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Pastor Leigh Ann’s Monthly Blog

Introducing the GAP Team

Pastor’s Ponderings – February 2018
I loved the GAP when I was in High School. At the back of the store there was a wall of multicolored sweat clothes: pink and blue and red and orange sweatshirts and sweatpants and hoodies (although we didn’t call them that then). The jeans were great, but the pretty colored clothes on the wall were soft and inviting. This is NOT the kind of GAP I’m talking about.
The Building Inspiration team was activated during 2017 to discuss issues about building a building and new ministries at the church. They recommended hiring a church consultant to guide our congregation in developing a 3- to 5-year ministry plan which may or may not include building another wing for our church structure. With that hire, the Building Inspiration team completed its goals and was dissolved. A new task force was created to partner with church consultant, Mary Scifres, called the GAP TEAM.
The GAP TEAM is a cohort of people in our congregation with different perspectives, and experiences. Their goal is to bridge the GAP between the past and our future, our dreams and an action plan, our anxiety and our service to God. They will work with the congregation to bridge the GAP through deep listening, prayer-grounded reflection, truth-telling and financial maturity. Any ministry plan for our congregation’s future looks to draw the best wisdom from a consensus-oriented model.
I have a vision of our congregation in the future, with children and families growing in faith, safe in a secured facility and having fun together. I have a vision of our congregation that engages senior people, offering good coffee, great musical programs, quality bible study and worship and never forgets their wisdom and contributions. I have a vision of this congregation getting out into the world, advocating for justice by caring for the homeless, protecting the environment, reaching out to the marginalized and volunteering in many organizations. I have a vision of this congregation as a touchstone of mainline Protestant Christianity in our neighborhood where people of all differing opinions and perspectives challenge and pray for one another. I love this congregation and believe YOU are critical to the well-being and healthy future of Vista and our region. YOU make a difference NOW and I can’t wait to see how you make a greater impact in the future.
During the months of February and March, the GAP team and I will be scheduling home meetings to have conversations about the future of our ministry together. Please watch for those dates, places to pop in, and sign up and come! Your prayerful vision for our future brings us all closer to the Kingdom of God in our midst!
Grace and peace to you, as we look forward to our Lenten Season and our Season of defining our Dreams for our future!
Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw

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Pain and God

Pain and God

Have you ever had pain… maybe pain in your neck, pain in your back, pain in your knees or hips?  I’ve visited my doctor for a recurrent pain in my neck that crops up at the most inconvenient time.  It began in my thirties and has gotten progressively more intrusive.  I wake up some mornings and sitting up hurts.  It takes time to flex and move, get up and get going.  I suspect many of you know what I’m talking about.

 

Pain is a real fact of life.  A senior lady with a walker in my last church said to me, ‘getting old isn’t for wimps!’  She was a long time church member, who had done missions and children’s ministries and still showed up for book studies at the church.  She occasionally closed her eyes during worship, but she was always at church on Sunday and throughout the week.  I knew she prayed and came to church because it made her feel better, not just emotionally, but also physically.  There is something about having a faith and faith community that helps deal with physical pain and suffering. 

Aristotle (4th century B.C.) described pain as emotion, being the opposite of pleasure.  In the middle ages, pain was considered a religious matter, even punishment for sins or evidence of demon possession.  Some modern people still believe that suffering is our human ‘cross to bear’.  Hindu, Islam and Buddhism all include religious perspectives about pain/suffering as the result of personal actions and may be punitive or the cost of human experience.  There is a long history of world religions weighing in on the cause of pain and suffering. 

In the 1960’s a wave of interest in spirituality and consciousness brought a new perspective on pain, medicine and religion.  Postmodern thinking began to create openness to diverse medical systems and the empowerment of individuals.  Medicine returned to a mind/body/spirit, holist therapies which continue to include meditation, biofeedback, hypnosis, acupuncture, social and spiritual practice, even reiki, message and aromatherapy. The means of confronting our physical pain and suffering is profound and almost limitless. 

According to an article I read, called Spirituality and Religion in Pain and Pain Management, (Dedeli, Ozden, and Gulten Kaptan. “Spirituality and Religion in Pain and Pain Management.” Health Psychology Research 1.3 (2013): e29. PMC. Web. 26 Jan. 2018.)  ‘Religious people are less likely to have pain and fatigue… They obtained data from 37.000 individuals, 15 years of age or older, with fibromyalgia, back pain, migraine headaches and chronic fatigue syndrome, and those who are spiritual but not affiliated with regular worship attendance are more likely to have those conditions. They also found that those with chronic pain and fatigue were more likely to use prayer and seek spiritual support as a coping method compared to other people. Pain sufferers who were both religious and spiritual were more likely to have better psychological well-being and use positive strategies.’

 

Physical pain and suffering is nothing new to the human experience.  I do not believe it is inflected by God to teach us a lesson or punish human beings but is a part of living in skin.  How we deal with it is our journey in life.  I will keep using modern medicine, and homeopathic modalities to manage any pain I experience and I hope you will too.  Please know that if you have pain, you are not alone.  Every Sunday I see you and know that it takes a lot of effort to come to church.  Please know that I pray for people struggling with constant pain and ask God to bring you relief.  If it feels faithful to you, I hope you will join me in prayer for those people walking in constant pain, and related fatigue. 

 

God bless you with peace, comfort and moments free from pain. 

Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw


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Visions for 2018

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” -Matthew 25:31-32
 
This scripture comes to us from Matthew’s gospel about the judgement of the nations. It is well worn scripture for those who feel called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the sick and imprisoned. The extended scripture from Matthew 25:31-46 is a direct passage about how to follow Jesus. With this vision, it is impossible to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ without caring for others. It is impossible to be a Christian without offering compassion and mercy to other people. Matthew 25 is compelling and at the beginning of the year offers guidance for any ‘resolutions’ you might be making.
Making resolutions is a tired practice, but for people of faith, this is a great time to reignite your spiritual practices. What ways do you want to live your faith this year? Are you ready to add daily prayer to your life? Would you like a daily scripture reading or devotional activity? Do you feel called to connect to a hospital, prison or provide clothes or welcome to a stranger? There are more scriptures of more suggestions for faith resolutions that might be more suited to you.
Galatians 5:22-26 name the fruits of the Spirit. They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Do any of these have a pull on your heart? Do you need to develop kindness toward others as a practice and speak less negativity and more positive encouragement to others? Is there are lack of peace or patience in your heart? With the pain of the world, sometimes our hearts falter and struggle with the fruits of the Spirit. Just like adding physical exercise at the beginning of the year, adding exercises for our Spirit is a faithful goal.
It has been a long painful year for many people. I’m getting lots of calls for prayer and hearing from people who are fearful and anxious. As the page of the calendar turns, take time to consider the blessings in your life. And perhaps consider what are you anticipating for 2018? Make a resolution to grow closer to God and live the life you are called to.
My prayers are with you on your journey! Much love and peace to you in 2018!
 
Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw

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