This Lent, we are exploring holy habits, practices that we can hone in order to be receptive to God’s grace, love and transformation.
Holy Habit: Fasting
Sunday in worship, we explored the habit of fasting. Everyone was invited this week to practice the discipline of fasting in order to either:
1) Hear more clearly God’s call in your life or
2) To contemplate a call from God that you have heard before.
How to Fast:
Listen to the sermon
Plan your fast using
Blessings as you practice the habit of fasting this Lent!
This Lent, we are exploring holy habits, practices that we can hone in order to be receptive to God’s grace, love and transformation.
Holy Habit: Searching Scripture
Yesterday in worship, we explored the habit of searching scripture.
You can listen to the sermon
Everyone was challenged this week to:
1) Set aside a time and a place every day to read scripture.
2) Follow the readings that we are sharing as a church (found on twitter , facebook, or here)
3) Do what you hear God calling you to do as you read.
How to Read:
The Reverend Ryan Parker led us in a practice called Lectio Divina (“Divine Reading”), as a model for how to read scripture. A guide to Lectio Divina can be found here.
Blessings as you practice the habit of searching scripture this Lent!
Christ came into the world to give us the grace of His love and forgiveness. We in America join into the celebration full force.
So what does this season bring to you? Financial woes, Stress, Medical emergencies, Mental anguish …
These are items that many of us experience every day but with the Advent of Christmas in American Culture we hype it up to overwhelming proportions and some experience it for the entire season.
What can you do to detour from some of these stresses?
“The holidays can become a busy time filled with stress, but it doesn’t have to be! Remember the reason for the season and replace stress with joy and hope. Here are a few suggestions to help you and your congregation find joy and cope with stress:
1. Remember, the season is a celebration of Christ, not an excuse for a shopping frenzy! Are you buying because you are excited to give a special gift or because you feel obligated?
2. Allow yourself to view the season through the eyes of a child so that the wonder and beauty have a chance to replace hurry and frustration. It really is OK to play in the snow!
3. Patience includes flexibility. Learn to take a deep breath and plan for the unexpected. Often, including a few extra minutes in your planning can be the difference between calm and crisis.
4. Include various ages in your activities. Not everyone can do everything, but everyone can do something. An activity for the extended family brings everyone together.
5. Be kind to yourself! Christ instructs us to love others as we love ourselves. Would you expect someone else to be successful with the schedule that you have set for yourself? What is really important to you and what are you willing to let go of in order to be renewed by the season?
6. Humor and hugs are the treatment of choice for most situations.
7. Fellowship with family and friends is a gift that lasts a lifetime.”
*United Health Ministry Network, Center for Health Newsletter Dec. 2012, UMCOR,
Staying Healthy During the Holidays (Infographic),Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion bulletin at 12/05/2012 02:20 PM EST,
The loss of a loved one is not only hard for the immediate person who is suffering from the loss but his/her community of friends and family. There are several ways to help walk through the Holidays while coping with grief:
- Develop a new way to celebrate.
- If alone now but not ready to face other’s grieving or would just rather use technology, search the Grief Share site, http://www.griefshare.org/. They will send you daily messages and also have Support groups in NC. Sad to say not in Wake or Durham County.
- Do something entirely different with another person in grief like going on a trip or a cruise.
- If you have always been the one of the family to host the Christmas Celebration, find a new member of your family that may like to move the celebration to their home. You may also decide to group host the celebration in a restaurant, church hall or community center near the majority of the people you usually invite.
- Check with other members of your church who may be single, widowed, divorce and invite them into your home for a meal or meet in a restaurant.
- Volunteer at a shelter, group home or orphanage.
- Help serve at your church during the Christmas service to keep your mind busy and avoid that crying meltdown some experience during a Holy Day service.
- Many of us may need to have a more personal connection to help us through grief. A wonderful, free source in the Wake County area is attached to our Wake County Hospice. You do not need to be mourning a loved one lost while under the care of Hospice or one who joined the Lord from our Wake County area. Just a Wake County resident who is in grief for a loved one. *www.hospiceofwake.org/content/hgc+main/12040. Horizons Grief Center is a division of Hospice of Wake County and is committed to providing compassionate grief services and support to adults, teens and children who are grieving the loss of a family member or close friend.
May you all have a beautiful Christmas celebrating the Birth of Our Lord and Redeemer.
Peace and Good Will,
Pat Gooley, RN
Faith Community Nurse
As Advent builds toward the birth of our Lord on Christmas Day, I find myself reflecting on that story. In particular, i am thinking kore about the part of the story where Jesus is born. As in Jesus was not spontaneously a human being, a full grown adult. He was first a child, born a baby in a lowly manger.
This reality of Christ’s birth affects all of infancy and childhood. Because Jesus was born and lived through childhood, childhood carries a new meaning for us. It is no longer something we just “grow out of,” as Rev. Edgardo Colon-Emeric noted in a recent theology lecture. Childhood is something sanctified by Christ, made holy and valuable in the human life.
Bearing the name “Christian” means we are “little Christs.” Christ is the pattern of our lives, and in his birth and infancy and childhood we see his is the pattern for our own. These are holy times, and our childhood is no less significant a time in our lives than our adulthood. Seeing children this way may help church congregations not to see children as distractions keeping us from really engaging in worship. Instead, children become a necessary part of our lives. If worship is a time to grow into our Christ-like pattern, then children have a necessary place at the table. They remind us that even as a child Jesus was God, that childhood is a time of growth in wisdom and understanding. We do not mature separate of childhood. No one was born full-grown, even Christ. Children participate as fully in the life of God as any other person of any other age.
What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.
- Cameron Merrill, Minister for Youth
This morning while taking my daily walk I spotted a familiar sight. Perched on a neighbor’s gutter was a mocking bird with a twig in her mouth. In an effort to be spiritually more connected to nature, I broke my stride and stopped on the sidewalk. At first I experience a sense of joy over the possibility of watching more nesting, egg laying, hatching, feeding, and fledgling behavior. Then I became filled with wonder about the architectural genius of nest building. I recall after many a storm finding nests on the ground which had been delicately lined with hair from our beautiful white Siberian husky. I just marveled at the skill it would take to do this delicate work with nothing but a beak. I have two hands and 10 fingers and I shudder to think what I would turn out as a fitting place to lay my little egglings.
I love birds. Apparently, Jesus did too. For he uses them as examples of the enormous love of God for creation and for you and me. Jesus said, in his Sermon on the Mount, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (MT 6:26) He makes the same point again: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (MT 10:29-31)
Today make a point to stop and smell the roses, to look at the lilies of the field, to watch a bird build her nest and remember how much God loves and cares for you.
Ruth Harper Stevens
Call and Response
In light of our current sermon series, Preachers, All of You! I read something in Alive Now, a resource I use for my personal devotional time each day, and I think it speaks to us – I know it spoke to me. The title is “Call and Response” and it is a prayer poem by Allen Ewing-Merrill:
The question is not
whether you are a calling God…
The question is
whether we are a responding people…
whether we are open to your guiding Spirit,
whether we quiet our hearts to hear your voice,
whether we are willing to be conformed to your will.
Continue, calling God,
to gift us,
challenge us -
yes, continue to call us
for the sake of a world that needs
the gifts you’ve planted within us.
And when we’re slow to respond,
keep pestering, provoking, and prodding -
keep inviting response
until our hearts are quieted to hear your voice
and open to your guiding Spirit
and willing to be conformed to your will -
until together we dance,
step by step,
you in the lead:
call and response.
As we read the Bible, most of our Scripture is about this very thing – God calling and our response or lack thereof – over and over again we read of this in the Bible. Beyond that we read of this throughout our history as Christian people and we wrestle with this even today. The point is this: we are ALL called by God to something, even if that something is simply following Jesus. God calls…what will your/our response be?
Sue Ellen Nicholson
Story: A missionary handed songwriter Helen Lemmel a tract that read “So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness.” Lemmel really connected with the tract. She said later, “…as if commanded to stop and listen, I stood still, and singing in my soul and spirit was the chorus, with not one conscious moment of putting word to word to make rhyme, or note to make melody… Later that year (1918), Lemmel’s hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus was published in England. It has since become a favorite around the world. (United Methodist Hymnal # 349)
Application: In my last blog I wrote about M.A.S.H. Recently I was flipping channels again, and again nothing was on – - not even M.A.S.H. I did hear some bickering about politics (imagine that!), and then there was an older movie star saying “Protect yourself from the problems of the world – - invest in gold!” I saw where people were filled with irritation and sometimes committed crimes of rage when they missed a plane, couldn’t get the latest gadget the first day it came out, and even when they felt they had to wait too long at a stoplight. We all tend to worry about our schedules and about material possessions we have acquired or want to acquire, and most of us are bombarded with similar news or stress 24/7.
Maybe every now and then we just need to unplug, slow down, and adjust our focus enough to give God a chance to speak to us. Turn our eyes upon Jesus. Come on, how much info do we really need about Jessica’s baby or which stars are dating this week? What if we turned our focus more toward God and how to serve him? Anxiety about our schedules, material things, or other diversions should never become our focus. Taking time to focus ourselves can help us grow closer to God and allows God to work through us. An interesting characteristic of nature – - as the branch lives to feed others, it feeds itself. Similarly, as we take time to serve Christ and serve others through Him, we ourselves benefit spiritually.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
- Ray Newlin, Minister of Music
I just registered the All Saints’ UMC labyrinth online with the Labyrinth Society. That means we will be listed as a public, outdoor labyrinth, open all the time to anyone looking for a labyrinth on that worldwide labyrinth listing. We’ll be listed just in time for World Labyrinth Day on Saturday, May 5 when at 1:00pm in their local time zone people will be walking labyrinths all around the world.
Given that, I thought it appropriate to share some of the things to know about labyrinths and walking the labyrinth that we learned in our Labyrinth Workshop back in March. First thing to know is that the labyrinth is found in religious traditions around the world and has been for quite a long time – the labyrinth in the floor of Chartres Cathedral was laid around 1220. Our labyrinth is in the Chartres design. The labyrinth is not a maze – it has only one path that winds throughout and becomes a mirror for where we are in our lives. It touches our sorrows and releases our joys when we walk with an open heart.
There are three stages of the walk. The journey in is a letting go – a releasing and shedding of thoughts and emotions, letting the mind become quiet and empty. The center is a place to spend some time – it is a place for illumination, for meditation and prayer. The center is the place to receive what is there to be received. The journey out is then integration – joining God in what God wants to do in your life or in the situation you have taken to God in walking the labyrinth. The journey out empowers us to find and do what God calls us to do.
There are a few other things to keep in mind when walking the labyrinth. Go at your own pace. Be aware of your breathing. Silence is important so respect others also walking. Ways to walk the labyrinth include giving gracious attention (being still in mind and resting in God); asking a question; using a repetition such as a verse of Scripture or centering prayer or affirmation sentence; reading and reflecting on Scripture; asking for help – praying while walking; or honoring a benchmark in life – memorial act, celebration, penitential act, intercessory act. Symbolic items (flower, stone, scarf) may be carried along on the journey and left at the center or kept with you as a reminder of the experience.
If you’d like copies of the handouts from the Labyrinth Workshop (more on what I’ve outlined here and also ways to walk with labyrinth with children), we’ve got some in the church office. You may want to check out the book: Walking a Sacred Path by Lauren Artress or visit the Labyrinth Society website: www.labyrinthsociety.org. Better yet, come walk the labyrinth and experience it for yourself. Thanks to all who worked so hard on it – we’ve got a beautiful gift for ourselves and now available to others!
I caught a rerun of M.A.S.H. recently where two soldiers were seriously wounded. Hawkeye’s patient needed a transplant quickly in order to survive. Death was inevitable for B.J.’s patient, and B.J.’s patient was the only possible donor for the first patient. And so the staff found themselves in a situation where guilt was inevitable. Though no one wanted either man to die, if B.J.’s patient held on to life for too long, neither of the men would make it.
From the dating scene to the battlefield, it seems like all too often something bad has to happen to set the stage for the next good thing to happen. There must be hundreds of pop and country tunes where, in retrospect, the singer recognizes that the person who “dumped” them really did them a favor since they are now so much happier with their new girlfriend or boyfriend. Examples abound. Many plants have to die before their seeds can generate new growth. There’s a line from The Fantasticks that asks why we must die a little before we can grow. A character in the old movie Starman comments that humans seem to be at their best when things are at their worst. Examples go on and on, but for us, Easter is the culminating example. Mary and Mary Magdalene may have been getting accustomed to grief when they went to see Jesus’ body, but they were greeted with something good as well – - “He is not here; for he is risen.”
Like the stories above, Christ’s resurrection also reminds us that often something good follows something bad. So how can we benefit from the examples above? Christ’s death and resurrection, as well as these stories, should help us keep our perspective when life throws us a curve. They can also remind us of the importance of looking closer at things that are dear to us and acting on them now. Why wait until there is a hurricane to help someone in need? Or to tell that family member you love them? Or to help and encourage a child? The Easter season reminds us to find new life as Christians and to share it with others on a daily basis.
- Ray Newlin, Minister of Music
One of my earliest memories is of climbing the staircase in my Grandmother’s big old stucco house on 9th Avenue South in St. Petersburg. I recall approaching the second floor and looking up. There to the left, on top of a large chest of drawers, was a framed black and white picture of a beautiful sophisticated woman. She was wearing a white tailored uniform topped off with a cap on her head. I later learned that it was a photo of my Aunt Aleene taken when she was a chief stewardess with National Airlines back in the 1950s. I was captivated by this confident looking woman with her glamorous career. I was a bit naïve, for sure. But she did made a solid impression and I was proud, even at that young age, to be a part of her family.
Perhaps, this was why I didn’t revolt when her mother, my dear grandmother, hired me one day to wash the baseboards in her big old two-story house. “Why now, Gramma?” I asked. “Because Aleene is coming to town!” You would have thought she was Queen Aleene for all the preparations that went into her arrival. I remember thinking as I scrubbed: “Note to self: if you ever have kids, when they come to visit, do not wash the baseboards.”
Now, I’d love to tell you that I don’t make a fuss when my kids come to town. But my husband, Joe, will tell you otherwise. So let me simply state that never, ever, even once, have I washed the baseboards in anticipation of Eric and Nathan’s arrival.
Nevertheless, I get it. I understand the frenetic joy that accompanies a child’s return home. Fatted calf, ring on finger, party thrown…I get it. And even though Aleene was never the prodigal daughter, her arrival always instituted a celebration.
My aunt died Aunt Aleene died this past week at the age of 98. Our family gathered on Holy Saturday in Davidson, NC to remember her as a child of God who impacted all of us in so many wonderful ways.
In life there are the occasional moments when someone gifts you with a treasure that you keep and hold dear forever. She may not even remember having done so. And I may be the only person living who remembers this. But a gift from Aunt Aleene became a seminal part of my own journey into maturity.
It was Christmas morning sometime in the early 1960s. My family was gathered in our cramped living room for the ceremonial opening of the presents. Aleene had sent us, her nieces and nephews, gifts for the occasion. I have no idea what any of them received, and I’m certain they don’t either. But I have an accurate remembrance, complete with thoughts and feelings, of exactly what was hidden within the small wrapped box labeled for me. I can tell you what I found inside, what it felt like in my hand, even what my pre-teen mind was thinking at the time. It was a magnificent string of pearls — not the little white venire kind that peel the first time you wear them. These were real, authentic, precious pearls and lots of them, strung together, tied with knots between each one, and tucked into a genuine leather pouch with a small coin emblem bradded to the leather.
Well, the pearls may not have actually been the ocean variety or even their cultured mimics, but to me they were real unadulterated, adult pearls. I still remember the comments around the room as I slid them out of the bag. “Why would Aunt Aleene give a young girl a string of grown-up woman’s pearls? What on earth was she thinking?” I’m sitting there wondering how everyone could have missed the obvious. I don’t believe I actually said it, but I was sure thinking it. “Because she thinks of me as a grown-up woman!” Case closed. End of discussion.
Sure I knew she was the pearl and I was the pebble. Or perhaps more accurately, I was the irritating grain of sand under the skin of the oyster’s shell. But I kept this gift as a symbol of my rite passage into adulthood. Over 50 years now I have treasure this string of pearls in the leather pouch with the gold coin. They are still as meaningful today as the day I received them. They are a reminder of what it means to have someone believe in you, to see you as something you have not yet become, and to call forth in you what you can be.
Thank you Aunt Aleene.