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