Christmas Eve Invitation


You are invited to the reason for the season. You are invited to the hope, peace, joy, and love of Christ. You are invited because God does the inviting. Everyone. The shepherds, the innkeeper, the wise men, those lowly and those who think themselves highly. That’s right, even me, even you, and even all of them (whoever ‘all of them’ means to you).
The real scandal of Christmas is that we’re all invited.
Just like the very first Christmas, God is still inviting everyone. Rich and poor alike; the hopeful and the hopeless, the joyful and the joyless. God is the host of this celebration; we just get to be part of it. And as part of this divine celebration, we get to respond by offering invitations as well.

You are invited to God’s Christmas Invitation
We hope you will join us for Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve
at either 6:00 or 8:00 p.m. at Cokes Chapel.
6:00 p.m. service will be a little more modern in the Worship Center with hot chocolate around the tables.
8:00 p.m. service will be a little more traditional in the Chapel.
Both will be about God’s radical and gracious invitation of Christmas.

I hope you have a very merry Christmas, and that you invite someone to be part of it with you.
In faith, hope, and love,
Rev. Carson Thaxton
Cokes Chapel UMC

Hello from Pastor Carson

I’d love for you to see what I have been able to see.

I just recently arrived in the community as the pastor of Cokes Chapel.

Cokes Chapel United Methodist Church is nicknamed “the little white chapel on the hill”. Well, I went into this ‘little chapel’, and it was much bigger, wider, and more far-reaching than I ever realized.

The genuine hospitality and love from this congregation are big and only grow larger with time and relationship building. Cokes Chapel is bigger than I thought. Their graciousness and open hearts to welcome and receive both family and strangers alike are modeled after the love and grace of Christ.

What I thought was only a chapel is really a whole campus of buildings, activities, and community engagement in countless ways. Cokes Chapel is wider than I thought. Cokes Chapel Childcare Center operates a dynamic, safe, and nurturing experience for children and their families; Scouting is alive and active with Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Girl Scouts meeting, learning and serving in various projects on both the grounds of Cokes Chapel as well as the community; the Worship Center hosts worship events, community events, service projects, children and youth events, meals, and countless other ways of connecting neighbor to neighbor and connecting people to God. And this is with nothing said about the BBQ and the outdoor pavilion and the sports field!

Cokes Chapel is more far-reaching in ministry and outreach than I thought. Three missionary families that are all connected through the life and lives of those at Cokes Chapel are supported, prayed for, and offered financial giving through events like the recent silent auction dinner. There was an incredible live band made up of some people in the church whose tip jar was just another excuse to raise money for missionaries. And this was just one event. The congregation partners with Wellroot, One-Roof, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), and many other ministries that serve people locally and globally.

Yes, I’d love for you to be able to see what I have seen.

I would love to personally invite you to an incredibly inviting congregation.

I would love to meet you. I would love for you to meet me, my wife, and three children.

I would love for you to experience the love, grace, and power of Christ Jesus in and through the life of this church as I have.


You are always welcome at Cokes Chapel, your little white chapel on the hill.


In faith, hope, and love,

Rev. Carson Thaxton

Cokes Chapel UMC


Worship Service is 10:00 a.m. Sunday mornings. We would love to worship with you.

Tuesday, March 16, Week Four, Lenten Devotional

Week Four Lenten Devotional                                           March 16, 2021
Four weeks into Lent.  

Look back over your life in the last four weeks.  Has anything changed?  Are you noticing God at work around you more? Have you found that you are praying more, listening more, seeking after God for wisdom and peace?  
Take stock.  Yep, a few minutes to say:
                    This Lent I am learning to doing this “___(fill in the blank)___” more.  
                    I can tell that when I “__(fill in the blank)___” I recognize God in this event, time, or action.  
One final question:  
                    Are you delighting in the benefits* of the Lord?  List some of the benefits that come to mind.
                    God provides a surplus of what we need.  All the time!  We just miss it, overlook it sometimes.  

It is just Tuesday – if you are not seeing the benefits, if you are having trouble filling in the blank, or are surprised at how you have not made progress in your spiritual journey this season, perhaps fasting could be a method for you to of ramp up your ability to see and hear God.  Fast – as in give over something and replace it with time with God. 

The sun will return, rain or shine, the Lord is with us! We remain faithful in our hope and assurance of God who holds all things for our good.

* Benefit : something that produces good or helpful results or effects or that promotes well-being : ADVANTAGE
               : useful aid : HELP  Websters Dictionary
Week 4 Scripture memorization 
Psalm 51: 10. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Psalm 51: 10


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Week Two Lenten Devotional March 10, 2021

Week Two Lenten Devotional                                           March 10, 2021
Three weeks into Lent and three weeks closer to Easter.  We are halfway there!  

Today I took my prayer time to our Labyrinth, located to the left of the Worship Center.  Being outside in this wonderful respite from cold and rain is all the more joyful when we include God.  Walking the labyrinth in prayer can be done in your time, at your convenience.  God meets us in this sacred space set aside for you and our community.

My walk today was focused on the scripture on repentance.  As I began, I noticed that the path had a few rather hearty, large weeds.  Scattered about -showing their daring bid to take over the beautiful walking path.  I thought “I will just pull those big ones”, and so I did.  That was easy! Ok. So now, I am ready to walk.  I start at the beginning, thinking I have done something good today … and behold… there they were: more weeds!  Only these were smaller, buds buried in the gravel, or just peeking out from the side of bricks, still struggling to gain a foothold, but DISTRACTINGLY there.  
So my prayer was changed again,  “Lord, I will just take my time, pray, walk and get these little weeds as I go.”.  Praying and pulling weeds is actually spiritual.  Every weed I pulled, I searched my heart for thoughts and actions that are distracting me or my focus on keeping God first, knowing God and God’s will.

My walk was longer than I anticipated.  Some of the bigger weeds (could these be failures to love God?) were easy to see and remove. Other weeds were just gaining traction in the soil (could these be things that are easily dismissed but are in fact steps away from loving God?).

Loving God comes with an unspoken result.  More love to God moves us closer to God’s will and to our spiritual journey towards perfection.  Perfection, our goal to trust God to perfect in us.  Until then, let us pull weeds, love God and be transformed by that power.

I invite you to take a walk on our labyrinth.  Once you do it, you will want to return.  I pray you will!
Love and peace,
Pastor Lisa
Week 3 Scripture memorization 
Hosea 6: 6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.  Hosea 6:6


Just when we think we have done our due diligence with our hearts, there is often more to be found when we look.  Not to be discouraging, but encouraging that God is gracious and welcomes us with mercy and grace.  To more careful examination of our hearts as we grow in love with God and one another.

Week 2 Lent 2021 Devotional

Week Two Lenten Devotional                                           March 1, 2021
Praying that this message and Scripture will be just what you need!   Remembering you, praying for you and seeking to share God’s goodness this week.
Love and peace,
Pastor Lisa
Week 2 Scripture memorization:Psalm 107: 1. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good: for His steadfast love endures forever.  Psalm 107: 1


Week 1 Lent 2021 Devotional

Spend a few minutes with me as we set our minds towards this week, learning and growing in Christ.  This week we will consider how to gain an upright heart – one that keeps us at peace with God.  A heart that knows how to live and desires to live following God’s instructions.  Prayer, repenting, listening, service, giving, worshiping all work to our good for an upright heart.
The Good News is that each of these actions brings various understandings, insights, joy…. because we are seeking after God’s heart. 
Bless you, in God’s name, for you are bringing good in the name of Jesus Christ.
Pastor Lisa
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Dear companions on the journey,
These last months of writing and thinking on what words God would have me offer have been delightful, at times challenging and rewarding as I have heard back from you.  
It is time for me to take a break from my morning writing before we resume live worship on June 28.  I know now that writing will be an important part of my spiritual expression and growth.  I will begin again and will let you know by post when that time arrives.  Until then, I leave you with a Christian writer that has inspired me for as long as I have been in ministry. 
Fredrick Buechner’s words are somewhat dated as you read some of his references. Much has happened since he gives this sermon on our need for hope.
May we find time to continue to visit with God, listen, be inspired and take hope with us each day.  Jesus would have it be so, for He does love you! God knew in your creation that it was good – you are good!  
I love you, you remain in my heart and prayers.  God holds you at the center of God’s heart.
Pastor Lisa
A Sprig of Hope
In our blog post every Monday we select a reading from the Revised Common Lectionary for the upcoming Sunday, and pair it with a Frederick Buechner reading on the same topic. Next Sunday we will celebrate the third Sunday after Pentecost.  Here is this week’s reading from the Gospel of Genesis:

Genesis 6:9-22; 7:248:14-19
These are the descendants of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive. Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.” Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred fifty days. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. Then God said to Noah, ”Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh–birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth–so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families. 

Here is  Buechner’s sermon “A Sprig of Hope” which was originally published in The Hungering Dark and later in Secrets in the Dark.

It is an ironic fact that this ancient legend about Noah survives in our age mainly as a children’s story. When I was a child, I had a Noah’s ark made of wood with a roof that came off so you could take the animals out and put them in again, and my children have one too. Yet if you stop to look at it at all, this is really as dark a tale as there is in the Bible, which is full of dark tales. It is a tale of God’s terrible despair over the human race and his decision to visit them with a great flood that would destroy them all except for this one old man, Noah, and his family. Only now we give it to children to read. One wonders why. 

Not, I suspect, because children particularly want to read it, but more because their elders particularly do not want to read it, or at least do not want to read it for what it actually says and so make it instead into a fairy tale, which no one has to take seriously—just the way we make black jokes about disease and death so that we can laugh instead of weep at them; just the way we translate murder and lust into sixth-rate television melodramas, which is to reduce them to a size that anybody can cope with; just the way we take the nightmares of our age, the sinister, brutal forces that dwell in the human heart threatening always to overwhelm us and present them as the Addams family or monster dolls, which we give, again, to children. Gulliver’s Travels is too bitter about humankind, so we make it into an animated cartoon; Moby Dick is too bitter about God, so we make it into an adventure story for boys; Noah’s ark is too something-or-other else, so it becomes a toy with a roof that comes off so you can take the little animals out. This is one way of dealing with the harsher realities of our existence, and since the alternative is, by facing them head on, to risk adding more to our burden of anxiety than we are able to bear, it may not be such a bad way at that. But for all our stratagems, the legends, the myths persist among us, and even in the guise of fairy tales for the young they continue to embody truths or intuitions that in the long run it is perhaps more dangerous to evade than to confront. 

So what, then, are the truths embodied in this tale of Noah and his ark? Let us start with the story itself more particularly let us start with the moment when God first spoke to Noah, more particularly let us start with Noah’s face at that moment when God first spoke to him. 

When somebody speaks to you, you turn your face to look in the direction the voice comes from; but if the voice comes from no direction at all, if the voice comes from within and comes wordlessly, and more powerfully for being wordless, then in a sense you stop looking at anything at all. Your eyes become unseeing, and if someone were to pass a hand in front of them, you would hardly notice the hand. If you can be said to be looking at anything then, you are probably looking at, without really seeing, something of no importance whatever, like the branch of a tree stirring in the wind or the frayed cuff of your shirt where your arm rests on the windowsill. Your face goes vacant because for the moment you have vacated it and are living somewhere beneath your face, wherever it is that the voice comes from. So it was maybe with Noah’s face when he heard the words that he heard, or when he heard what he heard translated clumsily into words: that the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, filled with violence and pain and unlove—that the earth was doomed. 

It was presumably nothing that Noah had not known already, nothing that any of us who have ever lived on this earth with our eyes open have not known. But because it came upon him sudden and strong, he had to face it more squarely than people usually do, and it rose up in him like a pain in his own belly. And then maybe, like Kierkegaard’s Abraham, Noah asked whether it was God who was speaking or only the pain in his belly; whether it was a vision of the glory of the world as it first emerged from the hand of the Creator that led him to the knowledge of how far the world had fallen, or whether it was just his pathetic human longing for a glory that had never been and would never be. If that was his question, perhaps a flicker of bewilderment passed across his vacant face—he lines between his eyes deepening, his mouth going loose, a little stupid. A penny for your thoughts, old Noah. 

But then came the crux of the thing because the voice that was either God’s voice or an undigested matzoh ball shifted from the indicative of doom to the imperative of command and it told him that, although the world was doomed, he, Noah, had a commission to perform that would have much to do with the saving of the world. 

“Make yourself an cause if the voice proceeded not from the mystery of the human belly but from the mystery and depth of life itself, then Noah had to obey, and Noah knew it. And out of common humanity this is the point to shift our gaze from his face, because things are happening there that no stranger should be allowed to see, and to look instead at his feet, because when we have to decide which way we are going to bet our entire lives, it is very often our feet that finally tell the tale. 

There are Noah’s feet—dusty, a little slew-footed, Toonerville trolley of vessels, clouted from side to side by the waves and staggering like a drunk. It was not much, God knows, but it was enough, and it stayed afloat, and granted that it was noisy as hell and stank to heaven, creatures took comfort from each other’s creatureliness, and the wolf lay down with the lamb, and the lion ate straw like the ox, and life lived on in the ark while all around there was only chaos and death. 

Then finally, after many days, Noah sent forth a dove from the ark to see if the waters had subsided from the earth, and that evening she returned, and lo, in her mouth a freshly plucked olive leaf once again, for the last time, the place to look, I think, is Noah’s face. The dove stands there with her delicate, scarlet feet on the calluses of his upturned palm. His cheek just touches her breast so that he can feel the tiny panic of her heart. His eyes are closed, the lashes watery wet. Only what he weeps with now, the old clown, is no longer anguish, but wild and irrepressible hope. That is not the end of the story in Genesis, but maybe that is the end of it for most of us—just a little sprig of hope held up against the end of the world. 

All these old tales are about us, of course, and I suppose that is why we can never altogether forget them; that is why, even if we do not read them anymore ourselves, we give them to children to read so that they will never be entirely lost, because if they were, part of the truth about us would be lost too. The truth, for instance, that, left to ourselves, as a race we are doomed—what else can we conclude?—doomed if only by our own insatiable lust for doom. Despair and destruction and death are the ancient enemies, and yet we are always so helplessly drawn to them that it is as if we are more than half in love with our enemies. Even our noblest impulses and purest dreams get all tangled up with them just as in Vietnam, in the name of human dignity and freedom, the bombs are falling on both the just and the unjust and we recoil at the horror of little children with their faces burned off, except that somehow that is the way the world has always been and is, with nightmare and noble dream all tangled up together. That is the way we are doomed—doomed to be what we are, doomed to seek our own doom. And the turbulent waters of chaos and nightmare are always threatening to burst forth and flood the earth. We hardly need the tale of Noah to tell us that. The New York Times tells us just as well, and our own hearts tell us well too, because chaos and nightmare have their little days there also. But the tale of Noah tells other truths as well. 

It tells about the ark, for one, which somehow managed to ride out the storm. God knows the ark is not much—if anybody knows it is not much, God knows—and the old joke seems true that if it were not for the storm without, you could never stand the stench within. But the ark was enough, is enough. Because the ark is wherever human beings come together as human beings in such a way that the differences between them stop being barriers—the way if people meet at the wedding, say, of someone they both love, all the differences of age between them, all the real and imagined differences of color, of wealth, of education, no longer divide them but become for each a source of strength and delight, and although they may go right on looking at each other as very odd fish indeed, it becomes an oddness to gladden the heart, and there is no shyness anymore, no awkwardness or fear of each other. Sometimes even in a church we can look into each other’s faces and see that, beneath the differences, we are all of us outward bound on a voyage for parts unknown. 

The ark is wherever people come together because this is a stormy world where nothing stays put for long among the crazy waves and where at the end of every voyage there is a burial at sea. The ark is where, just because it is such a world, we really need each other and know very well that we do. The ark is wherever human beings come together because in their heart of hearts all of them—white and black, believer and unbeliever, hippie and square—dream the same dream, which is a dream of peace—peace between the nations, between the races, between the brothers—and thus ultimately a dream of love. Love not as an excuse for the mushy and innocuous, but love as a summons to battle against all that is unlovely and unloving in the world. The ark, in other words, is where we have each other and where we have hope. 

Noah looked like a fool in his faith, but he saved the world from drowning, and we must not forget the one whom Noah foreshadows and who also looked like a fool spread-eagled up there, cross-eyed with pain, but who also saved the world from drowning. We must not forget him because he saves the world still, and wherever the ark is, wherever we meet and touch in something like love, it is because he also is there, brother and father of us all. So into his gracious and puzzling hands we must commend ourselves through all the days of our voyaging, wherever it takes us, and at the end of all our voyages. We must build our arks with love and ride out the storm with courage and know that the little sprig of green in the dove’s mouth betokens a reality beyond the storm more precious than the likes of us can imagine.

How can we pray to thee, thou holy and hidden God, whose ways are not our ways, who knowest what it is to be a man because thou hast walked among us as a man, breaking with us the bread of our affliction and drinking deep of the cup of our despair? How can we not pray to thee when it is thy very Spirit alive within us that moves our lips in prayer?
Hear, O God, the prayers of all thy children everywhere: for forgiveness and healing, for courage, for faith; prayers for the needs of others; prayers for peace among the desperate nations. Whether thou withholdest what we ask, whether thou answerest us in words that burn like fire or in silence that burns like fire, increase in us the knowledge that thou art always more near to us than breathing, that thy will for us is love. 
And deep beneath all our asking, so deep beneath that we are all but deaf to it ourselves, hear, 0 God, the secret song of every human heart praising thee for being what thou art, rejoicing with the morning stars that thou art our God and we thy children. Make strong and wild this secret song within until it bursts forth at last to thy glory and our saving. Through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen. 

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Praying peace, hope and love abound with you always!
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Humbleness, or humility, is a virtue that appears incongruent with the nature of humanity.  Much of the conflict that emerges in relationships relates to the lack of humbleness.  Rather than give you a definition of humbleness, just consider that the lack of humbleness usually is seated in self-centeredness.  Anything or any ways of self promotion or aggrandizement for our benefit is an anathema, abhorrent to the way of humbleness.

Society has hijacked humility, changing the truth about what humbleness is, a strength of character that promotes fairness and equality, to a perception that humility reveals weakness. In fact, humility is risky business.  Humility requires that we put ourselves in a position of vulnerability.  Humility takes courage, a strong awareness of purpose and worth in the eyes of God, and trust that no matter the circumstance, our way of humility is the way of Christ.

Jesus revealed humility in his interactions with people.  Those seeking him were not turned away because of their place, or lack of status in society.  He ate with the disenfranchised, the lepers, he taught women, healed indiscriminately all who sought relief from life’s pains and sorrows.  The penultimate act of humility was when Jesus stood before Pilate and others who could release him from sure death, he stood silent.  His humility in strength, not weakness enabled us to be reconciled by God.  Jesus could have brought the full force of God down on the nation of Rome and the people demanding his death.  Jesus’ choice to be obedient unto death for our salvation is our most profound witness to the way of humility.  

When we react with retaliation, verbal or physical, to win the upper hand, we have lost our way as Christians.  This need to be in control over others has been with us since Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden.  A lack of humility separates us from the love of God, and the way of Christ.  Consequences abound.  

We are witnessing a world of upheaval these days that originates with a practice of inequality  against people of color.  The fuse has burned long and deep, causing generations of pain for our black brothers and sisters, a form of enforced humility pressed upon them.  We, who are privileged white, have mistakenly bought into the message of “we are better, smarter, etc.” and have taken this sense of entitlement to heart.  Some have only just begun to examine the ways of speaking, interacting and relating to the black community individually and moreover as a whole that reflect Christ.

We have allowed the “way we were taught or brought up” to be our shield against a more vital mounting pressure of a spiritual nature.  This call of Christ to show humility and repentance must now overshadow our former “comfortable” ways of speaking, our communal ways of accompanying the disenfranchised, only seeing ourselves as beneficent givers.  We must accept that generations of black men, women and children have suffered under the heavy hand of oppression in education, job opportunities, healthcare, and even the freedom to vote.    

As followers of the first Way-Maker of life and salvation, we can no longer excuse our lack of awareness, turn a cold cheek to the ways we may be propitiating a practice that diminishes black people, for that matter, anyone. If God can humbly take our form, becoming both Human and Divine, how can we not humbly take on the same form of love and mercy that has been given to us?

A Prayer for our Spirit.

Lord, give us the courage to examine our hearts.  We can not change the world without You. We desire to please You, so change us Lord.  We trust you with our all.  So, Lord, bring to light the hurtful and harmful ways that we have, without thought, or with intent, diminished our brothers and sisters of color.  

Help us to repent of our actions. We humbly invite Your Holy Spirit into this vulnerable moment of our soul.  As we confess, we humbly pray that you would release us from the shame of our own actions, planting within us a new conviction and a fresh insight into the adjustments we need to make in our thoughts, words and actions. 

We worship You, Lord Jesus, and give thanks for the grace you continue to bestow on us.  We have not earned your love, you have given it freely.  May we embrace Your love and give freely to the world, unencumbered by our past, emboldened by You for our future.  May we be your love and light for Your Glory.


Pastor Lisa 

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2: 5-8

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

“Humbly We Adore Thee”. May the simplicity of the song bring you near to God.
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I am not sure that gratefulness is a virtue, but if it isn’t, it should be.  Gratefulness changes everything of the heart from bitter, angry, power-hungry, self-centeredness to sweet, forgiving, humble, loving ways.

I can wax poetic about gratefulness and what it offers when we live that standard, but what we need is to BE grateful.  Grateful in ways that develop out of awareness of what is good, resilient, hopeful and promising for us and for our world. 

Gratefulness seems to be in short supply these days.  And if something comes along to spark goodness that inspires us to be grateful for anything, you can expect somebody, somewhere to make every effort to tear it down.  I read a story about Rahul Dubey, in D.C., who opened his home to 70 marching protestors as the curfew hit and people could not get home.  People were asking to sit on his steps, get out of the way of advancing police, avoid being pepper sprayed or arrested. Through the night, he entertained and gave shelter to a host of strangers.  It was inspiring.  It made me proud and very grateful that someone could overcome the obstacles of personal space and safety to offer shelter.  Sure it was dangerous, absolutely there was risk of Covid virus. But I was pressed into a deeper awareness of how much that selfless act changed me, and I am sure those who gratefully accepted his hospitality.  And don’t you know it – yesterday a journalist wrote an expose on the host, saying that he had ulterior motives, that he worked a field that would benefit from his hospitality, and that he had only opened up his home for selfish reasons.  NAH! I don’t accept that.  

I don’t know if Rahul is Christian.  Virtues can be lived and exhibited without having the source of the Holy Spirit.  However, I can say that having the source of God inspired and Spirit strengthened resolve to live in ways that change me for good, that offer hope and promise, is a sacred and holy unearned gift.  Inspired out of God’s goodness to us, gratefulness seems to be a summation of the attitude that we can develop by telling the story of Jesus Christ.  Here is the a big picture story that will provide heart and soul gratefulness.  I am grateful to God for loving us so much that God sent God’s self to humanity to resolve the dilemma of a broken world.  I am grateful for the obedience of quiet, unknown vessels of God, like Mary and Joseph. They, at great risk, obediently accepted responsibility to receive Jesus, the gift of hope for the world.  They nurtured  prepared him for his call to live the Gospel of Love with selfless abandon.  I am grateful that while Jesus lived over two thousand years ago, in a tiny spot on a huge planet, despite power, evil, wars, temptations and human failures, that the Gospel is still the greatest story ever told.  I am grateful for Jesus, divine and human, who took on our sins to reconcile us to God.  I am so profoundly grateful that in Christ, I can be forgiven and come to God for all that I need, confident in God’s mercy.  

The immensity of the love of God is a source of gratefulness.  Like parched land without rain for days on end, showers of love renew us as we read and remember God’s character.  New life springs out of our awareness.  Grateful.

The small ways of gratefulness must be cultivated.   It is a practice.  We are called by our faith to build up not tear down ourselves and others.  Gratefulness seems to me, to be a gateway to a holy perspective. With gratefulness we are able to move beyond our “sometime nature” of negative, self-absorbing complaints.  Gratefulness sets us apart from society, which appears to breed and thrive on suspicion about every action, everyone, everything.

Gratefulness allows us to see the good in God, the good in ourselves, our community, our leaders, our nation and our world.

May we live gratefully, in ways that witness to Jesus Christ’s story, our hope and the hope of the world.  May we cultivate the life-giving, daily practice of naming what we are grateful for, each morning and every night.  To God be the glory, in whom all things are found!

I am grateful for you, for your love of God!  Pastor Lisa 

“Hymn of Grateful Praise”.  Best enjoyed outside in the cool morning, with the birds accompanying this lovely rendition.
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In the next days, I will be spending some time in exploring virtue’s that we hold valuable as a reflection of our Christian life.  I did a bit more reading, and was reminded that the Catholic Church is a proponent of the seven virtues.  The Stoics and early church recognized the meaning of virtues, using them as either a moral or Christian character that can be developed.  Christians believe that virtues are developed by obedience and reliance on the Holy Spirit to refine our nature towards holiness of life and heart.  In a very short explanation, therein is why we are engaged in seeking a virtuous life.

As we recognize the need for improvement, the Holy Spirit will bring certain experiences to light revealing our need to grow in Christian life and actions.  So we begin to be conscious of the impatience in ourselves.  And all of a sudden we find that we have many occasions of impatience! One after another. It’s like when you get a red car, thinking how you never see many red cars on the road.  The minute you drive off the lot, you begin to see red cars. Everywhere. All the time.

I remember when our girls were young, I was at home with them, working and enjoying being able to have so much time with them.  However, being together was also demanding.  My patience wore thin.  I knew I could do better, so I began to pray to the Lord that I would have more patience with our children.  And it felt like my patience got worse.  I struggled, prayed more, and still found myself impatient with whatever came my way.  Finally, I realized.  My patience was being refined by my prayer.  The only way to gain patience is to have it tried and found strong in the Lord’s leading.  So what I asked for was being given so I could get better with my shortcomings.  It was a long time before I prayed for patience again!  But I do still pray for patience.

The Holy Spirit has prompted me to “refine” my patience these days.  Like the red car, when I need to refine my patience, I notice a glut of impatience.  With myself, with others, with circumstances, with – hey – you know we can be impatient over anything! Letting impatience take root in us opens the way for unholy actions – road rage, yelling or demeaning others for their lack of doing what you want as fast as you want them to,  holding the impatience until it simmers to a boil, creating an opening for many ways we hurt others and ourselves in the process.  Surely, patience is a holy work.

It is easier to look to others rather than ourselves, but Jesus had something to say about that.  In Matthew 7: 4-6 Jesus says “Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”  Jesus is reminding us that there are those things within us that demand addressing before we begin to blame others or excuse our actions because of what someone else has said or done.  

Being patient requires that we take stock of our own thoughts, judgements, actions, words before we bring them to light.  Learning to trust that God already knows us, our thoughts and desires, and still wants a relationship with us.  In that trust, we allow the Holy Spirit to reprimand us for things that are not of God, not redemptive in nature, not revealing love.  In short, not Christlike.  So we face our impatience and the outcomes it creates, repent and ask God to form us into more gracious, patient people.  For the love of God!

Loving God means letting go of the ways that separate us from the presence of God.  Impatience builds walls with others, most especially God.  If that virtue is part of our growing edge then we have an open invitation to grow in patience.  We are being taught with by the Master of patience.  Just think how patient God is with us.

I love you, am praying for you.  Pastor Lisa

“Patience, People”    While this is an Advent refrain, aren’t we always waiting on the Lord?  May the refrain inhabit our day, inspiring us to patience.
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