What?

What?

Have you noticed how often we say “what?”  Don’t worry, I am not counting, but it is a word we use quite a bit.  These days I just might be saying “what?” because I didn’t hear something said.  And let me say, that yes, likely my hearing is not improving but failing.   But really, talking low, head turned away, with running water in the sink flowing and dogs barking.  Excuses? Maybe.  But I really do want to know what you said.

If its not that you couldn’t hear, maybe you say “what?” because you don’t quite believe what you heard.  Something like “I just want to go shopping for sandals” from your 97 year old mother in the midst of a shelter in pandemic.  What?  Really?  Yes really!

Then there is the “what?” that comes because someone is calling your name.  From the other side of the house. Between which are walls and space making hearing just enough to catch name, but not the ensuing conversation.  That “what” is laced with impatience.  In the voice. Because it means the other doesn’t want to come to you, but you should go to them.  Consideration would be that you go to the person, and reasonably talk so you will be heard.

I just noticed that last paragraph was longer than any of the others.  I guess you got wind of a pet peeve of mine.  Yes, I have them, don’t you? What?  You do too? Phew! I thought that it was just me.

“What?” can open the door to some of the most important conversations of our life.  What can be followed by: I love you; I miss you; I just got accepted into college; I have found a new friend; I got invited to the prom; I just won a million dollars!  All good stuff to hear.  This random thought of one word we use to have better communications with one another is really an essential part of how we can be more in tune with others.  Of course you have to listen when you get the response.  

Sheltering in has heightened my awareness of listening. I talk to God a lot. I mean my conversation is really pretty much non-ending.  I am reminded of the many times I ask God for something, appeal to God for someone, pray for some certain gift or healing to be poured out for the good of someone.  

I guess I might be one who talks more than necessary.  Could I be drowning out God who is desperately trying to respond?  Could my words and thoughts be like walls and space between us, like water running while trying to listen.  There are what I call “nudgings”.  You might see them as bumps to my spirit.  Someone comes to mind, out of the blue.  No rhyme, no reason.  Learning to tune in, to say “What?” to this is a spiritual discipline.  If I will pause and say what? God will be clear.  Listen.  Attend. Reach out. 

Last week, I got notice that a dear friend was in hospital with significant heart issues.  And when I heard, I was called up short.  All through the week, this family had come to mind, to heart.  And I didn’t say “What?”.  There was something God wanted me to know, to attend to.  I tell you this to give you an example of how we can be. Distracted, thoughtful but not listening.  I dislike that about me – that I miss these cues from the Holy Spirit.  I believe that God is always seeking our attention.  

God help me to listen, to attend, to slow down and ask you, “what?”.  That I embrace the what of life enough to live into the revelation of Your response.  Less of me, more of You. 

I love you, I pray for you and God is listening to you.

Peace, 

Pastor Lisa

“And now, listen to me, for happy are those who keep my ways.  Hear my instruction and be wise and do not neglect it.” Proverbs 8: 32 – 33

I never tire of hearing this.          Be Thou My Vision. Nathan Pacheco Music
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Again

Again

In preparing for today, I looked back at the scripture from yesterday.  I read it and decided, let’s do this again!  Besides, it’s Friday, so let’s change it up a bit.

Take a moment, settle, invite God to join you.  Breathe out, letting all thoughts rest, breathe in, listening to your body settle.  Relax, breathe in and pray the words, “Come Holy Spirit” and breathe out praying “I am listening Lord”. Breathing naturally, take a few moments to just breathe.  Settle.  Feel the stillness.

When you are ready, read God’s Word.  Take it slowly, pause at the end of a comma or sentence.  Receive what God is giving….

“He answered, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. …. ‘But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.  Mathew 13: 11-12, 16-17

Now take a minute.  Read it again if you wish. What caught your attention?  Was there something particular that caused you to pause?  Did insight, image or inspiration come giving this Word something for you to attend to or learn from?

Write it down, note it in your bible on the page by the scripture. Yes, you can write in your bible – for the purpose of reference, teaching and reminding you of how God met you in that Word.  Your Bible can become your spiritual storehouse for your encounters and teachings God reveals.

We describe the Word as the Living Word.  That is because as we read it, no matter how many times we read it, God opens up something new, fresh, insightful… you could use many adjectives to quantify this happening.  The point is, God’s Word is current, contextual and of great benefit for us.  It will be the best practice we take on: engaging in God’s word.  Out of that springs all that we hope and need if we only will allow for the minutes it takes to be with God.

I have not ever been let down in seeking through the Word. At different times the Word has challenged me, stopped me cold, revealed my faults and failures, moved me to repent, pray, serve, love in ways that I am assured that God is driving my response.  Not one time has there been a lack of God present.  Only me.

Let these past few minutes be of benefit to your soul.  That is my prayer, and surely God wishes that for us.  So, what do we do with this brief respite from the demands, cares, expectations and responsibilities of life that we know too well? Well, let me end with a short story.

In the years of raising our girls, we did lots of fun things.  One of the phrases that marked that they were having fun was when we heard the words “Do it again!”.  So we did.  Whether it was riding in the car and giving it the gas over a bump or swinging them in the pool to make waves, they wanted more.  More excitement, more experience, more time of being the center of attention, just more.

So dear ones, was that a “Do it again!” moment in God’s Word?  It wasn’t? Well, do it again, it will be!  It was? Well, do it again, there is more where that came from. In the words of Nike addended by my kiddos long ago, Just Do it. Again.

You are loved, prayed for and know that God is ready to meet you in the Word. Anytime. All the time.

Pastor Lisa

“Word of God Speak”. MercyMe.
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Seeing

Seeing

Luke, our grandson who says “notice” and Nana “look at this!” had a special moment during his stay last weekend.  As he has grown, almost five now, he has found phones, tv’s and iPads with games to play. I have always encouraged him to be outside, take notice of the birds, sounds, colors that are around us.  God’s creation!

For the gazillionth time he said, “Nana, look at that bird!”, pointing to the bird feeder.  “What is it?” he inquired.  I was stumped.  Never seen one like that before.  Sharp contrasting black and white feathers, with a swath of bright red on the chest.  A beak that stood out even from a distance. We opened my bird book and began to look.  Finally, we found the picture that matched! A male Rose Breasted Grosbeak.  Wow!

Luke was thrilled with his discovery.  I was awed. I told him that he helped me see something that I had never seen before. His confidence in himself grew in those next moments.  I told him that in 65 years of amateur bird watching (except for the Birding class I took one spring at Fernbank Science Center) I had NEVER seen this bird.  That fact still boggles my mind.  How is it that I have never seen one before? That just amazes me. I can think of a number of reasons, from not looking to not seeing. That about covers it.

Makes me wonder about what else have I missed seeing or experiencing that is right in my own “backyard”. Not just birds, but the other side of life that lives on and around me.  Privilege allowed me to grow up and live in circumstances that have been safe.  I had a loving home, was afforded education and support by my parents, and did not lack. For anything.  When I responded to God’s call in ministry, I began to encounter the other side of life. I had never seen homelessness, drug addiction, abuse, poverty and other facets of life.  Truthfully, it was fearful at times, heartbreaking, challenging, and ultimately a God directed process that left me changed.  

Changed means that I see things I never saw before. Oh, they were there. I just couldn’t see them.  I still miss things.  I still find myself fearful, heartbroken and challenged.  The difference is that I know with all certainty that God is accompanying me in these eye opening moments.  Seeing and responding is part of who we are to be in the name of Christ. 

Truth is, that likely I have been the one who evolved more than the life I encountered.  That too, is the way of Christ.  Our formation is of God.  We gain compassion, peace, become hope bearers, and loose the aspects of our own agenda.  More of God, less of us.  I know we started with birds, and you may wonder how we got here.  Me too!

Perhaps this is from a powerful learning moment in first year seminary practicum, with Dr. Bill Mallard.  Practicum was a group learning, study and service class that opened up a broad spectrum of experience.  Dr. Mallard was a professor and extraordinary human being.  I was struggling. With the way we were to write.  With going to a homeless shelter, having never been to one before.  Questioning and fearful, I am sure he picked up on all of my “problems”.  Finally, at the end of one session, he looked at me and said in his strong clear voice, “Lisa, I want you to learn to think theologically.”  My face must have shown my confusion, for he followed that with, “See God in the things of life.”. 

Oh. That started something.  From not getting it, to the dim light in my brain beginning find purchase in his words.  Ah! Discovering God in all circumstances, events, and encounters.  In life.  In the backyard.  I still hear his words, the strong tenor of Mallard’s voice and see his clear, direct way of looking at me.  His sharp blue eyes, encompassed by studious black rimmed glasses, piercing through the coverings and entrenched understandings of how things were with me, to reveal what is real.  Important.  To “see God in life.”.

Those words are still finding purchase in me.  I am still growing, learning, seeing new God things in life, through the eyes of a child, or an encounter with others.  Along with wonder and mystery is a deep calm of knowing. God is in all things.  

We will come through this time.  There are things that we will see that we need to see.  Inequity, privilege, mercy, kindness, something we have never seen before. May it be God with us.

You are loved, prayed for and seen by your Creator.  

Pastor Lisa

 

“He answered, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. …. ‘But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.  Mathew 13: 11-12, 16-17
 
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Resist

Resist

That would be one form of making a choice. I like to have choices – do you?  When you watch a home search television show, there are usually 3 choices and the family picks one.  One that fits them.  When you (*used to) go to the grocery store, you spent more time selecting what brand of tp you wanted.  Not so much now, what is there will do.

There is a trend right now.  It’s about to annoy me to death.  Honestly, if I get one more email about how to “re-launch” church, start a new normal, figure out where we are going and how to get there… I hope you get the idea.  You know how it is when you are trying to teach something – maybe to your child – and you know what is best, and still, they determine to do it in their way in their time?  Sometimes there is that skid mark on the pavement as they find out that maybe they should have listened.  Other times there is the sound of a crash and a bit of damage is done.  I just have to wonder, is that built into our psyche? To resist the guidance of others at times?  

Must be. I am full up to resisting reading one more article about how to restart church. Set a new normal.  Now I am not resisting information on the part of gathering that requires safety planning and preparation for us to gather without doing harm.  It’s the other pressure being applied to clergy, staff and by way of that, our congregations who begin to feel it too.  The foot on the neck pressure to re-create what we are doing, how we are church.  Like: Hey – let’s start off with a fresh slate of new ideas!  What can we be doing to do church better in light of what we have experienced? How are you doing with your media and outreach? Who is watching you on line and how can you reach the unknown watchers of worship?  Wait… this is beginning to sound bad.  I mean, it sounds like I don’t want to do anything new.  

That is so far from the truth.  It’s just that when we are still in the midst of negotiating each and every new turn and twist of these pandemic days, the added expectation that we are going to re-make the Church is just. Exhausting. Unrealistic. I hope you heard the fallacy of that statement.  We.  We who have innate habits of resisting change and forging new paths will only begin to find ourselves more entrenched in what was all green pastures in our memory as we look back.  We know that there were patches of dead grass, shortages of water….

The point is, that I don’t believe that we need to continue the way that we did church.  However, to make grand schemes to overcome the inmate nature of humanity is such a lot of air. Hot air.  Haven’t we learned that programs do not make disciples? Haven’t we learned that structure can become overburdensome and unwieldy?  I love a plan, have worked many of them. God creates out of order.  I am Wesleyan, love and live the practice of  ministry viewed through scripture, reason, experience and faith.  

We won’t make a new way, a new church by talk, talk, talking.  We won’t do anything that is worthwhile unless we re-set our foundational understanding. It is God, through the work of the Holy Spirit that will guide and bring structure and meaning to our next steps.  In every article or premise for Church, or life, “notice” the proposals begin with what we need, should or must do to make meaning of this whole new world of pandemic.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.  Resist.  While I am talking about “how to” with church, but we can apply the same “halt/whoa” to our personal life too.  God must lead us.  

The Holy Spirit is always calling and directing us.  In order that we make the best decisions and moves, we must seek God’s will.  Success will not come with our idea of “how to do church”. We must take the “we/I” out of our language.  We must begin with a foundational practice of silence.  Listening. Waiting on the Lord.  Not action, not doing, not keeping busy.  Then, there is a time for action, when God has made clear how to proceed.

God knows us intimately.  God knows our capacity for change, absorbing and rebounding to new strengths.  In God’s time, in our silence, we will move in the sacred steps of the one who said, “Follow Me”.  Humble steps. Faith steps.  

Go on. Resist the demand of others and listen to what God is teaching, saying and revealing.  

That’s my two cents for today.  I am praying for you, love you and worship God with you.  God deserves all our praise and worship.

Love, Pastor Lisa

“Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4: 5-10

“Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us” sung by 4Him
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Slow Start

Slow Start

It happens. There are days.  Today appears to be one of those slow start days.  Not sure why, but a combination of multiple things.  You could make your own list.  I find that fighting against that momentum that I expect to have is not helpful.  I am learning to listen to my body, my mind, my spirit. At times, that means take it easier, to move within the confines of what I feel up to. 

Gosh, it would be so easy to get myself in a state, thinking that I am lazy.  Time is also beginning to teach me that if I am doing to capacity, its not lazy, its real.  Truth is that I have spent much of my life on the go.  And enjoying it.  Being busy in work, family, growing in my spiritual life, learning more about the things I love like sewing.  I don’t regret the pace, but I recognize something. It had become a habit, or should I say a place of safety.  A norm that was in fact perhaps not so normal.  

In living at the pace that I have for many years, I am sure that I missed things.  Small things, important things.  Maybe even life changing things.  I will never know for sure.  I consider that the past pace was of my own choice, it allowed for much good, and lasting memories.  However, I am questioning it now, in regard to my future.

After we have all “chaffed at the bit” with being “sheltered in”, this may be occurring to you.  I am certain that I would not have taken it to heart quite as much, had I not been made to pause and reflect.  That is to say, the pandemic has also made this one of the largest, compact learning curve I have experienced.  The multiple layers of ministry took new shape overnight, the demands to prepare for the now and the future are pressing at all times.  Taking time for family, shopping, social… you name it and we have all found this to be a demanding time.

Luke came to spend the weekend with us.  As always, it is delightful, so entertaining, and exhausting.  He expects and gets my full attention.  If I stray for a moment, he catches it right away.  He has used the phrase “Nana, look at this!” “Nana watch this!” to the limit.  However he has found a new phrase: “Notice…”.  Nana – notice that… Nana, notice this…, Nana… notice that bird… and etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!

As he begins conversations with “Notice”, with a capitol N, I find I do in fact notice.  I look for the “new thing” he is finding, see the project and its progress, listen to what he says, because it is important to notice.  Notice with the eyes of a child, and a heart that says “you are important, what you say, see and do is important.”

You might find me using that a time or two.  I know that God uses that same concept with me.  There is a calling to attention, a restlessness that will not cease until I attend to the Holy Spirit calling me to be still. Listen. Slow down. Cease the movement and momentum and allow God to reveal new things, new ways.  Even slow starts can be of benefit. That is real.  Noticed anything these days?

You are loved, prayed for and noticed by God.  Pastor Lisa

Let anyone with ears listen!” Matthew 13: 9

“Listen Let Your Heart Keep Seeking” by Ron Mascarenhas.  For your listening pleasure and reflection.
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Hardship

Survive

So this thought came from yet another meaningful writing by Sean of the South as I enjoy morning coffee.  I am always left with a sense of hope, a reminder of kindness, and in this case, a humbling of soul as I gain perspective on “hard times”’.  You will have to read the story (attached for your reading pleasure) but Sam, the subject, has had what we might call a lifetime of hardships.

Hardships are defined by what we are finding difficult.  It’s all relative to our personal state of life.  Sometimes we can see a broader perspective when the world is experiencing hardship, like now. In pandemic.

At different times, I would have said that having a broken washing machine for a week was a traumatic life event. It WAS!  But it did get repaired. At other times, like now, not being able to get my hair cut (leading to drastic self grooming that would surely be even more traumatic!) is messing up my general satisfaction.  One time I really thought I was experiencing hardship was wanting to go to Florida with all my friends by myself.  My parents kept saying no.  Finally they let me go with two friends during Spring Break, a freshman in college.  I created more hardship for myself in 6 days that you can imagine… details (which might include roomsharing with strangers who got us kicked out for innocent reason from already paid for room (read no extra money); to a broken down car on the way to AND back from Georgia; and. being left to wait on the side of by myself…. ok I will stop there.  That was a hardship learning lesson not to be repeated EVER again. By the Grace of God, I made it through.

In the big picture, these are pretty small hardships.  Each one was formative to my life, brought new appreciations of life, and gives fresh meaning to what is hard.  As some might say, “You don’t know the meaning of hard!”.

No, I probably don’t.  Even in this time of hardship for many in the world, I know things could be much worse.  Again, by the grace of God and the country I was born in, I am aware that I live in a state of privilege.  Are things perfect? No. However, that is not the plan for life.  We can spend a lifetime of achieving perfect and still, in the end, find flaws.  If not in ourselves, in others.

Let’s look at hardship from a faith perspective.  Faith requires that we take a leap into being “good” with the unknown.  Because we will trust in God to accompany us and guide us, ultimately to the best and more perfect ways of living and loving like God.  Jesus revealed what faith and trust look like.  In hardship, in the face of death, Christ looked to God to be the author and perfecter of His life. As we study the life of Jesus Christ we see how Jesus did it.  That is, among other things, face up to hardships.

He named these hardships to all who would listen.  Christ believed that everyone has the potential to be faithful.  To be kind, good, helpful, honest, encouraging, and faithful with God’s help. Jesus named others impatience with His ministry, saying more than once,  “it’s not the time”.  Jesus knew the hardship of misperception of his Godly work and suffered under hardship as leaders of communities lied and manipulated whole groups of people to hate Him for his holy work.  He faced knowing the truth and having it rejected.  His hardship was physical. Jesus traveled without any comforts, took what was offered, and never asked, not once for the best seat, the best meal, the best venues to teach.  However, in the way of God, Jesus used each of these hard times to teach, to heal, to reveal, to bring hope and the message of God’s love to those who would hear.

Therein lies the crux of life.  In order to learn, to thrive, to survive, whether it be physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually, we must listen.  Listen to Jesus. Study His words and God’s Word.  This meditation is not the solution, it only points the way.  To survive.  To make it through hardships, both personal and communal.  Even in the worldwide perspective, it is faith that will bring us through, and trust that God desires good for us. Good in now, good in eternal. 

In the words of a wise preacher, “Everything, (pause for a beat or two of your heart) will be all right.”  It’s the pause that makes this work. That is where we fill in the blank with our worries, anxieties of the moment, the day, the heavy, burdensome hardships that we need help with.  God is a God that accompanies us. In all things. 

You are loved, prayed for, and reminded that truly, in the ways of God, “everything will be all right.”

Pastor Lisa

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 35-39

For Sean of the South: https://seandietrich.com/tuesday-in-minneapolis/

Orthodox Chant “In the Dark” by the Monks of Svetogorskaya Lavra in Ukraine.
Beautiful, haunting, and meditative, the life of Christ is sung.
Words to the Chant. “In the Dark”

In the dark night, over Bethlehem,
The clear dawn was gone, the earth covered with light.
Holy Virgin, Holy Bride, in the den of the poor Son gave birth.

Refrain:  Sleep, Jesus, Sleep, Little,
Sleep you, star, mine.
Your fate, my dear, I sing to you.

Gently kissed, covered with a cloth, 
She put to bed, quietly started the song:
You grow up, You, Son, You will become an adult,
In the world you will go, My baby.

Chorus: Sleep, Jesus…

The love of the Lord and the truth of God
You, in a world of faith, will bring your people,
The truth will live, the shackles of sin will break
But on Calvary, My child will die.

Chorus: Sleep, Jesus…

Sleep Jesus, Jesus sleep little baby
Sleep, you, my pink blossom
And with hope in You 
The whole world is watching!
 

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What?

What?

Have you noticed how often we say “what?”  Don’t worry, I am not counting, but it is a word we use quite a bit.  These days I just might be saying “what?” because I didn’t hear something said.  And let me say, that yes, likely my hearing is not improving but failing.   But really, talking low, head turned away, with running water in the sink flowing and dogs barking.  Excuses? Maybe.  But I really do want to know what you said.

If its not that you couldn’t hear, maybe you say “what?” because you don’t quite believe what you heard.  Something like “I just want to go shopping for sandals” from your 97 year old mother in the midst of a shelter in pandemic.  What?  Really?  Yes really!

Then there is the “what?” that comes because someone is calling your name.  From the other side of the house. Between which are walls and space making hearing just enough to catch name, but not the ensuing conversation.  That “what” is laced with impatience.  In the voice. Because it means the other doesn’t want to come to you, but you should go to them.  Consideration would be that you go to the person, and reasonably talk so you will be heard.

I just noticed that last paragraph was longer than any of the others.  I guess you got wind of a pet peeve of mine.  Yes, I have them, don’t you? What?  You do too? Phew! I thought that it was just me.

“What?” can open the door to some of the most important conversations of our life.  What can be followed by: I love you; I miss you; I just got accepted into college; I have found a new friend; I got invited to the prom; I just won a million dollars!  All good stuff to hear.  This random thought of one word we use to have better communications with one another is really an essential part of how we can be more in tune with others.  Of course you have to listen when you get the response.  

Sheltering in has heightened my awareness of listening. I talk to God a lot. I mean my conversation is really pretty much non-ending.  I am reminded of the many times I ask God for something, appeal to God for someone, pray for some certain gift or healing to be poured out for the good of someone.  

I guess I might be one who talks more than necessary.  Could I be drowning out God who is desperately trying to respond?  Could my words and thoughts be like walls and space between us, like water running while trying to listen.  There are what I call “nudgings”.  You might see them as bumps to my spirit.  Someone comes to mind, out of the blue.  No rhyme, no reason.  Learning to tune in, to say “What?” to this is a spiritual discipline.  If I will pause and say what? God will be clear.  Listen.  Attend. Reach out. 

Last week, I got notice that a dear friend was in hospital with significant heart issues.  And when I heard, I was called up short.  All through the week, this family had come to mind, to heart.  And I didn’t say “What?”.  There was something God wanted me to know, to attend to.  I tell you this to give you an example of how we can be. Distracted, thoughtful but not listening.  I dislike that about me – that I miss these cues from the Holy Spirit.  I believe that God is always seeking our attention.  

God help me to listen, to attend, to slow down and ask you, “what?”.  That I embrace the what of life enough to live into the revelation of Your response.  Less of me, more of You. 

I love you, I pray for you and God is listening to you.

Peace, 

Pastor Lisa

“And now, listen to me, for happy are those who keep my ways.  Hear my instruction and be wise and do not neglect it.” Proverbs 8: 32 – 33

I never tire of hearing this.          Be Thou My Vision. Nathan Pacheco Music
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Again

Again

In preparing for today, I looked back at the scripture from yesterday.  I read it and decided, let’s do this again!  Besides, it’s Friday, so let’s change it up a bit.

Take a moment, settle, invite God to join you.  Breathe out, letting all thoughts rest, breathe in, listening to your body settle.  Relax, breathe in and pray the words, “Come Holy Spirit” and breathe out praying “I am listening Lord”. Breathing naturally, take a few moments to just breathe.  Settle.  Feel the stillness.

When you are ready, read God’s Word.  Take it slowly, pause at the end of a comma or sentence.  Receive what God is giving….

“He answered, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. …. ‘But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.  Mathew 13: 11-12, 16-17

Now take a minute.  Read it again if you wish. What caught your attention?  Was there something particular that caused you to pause?  Did insight, image or inspiration come giving this Word something for you to attend to or learn from?

Write it down, note it in your bible on the page by the scripture. Yes, you can write in your bible – for the purpose of reference, teaching and reminding you of how God met you in that Word.  Your Bible can become your spiritual storehouse for your encounters and teachings God reveals.

We describe the Word as the Living Word.  That is because as we read it, no matter how many times we read it, God opens up something new, fresh, insightful… you could use many adjectives to quantify this happening.  The point is, God’s Word is current, contextual and of great benefit for us.  It will be the best practice we take on: engaging in God’s word.  Out of that springs all that we hope and need if we only will allow for the minutes it takes to be with God.

I have not ever been let down in seeking through the Word. At different times the Word has challenged me, stopped me cold, revealed my faults and failures, moved me to repent, pray, serve, love in ways that I am assured that God is driving my response.  Not one time has there been a lack of God present.  Only me.

Let these past few minutes be of benefit to your soul.  That is my prayer, and surely God wishes that for us.  So, what do we do with this brief respite from the demands, cares, expectations and responsibilities of life that we know too well? Well, let me end with a short story.

In the years of raising our girls, we did lots of fun things.  One of the phrases that marked that they were having fun was when we heard the words “Do it again!”.  So we did.  Whether it was riding in the car and giving it the gas over a bump or swinging them in the pool to make waves, they wanted more.  More excitement, more experience, more time of being the center of attention, just more.

So dear ones, was that a “Do it again!” moment in God’s Word?  It wasn’t? Well, do it again, it will be!  It was? Well, do it again, there is more where that came from. In the words of Nike addended by my kiddos long ago, Just Do it. Again.

You are loved, prayed for and know that God is ready to meet you in the Word. Anytime. All the time.

Pastor Lisa

“Word of God Speak”. MercyMe.
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Seeing

Seeing

Luke, our grandson who says “notice” and Nana “look at this!” had a special moment during his stay last weekend.  As he has grown, almost five now, he has found phones, tv’s and iPads with games to play. I have always encouraged him to be outside, take notice of the birds, sounds, colors that are around us.  God’s creation!

For the gazillionth time he said, “Nana, look at that bird!”, pointing to the bird feeder.  “What is it?” he inquired.  I was stumped.  Never seen one like that before.  Sharp contrasting black and white feathers, with a swath of bright red on the chest.  A beak that stood out even from a distance. We opened my bird book and began to look.  Finally, we found the picture that matched! A male Rose Breasted Grosbeak.  Wow!

Luke was thrilled with his discovery.  I was awed. I told him that he helped me see something that I had never seen before. His confidence in himself grew in those next moments.  I told him that in 65 years of amateur bird watching (except for the Birding class I took one spring at Fernbank Science Center) I had NEVER seen this bird.  That fact still boggles my mind.  How is it that I have never seen one before? That just amazes me. I can think of a number of reasons, from not looking to not seeing. That about covers it.

Makes me wonder about what else have I missed seeing or experiencing that is right in my own “backyard”. Not just birds, but the other side of life that lives on and around me.  Privilege allowed me to grow up and live in circumstances that have been safe.  I had a loving home, was afforded education and support by my parents, and did not lack. For anything.  When I responded to God’s call in ministry, I began to encounter the other side of life. I had never seen homelessness, drug addiction, abuse, poverty and other facets of life.  Truthfully, it was fearful at times, heartbreaking, challenging, and ultimately a God directed process that left me changed.  

Changed means that I see things I never saw before. Oh, they were there. I just couldn’t see them.  I still miss things.  I still find myself fearful, heartbroken and challenged.  The difference is that I know with all certainty that God is accompanying me in these eye opening moments.  Seeing and responding is part of who we are to be in the name of Christ. 

Truth is, that likely I have been the one who evolved more than the life I encountered.  That too, is the way of Christ.  Our formation is of God.  We gain compassion, peace, become hope bearers, and loose the aspects of our own agenda.  More of God, less of us.  I know we started with birds, and you may wonder how we got here.  Me too!

Perhaps this is from a powerful learning moment in first year seminary practicum, with Dr. Bill Mallard.  Practicum was a group learning, study and service class that opened up a broad spectrum of experience.  Dr. Mallard was a professor and extraordinary human being.  I was struggling. With the way we were to write.  With going to a homeless shelter, having never been to one before.  Questioning and fearful, I am sure he picked up on all of my “problems”.  Finally, at the end of one session, he looked at me and said in his strong clear voice, “Lisa, I want you to learn to think theologically.”  My face must have shown my confusion, for he followed that with, “See God in the things of life.”. 

Oh. That started something.  From not getting it, to the dim light in my brain beginning find purchase in his words.  Ah! Discovering God in all circumstances, events, and encounters.  In life.  In the backyard.  I still hear his words, the strong tenor of Mallard’s voice and see his clear, direct way of looking at me.  His sharp blue eyes, encompassed by studious black rimmed glasses, piercing through the coverings and entrenched understandings of how things were with me, to reveal what is real.  Important.  To “see God in life.”.

Those words are still finding purchase in me.  I am still growing, learning, seeing new God things in life, through the eyes of a child, or an encounter with others.  Along with wonder and mystery is a deep calm of knowing. God is in all things.  

We will come through this time.  There are things that we will see that we need to see.  Inequity, privilege, mercy, kindness, something we have never seen before. May it be God with us.

You are loved, prayed for and seen by your Creator.  

Pastor Lisa

 

“He answered, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. …. ‘But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.  Mathew 13: 11-12, 16-17
 
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Resist

Resist

That would be one form of making a choice. I like to have choices – do you?  When you watch a home search television show, there are usually 3 choices and the family picks one.  One that fits them.  When you (*used to) go to the grocery store, you spent more time selecting what brand of tp you wanted.  Not so much now, what is there will do.

There is a trend right now.  It’s about to annoy me to death.  Honestly, if I get one more email about how to “re-launch” church, start a new normal, figure out where we are going and how to get there… I hope you get the idea.  You know how it is when you are trying to teach something – maybe to your child – and you know what is best, and still, they determine to do it in their way in their time?  Sometimes there is that skid mark on the pavement as they find out that maybe they should have listened.  Other times there is the sound of a crash and a bit of damage is done.  I just have to wonder, is that built into our psyche? To resist the guidance of others at times?  

Must be. I am full up to resisting reading one more article about how to restart church. Set a new normal.  Now I am not resisting information on the part of gathering that requires safety planning and preparation for us to gather without doing harm.  It’s the other pressure being applied to clergy, staff and by way of that, our congregations who begin to feel it too.  The foot on the neck pressure to re-create what we are doing, how we are church.  Like: Hey – let’s start off with a fresh slate of new ideas!  What can we be doing to do church better in light of what we have experienced? How are you doing with your media and outreach? Who is watching you on line and how can you reach the unknown watchers of worship?  Wait… this is beginning to sound bad.  I mean, it sounds like I don’t want to do anything new.  

That is so far from the truth.  It’s just that when we are still in the midst of negotiating each and every new turn and twist of these pandemic days, the added expectation that we are going to re-make the Church is just. Exhausting. Unrealistic. I hope you heard the fallacy of that statement.  We.  We who have innate habits of resisting change and forging new paths will only begin to find ourselves more entrenched in what was all green pastures in our memory as we look back.  We know that there were patches of dead grass, shortages of water….

The point is, that I don’t believe that we need to continue the way that we did church.  However, to make grand schemes to overcome the inmate nature of humanity is such a lot of air. Hot air.  Haven’t we learned that programs do not make disciples? Haven’t we learned that structure can become overburdensome and unwieldy?  I love a plan, have worked many of them. God creates out of order.  I am Wesleyan, love and live the practice of  ministry viewed through scripture, reason, experience and faith.  

We won’t make a new way, a new church by talk, talk, talking.  We won’t do anything that is worthwhile unless we re-set our foundational understanding. It is God, through the work of the Holy Spirit that will guide and bring structure and meaning to our next steps.  In every article or premise for Church, or life, “notice” the proposals begin with what we need, should or must do to make meaning of this whole new world of pandemic.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.  Resist.  While I am talking about “how to” with church, but we can apply the same “halt/whoa” to our personal life too.  God must lead us.  

The Holy Spirit is always calling and directing us.  In order that we make the best decisions and moves, we must seek God’s will.  Success will not come with our idea of “how to do church”. We must take the “we/I” out of our language.  We must begin with a foundational practice of silence.  Listening. Waiting on the Lord.  Not action, not doing, not keeping busy.  Then, there is a time for action, when God has made clear how to proceed.

God knows us intimately.  God knows our capacity for change, absorbing and rebounding to new strengths.  In God’s time, in our silence, we will move in the sacred steps of the one who said, “Follow Me”.  Humble steps. Faith steps.  

Go on. Resist the demand of others and listen to what God is teaching, saying and revealing.  

That’s my two cents for today.  I am praying for you, love you and worship God with you.  God deserves all our praise and worship.

Love, Pastor Lisa

“Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4: 5-10

“Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us” sung by 4Him
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Slow Start

Slow Start

It happens. There are days.  Today appears to be one of those slow start days.  Not sure why, but a combination of multiple things.  You could make your own list.  I find that fighting against that momentum that I expect to have is not helpful.  I am learning to listen to my body, my mind, my spirit. At times, that means take it easier, to move within the confines of what I feel up to. 

Gosh, it would be so easy to get myself in a state, thinking that I am lazy.  Time is also beginning to teach me that if I am doing to capacity, its not lazy, its real.  Truth is that I have spent much of my life on the go.  And enjoying it.  Being busy in work, family, growing in my spiritual life, learning more about the things I love like sewing.  I don’t regret the pace, but I recognize something. It had become a habit, or should I say a place of safety.  A norm that was in fact perhaps not so normal.  

In living at the pace that I have for many years, I am sure that I missed things.  Small things, important things.  Maybe even life changing things.  I will never know for sure.  I consider that the past pace was of my own choice, it allowed for much good, and lasting memories.  However, I am questioning it now, in regard to my future.

After we have all “chaffed at the bit” with being “sheltered in”, this may be occurring to you.  I am certain that I would not have taken it to heart quite as much, had I not been made to pause and reflect.  That is to say, the pandemic has also made this one of the largest, compact learning curve I have experienced.  The multiple layers of ministry took new shape overnight, the demands to prepare for the now and the future are pressing at all times.  Taking time for family, shopping, social… you name it and we have all found this to be a demanding time.

Luke came to spend the weekend with us.  As always, it is delightful, so entertaining, and exhausting.  He expects and gets my full attention.  If I stray for a moment, he catches it right away.  He has used the phrase “Nana, look at this!” “Nana watch this!” to the limit.  However he has found a new phrase: “Notice…”.  Nana – notice that… Nana, notice this…, Nana… notice that bird… and etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!

As he begins conversations with “Notice”, with a capitol N, I find I do in fact notice.  I look for the “new thing” he is finding, see the project and its progress, listen to what he says, because it is important to notice.  Notice with the eyes of a child, and a heart that says “you are important, what you say, see and do is important.”

You might find me using that a time or two.  I know that God uses that same concept with me.  There is a calling to attention, a restlessness that will not cease until I attend to the Holy Spirit calling me to be still. Listen. Slow down. Cease the movement and momentum and allow God to reveal new things, new ways.  Even slow starts can be of benefit. That is real.  Noticed anything these days?

You are loved, prayed for and noticed by God.  Pastor Lisa

Let anyone with ears listen!” Matthew 13: 9

“Listen Let Your Heart Keep Seeking” by Ron Mascarenhas.  For your listening pleasure and reflection.
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Hardship

Survive

So this thought came from yet another meaningful writing by Sean of the South as I enjoy morning coffee.  I am always left with a sense of hope, a reminder of kindness, and in this case, a humbling of soul as I gain perspective on “hard times”’.  You will have to read the story (attached for your reading pleasure) but Sam, the subject, has had what we might call a lifetime of hardships.

Hardships are defined by what we are finding difficult.  It’s all relative to our personal state of life.  Sometimes we can see a broader perspective when the world is experiencing hardship, like now. In pandemic.

At different times, I would have said that having a broken washing machine for a week was a traumatic life event. It WAS!  But it did get repaired. At other times, like now, not being able to get my hair cut (leading to drastic self grooming that would surely be even more traumatic!) is messing up my general satisfaction.  One time I really thought I was experiencing hardship was wanting to go to Florida with all my friends by myself.  My parents kept saying no.  Finally they let me go with two friends during Spring Break, a freshman in college.  I created more hardship for myself in 6 days that you can imagine… details (which might include roomsharing with strangers who got us kicked out for innocent reason from already paid for room (read no extra money); to a broken down car on the way to AND back from Georgia; and. being left to wait on the side of by myself…. ok I will stop there.  That was a hardship learning lesson not to be repeated EVER again. By the Grace of God, I made it through.

In the big picture, these are pretty small hardships.  Each one was formative to my life, brought new appreciations of life, and gives fresh meaning to what is hard.  As some might say, “You don’t know the meaning of hard!”.

No, I probably don’t.  Even in this time of hardship for many in the world, I know things could be much worse.  Again, by the grace of God and the country I was born in, I am aware that I live in a state of privilege.  Are things perfect? No. However, that is not the plan for life.  We can spend a lifetime of achieving perfect and still, in the end, find flaws.  If not in ourselves, in others.

Let’s look at hardship from a faith perspective.  Faith requires that we take a leap into being “good” with the unknown.  Because we will trust in God to accompany us and guide us, ultimately to the best and more perfect ways of living and loving like God.  Jesus revealed what faith and trust look like.  In hardship, in the face of death, Christ looked to God to be the author and perfecter of His life. As we study the life of Jesus Christ we see how Jesus did it.  That is, among other things, face up to hardships.

He named these hardships to all who would listen.  Christ believed that everyone has the potential to be faithful.  To be kind, good, helpful, honest, encouraging, and faithful with God’s help. Jesus named others impatience with His ministry, saying more than once,  “it’s not the time”.  Jesus knew the hardship of misperception of his Godly work and suffered under hardship as leaders of communities lied and manipulated whole groups of people to hate Him for his holy work.  He faced knowing the truth and having it rejected.  His hardship was physical. Jesus traveled without any comforts, took what was offered, and never asked, not once for the best seat, the best meal, the best venues to teach.  However, in the way of God, Jesus used each of these hard times to teach, to heal, to reveal, to bring hope and the message of God’s love to those who would hear.

Therein lies the crux of life.  In order to learn, to thrive, to survive, whether it be physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually, we must listen.  Listen to Jesus. Study His words and God’s Word.  This meditation is not the solution, it only points the way.  To survive.  To make it through hardships, both personal and communal.  Even in the worldwide perspective, it is faith that will bring us through, and trust that God desires good for us. Good in now, good in eternal. 

In the words of a wise preacher, “Everything, (pause for a beat or two of your heart) will be all right.”  It’s the pause that makes this work. That is where we fill in the blank with our worries, anxieties of the moment, the day, the heavy, burdensome hardships that we need help with.  God is a God that accompanies us. In all things. 

You are loved, prayed for, and reminded that truly, in the ways of God, “everything will be all right.”

Pastor Lisa

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 35-39

For Sean of the South: https://seandietrich.com/tuesday-in-minneapolis/

Orthodox Chant “In the Dark” by the Monks of Svetogorskaya Lavra in Ukraine.
Beautiful, haunting, and meditative, the life of Christ is sung.
Words to the Chant. “In the Dark”

In the dark night, over Bethlehem,
The clear dawn was gone, the earth covered with light.
Holy Virgin, Holy Bride, in the den of the poor Son gave birth.

Refrain:  Sleep, Jesus, Sleep, Little,
Sleep you, star, mine.
Your fate, my dear, I sing to you.

Gently kissed, covered with a cloth, 
She put to bed, quietly started the song:
You grow up, You, Son, You will become an adult,
In the world you will go, My baby.

Chorus: Sleep, Jesus…

The love of the Lord and the truth of God
You, in a world of faith, will bring your people,
The truth will live, the shackles of sin will break
But on Calvary, My child will die.

Chorus: Sleep, Jesus…

Sleep Jesus, Jesus sleep little baby
Sleep, you, my pink blossom
And with hope in You 
The whole world is watching!
 

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