New Year resolution? Jan. 2019

New Year resolution? 
Pastor’s Ponderings – Jan 2019
Mary Oliver asks the question, “Tell me, what is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” This question comes at the end of a poem entitled The Summer Day. The poem feels more spiritual than religious and honors the beauty of the world. These words break open the beginning of the year and call us all into the next 12 months.
Have you thought about a New Year resolution? Have you thought about goals or wishes for 2019? Have you prayed that you would have more health, more time with family and friends, eat better or get your finances in order? If you have, you are not alone. But usually, these kinds of “resolutions” are what Mary Poppins would call a “pie crust promise, easily made and easily broken.” I wonder what the opposite of a “pie crust promise” is?
We get one body to walk around in and when that body wears out, it is our time to rest. We’ve said “good-bye” to some beloved friends and family over 2018. We’ve prayed and held hands and asked God for peace in the midst of illness. We’ve asked God’s help to get through grief and the flood of memories. We’ve told God what we think about it all and through it all you’ve supported and loved one another. The community of this church is powerful, generous and changing the world.
Our days wearing our flesh suit do not go on forever, but for the days we have, what is it that we and you are called to do? A few years back there was another fun poem getting shared around about getting old and wearing purple and a red hat. It was a buoyant, hilarious poem! I knew women who took the poem as a challenge and got together every month for lunch and wore red hats and generally had a fabulous time. They truly embraced their “one wild and precious life.”
The Psalmist proclaims, “Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth (Psalm 66:1).” This proclamation is generally taken to be for the singer, and that’s fine, but maybe it shouldn’t just be a faith statement for the musically gifted. Listen to the laughter of children. Remember the sound of a wave folding over on the beach. These are certainly joyful noises and there are so many more! Birds singing and train noises and the kitchen timer going off when a batch of cookies are finished! All joyful noises and definitely part of our precious days.
Let the world hear from you and be bold with joy! Jesus says, “I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” The life that Jesus came to give us and the wild life Mary Oliver reflect on demand a joyful noise. It’s time to meet a new year! I pray yours is overflowing with love!
Let us have Joy and have it boldly in 2019!
Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw

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The HOPE of Advent

The HOPE of Advent
Pastor’s Ponderings – December 2018
Will you wait on me? I’m pretty tired and it took all of Thanksgiving week to sleep through the night. I kept waking up and thinking about you and the world and my family and the thoughts run around my head dumping over my neat organized piles of hopes and making a mess of it all.
What were you hopeful for in January that you’ve given up on this year? Did the list of things you hoped for this year get disorganized with the messiness of living? Advent is that season of remembering your hope. Advent is the time we remember waiting for God’s love to pour out all over everything and make sense of life again. Advent starts our relationship with Jesus all over again as we participate in the story of Mary’s expectancy. Mary was a young woman who grew plump with waiting for a baby and took us with her on that journey of waiting.
Can you wait a minute; I need a little more coffee to get started today. I still have some pumpkin spiced creamer from October. Yum. It’ll be a whole year before that comes back. That’s a lot of waiting, for a sweet little taste that goes in my coffee. You may not care, but I wait all year for pumpkin spice to return to the store shelves, but waiting on Jesus… how many good and faithful folks have given that up all together? How many robustly faithful people have given up waiting for Jesus because the meaning and message and experience of Jesus is lost or faded? The hope for anything joyous or life-giving got dumped over and fatigue has set in.
The prophet Isaiah says, “but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) Waiting offers us a brilliant gift! Seriously, waiting for God brings renewal, strength and restoration. I could use a little restoration right about now. Paul wrote to the people of Roman and told them, “but if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:25) I can see and taste pumpkin-spiced creamer, but what does the Lord look like and taste like and feel like? Hope, and cultivate patience.
Remember that Advent follows the journey from darkness ‘to’ light, from conception ‘to’ birth, and from death ‘to’ life. I remind you that we are living the ‘to’ or the middle or during the time of waiting. That means we are living during the time of pale light and shadows. Seeing Jesus come may bring some discomfort for your eyes to adjust to the brightness of God. Feeling hope and being restored will work some atrophied faith muscles that may have been forgotten. This journey of Advent isn’t a Hallmark kind of story, but it is the story of coming back to the life we most long for and the love we most desire. It is not a love that is fake or untrustworthy, but this love that God brings is true and steadfast! That’s worth the wait!
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.” (Titus 2:11-14)
It has been an exhausting year, but hope emerges when you least expect it. The laugh of a child, the song that sticks in your brain, the spirit of joy that is softly impatient return to us now. Get ready… shield your eyes… God is about to turn on the Light in the world again!
God bless you and keep you, always,
Pastor Leigh Ann

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