Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fighting and screaming?

Many times I have followed the devices of my own heart, and other opportunities to be brave, kind and honest, I have not followed at all.  But the reality of it all is that, all of us, each with our own memories and past, have not given up, and that tells us that despite our weaknesses, despite our foolishness, enough wisdom, enough hope, enough faith has flickered in our lives that our hearts and selves have moved forward.  (from Pastor Randy's Sermon 6/23)

From Pamela:  Once upon a time a long time ago somebody said to me:  "Pamela, you can choose to ignore God's Will for your life, but you can't change it!"  
That is wisdom! 
And time after time I have noticed the difference between running away from God's call and leaning towards it.  How awesome, that God's call applies not only to the big picture of my life, but also to those daily (or even hourly) nudges to either receive something from God or take action in Christ's name.  
Here's another thing:  Accepting God's call to do something that is not necessarily my preference provides an opportunity to be utterly dependent upon God.  And as I am dependent upon God, I find joy, hope, and love that spill outward.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

This Far By Faith

In Pastor Randy's most recent sermon (part of the series, "This Far by Faith") he quoted the following from one of his favorite authors:

 “In unexpected ways and at unexpected places and times people of all sorts, believers and unbelievers alike, make their way to us, looking for something that often they themselves can’t name any more than you can well name it to them.”  But our lives with our people and events continue to shape us.  Perhaps that is why the early church, and apostles like Saint Paul, continued to hold up the significance and impact of a community faith.  All of us here, in a way, are merely passengers on a journey, in a slower way we are sitting here together in this building as passengers on a train.  We are co-riders together with our hopeful destination being a full life, a faith filled life, and a grace filled life.  We are partners together on this journey, and people come in and out all the time, and whether a newcomer, whether we move away to another train, whether our mortal life ends, we are still impacted and affected by each others’ presence.  And often times in life, “the decisions that we think are most important turn out not to matter so much after all, but whether or not you mail the letter, the way you say goodbye or decide not to say it, the evening you toss everything aside and go and watch the sunset, these are apt to be the life changing moments for ourselves and others.”

From Pamela:  As Pastor Randy said, not all lasting moments come in spectacular packages.  I experienced a formational moment long ago when words of one of my adult children reminded me of the importance of paying attention to what is TRULY lasting.  The situation was pretty typical:  
     My husband and I were preparing to paint the living and dining room.  I was eager to try something "creative" with color. I wanted to paint the walls a couple of differing shades of the same color, and have the ceiling be something other than the predictable "white" it had always been.  My husband wanted it all the same (which would, of course, shorten the amount of time needed for the project).  At one point in the conversation (my child was also present,but wasn't saying anything) the voices were getting a little testy. 
     My adult child sat there listening and finally said:  "Can I offer an opinion?" Ah, I thought, now we will have a "tie breaker".  But instead, this is what was said:  "I really don't care what color(s) you choose, but this room will be less enjoyable for me from now on if the main thing I remember about this project is your raised voices."  
     Wow....  that event happened almost a decade ago, and I quite honestly don't remember how the color debate turned out.  But I know the voices immediately lowered and some humor was interjected which changed the tone of the entire project.  I think of that one sentence now when I am discussing plans or projects -- the words spoken and the tone of voice are what will echo long after the observable results take their place in history.  
     Spontaneous words can be life changing!  

Monday, June 10, 2013

 Who was it that said things to you that you continue to quote in your head?  What experiences with people did you have that shaped, changed or molded you along the way?  Part of this series intent is for each of us to remember, relive, and recall those moments, those events, those people that equipped you for your life confidences and direction and your ongoing spiritual formation.
 Who are those people,... chance or obscure encounters?....
        .......The reality is that people enter into our lives all the time, and we never know what act or phrase they may make that will forever shape us no matter how old we are.  Maybe that is the excitement of the new creation of each day, we are forever a work of clay in God’s hands, and God uses the ordinary places, people, and events in our lives to continue to direct and support us.  It could be today that it happens, and rare are the times when we actually know that it is happening in the present – most of the time it is only with hindsight that we realize it.       
          (From Pastor Randy's sermon 6/9/2013)

From Pamela --  I love the statement "we are forever a work of clay in God's hands.  The possibility of being molded or shaped or reshaped every day provides so much hope! 

It is important, I think, to remember that each person is being molded every day.  It is unfaithful to declare "that person can NEVER change", whether it is myself or someone else.  

If God is always up to something new, then part of our job is to recognize and appreciate qualities that are sprouting within that make us "wonder".  

One of my chance encounters was with a man I met at a Lenten Supper when I was "new" in the faith.   He was near me only a few minutes. Our conversation was fleeting.  He asked me "what do you do here at Pearl Road UMC?"  I said:  "I don't know.  I am just starting to wonder about this church stuff and Jesus and all of that."    

He held my hand for a moment.  He looked into my eyes and said:  "Stay close to the fire!"  

I have never forgotten that encounter or his words or his eyes.  But I have no idea who he is or what he does or where he came from.  I never saw him before or since.  Yet it was a formative moment to which I return regularly.  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

We Have Come This Far By Faith

Perhaps it is equally threatening and comforting to us to know that throughout our lives we are forever ending some type of journey only to begin another.  But the reality of things that have occurred in our life and now have changed, does not mean they still don’t shape us.  We are forever turning a page in our own book of life and each page that is turned would be hollow if it were not for the pages before it.  For though buildings,groups, and people have come and gone, if we are blessed to be of good mind, those memories can take us back in a flash.  (From Pastor Randy's sermon 6/2)

From Pamela:  Here is one of my favorite memories about story telling:  

When my kids were little we had a night time ritual where I would begin the story:  Once upon a time there was a girl named Jackie (or a boy named Benjamin).  On a ______ in ______ 
she/he (fill in the blank with something that happened)....  

As the "story" progressed, I would recount some of the details --- my little listeners participated in the story telling, sometimes elaborating, sometimes correcting.  Sometimes I threw in something totally imaginary and they would giggle with delight.  

The memory of these evenings spent with my little ones (who are now in their 30s) takes me to a tender time -- the minutes before bedtime, tucking them in:  Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite.  It was tender time that connected me to the memory of being "tucked in" by my own parents -- it transports me to my childhood bedroom, sleeping with my cat Mittens by my side.

Revisiting our life story can be instructive, healing and (at the least/most) amusing.  Looking at our life from a faith perspective is a meaningful and effective spiritual practice -- and it is not difficult.

Take any event or phase of your life:

Remember the physical details.  What was going on?  What people were involved?  What were you doing?  What were others doing?

Here is the opener for the faith perspective:  What was God doing?  Do you recall anything in the event that offers comfort, or hope, or love or insight?  What do you appreciate most about the memory?  As you look "back" at the memory, do you see something you didn't see before?