Accompaniment

Accompaniment

Not a word we use frequently, I suspect.  But it is something that we desperately need. That is – to know that we are not alone. Not just in the sad, fearful, glass-not-even-half-full day, but all days.  Days that start with good intentions, begin with prayer, engage in all manner of faithful life.  Happy days, quiet days, all days.

The shelter-in life has hit most of us hard.  If you are an introvert, maybe not so much, but still. We need companionship, conversation, a hug or two, right?  Families right now are missing special events together, holding off on gatherings, eating together, just doing life.  There are those who are struggling with friends and family ill with corona virus or other circumstances.  In the hospital, unable to sit with them, hold their hand, give encouragement, or sadly share last moments with loved ones.  These are times that we all need someone to be with us.

Jesus understood our needs.  Remember when just before Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, and brought his disciples to sit and pray with him?  And they fell asleep.  Remember when they were breaking bread at what we now call “the last supper”, and Jesus was telling how he would die and be resurrected?  “Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterwards.’  Simon Peter was offering to accompany Jesus, however it was not his time.  Not now. 

However, Jesus was ready to journey in faith with His Father, so that the Holy Spirit would be sent to carry on in the lives of those who love Him.  It is hard to explain what you see.  Even harder to explain what is a very individual experience or encounter.  Faith is a first stepping stone in coming to know the Holy Spirit.  There is a trust and assurance that comes from knowing God is with us. Now.

Just now, I had to stop and take a phone call from a dear, dear friend. We have been in touch as her husband has been hospitalized, developed complications from heart issues.  Today she called to tell me, he was able to express his wish to stop further invasive treatments.  He is on his way home.  My heart is breaking, my sorrow is clouding my eyes and the pain I feel for them both is physical.  I can’t write anymore right now. I need, need someone. I need God to take this, hold this, be with them.  For so many over the years I have depended on the Holy Spirit to carry these times that overwhelm. And always, always, God shows up.  I pray, for you also, that the Advocate will accompany you in good and hard times.  Come Holy Spirit, and fill the spaces and places of sorrow, emptiness and brokenness we all experience. 

Thank you Lord, for your sacrifice on the cross that opens up the way for your presence in the Spirit.  Take this message and use it for your glory.

Peace and love, Pastor Lisa

“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” John 14:18

Alison Krauss “Down to the River to Pray” in honor of one who is journeying home, to get his starry crown.  For the many you also pray home, may the Holy Spirit journey with you also.


She Sings

She Sings

I had the privilege of meeting someone very special a number of years ago.  Special in a number of ways, but especially because she sings.  When she sings, bands play and people move with her.  She has sung with the likes of Willie Nelson, still sings with Lyle Lovett, she sat on Johnny Carson’s sofa, and traveled many a road to do what she does so well, sing.

Some of her history is important, because it reveals her talent.  But when I met her, over the phone for the first time, I learned something uniquely precious about her.  I was serving a struggling church in Atlanta. Mark Clement, a member and yet another story of someone special, was an airline attendant, but on the side he was a promoter of the community.  He called me one day and said, “Call Francine, she may do a concert to help us.”. 

I called her, not even knowing exactly who she was, or her history.  I am afraid I am not a music buff. Mark said do it, so I did.  I introduced myself to her, explaining why I was calling, and she listened.  Just listened. Then she asked, what do you want to raise money for?  I was stumped.  We didn’t have any grand plan, so stumbling I said, well, we could do it for this, or that, or one thing we desperately need is a handicap ramp for people to get in the building safely. She listened, and then said, “I will put my heart and hand to it.  Let’s talk when we get in town.”

There it was.  A teaching moment for me.  Generosity.  Attitude of commitment. Uniquely held in a statement that will forever describe her.  Francine met with us between gigs.  I learned, watched and supported as the church rallied around.  We had visionaries that built an extension to the platform to create a stage.  We had the community support us selling tickets and creating media visuals.  The night of the event, our church was full, up to the balcony.  Francine was not satisfied with just her, she recruited our choir to do back up. We invited The Clifton Sanctuary Shelter men to join us singing.  Francine recruited the band from Blind Willie’s to join us, and a piano talent that rocked the room.  You had to be there. But since you weren’t let me say, the room rocked as never before. Francine brought us to the altar of fullness, joy, love, expression and heart.  I still hear the sounds of blues, her voice and the sanctuary being more than just a place. It was a sanctuary for celebration, delight in God-given talents and the faces of people that came to just be together and enjoy this gift.

All that to say, as we worked on this together, I found a friend.  She calls me her pastor.  We could not be more different.  She has shared some of her life with me.  I took her to meet my mom.  She still asks after mom when we speak.  We found out she loves fish, so she always got fresh fish from Jack’s annual trip to Florida.  And I get singing “cards” from her on Christmas.  You haven’t lived until Francine calls to sing to you.  

I pray with her and for her. That is the thing.  For all Francine is to a very wide group of followers, admirers and blues aficionados’ she is a follower of Jesus Christ.  Her singing began in church with her family, and interweaving all of her life, the good, the bad, the hard, the lonely, the joyful and times of waiting, there is that.  Francine trusts God with all things.  There is a commitment to the Lord in her faith that is unwavering.  Years of faith practice has brought her to this place.  When we talk, catch up and pray, her faith grounding begins to have an effect on me.  I am emboldened.  I am given new strength.  Faith upon faith is a marvelous thing. What a treasure to have such a friend, to have Jesus be our bridge to life together.

In all things, I remain humble.  For the gracious way Francine allowed me to come alongside her.  In days when we talk, we are both lifted in spirit.  There is a love that is borne out of faith, for each other that remains.

You too, are part of this story.  You have a unique place in my life.  Your faith, your being who you are blesses me, informs me of a broader world.  You too, are a gift!  God has given us such a beautiful passage as we find the common thread in all of life.  Jesus Christ created us all, to love and tell His story.  Sing it, tell it, live it.

You are His witness.  And Francine, to you, I give you my heart and my hand.  Together let’s continue to walk in His path.  Love you.

God has given us a story that brings life to one another, and in His story, we are given eternal life. You are loved, prayed for and have the hand of God on your story.

Pastor Lisa

 

From Blues to Jazz – Francine rocks the stage!  Enjoy “Wild Women don’t Get the Blues” with me.  If you don’t end up smiling, give me a call, you need prayer!
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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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Accompaniment

Accompaniment

Not a word we use frequently, I suspect.  But it is something that we desperately need. That is – to know that we are not alone. Not just in the sad, fearful, glass-not-even-half-full day, but all days.  Days that start with good intentions, begin with prayer, engage in all manner of faithful life.  Happy days, quiet days, all days.

The shelter-in life has hit most of us hard.  If you are an introvert, maybe not so much, but still. We need companionship, conversation, a hug or two, right?  Families right now are missing special events together, holding off on gatherings, eating together, just doing life.  There are those who are struggling with friends and family ill with corona virus or other circumstances.  In the hospital, unable to sit with them, hold their hand, give encouragement, or sadly share last moments with loved ones.  These are times that we all need someone to be with us.

Jesus understood our needs.  Remember when just before Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, and brought his disciples to sit and pray with him?  And they fell asleep.  Remember when they were breaking bread at what we now call “the last supper”, and Jesus was telling how he would die and be resurrected?  “Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterwards.’  Simon Peter was offering to accompany Jesus, however it was not his time.  Not now. 

However, Jesus was ready to journey in faith with His Father, so that the Holy Spirit would be sent to carry on in the lives of those who love Him.  It is hard to explain what you see.  Even harder to explain what is a very individual experience or encounter.  Faith is a first stepping stone in coming to know the Holy Spirit.  There is a trust and assurance that comes from knowing God is with us. Now.

Just now, I had to stop and take a phone call from a dear, dear friend. We have been in touch as her husband has been hospitalized, developed complications from heart issues.  Today she called to tell me, he was able to express his wish to stop further invasive treatments.  He is on his way home.  My heart is breaking, my sorrow is clouding my eyes and the pain I feel for them both is physical.  I can’t write anymore right now. I need, need someone. I need God to take this, hold this, be with them.  For so many over the years I have depended on the Holy Spirit to carry these times that overwhelm. And always, always, God shows up.  I pray, for you also, that the Advocate will accompany you in good and hard times.  Come Holy Spirit, and fill the spaces and places of sorrow, emptiness and brokenness we all experience. 

Thank you Lord, for your sacrifice on the cross that opens up the way for your presence in the Spirit.  Take this message and use it for your glory.

Peace and love, Pastor Lisa

“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” John 14:18

Alison Krauss “Down to the River to Pray” in honor of one who is journeying home, to get his starry crown.  For the many you also pray home, may the Holy Spirit journey with you also.


She Sings

She Sings

I had the privilege of meeting someone very special a number of years ago.  Special in a number of ways, but especially because she sings.  When she sings, bands play and people move with her.  She has sung with the likes of Willie Nelson, still sings with Lyle Lovett, she sat on Johnny Carson’s sofa, and traveled many a road to do what she does so well, sing.

Some of her history is important, because it reveals her talent.  But when I met her, over the phone for the first time, I learned something uniquely precious about her.  I was serving a struggling church in Atlanta. Mark Clement, a member and yet another story of someone special, was an airline attendant, but on the side he was a promoter of the community.  He called me one day and said, “Call Francine, she may do a concert to help us.”. 

I called her, not even knowing exactly who she was, or her history.  I am afraid I am not a music buff. Mark said do it, so I did.  I introduced myself to her, explaining why I was calling, and she listened.  Just listened. Then she asked, what do you want to raise money for?  I was stumped.  We didn’t have any grand plan, so stumbling I said, well, we could do it for this, or that, or one thing we desperately need is a handicap ramp for people to get in the building safely. She listened, and then said, “I will put my heart and hand to it.  Let’s talk when we get in town.”

There it was.  A teaching moment for me.  Generosity.  Attitude of commitment. Uniquely held in a statement that will forever describe her.  Francine met with us between gigs.  I learned, watched and supported as the church rallied around.  We had visionaries that built an extension to the platform to create a stage.  We had the community support us selling tickets and creating media visuals.  The night of the event, our church was full, up to the balcony.  Francine was not satisfied with just her, she recruited our choir to do back up. We invited The Clifton Sanctuary Shelter men to join us singing.  Francine recruited the band from Blind Willie’s to join us, and a piano talent that rocked the room.  You had to be there. But since you weren’t let me say, the room rocked as never before. Francine brought us to the altar of fullness, joy, love, expression and heart.  I still hear the sounds of blues, her voice and the sanctuary being more than just a place. It was a sanctuary for celebration, delight in God-given talents and the faces of people that came to just be together and enjoy this gift.

All that to say, as we worked on this together, I found a friend.  She calls me her pastor.  We could not be more different.  She has shared some of her life with me.  I took her to meet my mom.  She still asks after mom when we speak.  We found out she loves fish, so she always got fresh fish from Jack’s annual trip to Florida.  And I get singing “cards” from her on Christmas.  You haven’t lived until Francine calls to sing to you.  

I pray with her and for her. That is the thing.  For all Francine is to a very wide group of followers, admirers and blues aficionados’ she is a follower of Jesus Christ.  Her singing began in church with her family, and interweaving all of her life, the good, the bad, the hard, the lonely, the joyful and times of waiting, there is that.  Francine trusts God with all things.  There is a commitment to the Lord in her faith that is unwavering.  Years of faith practice has brought her to this place.  When we talk, catch up and pray, her faith grounding begins to have an effect on me.  I am emboldened.  I am given new strength.  Faith upon faith is a marvelous thing. What a treasure to have such a friend, to have Jesus be our bridge to life together.

In all things, I remain humble.  For the gracious way Francine allowed me to come alongside her.  In days when we talk, we are both lifted in spirit.  There is a love that is borne out of faith, for each other that remains.

You too, are part of this story.  You have a unique place in my life.  Your faith, your being who you are blesses me, informs me of a broader world.  You too, are a gift!  God has given us such a beautiful passage as we find the common thread in all of life.  Jesus Christ created us all, to love and tell His story.  Sing it, tell it, live it.

You are His witness.  And Francine, to you, I give you my heart and my hand.  Together let’s continue to walk in His path.  Love you.

God has given us a story that brings life to one another, and in His story, we are given eternal life. You are loved, prayed for and have the hand of God on your story.

Pastor Lisa

 

From Blues to Jazz – Francine rocks the stage!  Enjoy “Wild Women don’t Get the Blues” with me.  If you don’t end up smiling, give me a call, you need prayer!
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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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SharpsburgGA 30277

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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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4096 Lower Fayetteville Road, Sharpsburg, GA

SharpsburgGA 30277

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