“New Roads” – March Pastor’s Reflection (2015)

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“What was I thinking?!” That is what my mind was screaming when my alarm went off at 6:00am on Ash Wednesday. I pushed the snooze button, I reset it for 6:30 and then 7:00 when I did manage to get up – sort of. I am not an early morning person. But I have been trying to work on a schedule that will give me space for personal and spiritual self-care and it seems that an earlier start to the day will help accomplish that. So to reset my clock, I have decided that during Lent, I will set my alarm for 6:00am Sunday-Thursday and give myself a bit of a break on Friday and Saturday and go for 7:00am. It is my hope that this will be a pattern that continues beyond Lent and that it will be a new road that I walk.

It will not be the most difficult road I walk during Lent. The most difficult road will be our journey though the various themes found in Matthew 5-7, The Sermon on the Mount, as Brian McLaren, in We Make the Road By Walking, has this as our Lenten focus. In the first week we have already heard that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world and the challenge to get out of our comfort zone. Now in the remaining four weeks, we will wrestle with anger, forgiveness, retaliation, reconciliation, enemies, love, our inner spiritual lives, worry, anxiety, God’s care, judging others, and being hearers and doers. It is easy to find all of those themes overwhelming, especially when we read Jesus’ challenging teachings about each one. There is also the realization that this is not simply something we can look during Lent and then forget. As we grow and deepen in our understanding of these texts, we are to grow and deepen in the way they shape how we live out our journeys of faith from this time forward. The road will get more challenging the deeper we go into Jesus’ words.

Just as I begin to think this is too much – too many themes – too much expectation, I took some time this morning to read a poem by Mary Oliver from her book, Thirst, called “Messenger.” Her first line pulls it all together, “My work is loving the world.” Her poem goes on to share how this work includes being astonished, rejoicing and telling of the eternal.

Somehow it now seems more manageable … our work is to love the world, be grateful and share how we live forever. Jesus’ challenging words in the Sermon on the Mount is about loving the world. I am glad my alarm went off at 6:00 am this morning and that I got up and read this poem.
Blessings upon your Lenten Road,
Wendy

“New Roads” – February Pastor’s Reflection (2015)

I continue to ponder the idea of adventure and specifically the things in my life I would consider adventures.  Outdoor adventures are what come to mind first ~ my first raft trip down the Deschutes River, backpacking as a youth director with the youth from Vermont Hills UMC, trying to downhill ski and deciding to go with cross-country skiing instead ~ only to find myself on an icy trail at Mt Bachelor trying to control the long skis on downhill switchbacks, swimming across the Snake River, kayaking on lakes in Grand Teton National Park only to discover just how strong the winds can get on the lakes. Each outdoor adventure had its moments of sheer beauty, times when it felt too difficult and I wondered why I was doing this and even a few close calls when I was just hoping to get out alive.  I also think of adventures I have had on mission trips ~ Brazil, Haiti and Nicaragua. Each of those trips had times of experiencing God’s grace in community and coming to terms with poverty beyond anything I could have imagined ~ times of sheer beauty, struggle and risk in the midst of relationships and community.

 

We will spend a few more weeks focused on Brian McLaren’s theme of “Alive in the Adventure of Jesus” before we move into the Lent and Easter theme of “Alive in a Global Uprising”, which sounds like another adventure to me. I realize that the experiences I have had with outdoor adventures and mission trips parallel the experience of being on a daily journey of faith. My faith journey, and I suspect yours as well, is an adventure that includes sheer beauty, struggle and risk. Somehow in the midst of each of these aspects of the journey, God’s grace is experienced, guidance is given through the ministry and example of Jesus and empowerment is received through the Holy Spirit.

I find myself wondering if I really allow myself to experience my faith journey as an adventure the same way I do when I lace up my hiking boots or take out my kayak ~ do I go deep enough in my life of faith and have the willingness to embark on God’s adventure even it if means struggle and risk. Or do I keep it safe and calculated? There is always a clue when I play it too safe ~ it may be easier, but the depth of beauty and grace is not nearly as spectacular. I pray that my faith adventure and yours has moments of sheer beauty and grace along with struggle and risk.

Blessings,  Pastor Wendy

“New Roads” – January Pastor’s Reflection (2015)

I love Brian McLaren’s phrase, “Alive in the Adventure of Jesus.” His use of the word of alive makes me think of having a faith that is breathing and dynamic … a faith that is growing and active. Each quarter’s theme and chapters main point includes the word alive.

In considering the Christmas story, McLaren has emphasized: “To be alive in the adventure of Jesus is to have a desire, a dream, a hope for the future. It is to translate that hope for the future into action in the present and to keep acting in light of it, no matter the disappointments, no matter the set backs and delays. That is what it means to be alive in the adventure of Jesus. We present ourselves to God ~ our bodies, our stories, our futures, our possibilities, even our limitations. To be alive in the adventure of Jesus is to kneel at the manger and gaze upon that little baby who is radiant with so much promise for our world today. “

Pairing the word of alive with adventure, makes it all the more dynamic and exciting. I enjoy an adventure. I bought my kayak from a place called “Next Adventure”, which keeps putting before me the reminder that there is a new experience to be had and a new place to be explored.  Even the same paddle changes each time I embark on it; the conditions change along with the scenery and wildlife. As we begin exploring the life and ministry of Jesus, we will be challenged to go from sideline observers to active participants. McLaren states, “Our exploration will lead to this life-changing choice: will we identify ourselves as honest and sincere followers of Jesus today?”

To say yes, will be an adventure indeed. I must admit, being part of the adventure is often exciting but includes some uneasiness. As much as I like exploring the new, I also like knowing what is coming, I like to plan and have a certain amount of control. Somehow, control and adventure rarely go together. Being alive in the adventure will mean getting comfortable with the unknown and trusting where God will be leading. The good news is none of us are in this adventure alone. We walk the road together and we walk the road with Jesus.

Blessings,  Pastor Wendy

Christmas Message from Pastor Wendy (2014)

Dear Members and Friends of Morningside UMC:

We are fast approaching the day we celebrate the Wondrous Promise of this season. The promise of peace, hope, joy and love made known to us in the birth of Jesus. This Wondrous Promise is not limited to a birth that happened over 2,000 years ago or even just the moment we light our candles on Christmas Eve and embrace the gift in all its fullness.

The Wondrous Promise is that Jesus is born into our hearts and into our lives throughout our journeys of faith. With the gift of the birth of Jesus, we are reminded that God is with us through the years, throughout each day and moment and not simply when we light our candle singing Silent Night. Roberta Porter captures this in her poem, Promised One.

Word of God

from the beginning

creator with God,

God.

Hope of God

foretold by prophets,

speaking for God,

waiting.

Life of God,

humbly born,

earth-held for a time

for love.

Jesus: Emmanuel, God-with-Us,

the promised revealed,

Gods people

redeemed.

 It is my prayer that we will open our hearts and lives to Jesus birth all of our days. It is my prayer that we will live and share this gift day in and day out as we have opportunities to share a word of grace, lend a helping hand and give of our resources. This year our Christmas offering will support Congregations Helping People and Imagine No Malaria. Your gift may be given during the services on Dec. 21, 24 and 28 or mailed to the church.

 Christmas Blessings,   Pastor Wendy

        

“New Roads” – December Pastor’s Reflection (2014)

Our year­long quest for spiritual formation, reorientation, and activation using Brian McLaren’s book We Make the Road by Walking moves from Alive in the Story of Creation to Alive in the Adventure of Jesus.  From our first quarter I continue to contemplate the wonder of creation andof humanity being created in God’s image and how we are called to be image bearers of God inour daily walks of faith.  I also reflect upon the growing and developing relationship that the people had with God.  Sometimes they understood and shared about the God who revealed being “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love”, other times they spoke of a God of violence and struggled as they broke covenant with God and one another.  Yet God continued to reach out in covenant relationship.

As we turn to our second quarter, Alive in the Story of Jesus, we will continue to see God reaching out in covenant relationship.  God reaches out through the words of the prophets, through the promises and births of John the Baptist and Jesus, and through the various people who found their spirits come alive as they came to know Jesus.  It is fascinating to consider the range of those who were touched by Jesus’ life: the shepherds in the field, the wise men, Simeon and Anna in the temple, the disciple who answered the call to follow and those who Jesus fed, touched, healed, accepted, forgave ­ who included Jews, Gentiles, men, women, children, the respected in society and the outcast of society, the “clean and the unclean”, the friend and the stranger. 

We will have the opportunity to contemplate how we are Alive in the Story of Jesus.  Do we allow our spirits to be touched by his birth?  Do we allow our lives to be influenced by his call?  Are we willing to reach out to those he reached out to?  Are we willing to become alive in our faith in new ways as we hear once again the stories of the birth and life of Jesus.It is a road we are not meant to walk alone ~ this journey into the life of Jesus ~ this road we walk called faith.  Come share in worship during the seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.  Join the discussions that are happening, you are welcome to join one of the small groups at any time.  See the schedule for December in this newsletter.  Together may we Make the Road by Walking and Come Alive in the Adventure of Jesus.

Blessings,Pastor Wendy

“New Roads” – Study Reflection

I am coming to realize that the story of creation is not just the first couple of chapters of Genesis, but includes all of these beginnings that happen as the God-Human relationship is formed and developed.   Sometimes the story is beautiful and intimate, such as God making clothing for Adam and Even and then dressing them.   Other times it is filled with pain and confusion, such as the various stories of sibling rivalry that lead to acts of murder, trickery for a birthright and blessing, and selling a brother into slavery.   Yet in the midst of the beauty and intimacy, the pain and the confusion, God is continually reaching out to be in relationship with the beings who God created in God’s image.   I continually hear God working through the stories trying to have the people embrace the gift of life.   I hear God calling the people to realize they are blessed in order to be a blessing.  I hear god Challenging the human family to seek reconciliation rather than retaliation.   I see God lead the people to freedom and patiently help them see that they are free physically and spiritually, I see god bringing forth wholeness.   I see God creating new possibilities and new beginnings, I see God alive in the story of creation and beckoning us to alive in the story as well.

The challenge is for each one of us to reflect on how we are to be alive in the story of creation. Here are several questions to guide us:

Do I really embrace the gift of life and see myself as created in God’s image?

Do I bear God’s image as I engage in my everyday life?

Do I experience God’s blessing and realize that I am sent out to be a blessing?

Do I believe it is not too late for my brokenness, for our brokenness to be made whole?

Do I experience the freedom that faith offers?

Do I trust God’s abundance enough to give of myself?

What a gift God offers us, to be “alive in the story of creation!”  Blessings,  Wendy