I am ecstatic to share with you that Ashley Finfrock has accepted the role of Director of the Methodist School for Early Education. As you may know, Ashley assumed the role on an interim basis in August and has worked tirelessly with our Transition Team to reopen the school in September. Ashley continues to keep the staff, children and families safe during this strange time. We are thankful for Ashley‘s leadership at MSEE and are happy to continue our partnership. I know you will join with me in congratulating Ashley!
~ Pastor Rachel
How many of us go through our days parched and empty, thirsting after happiness, when we’re really standing knee-deep in the river of abundance? – Sarah Ben Breathnach from Wake Up Grateful
I am currently reading a book by Kristi Nelson called Wake Up Grateful – and once again my eyes are being opened. I am normally a glass-half-full guy so I tend to look at the positives during my daily walk. But while reading the book, I began to question the depth of my “gratefulness”.
Let me share a defining moment that impacted me with you. Recently my son, Andrew, and I were watching a fun, action-packed movie together. During one scene, the protagonist was hanging on a rope underneath a moving helicopter that was flying through a very mountainous area. Andrew questioned why the people in the helicopter couldn’t see the man hanging underneath the helicopter. I explained that they were flying the helicopter at a high speed and their concentration was there – focusing on flying the helicopter at the high speeds. However, Andrew quickly responded with an astute remark that made me think; he said “but look at the magnificent views they are missing if they aren’t looking around”!
Andrew got it even when I did not. He saw the beauty of the world when I only saw the people (and helicopter) moving. How often are we unable to see the forest through all the trees?
Do you take the time to be truly grateful for all the positives in your life? Think about a bad time in your life and all you want to do is make it the next step. Make it that next minute. And then … you are past it and you a flooded with GRATEFULNESS! But … you soon forget that gratefulness and move on back to normal.
Paul spoke to the Thessalonians thusly;
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV
Give thanks always. Be grateful. Your family. Your church. Your car. A soft chair. Beautiful music. A bird chirping. Clouds. A sweet smell. A wonderful taste.
A quote from Mary Jean Irion in Wake Up Grateful really caught my eye.
“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure that you are. Let me learn from you, love you, savor you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.“
Wow. Just re-read that passage one more time and think about how blessed you really are. Every day may not be filled with sunshine or moments of the spectacular, but if you take a moment to breathe in the fresh air and look around, I think you will agree that we are ALL very blessed. I am definitely going to wake up every morning with a prayer of thanksgiving and gratefulness. And then I am going to try to spend each and every minute of every day being more grateful.
That’s what I am going to do. I hope you do too.
On each 5th Sunday, we join with other Methodist churches in our Florida Conference to provide a special offering to the Children’s Home in Enterprise, FL. The Home offers residential care, foster care, emergency shelter, independent living assistance and community child care.
As we are in this period of pandemic, we are reminded of how important family is to our spiritual connection. Along with many houses of worship and businesses, earlier in March, we pivoted from on-campus worship/ministries to online offerings. Earlier this fall, with the guidance from our Leadership Council and leaders from the Florida Conference, we reopened a portion of our on-campus operations – including Sunday morning worship. Our reopening process has included the implementation of CDC guidelines, new policies, and enhanced safety protocols. All these efforts are because our church leadership chooses to prioritize the safety of others – our most vulnerable. This is the reason that we ask those on-campus to stay physically distanced, refrain from hugging each other, and at times sit a little longer in their seats so that we can ensure that everyone leaves the building in a safe manner.
Part of our safety procedures now calls for online registration. For us, registration is an important way that we honor the safety of our larger family. Though we temperature checks upon arrival, registration provides a proactive way to manage contact tracing – which is very important. Though an individual or family may not be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms when they join us for on-campus worship, it is possible that later in the week they develop the virus. Through our registration process, we can efficiently and quickly contact those who were exposed.
For our church, this is not just a ‘what-if’ situation. Over the past several months as on-campus operations have resumed on a phased basis, we rely on these safety protocols, which have been utilized repeatedly and are invaluable to our ability to quickly provide notification and take action when exposure occurs. Currently, Pastor David is self-isolating out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with our protocols. We share this information with you as transparency is important to our church leadership team. We appreciate your patience and cooperation in protecting the health and safety of our family.
I don’t know about your family culture, but in our little DeLaune family, we like to match. Not every day of course, but occasionally we will wear matching clothes or color coordinate. I have to say that this comes naturally to me. You see, I am the oldest of three girls. One sister, Samantha is 4 years younger than me and Amy is 6 years younger and I can vividly remember holidays, especially Christmas and Easter where we would match each other for church and family photos. Sometimes my mom would sew the dresses by hand and work tirelessly to have us all in matching Sunflower print dresses for Easter with a matching tie for my dad. We would wear frilly dresses at Christmas time, with curled hair and matching bows. I loved it until probably around 4th grade and then I was over it.
But without even trying, I have passed that love of matching on to my kids. Even Charlie has gotten into the spirit of things recently. Just yesterday Ryan and Charlie matched shirt patterns and pants and then this morning Emmaline saw what her Daddy was wearing and immediately changed her outfit so she could match him (pictured below). And this is the season for it, am I right? You can’t walk into a store these days or scroll through social media without seeing opportunities to put your entire family, and dog for that matter into matching Pajamas for the holidays. I assume that the marketing is geared more so towards women, because I have yet to meet a father who initiates these kinds of things, but it does make for a cute picture and a fun family memory, does it not?
But at the heart of the cultural pressure to buy into these things is a deeper and more innocent love that we develop as children. When we are young, we want to mimic our parents and be like them. And if we were honest, us as parents like it too when our children want to be like us. As I was thinking about my own children wanting to match their father earlier this week, I thought about how we are called, as followers of Jesus to match our Heavenly Father. Let me explain.
Ephesians 5: 1-2 says this:
“5 1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Another word for imitators is “Follower”, which is what all of us are called to be. We aren’t the leader, the co-leader, or the caboose, but we are invited to be a follower; an imitator of God as seen through Jesus Christ. When the Apostle Paul was writing to the church at Ephesus, he is using the metaphor as a beloved child imitating her gracious Father. From that assurance of security and that example of love, more love is acted upon as we follow Jesus. We want to be like God as seen through the example of Jesus. When we know that we are beloved, we want or we strive for our actions to match those of Jesus. We want our words to mirror Him as well and we want to carry ourselves, in the good and in the bad, the way Jesus would.
If we take the metaphor of matching a step further, we don’t match our parents every day; that would just be strange and I would be praying for you. And yet, after we say yes to following, we are asked to match Jesus every day, not just around Christmas and Easter time. The metaphor of matching breaks down as all incomplete metaphors do. But let me tell you, the joy of a 2-year-old or 4-year-old who knows that they are matching with their Daddy is pretty special. For that moment, they want to do and be like their Father.
In the second picture above, you see Emmaline eating her waffle right next to Ryan. During breakfast this morning, she scooted her chair over right next to him just so she could more closely be in his presence a little more than normal. I don’t know if it was because of the matching clothes or not, but it serves to make a point. It is indeed a holy moment when we decide that we want to be like Jesus. When we choose to forgive over seeking revenge, when we give sacrificially rather than horde and protect, when we courageously give voice to justice over powerful systems or when we put our reputation on the line to elevate the vulnerable. However we might be striving to match our Heavenly Daddy in the good and in the bad, it really helps if we took some time to scooch up next to Him for a while and just BE there in His Presence. It won’t always be easy, or comfortable, or cute or photogenic; but it will, little by little expand God’s Kingdom on Earth.
I invite you this week to reflect on The Message version of this Scripture below and think about one way in the season of Advent you would like to Match your Heavenly Father more and then let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
“5 1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”
Ephesians 5:1-2 The Message