This morning Rosalie was telling me about a little tomato plant that surprisingly has sprung up in another potted plant. She didn’t plant it there, didn’t mean for it to take root there, but nonetheless it somehow found it’s way into the soil and is growing and apparently thriving.
As she described this little event I thought about how many “stray seeds” of faith have landed in the soil of my heart over the years… the random things people have said, the zillion sermons (!) I’ve heard, or prepared, the bible studies and classes I’ve attended, the worship music I’ve sung along with, the thousands of conversations with friends that all have contributed to my faith. In the “soil” of my life countless seeds of faith intentionally, or otherwise have drifted into my heart, taken root and become part of my personal “garden of faith.”
It struck me that as much as we all receive seeds of faith, we also are seed scatterers ourselves. All of us scatter “seeds of faith” into the lives of others… and at times we’ve probably scattered “seeds of weeds.” Seeds that carry the danger of choking the life of faith out of others. It hit me that we really need to pay attention to what sorts of “seeds” we’re scattering about.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” Jesus
A good friend of mine called last week to tell me she’d landed the job of her dreams after a year without work. We had a great phone call celebration! After our initial excitement calmed down she went on to reflect on those months without work. She told me that she’s actually grateful for what was one of the most stressful times of her life because it brought her closer to Christ. Those months of worry about bills, seeing her savings account drained, living without health insurance and wondering if an almost 60-year-old woman would ever be hired turned out to be months of deeply learning that Christ’s peace was greater than all her worries. Her biggest “discovery” was the Truth that Jesus has already given us his peace…that he said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
In Sunday’s paper I was reading an article about how short walks, even as short as two minutes can add up to big health benefits. Really? I had always thought that in order to be healthy you had to commit to long, sustained, sweat producing exercise on a daily basis….something that post accident seems impossible for me to achieve and has left me rather discouraged. But, it turns out that good health is actually within my reach! The writer of Sunday’s article, Gretchen Reynolds (Peninsula Daily News, Sunday, April 22) points to a study that found that “those who moved more often, especially if they managed about an hour in total of physical activity over the course of the day, cut their mortality risk in half. And it did not matter how they accumulated those minutes.” I had thought the only exercise that counts is one full hour of heart pounding exertion, but instead the truth is: “the little things that people do every day, like walking from their cars to the office or climbing a flight of stairs, can and do add up and affect the risk for disease and death.” This is all super good news to me! It inspired me so much I immediately got up and went for a walk! This I can do! Yippee!
The Heart of the Matter
Recently I listened to a podcast of a Fuller Seminary professor talking about her research on the question of “why people go to church.” It’s a good question that maybe you too have wondered about. I know I have and over the years in my personal interactions with folks it seems that people have many reasons for coming such as: parents wanting their children to learn about God and be around good role models. People come to make friends, keep friends or just for some social interac-tion during the coffee hour. When I headed up a singles ministry I learned some people go to church in the hopes of finding a date or a mate. Some people come out of curiosity, or habit, or a desire to learn about the bible. Some come because its the only place they can sing with a group, or they just enjoy the music (that espe-cially might be true here with so many gifted musicians!). Some come because they think it’s just what “good” people do, or because it’s where their family has “always” come. All of those reasons and more are what draw people through the doors of churches every week.
What a pleasure to be back! As I sit here at my computer in my office with music playing, Rita, Betty and I having hugged and caught up, with Ginger’s snug asleep in her little doggie bed my heart is full of excited anticipation to see all of you!! My devotions this morning were appropriately focused on Joy as that’s exactly what I’m feeling stepping back into life together with you. There is much to be joyful about in returning: being well enough to work, seeing our snow-capped mountains, and all my dear Port Angeles friends! All of that is soooo good, and brings such joy! However in the past weeks I’ve been strongly reminded that it’s not just good views, being with good people and a sweet dog that guarantee true joy….as Jesus followers we’re promised Real Deal Joy no matter what comes our way…even in dark, uncertain times, even when you fear your life is threatened as I felt as an ambulance sped me to Harborview’s ER.
In my days away from you I was profoundly reminded that as people of faith we have a very unique experience with Joy, one that’s inextricably tied to our rela-tionship with the God we worship. No matter what life hurls our way we are people filled with God’s very Spirit who pours into us God’s very own Joy! The Psalmist writes that Joy fills our hearts just from being in relationship with our Awesome Creator God who faithfully and deeply loves us from conception to the grave. Luke tells us that the Angels shouted from the heavens the Good News of Great Joy for the whole world that Jesus Christ had been born! Paul speaks over and again of the Joy that Christ brings to us, the Joy of our faith in him, the Joy the Holy Spi-rit gives, the Joy of God making us God’s own hands & feet in the world! And, Paul insists that the Joy we have as Christ followers has nothing to do with our circumstances. That in peril, persecution, in bodily brokenness and sickness the Holy Spirit continues to course through our bodies with the resurrection power of God! That there is NOTHING that can separate us from the love and companionship of God through Christ Jesus! Nothing! That is Joyful News!
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
This all too familiar verse is one I am leaning on in faith these days, and learning to appreciate. As I follow my doctors, respiratory and physical therapists advice I am gaining strength and know that my lungs and sternum are in the process of good healing. What a gift the EMT’s , the medical professionals at Har-borview and beyond have been to me. Thanks be to God! But, as I rest and recuperate my mind and heart immediately became heavy with a sense of wanting to be with you all and to fulfill my commitment to you as your pastor. In short, I very quickly began feeling guilty for not being at work! However, that not being possible at the moment I asked God how then can I be a pastor during this time? Can I?
Well, your letters, cards and gifts were the first answer from God I received! You all have offered the most generous and caring reassurance that I need only rest in your prayers for healing and love. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for your kindness and love. You truly have been a direct answer to prayer reminding me that together we all are part of the Body of Christ, and that we are always engaged in a rhythm of giving and receiving….and right now I am totally on the receiving end. I love you and thank God throughout the day for you!
Happy New Year! As we begin 2018 together I want to give you an update on where we are in this interim period between Pastor Ted retiring and your calling a new Pastor. In short: we are exactly where we need to be! So far we have accomplished quite alot! Since I happily joined your ministry here in Port Angeles I’ve kept in close contact with our Presby-tery and you will be pleased to know that our Executive Presbyter, Cory Schlosser-Hall, along with our Committee on Ministry (COM) Co-Chair Amy Delaney, and COM liaison, David Eekhoff, as well as our own Transitional Ministry Team (TMT) who I continue to meet with regularly. We all agree that we are exactly where we need to be in this process.
From the beginning, we planned for this to be about a two year transitional process. There are many changes, both overt and subtle that happen for a congregation after a long term (37 years!) and much loved Pastor retires. Just having a me in the pulpit, in the office, at your hospital bedside, and generally around is a huge change. To hurry the process is a shortcut that in the long run endangers the “success” of the next Pastor.
In light of that we’ve been careful not to hurry, or to be too slow in this transitional time. We are learning together how to welcome change, how to adapt to new ways of doing things, and to new perspectives. This is not simply a time of pressing the pause button until the new Pastor is hired. We’re actually doing very important work as a congregation becoming stronger, more adaptable, and sure of our mission and ministry. Working with such a mature and spiritually dynamic congregation is a pleasure. My hat’s off to you and I look forward to continuing this transitional journey with you!
As we go forward here’s an abbreviated look at what’s ahead in terms of calling a new pastor:
Advent has arrived! We love this lovely time of the year leading up to Christmas! In many ways this is the best season of the year….even with it’s shopping and bak-ing craziness! The decorations, the lights, trees and music fill us with warmth and anticipation for Christmas day to come! We look forward to unwrapping gifts, set-ting our holiday table and to the joy of sharing it all with family and friends. Ad-vent is our entry into it all and we welcome it….it announces that Christmas is coming!
But, as Christians, Advent of course isn’t just an entry into a holly, jolly Christmas Day unwrapping a pile of gifts. For us it’s an entry into gratefully reflecting on Christ’s first coming to earth as a baby; and an opportunity to remember that we are people looking forward to Christ’s second coming! We get so caught up in man-ger scenes complete with shepherds and wise men marveling at the sight of the Christ Child that we forget that we’re also people looking forward to Christ re-turning on a cloud in the sky. In Advent we seize the opportunity to remember that we’re people with great hope because of all Christ has done for us in his first coming, and that we have a firm hope for the future because he has promised that he will come again! We have the joy of remembering that yes! the Light of the world came on a dark night long ago in Nazareth, but that he will absolutely come again into our dark, and chaotic world bringing the complete fullness of the light of his presence to us all!
It’s been said so many times, but it’s true: Jesus is the reason for the season. Let’s not forget that. The real gift we are celebrating is God’s Christmas gift to us: his son, Jesus Christ. He is our true and certain hope, our only source of true peace & joy. He is the one and only Lord of our life in whom we celebrate and put our faith in every day of the year.
Blessings & Peace as we await his return,
As my sister and I drove to and from our family reunion in Louisiana we noticed how very much we depended on our Iphones to direct us. Siri (Apple's intelligent personal assistant) kept us going in the right direction, navigated us around traffic jams and construction, gave us weather reports and any other information we desired along the way. We wondered how in the world our parents managed our yearly Louisiana road trips without Siri. That they had to depend solely on road signs and maps practically put them in league with the first settlers who came out west! Ha!
Seriously though, having Siri serve as our GPS for our trip down south was a blessing. Siri never steered us in the wrong direction, she was always spot on, completely reliable and trustworthy.
Being the diehard church lady that I am, of course I was drawing correlations between the ways we faithfully followed Siri and how much easier our life would be if we followed Christ that way. There were many times on the trip when we turned to Siri to get our bearings in a storm, in the dark, out in the middle of seemingly no-where with miles of desert stretching out to the horizon. Siri's voice broke through the unease, the sometimes sense of lostness reassuring us, orienting us; God is like. Each time I turn towards God his Spirit brings relief, brings peace, and I had opportunity to experience it on this trip.
As I’m recovering from my double foot injury (yikes!) I’ve been reminded of how much a pastor needs a congregation. Before becoming a pastor I don’t know that I thought much about the pastor needing the congregation beyond our being nice to him or her. Now, as a pastor my tendency is to evaluate myself on whether or not I’m meeting the needs of the congregation, on my “performance,” not on whether or not the congregation is meeting my needs.
But, in these days of elevating, icing, and trying to hobble around on two broken feet God’s refreshing in me how very much a pastor needs a congregation. Needs a congregations care, prayers and love. As I’m healing I’m finding God not only healing my feet, but bringing healing to what amounts to a reluctance to receive, and it’s you, this congregation’s love & care that are ministering to me, teaching me a good lesson on receiving in rich abundance.
And, for you I’m immensely grateful. Your notes, cards, messages of care, and warm embraces are all such gifts of love. Thank you! Thank you!
As you help me relax into this lesson of receiving I’m awash with gratitude to be part of the Body of Christ. I’m experiencing the joy of being part of the the Spirit’s life & work in this congregation. The reality of the Spirit of God indwelling each & every one of us; moving us into one anothers lives, binding our hearts together in love & unity is capturing my full attention. The reality that we receive the Spirit and share the Spirit of God with each other is what I’m experiencing with you and it’s truly a beautiful thing!
It’s a beautifully awe-inspiring thing and we all are part of it! We all are both giving & receiving. We receive from God, and from each other. We give to God and to each other. In a world that holds individuality, and independence as the high-est values the Body of Christ values very different things: weakness, vulnerability, dependence and inter-dependence.