The Blessing Of Giving

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Acts 20:32-38.

I spent a lot of time in reflection this week. Little did I know a year ago this week would be my last week before maternity leave.

I think God was merciful; my preaching in flats for one Sunday was enough!

We thought our due date was November 5 – actually it was November 12 for reasons that still do not make sense to Andrew and me – but Joshua had other plans entirely.

I think he wanted to redeem October for me. Now I would think of this month for him first…and for LOFs…do I have to assign them a number?

This time last year we had just moved all our furniture back into the parsonage following the new flooring installation. We were still unpackaging shower presents. I had no idea where the special hospital folder with all the paperwork in it was – you know the one you have when you go to the hospital!? (Turns out you do not have to have it…)

That week I worked patch shifts. We unloaded the second truck. I spent the day in a district meeting. And then I went to a doctors appointment – and they were astonished I was walking and talking. They were also slightly terrified when I said I drove myself to the appointment; according to the blood pressure machine I should have been in the midst of a seizure or a stroke.

Andrew picked me up and we went to the hospital – without the folder. We waited and waited and waited. I did not respond to any of their medication – to reduce my blood pressure or to start labor. We waited and waited and waited. We cried. We rolled our eyes. We hoped. I wanted Joshua to be safe. Andrew wanted both of us to be safe.

And then Sunday came. And with Sunday – peace. Great friends and leaders stepped into the pulpits, and Trunk or Treat leadership, and Charge Conference participation and we stepped into the operating room. Britney Spears’ Wrecking Ball played over the speakers. “Sometimes there are weird noises in here,” the anesthesiologist said. Moments later, soft cries. Joshua was here. And his presence erased all the fear and anger and worry and mess from the preceding days. That day I received the third greatest gift in my life. The first is my relationship with God, the second is my relationship with Andrew, and the third is the relationship with our son. We delight watching him grow in knowledge and love of God and the world God made each and every day.

Andrew and I joke from time to time, “We have kept Joshua alive [this length of time].” On Monday we can say, “We have kept Joshua alive for a whole year!” But the truth is that he has given us life – he has given us life for a whole year. Joshua has given us a life we never dreamed could be until October 22, 2017.

I tear up when I think about all we have received since receiving Joshua in our arms nearly a year ago – all the encouragement and gifts, all the hugs and crazy stories, all the honesty and care.

The generosity of others in our lives – especially in Joshua’s first year of life – teaches and encourages our generosity. This is a beautiful lesson learned as a result of living faithfully in a community of believers.

Thank you, dear friends, for welcoming and loving our son so well in his first year. Because of what we have received from you, we are inspired to give, and to give more.

Prayer: “Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father; there is no shadow of turning with thee; thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; as thou hast been, thou forever wilt be. Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed thy hand hath provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”* Amen.

*”Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” The United Methodist Hymnal 140.

 

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‘G’ is for Generative

Sunday’s Scripture ~ John 6:1-14.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We know this statement as The Golden Rule. It is based upon the words of Jesus found in both the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7 and the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6.

In studying Scripture I frequently employ the practice of lectio divina, which is a sacred listening to the text. A lectio divina practice includes:

  1. Reading a Scripture passage.
  2. Pausing in silence (one to three minutes).
  3. Rereading the same Scripture passage, listening for any word or phrase that lingers with you after the second reading.
  4. Journaling on why you think that word or phrase lingers with you.
  5. Closing in prayer.

After completing lectio divinaon the passages that give us The Golden Rule, I am caught by the word do. Such a small word. Such a short word.

Such a powerful word.

Do.

Act. Create. Execute. Initiate. Move. Produce. Serve.

Do.

Jesus does not call us to wait for someone else to do. Jesus calls us to do, and not just once, but consistently.

In our Scripture passage for this week, the little child did in offering his small lunch to Jesus. His gift became the catalyst that fed the multitude. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, doubted asking, “But what are [five barley loaves and two fish] among so many people” (Jn 6:9)? It appears Andrew sought a bigger solution – a bigger repository – from which to produce a meal. And here is this child – what he could, he gave – what he could, he did.

And there was not just enough. There was more than enough. This is the abundance of the Kingdom of God. This is the abundance that Jesus welcomes us to create with him when we become doers with heads, hearts, and hands united in serving others.

Join us this Sunday as we commission the school supplies collected for A Gift for Teaching that will help students and teachers in Seminole County have a successful 2018-2019 school year. We will also gather for a special time of prayer and blessing for the students, families, and teachers in our church family. See you in worship!

Prayer: “Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices, who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices; who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.”* Amen.

*”Now Thank We All Our God,” The United Methodist Hymnal 102.

An Unusual Gift

Scripture ~ Luke 2:1-20

Merry Christmas One and All! This week we celebrate the gift of our Savior to the world. Christ is the greatest gift to ever be received.

As I prepare the gifts I will give this year during Christmastide, I am aware of an unusual gift I will also give. Shortly after Christmas I will donate my hair to Beautiful Lengths, which is a partnership program between Pantene and the American Cancer Society.  The goal of Beautiful Lengths is to “help women grow long, strong beautiful hair and to provide the funds to turn this hair into free, real-hair wigs for women with cancer.”

I have donated my hair several times throughout my life. I remember my donation cut in 2012.  At that time my hairdresser shared space with a colleague and she was doing a trial wedding hairdo for her client that day. Wesley brushed my hair, gathered it in a rubber band, and raised the scissors to my about-to-be-cut ponytail and Wesley’s colleague’s client screamed, “NO!!!!!!!” So I had to opportunity to share with her why my hair would be 14 inches shorter than when I arrived.

Another joy of donating hair is mailing it at the post office. The postal worker asks the standard question – are you shipping anything fragile or hazardous – and replying that I am shipping human hair always draws a smile or two…

This donation to Beautiful Lengths is especially dear to me this year as several of my dear friends are bravely walking the path to recovery from breast cancer. These women and their families have faced this disease head on with strength and grace and spirits that will not be burdened by this disease. I dedicate my gift of hair in honor of Bena, Shelly, and Jennifer. You ladies are inspirations to me and I thank God daily for your continued health and healing.

In this season of gift giving God teaches us that in giving we receive. God also teaches us to be surprised by gifts – those we receive and those we give. God may be calling you to give in usual ways, but do not limit God if God calls you to give unusually. In my experience the unusual reveals the extraordinary.  Christ’s incarnation in a humble stable was quite unusual and that was just the beginning of a extraordinary life that would gift and save us one and all.

Following the example of our God, may we give unusually.  May we give extraordinarily.  May we give.

Prayer: “What can I give him, poor as I am?  If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; yet what I can I give him: give my heart.”* Amen.

*”In the Bleak Midwinter,” The United Methodist Hymnal 221.

Jesus: The Early Years ~ Happy Epiphany!

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 2:1-12

At Reeves the children have been anxiously anticipating the arrival of the Wise Men since the beginning of Advent.

Yep…that was 6 weeks ago…

I don’t have many pet peeves when it comes to Scripture…but the “harmony” that tends to happen with the Nativity story is one of them.  Yes, I know that nativity sets come complete with wise men.  And yes, the wise men have been in my personal nativity scene since I set it out during Advent.

But

I know that the wise men arrive at Epiphany rather than showing up with the shepherds the night Christ was born.

So to teach this lesson to the kiddos at Reeves we played “Where’s Waldo Wise Men” each week during the Children’s Moment since the beginning of Advent and we will conclude it this Sunday.

Can you guess where the wise men will be this week?!?!

Weekly the children received a “text message” from the wise men – yes…they are quite cutting edge and technologically advanced – that included clues about where they were on their pilgrimage to Bethlehem.  Each week the wise men made their way closer and closer to the creche.

This week they arrive and present their gifts to the Christ child.

As I think of the wise men presenting their gifts, I am reminded of a field trip I took during elementary school to the Polk Theatre to view the play The Gift of the Magi.  I remember expecting the wise men to be there…I knew all about that story.  But this was another story of love and giving…and more so of sacrifice…and I think it is equally fitting for us as celebrate Epiphany.

(You can read the full text here…I will summarize.)

Jim and Della loved one another very much.  Their love was their greatest treasure.  They did not have very much money, but each wanted to give the other a special Christmas gift.  Della had long beautiful hair; she decided she would cut and sell her hair in order to have money to purchase Jim a chain for his golden watch.  That night when Jim returned home he was astonished to see Della had cut her hair.  He handed Della a slim package – her Christmas present.  She opened it to find two beautiful hair combs.  He confessed that he sold his watch to purchase the combs.  Della confessed that she cut and sold her hair to purchase his gift, the watch chain.

Each made a sacrifice for one they loved out of love.

From the wise men we have the tradition of giving and receiving gifts.  From The Gift of the Magi we learn that true wise men [wise people] are those that give freely and wholly and lovingly and sacrificially, not withholding anything.

Reflection: We see again and again throughout Holy Scripture people giving so that others may have and we see the blessings that follow this giving and receiving.  In this new year what gift might God be leading us to give our partners, our children, our family members, our co-workers, our neighbors that we will experience greater blessings?  How might God be leading us to live a life marked by giving freely and wholly and lovingly and sacrificially, not withholding anything?  How might God be calling us to continue the legacy of the magi all year long?

Prayer: Teach us how to give, O God, as you give, openly, freely, generously, and then to find, as we always do, that you have replenished what was given, and more besides; for your openness, freedom, and generosity are far more than we have any right to expect, and we thank you, through Christ our Lord.  Amen.  ~ by John Killinger