Now I realize that I am not like the Apostle Paul in this moment. I am not sitting in prison, writing words to his congregation that he might never see again.
Words from Philippians that say:
“3-6 Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” Philippians 1:3-6 The Message
I am not in prison, but in fact, sitting in my office on this rainy Friday afternoon the week before Thanksgiving and it occurred to me that it has been awhile since I said thank you. In this season of gratitude, I wanted to offer thanks. But I hope you know how thankful I am for this church and for all of you during every season of our lives as we follow Jesus together.
I thank you as a Pastor that I have the privilege of serving with you, hearing your stories, praying with you through times of trial and getting to worship with you in the ups and downs of life. I appreciate being able to see God work in your lives and through the ministries of this church; I feel filled up by God’s grace because of this everyday.
I thank you as a wife that you pray for my husband and his congregation and that you understand the struggle we face as a busy clergy couple, especially on Sundays.
And speaking of Sundays…
I thank you as a mom who love my children well. Who smile when my son comes up midway through the Lord’s Prayer to ask me to open up his goldfish bag. Thank you for loving my crying baby who needs her mother even when I am needed up front to lead worship. Thank you for loving my oldest to allow her to really grow up here and ask questions and dance and sing and be herself.
But thank you mostly as a beloved daughter of God. I feel lucky every day to get to be a part of this church’s ministry and thankful that God called me here three and a half years ago. I think it is easy sometimes to take for granted our blessings and the people that love us well. And I just wanted to share that if I don’t tell you enough, I am thankful for all that you are to me and my family.
And not only that, I can see the hand of God at work in your life. I see spiritual depth and maturity in the way you are wrestling with the hard issues that our culture is forcing us to deal with. I see how you care for your fellow church members and Sunday School friends, I see how you serve outside these walls, and want to make the world a better place. I hear you struggle to know how to follow Jesus and be the church in this post-pandemic time and I am right there with you.
But I leave you with this. Our future is bright and filled with great expectations. Your pastors had a Clergy Day apart with the Bishop this last Tuesday and close to 300 clergy from all over our Florida Conference came out to worship, pray, learn and have communion together. We heard from our leader, Bishop Tom Berlin, and we encouraged each other. I heard these words and I share them with you.
“Joy and Hope are an act of RESISTANCE to despair!”
And I couldn’t agree more. And so, wherever you find yourself this holiday week, I bet you will hear the brokenness, the frustration, and maybe some despair. But I encourage you to counter that with Joy and Hope, because there is much to be thankful for in this life we live and on this journey of faith. And today, I am especially thankful that I see Joy and Hope in each of you!
May this prayer be a blessing for you, today and always.
Almighty God, giver of every good and perfect gift,
teach us to render to you all that we have and all that we are,
that we may praise you, not with our lips only,
but with our whole lives,
turning the duties, the sorrows, and the joys of all our days
into a living sacrifice to you;
through our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
(THE BOOK OF WORSHIP 1965, ALT.)
What a wonderful weekend we had to celebrate our partnership with INUA. Please visit INUA’s website to learn how to support them. Let’s find resonance in Galatians 6:2: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Our collaboration with INUA Partners isn’t merely a transaction; it’s a shared commitment to embodying Christ’s love through tangible acts of compassion.
As we delve into the inspiring stories of transformation and hope from INUA Partners, we hear Psalm 82:3 resounding in our ears: “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” INUA Partners serves as a shining light of advocacy for those in need, and our support is an extension of this divine calling to uplift the marginalized and safeguard the vulnerable.
Also let’s consider 1 Corinthians 12:26: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” Our involvement with INUA binds us in a spiritual kinship, forging a connection that transcends geographic boundaries. Through our collective efforts, we become instruments of positive change, fostering a ripple effect that resonates with the transformative power of love.
There are some who may question why we choose to support a ministry all around the world instead of focusing on problems closer to home. However, I believe we can do both. As Christ’s followers, we are called to be a light in a dark world, and partnering with others allows us to shine even brighter. No matter where we are, we have the opportunity to make a positive impact and spread hope.
So, let our partnership with INUA be more than a momentary joy of this weekend; may it be a catalyst for sustained involvement, an enduring commitment to fulfilling God’s call to compassion and justice. In this shared journey, our actions create a tapestry of hope woven with threads of love, mercy, and transformative grace.
Unity, Grace, and Love,
Check out today’s update to learn about 6 questions our church family needs to consider in the coming year!
This past week, Ryan and I finished watching the mini-series on Netflix called, “All the Light We Cannot See.” It was excellent. It was a book first; maybe you have read it, but it follows two teenagers trying to survive World War II. One teenager is a brilliant and resourceful blind girl and the other teenager is a German orphan pressed into serving the Reich because he has an affinity for fixing and operating radios. They are both connected because they listen to the radio frequency 1310 where they hear “The Professor” share about the goodness of life, the joy, the kindness, the humanity. And how if you look closely enough, you can see the light that no one else can see. The book adapted for TV was beautiful and tragic and deep and reminded me at times of the hope we have in God’s Kingdom to look for the light even when it is hard to find.
While I will never know what it was like for the people in the 1930s and 1940’s living in war-time Europe and trying to resist the evil and oppressive Nazi regime, I do know what it is like to look for the light, even in the darkness. Jesus constantly uses the metaphor of light and darkness to talk about the reality of the world. We all know what it is like to sit in darkness, wait in obscurity, struggle until daybreak and dance when the sun rises. In one way, there is good that happens in the dark. We sleep and rest and our bodies repair themselves. There is quiet in the early hours of morning and at least in my currently reality, a quiet hour or two at night that allows my husband and I to relax and enjoy something on TV. But we never want to stay in the darkness for long; we are people of the light. We yearn to see beyond the shadows and live in the vibrancy of day.
And so as I was watching this show unfold, listening to its beautiful music, swept up in the characters and conflict, I heard the Spirit asking me to put myself in their shoes and also look for the light. When I am weary and overwhelmed by my work and my world, I have to consciously look for the light. When people disappoint and scare me, I have to struggle to see the good. When the Middle East is in conflict again, when Congress can’t agree, when there is one more senseless mass shooting, I angrily demand to see the light. Maybe you can relate. There will always be moments when we find the light more easily, but Jesus says, that what sets us apart is having the compassion, deep faith and spiritual maturity to see the light that no one else can see. And then to point to that light when others only see darkness.
In the famous epilogue of John’s Gospel, we often read these words at Christmas time because they point to Emmanuel, God with us.
“4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5 NIV
But not only did light enter into this world 2,000 years ago, but light continues to enter into every hopeless and desperate moment every time a person of the light chooses to point to it, over the darkness.
Said another way:
“What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.” John 1:4-5 The Message
May we live like people who hope in the God that blazes bright for all to see. May we trust that our darkness, their darkness, culture’s darkness will never last. And may we act, and trust and move and believe that the light of life can never be put out.
If you know it, sing it with me.
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine let it SHINE!”