Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Year of Birthdays in the GaP

I don't remember the exact day or time that it hit me last summer, but as I was contemplating what I might do my first year in the Holston GaP Parish to reach as many members as possible, it struck me that I was to send birthday cards.  Why birthday cards, you might ask?  I don't know.  It was a Holy Spirit "nudge".  What I do know about this year of birthday cards is that it has been a blessing to me and that it truly was a way to reach quite a few people in the GaP. 

My first step was to get a list of all the birthdays in the GaP.  I was given a document (thanks, Mary!) of all the birthdays that were recorded in the system, listed by month and day with the church next to each name.  That was extremely helpful as I went through the year and could begin to place names and faces at each church.

When I first started sending those cards in July of 2015, I didn't know really know anyone very well.  I had met quite a few folks back in April at my SPRC and again at the first GaP Leadership meeting in June, but those weren't necessarily the first ones with birthdays.

Each birthday card was an opportunity for me to pray for the person as I wrote out the card and sent it.  As I started getting to know some people, it was easier to personalize the birthday cards. 

My main goal (as stated) was to reach as many folks as possible, physically and through a systematic way of prayer.  It was a blessing for me to be able to reach out and pray in this way.

Though I didn't really have any expectations in doing this venture, I had some unexpected learning experiences during the year.  For example, when cards came back, I had the opportunity to play detective to try to find current addresses.  Some were found; others weren't.  Some of that detective work led me to conversations with others in the community. 

I know I didn't catch everyone's birthday.  Some folks aren't on the birthday list.  And some that are on the list we don't have addresses for them for one reason or another (some are grand-kids and great-grand-kids).  Sometimes, I was able to still find addresses.  But not all the time.

I was reminded through this experience that there is still something special, even today in our age of technology, for someone to receive a card in the mail.  There were several comments throughout the year that made that clear to me.  That was something that was unexpected for me, but good to learn. 

There were 205 birthday cards that went out since last July.  Everyone on the list, even those that might night have had addresses to send a card to, were prayed for during the year.  That means 205 cards and 205+ stamps (those that were returned got sent back out). 

Another plus to doing this was that the birthday list got updated.  Names and birthdays got added to the list and we were able to find some that no longer attend or those that are celebrating their birthdays now with Jesus.

At the very end of the birthday journey, I learned a great hint at the last Provisional Elder retreat when sending out cards:  fill them out weeks or a month at a time, write the birthday on the corner of the envelope, and mail as needed.  That might have been helpful earlier in the year.  But, that's okay.  My system seemed to work out okay. 

As I begin this second year, I have been praying about THIS YEAR'S focus.  I wondered if it would be another year of birthday cards.  It isn't.

What I feel "nudged" to do this year is to focus on the shut-ins in the GaP.   Though I visited quite a few this past year, this year they will be the focus.  What exactly will that mean?  I don't exactly know, though I have an idea.  

I have a list of all the shut-ins for the GaP from last year, but I will work with the 3 churches to make sure it is accurate and up-to-date.  I have heard from folks that they'd like to be able to send cards to the shut-ins, so we will likely have those addresses more readily available.  I imagine more visits to the shut-ins will be a part of this year as will birthday (and other) cards.  I plan to engage the laity in each church and to join in with whatever they are already doing for/with the shut-ins and/or have them join me. 

I recently learned that Gail Coleman, one of the Fort Oglethorpe UMC singers/guitar players, goes to a local retirement home (NHC in Rossville, GA) on the second Tuesday of each month with some other folks to sing and play.  I plan to join them in their outreach.  I have already been told that if I show up, I'd better plan on singing with them.  I look forward to 'making a joyful noise unto the Lord'.

What will this second year look like as I open myself up to the nudging of the Holy Spirit? Though I have shared some of my thoughts and ideas, I don't really know what it will look like.  I'm going to attempt to trust and obey the Spirit as the year goes along, much like I did for the year of birthdays.

I don't know what "nudges" you are getting from the Holy Spirit on your journey or in your areas of daily life and ministry opportunities.  Whatever they are, I encourage you to take a leap of faith and follow the nudges wherever they may lead.

To God be the glory in this adventurous journey!


Morning Has Broken

I slept in a little longer than normal this morning, allowing the numbers on the clock to hit 7am before I got up.  After making coffee, I stepped outside to the back patio to enjoy it. I glanced over and this view from the deck.

As I took in the scene,  the first words to hit my brain were: "morning has broken."  Yes, it is a new day. The words to the song/hymn kept coming: "morning has broken, like the first morning. blackbirds are singing"  Well, I hear birds, but they aren't blackbirds.

Then, I realized that I needed to look up the words because I was getting them confused.  Sure enough, "blackbird has spoken".  The singing comes next.

In looking up the lyrics, I learned about Eleanor Farjeon, the author of the song in 1931 and how Cat Stevens made this poem/song popular in 1971.

A good link is this one: Oyster Mouth Parish

Lyrics: (from http://www.hymnlyrics.org/hymns_camp/morning_has_broken.php)

Morning has broken, like the first morning, 
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird. 
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning, 
Praise for them springing fresh from the word. 

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven, 
Like the first dew fall on the first grass. 
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass. 

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning, 
Born of the one light Eden saw play.
Praise with elation, praise every morning, 
God's re-creation of the new day. 

Cool the gray clouds roll, peaking the mountains,
Gull in her free flight, swooping the skies. 
Praise for the mystery, misting the morning, 
Behind the shadow, waiting to shine. 

I am the sunrise, warming the heavens, 
Spilling my warm glow over the earth
Praise for the brightness of this new morning, 
Filling my spirit with Your great love. 

Mine is a turning, mine is a new life, 
Mine is a journey closer to You. 
Praise for the sweet glimpse, caught in a moment, 
Joy breathing deeply, dancing in flight. (repeat)
One never knows what a new day will bring. My prayer is that I live into today fully present, open to God's working, and ready to shine the light and love of the Creator.  May it be so for you as well.

Blessings on your new day and journey,

Monday, June 27, 2016

Pulling weeds

It seems no matter how many weeds I pull from the stone pathway or patio, there is always one more. Or, if by chance I do get them all, within days there are more. It doesn't take long for those pesky things to find their way up through the cracks.

Even though I pull them out roots and all, they come back. It takes vigilance and intentionality to stay on top of these weeds.

Some weeds had gone unnoticed for a while on a walkway to the storage underneath the house. In pulling up those weeds between the bricks, a few pieces of broken brick came with the roots and soil.

I am reminded that I am to keep a daily watch over the soil in the garden of my soul to ensure that weeds are not growing there. I need the Holy Spirit to root out any bitterness, fear, anger, hurt, etc.

As I open myself up to the weeding of the Gardener, may my heart, mind, and soul live into the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23--"...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness,  and self-control."

Thank you, Creator God, for the gentle reminder that you desire daily opportunities of communication and relationship with your creation in order to keep the weeds out.

How do you need the Gardener of Creation in your life today?

Blessings on your journey,


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Minute Meditations...perfect timing!

Recently, Rev. Ken Hagler of the North Georgia Conference has started doing "Minute Meditations" and posting them online for folks to use.  They are wonderful meditations that allow anyone the opportunity to take a minute, literally, to pause and reflect.  It's an opportunity to focus or refocus during the day. 

These minute meditations have struck me in several different ways.  First, they are a powerful discipleship resource.  Regardless of where folks are on their faith journey, anyone can take a minute to watch these meditations. Second, these have all come during Pastor Ken's journey with his wife's cancer.  What strikes me here is the example to continue allowing the Source of Light and Life to fill us up and overflow into the lives of others in the midst of our own dark and broken times.

Just this morning, jedi pastor shared a Minute Meditation from what he is calling "Valley of the Suck".    This was #6 and the Psalm is 25:4.  It is a challenging meditation. 

I encourage you to check out these Minute Meditations and Jedi Pastor Ken Hagler. 

To check out Jedi Pastor Ken's Blog, click here.

To see more of his Minute Meditations or some of his other videos, you can go to his YouTube channel by clicking here.

Though I've not had the opportunity yet to meet Ken in person, we share some common connections through the Upper Room Academy for Spiritual Formation and through FUMSDRL/HOF (Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders/Hearts on Fire).   I have been able to get to know him some through his postings, his videos, his minute meditations.  He has a great way of teaching and discipling others as he walks his own journey of faith, even now, through the Valley of Suck.  Along with many others, my prayers are with him and his family are in this difficult valley. 

You may not be currently in the Valley of the Suck.  Wherever you find yourself today, may one of the minute meditations speak life into your current situation.

Blessing on your journey,