Monday, September 11, 2017

La Jolla Caribe

If you know me, you know that St. John, USVI is my most favorite place on this earth – not just
because of the blue, blue water, not just because of the lush, green mountains, not just because of the donkeys, not just because of the colorful coral, not just because of the colorful fish that eat the colorful coral, not just because of the giant turtles that swim right alongside, not just because of the yellow kayaks, and not just because of the hikes and the views.  St. John is my most favorite place because it is a sacred refuge. 

For the last 12 years, our little group has vacationed in St. John...often extending our stays just a day longer each year.  We have rented a jeep and driven on the left hand side of the road up a goat path to get to one of the first homes built on the island…la Jolla Caribe.  The view from La Jolla
is the prettiest view of the entire island.  I’ve sat on the deck many times drinking coffee as the morning rolls in.  Before too much daylight has burned, we've been in the water – swimming, snorkeling, and at the end of the day, noodling around Leinster Bay.  At night, we watched stars shoot across the sky and listened to the night sounds which cannot be adequately described. We ate meals around the dining table, played friendly games of Pictionary and competitive games of Scrabble around the table, and worked jigsaw puzzles around the table.  I ran into a glass door at the house – so hard that I fell backwards and thought I might have given myself black eyes!  Then, I laughed so hard that I thought unmentionable things might happen. My mother accidentally cut a lizard in half with her glass door.  We stayed in the same house adding to our memories year after year.  As you can imagine, with each return, we often began our conversations with “Do you remember when?”

 We did not personally know the owners of La Jolla, but during the 12 years we visited, we watched their children grow up in the photographs that were placed around the house.  We saw them as little children posing on the deck all the way to grown children getting married on the beach.  So, while we did not REALLY know the family, we felt like we did.  We really felt like their house was a little bit ours, and we always left detailed – and sometimes rhyming – entries in their guest book.

Well, this is what the house looks like now.  I am sad about that.  Really sad.  La Jolla Caribe was a place I felt particularly close to God and particularly safe.  Now, it is in ruins.  Even the trees have lost their green.  I've heard that the island is not safe right now because of crime. Desperation can compel people to do almost anything.  

So, the place that was my sacred refuge is, well, for all intents and purposes, gone.  I hope this special island finds the resilience to rebuild.  I hope that while the houses are crushed, maybe a few spirits are strong and already mobilizing and planning a comeback.  And, speaking of a comeback, I hope my feet make it back to St. John one day.  No, I hope they make it back soon.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

That's church

I was recently chastised in the nicest possible way for not having updated my blog in, well, let's just say a very long time.  It's not that I have not been writing, but I have not been typing out what I've written.  But, I wanted to write tonight because we have just finished Vacation Bible church circles, that is known as "VBS."  Perhaps finishing VBS does not sound exciting, but this year, we partnered with two other churches, and the partnership was the exciting part to me.

It is no secret that most mainline churches are experiencing a decline in active participation and membership.  So, churches can be very protective of their congregations and unwilling to work together for fear that congregants might "defect" to another place.  Perhaps they will like the other church building better.  Perhaps they will like the other minister better.  Perhaps they will like the programming better or the music better or the classes better.  That leads to fear of ministering together.

When people are fearful, they don't reach out, But, as the movie, "Amazing Grace" taught us in the adult class of VBS, "when people's fears go away, their compassion comes back."  VBS is a labor intensive effort, but when more than one congregation comes together, we have ample teachers and volunteers. When congregations work together in ministry like VBS, we realize that we are not in competition.  That lights a fire. We realize we are not alone in trying to meet the many ministry needs that are before us.  That sparks interest in working together.  We each have strengths that partner well with the other's weaknesses.  And, we each have weaknesses that partner well with the other's strengths.

I guess I dare to dream of a day when that's the  norm for ministry....congregations offering their gifts and resources for the good of the Body.  Perhaps we can lead the way in Johnston County...I am ready to get creative in committing to more than just a ministerial association, but to the universal church where we are all one in Christ.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Epiphany Snow Day!

Epiphany Snow Day (We will have an Epiphany do-over next week, but in the meantime, here is a little something to encourage worship tomorrow even though we will not be in our sanctuary together)

LOGOS starts back on Wednesday, January 18th!  Please pray asking God to show you how you can help to support and strengthen this ministry.

Prelude – “We Three Kings” (the Piano Guys)

A few fun facts about Epiphany to read while you are listening!

Opening Prayer and Call to Worship
Jesus, as we travel far and fast,
lead our minds back to the wise men following your star,
and forward to the day
when all will see your shining light.

Jesus, light of the world,
let your bright star stand over the place
where the poor have to live;
lead our sages to wisdom and our rulers to reverence.

O God, by the leading of a star
you revealed your Son Jesus Christ to the gentiles;
grant that your Church may be a light to the nations,
so that the whole world may come to see
the splendor of your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Scripture – Matthew 2:1-12
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

THE MAGI COME ASKING, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” Tradition has it that there were three Magi, probably because the Bible account names three gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh.) The names used for these Magi are Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, and tradition also says that they are of three different ethnic groups, signifying that Christ comes not just for one nation but for all people.
In fact, that is what we celebrate in January at Epiphany: Jesus Christ as the Light of the world. We celebrate Christ as Light to the whole world, not as the Light to one small group in the world. …
Commentators have said we seem in a hurry after Christmas to box up once again our patience, our tolerance, our generosity and put them back in the attic, as if we can sustain good behavior for a few weeks but wouldn’t want to risk making it a way of life. We may also put away our willingness to give a bit more, to be more forgiving, even to be more patient in traffic as we often are during the holidays. Perhaps we even box up our desires to hope and our openness to miracles and mystery, as if the messages of the Christmas stories can’t quite survive the rigors of real life in the rest of the year. The Magi call us to continue our observance of Christ’s coming after December is over.
– Mary Lou Redding in "While We Wait"

Worship Activity Options
Family/Individual Star Collage (paper, scissors, crayons)
One of the symbols of Epiphany is the star.
Draw or cut out 3 different stars for each participant.  Write somewhere on those stars where you have seen God recently. (In a place, person, or situation)
Decorate your stars as you discuss with one another your “sightings.”  If you are working on this alone, take a picture of your stars and post them to Facebook!  Or send them to the church office, and we will post them on the church Facebook page!

Family/Individual Star Collage Take Two! (paper, scissors, crayons, a candle)
The wise men brought gifts to Jesus.
Draw or cut out 3 different stars for each participant.  Write somewhere on those stars the gifts that you would like to bring to God with your life in 2017. (generosity, a positive attitude, hope, mercy, compassion, etc.)
Decorate your stars and discuss how you can help each other remember these gifts each day.  If you are working on this alone, take a picture of your stars and post them to facebook!  Or send them to the church office, and we will post them on the church facebook page!
Light your candle and pray for God to help you remember to offer your gifts with joy!

Door Blessing (paper and pen)
Did you know that it is a tradition during Epiphany to bless your house?
Create a blessing for your own home.
Need some help getting started?  Here you go.
God, bless this house and bless_____________________________(Names of all who live in your home).
Fill this dwelling with______________________________(what are the traits you long for in your home?  Peace? Health? Happiness?)  
Let this space shine with your divine light that we can see in our family_______________________ (name any areas where you would like for divine light to shine.  Your conversations? Your calendar?  Your rest?)
May we be visited by family and friends, especially___________________________(name family and friends you hope will visit).
May all who enter here receive what they need, and feel richly blessed with their heart's desires.

Closing song
Brightest and Best (two different versions from which to choose)
Option 1 – choral and a fun, great recording -
Option 2 – Kathy Mattea with a few different words -

Closing prayer
O God, you made of one blood all nations, and by a star in the East, revealed to all peoples him whose name is Emmanuel.  Enable us who know your presence with us so to proclaim his unsearchable riches, that all may come to his light and bow before the brightness of his rising, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.