Vine-Sign

Dear Saints,

If you have taken exit 44 on Route 287 (north bound) anytime in the last 6 weeks, I wonder if you have seen anything unusual or ‘out of place’.  What I’m referring to is the vine growing on the guard rail on the left-hand side of the off ramp.

Initially I thought it might be a zucchini vine and considered harvesting a few of the blossoms (a delicacy that chefs pay large sums for) Then I realized it would be both a safety issue and a health issue in harvesting a few of them, given their location.

I’ve since come to believe that the vine is indeed not a zucchini, given that it is fall, it is still blooming, and the blossoms are actually too large to be zucchini. Yes Charlie Brown, it’s a pumpkin! Each day that I come to church I look forward to seeing its’ progress and keep marveling at its’ tenacity to grow, in the midst of this very unlikely and unfavorable environment. The vine is deep green, healthy and the blossoms are gorgeous, big, orange flowers.

This pumpkin vine is a sign that reminds us that God begins new life and supports growth even against all odds. At a time of year when we are slowly letting go of our grip on summer, trying to ‘keep it all together’ in the spin of a new school year, contending with deeply distressing political headlines, destructive storms, and worried for our children’s lives and choices, this pumpkin vine reminds us: God will find a way where there seems to be none. The Spirit blows new seeds of opportunity where we least expect it and “Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. Apart from him, we can do nothing. (John 15)

May you be inspired to take exit 44 to see this “vine-sign”.  May you trust that God has planted many seeds in you, even if you are unaware of them. And may you stop and take notice of even the smallest of gifts God has blessed you with and find a way to plant the seeds of the gospel.

Planting with you in Christ,

Jen

Watching for Rainbows

Dear Saints,

In the wake of this week’s media outbreaks of racial and personal attacks I am feeling just plain disgusted. I hope I am not alone. While I believe everyone has a right to their opinion, we seem to have lost not only a sense of human decency, we have also clearly lost our way. Sadly, this is not the only week I am deeply disheartened by the barbs, mudslinging and despicable behavior this week felt like a tipping point.

Words are no longer a vehicle to communicate and build up community but a way to wield power over others that I’m sure breaks God’s heart. If it weren’t for the rainbow covenant established by God after the flood, that wiped all but one family, I fear we’d be done for, again. BUT, since God set up the rainbow as God’s reminder to protect us and continue to be our God, then we have a responsibility not to add to the misery, strife, complaining, or giving any of it, anymore ‘airtime’ than is already present.

Winston Churchill said “when you’re going through hell, keep going”. Famous theologian Karl Barth said, “The only way out, is through”. God is not only waiting on the other side of eternity, God is also with us in this world and the mess we’re in. So…what’s our invitation? being part of the misery or sharing the hope in God’s rainbow that the world so desperately needs?

Watching for rainbows with you,

Rev Jen

Loving And Forgiving

Dear Saints,

Call me crazy but I can’t wait for Lent this year. I’ve been pondering why. There are a few reasons.

First, we have so many new, interesting and creative ways to experience Lent together. The Lenten devotional is back for a 2nd year with so many beautiful daily offerings from so many of you. We also have a new year of “Lenten Wednesdays” with 5 new and creative evening sessions including some outside pro’s who are sharing their gifts with us. And then there’s the theme: Love AND Forgiveness; The beauty of Ash Wednesday being on Valentine’s Day lent itself to a “no-brainer” theme. We’ll also have Lenten witnesses each week in worship as well as continuing our plans to parallel of weekly scriptures and sermon themes with the Sunday School Curriculum.

But on a personal note I think there’s something even deeper for me. The re-frame of Lent from a time to potentially dark, dry and penitential experience to a journey of seeking opportunities to deepen our Love AND forgiveness of self and other is something we can all sink our teeth into. There is a wide opening at the shallow end of the pool for those who have never had an intentional Lenten journey. Or switching metaphors, we are all able to come to the edges of the shore-line together and venture in as slowly or as deeply as we want. We can more readily share and even laugh at our failed attempts to be patient or kind to ourselves and one another. We can listen to others who may inspire us to confess the less-than-perfect parts of ourselves. We can read other’s personal devotions and feel relief in the shared struggle of shame, regret and fear.

Yes, that’s it…it’s the shared experience of Lent this year that’s got me excited. As the old hymn says ”Jesus walked this lonesome valley” Thank God WE don’t have to walk it by ourselves.

Loving AND forgiving with you,
Jen

19 Things To Give Up for Lent That Are Not Chocolate

We are embarking on a wonderful season in the church, and one thing many do for lent is give something up to bring us closer to God.  We’d like to encourage you to do something different than give up food, and try fasting as an act of love by picking out one or more of the following, and then join us on Wednesday, March 7 at 7:00 p.m. to discuss your experience.  Fast from (in bold):

Fear: “God is on my side. In God I am more than a conqueror.”

The need to please everyone: “I can’t please everyone anyway. God is the  only one I need to strive to please.”

Envy: “I am blessed. My value is not found in my possessions, but in my relationship with my God.”

Impatience: “God’s timing is the perfect timing”.

Sense of entitlement: “The world does not owe me anything. I seek to live in humility and grace”.

Bitterness and Resentment: “The only person I am hurting by holding onto these, is myself”.

Blame“ I will take responsibility for my actions.”

Gossip and Negativity: “I will treat everyone with the highest positive regard.”  

Comparison: I have my own unique contribution to make and there is no one else like me”.

Fear of failure: “I won’t succeed without experiencing failure. will seek to fall forward.”

A spirit of poverty:  “God gives us abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine” (Eph 2)

Feelings of unworthiness: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made by my Creator.” (Ps 139)

Doubt:  “God’s future for me is beyond anything I could imagine; brighter than I could ever realize.”

Self-pity: “God comforts me in my sorrow so that I can comfort others”.

Retirement:  “As long as I am still breathing, I am here for a purpose; to influence others for Christ.”

Excuses“If you need an excuse, any excuse will do.”

Lack of counsel: “Wise decisions are rarely made in a vacuum.”

Pride: Blessed are the are the pure in heart, for they will see God”. (Matt 5:8)

Worry: “I know the plans I have for you, for peace, not disaster to give you a future with hope.” (Jer 29:11)