:

“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

Forgive me Lord for the harm I have done, the words I have said, the thoughts that are far from the way You would have me to live.  I repent of my failures and shortcomings and ask for forgiveness.  I ask for grace to live more like You each day.  Less of me, more of You. 

How about you? 

And the name? George Floyd. 

Aramaic Chant that is said in the description to be “Our Father”.  A comment says it is really Psalm 51 “Le Miserere” a prayer of repentance and forgiveness.  Since I don’t know Aramaic, I can only offer – listen and allow the sound and emotion take us where we need to be.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Psalm 51: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. 
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. ….”



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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4096 Lower Fayetteville Road, Sharpsburg, GA

SharpsburgGA 30277

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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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Routines

Routines

Everyone has one, even babies!  Things that are set into place to help us feel grounded, in order.  Without routines, we wander, lose awareness of what is important for our mental, physical, and emotional life.  Loss of routine affects all of these parts of us – and as we are finding, it affects us spiritually.

We develop routines that surround us with comfort, assurance of place, and for some, a particular routine can become “base”.  The place that we can go to for a reset of all the other parts of life.  By now, I hope are you beginning to identify the particular base you routinely take part in that brings comfort, peace.  Our base routine provides a sense of being filled to a measure of wholeness, preparing us for the days to come.

Right now, we all are looking to replace empty spaces of routines that have had to change due to our “sheltering in”.  It may be that you are not in the category of at-risk, so your routines have not had to change.  However, the ripple in the pond, the changes made for some affect a wide circle of others.  Worship and gatherings are my biggest change.  The regularity of worship and being together as a community is a routine that Jack and I have chosen as base.  

We have a choice these days to reset our base or remain baseless, empty, wandering, and looking for that safe place to re-fuel our soul. Once we have tasted of the connection to God in a certain way, we begin to believe that it is the best, only way to do so.  It’s human to think that we know the way and hold on to that routine.  

However, being set in our ways is not the way of God.  First, the obvious thing is the use of “our”.  Finding true worship is not about us, but about unseating all of us to be fully turned to God to worship.  In fully worshipping God with heart, mind, and soul we are moved out of ourselves to be joined in never-ending worship that continues all times and all places.  It seems to me, that as we empty our self to worship in praise and joy, that is how God comes to fill us up.  

Our routines for worship have given us space and place to know God and be filled.  However, like the Israelites in Exodus or later with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, followers had to learn how to worship away from the temple, without many of the structures that surrounded worship. They learned as we are learning, that we have become dependent on structures more that we should.  There, I have said it.  Perhaps, just maybe we have let our routines become our god, our regular ways, our tools, and structures sublimate our full engagement of worship.  This is dangerous territory. It might step on our toes, get our hackles up, and if so, perhaps that is the revelation for us.

If worship is in the beginnings of change for the good and safety of our community could not God be in the midst?  Facing into stripped-down worship with routines out the window puts us firmly in the position to examine what IS pleasing to God.  What does God desire from us?  From Old Testament to New Testament, words clarify that God desires our worship to be centered on the Holy God who was and is unchanging, faithful, and full of mercy.  The destruction of the temple made real for the people of God that God does not need a place, nor should we become enamored of a place of worship, or song or dance to bring us to worship.  

God is pleased when we come open, seeking, and worshipping the fullness of God.  Creator, Redeemer, Savior.  All in all.  No matter the place, circumstances, or expectations for what we want, we release all our routines to be freely ready to embrace God in praise, wonder, humility, and joy.  More of Him, less of us.

Routines bring comfort, security.  More than any routine, may we discover that God is our center.  We can find comfort, assurance, and direction for our days when we pray, worship, give over to God all our holdings.  God meets us where we are no matter whether it is in the humble chair we sit in at home and pray, or as we dig in the dirt or walk outside, the presence of God does come.  

Be open. Trust in the Lord to join us alone and as we gather, to provide and fill us to be God’s people. In strength and hope, we go forward to embrace whatever ways open to us, for God desires our hearts and gives to the seeker.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

I love you, am praying for you, and worship our Lord in spirit with you.

Pastor Lisa

“Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come before him. Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth. The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The Lord is king!” Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.”  1 Chronicles 16: 28-34

“Here I am to Worship” by Chris Tomlin. Take a moment to listen and worship our amazing God!
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One Name

One Name

How is it that one name can become so weighted that it speaks, shouts, and demands that we respond.  It can only be so, because for so long, time and again, we have sat and watched, shaken our heads, felt bad, been mad, and somehow, some way, moved on.  The circumstance is negated until… it happens again. And there is no ignoring the truth.  I have failed.  We have failed. 

We have failed out brothers and sisters.  We have failed our neighbors. We have failed friends and loved ones.  We have failed our Lord and Savior in our faith potential.  

We can make excuses, blame circumstances, look for reasons to say it wasn’t my fault.  The truth is that wanting to see change is heavy.  How do we turn around a lifetime, centuries of perceptions about anyone who looks different, talks different, worships different that we do?

One person at a time.  One story at a time.  One confession at a time.  One solid commitment to speak out, speak up, demand, act, for the sake of the one who has been ignored, silenced, killed for nothing more than the color of their skin, their difference. We must put the heart back into our view of humanity.  We must see with the eyes of Christ and the merciful grace of God.  

It means confronting our own bias, looking and listening to our mind.  What assumptions are we making instead of listening?  Take our own internal temperature if you will.  Check our vital signs for truth revealed.  Like going to the doctor, things will get uncovered.  God will make sure of it.  So, the way you grew up, is no longer an acceptable excuse for demeaning, ignoring, shaming, excluding, dehumanizing others (black, oriental, the “other” not like us).  We must examine our heart for that which has become so routine that we no longer hear the bias and inflection when speaking down to others.  The list is long.  I have one. You have one.  We all have one.

God will lead us to the examples of when we have not loved one another.  Stories, manners, poor judgement will surface. It will hurt.  Not nearly as much as we have inflicted on others, but it will make you ashamed.  I have been.  Thoughtless comments, laughter at an unkind joke, silence in the face of injustice.  

For people who know me, I have earned a nickname that has been attached to my way of staying with certain things.  Bulldog.  Yes, I graduated from UGA.  But it has nothing to do with that, and everything to do with being stubborn and staying with and through circumstances, difficulties and refusing to give up. It’s nothing I should be proud of, because I have also learned that being that way (stubborn) can be hard on those around me.  It means that by persistence I may wear people down rather than win them over (working on that…). It means that the success may well be at a cost that I had not reckoned.  There are those who will remain behind, left in dark shadows I would rather not remember, as I am dropped from their life. But regardless, there are times to be stubborn for the better good, most especially for my own soul.

I don’t have any stories of how I was treated unfairly because of my skin color.  I do have stories about being disenfranchised for being a woman.  Nothing about any of my stories comes close to the stories that have been and are still being fleshed out before us.

The intimate stories I do know that are attached to someone of color shame me.  But that is their story to tell.  My story is one that I choose to write today and live each day forward.  Bulldog it all the way to my soul and back out into the world with every ounce of strength and faith that it demands.  I will not be silent anymore when I witness bigotry, injustice, thoughtless comments that diminish the humanity of another.  I will remain vigilant to the forces that work to keep those of us quiet for fear of creating a stir, when it means the pot needs to be stirred.  The only thing I want to stick with me is the desire to please God.  Pray for me, and I will pray for you.  Call me out in my failures and in love may I do the same? I am committing to have courage, trust and a singleminded desire to do better, love more completely and keep this ever before me:

“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

Forgive me Lord for the harm I have done, the words I have said, the thoughts that are far from the way You would have me to live.  I repent of my failures and shortcomings and ask for forgiveness.  I ask for grace to live more like You each day.  Less of me, more of You. 

How about you? 

And the name? George Floyd. 

Aramaic Chant that is said in the description to be “Our Father”.  A comment says it is really Psalm 51 “Le Miserere” a prayer of repentance and forgiveness.  Since I don’t know Aramaic, I can only offer – listen and allow the sound and emotion take us where we need to be.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Psalm 51: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. 
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. ….”



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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You are receiving this email because you have given your email address to our church office and we now consider you family!

Our mailing address is:

Cokes Chapel UMC
4096 Lower Fayetteville Road, Sharpsburg, GA

SharpsburgGA 30277

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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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