Monday, December 24, 2012

Secret And Sacred

As most of you are aware, the world was supposed to end last Friday on December 21, 2012. This thinking was connected to the ending of the Mayan calendar which some assumed was a secret sign of some sort that the Mayans had figured out centuries ago. Many scientists, astronomers, astrologers and everyday folk have sought to unlock the mysteries of ancient civilizations and discover the secrets of how they lived and what they believed. People are always looking for the next big event! As we approach Christmas Day there was a big event that took place not with fanfare but in quietness and holiness. The professors at my alma mater Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary put together a devotional for the Advent season. One entry in particular caught my attention. It was written by Dr. Peter Kuzmic and focused on preparations for the last celebration Jesus had with His disciples before His crucifixion. Dr. Kuzmic pointed out how "Jesus undertakes several measures of precaution and makes secret arrangements to avoid premature arrest and have privacy for the last and most significant meal with His disciples." Dr. Kuzmic made the point in his devotional that even in the midst of all the chaos and turmoil surrounding Jesus that night, He is always in control and will make provision to spend time of intimate fellowship with those He loves. As I was meditating on this devotional it occurred to me that God at times moves in secret to draw us into the sacred. Jesus drew His disciples into the sacredness and intimacy of that last meal. Likewise when Jesus was born, it was not accompanied by a grand birth announcement to the world but to shepherds watching their flocks by night. (Luke 2:8-15) In the secrecy of Jesus' birth, the shepherds were drawn into the sacredness of that moment, even as the slaughter of boys age 2 and under was happening at the same time per Herod's decree. (Matthew 2:16) God wants to quietly draw each of us into that sacred space in our hearts so we can experience anew the power and the presence of the One who came to redeem us from our sins. Even as the world is in a state of chaos and people are scrambling to get those last minute gifts before the stores close, a baby's cry is once again breaking through the noise. Can you stop long enough to hear it? Can you be quiet enough to enter into the sacred? Can you like Mary treasure up the good news of Christ's birth and ponder it in your heart? (Luke 2:19) I pray that this will be your heart's desire this Christmas season.
MERRY CHRISTMAS & A HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Pastor Sheree



Sunday, December 16, 2012

One Child

In the wake of the tragedy that took place last Friday in Newtown, Connecticut there is a consistent theme that has been repeated over and over again. People in their pain and confusion continue to ask the question,"why did this happen?" A similar sentiment expressed is "how could this happen in such a small, quiet town like this?" "We did not expect that something like this could happen in our town." The reality is that there is no town or city or country in the world that is immune from such a tragedy. Although we cannot not know what the shooter's motivation was or the extent of his possible mental illness, spiritually the answer to the question "why?" can be summed up in three letters, SIN. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) all of humanity and creation was plunged into darkness as the world became tainted with sin. Human beings from that point forward chose to engage in behavior that was self centered and ignorant toward the Creator who made all things. Somewhere along the way talking about sin became "politically incorrect" and slowly some churches began to stop preaching about sin lest they be seen as judgmental and out of touch with the times. However, the reality is that all of us are sinners and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) The poor choice made in the garden has affected us all, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned--for before the law was given, sin was in the world... (Romans 5:12-13a) The free will that God has granted us a human beings can be used for good or evil and He does not delight when we choose to use our free will for evil purposes. God weeps with the suffering and sorrow of the parents and community of Newtown. Mental illness, sickness, death and all things that are "wrong" within our world are all a part of the brokenness of a world tainted by sin. But this is not the end of the story. In fact this is why we celebrate Christmas. It is in the birth of Christ and ultimately His death and resurrection that sin and death have been conquered. "For if, by the trespass of one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ... For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." (Romans 5:17,19) God understands what it is to lose a child. What is more remarkable is God voluntarily gave up His Son who was sinless to became the sacrifice for sinful humanity so we could be forgiven and have restoration of the broken relationship that existed between us and God. (Romans 8:3-4) I was saddened to hear that some of the folks in Newtown had taken down their Christmas decorations because according to the news media they reportedly were no longer in a "festive mood." While their pain and grief is very real and raw at this point in time, I pray that they will be able to heal and come to recognize that while 20 children and 7 adults left this world, one child came into the world to save it. And one day soon there will be a second coming. In that day, Jesus will return as King of kings and Lord of lords. He has promised that what is now broken in this world will be made whole. (Revelation 21:1-5) Jesus is the hope for this world. He Himself told His disciples, "In this world you will have trouble. (murders, suicide, mental illness, sickness, etc. italics mine) But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) So while we grieve with Newtown, Connecticut, let us not forget the one child we celebrate who as the risen Savior and Lord is making all things new. 
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Sheree

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lessons From Charlie Brown

Each year at Christmas the T.V. networks often broadcast what we call the "classics." These are the television programs that have become familiar favorites that many people over the years have watched and take on a special place of nostalgia in our lives. One of my favorites is "A Charlie Brown Christmas." I have often sympathized with Charlie Brown as his best efforts to fit in have often resulted in frustration. However, in this classic Christmas tale we come to see reflections of the Biblical Narrative surrounding the birth of Christ. For those who are unfamiliar with the story or need a quick review, Charlie Brown is upset and depressed over the commercialization of Christmas. Have any of you experienced these feeling? (Think of people stampeding over one another at Best Buy to get the latest and greatest electronic devices.) Charlie Brown visits his resident psychiatrist (a.k.a. Lucy) who suggests he think about directing the nativity play. When Charlie Brown arrives at rehearsals, he is once again in anguish as he sees his friends partying and dancing without any consideration for the true meaning of Christmas. Charlie Brown decides to bring a little Christmas reality to bear upon the situation by going out to purchase a Christmas tree. His friends encourage him to buy one of those "bright, shiny, aluminum trees." However upon arriving at the Christmas tree lot, Charlie Brown's attention and heart are captured by a small, sickly looking baby tree (ironically and symbolically it is the only real tree on the lot) which brings some concern and uncertainty to his friend Linus. Upon returning with the tree, he is mocked and ridiculed by his friends for once more making a "block headed" choice. In despair Charlie Brown expresses his concern that his friends are right and he may not really understand the true meaning of Christmas. What follows is a remarkable transformation beginning with Linus' recitation of the birth of Christ from the gospel of Luke 2:8-14. Charlie Brown makes a decision to try and salvage his mistake by taking the tree home and decorating it himself which once again ends in failure. His friends moved by Linus' "preaching of the gospel" have a heart change and decorate the tree unbeknownst to Charlie Brown. Upon discovering what they have done, the cartoon ends with Charlie Brown and his friends recognizing and experiencing the true meaning of Christmas as they sing "Hark The Herald Angels Sing."I have seen this cartoon many times and the overriding message can be easily discerned by anyone following the story. However as I meditated on this story I discovered some interesting Biblical insights. Mary and Joseph in some ways were the "Charlie Browns" in their day. Mary knew the baby she was carrying was special but she was written off like Charlie Brown as having made a poor choice in becoming pregnant. Joseph, like Linus, although uncertain about what lay ahead supported Mary. When they arrived in Bethlehem people were so caught up in the frenzied activity of the census that they paid little attention to the miracle in their midst. (Sounds a lot like the frenzy of Christmas shoppers who choose not to take the time to see the miracle in their midst.)  Following the angel's announcement to the shepherds (quoted by Linus in the cartoon) it wasn't the frenzied people who responded but those who weren't even included in the census, whose hearts were touched and moved at the news of Christ's birth. That baby tree that moved Charlie Brown's heart was symbolic of the baby who still moves and changes people's hearts today. Charlie Brown was not swayed by the bright, shiny and artificial aluminum trees that his friends thought symbolized Christmas. And as Linus' recitation of the gospel changed the hearts of Charlie Brown's friends, so the Christmas story can change the hearts of humanity. Don't be fooled by the artificiality of Christmas. See what Charlie Brown saw on that tree lot, the potential, possibility, and power of what Christmas is all about. Let your heart be captured once again by the One who is the heart and soul of Christmas. "Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King!"
To God be the glory!
Pastor Sheree

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Thanksgiving Song

As we approach this holiday season, I share with you a poem and wish you a blessed Thanksgiving!

A THANKSGIVING SONG

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good,
And He has blessed us with this food,
From His bounty these gifts He gives,
To nourish our bodies so we may live, 
We rejoice for good times and lament for folks gone,
This Oh Lord is my Thanksgiving song.

Forgive us the times when we often neglect,
To recognize You and give You respect,
To see You move through the course of our day,
And silently listen for Your voice when we pray,
For the times we are weak and the times we are strong,
This Oh Lord is my Thanksgiving song.

Right now I must wait and watch and learn,
To draw close to Your Spirit and try to discern,
How You move in the shadows and light of my life,
And silently touch me in hard times and strife,
My soul cries out, for Your presence I long,
This Oh Lord is my Thanksgiving song.

So give us each day our daily bread,
And let us give thanks for the ways we are fed,
Not just food for the body but food for the soul,
As Your Spirit transforms and makes me whole,
Keep me mindful of those who suffer with need,
Turn me from pride and temper my greed,
And Your voice I will hear, "Do not fear just hang on!"
This Oh Lord is my Thanksgiving song.

And someday we'll all stand before Your throne,
Never more to be veiled but to be fully known,
We'll dance with the angels and the saints up above,
And feel the expression of Your powerful love,
Your enemies vanquished, there will be no more wrong,
And I'll offer to You my Thanksgiving song.

(Sheree A. Harrington, November 20, 2012)


Peace,
Pastor Sheree

Friday, November 9, 2012

Hail To The King!

I don't know about you, but I for one am glad the elections are over. The constant onslaught of never ending commercials and ads was becoming tiresome. Even more distressing was the nastiness and not so subtle racial innuendos. The sad part is that Christians sometimes became so caught up in the hype and exaggerated claims that they lost focus of who is the real "enemy." It is Satan's intention to steal, kill, and destroy everything and anyone that belongs to the kingdom of God. (John 10:10) And therein lies the deception. If the evil one can get us focused on ourselves and prey upon our fears, thus turning us against one another, then he is delighted. For you see the problem is not who is sitting in the Oval Office of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but rather who is sitting on the throne over all creation. The man (or hopefully one day woman) who occupies the White House is a fallen sinner just like all humanity. They make very appealing campaign promises but the reality is that fulfilling such promises isn't that easy. Human leaders because they are sinners are flawed and those flaws overflow into all systems of government. Every time a new election year stands before us, people get hopeful and believe all the promises that this time things will be better. This time things will be different. This time all our problems will disappear. But as we see time after time, election after election, the so-called promises only lead to disappointment. I am not trying to imply that our government is worthless and we don't need some form of leadership. We have an obligation to give respect to our leaders and pray for wisdom in their decisions. We do enjoy some freedoms that other countries can only long for, not the least of which is the freedom to vote for our elected officials and have our voices heard. However what humanity really needs is not so much a president but a king. I don't mean a king or queen as it may be in the case of Great Britain's system but a King who does not need to advertise how great He is because His greatness is who He is by nature. His platform is one of justice and righteousness for all of the world not just one particular country. His promises are trustworthy and true and will never fail us. And He will never leave us wanting but will truly satisfy the deepest longings of our heart.  When Israel asked for a human king (1 Samuel 8) such kings always came up short. Even king David who was said to be a "man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14) had his failures. There was a sense that Israel should be waiting and wanting for so much more. And that which Israel and all humankind longs for is Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ. The longing that humanity feels for real leadership that will solve all our problems is in reality the deep spiritual hunger to draw near and follow the One who created us and everything else. Unfortunately, Satan has blinded many to this reality and over time expectation gives way to cynicism and disbelief. Even those who profess to be followers of Christ grow weary of waiting for His return and thus try and grasp hold of worldly solutions and place their hope in flawed human beings. Whenever the President of the United States visits overseas or is involved in a significant event, marching bands often play the familiar tune, "Hail To The Chief!" But there is only One who is worthy of all our praise, all the time, for the rest of our days. For He gave us what no president ever will and did for us what no human being will ever be able to do. He sacrificed His life for the sins of the world and through His resurrection grants us eternal life. The writer of Hebrews states it this way, "So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him. (Hebrews 9:28) So let us bow down before Him and declare, "Hail King Jesus!"

Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Sheree


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Prayer of Thomas Merton

This month has been somewhat challenging in ministry. It has been difficult to even focus on prayer and hearing from the Lord. As in my last post I presented the idea of praying the alphabet when we lack the words to connect with God. Another gift that came from my time at the Iron Sharpens Iron Conference for Women was a handout of a prayer. It was the Prayer of Thomas Merton. Thomas Merton was an Anglo-American Catholic writer and mystic. He was a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani located in Kentucky. He was also a poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion. It is interesting to note the name of the abbey that Thomas Merton called home. It reminds me of the agonizing night that Jesus spent in the garden prior to His crucifixion and death. The copy of Merton's prayer that I received at the conference has the echos of suffering and struggle woven throughout its lines. It was one of the prayers that has helped me through this difficult and uncertain time. The speaker who shared this prayer with us emphasized that it had been a lifeline to her on many occasions. She was especially comforted by one line which states, "But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you." I must agree that sometimes desire is all we have to go on in the midst of tough times. I pray that this prayer will bring you some comfort during those moments when you find yourself in your own "Garden of Gethsemane."
Shalom,
Pastor Sheree

THE PRAYER OF THOMAS MERTON

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going,
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will 
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire
in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything
apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this
You will lead me by the right road, 
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, 
for You are ever with me,
and You will never leave me
to face my perils alone.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Praying The Alphabet

I recently attended a women's conference at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA. The conference was called  Iron Sharpens Iron for Women. The title of the conference comes from Proverbs 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." The intention behind this proverb is to convey the idea that we can develop and mold each other's character through coming together in fellowship. When we are together focused on lifting up the Name of Jesus we can be encouraged but also challenge one another  to grow closer to the image of Christ. The main speaker at the conference was Stormie Omartian. She is the wife of Michael Omartian who is a very well known Christian music producer. However, Stormie in her own right is a well published writer and sought after speaker. I have to admit I was disappointed when I found out that the same conference was taking place in another state and had Ruth Graham as their featured speaker.  My opinion was  quickly challenged as I listened to Stormie's powerful personal testimony and the severe abuse she experienced at the hands of a very mentally ill mother and how the grace of God delivered her as an adult from her childhood fears. One of the highlights of the conference was the opportunity to participate in two different workshops during the morning and afternoon. One of the workshops I attended was led by a woman named Cynthia Fantasia who is the current Pastor of Women's Ministries at Grace Chapel in Lexington, MA. The title of her workshop was "Growing Gold." She addressed some of the challenges facing women as they age and the cultural labels that society wants to attach to older women. Cynthia offered a more hopeful perspective and challenged us to let go of the cultural expectations and embrace this season in our lives to dig deep into the richness of God's word mining those treasures that allow God to mold us into the women we were created to be. Once we understand our status as daughters of the King we can enter our later years with a new renewed vision and recognition that Christ has freed us to be ourselves. At one point in the workshop Cynthia shared a personal story about battling a health crisis which significantly challenged her faith. As a result she could not pray or even read the Scriptures for comfort. A close friend paid her a visit one morning to offer encouragement and support. After the visit, upon leaving the house, the friend remarked to Cynthia, "Don't forget to pray the alphabet!" Cynthia discovered that when she couldn't form the "typical" prayers she was used to saying she could simply use the alphabet and list the attributes God. This simple way of praying, over time, helped Cynthia to renew her faith. She then shared the prayer with us. I was very uplifted by this prayer and went on to share it with the congregation at my church. The response was very enthusiastic. So. I share it with my fellow bloggers. If you know your ABC's it is very simple. The attributes you choose to use can be uniquely yours. I pray that you in turn will be uplifted and blessed as you pray the alphabet!
Almighty, Blessed, Comforter, Deliverer, Everlasting, Father, God Almighty, Holy One, Immanuel, Jehovah Jireh, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Messiah, Never ending, Omnipotent, Prince of Peace, Quick to forgive, Redeemer, Savior, Tower of Strength, Unconditional Lover of my soul, Victorious, Wonderful Counselor, Xtra special, Yahweh, Zealous for His children.

Peace & Blessings,
Pastor Sheree

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What Color Is Your God?

Fall is my favorite time of year. The weather is not too hot and not too cold but like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, everything is "just right." The best part of living in this part of the country during the fall season is the changing of the leaves. During the summer the trees are the same green and we seldom pay much attention to them. However come the fall our eyes seem naturally drawn to the vivid display of nature as we move into the next season. We don't tend to react in a negative way to the turning of the leaves. I've yet to hear some one say, "Why are those leaves turning colors? How horrible!" We tend to just sit back and watch nature do her thing while we become the beneficiaries of the beautiful display of color. It is quite evident that God created and enjoys diversity in nature. Whether it is trees, flowers, or animals, diversity says something about our Creator. While we can appreciate color differences in nature, why do we not feel the same way in the church? I recently reconnected with a friend /colleague who is in a transition time in her life, a "seasonal" change. This colleague has been a staunch defender of racial issues and racial reconciliation in the church. She came to this point after she allowed the Holy Spirit to convict her and show her how much privilege she enjoyed as a white woman in this country. There is a sad irony to the fact that we have to talk about racial reconciliation and the church in the same sentence. However, the "elephant in the room" is a reality. Racism exists inside the church. How many have heard a sermon preached on this topic? I took an elective course at Gordon-Conwell Seminary on racism and the church and it was an eye-opening experience. The course was team taught by a black minister and a white minister/Gordon-Conwell professor. The tension in the classroom could easily be felt as we waded through various issues. Finally, the discomfort was broken as we were encouraged to go around the room and truly share our hearts. That was indeed a transforming Holy Spirit moment! Tears flowed freely, the tension disappeared, and love and forgiveness filled the room. Recently, one of my clients had visited a black church. When I asked him about his experience he stated he most likely would not go back there because he was"the only white person" in the room. I confronted him about his remark and pointed out that I am in most situations the only black person at a function or in a church. How can Jesus' high priestly prayer in John 17 that we all be one ever be fulfilled when such attitudes exists? Jesus was not calling for uniformity but unity, as it was in the beginning with the creation of man and woman. As man and woman reflect a unity in diversity so should the church. This was God's original intent in creation, to reflect the unity in diversity that exists in the Trinity. Lest we forget that John also had a word of admonition for believers, "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness, he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him." (1 John 2:9-11) Hatred and love as expressed in the Scriptures are not primarily focused on emotions but rather attitudes expressed in actions. John adds, "If anyone says "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." (1 John 4:20) Yes, the issues are complicated and run deep in the history of our nation but the heart of the matter is sin. The question is will we allow the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and draw us away from our fears and prejudices? It is the same Holy Spirit that took the heart of a murderous Pharisee named Saul and changed him, giving him a new name, Paul, and sending him to a people different from himself, the Gentiles. (Acts chapter 9) It was the compassion of Jesus who spoke to a woman at a well who was despised and rejected because she was different. (John chapter 4) If we are His followers, by God's grace we need to ask the Spirit to search our hearts and help us face some of the attitudes we may hold. There is an expression, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,"and  spiritually speaking this is true because the One who beholds beauty is the one who created it. Let us come to appreciate "color" in every facet of God's creation. 
Shalom,
Pastor Sheree

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Things With Wings

I have had a number of encounters recently with various winged creatures. Aside from my usual dragonfly sightings, I have had the privilege of getting up close and personal with various butterflies. Upon arriving at work one day a beautiful Monarch butterfly nearly landed on my shoulder. On another morning as I was getting in my car to go to work, a hawk sailed right over my head almost close enough to touch. I was thinking to myself, "What is going on?" While it is tempting to focus on flight, I was drawn to a different aspect of wings in the Scriptures. Many of us are already familiar with Isaiah 40:31, which highlights soaring like an eagle but what about other passages? In the book of Ruth, Boaz compliments Ruth about how she has stuck by her mother-in-law, Naomi's side. Boaz says to Ruth, "May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge." (Ruth 2:12) In the next chapter, Ruth meets Boaz at the threshing floor. She makes a request of him, "I am your servant Ruth, " she said. "Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer." (Ruth 3:9) What is interesting to note is that Ruth's request is a play on the word "wings" from Ruth 2:12. She is literally requesting that Boaz spread the "wings of his garment" over her. In both verses the idea is one of protection. Ruth's words remind Boaz that he must serve as the Lord's "protective wing" to watch over Ruth. Likewise God serves as our Protector much like a bird protecting her young under her wings.  Wings as related to God serves as a metaphor for the protective outreach of God's power. The same portrait is seen in the Psalms. "Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings." (Psalm 17:8) "He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." (Psalm 91:4) In the New Testament, Jesus laments over the city of Jerusalem, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who sent you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Matthew 23:37) The symbolism is powerful! Not only do the wings provide a covering of protection but also a place of warmth and comfort. Those under protection do not have to be subjected to the assaults from the outside world because there is one stronger that has everything under control and would even sacrifice their life for the ones receiving protection. The tender, compassionate image of a hen protecting its young is at the same time a reflection of power. This is our God, the One who is all powerful yet at the same time loving. And of course we see these two aspects beautifully coming together in Jesus Christ. So the next time you encounter something with wings think beyond flight and allow the Lord to "spread the corner of His garment over you" for He is our Redeemer and Savior.
In His Name,
Pastor Sheree


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lessons From Lancaster

It has been a while since my last post. We have just returned from vacation in beautiful Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This part of Pennsylvania supports a large Amish population. Many are fascinated with the Amish and their way of life which has virtually been unchanged for years. During our trip we stopped at many farmer's markets where the Amish bring their fresh fruits and vegetables for sale to residents and tourists alike. I must admit I am envious of the people who live in this area to be able to have access to such fresh food on a regular basis. Many of the area restaurants that are not national chains utilize Amish fresh fruits and vegetables in their meals. I wonder as we look at the Amish people do we scratch our heads asking ourselves how they can continue to live in what we perceive as a "time warp?" Just look at all the "fun" things they are missing out on like cars, cell phones, IPads, IPods, and the internet. On the other hand the Amish may shake their heads in disbelief as to how we "English" as they call us can be so distracted with all our technological gadgets. One thing I admire the most about the Amish and their way of life is its simplicity. It is a simplicity rooted in their trust in God. There is an understanding that He will provide for their needs come what may. How many of us could honestly say we could give up our technology and live a simpler life trusting in God's provision? We say we trust in the Lord but are quick to have a major meltdown when we can't access any of our "techno" toys. Do you notice how agitated and angry we become when we lose electricity? We have lost the ability to function without generated power. When the lights go out, we don't know how to entertain ourselves! Lest we forget what the Amish seem to have learned well is that all we have is given us by the Lord. As James puts it, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (James 1:17) The Psalmist adds, "The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all He has made. The Lord upholds all those who fall down and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." (Psalm 145:13b-16) I experienced a practical example of this verse in Psalm 145 when my husband and I stopped for some ice cream at a little store in the town of Bird-In Hand in Lancaster. Ironically I literally had a bird eating out of my hand as we were sitting outside. A sparrow popped out of the bushes and came hopping towards me. It waited patiently staring at me eating my cone. I understood that it wanted to share in the tasty treat. I broke off a piece of cone and held it out to the sparrow who without hesitation took it from my hand and hopped off to eat it. Subsequently it came back for more but I had already finished and had nothing more to offer. This reminded me that God's grace towards us never runs out and is greater than anything we could ask for, imagine, or possess. As Paul reminded the Ephesians, "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus."  (Ephesians 2:6-7)  His hand is always open and he desires to satisfy the longings of our hearts. Are we open enough to trust Him ?
In His Grace,
Pastor Sheree



Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Holy Engraving

There was a time when only certain people were bold enough to get tattoos. Typically tattoos were associated with biker types who rode Harley Davidsons or men in the military especially the navy. Today tattoos are as common as pierced ears. Tattoos come in all shapes and sizes as well as creative designs. The process involves the use of a special instrument that literally engraves the image or design into the skin. There is no law against the number of tattoos that a person can obtain and apparently no place on the body that is off limits to place them. To decide to get a tattoo is not something that a person does lightly because tattoos by their nature are meant to be permanent. However, the medical community has developed new laser technologies that can remove tattoos but the process can be somewhat painful and very expensive. When people are asked why they get a certain type of tattoo they often respond that its to remember some event or person that had a significant impact on their life. It is also a testimony or statement to the world of what the tattoo bearer has experienced in their life. Tattoos tell a story. In the Scriptures there is a story that our Savior tells through his scars. We are all aware of Christ's nail pierced hands and feet as He died upon the cross for the sins of the world. In His sacrifice God demonstrated His love for us. (Romans 5:8) But were you aware that Christ bears a tattoo or what I call a "holy engraving?" God brought this to my attention as I was reading through the book of Isaiah. In chapter 49 the Lord through the prophet speaks tenderly to Israel about her restoration after she has experienced God's judgment for her disobedience. "Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones. But Zion said, "The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me." Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; (Isaiah 49:13-16a) Did you notice what the Lord said? "I have engraved you on the palms of my hands." The Lord reminded me how fiercely He loves me. My name is engraved on the palms of my Savior's hands and it cannot be erased. Nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:38) I am also reminded of Jesus words in John 10:27,"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." All the Lord has to do is open His hands and there on His palms is my name for all the world to see. So I encourage you to do as I did and meditate on Isaiah 49:16a. Close your eyes and picture Jesus being led to the cross. See the soldiers laying Him down on those crossbeams of wood and as they open His hands to drive the nails in, see your name engraved on His palms.
Blessings In Christ,

Pastor Sheree

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Winged Messengers

What do you think of when you hear the word "angel?" Many automatically think of a figure, human-like in appearance, dressed in white with wings attached to their backs. Perhaps you were a fan of the show "Touched By An Angel" and remember Monica and Tess the main angelic characters who always revealed themselves at the end of each episode to those they were sent to help. As they declared to the struggling person that, "God loves you" Monica and Tess would be surrounded by a "heavenly light"and people would be awe struck and amazed. There are many references to angel visitations in the Bible. (Luke chapters 1& 2; Genesis 16:7; 22:11; Numbers 22:23) just to name a few. And although we aren't given a detailed description of their appearance, the reaction of many who encounter these angelic beings is often one of fear. The angels are quite aware that human beings can become overwhelmed with an angelic manifestation and in many cases they often follow their appearance with the words of comfort, "Do not be afraid." (Luke 1:11-12) In the Greek the word for "angel" is defined as a messenger. I believe God can and does send His messengers in various forms. In one of my favorite devotionals, "Jesus Calling", a recent meditation stated, "As you listen to birds calling to one another, hear also my Love-call to you. I speak to you continually; through sights, sounds, thoughts, impressions, and scriptures. There is no limit to the variety of ways I can communicate with you. Your part is to be attentive to My messages, in whatever form they come." The Lord has often touched my heart through nature. One of my favorite creatures in nature is the dragonfly. Most recently I was needing a fresh touch from the Lord and God used these "winged messengers" to get my attention. One morning while finishing my exercise routine in our upstairs spare bedroom I saw a shimmering blue object headed toward the window. As it got closer it landed on the screen and it was a dragonfly. I walked over to the window and placed my finger on the screen to touch it and said, "Good morning, Lord!" In that same week I saw dragonflies where ever I traveled. Even when I stopped at the drive-up mailbox at the post office, a dragonfly almost flew into my open sun roof! The point is that God is alive and active in this world. If we are open and attentive, we may be surprised with an unusual messenger He sends our way. In Jeremiah 29:13, the Lord says through the prophet to the people of Israel, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Angels don't necessarily come to us in the ways artists have depicted them through the years but when we are sensitive to the movement of God in our world and in our lives we can receive a first hand experience of His ever abiding presence.
Peace Be with You!
Pastor Sheree



Thursday, July 12, 2012

Its The Little Things

I confess that I often envy some of my pastoral colleagues for their ministries. And who hasn't seen one or more of the television evangelist and wondered how they are receiving so many "blessings" and taking in large sums of money. Our egos desire to do "great things" for God and we often become frustrated at what we perceive as living a mediocre Christian life. We may even question if God really cares about our every day routines. Recently the Lord reminded me that there is no hierarchy of gifts or service in the kingdom of God. The passage that spoke to me was Matthew 25:31-46. You may recognize this familiar passage about the separation of the sheep from the goats when Christ returns. In the story, the Lord praises the sheep for the way they served the lowliest of God's people often unaware of their deeds. On the other hand the goats are chastised for not serving this same group of people. What stood out to me was the type of service the sheep rendered to God's people.  Jesus says, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." (Matthew 25:35-36) Notice Jesus commended them not for great and glorious acts or accumulation of wealth or even popularity but rather the sheep were commended for providing the most basic necessities of life. What some might consider unimportant or insignificant deeds. Satisfying hunger, thirst, and providing clothing and shelter are the basic needs of every human being. However the list goes on to include relationships such as looking after the sick and visiting the prisoner. And on a  relationship scale of 0-9, sick people and prisoners aren't at the top of most folks visitation list. Many would rather be rubbing shoulders with the "important people" the so-called "movers and shakers." Perhaps this is where the goats were investing their time and energy as Jesus reminded them that, "Whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for Me." (Matthew 25:45) In my last post I spoke of the young man who I visited in the hospital fighting for his life. The family did not know me but were very appreciative that I would come and anoint their son with oil and pray for him. These are the "little things" that are just as important to Christ as some event that gets the attention of large crowds. For the Lord said, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me." (Matthew 25:40) It doesn't get any more awesome that that! So, I encourage you the next time you feel that you are not really "serving" the Lord, remember Christ Himself was not born into greatness nor focused His attention on the most highly respected in the culture of His day. The Master hand picked you to serve Him. "For you did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit---fruit that will last." (John 15:16a) That "fruit" comes in many forms of service and each piece is sweet service to the King!
Peace In Christ,
Pastor Sheree

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Divine Appointments

This week has been very interesting. I have come into contact with folks in many different situations in which God was very active in our midst. I had three different opportunities to talk about the Lord in three different settings. As a Christian counselor, there is an expectation that those who profess Christ as Lord share the same faith and outlook on life. However, I also counsel those who do not share my beliefs and most sessions are uneventful. On Monday, one of my clients who has some serious struggles picked up a book from the waiting room of the church where my office is located. It was from the "Left Behind" series. She found it very interesting and asked to borrow it. This opened the door for even more questions and further discussion. Some of the questions were focused on topics that people typically ask. (i.e. Why does God allow suffering?) Other questions were a bit deeper and I was thankful that my seminary education was paying off! As the client left my office, she commented that she would like to have more discussions about Christianity. I was grateful that some seeds were planted and pray for the Spirit to continue to water them. The following day I went to anoint with oil and pray for a young man who drowned last week. He is the boyfriend of one of my husband's nieces. He made a poor choice in the swimming pool after my husband's niece went into the house for a minute. He somehow became submerged in the deep end of the pool for approximately five minutes. He did not know how to swim. As of this writing he is in the ICU at the hospital fighting for his life. When I arrived I met the young man's family. His parents were divorced and his father had come from Pennsylvania to be with his son. After we prayed together, I discovered that the father is a strong Christian. He told me that about 1 month ago, he had shared the Lord with his son and the young man accepted Christ. The Lord knew this event was going to happen and while we pray that this young man will recover, even if he doesn't it is a comfort to know he will be with the Lord. Even more ironic is that one of this young man's relatives was a former client of mine who had dropped out of counseling. On Wednesday I went grocery shopping. As I was checking out, the cashier noticed a necklace I was wearing which has the word, "FAITH" on it. She commented, "Oh, I preached about that last week." When I inquired if she was a pastor she stated that she was a lay preacher and visited various churches of different denominations where ever she was asked to speak. She added that her husband was also involved in ministry leading Bible studies and writing. I happened to look at the name tag of young man who was bagging my groceries and his name was Ezekiel. It is easy for some to dismiss this series of events that occurred three days in a row as merely coincidence. However, just last Sunday the pastor of our home church was preaching about how God is involved in our lives everyday. The Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation speak about "divine appointments." These appointments can be with angelic hosts (i.e. The angel telling Mary of Christ's birth in Luke 1:26-38) or enemies in battle (i.e. Joshua and the battle of Jericho in Joshua 5:13-6:27) or even with everyday people (i.e. Jesus giving directions to Peter and John to make preparations for the Passover and describing the man they would meet and the place he would show them in Luke 22:7-13) The point is that God wants us to be open and available to the movement of His Spirit. We are His ambassadors on earth and he wants to work through us to make Himself known to the world. (2 Corinthians 5:20) Are we willing to be available? If so, stand back and see what God will do!
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Sheree

Monday, June 11, 2012

At The Table

At our Bible study last Wednesday, we continued our look at Peter and his relationship with Jesus. It was clear that prior to going down to Jerusalem, Peter and Jesus had begun to grow closer and the bond of an intimate friendship were being strengthened. However, upon arriving in Jerusalem, things began to change. Peter and John were given the task in Luke 22:7-16 of making preparations for the Passover meal, what we have come to know as the Lord's Supper. The disciples had no idea that this would be their last time together with Jesus. The famous painting of Leonardo DaVinci capturing the Last Supper is an inaccurate reflection of the actual set up. Jesus and the disciples would have been reclining at the table known as a triclinium. "Tri" indicating three sides and "clinium" meaning to recline. The place to the right of Jesus was referred to as the seat of the "honored guest." The place to the left of Jesus was referred to as the seat of the "intimate friend." On the far side of the table opposite these two special places is where the servant normally sat. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, (John 13:23) occupied the place of the honored guest. Judas Iscariot, Jesus' betrayer, occupied the place of the intimate friend. This comes as a surprise since intimate friends are typically those we trust and with whom we have a close relationship like Jesus and Peter had begun to establish in Capernaum. So, where was Peter? Surprisingly, he was at the far side of the table occupying the place where the servant sat. What was Peter feeling? Perhaps confusion and a sense of personal betrayal and insult. I can imagine him thinking to himself,"I don't get it! I thought Jesus and I were friends! Jesus even stayed at my home in Capernaum after leaving His home in Nazareth." Perhaps this prompted some of Peter's resistance in allowing Jesus to wash his feet, aside from the fact that such a menial task was the work of slaves. Disciples would perform all sorts of tasks for their Rabbis, but loosing sandal thongs was expressly forbidden. And a Rabbi would never do such a thing for his disciples! However, then comes the final shocker in Luke 22:31-34 when Jesus predicts Peter's coming denial. The interesting point is that although Jesus remarks that Satan had asked to sift all of the disciples like wheat (22:31), He turns to Peter and specifically tells him, "But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." (22:32) Peter's place at the table in some ways foreshadowed just how much Jesus truly valued him. Jesus told His disciples when they were arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom, "..Who ever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and who ever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:43-45)  Upon discussing these passages in our study group, one of the ladies asked the question,"Where would you be at the table?" It was a question that has challenged me and gives all followers of Christ something upon which to reflect. If we are honest, we would probably prefer to be sitting next to Jesus as the "honored guest" or "intimate friend." Would we really be content sitting on the other side of the table as the servant? Although John was the beloved disciple, Peter's friend Jesus specifically prayed for him. And indeed Jesus' intercession gave Peter the power to strengthen his brothers and take the lead in Acts 2:14-41 at the birth of the church and subsequent spread of the gospel. So remember, as servants of the Most High God, we don't bear a mantle of shame but of power and grace because our Lord intercedes for us. (Romans 8:34)
Praise the Lord!
Pastor Sheree

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Fragile Stone

I am currently hosting a Bible study at my home with some ladies from our congregation. We are studying the relationship between Peter and Jesus. The title of the study material is called, "A Fragile Stone." The title points to the paradox of Peter as "Cephas" or the "rock" while looking at his somewhat fragile faith. One of the passages we looked at was Matthew 14 where Jesus walks on the water. In this familiar passage after Jesus has just fed the 5,000 He sends the disciples ahead of Him to the other side of the lake. The disciples are some distance from the shore when the waves start to buffet the boat making it difficult for them to row against the strong winds. Jesus comes out to them walking on the waves. They are terrified and Jesus reassures them not to be afraid and identifies Himself. Peter asks Jesus' permission to come out to Him to prove that it really is the Lord. The rest of the story is usually the focal point of many a sermon in that Peter was fine until he took his eyes off of Jesus and then began to sink. The Lord questions Peter's faith. Many sermons make the application that we should keep our eyes fixed on the Lord in times of trouble. The point is a good one, but the Lord ministered to my heart through that same story with an additional perspective. In my devotional, "Our Daily Bread" the passage of the day was Isaiah 43:1-4, "But now, this is what the Lord says---He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers I will be with you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious  and honored in my sight, and because I love you."  The devotional thought for the day was,"Never forget in the darkness what you know to be true in the light." In my other devotional, "Jesus Calling", a similar encouragement was given. The idea was similar to the message of Matthew 14, to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus no matter what is going on around me. When Jesus is central to my thinking, I am able to view circumstances from His perspective. I was then struck by the similarity to the message I received and Peter's situation. The lesson for Peter was not solely about keeping his eyes focused on Jesus but also seeing the situation from Jesus' perspective. Peter failed to see how Jesus had given him the ability to conquer the wind and waves. For Peter to have majesty over creation just like Jesus. Why? Because of Isaiah 43. Jesus had redeemed Peter and called him by name. He belonged to Jesus. When Peter passed through the waters, Jesus would be with him and when he passed through the rivers, Jesus would be there, because Peter was precious and honored in Jesus' sight, and because He loved him. It is easy to get focused on what is or is not happening around us. All of us can be "fragile stones." But like Peter, we have been given the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome and rise above our circumstances. Yes, keeping my eyes fixed on the Lord is one of my growing edges. But just as the Lord bid Peter to come to Him because He loved Peter and called him by name, so Jesus bids me to do likewise because that's how much He loves you and me.
Blessings in the name of Yeshua,
Pastor Sheree

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Follow The Signs

Earlier this week I was feeling somewhat disconnected from God. When I'm in this space, I often seek some kind of sign from God to help reassure me that everything is going to be O.K.  I notice when I'm actively looking for some indication of His presence, it seems like my petitions are falling on deaf ears. However, I'm beginning to think that God loves surprising us when we least expect it. Such was the case this past week. I was preparing dinner and happened to glance towards my dining room window. There, walking down our driveway was a mother duck and her chicks. As I walked over to see what was happening I noticed one of the chicks had been separated from the mother and its siblings. The chick had fallen on to the other side of a low wooden divider that runs along the edge of our driveway. As the chick ran back and forth trying to find a way to rejoin the family, the mother duck was matching the movements of her chick as she ran up and down. Finally the mother duck jumped on top of the wooden divider and on to the same side as her frantic chick. The remaining chicks, 5 in all, quickly followed her and with great effort managed to get their little bodies over the divider. Once reunited the mother duck and her 6 chicks waddled through the front yard and towards our busy main road. My husband went out to see where they were going but did not find any trace of them. We assumed she had taken her chicks safely across the road towards whatever destination she had in mind. I could identify with that little chick in distress. It seemed to mirror what I was feeling, separation from my Parent, the One who protects and provides. I admit also feeling some envy towards those who seemed to be what I perceived as closer to God or experiencing His favor. However, very much like that mother duck, I am never out of God's sight and He will do anything to come after me. He does not play favorites and wants me to remain in His family. He can be trusted to lead His children to safety even if the way ahead appears perilous. I am reminded of some of the Biblical images where God is described as having wings under which His children can find refuge. "He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." (Psalm 91:4)  Jesus used similar imagery as He wept over Jerusalem. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who sent you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" (Luke 13:34)  In the same week, God seemed to reinforce His message that He is near. The lilac bush outside of our house is in bloom. I had stepped outside for a few minutes and glanced up at the bush and saw a butterfly. I quickly thanked the Lord and returned inside not thinking too much more about the encounter. As I was washing my hands at the kitchen sink, that same butterfly was sitting right outside the kitchen window resting on the window pane. It was as if the Lord was saying, "Pay attention, I'm doing this for you!" Needless to say I was speechless as I just watched the butterfly opening and closing it's wings. This time my gratitude to the Lord was much more heart felt!  I feel God was encouraging me this week to follow the signs. To see the lessons in nature that like that mother duck and that butterfly, He will do anything to show me how much I am loved.
To God be the glory!
Pastor Sheree

Friday, April 27, 2012

Meditation: Rublev's Icon of the Trinity



Every once in awhile I like to deviate from my usual format and share another side of my communion with the Lord. I enjoy meditating on powerful spiritual images and recording them in my journal. This recent icon was part of an article in a magazine I subscribe to called, "Conversations." The magazine focuses on the contemplative side of Christianity. From my journal writings on April 25, 2012, I am sharing my recent meditation on Rublev's Icon of the Trinity.


"Father, 
As I look upon this icon the words that come to mind are peace and unity. There is a holiness yet an earthiness to the picture. The brightness of the colors reflect a power of the presence of the Three. Though their colors are distinct for each member, the blue color they share connects them. Unity in diversity. The figure in the middle and to the right look to the figure on the left in humble adoration and expressions of love and devotion. The figure on the left receives this gift and in return reflects it back to the other two. The author of the article identifies the figures as God the Father (left), Jesus the Son (middle), and the Holy Spirit (right). The bowl on the table representing the communion of the Trinity and the acknowledgement of the covenant made before the world began, that Jesus would give His life for the salvation of the world. There almost feels like an unspoken understanding between the Father, Son, and Spirit and a silent satisfaction that "It is Finished!" The house and the tree in the background represent to me the earth that was redeemed and while the Trinity is joined together, there is a seamless connection between heaven and earth. The Trinity is very present in the world. The communion table they sit around is the strong reminder of our remembrance every time we participate in communion. It is the focal point and center of our worship. It is the simple uncomplicated symbol of the gospel. The position of Jesus' hand on the table with two fingers extended reminding me of His nature, one God in two persons, human and divine. The Spirit also has one hand on the table in deference to the Son and a reminder that His power comes from the Son's commission to be the power which resides in humanity  bringing new life in Christ as reflected in the green color. Christ's clothing also reflects His dual nature, the brown, earth, representing humanity. The blue, divinity, equality with the Father and the Spirit. God the Father has no hands on the table as the Son and Spirit reflect who God is. The gold of His garment reminding me of purity and matchless worth. The color almost translucent reflecting God as Spirit. The grass under their feet again representing their connection with the earth yet at the same time existing in a spiritual realm apart from the earth especially the Father and Spirit whose feet are resting on golden blocks. Where are the feet of Jesus resting? The wings typically symbolic of angels again pointing to the Trinity's distinction from creation yet indicating the ability to be where ever they are needed. The wings speaking freedom to go where ever they desire. And the rod each one holds reminds me of Psalm 23:4b, "I will fear no evil for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff they comfort me." These are the plain and simple messages You bring to my mind Lord. Apart from doctrines and denominations, it's all about the love of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and what was done for humanity. The positioning of the Trinity opens the table up and invites me to come and join them, again reminding me that this is the focal point of worship."
Shalom,
Pastor Sheree

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Where Joy and Sorrow Meet

Once again Easter has come and gone. The excitement of Holy week building up to the celebration of the resurrection has for many of us begun to fade from our memories. The realities of work and the diversion of the April school vacation creep in and quickly refocus our attention. However my mind is still preoccupied with Good Friday. My husband and I attended a Good Friday service at a church of one of my pastoral colleagues. There were many familiar faces in attendance and one in particular captured my attention. This particular young man and his wife used to serve at the daughter church of my former home church in Douglas, MA. At the time he was interning while completing his seminary education. He met his wife while interning, they married, and had a daughter. Subsequently after graduation, he moved on to pastor a church in Grafton, MA. While serving in Grafton, I heard he and his wife were expecting a second child, a little boy. However, the news that followed shortly thereafter was not good. The couple were informed that there were serious problems with the pregnancy and the child would die shortly after birth. As is typical in these situations, the couple was given the option to abort rather than carry the child to full term. However this young pastor and his wife refused to terminate the pregnancy and trust the situation to the Lord. Over the course of the nine months myself and many others prayed for a miracle. The baby boy was born but as predicted, he died within a few hours. This is one of those situations where the "why" question pops up. It reminded me of a sermon I preached on Psalm 42. It is one of the many so-called "psalms of lament"in the Bible. In psalms of lament an individual or group cries out to God for help. The church has often been criticized for not acknowledging these types of psalms for they speak to the hurts and questions of the community of faith. Many times we tend to focus on the "happier" psalms that rejoice in the Lord. But there are those dark moments that we all experience throughout life where we need some answers from God and Psalm 42 reflects that longing. In the midst of his struggles the psalmist repeats a key refrain, "Why are you downcast , O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God." (Psalm 42:5,11) In between these two verses the psalmist also proclaims, "By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me---a prayer to the God of my life." (Psalm 42:8) Certainly, this couple had good reason to be downcast but they decided to hope in the Lord. Even though their prayer was not answered as they desired, I believe they had a sense that like the psalmist they would "yet praise Him, their Savior and their God." On Good Friday they came to the service holding a double blessing from the Lord, twin baby boys! I was told that a year to the day after they buried their little boy, the twins were born. God not only gave them a son but multiplied the blessing twofold. It is reminiscent of Job and all the sorrows he endured. After all was said and done we are told that, "The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first." (Job 42:12a)  Why this couple or Job went through their experiences is not clear. However, Psalm 42 is a reminder of joy and sorrow meeting together and in the midst of trouble lies the mystery of God. One of my favorite contemporary Christian groups, Avalon, sums it up best in one of their CDs entitled "Stand", "There is a place where hope remains in crowns of thorns and crimson stains. And tears that fall on Jesus' feet. Where joy and sorrow meet."
To God Be The Glory!
Pastor Sheree

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Through A Mother's Eyes

This is the time of year when we focus on Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection. It is fitting and appropriate as the resurrection is the hall mark of our faith as Christians. While I was meditating during this Holy week I began to think about Mary and her journey from the cradle to the cross. In the gospel of Matthew the angel tells Joseph he is to give the name Jesus to the son that Mary will bear because "He will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) Of course Joseph shared this news with the expectant Mary but I wonder did they understand what the angel told them? Notice the angel did not say that Jesus would save His people from the Romans which is what the Jews were waiting for with the coming of the Messiah. Mary obviously knew that Jesus birth was something beyond the ordinary with the visitation and announcement to her as recorded in the gospel of Luke 1:26-38. And at Jesus baptism, I wonder was Mary there to hear John the Baptist repeat the angel's words, "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29)  From fleeing Herod's attempt to kill her son (Matthew 2:13-18) to the beginning of His public ministry (Matthew 4:12-17) we experience the highs and lows that Mary faced as Jesus life unfolded before the world. If Mary had the ability to journal about the events taking place, I wonder what she would have written? Perhaps she would have talked about the unbelievable experience of the angels declaration. I can imagine her documenting  the pregnancy and the feeling of growing ever closer and more connected to the child in her womb. Maybe at times she paused and was overwhelmed with the reality that this child was the son of God. She may have even asked the question, why me? She may have written about all the unusual experiences and interesting people that entered their lives after Jesus birth including the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20), the blessings of Anna and Simeon at the temple (Luke 2:21-40), the visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12) and the amazing wisdom of Jesus at a young age. (Luke 2:41-52) As Jesus began to teach and preach, her journal entries may have focused on the reaction of the crowds to His words. Mary may have felt a sense of awe at the miracles He performed and deep love for the compassion Jesus had for the outcasts of society. However, did she somewhere in her heart and mind replay the words of the angel, "He will save His people from their sins."  When the Pharisees and religious authorities began to demonstrate their anger towards Jesus, did Mary begin to have a sense of what the angel meant? Is that the reason she and Jesus siblings went to talk to Him? (Matthew 12:46-50) Would her journal entries begin to reflect a sense of fear and anxiety? After Jesus returned to Jerusalem and the events of Holy week began to take place, what thoughts crossed Mary's mind? Did she write about the hope in her heart after Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem? (Matthew 21:1-11) Did that hope quickly vanish as Jesus cleared the temple (Mark 11:15-18)  further stirring up the aggravation of the religious leaders?And when He was finally arrested (Matthew 26:47-27:26) and Mary received the news could she even have put pen to paper because of the heaviness of her heart? As she looked into what was left of the face of her dying Son (John 19:17-30) did Mary finally begin to understand the reality of the angel's words? I believe, like the disciples, Mary did not fully realize what Jesus had accomplished until after His resurrection. No journal entry could have been more powerful than the knowledge that Jesus was alive. The magnitude of what Mary had lived through from Jesus birth to His death and resurrection is beyond comprehension for any human being let alone the woman who was obedient enough to say, "I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me as you have said." (Luke 1:38) As we ponder the Easter story and celebrate His resurrection, I pray we will once again stand amazed at God's gift of love to the world. May you experience a blessed Easter!
HE IS RISEN!
Pastor Sheree 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What's Your Bio?

One of my practices in meeting with the Lord is to use the devotional, "Our Daily Bread." Today's brief devotional presented an interesting challenge. The author of the message described trying to convey a unique concept to his writing class about writing a biographical sketch. The idea he came up with was to challenge his class to write a biography in six words. It seems like an impossible task but you may be surprised how much can be said and how much can be revealed in six words. The author pointed out how writer Ernest Hemingway wrote a rather poignant six-word bio: "For sale; baby shoes, never used." There is a sad reality behind those six words. The author went on to think about the Scriptures and searched for any six-word biographical descriptions of God's people. To his surprise he found quite a few. For example, David of whom God said: "A man after My own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22)  Paul in the book of Ephesians described himself as: "An apostle of Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 1:1) Paul also describes Timothy as: "My true son in the faith." (1 Timothy 1:2) Lest we forget what was said about Mary: "The virgin shall be with child." (Matthew 1:23). Finally, there are many descriptions given about our Lord, but one of the most powerful is: "Became flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:14) The author concludes his meditation by asking the question: "What six-word description would best describe me? Would it be positive or negative? Would it be "Not an easy person to love" or "A shining light for the Lord?" (italics mine) Think about it. What would your six-word bio say?
Peace,
Pastor Sheree
"Blessed and highly favored mantle bearer"

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Lesson from Kindle

 I really enjoy my Kindle. Whether you are a fellow Kindle user or a fan of the Barnes and Noble version, the Nook, e-readers have become a significant part of our technological culture. I have to confess I was one of those naysayers who felt that e-readers were an assault on the good old fashioned paperback or hard cover book. But the reality for an avid reader like myself is there is not enough room in my house to keep adding bookcases. So after consulting with a few of my friends who were already "converts" to e-readers, I decided to take the plunge. My husband bought me a Kindle for Christmas and it is one of the best gifts (after Jesus) that I have received. The marvelous thing about the Kindle is the ease and immediate download of books. No hassle, no fuss. You look at your choices whether a book, magazine, etc., choose your title, and press the "buy" button. Within seconds you have your purchase literally at your fingertips. The other beautiful thing is the cost of each book is minimal with no shipping or handling charges. Recently as I watched my latest book purchase download it struck me that while technology is a wonderful thing it has its limits. As much as I marvel at what appears to be this "magical" transfer from cyber space to my e-reading device, I know that any thing can go wrong in the process.  Some mechanical glitch could prevent the download. My sister-in-law recently had her Kindle stop working properly and had a struggle getting her problem corrected even with the help of the technical support  site. And of course in time, like my bookcases, my Kindle will run out of space to store books. How very opposite that is in our relationship with God. When we accept Christ as Savior, we marvel at how the Holy Spirit instantly comes to dwell within us. No hassle, no fuss, no shipping or handling charges. And the price has already been paid through the shed blood of Christ. There is nothing that can interfere with our receiving God's free gift. No mechanical glitches. Moreover, we don't have to worry about ever running out of room in terms of the things God teaches us. We will never be able to exhaust His grace and love. It is eternal. So unlike my Kindle that one day will become unreliable and "forsake" me, God promises, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5) The next time you find yourself enraptured by the latest and greatest technological toy, remember, "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin." (Exodus 34:6-7a)  He is the only One who is constant and reliable all the time.
Many Blessings in Christ!
Pastor Sheree

Monday, February 20, 2012

Loving Linsanity!

 The NFL season has ended along with all the hype surrounding the Denver Bronco's quarterback Tim Tebow and his Christian faith. Some were breathing a sigh of relief not having to endure one more picture of the quarterback in a posture of prayer which came to be known as "tebowing." However, others may have been disappointed in not seeing or hearing the name of Jesus lifted up before a watching world. Just when all seemed lost, a new witness has appeared on the scene in the NBA player Jeremy Lin. Many have followed his Cinderella story from an obscure nobody to the hottest rising star in the NBA. It seems New York is getting a lot of attention these days from the Giants unbelievable Super Bowl win to the Knicks new found confidence and energy because of Jeremy Lin's on court skills. However, the best part is we now have another sports figure who is open about his faith in Christ. Lin may not be as demonstrative with his faith as Tebow but he can be seen bowing his head in silent prayer before a game. In a recent interview, Lin was asked how he stays so focused with his sudden new found fame and all the media attention. His response was that he stays grounded by being in the Word of God and recognizing that he is not superior to anyone but is a sinner just like everyone else. What! Did he say the "s" word? Moreover, did he have the audacity to suggest that everyone is a sinner? Yes it's true. The Bible states, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.." (Roman's 3:23) Furthermore, Romans 3:10-12 adds, "As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." Jeremy Lin is merely stating the truth openly and honestly as a follower of Jesus Christ. And although we may never become over night sensations nor have our names recorded in history we, like Lin, are to be faithful witnesses to the world in whatever environment we find ourselves. As Peter exhorts us, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (1 Peter 4:15-16) Jeremy Lin is clearly an example of one who is not ashamed of the gospel for he truly believes it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16)
To God Be The Glory!
Pastor Sheree