Friday, June 27, 2008

Katie Grace

Welcome to the world Katie Grace! Your arrival has been much anticipated!

Katie arrived on Wednesday, June 25th! As this was her actual due-date, she is quite punctual. I was her very first visitor. Gary got to see her later in the day. I think she is absolutely gorgeous. Katie is also a very generous young lady. She bought me my own frame that says, "I love my Auntie."

Katie has her own bog. You can find it here. She has been quite busy in these first few days in the world, but I am sure she will be updating it soon.

We love you Katie!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Furry Friend

The Animal Blessing was truly a blessing. We had several dogs and one cat in attendance. (No reptiles or tarantulas!) Everyone behaved themselves and the rain held off until just after the service ended. It's hard to believe that this was out 4th annual Animal Blessing. One man commented that it was just in time, since his pooches' blessing had almost expired. I think I like the animal blessing service because it is a joyous occasion, and always a little bit unpredictable!

One parishioner liked it so much she even wrote about it on her blog. Check it out!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Animal Blessings

This Sunday is our annual Service of Animal Blessing. It is such a treat to gather with friends (new and old ~ two and four-footed) to celebrate the creatures God shares with us. As any one who reads this blog can tell you, I think animals are one of the most wonderful blessings in life. My boys give me great joy.... and we are even thinking of adding another four-footed friend to our family.

I didn't expect to run across an example of the joy animals can bring while I was reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. Yet, there is was. Corrie, in solitary confinement in prison for helping the Jews in Holland during World War II, writes:

And I was not alone much longer: into my solitary cell came a small busy back ant. I had almost put my foot where he was one morning as I carried my bucket to the door when I realized the honor being done to me. I crouched down and admired the marvelous design of legs and body. I apologized for my size and promised I would not so thoughtlessly stride about again.

After a while he disappeared through a crack in the floor. But when my evening peice of bread appeared on the door shelf, I scattered some crumbs and to my joy he popped out almost at once. He picked up a heroic piece, struggled down the hole with it and came back for more. It was the beginning of a relationship.

This just reminds me how God can bring hope and comfort in the most unexpected ways.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Taking up Space

For the first time in a long time I missed the majority of Annual Conference. Personal reasons (unbloggables, as one blogger calls them) caused me to arrive late and leave early. Yet, I was blessed by the time I spent did spend there. I was able to attend some sessions, process with the clergy at the Ordination Service, and catch up with some folks over meals. For me (and I'm sure for many others) Annual Conference is a homecoming of sorts.

And speaking of the Visible Community..... as I hid out on the balcony with some friends during a session, I looked around at those seated on the Conference floor and thought ~ this is indeed the Visible Community taking up space on earth. We are not perfect. We make mistakes. We get bogged down in all sorts of ways. But we are the Body of Christ claiming our space in the world. Both a comfort and a challenge ~ Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Visible Community

A few posts back I was celebrating a friend's baby shower when I wrote these words, "What do people do ~ where do people find connections ~ when they are not part of a community of faith?" These words came back to me when I was finishing up Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship a couple days ago. In one of the final chapters Bonhoeffer writes about the "Visible Community." I love the first line, "The Body of Christ takes up space on earth."

In the next chapter entitled "The Saints" Bonhoeffer discusses the idea of sanctification as a personal matter as opposed to the work of the community. "If we regard sanctification as a purely personal matter which has nothing whatever to do with public life and the visible line of demarcation between the Church and the world, we shall land ourselves inevitably into a confusion between the pious wishes of the religious flesh and the sanctification of the Church which is accomplished in the death of Christ through the seal of God."

I truly believe in my heart (and not just because I am a pastor) that one cannot be a Christian without being part of a community of faith. Christ's body does take up space on earth. It is where we work out our salvation, share the sacraments, receive and give the means of grace, and practice living more and more like Christ. It is also where we are sent from to go into the world as Christ's hands and feet (and ears and hearts and mouths). It is in community that we are reminded we are sinners, celebrate our forgiveness and share with each other the signs of Christ's peace. None of these things can be done in isolation.

That is not to say that it is easy to be in community. It may be a lot more pleasant to sit at home in the air-conditioning watching a worship service on TV and not have to deal with the lady behind you singing off key or the kid in front of you who won't settle down or being asked to serve (again) on the Administrative Board. But isn't that what it is all about? An imperfect community going on to perfection. The community ~ visible ~ taking up space ~ right before our eyes.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Practice What I Preach

Here is a paragraph of one of my recent sermons based on the Matthew 6:24-34 passage:

I guess it really is obvious, isn’t it? Jesus knew exactly what he was talking about… he always does. There are still going to be natural disasters and unmet bills and new gray hairs when we look in the mirror. We are going to have fears and uncertainties and anxiety. But we don’t have to allow worry to zap our energy or stunt our growth or rob our creativity and passion. We don’t have to take our worry more seriously than we take the promise of the Gospel. On his deathbed John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, said these words which have given me comfort in tough times: “Best of all is, God is with us.”
Best of all is, God is with us. When it comes right down to it, that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?

Now the trick is to practice what I preach.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Summer Summer Summer

Hot Cup Lutheran got tagged with this five part meme. It looked like fun, so I decided to do it too!

1.) What first tells you that Summer is here?

Outdoor Worship in the Sonrise Garden... We hold our Contemporary Worship outside all summer (weather permitting) and our first Sunday outside is this week!

2.) Name five of your favorite distinctively Summer habits or customs.

~ Eating dinner on the patio
~ Wearing Sandals (particularly my new red ones)
~ Peach Festival!
~ Listening to the Cicada songs float down from the trees
~ Hiking with Gary

3.) What is your favorite smell of Summer?

Grass freshly mowed

4.) What is your favorite taste of Summer?

Fresh corn-on-the-cob

5.) Favorite Summer memory?

Campmeeting with Becky... going to Range Pond.... staying up all night talking in the loft of her camp... being best summer friends.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Old Friends

In my last post, when I wrote that we visited 'old friends,' I did not intended to imply that the friends themselves were old.... only that the relationships have been longterm! I have know Dave since high school, but Julie I have known a bit longer. We met during Story Hour at the library when we were two years old. We went to elementary school together, kept in touch during high school and college, and now see each other when we can ~ living three states apart and having busy lives.

Especially for me, as an only child, it is great to have such a long time friend. (Julie, as it happens, is an only child, too.) In Julie's little daughter I see Jules herself when we were five and playing with dolls, making up stories and using our imaginations. My mother said she always liked to have Julie come over because we would go off and play for hours by ourselves and she would never have to entertain us!

All those years ago I bet we never could have guessed how our lives would turn out. Me as a pastor living in Connecticut... She with her career and family (including three beautiful children). Yet we can still reminisce about Barbie Dream Houses, our 'Ghost Detection Service,' elementary school music lessons, and 8th grade "prom." Here's to old ~ ahem ~ longterm friends!