Saturday, December 24, 2011

Shepherd Sighting

I was meditating on the manger scene the other day and had a wonderful insight. When you look at that scene, on what are your eyes focused? If you're like me, many of us grew up with the focal point of the manager scene as Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. However, many people pay little attention to anything else represented in that scene. The other characters and the animal guests are more or less "window dressing" to point our attention to the three main characters. But it occurred to me how awesome it was to have shepherds at the manger. Only God could take a group of people who were considered at the bottom of society's popularity list and give them a significant place in the Christmas story! Shepherds were typically an ignored population of people but what is even greater, "God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of this world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not---to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him." (1 Corinthians 1:27-29) In fact from Genesis to Revelation God speaks about shepherds and their important place in God's plan.  God did not send the angels in Luke chapter 2 to the palaces or the temple to announce to the kings and religious leaders that Christ had been born. He sent the angels to the shepherds in the fields. The shepherds who were doing exactly what God desires of his leaders, to keep watch over the flocks. Jesus even takes on this despised image and calls Himself the "Good Shepherd" who lays down His life for His sheep. (John 10:11) Peter tells leaders to be "shepherds of God's flock....and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." (1 Peter 5:2,4)  And in the book of Revelation we read, For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Revelation 7:17) italics mine. How ironic that the King of kings and Lord of lords tends to His people more like a shepherd! The next time you see or think about the manger scene, remember that little baby identified with the least popular folks in His time. He lifted them up and showed the world God's tender heart for His people.
Merry Christmas to you all!
Pastor Sheree

Thursday, December 8, 2011

No Other King

I was recently listening to a teaching in which the speaker drew the listener's attention to the last verse in the book of Judges. "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit." (Judges 21:25) This same verse is repeated in Judges 17:6, 18:1, and 19:1. Whenever the Scriptures repeat something, it is a signal to pay attention. The words "everyone did as he saw fit" suggests that Israel had departed from the covenant standards of conduct found in the law. And later in the book of 1 Samuel chapter 8 Israel asks for a king like the other nations that surrounded them. It was not good enough that God Himself was their King. As a result of having their request granted, Israel then plunges into a succession of various kings. Some of these kings led the people into evil practices and others followed the Lord. In either case, Israel did not fair too well apart from their true King. How similar are the circumstances we find taking place in the world today. Many people don't want a king and have chosen to depart from any absolute standard. They don't want any "so-called God" telling them what to do. Everyone does as they see fit. And the expectation is that every one is supposed to follow the same game plan. Those who want to be faithful to Christ and follow His ways are often scorned, mocked, and labeled intolerant. As a result, the slow elimination of anything pertaining to God and His standards is causing a similar chaos like Israel experienced. At Christmas time we remember that God sent us a King in the form of a baby. This baby ultimately grew up to become our Savior. He did not grow up in a palace enjoying all the benefits expected of royalty. But He laid aside His rightful place as King and became human, humbly walking among us showing us the heart of the Father and dying for our sakes to reconnect us to God. And when Jesus was born, Herod sought to destroy Him because He felt threatened. (Matthew 2) A similar tone is being experienced today. A recent news segment showed people protesting because the governor of Rhode Island wanted to rename the traditional Christmas tree to a "holiday tree." Furthermore there is a push to acquaint Christmas as a time of "great bargains" as there is a mad rush to purchase gifts on "Black Friday" which in some cases was pushed back even further to "Black Thursday" or Thanksgiving Day. And with the ever increasing electronics age, there was "Cyber Monday." It seems that when some feel threatened by the presence of God, like Herod they seek to destroy any remnant of Him. But try as they will, Christmas is still Christmas and the King has come. Moreover He will be coming again not in humility but with the authority and power as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Hallelujah! "Joy to the world the Lord is come, let earth receive her King!" Let us bow down and worship our King for He alone is worthy!
Peace at Christmas!
Pastor Sheree

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dreams, Visions, Challenge, and Change

Experts tell us that everyone dreams. Sometimes we don't remember our dreams and other times they are so vivid we can't help but recall what took place. Many times clients will ask me the significance of a particular dream. They are especially confused because of all the so-called "crazy images" that occur in their dreams. While I am no dream expert, I did take a workshop focused on dreams and learned that dreams are our unconscious seeking to process things we are wrestling with in real life. The "crazy images" are actually the key to determining the meaning of the dream. Dreams have their own unique language which is the language of symbolism. Therefore, once it is determined what the symbol represents, one can decipher the meaning of the dream. I recently had a powerful dream in which the Lord revealed to me how amidst many challenges I was to bring healing and wholeness to the people in my present congregation. This dream along with some other Scriptures God shared with me in His word, helped bring a fresh perspective to my soul and current ministry. It was such a paradigm shift, that I was overwhelmed with the blessings that God was imparting. Dreams and visions are Biblical and God can and does use them to minister to us and others.  If each of us examines our lives we may discover a similar pattern that God is using to draw us closer to Him. Remember Joseph's story in Genesis? It started out with God giving Joseph a dream of his future. (Genesis 37) Later on Joseph became a dream interpreter for the Pharaoh's cupbearer and baker when they were in prison with Joseph (Genesis 40). Joseph also interpreted Pharaoh's dreams. (Genesis 41) The interesting thing is that Joseph's understanding of his own dreams and that of others did not come without its challenges. However, later on the changes came that fulfilled God's plan not only for the people but for Joseph. Likewise, a significant portion of the book of Daniel is devoted to dreams and dream interpretation. Once again, the dreams and visions did not go without their challenges for Daniel but brought about fulfillment of God's will. Of course we cannot forget the New Testament and the how the Lord used dreams and visions in the story of Christ. The Lord spoke to Joseph through a dream as he wrestled with Mary's pregnancy and the family's subsequent escape to Egypt. (Matthew 1, 2) And we can't forget about Luke's birth narrative and the angelic vision experienced by Mary and the shepherds in the fields. (Luke 1, 2) Moreover  Peter, James, and John had a similar experience on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Matthew 17:1-8) These are just a few New Testament examples but all of the stories follow the same pattern of presenting those who experienced the dream/vision with a challenge that led to a significant change in fulfillment of God's ultimate plan. As we enter this Advent season let us not forget about the vision we have been given. God has broken into history to challenge us with the unbelievable story of redemption and the incredible change that would result in the fulfillment of reuniting us with the Father through the gift of His Son. 
Blessings in this Christmas season!
Pastor Sheree

Saturday, November 12, 2011

From Bitter to Better

The past month has been one of ups and downs. There have been disappointments and confusion. It is very frustrating when we try to figure out what God is up to and can't quite fit Him into the box of our own creation. We often have expectations about the way God should act and can easily end up feeling that God owes us something for our faithfulness. However, when we begin to think like that we often already have in mind how the Lord should repay us. The thinking may go something like this, "Lord, I have set my sights on obtaining this or receiving that and I'll just wait for You to make it happen."And when the Lord leads us in a different direction than we expect, we can be left feeling betrayed and bitter. I must confess that has been my struggle for the past few weeks. I realize that my reaction is not unique. In my time of stillness before the Lord I was led to consider once again the Israelites and their journey in the wilderness. There are many twists and turns throughout the book of Exodus, some of them are very impressive (i.e, The parting of the Red Sea) while others we could easily skip over or dismiss. But as Timothy tells us, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16) italics mine. So, I came to the story of the Israelites arriving at the waters of Marah in Exodus 15:22-27. Prior to this passage the Israelites had just finished celebrating the destruction of the Egyptians who had pursued them to the Red Sea. There was dancing and singing and clapping! The people were at a high point and probably expected that this was the beginning of a never ending litany of good things from God. Then they came to Marah after traveling for three days without water. The celebration was over and their mood turned from joy to bitterness. In fact the Scripture tells us that is why the place was called Marah because the people grumbled against Moses. Their expectations were that the "good times" would continue to roll and they probably had it already mapped out in their minds as to how things were going to play out as they made their way to the Promised Land. They weren't expecting any curves in the road, but rather smooth sailing. The interesting verse that caught my attention was verse 25, "Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet." (italics mine) I began to meditate on what to me was the symbolic connection between what Moses did and what Christ accomplished on the cross. In both cases wood became the means by which God made a dramatic change. What was bitter now became better. The wood sweetened the water for the people to drink so they would not perish and the cross was "sweetened" by the blood of Christ so humanity would not perish. Christ's death on the cross turned the bitterness of sin into sweet salvation. When it comes right down to it, God surprises us with His grace and I am anxious to see how He will turn my bitterness into something so much better!
In His grace,
Pastor Sheree

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Are You Ready?

This has been quite a difficult week for many people here in Massachusetts with an unusual Noreaster that dumped heavy, wet snow creating numerous power outages. Even as I write these words there are many brothers and sisters who remain in the dark. My husband and I were fortunate that our power went out last Saturday but was restored 4 hours later. Many folks have not yet recovered from the devastation and trauma that accompanied Hurricane Irene not too long ago. A recurring theme I have heard throughout the week is how much people are "suffering" without the convenience of electricity. The discomfort is exacerbated by the change in seasons and the low temperatures which for some people made it impossible to stay in their homes without heat.  It is at times like these that the reality of our dependance on electricity really hits home. I have been praying for a quick resolution for those left in the dark and stamina for the power companies working 24/7 to get everyone back on line. And while I do not make light of what is happening to people, I am reminded that our faith can be severely tested. We have to honestly ask ourselves the question, when everything falls apart is our faith in the Lord able to sustain us? We as a nation and a Western culture have never experienced suffering to the same degree as other nations/peoples. However, Jesus warned that prior to His return things would become more challenging. (Matthew 24)  Furthermore the attitudes of people would shift towards one another. (2 Timothy 3) There is unrest worldwide and it is even manifesting itself in our cities with the movement against corporate greed. However, are we ready for what is yet to come?  I admit I am guilty of taking for granted the comforts I enjoy everyday and I am quick to cry foul when I am inconvenienced. But am I willing to put my life on the line for Jesus? There are brothers and sisters who are being persecuted everyday for Christ and we rarely hear about it because it is not as news worthy as some celebrity or athlete caught in some scandal.  And it is easy to think that things won't get "that bad" here in our country. However we can't be ignorant about such matters. We need to be faithful and depend on God come what may. Peter's encouragement to the suffering saints is appropriate for us to hear and keep in mind, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything....Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him." (1 Peter 1:3,12) italics mine. May the Lord give us the grace we need by the power of His Holy Spirit to be found faithful in times of trial.
Shalom,
Pastor Sheree

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pain and Promise

Recently I had to be seen by a hand surgeon related to some pain I was having in my right hand. The surgeon was able to determine I was in the early stages of developing a "trigger finger." That is a condition characterized by an inflammation around the tendon which inhibits the easy movement of the fingers. Over time if left untreated the finger at the site of the inflammation gets stuck which then requires you to physically pull on it to get it unstuck, causing more pain and inflammation. I was hoping the surgeon would recommend some sort of non-invasive remedy that would take care of the pain. However, he instead suggested an injection into my hand (palm side) of an anti-inflammatory medication which was guaranteed to reduce the swelling, pain, and restore normal movement. Needless to say I was not quick to agree knowing that the hand is a very sensitive part of the body. I tried to reason my way out of it in my mind as he sat patiently waiting for me decide. Finally I had to come to grips with the fact that the alternative was a continued deterioration which would lead to surgery. So, I opted for the pain of the injection based on the promise that my hand would get better.  We often have the same experience in our Christian walk. We  set our hopes on a particular outcome that we believe is God's will for us but sometimes get surprised when God does the opposite. I had such an experience not too long ago. I believed God had clearly opened a door for me which I excitedly pursued only to have the door as I perceived it slammed shut, bolted, and locked. It through me into a tailspin and I was deeply grieved. All the questions come bubbling to the surface, "I don't get it God, is this some kind of a cruel joke?" "Did I misinterpret your leading?" As a result one can go to a place of questioning the goodness of God. However, just as I had to trust the doctor that the pain from the injection would bring healing, so I have to trust God with the same. In fact pain and a promise are very Biblical. Remember Abraham? In Genesis 12 God gave Him numerous promises about "blessing all peoples of the earth through him."(Genesis 12:2-3) How exciting that must have been for Abraham! Even though God called him to leave his homeland, on some level Abraham was able to trust God given the promise that was to be fulfilled through him. But God threw Abraham a "curve ball" when he told him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. (Genesis 22) In the midst of the emotional pain Abraham was experiencing, he may have wondered whether experiencing the pain of the death of his only son was worth it for the fulfillment of the promise. Ultimately, Abraham decided to trust God and of course the rest is history.  Isaac was saved and Abraham did indeed become the father of many nations (Jew and Gentile) and through his lineage, came Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. In Christ we see the repetition of the pain and promise to us. Through the pain of Jesus' sacrifice came the promise of hope, reconciliation with God, and eternal life. Some folks wonder if God could have found a better way than for Jesus to suffer as He did? Yes, God could but pain was necessary for us to appreciate the healing. The healing of the rift between God and humanity because of sin and the healing of our souls as we are conformed to the image of Christ. The hand doctor told me if my hand did not feel any better in about a month, I could come back for a second injection which should do the trick. (I am praying that's not the case) The good news is "Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." (2 Peter 3:18a) And in my moments of despair when I am tempted to question the goodness of God, His word speaks comfort to my wounded soul, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) "I will not forget you! See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands." (Isaiah 49:15b-16) italics mine. Somehow having something engraved on the palms of one's hands is far more painful than my injection but Oh the promises that follow! 
Be Blessed!
Pastor Sheree

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Faith, Love and Deeds

"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes or food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if not accompanied by action is dead." (James 2:14-17) These are some powerful words from James but very relevant for us today. I was able to witness faith in action this week. There are some trees near our home that need to be cut down. My husband made some phone calls to various local companies to get some estimates for the tree removal. Two companies came out to give us a price. In the meantime a brother in our congregation mentioned the name of a Christian man he knew that was very good and could probably give us a cheaper estimate. My husband made several calls to this person and left messages without any response. I couldn't understand why a fellow believer would not return our calls or even leave a message to indicate his availability. I thought for sure that God wanted the Christian man to do the work. One of the other companies called to lower their estimate and was anxiously waiting for a response from us. We were ready to call the company back when a customer came to my husband's job. He was looking for a part to repair a burner for a boiler at the home of an elderly woman who had been without heat or hot water for two days. The customer stated that his wife was a home health caregiver and discovered the elderly woman's problem a few days ago. The customer who was an auto mechanic attempted to help the elderly woman but broke a hose in the process. My husband's business did not have the needed part but my husband recommended that he contact the local oil companies. Sadly, no oil company would help this man. He reported back to my husband what had happened and added that this elderly woman had no money. In response my husband offered his assistance, having been in the oil burner service business for 29 years. He happened to have a used burner in our shed at home and arranged to meet the man at the elderly woman's home after work. After ensuring the the burner was still in working order, he went to the elderly woman's home, installed it, and got the burner up and running. Before my husband parted company with this auto mechanic he mentioned about our tree situation. In response, the mechanic stated that he also had a tree removal business and was willing to come and do the job for a very reasonable price. We received this as a blessing from the Lord and it became clear to me why the delay in the tree removal process. God calls us to be witnesses and faithful in showing His love to the world. It is very easy to become too comfortable in our Christianity or to adopt an attitude of, "Well, I feel sorry for that person" or "What a shame, I hope they get some help soon. It's a good thing it's not winter yet!" James calls for faith in action but John goes even further and speaks of the very heart of God which is love in action, "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." (1 John 3:17-18) Let us remain faithful to our Savior who calls us to, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (italics mine) There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:30-31) 
Blessings In Christ,
Pastor Sheree

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Seasons

The other day I was sitting in the den looking out the sliding glass door. It was an emotionally difficult day and I was feeling rather depressed. As I was staring at the leaves that had fallen on to the deck, I could identify with their condition deep within my soul. I told the Lord, "I feel like those leaves, shriveled up and lifeless." Sadly, Christians often are scandalized with the thought of putting depression and Christian in the same sentence. As Author Jim Palmer states in his book entitled "Divine Nobodies", "You're not supposed to be depressed if you are a Christian. After all, it's "non-Christians" who are the miserable ones needing to see our ecstatic, smiling, problem-free faces and hear our radical stories if they are ever to find Jesus. You're never going to grow a church with a bunch of despondent people moping around!"  Mr. Palmer himself went through a deep depression and points out that the church often doesn't allow for us to be real with our brokenness. He states,"Many times I have been in this condition at church when someone asked how I was doing, and I replied, "Fine." I've responded like this so many times, one day I decided to look it up. To be "fine" is to be "optimally functioning with freedom from disease or abnormality." So my answer is a bald-faced lie. But after all, lying seems to be consistent with church rules of engagement---pleasant questions, pleasant answers, even if they are untrue." I can identify with what Jim Palmer is saying.  I had nothing to really offer to the Lord so I asked for a word from Him. The Lord spoke through the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and the meditation from the booklet "Our Daily Bread" which surprisingly was focused on the same Bible passage. The passage from Ecclesiastes is very familiar to many people as a rock group called the Byrds popularized it in the 60's. The song went, "To everything turn, turn, turn, There is a season turn, turn, turn, And a time to every purpose under heaven." The song then proceeded like the Bible passage to lay out the high and lows of those seasons. God drew my attention to those shriveled leaves to remind me that just as the meteorological seasons change  the typical flow of our lives also have their seasons. The author of the meditation in "Our Daily Bread"states, "We do a disservice to ourselves and others when we portray the Christian life as peaceful and happy all the time. Instead the Bible portrays the believer's life as consisting of seasons of ups and downs." The author concludes with this thought, "Every season needs faith to get us through it." It is faith that calls me to trust in the Lord even in the seasons of despair. Faith says it is O.K. to feel like a shriveled up leaf because there will be another season of hope and new life. God allows us joys as well as sorrows to draw us closer to Him. In fact Jim Palmer used to be ashamed of his depression but states that he now sees it as a "trap door to God." When it hits and he finds himself sinking into a "black hole", he often finds Jesus there. Mr. Palmer says, "I acquired in seminary a lot of theologically correct answers to the question of who Jesus is....But now when I am asked, I am most inclined to say, "Jesus is the one who sits down close to me in my black hole of despair, offering himself until it passes. In some strange way, even though my black hole remains, I'm starting to really know Jesus, and knowing him makes me feel whole." Perhaps knowing Jesus better is less about pretending and more about moving through the reality of the seasons in our lives. And being aware that in every season, God's divine love holds us, and that awareness brings healing and a sense of wholeness.
In His Love,
Pastor Sheree

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Numbering Our Days (In memory of Jacob Bratkon)

My day started out fairly uneventful. It was Thursday so that meant the typical routine of morning exercise, shower, breakfast and laundry duty. I went to check my e-mail and received disturbing news. On Wednesday, September 7, a dear sister in Christ lost her 17 year old son in a tragic car accident. I was in shock as I could not even begin to imagine the devastation the family and friends of this young man were experiencing. A heaviness settled into my soul and hung on for most of the day. I had to go out to the grocery store in the afternoon and had a hard time motivating myself to get there. I felt like I was in a fog as I walked through the store and watched other people going through their shopping routine unaware that a tragedy had taken place 24 hours earlier. Upon returning home I continued to feel very unsettled so I turned to the One who often comforts me in difficult times. I asked the Lord for a word of comfort to try and make sense of this "unnatural"event where children die before their parents. The Lord led me to Psalm 90:1-12 which was the meditation from the devotional booklet, "Our Daily Bread." This Psalm holds special meaning for me as it was a favorite Psalm of my great-grandmother and my great aunt. In fact I read this Psalm at my great aunt's funeral service. The first eleven verses make reference to the brevity of life and it was verse 12 that captured my attention. "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Another word for gain is "harvest." We are to harvest a "heart" of wisdom. The heart in Biblical language is the center of the human spirit, from which spring emotions, thought, motivation, courage, and action. It is the wellspring of life according to Proverbs 4:23. The writer of the meditation in "Our Daily Bread" challenges the reader to think about the meaning of "numbering our days." He suggests that our focus needs to be on gaining wisdom and becoming more Christ-like. I confess that I can go through life's routine assuming that it will carry on uninterrupted. However, I am quick to point out to my clients that we can not assume that when we leave our homes we will return safely later on that day. The writer of the meditation also states, "The relentless ticking of the clock reminds us that our time on earth is limited. Despite the joys and pains of life, time always marches on. For the believer, our time on earth is an opportunity for gaining wisdom....Numbering our days is the wise response to life's inevitable progress." I asked the Lord, "How am I numbering my days?" If a young man's life can be over at age 17, what are we to do with the time we have been given? If my life were to end tomorrow would others be able to say of me that they saw the Lord transforming my life? As Jacob's family and friends move through the days of grief and pain ahead, there is the assurance that God knows how it feels to lose a child because He lost His Son.  One of my favorite CD's is by the Taubl Family. There are 7 children (3 girls and 4 boys) all musically gifted. The three sisters put out a CD in 2001 and it includes a song that still brings tears to my eyes. I pray the words will bring some measure of comfort to Jacob's family, friends and all who are experiencing loss. 
 "He's Been To The Top" (The Taubl Sisters)
"The mountain is just sometimes too hard to climb, the way is steep and there's never enough time. You look up ahead, you see the dangers and you say, you fear that you've lost both your vision and your way. You can't take another step, your strength is all but lost. Then a hand reaches out for you, that has been nailed to a cross. And that's when you hear Him say,
 (Chorus) I've been to the top and I want to take you there,
So don't lose hope, don't you ever give up,
I know that you're tired and I know it's scary out there,
I've been to the top and I want you to know there is no struggle there,
Only peace and joy.
The mountain that Jesus climbed for me, was a long dusty road that led to Calvary. He took all my pain and He bore all my burdens that day. In the darkest hour of life, He's waiting to take your cares away. So wander aimlessly no more, just rest in Him complete. There's a peaceful childlike quietness when you kneel down at His feet. And that's when you hear Him say..(Chorus)
May Jacob rest in the peace and joy of our Lord as we wait to join him at the top.
Shalom,
Pastor Sheree

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Be Still and Know

As I sit and look out the sliding glass door in my den, it is hard to imagine that a few days ago blue sky and sunshine was replaced with darkness, wind, and rain. It reminded me of the disciples experience on the Sea of Galilee as told in Mark's gospel chapter 4:35-41. The disciples never anticipated what was about to happen. I'm sure as experienced fishermen they knew that the Sea of Galilee had the potential to become suddenly stormy. They may have even experienced a storm or two in the past. However, what was different this time was they had Jesus with them. So there may have been a feeling of safety and security. "The Master is with us," they may have thought to themselves, "What have we to fear?" As you know in reading the story, their comfort zone was quickly shaken up when the storm started raging furiously and worst of all, their Master was as they perceived it unresponsive, even downright uncaring. Those are the feelings many people, myself included experienced during and after the hurricane. We were warned by the meteorologists and watched day by day as the storm moved closer to the eastern seaboard. We saw the images of devastation in North Carolina as Irene made landfall as a category one hurricane. However as the hurricane moved closer to New England it was downgraded to a tropical storm. There was probably a collective sigh of relief as many silently thought to themselves, "it is not going to be that bad." When the storm finally blew into New England there was tremendous damage and serious flooding in some states. However, the real issue came in the storm's aftermath when thousands lost power. I was expecting perhaps like others that it would only be a couple of hours and the power would be restored. But as the hours turned into days I soon found myself developing an attitude similar to those disciples. The feelings of "don't worry Jesus is with me" quickly turned into "Lord don't you care that I have no electricity?", Can't you see that my food is spoiling and I have to get dressed in the dark?", "Don't you realize that I can't read by candlelight very well or watch T.V. to entertain myself?" I even felt jealousy towards those I knew who had electricity quickly restored or never lost any power at all. I am ashamed to admit my attitude was not very faith filled. However during the power outage when there was enough light I was able to spend more time in prayer and reading the Bible than I typically have time to do. The Lord reminded me that He was very present and I needed to trust Him. I was moved to read the account of Moses and the Israelites at the Red Sea in Exodus chapter 14. The people had a similar attitude when they found themselves with the Read Sea before them and the Egyptian army fast approaching. Their world quickly became unraveled as they criticized Moses for bringing them out of their "safe" place in Egypt to die in the desert. Moses words to them were the words God spoke to my heart, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today...The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." (Exodus 14:13-14) italics mine. The reality was that fear was driving my thinking that I may be forgotten by the electric company and have to wait weeks for the power to be restored, even though I have experienced power outages in the past and the problem has always been addressed. I quickly forgot that God never forgets about my needs. And although what I desire may not come to pass as quickly as I expect, God is still in control. I need only to be still and see the deliverance the Lord will bring.
Blessings and Peace in Christ,
Pastor Sheree

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Tale of Sparrows and Sock Monkeys

My husband and I just returned from a much needed vacation in New Hampshire at Lake Winnepesaukee. It is a trip worth taking if you get the opportunity. God has been impressing upon me just how near He is to me everyday. I recently had an epiphany regarding God's promise of His ever abiding presence. In Joshua, after Moses' death, the Lord says to Joshua, "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you."(Joshua 1:5b)  A few verses later in the same chapter the Lord once again encourages Joshua, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9) italics mine. It is very easy to forget that God is always with me. If I am at work, He is there, when I travel He travels with me and even when I sleep at night, He is present keeping watch over me. However an even greater revelation is the fact that God dwells within me by His Spirit and you can't get any closer than that! Jesus promised His disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit in John chapter 16 and reaffirmed the gift shortly before His ascension into heaven in Acts chapter 1. I often encourage my clients to look for God in the ordinary, in the everyday things in life that surround them. A sister in Christ recently sent me an e-mail from a wonderful book she is reading that has touched her spirit in a profound way and on a very deep level. The author speaks about the fact that we as Christians are ignorant as to how much power we possess in the Spirit. The author goes on to say that if we really tapped into the Spirit's power we should be wearing crash helmets in the pews, in essence bracing ourselves for impact, the release of the Spirit! Wow! In my efforts to be more aware of the Lord's presence, I tried to remain open to Him during our vacation. I was not disappointed. While stopping for ice cream at a small stand we came back to the car to find a sparrow perched on the roof. The immediate thought that came to mind was the chorus from the song, "His Eye Is On The Sparrow." The final verse of that chorus states, "His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me." As if that weren't enough I had a similar sparrow encounter while enjoying a dessert in front of a bakery. My husband pointed to a sparrow hopping towards us while we ate. Once again that chorus popped into my head. Finally our last night in New Hampshire we revisited a gift shop we had stopped by earlier in the week. It was a rather large store with so many items it was overwhelming. The store had even more items upstairs! The first time in the store we didn't see anything of interest. However I have a rather large stuffed animal collection that I have accumulated during my growing up years. I had recently seen an ad on television that showed a sock monkey. (For those of you old enough to remember you know what they look like.) I had mentioned to my husband that I had always wanted a sock monkey to add to my collection but did not think any more about it. As we browsed through the store the second time we visited, I was not really thinking about sock monkeys but God remembered my heart's desire. Just as we were about to leave the store, there off in a corner was a basket with (you guessed it) two sock monkeys! I was ecstatic! Of course I purchased one and gave thanks to God! The sock monkey has now been added to my stuffed animal collection and will forever serve as a visual reminder that my God is always with me, so much so that He hears and answers the silent desires of my heart.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Sheree

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Modern Day Shepherds

I was reading through the devotional booklet, "Our Daily Bread." The meditation for the day included Psalm 66.  It is a Psalm of praise for God's answer to prayer. Two verses that stood out to me were verses 5 and 16. "Come and see what God has done, how awesome His works in man's behalf! (v.5)  "Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me." (v.16) italics mine. From there I moved on to my contemplative vision book where I have been meditating on Christian works of art. The painting for the focus of the meditation was by an artist named Nicolas Poussin. His painting is entitled "The Adoration of the Shepherds." The accompanying Scripture text for meditation was Luke 2:8-20 where the angels announce Christ's birth to the shepherds in the field. I have read that passage many times as I'm sure most of us have at some point in time. You may have even heard a sermon or two on the passage. What struck me this time around is how God linked this passage together with the two verses from Psalm 66. The passages from Luke and the Psalms all pointing me to Christ. In the Luke 2 passage my eyes were drawn to all the references of seeing and hearing. The shepherd were keeping watch over their flocks by night. (Luke 2:8) Luke is pointing out how the shepherds awareness and openness to what was around them was already heightened. Then they saw the glory of the Lord and the angel messenger. (v.9) The shepherds heard the news from the angel (vv.10-11) which dovetails with Psalm 66:5, an invitation to "come and see what God has done on man's behalf." The shepherds were given a clue as to what to look for when they arrived at the manger. (v.12) Then they heard the multitude of angels praising God (vv.13-14) which dovetails with first half of Psalm 66:16 to "come and listen all who fear God. The shepherds go to the manger and see Jesus, then follow up with telling others what they had witnessed (vv.15-17) which dovetails with the second part of Psalm 66:16, "Let me tell you what He has done for me." The narrative in Luke continues with the amazement of all who heard the shepherds message and Mary's reaction. (vv.18-19) The final verse in the passage pulls everything together, "The shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been  told." (v.20) God bids us to come and be captured with the wonder of all He has done on our behalf, the greatest of which is giving us His Son. Then like the shepherds we are to listen to His Spirit and go tell everyone what He has done for us. 
Be Blessed!
Pastor Sheree

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Lesson of the Moth

Lately, the Lord has been impressing upon me the need to increase my openness to His presence in my everyday life. To look for Him in the ordinary. I recently purchased a book entitled, "Contemplative Vision, a guide to Christian Art and Prayer." The author is Juliet Benner. She is an international retreat and workshop leader as well as a spiritual director. Juliet uses art as a means of connecting to God. In the book she focuses your attention on a variety of art work with Christian themes. The purpose of the book is to draw you to "enter in" and meditate on the particular painting allowing God to share His word to you through the Holy Spirit. I have found this contemplative exercise exciting and very rich in the lessons God has to teach me. My blog entry which focused on the Matisse painting "La Danse" is an example of this type of spiritual discipline. After focusing on one of the paintings in the book, I asked the Lord to increase my awareness of His presence. His response was to challenge me to meditate on the image of a moth drawn to the light. The question laid on my heart was, "What draws the moth to the light?" The next day after I came home from work as I was walking up the stairs to open the door, a tiny moth landed on my pants leg. I was excited as I felt it was an answer to prayer about being aware of God's presence, especially since I had been challenged to think about moths. However, that event did not fully answer the question about what draws them to the light. I began wracking my brain over all the possibilities.  I thought about the qualities of moths and the characteristics of light to no avail. Out of frustration I decided to go to the source of answers to all questions--Google! As I was searching, there were many interesting theories but I wasn't feeling any closer to an answer. The Lord finally impressed upon my heart, "You won't find the answer among men." The "spiritual two by four" hit its target. To the Scripture I went and finally understood that there was a connection between the moth attracted to light and the one that landed on my pants leg. Light represents the presence of God and His creation is attracted to it. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world." (John 9:5)  In 1 John 1:5 we read, "God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all." The gospel of John proclaims Jesus as, "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world."(John 1:9) The remarkable thing is that we as believers in Jesus Christ also reflect His light. Jesus tells his followers, "You are the light of the world." (Matthew 5:14) He further exhorts us not to hide our light but to, "...let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) These are just a few of the Scripture references that refer to light and the presence of God throughout the Old and New Testament. The lesson God was teaching me was that little moth was attracted to His presence in me! What a profound thought! The light of God's Spirit is so strong within us that even creation is attracted to it. This thought further deepened my understanding of the many times God gifted me with the opportunity to get up close and personal to dragonflies. I encourage you to be open to God's presence around you. Let the Spirit of Christ so shine through you that not only will people take notice but so will creation.
Be Blessed,
Pastor Sheree

Monday, July 11, 2011

Good Gifts and Gentle Reminders

It has been awhile since I last posted for a couple of reasons. First, as I mentioned in an earlier post, my husband's son and daughter-in-law are home visiting from their teaching jobs in South Africa. When they arrived on June 24, they spent the first few weeks visiting in Massachusetts and staying with us. This didn't leave much time to focus on writing or spending much quality time with the Lord. Second, the unfortunate consequence was that I found myself disconnected and distant from the Lord. After our visitors left to see friends and family in Maine, I struggled to hear from God. My times of being still and trying to hear his voice in the depths of my soul fell flat. I thought about some of the special times that God intervened in my life in some unusual ways through His creation when I was spiritually dry and longing to hear from Him. One of the more memorable times took place last summer when we had a very large population of dragon flies around our home. I have always found these creatures not only beautiful but intriguing. I asked the Lord to allow me to get up close and personal with these little wonders. God answered my prayer and I was able to merely reach out my hand and they landed, allowing me to speak to them about their beauty and praise God at the same time. Well, this summer there aren't as many dragon flies around so the opportunity to connect has been missing. Last Saturday my husband and I stopped by a greenhouse/nursery in search of a plant for my office at work. One of the owners of the business is an elderly, frail woman in her late 70s maybe early 80s. She was extremely pleasant and helpful and my husband had the opportunity to share the Lord with her. While he was ministering I watched the various insects flying around the shop. My attention was drawn to a buzzing sound at the customer entrance. It was a beautiful yellow dragonfly! The closed door was hindering its ability to get outside. At that moment I extended my hand and it flew over to me and landed. The owner of the store commented, "Look at that!" I drew the dragonfly close and began speaking to it while admiring its beauty. A short time later it flew off. In that moment I realized that God was gently reminding me that He was there. He knew the struggle in my soul and graciously sent a familiar messenger to remind me that I am loved. In Matthew 7 we are told, "Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him? (Matthew 7:7-11) Furthermore James states, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created." (James 1:17-18) Yes, my heavenly Father knows how to give good gifts and gentle reminders to His children when they are hurting. 
Peace & Blessings,
Pastor Sheree

Friday, June 24, 2011

Longing For Home

My husband's son and daughter-in-law recently returned to the United States for a brief visit this summer. They have been teaching at an International School in South Africa after failing to find teaching jobs in Maine last year. The commitment is for two years and they are hoping to secure teaching positions when they return to this country for good in the summer of 2012. It is interesting to watch their reaction to being home. They are enjoying all the foods they cannot get in South Africa and are especially grateful to be able to buy Dunkin Donuts coffee! In South Africa, they are foreigners, it is not their home. This reminded me of our status as Christians. We are temporary residents waiting to return to our true home. Paul tells the Philippians, "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body. (Philippians 3:20) Sometimes we as Christians can get too comfortable with this present life. We have homes, food to eat, and clothes to wear.  However, many of us know of people who have had their homes foreclosed and are having trouble buying food and clothing with rising prices. We are also very aware that there are people all over the world as well as in this country whose basic needs are not met. The point is that all that we experience now is temporary. The trials and circumstances of this present life which can often be painful and confusing are what is visible to us. But we have to remember that all of this is part of a fallen world. A world that is temporary and fleeting. If this is all that we have to fix our eyes on then there is no hope. But we as Christians do not lose heart because Paul tells us, "Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) So what are you longing for? I pray that the excitement that my husband's son and daughter-in-law are experiencing being home in the U.S. the place of their true citizenship will be the excitement we are longing for. The excitement we will experience in our souls when we finally claim our true citizenship at home with our Lord.
Peace & Blessings In Christ,
Pastor Sheree

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lord of the Dance

This is a little different than most of my blogs. I subscribe to a journal called, "Conversations." It is a journal that focuses on spiritual formation. One of the features of the journal is a section called, "O Taste and See" taken from Psalm 34:8. In this section a piece of art work is usually featured as a focal point for meditation. I have been excited to see how God has used various artists to bring forth some deep insights to refresh my soul. Today I share one of those meditations which comes from God helping me to focus on the connection between body and spirit. The meditation is on the work of artist Henri Matisse and is entitled, "La Danse"as illustrated in the picture below.
May 4, 2011 Meditation


"I am meditating on Henri Matisse's "La Danse" from the Conversations Journal. I am struck by the figures which appear to be all women evident by their breasts. Why no male figures? Perhaps the male figure is the Lord and these female figures are His bride. The Lord represented by the blue and green of creation. The figures appear to enjoy the creation and somehow know they are a part of it. Their features are very simple and in some cases virtually nondescript so there is no sense of comparison or competition. There appears to be no shame in their nakedness. It almost speaks to a Genesis creation experience. The earth is without form or void and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (Genesis 1:1-2) Just like these women are hovering over creation. There is a balance, a sense of connectedness, a lightness, a peace. But then the peace and harmony appears to be disrupted with the one figure losing her grip and falling. I notice the red color under her arm. The introduction of pain and suffering reminiscent of the Fall in Genesis. I can only imagine the shame and guilt she experiences as a result of breaking the rhythm. She reaches because she desperately wants to be reconnected to what once was. That perfect union, the love she experienced in being united with the others. It's all about community in communion with God the Creator. The others seem unaware of what's happening but they will be shortly. It is the salvation story as told through dance. Somehow there will be a reconnection in Christ. That red under the arm of the one woman also symbolically reminds me of Christ's blood. She is the Christ figure, robed in flesh, identifying with us. Her disconnection mirroring the isolation Christ experienced on the cross after separation from the Father. The picture speaks to me in the female figures. The challenge to see femininity as a gift, without shame, rejoicing in the dance with the Creator. The larger female figure in the foreground and the one stumbling remind me of the Sistine Chapel and the image of God stretching out His hand to touch the finger of Adam. The larger figure appears to be the most grounded between the blue and the green (heaven and earth.) Most of her body occupying the heavenly realm yet her feet still connected to the earth. The one who stumbles falls to the earth with little of her body occupying heaven. I sometimes identify with the fallen woman and what she may feel. Yet I experience a sense of hope because I know despite my stumbling I will be caught and reconnected to the joy of the dance. The "joy of my salvation." The joy of my creation and how important I am to Him. Even the title of the section, "O Taste and See" brings me back to Your word to me on April 5 and the exact words from Psalm 34:8. Enjoying His presence fully both body and soul. Thank you Lord for this meditation."
May you enjoy God's richest blessings this day!
Pastor Sheree

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Brother's Keeper

I have been thinking a lot about last Saturday and the heralded "end of the world" scenario which was proclaimed by Harold Camping and his followers. It was the topic of conversation and the butt of jokes among many people, including Christians. I heard my brothers and sisters in Christ quoting familiar Scriptures to friends, family, and co-workers, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:36) and "Now, brothers, about the times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape." (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3)  However, I was literally moved to tears with a news story featuring a man waiting in New York's Times Square to be raptured at 6:00 p.m. The commentator reported that this man, like many of Camping's followers, had spent his life's savings, approximately $140,000. to buy posters and leaflets to hand out to people warning them about what was to come on May 21st. As he stood among the crowd this man was adamant that he would be gone at the stroke of 6:00 p.m.  When 6:00 p.m. came and went the crowd began to yell and scream at him, taunting and mocking his prediction. The man remained silent amid the jeers, head bowed, and reading his Bible. The way the crowd berated him was very upsetting but what moved me to tears occurred after I came home and began to pray for this man. The Lord impressed upon my heart that there were probably other Christians among the on lookers in Times Square. These Christians were probably thinking to themselves, "If that guy disappears, I know I'm going with him." However, when the time came and went there may have been a sigh of relief that they didn't let anyone know that they were a follower of Jesus Christ, lest they be branded a "nut case" like this man. And therein lies the problem. No Christians came forward to put an arm around this man and offer to pray for him leading him away from the verbal abuse. The Lord challenged me to ask the question if I were there in Times Square at that moment, what would be my response? I shared with our congregation that our responsibility as Christians is to be healers not hecklers! How or why this man ended up following the teaching of Harold Camping is not relevant but one thing can be said of him is that his zeal for the Lord is strong and I confess he puts me to shame. He believes in Jesus no matter how misguided he may be and Paul exhorts believers to care for their weaker brothers/sisters, "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves." (Romans 15:1) and "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2) Harold Camping has set a new date for October 21, 2011. So what will be our response? If this man remains a follower of Camping's ministry, he will likely return to Times Square in October. Will someone be moved by the Holy Spirit to comfort him the next time? I pray that the Lord will touch all our hearts with His compassion and love so that we may minister to those who fall.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Sheree

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Body And Soul

When I served as an Associate Pastor at my former church, one of my responsibilities was to bring communion to our homebound members as well as those in the nursing home. If we are honest with ourselves, we tend to see aging as a curse rather than a blessing. We secretly hope that we don't end up in a nursing home because we view those facilities as warehouses for the elderly who are waiting to die. We sometimes feel that the nursing home means not only the end of physical life but also the end of any kind of usefulness. This kind of thinking is reinforced by the images we see of older people on television or in the movies. The elderly are often portrayed as bumbling idiots who have lost their sanity. However, God does not see the elderly that way. He uses them even in a nursing home setting. I have been blessed and ministered to by all the folks I visited at home and in the nursing home. I even had the privilege of conducting some of their funerals. God has been speaking to me this month about the value of our bodies. Early pagan groups such as the Gnostics often painted a picture of the body as "evil" or "bad" and the soul or spirit as "good". But Scripture tells us that both are glorious gifts of God. Jesus took on flesh and described His body as a temple when the Jews confronted Him. (John 2:19) Likewise, Paul tells us that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. (1 Corinthians 6:19) Think about it! The temple was precious to the Jews because it was the place they felt where God dwells. Now that dwelling place is our bodies! Even bodies that are old and frail still embody the Spirit of God. The elderly remain vessels through which God pours His wisdom and truth. This fact was made clear to me when I met a woman named Fran in the nursing home. Fran handed me a little booklet of poems and prayers she had written and published. In looking at it recently I was blessed by one prayer in particular where Fran bring the connection of body and soul together in Christ. His eyes, ears, lips, arms, hands, and feet minister to her. They are gifts to her soul and gifts to her body. I share Fran's gift with you that you may meditate upon it  and be blessed.
Peace,
Pastor Sheree


MY PRAYER (by Fran D. 1979)
Eyes of Jesus--watch over me.
Ears of Jesus--hear me.
Lips of Jesus--guide me.
Arms of Jesus--hold me.
Hands of Jesus--touch me.
Feet of Jesus--Lead me home.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Heirs To The Throne

I confess that I was one of the two billion people who tuned in for the royal wedding. I was not up at 4:00 a.m. to catch the beginning but tuned in just as the final guests were arriving and Princes' William and Harry were on their way to Westminster Abbey. The royal wedding was everything that commentators hoped it would be and in some cases it exceeded expectations. Reporters were constantly referring to the event as a "fairy tale" wedding.  Spectators stated that Kate's experience was what every little girl dreams of, which is finding her prince and becoming a princess. The point was also repeatedly made that Kate Middleton was no longer a "commoner" (a word that seems to define someone as a second class citizen) but now she is Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cambridge. "Commoners" are now expected to bow to her. However, while others pined away somewhat envious of the gorgeous bride and her equally handsome prince, it struck me that believers in Jesus Christ are royalty. In fact we have been royalty for longer than the British Monarchy has been in existence. We are the bride of a King and that King is Jesus. Moreover we are co-heirs with Christ. Listen to what the Scriptures tell us about our royal identity. "Now if we are His children, then we are heirs---heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory." (Romans 8:17) "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:29) "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of the darkness into His marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9) italics mine. We will also inherit an eternal kingdom, "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God." (Revelation 21:2-3) The great part is that God's kingdom will have no end, it is everlasting. Unlike Prince William and Princess Catherine there will be no need to produce an heir to the throne. We don't have to envy the British royal family because we already belong to a royal family. We can hold our heads up high and declare we are princes' and princesses of the King. Try putting that royal title in front of your name! Rejoice, the Lord is King!
Blessings in the name of King Jesus!
"Princess" Sheree

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Bread That Sustains

Like many Christians, I chose to give up something for Lent. In my pride I decided it had to be something "worth suffering for." I had to give up something that would impress others.
I poked fun at my husband when he decided to give up his favorite candy. I decided my big sacrifice was to give up one meal a week. I chose to give up my dinner meal on Wednesday nights. Wednesday is one of the days I work at my counseling practice and the only day I work at night. I figured this would be easier as I did not have to be at home preparing dinner and then sit and watch my husband eat in front of me. Furthermore it would be easier to work through the hunger and focus on my clients than on my stomach. And as I committed myself to this sacrifice I began counting down the Wednesdays until I could go back to my normal routine. I seemed to be handling things fairly well until last Wednesday evening. I had a fairly spotty schedule with lots of time in between clients. As a result the pains in my stomach became a distraction. I tried to find a way to refocus my attention and then I remembered a question one of my colleagues asked me when I told her about my Lenten sacrifice. She asked, "Oh are you praying during that time or are you going to work through it?" I replied, "I'm working through it." However on this particular Wednesday I could not work through it so I decided to take the time to pray. I had heard from others that when we pray through these times of deprivation, we often hear from the Lord more clearly. So, I figured I had nothing to lose. I began praying and thinking about how it feels to the many people who do not have enough to eat but in the back of my mind I knew my suffering was going to be temporary. Besides, I was truly "suffering" for the Lord versus those who give up what seemed to me to be mediocre sacrifices. That's when the Lord impressed upon my heart the words of Christ as Satan was tempting Him in the desert. Satan's first temptation was aimed at Jesus' physical needs, as He had been fasting forty days and forty nights. ( Now that's a sacrifice!) Satan says, "If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written; 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:3-4) italics mine. What the Lord was saying to me was that He alone is my sustenance. He is the true bread of life. His word is what I need to feed on versus my prideful martyrdom. In feeding on His word my spirit is strengthened and I find real life, eternal life. When all is said and done, it is the life I have in Christ that matters most not the food I put in my stomach. Praise the Name of Jesus, the Bread of Life!
Blessings on your Easter!
Pastor Sheree

Monday, April 11, 2011

Seeing The Glory

I was reading a meditation from the devotional booklet, "Our Daily Bread" last week which focused on Revelation 22:1-7. This is one of the passages that speaks about sights believers will see when the New Jerusalem has come down from heaven to earth. I was taking in the description of the river of life and the beauty surrounding it when I was captured by verse 4, "They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads." (italics mine) I was overwhelmed in thinking about seeing the Lord's face. Moses longed to see God's face. In fact in Exodus 33, Moses asked God directly to see His glory. The Lord responded that He would cause His glory to pass in front of Moses but told him, "You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." (Exodus 33:20) There are also numerous experiences in the Old Testament when individuals who encountered angelic hosts or came into the presence of God would respond by falling on their faces.  Likewise in the New Testament we are told that no one has ever seen God (John 1:18; 6:46; 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 John 4:12) except for the Son.  Jesus Christ, God incarnate has made the Father known to us. However, God had to robe Himself in flesh not only so He could identify with us but also protect us from seeing the fullness of His glory revealed, lest we perish in our fallen, sinful state. Paul gives us a preview of what is yet to come, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12) italics mine. Our delight and joy will finally be when we see His face. That is the longing of every believer's heart, so much so that it has been captured in song. From the old hymn, "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" which states, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." To today's contemporary praise song, "I Can Only Imagine" which declares, "I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by your side. I can only imagine what my eyes will see when your face is looking at me.." Yes, I can hardly wait to see the face of Jesus. How about you?
Blessings,
Pastor Sheree

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Love Song

It had been awhile since God had spoken to me through nature. In my discouragement I wondered if I had somehow lost touch with Him. While sitting in our den thinking about this, God responded to my prayer. I heard outside my window a bird singing. However, more than singing it was calling my name! Over and over again it kept repeating, "Sheree, Sheree, Sheree.." This isn't the first time I have had such an experience. Many would doubt and say I was influenced by my own needs and heard what I wanted to hear. It is their right to feel that way but one of my favorite verses that I have shared in a previous blog is from Zephaniah chapter 3. In the opening two chapters, Zephaniah pronounces God's coming judgment upon Israel. It is dark and not very hopeful. However, towards the end of chapter 3, He calls the people to rejoice because God has taken away their punishment (3:14-16) The prophet then states in verse 17, "The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." (italics mine) Yes, God does sing over His people and being God He can choose whatever messenger He desires to deliver that song, for He is Lord of all creation. Out of that special moment spent with the Lord came a poem that I share in closing. For I am grateful that God loves me enough that it moves Him to sing.
In His Love,
Pastor Sheree


Messenger of Love
What is this sound that resonates as ringing in my ear?
With tones so sweet that cover me in my deep despair.
It is a gift that calls my name, he knows it very well,
It carries forth the Father’s word that bids it go and tell.
The greatness of the Savior’s love, it’s faithful and it’s true,
That even in the darkest place, the Lord sings over you.
No flashing lights, no miracles, no wonders from above,
Just a sweet and simple song from this messenger of love.
(Sheree A. Harrington, March 21, 2011)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Be Fearless!

I was meditating this morning on a passage from Ephesians chapter 6. Ephesians 6 is the chapter Christians recognize as the place where Paul talks about the armor of God. But what caught my attention was what Paul says after his description of the armor. He states,"Pray also for me that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:19-20) Notice how Paul uses the word fearlessly twice in those two verses. That prompted me to ask the question, how many times do I get tripped up by fear in declaring the gospel? What do I really have to be afraid of? Then I was reminded of the Lord's words to Joshua as the Israelites were about to enter the promised land. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9) The Lord gave Joshua a command followed by a promise. Likewise when Jesus sent His disciples out to minister in His name, giving them His authority, He warned them that they would be questioned by governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. However, Jesus reassured them,"But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." (Matthew 10:19-20) italics mine. In the passage in Joshua and Matthew, God has declared that we don't need to be fearful but fearless because He is the power that enables us to declare His glory, to proclaim His gospel. I think Paul sums it up best in Romans, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Romans 1:16) italics mine. May the desire of Paul's heart be the prayer of my heart and of yours also, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel. For I am Christ's ambassador. (2 Corinthians 5:20) Pray, therefore that I may declare the gospel fearlessly as I should.
In His grace,
Pastor Sheree

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Journey

All of us at some time or other like to go on trips. One of the exciting things about leaving one place and arriving at the next is finally arriving at our destination. Most of the time we have control over the planning which includes how long we will be away from home, where we will stop along the way and what sights we plan to see. We hope and pray that we don't run into any unexpected "detours" like car trouble, getting lost, or getting sick. This past few weeks I have been meditating on a passage from Deuteronomy, prompted by a reading from the devotional booklet, "Our Daily Bread." Deuteronomy is Moses' "swan song", wherein he reminds the Israelites of everything the Lord has done for them and commands them to remain faithful to the one true God. They are about to enter the promised land after wandering in the desert for 40 years. I can imagine how frustrating it must have been wandering around for what seemed like forever. Besides, they had already been in slavery for 400 years! Perhaps they were expecting to go waltzing into the promised land in a timely fashion. However, because of their rebellion God detoured them. He had them wander in the desert to redirect their hearts, souls, and minds towards obedience to the Lord. Unfortunately a whole generation had to die before the people could enter in. Moses tells this new generation, "The Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart..." (Deuteronomy 8:2) The author of the meditation in "Our Daily Bread" goes on to say, "In life, it sometimes seems as if we are wandering in circles. We feel lost. We want to ask God, "Are we there yet? How much longer?" At such times, it helps to remember that the journey, not the destination, is important to God. He uses it to humble us, test us, and show us what is in our hearts." (italics mine) I resonate with the passage and the author's message. I want to be settled and get on with serving God's people in pastoral ministry. I feel somewhat justified in my attitude after the pain of moving on from my former church. But the Lord is reminding me that like the Israelites I need to wander for awhile in the desert as He prepares the way for what is yet to come. I need to be humbled so pride does not get in the way, tested to see if I will be faithful in trusting Him, and having the Lord show me what is in my heart. In moments like these we need to ask ourselves, are we willing to wait for God's timing? Are we willing to allow God to go before us and clear the way for what we will be doing? Are we willing to allow His Spirit to deal with what is in our hearts so we can be ready to move when He asks us to and follow Him? I need to remember it is in the journey where I learn, grow, and wait with expectation for what God will reveal. The journey will be as long or as short as it needs to be so I will be, like the Israelites, ready to enter in to the place God has prepared for me.
Shalom,
Pastor Sheree

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In The Hands of Jesus

I have been meditating this week on a very familiar passage from John 6:4-14. This passage was featured in the devotional booklet, "Our Daily Bread." It is John's telling of the story where Jesus feeds the five thousand and it is the one miracle, apart from the resurrection, found in all four Gospels. My interest follows on the heels of an e-mail forward from a woman in my former church. The forward was entitled "Hands" and it spoke of how different things can be accomplished depending on whose hands its in. The forward ends by challenging us to place all our hopes, fears, dreams, family, and relationships in God's hands because it depends whose hands it's in. This brings me to the story in John's gospel. What captured my attention was the difference in response between Philip and Andrew when Jesus asked the disciples to buy bread for the multitude that he had just finished teaching. Philip chose to focus on what he didn't have, not enough food nor enough money to feed the people. On the other hand, Andrew knowing the same circumstances as Philip, decides to focus on the possibilities. He could have easily dismissed the boy with the five small barley loaves (which by the way was considered cheap bread, the food of the poor) and two small fish. Instead Andrew took his concern to the right place---to Jesus. On some level Andrew had the faith enough to know that in Jesus' hands something miraculous could happen. The "food for thought" regarding this passage at the end of the "Our Daily Bread" devotional story stated, "God uses small things to accomplish great things for His glory."(italics mine) I at times struggle with feelings of inadequacy and wonder am I really able to make a difference for God? The passage from John reminds me how in Jesus' hands something small and seemingly inadequate became a blessing to so many. All believers in Jesus are in His hands. Jesus Himself tells us this in John chapter 10, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one." (John 10:27-30) italics mine. In some early manuscripts verse 29 translates, "What my Father has given me is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand." I have to use the gifts and talents God has given me because what He has given me is enough. It is enough because I am in the hands of Jesus and He can work through me just like He worked through those loaves and fish. What I consider inadequate about myself, God can use to accomplish great things for His glory because it really does depend on whose hands it's in. My prayer is that God help us not to dismiss the small things that He works in our lives to show how great He truly is.
For His glory!
Pastor Sheree

Friday, February 25, 2011

To Touch Holiness

One of my favorite Bible stories is the healing of the woman with the issue of blood which is found in Matthew chapter 9, Mark chapter 5, and Luke chapter 8. The story is powerful when one looks at the dynamics and personalities involved. In Mark's version, the story is proceeded by two other miracles, the calming of the storm, and the healing of a demon-possessed man.  I have always been overwhelmed and continue to be moved by this woman who touched Jesus' garment. The crowd was already stirred up when Jesus arrived after crossing over to the other side of the lake. Perhaps what was even more shocking is what happened next. A ruler of the synagogue actually came to Jesus seeking His help for the ruler's dying daughter. That a man of such importance would actually come to Jesus probably threw the crowd over the edge! As Jesus started to go with him, you can imagine the crowd wanting to be in on the action. Everyone was focused on Jairus' situation except this one woman. She was focused on Jesus. She had suffered much and because of her condition had literally no friends or family. No one wanted to be associated with this unclean woman. And it was evident from the fact that she didn't want to be noticed that she was well aware of her status in the society. So her plan was to be unobtrusive and just touch Jesus' garment, knowing full well that in doing so according to the Law, she would defile Jesus. But Jesus didn't want her to be an unknown. And when He stopped the moving crowd to focus in on her, this woman's heart must have sank. It was all over! Now everyone would know of her sin, that she had defiled Jesus. That is probably why Mark describes her as "falling at Jesus' feet trembling with fear" (Mark 5:33) But Jesus wanted to showcase her faith. He knew how scared she was and what courage it took to touch Him. I want to be that close to Jesus. Just like that woman, I can be in bondage to my fears and "suffer" needlessly. Jesus tender words to her are His words to me, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." (Mark 5:34) It doesn't take much to be healed. However, we need to appropriate the faith graciously given by a God who wants to "showcase" us. No longer do I have to crawl along the ground like that woman bound up in shame and defeat. The Lord bids me to stand up and be seen. It just takes one touch of the Lord's garment. Do we dare to draw that close to Him?
Shalom,
Pastor Sheree

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Different Perspective

There are times when I will thank God for the full functioning of my physical body. I am grateful for a clear mind and for the ability to fully experience the world through my five senses. I will pray for those who may be blind, deaf, or impaired in some way that I believe reduces their quality of life. Recently I began counseling a woman who is deaf. She was born deaf after her mother had contracted rubella during her pregnancy. This client has struggled and experienced a lot of negative and unpleasant situations in her life. She did attend a school for the deaf and is able to read lips which is how we communicate during sessions. Initially I was feeling anxious about working with her as I had no prior experience with counseling deaf individuals, so I did not know what to expect. But I found this woman to be endearing and a strong believer in Christ. What captured my heart during a recent session was a story she told me about her experience in a charismatic church. Her abusive husband who is not deaf insisted that she was meant to hear and took her to this church which believed all people could be healed with enough faith and prayer. She remembers feeling very uncomfortable as people placed their hands on her head and prayed for healing. However, when her hearing was not restored, it was suggested that she was some how at fault. Her husband even commented that there may be sin in her life. My client refused to buy into this thinking and what she stated next gave me pause to think. The client stated, "I was born deaf. God wanted it to be this way so I could go into the deaf community and join a deaf church ministering to deaf people and telling them about Jesus." Her comment reminded me of the story of the blind man in the gospel of John that Jesus healed. Jesus' disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."(John 9:2-3) emphasis mine. The Rabbis in Jesus day had developed this principle that there was "no death without sin, and no suffering without iniquity." They even believed that a child could sin in the womb or that its soul might have sinned in a preexistent state. They also held that terrible punishments came on certain people because of the sin of their parents. However Jesus soundly contradicts those beliefs. My client's response to her accusers echoes Jesus' words. She believes that the work of God was to be best displayed in her life through her deafness. All I could think in my mind was WOW! I was challenged to see the world a little differently and to be somewhat more cautious about throwing a pity party for those who are challenged in life. Yes, one could say that since this client was born deaf she never knew what she was missing in the hearing world. However, the perspective she carries in her heart makes all the difference. There were probably moments when she wondered what music sounds like or the singing of birds in the early morning. Moreover, the bullying she experienced at the hands of children when she was growing up and the abuse of her husband only compounded her pain. But instead of giving in or giving up she let her God be her Defender. She told me, "I have been through a lot and I have made some mistakes but now I am stronger and I pray to God everyday to help me." This is the kind of faith that stirs my soul and I am grateful to God that He is teaching me through my sisters and brothers in the Lord.
In His Grace,
Pastor Sheree

Monday, February 14, 2011

True Love

Well it's Valentine's Day and like many of you I am wearing the obligatory red sweater to remind myself and everyone else that this is a special day. It is one of the few days where people are supposed to be nice to one another. It is a day all about love. Men and women spend tons of money making sure that special someone knows they are loved and appreciated. But what about those whose loved ones have passed away? What about those in situations where survival is at the top of the list? What about those whose relationships are in the self destruct mode? Where's the love in these situations? And for all of us happy love birds, what happens tomorrow? Do we go back to a state of indifference, anger, or neglect? Relationship is very important to our God and for the Lord at the heart of all relationships is love. When one of the experts in the Law asked Jesus which is the greatest commandment? Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40) italics mine. John tells us that "God is love." (1 John 4:8) so unlike our culture God takes love very seriously. However God's love is not a mushy sentimentalism that lasts for a day. Rather, God's love is agape, the deep, self-sacrificing, unconditional love that is forever. Agape love is such a serious matter that Christ commands His followers to demonstrate it towards one another. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34) "My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12) "This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:17) For Jesus and His followers, love is not optional. Jesus loves us with the same agape love of the Father. The fruit of us loving as Jesus loves us is that others will see a reflection of Christ in us. As Jesus states, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35) emphasis mine. As human beings we will not always feel warm fuzzies towards others, forget what others have done, or excuse the inapproriate or inhumane actions of others. However, as His followers we are called to a higher standard in the way we treat others and especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. On this Valentine's day as I wear my red, I am also choosing to remember that the color red signifies the greatest gift of love I have received, the sacrifice of Christ's shed blood for my sins and the sins of the world. May we all be transformed by the knowledge of the depth of God's love for us and reflect that love everyday to others. I can rejoice in the power of God's love as I listen to the words of Paul, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)
In His Love,
Pastor Sheree