Monday, November 2, 2009

Getting to know Brother Lawrence

We're being introduced to a fellow who may seem strange at first glance, but whose "claim to fame" is the ordinary nature of his life and approach to faith.
Born in 1614 as Nicholas Herman, poverty forced the young man who would become "Brother Lawrence" into the army where he was promised food and a little bit of money. When an injury made it impossible for him to serve, he became a nobleman's valet. But discouraged by his life, Nicholas entered a Carmelite monastery in Paris as a lay brother. He didn't have the education needed to become a monk.
Among the brothers he became "Brother Lawrence," and was rather dismayed to be assigned to the kitchen crew, another task he felt woefully inadequate to perform. He adapted by grower ever more humble, letting go of common notions of success and putting himself utterly in the service of God and his brothers. No one was more surprised that Brother Lawrence himself when his gentle, unassuming manner began to attract admirers.
Brother Lawrence's attractive "ahah" was that growing close to GOd didn't need to be as hard as we often try to make it. "Men invent means and methods of coming to Gods love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God's presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for love of him?"
Don't be deterred by the old fashioned language of "The Practice of the Presence." If you have trouble getting started, try this reading plan:

Begin from behind. Read “Gathered Thoughts” first.

Exercise: What questions come to mind? Make a list.

Next, move on to “The Character of Brother Lawrence.”

Exercise: Write a min-biography of brother Lawrence in your own words.

Third, read the letters, one at a sitting.

Exercise: After each letter, write your own letter, to God, to Brother Lawrence, or to a trusted friend.

Finally, read “The Conversations.”

---------Read more about Brother Lawrence at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brother_Lawrence

image from www.spiritualityandpractice.com/days/features.php?id=16440

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Re-Think Church

This month we've started re-thinking church at our local level. The term comes from the United Methodist Church's 10,000 doors project. It dovetails perfectly with the place we find ourselves in our life together: living in mission, searching for new ways to grow in Christ together.
Strangely, this new stage of growth seems to be simplifying, rather than complicating, our community. We've streamlined our workhorse of a mission statement to: We are a welcoming community of believers seeking to grow in Christ and to serve in mission.
We're re-thinking meetings, opening them up, inviting new voices in. We're rejoicing in worship, re-inventing our adult spiritual growth groups, and remembering with gratitude the work of saints before us who laid faithful foundations to launch this flight into the future.
In everything, we aim to grow together in love and service. Brother Lawrence is our companion guide this year. Pick up your copy of his writings while you're coming and going from worship, or stop by during office hours: Tuesday-Friday from 9AM-noon, Thursday nights 6:30-8:30PM.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

summer worship temptation butterflies

Flutter by season 'tis....
When favorite summer folks show up in worship.
Inexpensive butterfly fans stirred the hot august air in worship today,
creating a lovely, lively, dance pattern across the congregation.
Pollinating visitors have been busy brightening our gardens.
May your heart be as light as the butterfly's wings,
unweighed by worry,
but lifted on prayers of praise and words of hope,
strengthened by pollinating work of justice and mercy.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Seeing What’s Around Us

 

By George Smith

Reprinted from the July 22, 2009 Kennebec Journal.

 

            Sometimes it takes more than open eyes to see everything around you.

            The black mask covered his face when I glanced his way after hearing him speak. If he expected the mask was sufficient to prevent him from being seen and recognized, he should have paid more attention to the rest of his wardrobe.

            From the neck down, he was covered in bright yellow.

            I boldly stepped closer, 10 feet, 8 feet, 5 feet, and he appeared unalarmed, continuing to speak to me in a low, gutteral “tchcuk.”

            The black mask, white-eyebrow, and yellow belly allowed me to easily identify him as a warbler, the Common Yellowthroat. There’s nothing common about this beautiful bird.

            Seeing him in the streamside bush as I waded along in search of brook trout was one of the moments when you are certain there is a God. There’s no other explanation for the perfection and beauty of this tiny bird.

            I watched him flit around in the bushes for 10 amazing minutes, thankful that – only recently – I’d become an avid birder – taking the time to see what’s around me. All those years and I’d never noticed all these colorful birds.

            Fifteen minutes later, I cast a small fly – a nymph – into a bend pool and saw the quick flash of a trout darting from it’s hiding place to grab the fly.

            Quickly bringing him to hand, a sleek 7-inches adorned with red and blue spots and a gorgeous yellow belly, it was another God moment. If He’d only created one fish, the brook trout would have been it. Absolute perfection.

            The trout in Sourdahunk Stream are very dark on top to match their habitat. I didn’t used to notice, too busy casting and catching. Now I really study each individual fish, unique in its own way.

            Sometimes after he’s released, a fish will fin there in the water beside my foot, unaware that he’s free. Then the dark tail flips and he vanishes. What doesn’t vanish is the smile on my face.

            I gaze at Mount Katahdin covered by clouds, at the rapids ahead, into the trees along the shore, drinking it all in. I’m surrounded by beauty and want to see it all.

            Three years ago Linda and I enjoyed a “mushroom walk” with Mount Vernon’s Barbara Skapa. Boy, did that open my eyes!

            The diversity and quantity of mushrooms seen in a couple of hours, all within two miles of our home, was astonishing. We decided to focus on the tastiest (of course!) and learned to recognize, with confidence, chanterelles.

            From late June to mid-August, our eyes focus on the ground, searching for those yellow treats. Last night Lin sautéed two dozen in butter for a delicious pre-dinner appetizer. Wow.

            A few weeks ago a lovely lady named Carolyn called. She and her husband Ralph shared a European trip with Linda and me 30 years ago, arranged by the University of Maine Alumni Association. It was our honeymoon.

            Carolyn had been looking at an old album of the trip and saw a photo of Linda and me and decided to track us down. We hadn’t heard from her in 30 years, yet she remembered so many details about that trip and us.

            Here’s a lady who sees everything around her, I thought to myself.

            The conversation with Carolyn was a very pleasant surprise, but made me wish I’d been more observant 30 years ago. She sure remembered a lot more than I did!

            There was a time when I only saw what I wanted to see or had to see. As a sportsman, I’ve always thought I saw more than most – but until Linda and I started birding I was missing a lot.

            Kids don’t miss much.

            The fishing for smallmouth bass in mid-June on a remote Kennebec County pond was slowing so my 5-year old grandson Addison turned his attention elsewhere and pulled up a water lily pad to discover – and show Grampy – frog’s eggs underneath the pad. I’d never noticed them before.

            When is it we lose that wonderful ability to see and sense all that surrounds us? When do we become too self-absorbed and busy to really notice what goes on around us?

            Wait. As I write this column, I hear a Northern Parula warbler outside our camp window. Now, I’m even hearing all that surrounds me!

            And it makes life so much richer.

            Amazing things surround us. May you see and hear them all.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Kin-dom n Kaoma

-Susan Harrington Tedrick 
(photo by Lynn Twitchell)
www.wisezambia.org

Pastor Karen emailed me to do a Mission Moment related to her sermon series that is bringing new layers of meaning to the Lord’s Prayer. Her note said that she’d like me to talk about the trip to Zambia in relation to the phrase: Thy Kin-Dom Come. 

Say What? I’d only been home two hours and I knew I was jet-lagged but…Thy KIN-Dom Come? Maybe it was a typo.

 Then it struck me. I had just spent 3 weeks in glorious kin-ship.

 When we were in Kaoma the Kin-Dom truly came! It came as friendships with widows and orphans deepened. It came as the team shed their American expectations & let the joy of abundance sneak in, an abundance of spirit with no material possessions, and when we went to church we celebrated the kin-ship of music & faith.

 The message we heard that day is just as relevant here as it was there. It was about power--mata. The power of things we ALLOW to have power over us and the only thing that has real mata--faith in God.

 There, the priest held up something that struck fear in many minds, a voodoo-like effigy that had been left on a woman’s threshold to frighten her. The gasps were audible. He then explained, in a very joyful way, that the only REAL power was Jesus.  Mata a Jesu.

 The US, too, has a history of threatening effigies: burning crosses…nooses.  We, too, give power to things that don’t deserve power. Status…income…vehicles…. Another Kin-Ship.

 The priest asked the congregation to touch the scary doll and pass it along. That was very hard for some people to do. Most congregants were uncomfortable, but they touched it and let go of the power they had given it.

 Mata…power…Only in Jesus…Jesu.

 I wondered: Am I ready to look at, touch and release the artificial things that frighten and have power over me? Are we? And to recognize the only real and liberating power? The power of the blood of Jesus? Or as they say: mata mwa mari a Jesu?

 I hope that I can let that kind of KIN-DOM COME to my heart, too.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Here is a "cross-over post" from inward/outward which provides daily soul food for the hungry (inward/outward.org).

By Mary Oliver

Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light. It was what I was born for— to look, to listen, to lose myself inside this soft world— to instruct myself over and over in joy, and acclamation. Nor am I talking about the exceptional, the fearful, the dreadful, the very extravagant— but of the ordinary, the common, the very drab, the daily presentations. Oh, good scholar, I say to myself, how can you help but grow wise with such teachings as these— the untrimmable light of the world, the ocean’s shine, the prayers that are made out of grass? In the hope that today is a day you are able to spend less time at the computer and more time “looking, listening and losing yourself” in some part of nature’s beauty and delight, we offer this poem by Mary Oliver from her collection called Why I Wake Early. Now go pray.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Guest Blog: Chuck

Glory in the gloom

New England weather is setting records for prolonged rain and cloud cover. Why is it that we feel dispirited when skies are grey? The spirit is still there, creating moist miracles before our eyes.

For those of us who like to venture out, wet or not, there is the beauty of jewels of moisture on spider webs and leaves, the smell of growth in the damp woods, the chuckle and gurgle of water over rocks. If you don't feel the need for shoes, enjoy the comfortable coolness of the moist, soft sod.

More of the indoor, looking out persuasion? Revel in the comfort of being warn and dry while watching the rain drip from the eaves and decorate the puddles with rings of wavelets, the light vary with the cloud cover.

Two weeks ago, Acadia experienced very heavy rain overnight. Driving though the Park the next day offered other first hand views of the reconstructive power of the water. Waterfalls were leaping from ledges, to splash from lower levels in great arcs. Ponds rose to levels that had roaring torrents appear where placid streams normally meandered.

From whatever perspective, remember that all of this too is a part of the great creation. Go, glory in the gloom.  -Chuck Pritchard

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

We're Ba-ack!!!

We're back from this year's annual conference, inspired, refreshed (after catching up with some sleep) and full of ideas competing for attention.  Where to start, where to start....
Well, right here of course!  On July 5th I'll start my tenth year of ministry with the folks of Readfield UMC.  There are different faces than there were then. We've said good bye to Freda, Bob, Bill, Fred, and many others.  Friends have
 moved on to new places and pursuits (What is Alan  Lake up to out there in Arizona these
 days? And how's Melinda doing over at Kent's Hill School's office?)  There are different challenges than there were then.  Remember when we looked out and wondered whether we'd ever get a mission trip up and running?  In 2010 there will be three adult/youth ventures to Louisiana and another to Kaoma, Zambia. 
Right here is where we'll seek and serve Christ this year, right here- wherever we each find ourselves:  in homes and schools, Sunday school rooms and choir rehearsals, the food pantry, the Gulf, Kaoma.  Here we are.  Jesus has prepared the way and ministry is waiting.
This year its my goal to invite guest bloggers to share their "where we are" stories with us.  Meanwhile, here's a sneak peak at where Jeff found himself during the preparations for Annual Conference....designing and building a book for living gospel storytellers to walk out of.  What story of God's grace will you carry from here?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Should have and did.

4698.jpg

What are you running toward?   

An ad in the Boston Subway proclaimed "Don't ever have to say, "I should have."  

Standing in front of it were dozens of i-pod wearers creating islands of personal space. 

I wonder when Jesus would have used an i-pod (I'm pretty sure he would have loved the incredible variety of music) and when he would have left the ear buds out so that he connected with what was happening around him.

"Don't ever have to say, I should have."

Even church can become a set of private islands, each plugged into our own pew and our own view, a place to get away from it all.  Jesus understood.  Everywhere he went people were coming at him with their needs.  He plans a weekend on the lakeshore in Gerosene and a crazy guy jumps out at him.  Jesus heads back across the lake to Galilee and Jairus runs up, begging him to heal his little daughter.  Jesus hardly gets two steps toward Jairus' house and a woman tugs on him hem, embarrassed but desperate for relief form her 12 year hemorrhage.

I guess that's what happens when people get the message that God really cares about them, cares enough to reach out and touch their lives.  When they glimpse the real church, the one that knows care is not a list of tasks or even something we do, its who we are. It's Jesus' way of being.

Here's a way to tell whether you're "in or out" of what Jesus is doing.  Most folks got really annoyed.  The Gerosenes had the guy's craziness safely under control-over there outside town.  The people 'pressing in' on Jesus  moving toward Jairus' house were disgusted when that unclean woman interrupted  their entertainment.  When Jesus said "do not fear, only believe," i can do both, most stayed scornfully "out."

Only the real followers, and the child's parents, the woman now healed, went along. "Don't ever have to say, I should have."

What are you running toward?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

An African Proverb says that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.  
Why is it so hard for us who follow the prince of peace not just to remember but to actually live this truth?  Ted Lydden Hatten, Conference Artist this week at the Iowa UMC annual conference, has a creative way to remind us of the relationships in Christ that are deeper and wider than our disagreements.  (This may load slowly, but is well worth watching the whole video.)
What chair might you prayerfully find yourself facing today?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Church Making

How would you go about creating a church? What would the key components be?  What would its parts be? Go ahead, take a blank piece of paper and have some fun designing with words or pictures.  After a while, imagine what other people's creations might look like.  What might God's version look like? 

There are as many ways of imagining ‘Church” as there have been Christians, and, especially since the reformation, we’ve tested a great many options.

What are the essentials?

We tend to think in terms of product. This is what a church looks like (or ought to look like).

But God works in Pentecost process,  consecrating us with the Holy Spirit's touch, cultivating us to become like Christ, and activating us to live as God's people. Anything we create and call” church” is a form for God to work through as God builds these processes. This is how a church is made.

 Here’s what we at Readfield UMC call the essential elements in our church’s experience: 

The foundation of our church is Christ.  Everything we build must be on Christ’s Holy foundation of Faith Hope, Love. If we don’t build on, and take care of, our relationship with that foundation we might as well be building on a sand bar.  So let's think of Christ's presence in the red of Pentecost as we celebrate God's living presence.

God has purpose for us.  We discover that purpose in the next set of elements, the way we nurture our relationship with God and the way we reach out with and because of our relationship with God.  We live tending the fire within our community and within our lives, reaching out with the light of Christ. 

Nurture follows God’s call to intentionally grow in our fellowship with each other, in our worship practices, in our mind, body and spirit, not just as individuals, but also an expression of the body of Christ.  Let’s color this area of our life together blue, for the deep waters of baptism, blue for –nurturing our souls (in-tending). 

Outreach follows God’s call to extend the grace that grounds and transforms our lives.  We reach out with words of witness and acts of mercy that respond to real people’s real needs.  We reach out with the work of justice, demanding that human community make a safe, healthy, respected place for each and all human beings.    Let’s color this area of our life yellow, for the light of Christ that shines brighter each time one of us extends the faith hope and love that give us life and purpose. 

 Then, as we're making our church, there are the people who develop and care for the gifts God gives us.  Green is for People (the Staff Parish Relations Committee & the Lay Leadership team)

White is  for property and our team of Trustees who keep our buildings and grounds clean and ready for ministry and our investments transparently in order.

And black is what we keep our budget in, thank Finance members. How many of us are at stick figure stage?)

But as all of us bring our gifts for God’s consecration, cultivate, and activation, we are pefected together, as individuals and as a community in that love that gives us holy ground to stand on and a holy purpose to reach toward.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Easter's just begun

A jewel green humming bird flew in my open car window early Thursday morning.  (It flew right out again).  The lovely brown mare in the field behind the Parsonage dropped a foal when no one was looking Thursday night.  (The vet said that afternoon she had "hay belly").  What's going on?
On Tuesday the study group read about Thomas surprise visit from the walking, talking, un-lockable Jesus.  What is going on?
Last Thursday, as I entered the hospital to pay a visit, I passed one of our newer worshipers joyously witnessing to a friend about her new found faith and community.  What is going on?
Several people have remarked that the church voice mail message still welcomes all to Easter worship. Isn't Easter over?  Hmmmm, perhaps its just getting started.
Easter can cause push-back.
Why was that upper room locked even after Jesus had visited the other disciples a week ago?
Do we walk faster to avoid awkwardly public witness?
Should I roll up my window to keep the humming birds out?
(For the foal, I offer no defense, only delight as it bounds about the paddock.)
Spring delights can open our eyes wide enough for other wonders to enter.
But Easter isn't just a pretty spring phenomenon.  Its God's way of saying, I am doing a really really really new thing.  
This thing of love, this thing of grace isn't over in a day.  It isn't containable, isn't control-able, isn't even (ultimately) avoidable.  Rumi says, "I don't care what you say.  Jesus is here and he wants to raise someone from the dead."
What unimaginable place do you long to see Christ love enter?  Is in your life, someone you love, a place you've only read about in the news?  Share it in a comment (below) and let us roll down the window in prayer with you this week.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Put down the ducky.

During a sermon on will power this week, I asked which Sesame Street citizen it was who told hesitant Ernie, “you’ve got to put down the ducky if you want to play the saxophone”? (Find out for yourself with this flash from the past: I'd forgotten what a great illustration this song is of the way we need each other to develop the will power that allows us to grow in new insights and gifts. Watching the video to the end, I can feel my own resolve building with each new voice that chimes in, "put down the ducky if you want to play the saxophone." Everyone needs encouragers like that to help us build our own willpower, much like early Methodist class meetings did in farm kitchens and barns here in Central Maine. A number of observers have commented this Lent on the trend for Christian college students to give up a technology for Lent. What might move into the space opened up by setting aside a cell phone, a social network, an ipod, even for a few weeks? We're nearing the end of Lent. An enormous hole in the human soul will be blasted wide open once again remembering and re-enacting Holy Friday. The hole will not close with Easter's resurrection. Instead it will become space for life instead of death, a space for grace created by Christ's choice to set aside his power and play the music of vulnerable love. With one week left in Lent, is there something God is calling you to set aside to make space for grace? Don't be afraid to let another know you need encouragement on the journey. I'm so grateful to have been "let go" by a faith community confident enough in the Holy Spirit to send their pastor in mission during Lent. Space for grace for all of us! Coming back, I can "pick up the ducky" with new insight. Get your Lent on, Easter is coming!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Home again

Why go there? It’s a question one comes to expect when doing mission trips. The same question must have crossed God’s mind as infant Jesus grew in Mary’s womb and adult Jesus went from early “success” (huge crowds) to final distress and the tomb. Imagine God in a more Grecian context, with divine buddies laughing at the holy folly of thinking that mess could be cleaned up, or puzzling internally, in our Hebrew formed fashion, over this strange compulsion to “save the world.” It’s that same apparently nonsensical pattern we follow when we give up vacation, pay the expense to travel, loose sleep, strain muscles, work on a shoestring budget, problem solve fixes contractors give up on. We go into the world’s failures. We are drawn into the heart of God. What good did the cross do? Is it just a reminder of human cruelty, of how hard we push away God’s love? What good does a week with untrained adolescent roofers, dry-wallers, and carpenters do? Isn’t it just spitting in the wind of the next hurricane, or the overwhelming poverty of a 3rd world country, or what rational people know those people out to do? Today’s Sojourner’s email (subscribe at sojomail@SoJo.net) carried a thought from Langston Hughes that I hadn’t heard before: When peoples care for you and cry for you, they can straighten out your soul. -from his short story "Last Whipping" What strikes me about this today, three days back, is the way our souls are cared for on our trips. When Lynn and Pat and their teams return form Zambia, their souls are polished and glowing. The Dulac team was immersed in the soul care of their homeowner, Johnnie’s prayers and faith stories. Doug and Jeff’s roofing crews received home-cooked soul food. Chuck’s dry-wallers received the gift of competence and confidence with a glimpse of a homeowner whose faith has carried his family through generations of travail. All of us were swept up in the glory of a home dedication where we workers were Ms Yolanda’s guests. We were cared for by those we went to take care of. It’s good to be home, whether in the melting hills of Maine, or the bunk houses of Louisiana, home in God’s heart. Dear God, we pray that You will make this house a home again, where Your love dwells. We pray that those who enter its doors will praise you. (Litany of dedication for Yolanda’s home)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

from your red-necked pastor

Greetings from your red-necked (and pink-armed) pastor, as well as the rest of the crews in Dulac and Slidell. Today was the turning point of the week. Mission trip Wednesdays are where we "hit the wall" and push through to renewed energy; when team turns into family and humor abounds. What a joy to discover there's not a whiner in the bunch! Today, while Jeff, Doug, and Chuck led their teams to conquer unfathomably angled multiple roofs and equally cockeyed dry-wall challenges, Susan Baker and I took off for the Bayou to check in with team 2. Under Eric's supervision, they had just completed a 2 1/2 day insulating project----undera house. Imagine seeing a beautiful flowing stream jumping with fish and overseen by cardinals, herons, egrets, and other regal water birds. Well, seeing it when you crawl out from under a house sitting on six high stacks of cinder blocks and regain mobility in your neck! The Dulac group is living in an Indian (Native American) community just down from "shrimpers row" and saw their first alligators up close and personal at 1:00 pm today. We have so many stories to share with you about what God is doing in these communities and what resources we are discovering in and among ourselves. Each night after dinner we spend a few minutes bringing scripture and Kents Hill Core Values together in conversation about what the day is teaching us. Today was also the turning point toward home: 4 days done, and just 4 to go. While we're not quite ready to reconcile ourselves to snow again (we assume you have a little left), you are all much in our hearts and prayers. We wish we could share this experience first hand with every one of you and pray that a mission trip is in your future. (And not just because you haven't really lived until you've eaten in Chez Nona for a week). We count on your prayers as well, for our safety, for us to take in the extraordinary witness to Christ we experience in our interactions here, and for the temporary community that forms between teams from Muncie, Indiana.....Debuque, Iowa......Missourri, Arkansas, Italy......where else do strangers offer to do each other's dishes? Please pray also for the situation in Northern Ireland where people are standing up to say "enough," no more violence. ....for Peter and Lisa DeWolfe who are working in a clinic in Bethlehem for the next few weeks. ....For the increasing stress on those who wonder about job stability, or what their next one will be. For the Joy of having a faith community to see us through all times, and for the Holy Spirit to inspire and direct us. In Joy, Karen

Thursday, March 5, 2009

John's Cross View

Lenten conversation #1 Mark 1: 9-15 is the the Gospel of Mark's version of Jesus' baptism. For years I've heard, and made, comments wondering about Jesus' experience hearing himself called God's beloved son. Sometimes we imagine what the bystanders may have seen or heard or thought. But this year I find myself wondering what that might day have been like for John, the baptizer. Ask God to accompany you in your reading and reflection. Read Mark 1: 9-15 through slowly. Hint: Its best read aloud. Imagine what the day might have been like, how the water felt, warm, chilly, still, moving.... Who is around? What sounds do you hear? Read Mark 1: 9-15 slowly again. Imagine that you are John. What are you doing in the water? What do you see? What do you feel and think as Jesus approaches? ...as Jesus stands in front of you? ...as you speak? ...as you hear God's word? ...as you watch Jesus return to the shore? Read the passage a third time. What difference does this make in your life? Who have you baptized? Why did God choose you for that work? What prayer do you have for Jesus, headed for the work that leads him to the cross? Spend a few minutes in prayer asking God how you are meant to serve and witness to the beloved today. Then post your comments on John's experience using the comment icon below.

Mid Week Meander-Seconds

I'm being more diligent with my seconds this winter: ...eliminating second helpings unless it's salad, ...taking care of my Christmas amaryllis so that it will, hopefully, bloom again, ...tossing table scraps into the worm farm. An obituary in Sunday's New York TImes reminded me of how important "seconds" are in leadership. In a culture that cultivates "first," seconds are actually the people who get most of the work done, responding to vision put out there by more visible leaders. The article was about a woman I'd never heard of before, though her father was one of the most famous world leaders of his day. HER name was Rhena Schweitzer Miller. Rhena Sweitzer Miller was the director of the hospital her parents opened in a chicken coop in Gabon's rain forest; the wife of a skilled heart specialist, and the mother of three. IN the 1960s, she opened her home to Ibo children when there was no longer room for them in the overflowing hospital. She told the New York Times that the children had to sleep two to each bed, but "They have beautiful foam mattresses from the United States, and a staff member has been painting children's drawings on the cots." HIstory holds onto names of the "firsts," but much of God's kingdom work is down by "seconds," not second in quality or potential, but second because they are behind the scenes. And in fact, Jesus paid special attention to the need for those who would lead to put themselves "behind," in line. Many of the voices worth attending to in Lent's scripture work behind the scenes where their names may never be on the front page. But Christ knows them and knows their worth. (BTW, Do you know who Rhena's father was? post your comment!) Keeping in Touch... In order to be wise stewards of the congregation's financial resources, your Finance team now makes property and health insurance as well as pension payments automatically. This saves us over $2,000 a year, but also requires fiscal discipline to have the money in checking for withdrawal each month. In the winter, when energy costs are highest, it is difficult to do this and make payroll. Please help us by keeping as current as you can with your contributions to the "household account," our operating budget. If you find your financial situation changing, please don't be shy about letting Melissa Emerson (Finance Secretary) or Karen Munson know. Pennies matter in small church planning! Come be blessed in worship this week by the ministry of Rev. Russ Peppe, and by Peter's view of the cross. Diane Folks will host a traditional Fellowship Time this week. Please keep in prayer: *The UMVIM teams to Dulac and Slidell, LA as we travel and begin our work. *Mill workers affected by shut downs this week. *The United Methodist movement's effort to minister in the current economic climate, with those enlivened by Christ, and to those who need it most. *All seeking a new vision of community. In the Joy of Serving Christ with You, Rev. M

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Some dread Lent as a time of darkness that comes, for those of us in the north, just as days are finally getting longer and lighter. Many of us were taught that Lent is a season of punishment and are reluctant to wallow in our faults when the spirit of spring is right around the corner. But for me, the onset of spring, of shorter nights, is part of Lent's genius. It's less about what's in the darkness than about being able to shine Christ's light on every nook and cranny of our light hungry souls. So, even in the forty days of repentance that dust us off and clean us out to receive resurrection fresh and new, Sunday worship continues to shine that light of Christ in little resurrection celebrations. God's light has not gone out. It is ever strong enough for our darkest days. We practice receiving Christ's light in worship, not as dry runs, but as the living breathing presence of the Holy One in Three, a constantly renewable source of spiritual energy. Sometimes I think that we mistake 'information" for "transformation" thinking that if we just know enough about anything, that will solve the problems of the world. But while knowledge is certainly power, practicing information gathering instead of resurrection living can lead to 1) analysis paralysis, 2) overconfidence 3) inattention to the unknowable, but very present, power of God. As I learn to see God's creation with that living light, I see evidence of dark turning to light where attention is paid: the combined nickels and dimes of Nothing but Nets: http://www.nothingbutnets.net/nets-save-lives/kenya.html#slideshow, the family receiving energy assistance and eager to help another in turn, youngsters devastated by death too-soon who weave loving community around each other and bereaved families. I see adults with renewed "ahahs" about who Jesus is and what difference that makes. We are all learning what it means to living Holy Spirit light in a world fascinated with darkness. May your Lent be marked by welcoming rather than wallowing, and may any dark corners in your soul invite Christ in to bring new life. Keeping in Touch: Check readfieldumc.blogspot tomorrow 11:00 am or after, as we begin our online Lenten discussion. Please pray for ... ...all those suffering form the flu, especially the frail old and young members of our communities. ...sufferers from the effects of darkness, physical or spiritual. ....students waiting for college acceptance and finance package notification. ....the UMVIM team in the last stages of preparation for trip #4 .....Rev. Russ Peppe and those preparing wonderful worship for March 8 and 15. The Pritchards have charge of the stone soup pot following worship this week, march 1. (One vegetarian and-rumor has it-one chicken this week). Drop your contribution in on your way to worship! We are just 15 chairs shy of a full fellowship hall. (No that's not a metaphor...). If you've already signed up to sponsor one or more chairs, thankyou! Please send your sponsorship check to the office as soon as feasible so that we can pick up the last batch. And if you haven't sponsored one yet, please consider helping with this important hospitality resource.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Staying in Love

Midweek Meander 2-11-09 The most radical thing we do is to choose to love each other….again and again. –www.thesimpleway.org “Who don’t you love,” was the question posed in an anti-racism training workshop I attended last week. I really thought hard about that. After a lifetime of seeking Christ, I honestly couldn’t think of any one I’d list as unlovable. My mind shifted categories to “easy to spend time with” or “hard to spend time with.” And “renews my energy” or “drains my energy.” But I felt like I was ducking the question, “who don’t you love?” Is love an attitude or an action? In worship last Sunday, the Men’s group presented a wonderful conversation about the Wesleyan “Three Simple Rules” Do no harm, do good, stay in love with God. They showed us how companionship in Christ can help us struggle with the simple, difficult, questions we ask and choices we make. It’s hard to know how to love in a world that makes it sound as easy as picking the right card (why does that take so much time???), buying the right gift, or finding the perfect soul-mate. The most radical thing we do is to choose to love each other…..again and again. It’s radical to choose to love the same husband or wife through rough spots when all around we see “not happy with that one? Get a new one.” It’s radical to choose to love friends who take their “stuff” out on you, coworkers who step on you to get ahead, neighbors oblivious to your feelings. It’s even more radical to choose to love people we’ve never seen but who we think of as competitors rather than partners or threats rather than as persons. It’s hard to choose to love someone we know we have to keep our distance from for safety or sanity. By choosing to love someone, or someones, we choose to seek what’s best for them at the same time that we are seeking what’s good for us. And sometimes it would be an awful lot easier to just go away. How will you choose to love while we’re celebrating love that makes the world go ‘round? Why not think outside the box? Love by entering the human struggle. Become active in a political effort instead of critiquing from the side line. Call someone you miss. Talk (and listen) with a person who has a very different perspective. Invite someone to worship or lunch that you wouldn’t usually spend time with. Find a way to tell the ones closest to you that you choose them, not just to keep them happy, but because you make each other’s lives better. In the Joy of Seeking and Serving Christ with You, Karen US: CHOOSE FAIR TRADE CHOCOLATE ON VALENTINE’S DAY During Valentine’s Day week in the US, consumers are expected to spend more than $345 million on chocolate, benefiting large confection companies. When you buy fair trade chocolate through UMCOR’s partner Equal Exchange, small-scale farmers in Latin America, Asia and Africa benefit from a portion of your purchase and earn fair living wages. Why not choose to buy fair trade chocolate for a loved one and at the same time help United Methodist Committee On Relief meet its 100-Ton goal? The 100-Ton Challenge ends on World Fair Trade Day, May 9, 2009. Help farmers earn fair living wages, send their children to school and empower their communities. You can also give to UMCOR-SA&D, Advance #982188.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Love is....

Morning Meander 2-03-09 Love is in the Air…. Love hurts….. The Trouble With Love…. Diamonds are a Girls’ Best Friend…. What popular love song sings in your inner ear as Valentine ads and articles start to pop-up? (Add to the conversation with your comments below. You never know what’s going to stick. Sometimes it’s a long term favorite. Sometimes is something new and thought provoking. Sometimes it’s a catchy tune but the words make us wince. The third “Simple Rule” asks us to stay in love with God. How can love be a “rule?” Isn’t it a flight of fancy, a dance of the heart? How can a rule help me stay in love with anyone, much less God? My idea of “rule” is formed by my grade school years, and, if I’m honest, so are a lot of my ideas about Valentine’s day. Rules are things other people make me follow and love should be whimsical, sweet, and a little shy. Somehow I suspect that’s not exactly what Wesley had in mind when he invited us to “stay in love with God.” What if a rule were a measure, or a framework for taking stock and making sense of all the various experiences and ideas of love? What if love was about trust and helping each other become the best person we can be? How can I really stay in love with someone or some God I never talk to…never spend time with…never ask what’s happening in their lives and souls? What really rules the way I spend my time and energy? Valentine’s day is a lovely celebration of what tips us into love with another person and the third simple rule is an essential reminder of what it takes to stay in love, with God, a love that makes the way we love each other stronger and more meaningful as well. So this year as the day for celebrating love draws near, I’m thinking about what “rules” will shape my love. What are you thinking of?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Next Day

Morning Meander January 20, 2009 Today I’ll take down the photograph of the president I’ve prayed for each morning over the past eight years and put up the photo of a new president. I’m thinking about using the striking mosaic offered by The Washington Post online edition this morning. At first I wasn’t sure about it, and then I realized that the composite wasn’t of viewers but by viewers. As it came into conceptual focus I was struck by way the image conveys all the myriad of perspectives we witnesses bring to this extraordinary, regular changing of the guard. http://specials.washingtonpost.com/inauguration/mosaic/ Some of us are moved to our marrow. Some of us are nervously willing to give it a chance. Some are already rolling up sleeves and pitching in while others are practically paralyzed by the roiling socio-economic landscape. All of those perspectives make up our nation and emerge from our own community. Yet because we believe that we are better together than alone, because we believe, in a way that finds expression every day, that we are our brother and sisters keepers, we can and must share our ideas and hesitations, joys and fears. It didn’t take long before an inauguration controversy emerged around who was praying when. I was kind of confused when I got multiple questions around the community about "the controversial preacher giving the benediction." The benediction was given by Joe Lowery, who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with MLK, highly controversial in the 1950s and 60s, but now, not so much. (The Christian Century has a great article about the real designated lightening rod, Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren, that should be available on line next week, www.christiancentury.org ). I love the questions because they open conversation to different ways of looking at things, place us in that great mosaic instead of trying to hide behind it. We need ways to share our richly diverse ways of seeing with each other, prayerfully and in conversation grounded in God’s word, or we perpetuate the isolation that breeds pride, undercuts trust and cuts us off from others in our family of God. So share what’s going on in your life and through your mind. Share it with pew pals who may see from other angles. Share authentically, share lovingly, share constructively, and share in the hopeful presence of the living Christ. Let all who do justice and love mercy say amen and say amen. In the Joy of Seeking and Serving Christ with you, Karen

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

snow tracks

Morning Meander from Karen January 14, 2009 This morning the wide backyard view, framed by generous parsonage windows, is a smooth and sun lit white. One measured line of tracks cuts straight across the snow. Ignorant of animal evidence, I imagine a deer crossing at sunrise. But it could be the trail of a neighbor’s dog since that yard edge is where it begins and, on closer look, seems to return further out. The two lines converge on the rise, one extending to the cemetery border, the other joining it on the way. The early morning hours are as pristine as this landscape. Uncluttered by work left to rest the night before. Perhaps that’s why so many pilgrims of faith claim it as “quiet time.” We have a choice of hitting the floor running, or claiming the space as the gift of sacred time, to put one foot in front of the other and see where we are going into the new day that is, if only for these few moments, clear and uncluttered. May you find this space for God’s grace wherever daily moments of clarity beckon to you. And may you love it as the gift it is, one that disappears in the blink of an inattentive eye. Psalm 119:133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Monday Meander, 1-05-09 The headline was a heartbreaker and a headshaker, “Herman Rosenblat's Holocaust memoir of love is exposed as a hoax.” A love story meant to inspire hope in the harshest circumstances, the Rosenblat’s tale could have been just the grace note needed in a tough time. But in a time when distrust rules and people are craving the truth, Herman Rosenblat’s children’s book was doomed. I don’t mean to imply that the Rosenblats were right. Facts matter. The “principle of veracity” recognizes that trust depends on truth telling, especially in a context as important as the Holocaust. I’m just saying that I sympathise since some of the tales closest to my heart have certainly grown with the telling. Was that childhood Christmas really as white, as witty, and as wild as you’ve told your children? I don’t think the Rosenblats had bad motives. I just think they are bad historians. Had they told the tale as a work of fiction inspired by the immensity of their love, it would have hit the bookstores with no problem. But it does make me wonder about other powerful stories that have been sentimentalized. Is St. Valentine’s love more powerful when offered in candy boxes or when it includes his martyrdom? Is Christmas’ love more powerful when, as the song goes, Said the king to the people everywhere, "Listen to what I say! Pray for peace, people, everywhere, Listen to what I say! The Child, the Child sleeping in the night He will bring us goodness and light, He will bring us goodness and light." Or does that love take on a new power, when we read Matthew’s account of a ruthless king who kills infants in order to hold onto power, and come to understand that the infant Christ embodied a loving God’s determination to show another way? In this new year, may we enjoy the lovely yarns we spin but be moved to loving action by the realities we see through God’s eyes. In Christ’s Joy, Karen