You Might Be A Christian If…You Think There Is A Guy In Your Food

Sunday’s Scripture ~ I Corinthians 11:23-27.

Andrew and I love to eat. We especially love to eat when we travel because eating is a way to truly get to know a people and culture. When given the option, we like to eat “off the beaten path…” and I would not be surprised if some of our eating “off the beaten path” was actually eating “from the beaten path.”

As my father-in-law says, “It is all protein, after all…”

That.it.is.

One night while on our trip to Nepal our hosts cooked us dinner. Kyle decided to make spaghetti with his special ingredient. Being that we were in a country that marked every meal with curry, Andrew and I anticipated some curry-spaghetti mash-up.

Oh how wrong we were.

The noodles arrived on the table. Next to the noodles sat the pot full of deep, dark sauce. I was accustomed to spaghetti sauce being “fire engine” red; this sauce was much more mahogany in color.

We fixed our plates, adding liberal portions of the sauce to our noodles. Andrew and I twirled our noodles around our forks. “Get ready!” Kyle prepared us! “Guess my secret ingredient!”

*chomp…chew…ch…ew…c…hew*

I looked at Andrew. And he looked at me. His eyes started to water. And I started to giggle, mouth full of mahogany-sauce covered noodles.

Y’all…it was cinnamon!

Cinnamon!

Cinnamon spaghetti sauce!

That was definitely a first. (and only!)

We were certainly surprised at that meal. And we ate the portion on our plates much as we had at other occasions of interesting meals. Because our hosts prepared with us in mind. And I believe they prepared their best because they had us in mind.

I believe that when Jesus prepares his Table for us that he prepares his best because he has us in mind. And because he wants the best for us he hopes that we come to the table prepared. He hopes that we come to the table having made confession of our sin and having reconciled with any sister or brother we wronged. He hopes that we come to the table wanting and expecting to be changed. He hopes that long after the taste of the bread and juice have faded that we act and advocate and sing and serve as if we have just received the gift of the sacrament.

Jesus hopes we are surprised by what we experience at the table. Jesus hopes we are surprised by where the table leads us.

I look forward to gathering with you at Christ’s Table this week. I pray that you come to the table encouraged and expectant – encouraged by the love of our Savior and expectant for what his love will invite you to do.

Prayer: “Lord, you make the common holy: “This my body, this my blood.” Let us all, for earth’s true glory, daily lift life heavenward, asking that the world around us share your children’s liberty. With the Spirit’s gifts empower us for the work of ministry.”* Amen.

*”Lord, You Give The Great Commission,” The United Methodist Hymnal 584.

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Woman In The Night: The Balanced Christian Life

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 10:38-42.

Since becoming a mother, my house is in a constant state of disarray, which is odd to none more than Andrew. Some days I think he looks around the house and then looks at me and wonders if I am the latest victim of The Body Snatchers.

You see, I used to be the person that woke up early every Friday morning to clean the house from top to bottom. I would pride myself that I could have the kitchen and all three bathrooms cleaned in under forty-five minutes, all the while clothes were in the process of being washed, dried, folded, and returned to their appropriate drawer or closet. I would have the carpets vacuumed, the furniture dusted. Trash would be out and recycling sorted. And if I was feeling super productive, the dogs would be bathed, brushed, and donning coordinating and season-appropriate bandanas.

That allllllll changed October 20, 2017…which is the day after I was admitted to the hospital for Joshua’s delivery. I did not clean the house that morning…and I have pretty much not cleaned the house every Friday morning since then.

Hence…Andrew’s wondering if I have been body snatched…

Andrew and I have lived in parsonages – in congregation’s gifting – for a decade. Because of that incredible gift I have felt – and continue to feel – a deep responsibility to take and show great care to these parsonages. I recall at the very beginning that I would use my time cleaning as a time to connect with God. I would pray for the congregation. I would sing songs of praise at the top of my lungs…which was not always the way Andrew wanted to wake up on those Fridays. Overtime, however, the cleaning became less about connecting with God and praying for the people I served and more about racing against the clock to see what all I could accomplish in as few minutes as possible.

Whoopsie.

I disconnected from my true purpose for those acts, which was to show appreciation to God and gratitude to the congregations that welcomed my family into their church family and into their home.

I am so glad Joshua’s birth helped set me straight and get my priorities back in line. No, I am not cleaning on Fridays nearly as often. I confess that I truly have become my mother in that I do a little cleaning every day. I celebrate my reconnection with my true purpose for these acts, which is to show appreciation to God and gratitude to this congregation that welcomes my family – all three of us! – into your church family and into your home.

When did you last stop and consider why it is that you do what you do – whatever it is that you do? How are you able to live into and live out your faith because of that act of service? How can you use that physical activity as an activity of faith?

Prayer: “Woman in the house,nurtured to be meek,leave your second place;listen, think and speak! Come and join the song, women, children, men; Jesus makes us free to live again!”* Amen.

*“Woman In The Night,” The United Methodist Hymnal 274.

 

Dare to Dream: Discovering Your Birthright

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Exodus 2:11-25.

The other night while Andrew, Joshua, and I dined, I looked at Andrew and said, “Tell me a story about Josh.” He looked at our son and laughed, “He has been with you all day. You tell me a story about Josh!” Then I laughed. “Not our Josh. About Josh. Tell me a story about Josh.”

Josh. Our Joshua’s namesake.

From time to time I ask Andrew to tell me Josh stories. From time to time they are hard stories for Andrew to tell. He misses his Josh so much. Andrew humors me. He tells me their stories. And even after seventeen-and-a-half years of hearing them, Andrew still has new stories to share.

That night he told me the story about he and Josh being obnoxiously loud in the South Florida Ave Wendy’s. Their intention – to be asked to leave. Amazingly, they were unsuccessful in their quest. I remarked when Andrew concluded the story, “Oh…that must be why you like to eat at Wendy’s…you feel close to Josh when you are there.” I do not think Andrew had ever made that connection. A sly smile crept across his face and he nodded in agreement.

It was late April 2017. We had come home from a prenatal appointment with the all important letter – the letter that would tell us if we were expecting a boy or girl later that same year. I sat down and Andrew opened the envelope. He scanned the document seeking that desired piece of knowledge that was buried under a heap of other test results (all of which were normal and/or negative, praise the Lord!).

His eyes met mine. “XY,” he said.

We had discussed names before for both a son and a daughter…but in that moment those previous discussions were but a memory.

“His name is Joshua,” I said. “And from the stories I have heard and that you continue to tell me, we are in for it!”

And from that day – Andrew has been all in – I never doubted that he would not be. Joshua by no means replaces his Josh. But Joshua comforts the still lingering ache in Andrew’s heart as Andrew’s heart grows exponentially alongside our blossoming son.

Mischief maker. Hell raiser. Justice seeker. Artist. Advocate. Dedication. Servant. Lover. Warrior. This is Joshua’s birthright from our brave Josh that never knew our son in this life, but I am sure admires him (and laughs at us!) daily from eternity.

Join us this Sunday as we continue our study of Rev. Mike Slaughter’s Dare to Dream as we discern how discovering our birthright informs the shaping and articulation of our big hairy audacious God-purposes! See you in worship!

Prayer: “Come, ye thirsty, come and welcome, God’s free bounty glorify; true belief and true repentance, every grace that brings you nigh. Come ye weary, heavy laden, lost and ruined by the fall; if you tarry till you’re better, you will never come at all. I will arise and go to Jesus; he will embrace me with his arms; in the arms of my dear Savior, O there are ten thousand charms.”* Amen.

*”Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy,” The United Methodist Hymnal 340.

Dawn

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 1:26-38.

I am not really an early bird and I am definitely not a night owl. In fact, I recently learned that I wear a certain facial expression in the mornings when I am ready to interact with people! Before then, I am told my gaze is rather intense…

So not an early bird…and not a night owl…I am solidly a “progressively tired pigeon.” Yes. That is me to a T.

That being said, Joshua has encouraged my being a morning person. In our early months together he considered “sleeping in” to be 4:27am. Thankfully he is a much better sleeper these days; now I get up early in order to get work done when it is quiet and to organize myself for the day ahead.

Whether I am sitting on the couch or at our breakfast table I have the opportunity to watch light flood the landscape as dawn breaks.

I have watched dawn break in some remarkable places:

  • across the waters of Lake Griffin at the Warren Willis Camp
  • across the Atlantic at Cape Canavral Shores
  • across the Pacific in Wahiawa, Hawaii
  • across the Galilee in Tiberius, Israel
  • across the Himalayas in Pokhara, Nepal

In each context the pattern holds:

  • there is darkness
  • the color begins to shift and shadows begin to recede
  • rays reaching out from the sun extend to embrace me where I stand
  • the light makes visible what was once obscured or hidden
  • the light brings hope, reveals potential, and welcomes the promise of the new day

A couple years ago Bob and Debbie Spitzer gifted Andrew and me a beautiful Thomas Kinkade painting that captures dawn breaking in the mountains. They hoped it would remind us of our adventures in Nepal. It does. It also remind us of God’s promise found in Lamentations 3, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (vv. 22-23).

Christ’s Dawn awaits us as we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve in the coming week. The gift of the incarnation is the greatest expression of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness we will ever know. May the light of Christ’s Dawn shine in your life, affirming God’s love for you and your place in God’s Kingdom.

I look forward to worshipping with you

Sunday, December 23 at 8:30am Morningsong or 11am Traditional Worship with Christmas Brass.

Christmas Eve Monday, December 24 at 6:30pm – Carols, Candlelight, and Communion

Prayer: “Send, O God, into the darkness of this troubled world, the light of your Son. Let the star of your hope touch the minds of all people with the bright beams of mercy and truth; and so direct our steps that we may ever walk in the way revealed to us, as the shepherds of Bethlehem walked with joy to the manger where he dwelled, who now and ever reigns in our hearts, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”*

*The United Methodist Book of Worship 278.

Direct

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 1:76-80.

“The wand chooses the wizard, Mr. Potter.”

The same can be said of conducting batons.

As a sacred music major Andrew took Conducting as a graduation requirement. He and his classmates received their batons and – ahhhhh – it was time to make music. Or at least direct it.

Conducting students rotated through the concert chorale, orchestra, and wind ensemble to practice their skills. Some displayed great confidence. Others were like musical deer under stage headlights. I do not blame them – some of those wind ensemble scores have upwards of twenty notated instrument parts to read and lead at once!

It is the conductor’s responsibility to direct every part. But the full weight of responsibility is not on the conductor. It is the musician’s responsibility to pay attention.

There were many a rehearsal that conductors throughout my life – orchestra, choir, handbells – asked, reminded, sometimes pleaded that the musicians would look up! “I will help you, I will bring you in, I will give you each note, each moment of movement. Just look up!”

How true that is for the life of faith as well. If we look up – or more specifically if we look to the people and teachings God places in our lives for help and guidance – we will find God ready and eager to help us. God will bring us in, alongside, and through; God will give us each moment of movement.

We do not have to go it alone. That is the gift of Emmanuel. God is with us – always.

I trust God in each entrance. I trust God in each exit. And I trust God in strengthening my commitment to pay attention.

Join us in worship on Sunday for the First Sunday of Advent. We will light the Advent Candle Wreath and begin singing carols of the season as we prepare our hearts for our Savior’s birth. See you Sunday!

Prayer: “O come, thou Wisdom from on high, and order all things far and nigh; to us the path of knowledge show and cause us in her ways to go. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”* Amen.

*”O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” The United Methodist Hymnal 211.

 

 

We Honor Forever

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Ecclesiasticus 45:1-15

Y’all know how I feel about Little Orange Friends. Someone said to me in small group this week, “We haven’t been [together in class] in two weeks; you look a whole lot better!”

I look a whole lot less orange!

We have three pumpkins still in our house – a faithful(?) remnant, if you will. One is for Andrew and Joshua to carve…eventually. The other two are small pumpkins sitting on the table in our kitchen nook. One is for Josh. The other is for Joshua.

Each year we purchase a pumpkin for Andrew’s dear brother Josh that died of complications related to congestive heart failure several years ago. For a couple years we took Josh’s pumpkin to his interment site at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. We have not been in two years…but that does not deter us from buying Josh a pumpkin and holding his memory close.

Each night I look on that pumpkin and then see its neighbor for our Joshua. Andrew continues to tell stories about Josh – some I have heard before and others that are brand new. These stories will continue. We want Joshua to know his namesake…and I am sure as Joshua creates his own mischief, stories yet to be told will emerge.

And I will cherish every story just as I cherish our sweet son.

Ecclesiasticus – also known as Sirach or Ben Sira – meaning son of Sira – is an Apocryphal Wisdom text. And Ecclesiasticus contains the gem of a scripture passage that we will share this week in worship as we honor – forever – the Veterans in our lives and church family. Our ‘sermon’ this week will be a media presentation from Veterans in our congregation sharing (1) their name and rank in their branch of service (2) how their faith shaped their military service and (3) how their military service shaped their faith.

I am grateful for the kind and generous sharing of our Veterans’ stories; your words are truly a gift to our congregation. Your sharing with us welcomes us into your legacy of service. And the contributions of your service shape our lives – because your service gave and gives us the life we have today.

Thank you, Veterans.

I hope you will join us in worship this week. And I invite you to thank and encourage all the Veterans in your life.

Prayer: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God our Creator, children all are we. Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony. Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now. With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow: to take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally! Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”* Amen.

*“Let There Be Peace On Earth,” The United Methodist Hymnal 431

 

All Saints Celebration and Remembrance

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Hebrews 9:11-14.

On Saturday Andrew will preside at the celebration of life for two saints of Azalea Park UMC – Beverly and Harvey House. They went onto glory within days of one another. They both lived into their mid-eighties. They both finished well their courses in faith. They both loved one another and their families beyond description.

They both will be missed.

The first time I really sat down to speak with Harvey was at a UMW Picnic of all places. The Sunshine Circle has an annual picnic lunch at a local park; they invited Andrew to come and welcomed me as an extra guest.

(I cannot resist United Methodists and deviled eggs in a park pavilion!)

Harvey sat towards the back of the pavilion while Beverly joyfully served as a hostess, ensuring everyone had every possible choice and need fulfilled. Harvey had a quiet smile on his face as he watched Beverly serve. I asked him why he was smiling. He pointed to Beverly – her joy, her friendliness, her compassion, and her servant’s heart – and simply responded, “How could I not?”

“How could I not?”

When I think of the saints we will celebrate a Tuskawilla UMC in both our worship services this week, I join Harvey in smiling. These women and men – their service on both sides of eternity – are witnesses to our faith.

We miss the loved ones that are no longer physically near us. Somedays their place in our hearts is so empty and hollow…it is like the wound of grief will not ever heal. It is in these moments especially that we call to mind God’s faithfulness and the truth of God’s word:

Therefore, my friendslet us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching...Recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet “in a very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay; but my righteous one will live by faith. My soul takes no pleasure in anyone who shrinks back.” But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved (Heb 10:19a, 22-25, 32-39). 

Do not abandon your confidence. Claim the Lord’s endurance – especially in the valley of the shadow of death. God will guide us through – God and the servant saints that smile on us as we continue our courses in faith.

We will honor the saints of the Tuskawilla UMC Family at both our worship services on Sunday. See you then.

Prayer: “For all the saints, who from their labors rest, who thee by faith before the world confessed, thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest. Alleluia, Alleluia!”* Amen.

*”For All The Saints,” The United Methodist Hymnal 711.