Messiah: Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Zechariah 9:9-10.

Happy New Year! This Sunday we hit the ground running in the Church/Liturgical Calendar  by celebrating Epiphany – the arrival of the Magi from the East to present gifts to the Christ Child.

Many folks take time before the New Year to set resolutions. I have not had much success with resolutions – I resolved to learn how to operate a curling iron a few years ago and that still has not happened. However, in the spirit of running into the church/liturgical calendar, I set 17 goals that I would like to hit the ground running with and accomplish in 2017:

  1. Begin each day with intentional prayer and devotional time with God.
  2. Complete 2017 sun salutations – that is six each day.
  3. Ride 2017 miles on my bike.
  4. Take (a minimum) of three yoga classes each week.
  5. Read 2017 pages for pleasure and 2017 pages for professional development.
  6. Cook 17 new recipes with Andrew.
  7. Drink 64oz of water daily.
  8. Live simply so that I can give more.
  9. Keep my weekly commitments to self-care, Sabbath, and date days.
  10. Put my phone away one hour before going to sleep.
  11. Keep a daily gratitude journal, recording three actions/experiences/learnings for which I am grateful each day.
  12. Make the first move in connecting with family and friends.
  13. Be bold in asking for help.
  14. Talk less; listen more.
  15. Stay current with the news.
  16. Make my donation cut to Beautiful Lengths.
  17. In all things – situations, people, responsibilities – seek hope.

Three hundred and sixty five days sounds like an abundance of time…but lived…it seems to fly. I look forward to the joy I will experience and the lessons I will learn about myself and others as I pursue these goals in 2017. The pursuit and the accomplishing of these goals will be and is complete gift – a gift from God to me to be my best self to the glory of God on earth.

I am excited to worship with the Tuskawilla Family to begin 2017 on New Year’s Day. We will gather for Morningsong at 8:30am and our regular 11am service will again be at 10am this week. As you prepare for worship and the coming new year, perhaps consider any resolutions or goals that you would like to make. Together let’s hit the ground running and run the race that God has placed before us. Let us run with purpose and with excellence.

Prayer: “Creative God, you make all things new in heaven and on earth. We come to you in a new year with new desires and old fears, new decisions and old controversies, new dreams and old weaknesses. Because you are a God of hope, we know that you create all the possibilities of the future. Because you are a God of love, we know that you accept all the mistakes of the past. Because you are the God of our faith, we enter your gates with thanksgiving and praise, we come into your presence with gladness and a joyful noise, and we serve and bless you. Amen.”*

*”Prayer for New Year’s Eve or Day,” The United Methodist Book of Worship 294.


The Plan

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Ephesians 3:1-12

This Sunday the Tuskawilla Community will celebrate Epiphany – the 12th day of Christmas – the end of Christmastide.

(Disclaimer: Yes, Sunday, January 4 is only the 10th day after Christmas, but it’s okay.  We will sing Christmas and Epiphany hymns this week!)

On Epiphany we remember the magi coming to the Christ child bearing exquisite and expense gifts. On this final moment of Jesus’ nativity we begin to hear the laments that will wail from Golgotha. He will not wear a crown of gold, but a crown of thorns. His body will not be sweetened with frankincense and myrrh, but prepared for a borrowed grave.

As the carol sings the magi “traverse(d) afar, field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.” They journeyed from the East and had obstacles – some easy and some not so easy – to overcome on their quest to see what lay under the Bethlehem star. The magi did not give up. The magi did not turn back. The magi journeyed so that they, too, might worship the newborn King.

2014 closes in a little more than a day. Each day is part of a year long journey where we, too, face our own fields, fountains, moors, and mountains. Fields are be those spaces where we feel rooted or grow or harvest. Fountains are those spaces where we are cleansed, refreshed, purified, and made new. Moors are those spaces where the ground is not so smooth, where the vegetation is overgrown so visual confirmation of sure-footing is obscured, and where stinky, sticky mud can bog us down. Mountains are those spaces of trial and of triumph; mountains are those spaces where we draw close to God and then re-enter our routine landscapes.

I am looking forward to 2015 through reflective eyes gazing on 2014. I can identify my fields, my fountains, my moors, and my mountains. I am thankful for each moment of my journey, not because they have helped move me closer to the Christ child, but because each of these moments were Epiphanies where Christ found me. Jesus planted me in and harvested me from the fields, washed me in the fountains, unstuck me from the moors, and met me on the mountains. With each moment I was drawn closer to the Bethlehem star, but not withheld from worshipping the Christ until I finally arrived. I worshipped as I walked. This year has been a moving meditation.

I invite you to reflect upon your 2014. What are your field, fountain, moor, and mountain moments? How have you worshipped as you have walked? What have you learned? How will you invite Christ to continue shaping you from the path of 2014 as you journey into 2015? Perhaps these reflections will lead you in discernment of what you will resolve for your relationship with Christ in the coming year.

As I reflect I resolve to lean into hope rather than worry. I resolve to claim positivity and release negativity. I resolve to further breathe into the inclusive nature of Epiphany – that Christ came for all people – that Christ seeks each one of us – that Christ our Lord makes us one and is Lord of all.

What will you resolve? What will you apply from your traversing in 2014 that will help you with your Christ-led meditation in 2015?

Prayer: “O God, you made of one blood all nations, and by a star in the East, revealed to all peoples him whose name is Emmanuel. Enable us who know your presence with us so to proclaim his unsearchable riches that all may come to his light and bow before the brightness of his rising, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.”*

*”Epiphany,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 255.

The Gospel According to Showtunes: I Know Where I’ve Been

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Proverbs 22:8

This week the Reeves community welcomes several musical guests to worship.  The first is Ms. Delicia Egerton – the director of the Orlando Community Center Children’s Choir.  She will sing our showtune feature for this week – I Know Where I’ve Been from the musical Hairspray.  The second is the Cross and Flame Youth Choir from Trinity United Methodist Church in Homewood, AL.  They will sing several anthems throughout the worship service.  I am so excited to have these talented folks join us this week!!!

An additional treat is that my middle school orchestra teacher – Mrs. Jodi Haskins – is a chaperone with the youth choir from Trinity UMC.  I have not seen her in person in years!  Mrs. Haskins – along with my other music teachers and directors – helped to grow my love for music – a love that I have had since infancy.  She and they taught me music appreciation, instrument fundamentals, and the technicals of music theory.  As I reflect upon the Scripture passage for this week a certain technical of music theory comes to mind – leading tones.

A “leading tone” is a note or pitch that resolves or leads to a note one half-step higher or lower that the original tone.  For example, in a C-major scale the notes are C D E F G A B C;  a leading tone in this scale is the B that resolves in the C.

(Please forgive this over-simplistic theory lesson – but we do not need to go too technical.)

What I appreciate about leading tones is that they are going somewhere.  They are somewhat volatile, reactive pitches.  There is energy behind them.  Anticipation is created within them.  Anticipation can quickly become angst if the leading tone is not resolved.  Progress needs to be made.  Move the piece of music forward.  Follow the leading tone through the next phase of the song.

This week’s Scripture passage contains a leading tone and the leading tone is within the word “will.”  “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail.”  That will indicates that present circumstances are going somewhere.  That will is somewhat volatile and reactive.  There is energy behind it.  Anticipation is created within it.  And anticipation quickly becomes angst if the will is left too long to resolve.  Progress needs to be made.

God says sowers of injustice will reap calamity and that the rod of anger will fail.  Our God is trustworthy.  Our God is the guarantor of promises made.  Our God…does not work alone.  We are caught up in that will with God.  We are instruments of God’s peace with justice in the world.  We are partnered with God in leading tone moments – in our own lives, in our community, and in the Kingdom.

What are leading tone moments?  They are those moments where you come to a fork in the road and resolution is necessary.  Which way will I turn?  What decision will I make?  What outcome will that bring?  It is God’s desire that our leading tone moments further God’s justice in the world, that our decisions give life and reflect the one who created us.

We are all working, living, serving towards our ultimate resolution – the time of complete resurrection.  Every moment until that time, then, is a leading tone moment, where we can act with God’s help to more fully bring about the Kingdom or not.  What leading tone moments are you currently experiencing?  How does God want you to resolve?  What resolution will you bring to the Kingdom?

Prayer: “Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day; earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away; change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changes not, abide with me.  I need thy presence every passing hour.  What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?  Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be?  Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.  I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless; ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.  Where is death’s sting?  Where, grave, thy victory?  I triumph still, if thou abide with me.”* Amen.

*”Abide with Me,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 700.


For Such A Time As This

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Esther 4:1-17

Happy New Year Friends!  I pray your celebration of Christ’s birth was meaningful and included the company of loved ones.  Mine was.  I am truly blessed and thankful for my blessings each and every day.

Not only have we celebrated Christmas but we have welcomed the New Year.  And with the New Year comes thoughts about resolutions.

Have you made any?  Will you make any?

In 2013 I took up weekly practices of hot power yoga.  Now, this is not the 110 degree yoga – I do not have time for that! – this is the 85 degree yoga.  Trust me…that’s hot enough…especially in the classes with 55 of your closest friends in about 300 square feet of space.

I am continuing my weekly practices in this new year.  This past Thursday we began class with a few moments of meditation and our teacher – Taylor – asked the class if we had made any resolutions.  She then said that she does not make resolutions anymore because when she resolved something it hardly ever came into fruition.  Now she dedicates herself to a practice, an ideology, a service.  She invited us to make a dedication during our practice – to what would we dedicate ourselves?  A more patient practice?  To trust our strength?  To breathe into the discomfort rather than shy away from it?  To what would we dedicate ourselves?

For some reason the idea of dedicating seems more active to me than the idea of resolving – even though they are both verbs.  As I consider the act of dedicating versus the act of resolving in conversation with our Scripture text for this week, I feel that Esther  first resolved and then dedicated herself.  She resolved to make a decision – she would be the advocate for her people, for God’s people – and then she dedicated herself to the danger of defending her people, God’s people, before the Persian King by entering his presence without prior request.

The character of Esther takes the idea of a resolution to the next level; she moves it to the realm of dedication “for such a time as this.”

Have you made any resolutions?  Will you make any resolutions?  And how can you take those resolutions to the next level and move them into the realm of dedications?

Perhaps consider these statements as you marinate on potential resolutions and dedications (from a article):

1. What you will accomplish this year?

2. What you will let go of or release?

3. What or who you will embrace?

4. What or who you will honor?

5. What or who you will love?

6. What or who you will use your gifts to advocate on behalf of?

7. What you will share with the world?

Write them.  Share them.  Incarnate the dedications for such a time as this.

Prayer: “‘Are ye able,’ said the Master, ‘to be crucified with me?’ ‘Yea,’ the sturdy dreamers answered, ‘to the death we follow thee.’  Are ye able? Still the Master whispers down eternity, and heroic spirits answer, now as then in Galilee.  Lord we are bale.  Our spirits are thine.  Remold them, make us, like thee, divine.  Thy guiding radiance above us shall be a beacon to God, to love, and loyalty.”*  Amen.

*”Are Ye Able,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 530.