A Future With Hope – 4th Annual Lenten Devotional

It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again, but Ash Wednesday is a month from today!

In preparation for Lent, we are launching our 4th annual Lenten Devotional. This is a daily Lenten guide written by members and friends of this faith community and has been not only a wonderful daily companion but a terrific tool for evangelism.

Last year we posted the devotional each day online, on both our website and Facebook pages and also printed over 250 for distribution! I pray you might feel called to again, or for the first time, write a devotion this year.

This year’s theme is ” A Future with Hope” from Jer 29. Since the Lenten theme is Hope we have already selected 12 texts that speak to Hope. We thought it might be interesting to see/read different perspectives on the same texts, so there are 12 texts (repeated 3 times each) along with some more specific ones for Holy week. You can use poetry, a story from your life or from someone else’s, you can offer artwork or photography as long as you speak to the connection to the scripture.

I have attached the texts along with a sample devotional. The word limit is 430. Please keep to that limit  (which includes the date chosen, assigned scripture and the prayer) The deadline for submission is Feb 17th.I hope you will consider being part of this devotional. You never know who might read your words and find HOPE.

Lent 2020

Lent begins on Wednesday, February 26 with Ash Wednesday. Plan to join us as we explore Hope throughout the Lenten Season. We will be announcing services, bible study and more. Stay tuned!

Listening, Noticing and Loving

Dear Saints,

You may or may not have heard that our monthly worship and ministry theme, is “Loving through Deeper Listening”. WAIT! Before you scroll down or away from this missive, don’t worry. I am not expecting that we’ll be working on all sorts of esoteric contemplative practices (unless that’s your favorite method – to listen). But I DO hope that you’ll be open to learning different ways to listen more deeply. This means listening more deeply to scripture, more deeply to God in prayer, in worship and as you go about your day and your life. But we all get busy, especially when we’re under deadlines.

A few weeks ago, I was in my office working on the readings for the Lenten devotional. This is no small undertaking and takes tremendous focus. I was so intent on finishing this project I hadn’t even realized it was getting dark especially because my office faces east. When I got up to get some more water from the library, the pink hue in the eastern sky was stunning.

I ran into Sandy’s office (which faces south) to see the most extraordinary sunset which lit the south and west in a palette of pink, oranges, and purples. It took my breath away. I was all alone in the delicious quiet of the end of the day. There I stood, trying to drink it all in. It just kept getting bigger and brighter and deeper. It quieted my heart, calmed my tension and eased the pressure I had been putting on myself. Only then could I allow God to cut through the noise and speak to me in the way I needed. That can happen to all of us, but it helps to pay attention.

Listening, noticing and loving more deeply with you,

Jen

New Beginnings

Dear Saints,

Happy New Year! I pray this letter finds you all: peaceful, hopeful (as well as rested) after such a rich Advent and Christmas season. I want to thank all of you for every effort brought forth to make this season so rich and meaningful.

HOPE was our worship theme for December. Tied very closely to that theme is “New Beginnings”, our theme for January. 

Historically, a new year invites us to a fresh start, turning over a new leaf, creating new resolutions and dropping bad habits. Yet, in recent years I’ve heard more and more people say that they no longer create New Year’s resolutions because it’s futile. In part they’re probably right. I’m sure gym membership statistics can confirm the high percentage of people who join a gym or a weight loss plan in January and then ultimately stop using the membership by early March, or earlier, especially in the coldest and snowiest months of the year.

I wonder if there isn’t another way. Actually, (spoiler alert), there is another way.

The first Sunday in January this year aligns with Epiphany, when the Three Kings (wise men) go to see the newborn King.  In itself, it’s a treasured story for children and adults alike, but hidden in plain sight is a clue about New Beginnings.

The reason WHY the Three Kings go to see baby Jesus is because of God’s activity precedes their trip. They see (NOTICE) a star, (His star) rising in the East, they DISCERN what this might mean and then they travel. Not the other way around. They don’t call upon their own will to do something new, hoping for a better, different outcome. First there’s a sign, that signifies an event; a new beginning.

Imagine if that’s how we started the new year. Paying attention in our lives for God’s activity inviting us to watch and see God doing a new thing. Isaiah 43 is one of many texts that helps us see and trust God’s activity. “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

The latter part might sound a little harsh: “do you not perceive it?”, except that Isaiah goes on to prophesy that God will “make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Whether literally or figuratively, and we can use both, these are helpful promises.

It means that God is still active in our lives. It means we do not have to muster all the strength, courage and discipline to make important changes by ourselves, because God goes before us.  But it DOES invite us to WATCH, NOTICE and DISCERN what God is doing so that we can have the full benefit of what God has just done in bringing LOVE down to earth.

Watching for NEW BEGINNINGS with you,

Jen

Finding Hope

Dear Saints,

The theme for our Advent worship this month is HOPE. This seems like a logical theme for Advent but the fact of them matter is, Advent can be a very difficult time of year and for many, HOPE is hard to muster. It may be that we are feeling a little blue because of the waning daylight. It may be because of the recent loss of loved one, an illness that just won’t quit or a painful family relationship, the loss of a job, the constant struggle to make ends meet.

Paul tell us in Romans that “hope that is seen is not hope. But if we hope for what is not seen, we wait for it with patience.” (Rom 8: 24-25). Ah yes, Patience. I believe patience, hope and trust are all cousins. It’s hard to have one without the other two.  Paul goes on to say in chapter 8 that the “Spirit will help us in our weakness”. This is excellent news and rather reassuring. When we are struggling to have HOPE, especially in Advent, while being bombarded with all sorts of media painting the ‘perfect Christmas’, we are often afraid to admit some of our hopelessness. We all need reminders of God’s promise and eventual delivery of HOPE most supremely found in the arrival of Jesus, the Christ.  

God’s promises to reign down mercy and grace can only be seen and enjoyed in the waiting and the hoping and the trusting. A few weeks ago, you probably know that Loaves and Fishes was seeking frozen turkeys so that every family could be given one before Thanksgiving. Since over 50 families seek hope of food each week, getting 50 Turkeys was a tall order. Initially the stream of turkeys was steady but then it slowed significantly. A 2nd appeal came. Commitments were made but still not enough turkey…

And then, 6 more turkeys arrived. Then 6 more turkeys. Then another 6 more! Then it started ‘raining’ turkeys!!! Now the challenge was where to store all the overflow. Not only will all families will have a turkey for Thanksgiving but now there’s a strong start for Christmas! God’s reign came from not only your generosity but from people in town who volunteer at Loaves and Fishes or who know about it!

So, whether you’re already seeing HOPE in this crazy-busy and challenging season, or you need reminding of God’s goodness, keep looking and trusting and waiting because God does not disappoint. God’s grace will reign down upon you for the bible (and turkeys) tell us so.

Waiting, watching and HOPING with you,

Jen

November’s Prayer To Go

Psalm 40

Thanksgiving for Deliverance

and Prayer for Help

from Psalms for Praying, Nan C. Merrill

I waited patiently for the Beloved,

who heard my cry and came to me.

Love raised me from the pits of despair,

out of confusion and fear,

and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.

There is a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to the Beloved. 

May many see and rejoice,

may they put their trust in Love.

Blessed are those who make Love their home,

who do not turn to the proud,

to those who follow false idols!

O Beloved, how wondrous are your gifts to us;

Your thoughts are beyond our imagination.

What joy to live in Oneness with You!

Were we to proclaim and tell of Your beauty and blessed grace, who could measure it?

True Gratitude

The monthly theme for worship is November is Gratitude. I’m sure this is unsurprising given that Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Although Merriam-Webster generally sees thankful and gratitude as synonyms, there are some small but significant differences. Thankful, says Merriam-Webster is “conscious of the benefit received” and grateful as “appreciative of benefit received”.

Perhaps I am splitting hairs but I do think there’s a difference between naming the ‘things’ we are thankful for around the dinner table or the ‘suped-up’ version on Thanksgiving Day and the felt and lingering experience of gratitude. Writer Nick Genovese states “True gratitude expresses “thank you” not only from our mouth but also from our hearts.”

Think about a time when you received a compliment, a thoughtful and/or generous gift or an act of care. Likely you responded, “thank you!”. That’s being thankful. But…to sit and ponder the thoughtfulness, the care, the effort and the person or people behind that gesture that’s when the gratitude kicks in.

In that vein, I want to thank you for acknowledging and celebrating pastor’s appreciation month along with gift, card and flowers. They are all still on display in my living room! I am also grateful to be sharing mission and ministry with you; for your humor and your heart, for sharing the worry and the work, for your insight and your imagination and for your faithfulness day in, day out.

As you are probably aware by now, Thanksgiving is very late this year, so we’ll have 28 days to practice not only being thankful for all God has done, is doing and will do. We’ll also have the opportunity each day to sit with, and let the generosity of God’s sustaining love, sink in so that whatever Thanksgiving brings; funky relatives, dry turkey or not-your-moms-apple pie, you can be thankful and deeply grateful that you are loved fully and completely for eternity.

Grateful for God’s love with you,

Jen

Annual Coat Drive

As you begin to clean out your closets in preparation for the fall/winter months, the Board of Deacons is asking you to save your clean, lightly used coats and winter apparel (gloves, scarfs, hats) for our annual coat drive.  These items can be dropped off in the boxes on the bridge, near the library and by Reighart Hall. The items will be distributed to those in need during our annual coat drive on Nov. 23rd. Donation Deadline: Sun. Nov. 17th.