Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign…

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign…

If you’ve ever been on a road trip of any length (even just across town), you surely have noticed that there are signs of all different shapes and sizes directing you to a variety of actions.  Stop. Yield. One Way. Right Turn Only. Detour. Exit Here. Right Lane Ends, Merge Left (Hello I-35!).  Sometimes, because we’re in a hurry or for some other reason, we ignore those signs and proceed as we want.  Other times, we may fail to notice the signs as we should, because we’re distracted or we’ve seen them so often that we’ve slipped into “auto-pilot.”  This can result in us getting lost, mistreating other drivers, or, even worse, experiencing an accident.

As Christians, if we aren’t careful, we can get that way with God.  The Lord gives us guidance, comfort, assurance, and much-needed truth in God’s word.  The Lord also longs to speak with us in prayer.  But, I confess, because I’m in a hurry, am busy, or for some other reason, I sometimes proceed as I want without ever considering that God may be trying to show me the way that is pleasing to God and good for me.  Other times, I confess, I may read Scripture and let it go in and out of my mind without fully meditating on what God is saying to me in the moment and for my life.  I may pray, I confess, in a way that is hurried or almost just going through the motions, because I have slipped into auto-pilot with God.  I’m guessing I’m not the only one who does these things.  And when this happens, we begin to lose our way and may even harm others and ourselves.

When I notice this happening to me, I go back to two things that Jesus said:  “Come, follow me” (Matt 4:19), and “Remain in me, and I will remain in you…[w]ithout me, you can’t do anything” (John 15:4).  These are two of the signs that I need to see every day, so I don’t get lost and head the wrong direction, so I don’t harm others, and so I don’t harm myself.  What signs do you need to see daily to keep you on track with Jesus?  There is literally an entire Bible full of them! Have you ever thought about picking one or two and posting them where you can see them every day – perhaps on your car visor, your bedroom wall, your bathroom mirror, your office bulletin board, the inside of your school locker?

As you journey through each day, I pray you notice the signs from Jesus directing you to follow him and remain in him.  I’d love to hear what your top Jesus signs are.  Email me or find our post on Facebook and share them there!

Following Him together,

Pastor Jannette

God in Our Midst

God in Our Midst

Nearly every morning, my husband Jeff and I watch the KWTX news as part of our morning routine.  One of our favorite parts is the Question of the Day.  We have a contest to see who gets the most answers right.  I’m pretty sure I’m winning.  The questions are fun, like:

“What do over half of married men and women do separately?”  My answer:  Eat dinner.  Jeff’s:  Vacation.  Correct Answer:  Laundry (and some of us know why).
OR
“About 30% of families argue about this every week.”  Jeff:  What to eat.  Me:  Chores.  Correct Answer:  Mowing the lawn.  I got credit for that one, and Jeff mowed.

One day the question was “People name their pet after this food more than any other.”  We batted around names like Candy and Sweet Pea, and finally landed on Cupcake (me) and Brownie (Jeff).  Then I left the room.  When I returned Jeff said, “Your cat is angry with you.  He says you should have gotten the answer right!”  That’s when I realized that the answer was literally right in front of us the whole time – Oreo!  Our cat’s name is Oreo!

Do you ever miss what God puts right in front of you?  I think we all do.  Sometimes, it may be an answer for which you’ve been searching.  Other times, it may be someone God wants you to help.  Or it may be God.  That’s what happened to two of Jesus’ disciples on a road heading to Emmaus.  As they walked and talked, they were joined by the risen Christ. But they were so focused on their grief and questions that they failed to recognize the Lord himself even as he walked and talked with them.  Finally, when he broke bread with them, “their eyes were opened and they recognized him….”  After he was gone, they said, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?”  (Luke 24:31-32)

Every day we are given glimpses of God – in a sunrise, in the kindness of others, in the laughter of children, in the needs of our neighbors, in the words of a song.  In our recent Vacation Bible School, the children called them “God-sightings.”

But sometimes we are so focused on our to-do list or the difficulties and challenges we face that we fail to recognize God.  God can be especially hard to recognize when we’re in the throes of change.  That’s what happened to the disciples on the road to Emmaus.  Things were different than they expected, which made it harder for them to recognize Jesus in their very midst.

As the people of God, I invite us to consider that Jesus is doing something new in our midst.  As we find opportunities to worship, serve, give, gather, study, and witness to the love of God in new ways, how can we recognize Jesus in our midst – leading us, encouraging us, loving us?  How can we recognize him in the midst of a pandemic that has us struggling to figure out how to be the church in such a new and different time?  As I write this, I keep hearing the repetitive refrain of Vacation Bible School in my mind: “TRUST JESUS!” We must look for Jesus, and we will recognize him in the breaking of the bread, in God’s word, in the cry of the needy, the stranger, the hungry, the prisoner (Matt 25), and in the burning of our hearts.

Today, I invite you to take time to notice our ever present God in your midst.  Pay attention to the burning of your heart.  Don’t miss Jesus as he desires to walk and talk with you today.

Prayer:  Dear God of Grace, thank you for loving me and always being with me.  Help me to pay attention to the many ways you show yourself to me today.  Walk and talk with me, and set my heart on fire so that I will not miss a single minute of it.  Amen.

I pray your day is filled with Oreos and love.
Jannette

CSUMC Christmas Eve Service

CSUMC Christmas Eve Service

We invite you to join our Christmas Eve Worship service which will be held on Thursday, December 24 at 6:00pm, in the Performing Arts Center on the China Spring Middle School Campus.

It will be a wonderful evening of candles, carols and Communion as we celebrate the gift of Christ’s birth into the world and our lives.

Advent Has Arrived…Now We Wait With Hope and Expectation!!!


The Season of Advent is upon us and as I begin this month’s newsletter, I must say how much I appreciate those many behind-the-scenes persons that take care of everything in the Sanctuary. From changing of banners and colors throughout the seasons, to the moving, rearranging and setting up of lights and EVERYTHING ELSE, there is a lot they do. Sometimes the changes are minor, and you may not notice but they do help tell “The Story.”

There is no time when then their efforts are more evident than the beginning of the Season of Advent. Although I had seen their work earlier in the week, when I walked into the Sanctuary this past Sunday morning, I had to stop for a moment to take it all in…The beautiful wreaths with poinsettias, the garland draping the Communion rail, the banners of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, the Chrismon Tree and yes, our beautiful Nativity scene…they all help tell “The Story” of the birth of Christ.

And in doing so, we remember the longing of Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for and need of forgiveness, salvation and a new beginning. Even as we individually and collectively look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, we also look forward anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised by his first coming.

The Season of Advent will be with us until December 24th and although we are accustomed to celebrating Christmas on a single day, in both the Christian tradition and on the church calendar, the Christmas season itself lasts from sundown on Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve) through Epiphany of the Lord (Jan. 6). This is sometimes referred to as “the 12 days of Christmas.”

My hope and prayer for all of us this Season of Advent and the Christmas Season that follows is that we would all spend some time reflecting on our own personal walk with God and those four items in bold above. God knows every hair on your head, your every word, your every thought and so on…My point to that is do not be afraid to be honest with yourself. God knows you and loves you. No matter where you are on your walk with God, there is potentially more…a deeper and more meaningful daily walk with God is what God desires and this birth that we long for yet again is that which makes it possible.

As the New Year of 2021 approaches, what are your longings and yearnings in the coming year? We might simply think “I just want 2020 to be over with!” But lets not forget that God IS present with you now and WILL BE present in the days to come and God wants more for all of us!!! What can God help you with? Spend some meaningful time in prayer and reflection during these seasons of Advent and Christmas…With God’s help, open up your heart and mind to the transforming power of God’s love in Christ. Remember the true gift of Christmas is the Gift of Christ; a gift that brings change to our lives and to our world!!!

Finally, please do not forget our special Christmas Eve services which will take place at 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm on Thursday December 24th. This year’s services will be slightly different in some ways due to the pandemic, but these things will NOT take away from our ability to remember the blessings of this special night by singing carols, hearing Scripture read and praising God for the ultimate gift of Jesus Christ; the world’s Savior!

After the message, we will Celebrate Holy Communion and the service will conclude with the lighting of the Christ Candle and our own personal candles as we sing that familiar and o’ so beautiful song, “Silent Night.”

In the mighty name of JESUS, the one Whose birth into our hearts, mind and the world we long for yet again. Come Lord Jesus, Come!!!!

May all your Advent and Christmas seasons be blessed!!!

Grace and Peace to you all,

Pastor Steve

Reflecting on Holy Places

As I begin, I want to do so with a question. So…How would you define a sacred or holy place? Before you answer, I do not mean places that Christians go to on a pilgrimage such as the Red Sea where God parted the waters for the Israelites, the city of Bethlehem where Jesus was born, the city of Nazareth where Jesus was raised, the Sea of Galilee where Jesus spent time with his disciples or the holy city of Jerusalem which has within it places such as the Garden of Gethsemane, the Western Wall, the Upper Room where the Jesus held the Passover meal, Calvary Hill (Golgotha) where Jesus was crucified, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Via Dolorosa…sorry, I got carried away listing places I’ve visited that I believe are indeed holy and sacred places. If you ever get a chance to visit these places, please do so…

When I ask you define a sacred or holy place, I’m talking about a place or places where you feel God’s presence when you are there. You’ve probably heard from me many times that I feel God’s presence quite often when I am in the outdoors; especially when I’m in my hunting stand early in the morning with nothing but time and darkness to commune with God. Of course, every Sunday when I’m gathered with other brothers and sisters in Christ worshipping God, I feel as though I’m in a holy/sacred place. Gathering with my family and/or friends can be a sacred and holy place as I give God thanks for the many blessings I have in my life.

With those thoughts in mind, take a few moments to really think about  your definition of what a sacred/holy place is for you and more importantly, what place or places would you call sacred and/or holy; places in which you have felt God’s holy presence? Once you have those place(s) in mind, linger there for a few moments. How does being in that holy place (at least in your mind) make you feel? Is God’s presence washing all over you??? I hope so!!!

Now I want to divert our thinking just a little bit. In church this coming Sunday November 1st, I’m going to spend some time talking about Jacob’s story. You remember Jacob, don’t you? He’s the younger brother of Esau; a trickster whose actions garnered his brother’s birthright and his father’s blessing which should have gone to the elder Esau. He is also the one whose name was changed to Israel after an encounter with God.

It is in Genesis 28:16 that we read the following: When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it. This revelation comes to Jacob after the vivid dream in which Jacob sees a ladder going up into the heavens in which messengers of God are using the ladder to go back and forth from heaven to earth to carry out God’s plan. Indeed, this was a vivid and awesome dream, but Jacob’s response has been on my mind all week long.

 As Christians, you and I believe God has promised to be with us always and He will never leave or forsake us. We believe we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell within us; to encourage comfort and direct us…Or to say it another way, God is ALWAYS PRESENT with us. Whether we are at one of the places I mentioned above, the place(s) you envisioned in your mind OR at the grocery store, at home with the family, at work, at a football game, at a hospital awaiting surgery, taking out the trash, walking the dog, in your garage changing the oil in your car, in the craft room making your favorite craft or the endless other places we might be, GOD IS PRESENT with us. Correct?

If you indeed believe this to be true (I do), then there are a lot more holy places than we may have thought. The truth is that anytime and ANYWHERE can be a holy place; a place where we encounter the Divine. Maybe the need for us is to develop a greater sense of God’s presence in the ordinary. Sure we “expect” and believe God is present with us during the extraordinary moments of our life but in truth God is always there!!! Every place can be a holy place.

As November begins and with it, the busyness of the holiday season approaches, my prayer for each of us is that we might be able slow down enough through each and every day to acknowledge and celebrate God’s presence with us. And in doing so, may we each be encouraged, comforted, directed, affirmed or whatever else we might need from our loving Father in Heaven!!!

No matter what, GOD IS WITH YOU!!!! Praise the Lord!!!

Grace and Peace to you all,

Fall, Personal Reflections and Holy Communion

Fall, Personal Reflections and Holy Communion

As I write this article on this the first day of October, it is a pleasant 55 degrees outside. Even though it will get up to the mid 80’s today, the fall weather has finally reached us and it appears as though it is here to stay for a while.

With fall comes not only cooler weather but fall sports in our schools including our undefeated Cougar football team. If you are a professional sports fan, fall brings this year’s baseball, hockey and basketball playoffs. Stores are already decorated for the fall and already prepared for the coming of Halloween later this month. Soon leaves will be turning colors and falling, sprinklers systems will be able to be turned off and the weekly task of mowing will be put aside until the spring of 2021.

Spring of 2021??? Wow, we are three fourths of the way through 2020; a year like no other I’ve seen in my lifetime and you might very well feel the same. But getting back to thoughts of fall, one of the other things that comes to mind for me each year as fall rolls around is that fall is a perfect time to pause and reflect all that has transpired in our lives over the past year and to begin looking ahead and prayerfully consider what the coming year might look like.

As many of you know, I will be leaving town later today to spend a few days away. The reason 

I give for taking time off is that it’s the opening weekend of deer season. In truth, yes, I love deer hunting and all that this entails but there is much more to these few days than sitting in a deer blind waiting for the magnificent large buck to come into view.

For me, the opening weekend of deer season has also become a very spiritual endeavor as well. Aside from enjoying the magnificent beauty of God’s creation (the sights, sounds and smells) while walking to or sitting in my deer stand, these days also serve as the beginning of my annual year end personal reflections; prayers to God to allow me to see clearly the blessings of the previous year, to seek Godly wisdom for both my personal and professional life (what have I learned in the past year and where is the Spirit leading in the coming year).

I find this time to be one that Restores, Replenishes and Renews my mind, body and spirit and helps better prepare me for that which lies ahead in the future; for that which God calls me to be and calls me to do.  My hope and prayer is that each of you reading this might also find some time to engage in reflecting on God’s presence in your life this year and what God desires of you in the coming year.

To be clear this time can “look” much different than what my time looks like. For me, I find the outdoors as an especially good place to commune with God; to talk and listen and to feel God’s presence surrounding me. What places and/or spaces do you feel God’s presence the most? Can you carve out some time where you and God can talk? Are you personally in need of some Restoration, Replenishing and Renewing of your mind, body and spirit? If so, what are you going to do about it? I hope you will sit with those questions for a little bit and pray that God would speak to your heart and mind…

This Sunday October 4th is Communion Sunday, World Communion Sunday. In my absence, Dr. Leah S. Hidde-Gregory, our Central District Superintendent, will be delivering the sermon and presiding over Holy Communion.

As of last Sunday, we have resumed our 8:30 and 11:00 AM in-person worship services and we will celebrate Holy Communion at both of these services. We hope you can attend and participate in this Holy Sacrament. I realize many of you do not yet feel comfortable returning to in-person worship services and we certainly understand your decision not to do so.

With this in mind, if you are unable to attend one of our worship services this coming Sunday and thus unable to participate in Holy Communion and would like me to come to your home to share Holy Communion with you, please let me know. Simply reply to this email and we will have a conversation as to when it would be best for me to stop by.

John Wesley referred to the Sacrament of Holy Communion as the “Grand Channel” of God’s grace and we want to afford every opportunity for you to participate in this Holy meal.

Grace and Peace to you all,

Pastor Steve

 

Resuming In-Person Worship Services

Resuming In-Person Worship Services

We are SO VERY EXCITED TO BE BACK this Sunday September 27, 2020. We will be resuming in-person worship services at both 8:30 and 11:00 am. We will also continue live-streaming on our Facebook page as well as our YouTube channel.

Please remember the protocols our Administrative Council and Trustees have put in place which include:

  • temperature checks at entrance
  • hand sanitizing stations
  • mask wearing throughout service
  • physical distancing in the Sanctuary

We are also asking all persons to sign a waiver, indicating they understand the inherent risks associated with gathering with others in the midst of a pandemic.

After further consultation with our insurance carrier, we have a new and more simple waiver that we will using moving forward (no need to fill out this new one if you’ve already filled out the other waiver). Simply click the text below which contains a link to the waiver. Fill it out and please bring it with you to church on Sunday and give to one of the ushers.

We greatly appreciate your understanding of the protocols we have put in place and we look forward to worshipping with you in-person VERY SOON!

Worship on the Lawn and Opportunities to Grow in Our Faith

This past Sunday, there were seventy-three of us who gathered in person for worship in the north end of our property (what a witness to those in our community who passed by on either China Spring or Yankie Road).

It was HOT and it was HUMID but…WHAT A JOY it was to gather again with so many whose face I’d not seen in months or if I had seen, it was probably on a computer screen. I know there were many who for very good reasons were not present but watched online. I hope and pray that each of you felt as blessed as I did on Sunday

I am deeply appreciative, as are others who I’ve talked with, for all the work it took to put on the outdoor worship service. Thanks to everyone for their efforts to make this happen.

I’ve already been asked when we might do this again because it was enjoyed so much. While I don’t have an answer, we WILL do it again. As most of you know, our Administrative Council and Trustees will be meeting Tuesday September 8th to discuss how are community is doing as it relates to Covid-19 and when we might resume our in-person worship services. Please keep this meeting in your thoughts and prayers as we seek to make wise decisions based not only on the most current information available to us but based on the leading of the Holy Spirit.

As it relates to another outdoor worship service, regardless of whether we resume in-person worship services, we will look at doing more in the future…maybe even another time besides Sunday morning so those that have to work on Sunday mornings each week would be able to join us as well.

Hopefully you’ve already heard, but if not, let me share some ways in which you can join with myself and others in growing in our faith.These ways include our existing Tuesday morning Ladies Bible study which meet each week on Tuesdays at 9:00 am via Zoom, Tuesday Night Faith Conversations meeting on Zoom each Tuesday at 8:00 pm and a weeklong discussion online via our website. Each of these discussions will center on, at least in part, the primary passage of Scripture which will be used in worship on the following Sunday.

This will give opportunities to each of us in our church family to focus our conversations each week, and in the process, learn from one another and by the power of the Holy Spirit and grace of God to grow in our faith. If you want more information regarding these opportunities, let me know. I’d love to have a conversation from you.

I hope you will prayerfully consider joining in one or more of these opportunities…

Grace and Peace to you all,

How’s Your Prayer Life?

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,

Pastor Steve