Year of Gratitude: July

The month got away from me, particularly because I was on vacation from July 2-13. Yes, I could have blogged, but I didn’t. I am grateful for the “vacation/sabbath” with my husband and then having time with children and grandchildren.

July’s focus for our year of gratitude is:

July 2019

Service Personnel: This month begins with a celebration of the United States. It is a good month to be thankful for all those “service” people who are part of our lives. That would include military personnel, police officers, fire fighters, government officials and those we often overlook: postal carriers, trash collectors and others in “service” industries. This month we will give thanks for those who serve.

Service people are all around us and often unseen and unappreciated. Those who service in military or those who serve overnight as EMT’s, fire fighters and police officers work diligently to provide security and safety. In the next couple of weeks I will focus on other service workers, but this week I do want to ponder what I experience because of the people who offer themselves in this line of duty.

This was particularly brought home to me as I read my friend Jeanne Wood’s post about being a 9/11 survivor and hero. She didn’t use the word hero, but that is what I would call her. I have known Jeanne online since 1999 and had an opportunity to meet her in person as well as continue to be friends over all these years. If you are on Facebook, you can see her post on my page. 

Sometimes it is easy to point out all of the flaws for those who serve. Yes, we hold them to a higher standard (as we do preachers, teachers and others) and that is not a bad thing. There are flaws in every system and sometimes people make terrible mistakes. Day in and day out, however, these people who serve do so because they feel called to do something that matters to others.

At Vacation Bible School this week we have been been focusing on “Going Beyond With….Faith….Boldness….Kindness.” We have had some off duty Wichita Police Officers assisting us in the evenings. The last two nights we have had Officer Shannon Meyer. The children have adored her and I have enjoyed getting better acquainted.

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I am grateful for her choice to serve the city of Wichita and serve us downtown. Todays theme for VBS is “Going Beyond with Gratitude!” I am grateful on many levels for the Wichita Police Department, our Wichita HOT team, our Firefighters and EMT’s and all who serve and put their lives on the line day in and day out.

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My challenge for us this week to write a thank you note to someone you know, or a note of appreciation to a group of service personnel. Or stop by your local police or fire department and take them a plate of cookies or a pan of brownies. Thank them for serving.

 

 

 

 

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Draw the Circle Wide: Ripples of Hospitality

Today was the final Sunday of our sermon series “Draw the Circle Wide.” Pastor Rebecca preached the last two Sundays as I have been on vacation. It was good to be in worship today and bless and commission our VBS volunteers and students and to assist Pastor Rebecca.

This sermon series has been a blessing to my soul both as a preacher and as someone who listened to others preach. In a time that is difficult and the circle seems to be getting smaller it is good to be challenged that our faith requires something different. Our faith is one that asks that we look past a persons skin color, ethnic background, country of origin or any number of ways we try and keep people out.

The parable of the Good Samaritan always challenges our perception of neighbor, of who is acceptable to receive mercy, grace and love. Pastor Rebecca did a wonderful job of drawing in the current crisis at our southern border as an example of how persons are being vilified rather than being seen as neighbor.

To experience the whole service or just the sermon click on this link.

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Draw the Circle Wide: Ripples of New Beginnings

We have had a very full day at church! This weekend it started with a “bit” of water in our basement under the sanctuary. We had already planned a church wide Sunday school and mission lunch in Meredith Hall (underneath the sanctuary.) Fortunately it was found yesterday or cleanup and a fixing of the pumps could happen before today.

Today’s scripture is a difficult one because in the 21st century it is hard to figure out how best to deal with “demon possession.” The scientific and medical understanding today is far beyond what was understood 2000 years ago. Yet, I tend to be intrigued by how God in Jesus can be encountered in this stories which were recorded so long ago. The story of “Legion” paired with the scripture reading from Galatians is a powerful reminder that Christ draws a wide circle and a greater circle then we can imagine.

The General Board of Global Ministry (GBGM) along with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) called for today to be a day of solidarity for suffering children. You can find their full statement here. We included the prayer woven into the pastoral prayer this morning.

Today’s service included two beautiful musical numbers on call and a wonderful children’s time by Pastor Rebecca. You can find the whole service or just the sermon here.

I am continually challenged in my own life in how I can Draw the Circle Wide and be part of God’s reign in Christ.

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Year of Gratitude, June: Week 4

When it comes to “sabbath” how many ways you can talk about it or practice it? In scripture it says, “Observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.” (Deuteronomy 5) Sabbath wasn’t supposed to be a problem or burder, it was to be a joy!

Many people can still remember what it was like when everything was closed on Sundays (the Christian sabbath.) Usually the day was uncomfortable, kids were to stay quiet or play quietly. This was a far cry for the “gift” of Sabbath originally intended.

In antiquity, Judiasm had a holiday or vacation EVERY WEEK! Nobody else did that! Other traditions had rest days, but not nearly as often. The sabbath was to acknowledge God and God’s goodness and mercy. Each week, time was given to share worship, love and joy.

Now even though most people have “days off” they are often spent working, checking e-mail and returning text messages. Time off sounds lovely but kind of crazy.

I think we need not just a “sabbath” one day a week, but sabbath time every day. Moments of peace, of quiet when we are not driven by blinking cursers, or text messages or incoming phone calls or e-mails. Time when we push back from our desks, from the gardens, from the work in front of us and pause and remember that God is our God. That life is more than work and we are  blessed with every moment we are given.

So for our gratitude challenge this week, I want you in the next seven days to take a sabbath break every day. Perhaps it is time to take short walk, or sit outside with glass of iced tea, or getting in quiet place and being in the presence of God. I want you to write a thank you note to someone with whom you enjoy spending time, over a meal, exercising, visiting or enjoying a cup of coffee. Those moments alone and with people who matter to us, are bits of sabbath we are given every day. Then spend some time thanking God for time, for Sabbath.

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Draw the Circle Wide: Ripples of Grace

It was a wild ride of a morning weather wise in south central Kansas! I don’t sleep well on Saturday night (occupational hazard for me) and so I am usually up and going by 4:00 a.m. or a little earlier. We had had storms, but sometime around 4:20 the tornado sirens went off.

As a typical Kansan I don’t tend to get over anxious…but that early in the morning I pay attention. I haven’t heard the sirens in our area for an actual weather event in a long time. As I was moving to go get Andrew, I heard his feet hit the floor and also then noticed the siren only sounded once!

I went to the facebook feed for KAKE TV to hear the sirens were a mistake. However within a few minutes the sirens went off (not in my area) but south of Wichita. A lot of storm damage before the sun came up and in my neighborhood up the street a transformer blew and many of our neighbors had been without power.

What a way to begin a Sunday. Other than the weather excitement it was a good day to gather and to continue our sermon series “Draw the Circle Wide.” Today’s scripture was from Luke and focused on the woman anointing Jesus at Simon the Pharisee’s home. When Simon is asked….do you see this woman?  I came to the conclusion that he didn’t…or that he only saw what he wanted to see, the labels that had been placed on her.

And me? I am not so different from Simon. I can become judgy pretty fast and making assumptions about folk. I am sure that draws the circle tighter not wider. Fortunately, the ripples of grace that come from faith in Christ is there for us all.

The music today in worship was outstanding. You can find the whole worship service or just the sermon here.

I committing my self this week to pay attention to how I “see” people, really see them. It is my hope that by doing so, I can be part of God’s work to “Draw the Circle Wide.”

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Year of Gratitude; June: Week 3

June’s focus for our year of gratitude is Sabbath. Last week I noted I am not always good at taking time off and giving myself a break. I did so last week, but clearing my calendar so I could have more than one day off (after going a couple of weeks without one.)

This week I am on a sermon retreat. I usually try to schedule one each year, but often they get interrupted by funerals and other things. I get some sermon work done, but it never feels like enough.

This week I chose to be part of the Great Plains UMC offerings of a retreat called “A Time Apart.” Pastor Rebecca is offered this as part of the Transition into Ministry program and I decided to tag along. Beginning Sunday evening, it ends this this afternoon.

What a gift this has been! The retreat is being held at The Spiritual Life Center in Bel Aire, north of Wichita. I could have slept at home and driven in and out, but chose to stay. A much better choice as I was up early and walked and walked in the evening and had plenty of quiet and reflective time. At home I have a tendency to be driven by the many things left undone. The space is beautiful. This  morning I saw the moon reflected on the water, one of the many times this small body of water was as smooth as glass:

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I am not sure the moon in the water is all that evident in my picture but it was beautiful The water’s edge is teaming with life: baby turtles, little sun fish and big carp and catfish often nibbling on the moss. Some crawdads and water snakes. Geese honking and swimming, small and large blue heron, standing tall and paying attention to the water.

This retreat, respite from the normal daily tasks of work have been good for my soul. This time has allowed some creativity and energy to be part my long range sermon planning. The time is work, but at different pace, in a seperate place and surrounded by prayer and grace. The chapel where we held Morning and Evening Prayer has amazing accoustics. Perhaps you can imagine what it sounds like when several preachers sing! One of my favorites this week, was a personal favorite, It is Well With My Soul.” 

So today I plan to write a thank you note to the Spiritual Life Center for providing such a beautiful retreat setting. I will say thank you to the retreat leader. I have found myself profoundly grateful the last few days for this gift of time and space.

How do you find time and space for retreat from your normal everyday activities? Where do you find rest for your soul? Is it well with your soul? I pray you find Sabbath this week, where you may encounter the God of grace and love.

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Draw the Circle Wide: Ripples of Faith

Today is a day filled with the secular and sacred. It’s Father’s Day in the United States and in the Western Church it is Trinity Sunday. Neither of which I dealt with in my sermon today.

I did offer a Happy Father’s Day to all the Fathers, Grandfathers, Uncles and men who have mentored. I was a fatherless child for a while and I am so grateful to those teachers and preaches and youth group leaders, my grandfather and my stepfather who mentored and supported me over the years. I do not underestimate the gift they gave with their time and love.

Trinity Sunday usually sneaks up on me as it is one of those “theological” Sundays which take a lot to unpack. One of my favorite videos is about St. Patrick and all the “heretical” understandings of the Trinity. You can find this silly and yet provoking theological education here.

You will find none of that in my sermon today. The service continued the sermon series “Draw the Circle Wide.” Today we have Jesus healing a centurion’s slave on his word alone. Jesus is amazed by the faith of this outsider who believed Jesus had the authority and power to heal on a word. You can find the whole service or the sermon only here.

 

 

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