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Pastor Leigh Ann’s Monthly Blog

Here we are… the end of 2017.

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for God is good! For God’s mercy endures forever. –1 Chronicles 16:34
Here we are… the end of 2017. December is here. Advent is here. The paperwork of the end of the year is here. The decorations and gift-giving suggestions are out in the stores. Someone started humming Christmas music as I was walking through a store a few days ago. The calendar of the church is packed to overflowing and I’m already so tired. Maybe you are too. I want to offer you some encouragement.
The scriptures tell us that during the time Jesus was in Mary’s womb, there were a cluster of angel sightings. An angel talked to Zechariah. An angel talked to Joseph. An angel spoke to Mary. An angel spoke to a Shepherd. God’s messengers spoke to the people involved with encouragement and assurance. Jesus’ birth was surrounded by declarations of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love by special Angels!
The story of Jesus’ birth is the story of God responding to the darkness, hate and injustice of the world. Jesus is God’s intervention into human sinfulness. The government and the religious leadership were failing the majority of the community. Jesus’ teaching and work was on behalf of the underserved, forgotten and marginalized. Jesus came to us, to be an instrument of healing and restoration to a broken world.
God is full of surprises! From scary angels who bring messages from God to a baby born in a manger, God comes in unexpected ways and places. Our God always makes a way to come to us! Why would now be any different? Why would our world be exempt from God’s surprising ways?
Even as racism, sexism, gun violence and extreme hate are powerful forces in our living, God is even more powerful! If you are troubled by the news of the day, just wait, God will show up! God always does!
Take time to rest before Advent begins. Take time to remember God’s surprising ways! Take time to breathe and remember the people you love! Take time to give thanks… for whatever has been a blessing to you this year! It’s almost over…
Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw

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Long Range Plan

‘Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.’ Ephesians 4:29
We are beginning work with a Church Consultant for the purpose of developing a long range plan. It has been 13 years since this building was completed. At that time there were plans to build another section of this building with classrooms and a kitchen. The plan was to develop a weekday preschool downstairs. Those plans have never been realized but have continued to be a part of the church’s conversation about our future.
Our Church Council approved hiring the Church Consultant upon recommendation of a small group called the ‘Building Inspiration Team’ who met three times in August and September. The goal of hiring the Church Consultant is to develop a long range plan and answer the question of whether we need, want and have the capacity to finish the building. Rev. Mary Scrifers is an experienced church consultant and coach. She will be coming to meetings, running retreats and leading conversations to reflect the core values and passion of this congregation.
Entering into a time of long range planning for the discernment of our future ministry can bring out grief, anger, fear, anxiety, resentment and suspicion as well as hope, excitement, joy and renewed enthusiasm for our future. I’ve already heard every one of these from you. From the choir room to the narthex and out in the parking lot there is talk that goes on.
Paul writes to the people of Ephesus about how to be a church, and to live in community. Paul says in Ephesians 4:1-3, ‘as a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.’ As we enter into this focused time of discernment, I encourage you to take Paul’s words to heart. Be patient with one another as you speak about our future, and the future of this church for people who aren’t even born yet.
A long range plan should project out three to five to ten years. That means we will be planning for 2020 to 2022 and into 2027. I wonder who will be here and what will be the age of our congregation then? Will we have an active group of 30-somethings who are singing with the band and connected with our community partners? Who are we called to reach out to in 2027 that we don’t even know today? The work we do now, is for our children and grandchildren and other people’s children and grandchildren.
How do we stay current with everything, even as we seek to follow Jesus? The truth is if we are looking into the future, some things will change. Even when the way we do ministry changes and the people we see week to week change, the Savior we follow stays the same. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So let us take heart and be patient and kind to one another as we look into the future and for new ways to offer Christ love to our neighbors.
Grace and peace to you,
Rev. Dr. Shaw

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In tough times

In tough times, the first thing to go is your sense of humor. To face evil, oppression and injustice every day tends to make one exhausted and cynical. The stories of climate crisis and disaster, financial malpractice and casual glorified violence wear the most faithful proclaimer of Jesus’ grace down. As I look around the community, folks appear worn out and definitely sans good humor. One of my friends smiled at me this week and declared, ‘Don’t let the turkeys get you down!’ She spoke it in a hush, so as not to draw attention from the committee meeting in progress. Her comment reminded me of a T-shirt my mother had when I was growing up that said the same thing. There is something heartening about remembering a Sandra Boynton cartoon of turkeys sitting on an elephant. It is enough to make me laugh, remembering my Mom wearing such a silly cartoon and cleaning the house on a Saturday morning and singing along to Linda Ronstadt. Humor is healing! The expression ‘laughter is the best medicine’ offers wisdom for the ages. No matter what age you are, laughter fights stress, anxiety, fear and pain. Norman Cousins, an author, professor, and journalist, believed that the biochemistry of emotion through laughter was the key to combating illness. He used laughter (as well as a megadose of Vitamin C) to fight his heart disease and manage his arthritic condition. Hunter Campbell, M.D., the American physician whose life inspired the 1998 movie “Patch Adams” opened a free hospital in a six-bedroom home, to pilot a health care facility through which thousands of patients received humor-infused care over twelve years. That experiment evolved into the Gesundheit Institute which currently offers volunteer programs like humanitarian clowning trips to hospitals, orphanages, refugee camps and prisons. I could talk about the biological impact of humor here, but better for you to google studies online, or better, google some jokes to make you laugh. Have you noticed humor in the scriptures? Job (a rather serious book) describes an ostrich in Job 39:13-18. Verse 17-18 say, ‘because God has made it forget wisdom, and given it no share in understanding, when it spreads its plumes aloft, it laughs…’ And then there is the prophet Jonah. Jonah runs from God, is rescued from drowning by spending three days in the belly of a fish. And then Jonah complaining about God’s rescue of Nineveh from destruction, throws a tantrum about a vine dying that was offering him shade. In Jonah 4:9 he complains about the vine saying, ‘I am angry enough to die.’ Seriously Jonah, over dramatic much? And did you ever read Proverbs 27:14? I wish I had this scripture when I was a young person with parents that took joy in waking me with a loud voice! “Whoever blesses a neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.” If you are not a morning person…there’s a little biblical support for you! Ha! Does the Bible have humor? Sure it does. Genesis 18 tells the story of Sarah overhearing the news that she will bear a child. Verse 12-13 say, ‘So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure? The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’” Can you imagine the senior Sarah receiving word she’d bear a child? There is humor in the bible and even laughter. I believe that God has a sense of humor and planted that same joy of life and laughing into humanity. How else would we be able to laugh? ‘Don’t let the turkeys get you down!’ There are mean-spirited yellers who show up when and where you least expect them. The news is filled with sadness and despair. Even so, God offers joy and laughter as medicine for your soul. Don’t give your life away or let your sense of humor rust in the rain! Take time for laughter! Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann


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