Since nearly the beginning of this year, our lives have been dramatically changed and our daily routines altered. I could list all the changes that have occurred, but you don’t need me to do that because you are living it each and every day. With these changes to our lives we often feel uncertain, anxious and yes even fearful. With the new school year beginning soon and the ever changing “plan” for how to do this safely comes new anxieties and new fears.
To be clear, the human creation was given the full range of emotions we have, and these emotions are not to be discounted or looked upon as a sign of weakness. In fact, the emotions we were created with and experience on a daily basis are ones that often tend to guide and direct and raise our sense of awareness as to what’s going on and what we should do.
With that said, an important part of dealing with the full range of human emotions we experience and discerning what “to do” with these emotions is experienced through prayer. It is through prayer that God speaks to our hearts and minds and helps us know what to do…or not do.
Remember with me the words Paul wrote to the church in Philippi found in Philippians 4:6-7 as it comes from Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase in The Message: Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Whether it is experiences and/or decisions we are faced with today in the midst of a pandemic or other experiences and/or decisions we will face throughout life’s journey, there will always be things that can cause the full range of human emotion from sorrow to joy, from peace to fear and so on. In the midst of all those things, one thing remains a constant and that is the love God has for you and the desire that you and I always feel His presence.
With all the above said, let me ask a question. How is your prayer life? Is it one that involves daily (maybe even throughout the day) conversations with God that help you center your life and feel the peace that surpasses all understanding? Or is your prayer life rather dry and you only engage in conversations with God in times of deep need or stress? Or is it somewhere in the middle of those two?
Whatever your answer to the above questions might be, please know that I am praying for each of you and your families. Praying not just for your own health and well-being (physical, emotional and spiritual) but praying one of the blessings of this pandemic will be a more rich and robust prayer life…drawing you closer to your Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer…
Grace and Peace to you all,
Remember with me the poignant words of King Solomon found in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:
There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens: 2 a time for giving birth and a time for dying, a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted, 3 a time for killing and a time for healing, a time for tearing down and a time for building up, 4 a time for crying and a time for laughing, a time for mourning and a time for dancing, 5 a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones, a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces, 6 a time for searching and a time for losing, a time for keeping and a time for throwing away, 7 a time for tearing and a time for repairing, a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking, 8 a time for loving and a time for hating, a time for war and a time for peace.
For those who have already seen the video that was posted on Facebook yesterday or who have heard through the grapevine that beginning this Sunday July 5th, we are once again temporarily suspending our gathering for in-person worship services, we might want to add: “a time to draw close and a time to distance, a time to worship in person and a time to worship apart…”
Even before this decision was made, there were many of us who did not yet feel comfortable returning for in person worship. This is certainly understandable as each of us is faced each and every day with important decisions on what to do or not to do in order to protect the safety and well-being of ourselves and our family.
As I’ve conversed with people over the last couple months, there has certainly been a great longing for people to be able connect with another in person and substitutes for this have been made through technology and other creative methods. However, what has grieved my heart is that in some of my discussions there has been a feeling of losing one’s connection with God because of the inability to gather in our Sanctuary with friends and family to worship Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
While I too long for the days of our entire church family being able to join together in worship; to pass the Peace of Christ with one another, to join our voices in songs of praise and prayer, to collectively attune our ears, hearts and minds to special music, the reading of Scripture and hearing the Word of God proclaimed, let us not forget that we love and serve a God who is omnipresent. To say it another way, we love and serve a God who is present everywhere and with everyone all at the same time.
For those who might be struggling to feel God’s presence in your life during this unprecedented time, let me share with you a few verses that I pray bring you comfort, hope and assurance. From Deuteronomy 31:8: “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” From Isaiah 41:10: “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” And of course, there are Jesus’s words in the second half of verse 20 of Chapter 28 (a part of the Great Commission): “I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
I hope these powerful words from Scripture not only bring you comfort, hope and assurance but that they do such in such a way that you can’t keep this Good News to yourself but in fact you are compelled to share this with others!!!
My thoughts and prayers are with you ALL. If you have need please don’t hesitate to reach out to me either by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on my cell phone at 214-803-3609.
Grace and Peace to you all,
By now, I pray all of you reading this have received both the news and the detailed plans for the resumption of in-person worship services beginning this Sunday June 7th. Since these plans were originally communicated on Tuesday of this week, there has been one change. In addition to live-streaming the 11:00 am service, we will also be live-streaming the 8:30 am service.
Speaking of live-streaming, I am so very thankful that our congregations is filled with so many gifted individuals such as Mark Trammell and Daniel Farris, who along with others, have enabled us to not only live-stream our services but because of their dedication to ministry excellence, week after week we have been able to improve upon the viewer’s experience and ability to participate in the services.
We know that many of you will not be attending services this Sunday as you do not feel it yet safe for you and/or your family members to be out and about. Please know that we understand and affirm your decision and we look forward to that day when we can all worship together. I don’t know when this might be, but I know we all look forward to that day!
Since much of our congregation will not be gathering in the Sanctuary on Sunday and instead will be watching one of the live-streams, we will continue with the virtual consecration of the Holy Communion elements as we’ve done the last two Communion Sundays. Inside the Sanctuary, once we have shared together in the liturgy for Holy Communion, we will pass out the elements to all who are present and then we will all, those present in person and virtually will partake in the Sacramental Meal at the same time.
I would like to share briefly some thoughts I have regarding the plans our Committee on Resuming In-Person Worship put together; plans the Administrative Council ultimately approved. At the heart of all discussions in which I took part, was a deep desire to protect the safety and well-being of the entirety of our congregation, even if that meant doing some things that were not the most ideal.
Although never mentioned during our meetings, the faithful leaders of this church seemed to be channeling the words of Paul that he conveyed to the Corinthian Church: “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
I know one of the most challenging things for those who are worshipping in our Sanctuary will be the wearing of their mask for the entirety of the worship service (except for the brief moment when they are partaking in Holy Communion). Maybe we should think of it this way. Wearing a mask is a practical way to show that you love your neighbor, to lift the burden of someone who is afraid instead of adding to it. And if you don’t believe that masks are necessary, and you wear one anyway — then that is an even more extraordinary witness of selfless love like that which Christ models for us and calls us to live out in our lives.
I’m looking forward to seeing many of you on Sunday!!! My thoughts and prayers are with you ALL.
Making Our Way Through Turbulent Waters
One of my favorite psalms is possibly one of yours as well…I’m speaking of the 23rd Psalm which is one of the psalms that King David wrote. Remember it again with me as I share from the King James translation:
Psalm 23 – A Psalm of David
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I’ve always loved that psalm. It speaks to my heart; it speaks to somewhere deep within me. This weekend I had an encounter with the small stream in the accompanying picture. It was a fairly narrow stream, but the flow of clean freshwater was very apparent both visually and audibly. As I listened and gazed at the stream, this 23rd Psalm and the words spoken by David in the second half of verse 2 and the first half of verse 3 came to mind:
He leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul:
Just outside of the photo was a more turbulent area of the stream where the water was running fast over multiple rocks and tree roots making a fairly loud sound. But the water in the stream that is in the picture was far calmer and quieter.
As I looked, listened, and reflected, I was reminded that even though my life and your life might have “turbulent waters” occasionally, God’s desire is to bring us through those times into times of calm where our souls can be restored…a time for drawing closer to God and one another.
How are you doing during these extremely difficult times of Covid-19, sheltering in place, and social distancing? Do you feel as though you are traveling through “turbulent waters?” Does your soul feel like it needs to be restored?
These are difficult times. We hope and pray you to know your church, its staff, and its leaders are here for you during these times. Far more importantly, our Heavenly Father is always present; willing and able to walk alongside you and get you beyond the “turbulent waters” and into the more calm and peaceful waters that we all desire to reside within. My hope and prayer are that we all make it safely into those calmer waters and feel God’s loving embrace.