Finding “It”

Finding “It”

You know how it is – there is always that undercurrent part of us.  The sub-surface piece of us that is searching, looking, questioning, hoping to establish the “it” that we consider the ultimate place of being.  For me the “it” is knowing and having peace.  Peace that is not out of my own creation, but a wholistic place of being settled in mind, body and soul.  Though fleeting, I am assured, that this state is of God, from God.  Peace is clearly identifiable.  

You may call it a “God” moment or you may be learning to identify these times.  I am able to most clearly identify them when I am in times of turmoil, or simply just questioning or seeking.  Likely there is something that I am thinking over, struggling with seeking the right direction.  It is in my prayers and thoughts, dogging me, unsettling me until I think I have exhausted all the options or directions. You notice that I didn’t say solutions, right?  There are always multiple solutions to any circumstance. However, my desire is to function with the best solution which provides the best outcome for the circumstance. Talk about a double edged sword – each of us has our own idea of what is best.  So let me clarify, my best means listening to what God is saying about whatever “it” is.

I have come to wait upon these moments, the times when “it” is given to me.  In this process, I do not – can not – have an expectation of the bigger picture God will reveal. I just know that God comes.  God reveals.  In God’s time.  The identifier that says God is in this, is the peace that over runs the banks of my consternation’s, questions and wanderings.  That is “it”! The understanding is solid, concrete.  These moments are clear as I wake from a night of sleep.  Prayer and meditation can be times of listening and revelation.  As I pray, the prayer and words begin to slow, and my thoughts are moved from where I am to praying to out of what God is revealing.  Listening to God shapes prayer with understandings that redirect me to know God’s will.  And, oddly enough, I am not the only one who has said that “shower time” can be a place of “it” moments. Something about the soothing, pouring waters, surrounded by sound and feel of water displacing all distractions.  Think about baptismal waters.  That extraordinary moment of immersion when you give self over under water and rise in new life in Christ.  I wonder, are shower moments little baptisms at times?

I can only offer out of my own experience is that “it” moments are consistently, truly God moments.  God wants a living relationship with us. God desires to give us peace and hope.  Where ever the place of revelation comes for each of us, we are moved to a deeper part, a quieter awareness of being.  And there “it” is! Out of the blue – “it” comes.  Our being encounters God.

The revelation that I have been seeking, searching, longing for relief from is given.  Knowing God’s will is peace. Peace floods my spirit, there is a quickening of my senses and I know this gift is not out of my own understanding. That alone brings delight!  God is inspiring, shaping, challenging and at times, daring me to take new action, or none.  In fresh insight from God allows me to move in faith with peace and certainty. 

Praying that you will find “it” as you seek, that you will claim your peace as given from God, and delight in the relationship that unfolds with each new day. I love you, am praying for you and God loves you far beyond what we can think or imagine!

Pastor Lisa

Sweet Hour of Prayer
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Its Dark, But…

It’s Dark, But …

I am sure this title is causing some perfectionists of language arts to cringe right now.  I know it’s not proper to end with “but”.  But it works for me.  

Let me explain a bit more.  I am up early, listening to the quiet, praying, sitting. Waiting.  Outside my window, I can see it is dark.  Morning has not yet broken.  I heard the trash truck come by.  Lucy dog snuffling in her sleep.  And the birds are singing.  Not one, but it must be every bird in the area who stops in for food and water that Jack keeps faithfully prepared for them.  I can’t translate their song but I understand it.  

Birdsongs announce, claim, invite, charm, and entertain.  Even someone with a bird brain can hear and appreciate the sound of beauty.  That means I can and I do!  I have a number of favorite birds.  One is the mockingbird.  They are so sassy! Not only do they copy other birds’ songs, but they really show up!  They find just the right position to be appreciated too.  I will never forget. in one of our home searches, we were coming to the end of many disappointing showings. We got out of the car to look at one more home.  Mom was with me, the girls at school, Jack at work.  As I exited the car, there he was.  That sassy bird singing with all he had in a bush by the drive.  You couldn’t ignore him, only appreciate him.  He didn’t move even as we walked past, to go to the front door.  Singing, emphasizing his efforts with his broad grey tail!  We walked in, and by the time I made it to the back of the house to the beautiful kitchen that opened to the den and eat-in area, I knew.  This was it.  Mom said, “Oh, this is perfect.” And it was.  I called Jack at work, called the school to get the girls out early to come and approve our new home.  By the end of the day, we made an offer.  We made some wonderful, lasting memories in that home.  Birthdays, graduations, a wedding, and five Christmas’.  I will always associate the mockingbird with the beginning of a new life. in a new home, creating treasured memories in the last years of family before the girls launched into college.  Sweet.  A song not forgotten.

I could give you a story about each bird I love.  The Eastern Towhee bird, who scruffles through the underbrush for delicacies.  They make this charming, deep-throated “to-wheet” sound.  My dad seemed to think that there was one towhee bird in our back yard that was “his”, and would remind me when we heard that distinctive call.  He has been gone 30 years, and still, the sound of the Towhee bird says, “I am here with you.”.

Bluebirds lift my heart.  They show up unexpectedly, bringing joy in the bright flash of color of their wing.  I will always remember the day I was leaving the home of a family that had just lost its patriarch.  He was a beloved husband to her, father, granddad, and friend.  We stood on the front porch, and in the grey dull afternoon of early spring, there was a call.  The widow stopped to look, and there it was.  A bluebird. Sitting on the wire in front of us.  Singing and chirping.  We agreed.  God was saying “I am with you.”. No doubt.

The stories of hawks, cardinals, and other winged creatures are still flooding my mind.  But, you won’t want to read all of them.  And you have your own memories of birds too.  Stories of wonder, beauty, and delight.  Some from the heat of the day, the cool of the nightfall, or like today, in the dark.

We are in rather a dark time in society.  Sheltering-in has “taken” from us.  Personally and communally.  Physically and spiritually.  Emotionally.  That’s what I mean about dark.  It’s hard.  I feel like we will spend a long time, maybe the rest of our lives, working through how this pandemic has altered our perspectives and life.    

But today, even in the dark, I hear sounds of hope, songs of welcome that reached beyond my ear, to my heart.  I know that even in the most difficult of days our God is always reaching out, offering up and promising hope.  God is with us. All is well.  All will be well.  For God, our Creator is with us.

I love you, pray for you and invite you to see and hear God’s hope all around you.

Pastor Lisa

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6: 25-6

 

“Morning Has Broken” Cat Stevens
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Who Knows?

Who Knows?

Today seems to be overflowing with questions.  There are days like that! So – who knows?  What is true and what is not? How do we determine truth?  It seems that truth has somewhat relative as each of us speaks “our” truth.  Your truth may not fit my truth. Oh no, this is a slippery slope!  

Lots of questions, very few answers.  How about you? For me, determining what is most important for questions on life, pandemic, relationships, pastoring, serving, or doing ministry must pass the one question I can speak my truth about.  Will this honor God, keep me and others faithful, bring us closer in relationship to God and enable us to be better disciples?  Oops! That was four reflective questions.

Determining the will of God is a spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual process.  A number of years ago I lead a study by Leslie Weatherhead The Will Of God. One point still sticks: if we want to know the will of God for our life we must be involved in the Word of God.  Reading and studying the Bible.  Living in God’s will means defining what God requires of us.  The Micah 6: 8 passage comes to mind:

 

“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.”

It is common, for me at least, in times of questioning and discerning, to depend on the council of others.  During this time of “sheltering in” God has pressed upon me to seek God’s counsel. To listen, to reflect and absorb the word of scripture, the teachings, and then to consult with others.  That means that I am required to wait.  Wait on the Lord in my seeking.  Trust that God holds all things as I wait.  Anticipate that in the waiting God is generating well for me, for my loved ones, for my church family, for our community, for our world.  Because God is a generous God, not one of us being more vital or valued than the other.  I trust that.

Accepting that we are all equally loved by God is the beginning of God teaching us justice. In a world that seems to quantify who is worth more, who contributes most, etc., God looks upon us with one qualifier.  We are all are created in the image of God. Therefore all are beloved children of God.  The fallen, the broken, the misfit, the shamed, the ones who have broken His laws, brought harm to themselves or others.  At times we are any or all of those imperfect humans.  Still, all are held in the embrace of God’s love.  It takes God’s arms to bring this truth to us.  

We all love kindness.  One act of kindness can change our day, someone else’s life, the community, and world.  It is like the ripples that follow a pebble on the smooth surface of the water.  Ever-expanding, wider, deeper until it is no longer seen, but still having been, will remain in memory.  These days, acts of kindness are highly sought.  We need the renewal in our souls of seeing good being done and of taking part in doing good, loving-kindness enough to be kind. 

Finally, Micah reminds us that we are to walk humbly.  Humility is not about diminishing or cheapening our worth, but rather recognizing the power of God.  It is about accepting that God holds all, loves all, offers His Son for our salvation so we can be reconciled to Him by faith.  Living humbly means that our thoughts begin with how God will be shown in my words, actions, decisions, and commitments?  We re-write the script in our heart and mind and now ask, “what does God want… of me, of my commitment, of my time, talent, giving, service and witness…”. 

Perhaps in the questions, you may discover something, about you and God.  I pray that you will have the courage and tenacity to seek God for the questions in your life.  Listen with your soul. May you find yourself joyfully humbled as the Lord meets you where you are.  Proceed on, for God is with you.  God is good and desires good for you, for the world.  That will be my answer today, always.

Praying the peace that comes from God alone, for your peace can change the world.

Pastor Lisa

 

“Lead On O King Eternal” May the words of this timeless hymn be our song!  
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Wait

Wait

Having just re-read the Bishop and Cabinets recommendations for returning to worship on June 22, best practices for worshipping together, and any gatherings that follow, I am having a hard time.  Tears are threatening.  Disappointment is full-on.  Frustration is right at the surface.  You may be reading this having not heard this news.  Maybe you worship with a community that does not have these strictures, but what the Bishop says, well I set my cap on that. 

NOTE: the above was a Public Service Announcement.  I am SO human!  The human in of us wants things the way we want them.  It’s just that what we want is not always best for us. 

Within our human condition, we have been given a spiritual nature.  Our spiritual nature is a necessary piece of our “whole”.  We are not limited by our humanness but have access to a wider understanding of ourselves and of others, and the sure experience that we worship a living God who is listening, caring, loving, and fully present. Our spiritual nature can provide us with new perspectives that sustain us. 

Are you looking for, listening to new perspectives?  Join me in pandemic life! We need new perspectives!  The layers of decisions and responses get more and more complicated.  The limits of our knowledge and practice are being tested. My limits are at an all-time high.  I feel like the little Dutch boy trying to plug the dam with his fingers.  It went something like this: he would put his finger in a hole and two more leaks would spring up.  He couldn’t prevent the leaks due to distance and limited fingers.  

A faithful, spiritual grounding is what I need.  I have some soil that has lain fallow, just waiting for this time.  God is saying: pick up your tools and get to work.  Now is the time to begin new ground.  Anticipate what has been learned about Me, about my faithfulness, about the mystery of a community that acts in faith and the Holy Spirit that shows up in the most unexpected times and ways.  With faith, obedience, and trust put the shovel in and begin to dig.  Turn over the soil, the covered over promises, remove the stumbling blocks that surface.  Castaway the stones of impatience, selfishness, set expectations, fear.  Each of us has stones that we will discover about ourselves and our faith that God will reveal, and giving us faith to move them out of our way.

Our 4 1/2-year-old grandson, Luke, is fascinated with earthmovers.  He loves things that make loud noises, have power and size on their side.  His last visit he discovered scraps from his Halloween costume of an “ex-vator”.  We spend an hour or more building his idea for a miniature excavator, adding rope and using Duct tape,  He showed me how to roll up the wheels.  How to make the match!  The cab was to be made out of a small box, he said, so we searched the house for just the right size. Success!  At one point as I was cutting out a cab, he said “Nana, you have ruined it!”.  I said, wait, let’s see how it works out.  So he waited, As Duct Tape did its magic, he began to see shape and dimension being revealed.  Finally, we put it on top.  He was dissatisfied, so we made it smaller.  Trim and tape. Just what he had in mind! 

What began as an idea took shape.  What obstacles we discovered became exciting learning experiences.  Waiting and watching gave way to satisfying results.  Something that was not, came into being as we talked, dreamed, gathered resources, tried some things, started over on some, waited, worked, and finally saw the finished product.  It was pleasing to him, to me.

I am beginning to see a longer view of this unusual season.  We are in a time of upheaval.  Nothing is as we want or expect.  We are in a waiting time.  However, this waiting time is like the creative, generating season of what do we want. WAIT!  That is the human way! The question we must-have is: what does God want?  How can God use us?  Live into the creative spiritual exercise of waiting.  Forget the leaks in the dam and only 10 fingers – God is on the ready with all we need to shore up our life, church, and world.  You just wait and see! 

I love you, miss you, and trust that in all things God is bringing good!  Pastor Lisa

Luke’s Ex-Vator!  
“Wait on the Lord” May these words bring reminders of the goodness of our Lord!
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Stick Shift

 
Stick Shift

Today is Monday.  Everything I expect of a Monday is changed. For some reason, I continue to wake with the idea that the former rhythms of life will be back to what I am used to. Some days I have to spend a moment or to figuring out what day it is.  How about you?

They say that it will be a long, slow process for us to return to any semblance of life patterns as we remember them. We may be looking at well over a year, as we face the possibility of a “2nd surge” now, and a fresh resurgence in the fall along with flu.  There is no timeline we can depend on.  We will have to wait and see.

It makes me feel sort of “jerked around”.  I haven’t thought of that description in a while.  To my recollection, it was a teen phrase lo’ many year ago!  Usually it meant that someone was giving you misleading information, unkindly teasing you, making life confusing.  That is a pretty good description for these days.  I also thought of another experience of being jerked around – literally.

I was 16, learning to drive, and had moved from dating a really fun, kind guy to being great friends.  He had a 2 door red Pinto.  I wanted one just like it when I grew up.  But until then, I had my eye on a used 1967 Mustang. With a stick shift.  I had no idea how to drive one, but Ricky picked up the mantle and started to teach me.  His first level was to teach me how to start and not stall the car.  We progressed to driving and stop signs.  I was a bit anxious every time I had to stop and start.  With more than a few instances of grinding, I finally found the “sweet spot” on the shift pedal. I was feeling pretty good about things.

Then he took me to the bottom of a hill. He had me turn off the car.  Then he said, go up the hill. Stop every few feet and sit on the brake, then start back up.  Now truly nervous, sweaty palms and all, I began.  Stop. Start. Fumbling feet and shifting hands. Stall. Fussing at Rick. “I can’t!”. He laughed and said, “You can.”  Tried again. Failed. Oh – did I mention the jerking? Right before the stall?  Pop the clutch to make quicker transition and you get a big jerk. Of your head. Without a headrest. Again, he said.  Again.  There were thousands of hills to practice on in our neighborhood.  Stop. Start. Jerk. Stall. Start. Ju-ju-er-er-er-K.  At least 900 of those, before finally.  Start. Stop. Move to first gear, ease off the pedal, increase gas and boom! Jerk to move forward success.  After numbers of starts, stops and practice, there was the day.  No Jerking! 

That burgundy 1967 Mustang 3 speed little honey kept me going until I was married and expecting.  Then it was time to graduate to something more functional for life.  But I have never forgotten the fun of driving a stick shift.  Once I got beyond the beginnings, a whole new world opened up for me.  A few jerks was nothing compared to the joy of driving a stick shift.  It’s something you never forget.  All of it.

The desire to learn, the fear of new challenges, the full on anxiety that comes from being in the middle of learning “how to”, the momentary times of beginning to “get it”, the assurance of mastering the seemingly impossible.  Especially looking in the rear view mirror, saying “no more jerking around” and smoothly moving forward. On a hill.

Folks, we may be feeling jerked around, some may be getting the hang of this new normal for now, but one day, you will be able to look in your rear view mirror and say, “I did it.  We made it!”. You might even say, “I can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me.”.

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

Pastor Lisa

 

 

 

 

Hillsong “You Are My Strength”
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Layering

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Layering

One word can mean many things.  What do you think of when you read layering?  My first thought is Craig Cox’s Coconut Layer Cake he posted on Facebook last night.  If you want to get layered up reach out to Craig for some home made goodness you won’t soon forget! 

Then there is layering that means you finally can get your hair cut.  No more chopped up ends you tried to fix.  You turn your hair back over to the professionals who layer, shape and reclaim your stylin’ life!

Layering can imply how to dress, how to have a conversation, or in todays  context, layering helps us describe life.  A short word full of heavy and broad implications.  I like those kind of words!  Say a little, mean a lot kind of words.  

Today layering is about coming to terms with the multiplicity of things we carry emotionally and spiritually. It’s important to call this to our attention – lest something sneak up on us.  Surprise!!!?*##!!!  Not if we can help it!  Forewarned is forearmed. So let’s peel back some layers together.  You can help by adding your own, saying “But what about?”, or “Hey, I almost forgot that part!”…

Corona Virus is in everyone’s face (masked or not).

Besides the illness itself, how to address it personally leads to fear, anxiety, and life changing decisions on how to respond.  You have to be honest about your own risks, health, etc..  The fallout can be in the  range from unwelcome dependence on others, isolation, job consequences…. you can take over here…

Additional outcomes could be tension at home due to quarantine; difficulty in working at home (a survey suggests that 42% of those working at home are now drinking every day on the job); children who need attention, education. Add  layers of families with job concerns, or no job, food shortages or scarcity; name what is coming out of your quarantine experience…

Additional parts of life include recent bad weather, tornados ripping through the South, lack of sleep, questions about how to return to community, family and life in safe and healthy ways.

These layers don’t make a luscious Coconut Cake you can’t wait to enjoy with a cup of coffee.  These layers are life. They have been there all along. It’s just that our personal, community and world layers have intensified, bringing with it a heavier sense of responsibility.  A deeper awareness of the import of Every. Single. Decision. 

I pray that in naming this concept, you are not held by it.  Identifying challenges and difficulties means they are not secret.  Ignoring won’t make them go away.  Naming them takes the power away from the wildly creative imaginings that we  develop in the middle of the night, in the dark, when everyone else is asleep.  Reality might stink, but it a far cry from our own worries out of hand.

The God news.  It’s good news.  You do not have to carry the layers of life by yourself.  You may have dismissed this because you already know, have named, have people you can talk to and prayers that calm and bring hope.  Great!  If not, the layers we live in today are of no surprise to God.  God is with us at every turn.  God will take the heavy burdens and carry them.

Lighten your load today.  Pray to Jesus Christ like you would to your best friend.  Tell him your frustrations, beat on His chest if you need to.  Cry out the injustice you are feeling and seeing.  And lay this at His Holy nail scarred feet. Or raise the pain and challenges of the day up, laying them one at a time into His arms that stretched wide of His own choice on the cross.  Pain meets pain and God will receive yours today. Always.

I love a good story.  Even better, I love a happy ending.  Tops is a happy, peaceful, joyful ending.  That is what God desires to give you.  Peace that passes all understanding.  May your story connect with the story of God’s love for you and willingness to accompany you in all things.  

That’s it. Except if you want some cake, Craig is taking orders.  Now you can have your cake and eat it too!

I love you, am praying for you and trusting in God to be with you in this time.

Pastor Lisa

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11: 28, 29

 

Crowder “Just as You Are”
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Finding “It”

Finding “It”

You know how it is – there is always that undercurrent part of us.  The sub-surface piece of us that is searching, looking, questioning, hoping to establish the “it” that we consider the ultimate place of being.  For me the “it” is knowing and having peace.  Peace that is not out of my own creation, but a wholistic place of being settled in mind, body and soul.  Though fleeting, I am assured, that this state is of God, from God.  Peace is clearly identifiable.  

You may call it a “God” moment or you may be learning to identify these times.  I am able to most clearly identify them when I am in times of turmoil, or simply just questioning or seeking.  Likely there is something that I am thinking over, struggling with seeking the right direction.  It is in my prayers and thoughts, dogging me, unsettling me until I think I have exhausted all the options or directions. You notice that I didn’t say solutions, right?  There are always multiple solutions to any circumstance. However, my desire is to function with the best solution which provides the best outcome for the circumstance. Talk about a double edged sword – each of us has our own idea of what is best.  So let me clarify, my best means listening to what God is saying about whatever “it” is.

I have come to wait upon these moments, the times when “it” is given to me.  In this process, I do not – can not – have an expectation of the bigger picture God will reveal. I just know that God comes.  God reveals.  In God’s time.  The identifier that says God is in this, is the peace that over runs the banks of my consternation’s, questions and wanderings.  That is “it”! The understanding is solid, concrete.  These moments are clear as I wake from a night of sleep.  Prayer and meditation can be times of listening and revelation.  As I pray, the prayer and words begin to slow, and my thoughts are moved from where I am to praying to out of what God is revealing.  Listening to God shapes prayer with understandings that redirect me to know God’s will.  And, oddly enough, I am not the only one who has said that “shower time” can be a place of “it” moments. Something about the soothing, pouring waters, surrounded by sound and feel of water displacing all distractions.  Think about baptismal waters.  That extraordinary moment of immersion when you give self over under water and rise in new life in Christ.  I wonder, are shower moments little baptisms at times?

I can only offer out of my own experience is that “it” moments are consistently, truly God moments.  God wants a living relationship with us. God desires to give us peace and hope.  Where ever the place of revelation comes for each of us, we are moved to a deeper part, a quieter awareness of being.  And there “it” is! Out of the blue – “it” comes.  Our being encounters God.

The revelation that I have been seeking, searching, longing for relief from is given.  Knowing God’s will is peace. Peace floods my spirit, there is a quickening of my senses and I know this gift is not out of my own understanding. That alone brings delight!  God is inspiring, shaping, challenging and at times, daring me to take new action, or none.  In fresh insight from God allows me to move in faith with peace and certainty. 

Praying that you will find “it” as you seek, that you will claim your peace as given from God, and delight in the relationship that unfolds with each new day. I love you, am praying for you and God loves you far beyond what we can think or imagine!

Pastor Lisa

Sweet Hour of Prayer
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Its Dark, But…

It’s Dark, But …

I am sure this title is causing some perfectionists of language arts to cringe right now.  I know it’s not proper to end with “but”.  But it works for me.  

Let me explain a bit more.  I am up early, listening to the quiet, praying, sitting. Waiting.  Outside my window, I can see it is dark.  Morning has not yet broken.  I heard the trash truck come by.  Lucy dog snuffling in her sleep.  And the birds are singing.  Not one, but it must be every bird in the area who stops in for food and water that Jack keeps faithfully prepared for them.  I can’t translate their song but I understand it.  

Birdsongs announce, claim, invite, charm, and entertain.  Even someone with a bird brain can hear and appreciate the sound of beauty.  That means I can and I do!  I have a number of favorite birds.  One is the mockingbird.  They are so sassy! Not only do they copy other birds’ songs, but they really show up!  They find just the right position to be appreciated too.  I will never forget. in one of our home searches, we were coming to the end of many disappointing showings. We got out of the car to look at one more home.  Mom was with me, the girls at school, Jack at work.  As I exited the car, there he was.  That sassy bird singing with all he had in a bush by the drive.  You couldn’t ignore him, only appreciate him.  He didn’t move even as we walked past, to go to the front door.  Singing, emphasizing his efforts with his broad grey tail!  We walked in, and by the time I made it to the back of the house to the beautiful kitchen that opened to the den and eat-in area, I knew.  This was it.  Mom said, “Oh, this is perfect.” And it was.  I called Jack at work, called the school to get the girls out early to come and approve our new home.  By the end of the day, we made an offer.  We made some wonderful, lasting memories in that home.  Birthdays, graduations, a wedding, and five Christmas’.  I will always associate the mockingbird with the beginning of a new life. in a new home, creating treasured memories in the last years of family before the girls launched into college.  Sweet.  A song not forgotten.

I could give you a story about each bird I love.  The Eastern Towhee bird, who scruffles through the underbrush for delicacies.  They make this charming, deep-throated “to-wheet” sound.  My dad seemed to think that there was one towhee bird in our back yard that was “his”, and would remind me when we heard that distinctive call.  He has been gone 30 years, and still, the sound of the Towhee bird says, “I am here with you.”.

Bluebirds lift my heart.  They show up unexpectedly, bringing joy in the bright flash of color of their wing.  I will always remember the day I was leaving the home of a family that had just lost its patriarch.  He was a beloved husband to her, father, granddad, and friend.  We stood on the front porch, and in the grey dull afternoon of early spring, there was a call.  The widow stopped to look, and there it was.  A bluebird. Sitting on the wire in front of us.  Singing and chirping.  We agreed.  God was saying “I am with you.”. No doubt.

The stories of hawks, cardinals, and other winged creatures are still flooding my mind.  But, you won’t want to read all of them.  And you have your own memories of birds too.  Stories of wonder, beauty, and delight.  Some from the heat of the day, the cool of the nightfall, or like today, in the dark.

We are in rather a dark time in society.  Sheltering-in has “taken” from us.  Personally and communally.  Physically and spiritually.  Emotionally.  That’s what I mean about dark.  It’s hard.  I feel like we will spend a long time, maybe the rest of our lives, working through how this pandemic has altered our perspectives and life.    

But today, even in the dark, I hear sounds of hope, songs of welcome that reached beyond my ear, to my heart.  I know that even in the most difficult of days our God is always reaching out, offering up and promising hope.  God is with us. All is well.  All will be well.  For God, our Creator is with us.

I love you, pray for you and invite you to see and hear God’s hope all around you.

Pastor Lisa

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6: 25-6

 

“Morning Has Broken” Cat Stevens
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Who Knows?

Who Knows?

Today seems to be overflowing with questions.  There are days like that! So – who knows?  What is true and what is not? How do we determine truth?  It seems that truth has somewhat relative as each of us speaks “our” truth.  Your truth may not fit my truth. Oh no, this is a slippery slope!  

Lots of questions, very few answers.  How about you? For me, determining what is most important for questions on life, pandemic, relationships, pastoring, serving, or doing ministry must pass the one question I can speak my truth about.  Will this honor God, keep me and others faithful, bring us closer in relationship to God and enable us to be better disciples?  Oops! That was four reflective questions.

Determining the will of God is a spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual process.  A number of years ago I lead a study by Leslie Weatherhead The Will Of God. One point still sticks: if we want to know the will of God for our life we must be involved in the Word of God.  Reading and studying the Bible.  Living in God’s will means defining what God requires of us.  The Micah 6: 8 passage comes to mind:

 

“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.”

It is common, for me at least, in times of questioning and discerning, to depend on the council of others.  During this time of “sheltering in” God has pressed upon me to seek God’s counsel. To listen, to reflect and absorb the word of scripture, the teachings, and then to consult with others.  That means that I am required to wait.  Wait on the Lord in my seeking.  Trust that God holds all things as I wait.  Anticipate that in the waiting God is generating well for me, for my loved ones, for my church family, for our community, for our world.  Because God is a generous God, not one of us being more vital or valued than the other.  I trust that.

Accepting that we are all equally loved by God is the beginning of God teaching us justice. In a world that seems to quantify who is worth more, who contributes most, etc., God looks upon us with one qualifier.  We are all are created in the image of God. Therefore all are beloved children of God.  The fallen, the broken, the misfit, the shamed, the ones who have broken His laws, brought harm to themselves or others.  At times we are any or all of those imperfect humans.  Still, all are held in the embrace of God’s love.  It takes God’s arms to bring this truth to us.  

We all love kindness.  One act of kindness can change our day, someone else’s life, the community, and world.  It is like the ripples that follow a pebble on the smooth surface of the water.  Ever-expanding, wider, deeper until it is no longer seen, but still having been, will remain in memory.  These days, acts of kindness are highly sought.  We need the renewal in our souls of seeing good being done and of taking part in doing good, loving-kindness enough to be kind. 

Finally, Micah reminds us that we are to walk humbly.  Humility is not about diminishing or cheapening our worth, but rather recognizing the power of God.  It is about accepting that God holds all, loves all, offers His Son for our salvation so we can be reconciled to Him by faith.  Living humbly means that our thoughts begin with how God will be shown in my words, actions, decisions, and commitments?  We re-write the script in our heart and mind and now ask, “what does God want… of me, of my commitment, of my time, talent, giving, service and witness…”. 

Perhaps in the questions, you may discover something, about you and God.  I pray that you will have the courage and tenacity to seek God for the questions in your life.  Listen with your soul. May you find yourself joyfully humbled as the Lord meets you where you are.  Proceed on, for God is with you.  God is good and desires good for you, for the world.  That will be my answer today, always.

Praying the peace that comes from God alone, for your peace can change the world.

Pastor Lisa

 

“Lead On O King Eternal” May the words of this timeless hymn be our song!  
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Wait

Wait

Having just re-read the Bishop and Cabinets recommendations for returning to worship on June 22, best practices for worshipping together, and any gatherings that follow, I am having a hard time.  Tears are threatening.  Disappointment is full-on.  Frustration is right at the surface.  You may be reading this having not heard this news.  Maybe you worship with a community that does not have these strictures, but what the Bishop says, well I set my cap on that. 

NOTE: the above was a Public Service Announcement.  I am SO human!  The human in of us wants things the way we want them.  It’s just that what we want is not always best for us. 

Within our human condition, we have been given a spiritual nature.  Our spiritual nature is a necessary piece of our “whole”.  We are not limited by our humanness but have access to a wider understanding of ourselves and of others, and the sure experience that we worship a living God who is listening, caring, loving, and fully present. Our spiritual nature can provide us with new perspectives that sustain us. 

Are you looking for, listening to new perspectives?  Join me in pandemic life! We need new perspectives!  The layers of decisions and responses get more and more complicated.  The limits of our knowledge and practice are being tested. My limits are at an all-time high.  I feel like the little Dutch boy trying to plug the dam with his fingers.  It went something like this: he would put his finger in a hole and two more leaks would spring up.  He couldn’t prevent the leaks due to distance and limited fingers.  

A faithful, spiritual grounding is what I need.  I have some soil that has lain fallow, just waiting for this time.  God is saying: pick up your tools and get to work.  Now is the time to begin new ground.  Anticipate what has been learned about Me, about my faithfulness, about the mystery of a community that acts in faith and the Holy Spirit that shows up in the most unexpected times and ways.  With faith, obedience, and trust put the shovel in and begin to dig.  Turn over the soil, the covered over promises, remove the stumbling blocks that surface.  Castaway the stones of impatience, selfishness, set expectations, fear.  Each of us has stones that we will discover about ourselves and our faith that God will reveal, and giving us faith to move them out of our way.

Our 4 1/2-year-old grandson, Luke, is fascinated with earthmovers.  He loves things that make loud noises, have power and size on their side.  His last visit he discovered scraps from his Halloween costume of an “ex-vator”.  We spend an hour or more building his idea for a miniature excavator, adding rope and using Duct tape,  He showed me how to roll up the wheels.  How to make the match!  The cab was to be made out of a small box, he said, so we searched the house for just the right size. Success!  At one point as I was cutting out a cab, he said “Nana, you have ruined it!”.  I said, wait, let’s see how it works out.  So he waited, As Duct Tape did its magic, he began to see shape and dimension being revealed.  Finally, we put it on top.  He was dissatisfied, so we made it smaller.  Trim and tape. Just what he had in mind! 

What began as an idea took shape.  What obstacles we discovered became exciting learning experiences.  Waiting and watching gave way to satisfying results.  Something that was not, came into being as we talked, dreamed, gathered resources, tried some things, started over on some, waited, worked, and finally saw the finished product.  It was pleasing to him, to me.

I am beginning to see a longer view of this unusual season.  We are in a time of upheaval.  Nothing is as we want or expect.  We are in a waiting time.  However, this waiting time is like the creative, generating season of what do we want. WAIT!  That is the human way! The question we must-have is: what does God want?  How can God use us?  Live into the creative spiritual exercise of waiting.  Forget the leaks in the dam and only 10 fingers – God is on the ready with all we need to shore up our life, church, and world.  You just wait and see! 

I love you, miss you, and trust that in all things God is bringing good!  Pastor Lisa

Luke’s Ex-Vator!  
“Wait on the Lord” May these words bring reminders of the goodness of our Lord!
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Stick Shift

 
Stick Shift

Today is Monday.  Everything I expect of a Monday is changed. For some reason, I continue to wake with the idea that the former rhythms of life will be back to what I am used to. Some days I have to spend a moment or to figuring out what day it is.  How about you?

They say that it will be a long, slow process for us to return to any semblance of life patterns as we remember them. We may be looking at well over a year, as we face the possibility of a “2nd surge” now, and a fresh resurgence in the fall along with flu.  There is no timeline we can depend on.  We will have to wait and see.

It makes me feel sort of “jerked around”.  I haven’t thought of that description in a while.  To my recollection, it was a teen phrase lo’ many year ago!  Usually it meant that someone was giving you misleading information, unkindly teasing you, making life confusing.  That is a pretty good description for these days.  I also thought of another experience of being jerked around – literally.

I was 16, learning to drive, and had moved from dating a really fun, kind guy to being great friends.  He had a 2 door red Pinto.  I wanted one just like it when I grew up.  But until then, I had my eye on a used 1967 Mustang. With a stick shift.  I had no idea how to drive one, but Ricky picked up the mantle and started to teach me.  His first level was to teach me how to start and not stall the car.  We progressed to driving and stop signs.  I was a bit anxious every time I had to stop and start.  With more than a few instances of grinding, I finally found the “sweet spot” on the shift pedal. I was feeling pretty good about things.

Then he took me to the bottom of a hill. He had me turn off the car.  Then he said, go up the hill. Stop every few feet and sit on the brake, then start back up.  Now truly nervous, sweaty palms and all, I began.  Stop. Start. Fumbling feet and shifting hands. Stall. Fussing at Rick. “I can’t!”. He laughed and said, “You can.”  Tried again. Failed. Oh – did I mention the jerking? Right before the stall?  Pop the clutch to make quicker transition and you get a big jerk. Of your head. Without a headrest. Again, he said.  Again.  There were thousands of hills to practice on in our neighborhood.  Stop. Start. Jerk. Stall. Start. Ju-ju-er-er-er-K.  At least 900 of those, before finally.  Start. Stop. Move to first gear, ease off the pedal, increase gas and boom! Jerk to move forward success.  After numbers of starts, stops and practice, there was the day.  No Jerking! 

That burgundy 1967 Mustang 3 speed little honey kept me going until I was married and expecting.  Then it was time to graduate to something more functional for life.  But I have never forgotten the fun of driving a stick shift.  Once I got beyond the beginnings, a whole new world opened up for me.  A few jerks was nothing compared to the joy of driving a stick shift.  It’s something you never forget.  All of it.

The desire to learn, the fear of new challenges, the full on anxiety that comes from being in the middle of learning “how to”, the momentary times of beginning to “get it”, the assurance of mastering the seemingly impossible.  Especially looking in the rear view mirror, saying “no more jerking around” and smoothly moving forward. On a hill.

Folks, we may be feeling jerked around, some may be getting the hang of this new normal for now, but one day, you will be able to look in your rear view mirror and say, “I did it.  We made it!”. You might even say, “I can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me.”.

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

Pastor Lisa

 

 

 

 

Hillsong “You Are My Strength”
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Layering

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Layering

One word can mean many things.  What do you think of when you read layering?  My first thought is Craig Cox’s Coconut Layer Cake he posted on Facebook last night.  If you want to get layered up reach out to Craig for some home made goodness you won’t soon forget! 

Then there is layering that means you finally can get your hair cut.  No more chopped up ends you tried to fix.  You turn your hair back over to the professionals who layer, shape and reclaim your stylin’ life!

Layering can imply how to dress, how to have a conversation, or in todays  context, layering helps us describe life.  A short word full of heavy and broad implications.  I like those kind of words!  Say a little, mean a lot kind of words.  

Today layering is about coming to terms with the multiplicity of things we carry emotionally and spiritually. It’s important to call this to our attention – lest something sneak up on us.  Surprise!!!?*##!!!  Not if we can help it!  Forewarned is forearmed. So let’s peel back some layers together.  You can help by adding your own, saying “But what about?”, or “Hey, I almost forgot that part!”…

Corona Virus is in everyone’s face (masked or not).

Besides the illness itself, how to address it personally leads to fear, anxiety, and life changing decisions on how to respond.  You have to be honest about your own risks, health, etc..  The fallout can be in the  range from unwelcome dependence on others, isolation, job consequences…. you can take over here…

Additional outcomes could be tension at home due to quarantine; difficulty in working at home (a survey suggests that 42% of those working at home are now drinking every day on the job); children who need attention, education. Add  layers of families with job concerns, or no job, food shortages or scarcity; name what is coming out of your quarantine experience…

Additional parts of life include recent bad weather, tornados ripping through the South, lack of sleep, questions about how to return to community, family and life in safe and healthy ways.

These layers don’t make a luscious Coconut Cake you can’t wait to enjoy with a cup of coffee.  These layers are life. They have been there all along. It’s just that our personal, community and world layers have intensified, bringing with it a heavier sense of responsibility.  A deeper awareness of the import of Every. Single. Decision. 

I pray that in naming this concept, you are not held by it.  Identifying challenges and difficulties means they are not secret.  Ignoring won’t make them go away.  Naming them takes the power away from the wildly creative imaginings that we  develop in the middle of the night, in the dark, when everyone else is asleep.  Reality might stink, but it a far cry from our own worries out of hand.

The God news.  It’s good news.  You do not have to carry the layers of life by yourself.  You may have dismissed this because you already know, have named, have people you can talk to and prayers that calm and bring hope.  Great!  If not, the layers we live in today are of no surprise to God.  God is with us at every turn.  God will take the heavy burdens and carry them.

Lighten your load today.  Pray to Jesus Christ like you would to your best friend.  Tell him your frustrations, beat on His chest if you need to.  Cry out the injustice you are feeling and seeing.  And lay this at His Holy nail scarred feet. Or raise the pain and challenges of the day up, laying them one at a time into His arms that stretched wide of His own choice on the cross.  Pain meets pain and God will receive yours today. Always.

I love a good story.  Even better, I love a happy ending.  Tops is a happy, peaceful, joyful ending.  That is what God desires to give you.  Peace that passes all understanding.  May your story connect with the story of God’s love for you and willingness to accompany you in all things.  

That’s it. Except if you want some cake, Craig is taking orders.  Now you can have your cake and eat it too!

I love you, am praying for you and trusting in God to be with you in this time.

Pastor Lisa

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11: 28, 29

 

Crowder “Just as You Are”
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