Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Child Is Born

On December 10, 2013, Barbara Kaye Harrington came into the world. She is the daughter of my husband's son and daughter-in-law. Family and friends were quick to respond with congratulations "grandma!" I must confess that I have struggled with feelings of disconnection. I have felt it to be somewhat dishonest to receive Mother's Day cards and wear the moniker "grandma" when there is no biological connection. Ironically, I often counsel clients struggling with the same issue telling them, "Biology doesn't necessarily define a relationship." I can honestly say that part of the struggle was a need to emotionally protect myself from rejection. I convinced myself that I was only loved as long as I was married to my husband. Once he passed away, I reasoned, his relatives would have no further use for me. Moreover as a black woman marrying into a white family, I couldn't pretend be a blood relative. I figured that little Barbara Kaye would just love me for who I am until that fateful day when she was old enough to recognize that my skin tone was a little bit different. Or perhaps she might show a family picture to a peer as they ask the question,"Why is your grandmother black?" or worse, "She's not your real grandmother!" The biological mother of my husband's son passed away 5 years ago from cancer. I'm sure on some emotional level my husband's son wishes his mother was alive to see the birth of her third grandchild. (She had already had two grandchildren from her daughter who was fathered from a previous relationship.) For whatever reason, God chose to leave me as the "grandmother" on the paternal side. In the meantime God had been doing a work in my heart over the 9 months prior to Barbara's birth. An excitement had been growing in my spirit as the day of the birth grew closer. Friends would tell me that my feelings would change once that little girl was born. I still had a hard time believing them so I began to pray and ask God to show me how to let go of the feelings of insecurity. The Lord led me to the familiar Christmas story from the gospel of Matthew chapters 1 and 2. My attention was directed to the plight of Joseph and his struggle upon learning that Mary was pregnant outside of wedlock. Even though the angel reassured Joseph that God through the power of the Holy Spirit was responsible for Mary's pregnancy, I wondered how Joseph felt having no biological connection to Jesus? It was already difficult enough listening to the gossip and seeing the questionable stares as Joseph decided to go ahead and take Mary as his wife. However in his quiet moments did he grieve the fact that he would never be Jesus' real father? As I read the Scriptures in Matthew and meditated on Joseph's response and actions, I came to realize that Joseph was humbled and blessed. Although he was not Jesus' biological father, God had chosen him to participate in raising the Messiah. His name is alongside Mary's as set apart to a special calling in God's redemptive plan. Rather than feeling sorry for himself I suspect Joseph was awestruck and perhaps wondered if he was up to the task. And although Joseph and Mary went on to have other children, the birth of Jesus dramatically changed Joseph's life. In a similar manner, the birth of Barbara Kaye has dramatically changed my life. God has come to me and reassured me not to be afraid to draw near as a grandmother to this little girl. I have been chosen to be like a "Joseph" in her life. I am to share with her about that little baby who came into our world at Christmas and changed everything! Moreover, although as human beings we are not biologically related to Christ, believers in Him are called His children and God has adopted us into His family making us co-heirs with Christ. (John 1:12-13; Romans 8:17; Ephesians 1:5; Ephesians 3:6; Galatians 3:26-4:7) My prayer is, like Joseph, I will be faithful to the special calling God has given me. My prayer for you this Christmas is that you will draw near once again to the manger and see how the birth of this child not only can change your heart but can change your world!
Merry Christmas!
Pastor Sheree

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tata Madiba

Christmas is almost here and I confess I still have some shopping left to do. However, in the midst of the Christmas frenzy, my mind has been focused on the passing of Nelson Mandela. One never knows the impact of our legacy until we see the fruit it has produced. In Mandela's case, he was a very fruitful man! To fill a stadium with people who love you and see leaders from all over the world pay their respects certainly makes a statement about the life he lived and the legacy he left behind. As I thought about Nelson Mandela, I could see reflections of some Biblical heroes of the faith. I thought about Abraham as the "father of many" which is the meaning of his name. Prior to this name change, the patriarch was known as Abram meaning "exalted father." In the Ancient Near East, one's name carried a lot of significance. Obviously Abram earned the respect of many people. However when God changed his name to Abraham, he became marked in a special way as God's servant. (Genesis 17) When God sets someone apart to His service powerful things take place in the individual's life and the lives in which he/she comes into contact. Similarly, Nelson Mandela had a "name change." "Madiba" is the name of Mandela's clan. The name of one's clan was considered more important than a surname. It refers to the ancestor from which a person is descended. "Madiba" was the Thembu chief who ruled in Transkei in the 18th century. It is considered very polite to use someone's clan name. Like Abram, Mandela or "Madiba" commanded great respect given his connection to a tribal chief. However, like Abraham, Mandela became known by the people as "Tata." "Tata" is a term of endearment meaning "father." Many people regardless of age used the term to describe Mandela who became a father figure to the nation. Both Abraham and Tata Madiba became "fathers of many." I also see similarities between Nelson Mandela and Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul was a hater of Christians and spent many years persecuting, arresting, and killing them. (Acts 8:1-3) As a young idealistic man filled with anger and impatience towards the Afrikaners and the system of Apartheid, Nelson Mandela began to use violence against his enemies. However both men had a heart change and were transformed by the power of love and forgiveness. Paul's transformation came on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19) and Madela's after spending 27 years in prison. There is only One who has the power to change bitterness and hatred into love and healing. His name is Jesus. As a result of the heart change these men experienced, many people's lives were also dramatically changed. During Paul's ministry, Jews and Gentiles alike came to know the Savior. In Nelson Mandela's case, the system of Apartheid was dismantled and black Africans and white Afrikaners began to share power equally, living and working together in peace. This is the power of what Christ can do if we are willing to open our hearts to receive Him. When we believe in Christ and accept the gracious gift that the Father has given us, we are set apart to serve God in the world. As His servants, God transforms us from the inside out. He equips us with gifts by the power of His Holy Spirit to touch lives with His love and bring honor and glory to His Name. Additionally, we will be given "new names" as revealed in the book of Revelation. John in speaking to the seven churches says this to the church in Pergamum, " He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." (Revelation 2:17) And to the church in Philadelphia he writes, "I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name." (Revelation 3:11-12) You and I may never have "descendants as numerous as the stars" or people filling a stadium to celebrate our lives but as we share the gospel, we give an even greater gift that will result in eternal life for all that receive it. Well done Tata Madiba, rest in peace!
Blessings In Christ,
Pastor Sheree

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thank You, Jesus!

Every year at this time folks gather around their Thanksgiving tables. Inevitably the question is asked, "For what are you thankful?" We can all rattle off a laundry list of things for which we give thanks. But all of the items we typically come up with on our list have one shortcoming, they are perishable. However, there is One who is eternal. He is the heart and soul of all the good and gracious gifts we enjoy. (James 1:17) His name is Jesus and the promise of His return is what I give thanks for this Thanksgiving Day!

Thank You, Jesus

Cry for the people struggling with sin,
Cry for the nations lying in ruin,
It seems like the world is in a tailspin,
Thank You, Jesus, You're coming again!

Children are dying out in the street,
They go unprotected with little to eat,
Death and destruction are closing in,
Thank You, Jesus, You're coming again!

Countries are warring for there is mistrust,
Desolate cities crumbling to dust,
Threats from the outside and fears from within,
Thank You, Jesus, You're coming again!

Our God will save us, this world He'll remake,
In the blink of an eye, one day we'll awake,
The Kingdom arrives and new life will begin,
Thank You, Jesus, You're coming again!

Remember this day that we call Thanksgiving,
And give praise to God in His grace we are living,
Celebrate! for in the end we will win,
Thank You, Jesus, You're coming again!

(Sheree A. Harrington, November 25, 2013)

May you enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving!
Pastor Sheree



Friday, November 8, 2013

A New Kind Of Slavery

In a few weeks we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. When I was growing up, I celebrated Thanksgiving the way most people did with turkey and all the fixings. When we gathered together with extended family members, the regular routine was to go around the table stating for what reason you were thankful. I also remember the stories from school and other media that told the Thanksgiving story about the Pilgrim's journey to America and that first Thanksgiving dinner with the Native American tribes. However as I grew older I began to realize that the classic Thanksgiving story was not my story. My ancestors did not sit down at a table with Native Americans. My ancestors were forcibly brought to America as slaves. Their journey across the ocean was inhumane and cost the lives of many of the slaves who died along the way. Furthermore, once the slaves arrived in America, many families were split up as slave owners bid at public auctions for men, women, and children. The Scriptures say a lot about slavery and it's awful consequences. The Israelites groaned under their slavery in Egypt. (Exodus 2:23); Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery. (Genesis 37:12-36); The wealthier Israelites like Abraham also had their servants to help them with whatever needed to be done, although not all servants were slaves; many were voluntarily employed. (Genesis 12:5) Nonetheless, God was very much aware of how people could be abused as slaves. He sent Moses to deliver the Israelites out of their bondage from Egypt. (Exodus 12:31-42) After years of suffering, Joseph through God's grace became second-in-command to Pharaoh and placed in charge of the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:41-57) God was also mindful of those Israelites who chose to voluntarily become servants to their fellow Jews and God established the year of Jubilee where there was the opportunity to receive their freedom. (Leviticus 25:8-55) God so cared about servants that Moses, pointing back to Israel's former status, reminded them that all were to observe the Sabbath both slave and free alike "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm." (Deuteronomy 5:15) Today there are many parts of the world where slavery continues to exist in various forms including the sex trafficking of young girls. Many people will off- handedly remark that they are "slaves" to their computers, jobs, or some other object. What is it about the nature of slavery that makes it so ugly? It's the bondage, the sense of not being free, subjugated under the power and authority of another person. However, there is a different kind of slavery some people readily embrace. This type of slavery does not mistreat the participants or see them as less than human. In fact the slaves of this master would be willing to do anything he asks them to do, even if it meant giving up their lives. In this type of slavery the servants are not in bondage (physically or emotionally) but rather enjoy complete freedom. This new kind of slavery is found in serving Jesus Christ. The type of bondage that Christ delivers us from is not material but spiritual. Our former slave master "sin" kept us from truly living in a way that would be pleasing to God. Peter puts it this way, "...for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him." (2 Peter 2:19b) However after Christ was crucified and resurrected He became the new Master, One who can be served without fear. Paul tells us, "For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." (Romans 6:6) "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14) "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." (Romans 6:18) In this new kind of slavery there is equality for all, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) Paul took freedom in Christ so seriously that he even warned masters to be careful how they treated slaves. "And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him." (Ephesians 6:9) In fact Paul devotes a book in the New Testament, Philemon, to slavery. Paul pleads with slave owner, Philemon, to receive his runaway slave (Onesimus) back not as a slave but as a Christian brother who had become a believer through Paul's ministry. The Pilgrims came to America to be free from religious persecution, African slaves fought long and hard to finally win their freedom, and Jesus Christ died and was raised again to win freedom from sin for all humanity. Praise the Lord that although my ancestors were slaves in the worst way to unjust masters, I am a new kind of slave in the best way to a gracious and loving Master. "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty I'm free at last! " (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Glory to God!
Pastor Sheree

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Voices

I have never had the opportunity to counsel anyone in my practice who was actively hearing voices in their head. In private practice I am not afforded the luxury of having a back-up crisis intervention team to deal with the challenges that psychosis presents. I can only imagine how uncomfortable and scary it must be to hear someone or something speaking to you that no one else hears.    And although it is in no way a close comparison, when we are bombarded with the opinions of others trying to help us discern God's will in a particular situation, it can feel like you're "going crazy." That's how I've been feeling lately regarding this church plant. So many well meaning people are trying to offer their guidance on what to do and how to proceed based on their experiences. Some have even questioned if this is really God's will for me and I ask that same question of God on a frequent basis. So, I include this poem as my "psalm" to the Lord at this very challenging time. 
Blessed Be the Name of The Lord!
Pastor Sheree


Voices

So many voices that I hear,
Each one telling me, “draw near,
“I’ll tell you where to go today,
And promise not to lead you astray.”
But still confusion crowds my mind,
God, would you please show me a sign?
You promised that you would be true,
And tell me clearly what to do.
But sometimes when I try to rest,
I’m overcome with emptiness.
I want so much to do Your will, 
To know You’re God and to be still.
But Lord I’m feeling so afraid,
To step out on the churning waves.
I cannot see the solid ground,
And voices tell me,”you may drown.”
So, come to me O Lord Most High,
Hear my desperation cry.
Cover me with grace this day,
Point me towards Your holy way.
Bid Your Spirit to draw near,
So You’re the only voice I hear.

(Sheree A. Harrington, October 24, 2013)



Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lost in the Shadow

I was reading a meditation last week from one of my favorite devotionals ("Streams In The Desert") when my attention was drawn to a story written by the great preacher Charles H. Spurgeon. The story in a nutshell described a little plant whose growth was stunted because it lived in the shadow of a giant oak tree. The plant was not disturbed because of the mighty oak but relished the quiet rest that the oak provided it. The story goes on to describe how the mighty oak was felled one day by the axe of a woodsman. The plant panicked, fearing it would now remain unprotected from the fierce winds which threatened to uproot it. However, the plant had a guardian angel which comforted and reassured the plant that its exposure was a great blessing. The guardian angel informed the plant that now it would receive the full power of sunlight and receive an abundance of water when showers fell. As a result the plant would spring up into loveliness and flowers that had previously been hampered from displaying their full beauty would now flourish. Moreover, people would now notice the beauty of the plant which up until now was ignored as a result of being hidden in the shade. What spoke to my heart was one of the questions that the meditation posed at the end of the story, "Is the Lord uncovering your gifts and causing them to grow?" I confess that I have been like that little plant covered up in the shadow of others. I have been content to rest in the quiet unassuming position of allowing others to lead and shepherd God's people while I watched in the background. Now that the Lord has removed those "oaks" and moved me towards a church plant, I feel exposed and vulnerable. I fear that I will be victimized by all who do not believe I should be planting a church or leading because I am a woman. However, I too have One who is watching over me and I hear His words speak to my spirit using the words that the guardian angel spoke to the plant, "Now your stunted form will spring up into loveliness and your flowers, which could never have grown to full perfection in the shade, will laugh in the sunshine. And people in amazement will say, 'Look how that plant has grown! How gloriously beautiful it has become by removing that which was its shade and its delight." (Charles H. Spurgeon) The Lord needed to move me from under the shadow of others, in essence out of my comfort zone, so I can fully mature by walking through the difficult places depending solely on Him. A second question at the end of the story further challenged me, "Should you not then use every gift and weapon He has given you to become a conqueror?" The answer is yes! Paul reminds us, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." (Romans 8:37) Additionally, David implores God to,"Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings." (Psalm 17:8) In God's shadow there is protection against oppression and His "wings" are a metaphor for the protective outreach of His power. So what about you? Are your gifts lost in the shadows or is the power of the Most High overshadowing you? Is he calling you out of complacency to experience complete and full growth in His Son? Come out of the shadows and let the world see the beauty of God reflected in your life.
Peace In Christ!
Pastor Sheree





Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Breadcrumbs

I have to admit that I have had mixed emotions about this church plant. While there is an excitement to see what God is going to do, at the same time there is a frustration wondering how His plan for me is going to unfold in the days ahead. Sometimes the situation reminds me of the Israelites and the story of their release from bondage in the book of Exodus. While they rejoiced in their freedom, they became easily frustrated when they did not understand how God was going to move in the midst of their wilderness experience. The wandering, the wondering, and the waiting became more and more challenging. I can relate to the Israelite's struggle. One of the most difficult parts of this journey for me is having a space to worship, yet not having a congregation to serve. However, I realize that this seemingly "slow" process is really moving in accordance with God's perfect timing. Lately He has been focusing my attention on people and places that are leading me to where I need to go. A couple of examples are worth mentioning. After I graduated from Gordon-Conwell, I would regularly return to take part in what are known as pastor's forums. These are all day events with a guest speaker focused on equipping pastors with tools as they face the various challenges in ministry. At the end of each forum, participants are invited to give feedback on an evaluation form and indicate topics of interest for future forums. One of my frustrations was the lack of forums focused on the unique needs of women pastors. Year after year I offered feedback regarding women in pastoral/leadership roles. Sadly, there was no indication that my feedback was seriously taken into account. However, a few weeks ago, the seminary sent an e-mail announcing that there was going to be a two hour forum bringing together women pastors for a time of support and encouragement. The guest speaker is one of my former professors who was also a mentor during my time on campus. I couldn't believe my eyes! It was an answer to prayer and God's perfect timing. Another example came from a husband and wife team who are church planters and had met with me some months ago. After our meeting I did not feel ready to move forward but they told me that they would provide whatever help I needed in the future. I reconnected with them and was sent two e-mails of interest. The church planters would be coming down in November to the church where my counseling practice is located to speak about the challenges of church planting. Additionally (and this was a real blessing) he and his wife will be hosting a one day conference at the end of September in the Boston area bringing together women church planters! I never really thought about women as church planters and had assumed that most church planters were men. These examples are what I call "God's breadcrumbs." He is encouraging me to follow the trail and attend these conference opportunities that He has opened up for me. And if I follow, I will not be led astray but rather led closer to God's unfolding plan. Bread plays a significant role in the Old and New Testaments leading individuals into the very presence of God. The Israelites were fed with the manna God gave them in the desert. (Exodus 16) Additionally, they were commanded to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread which commemorated the exodus. (Exodus 23:15) The writer of Ecclesiastes encourages us to, "Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again." (Ecclesiastes 11:1) In other words we are to be adventurous accepting the risks that in due time will bring benefits. Bread was important enough to be a part of the Lord's prayer, "Give us today our daily bread." (Matthew 6:11) Jesus declared that He is the bread of life. (John 6:35) And of course the most powerful symbol for believers is found in the celebration of communion with the bread representing His broken body on the cross. (1 Corinthians 11:24) So, I am encouraged and determined to follow the breadcrumbs. In sharing my thoughts over lunch with a pastoral colleague, he encouraged me with these words, "Keep following those breadcrumbs and don't let the birds eat them up!" Amen!
Peace In Christ,
Pastor Sheree


Monday, September 2, 2013

The Harvest

As we continue on this journey towards a new church plant, we are frequently asked, "What is the name of the church?" We end up most times shrugging our shoulders and responding, "We don't know." Last Sunday, I filled the pulpit for a colleague who was away on vacation. We had been attending this church when God's call came to move on and establish this new church. In sharing with the congregation that this particular Sunday would be our last and God had a new mission for us, there was enthusiasm mixed with sadness. Inevitably, the question arose, "What is the name of the church?" Sadly, our response was the same, "We don't know." That afternoon my husband and I began discussing possibilities about a church name. He suggested a few names that really resonated with me but I wasn't sure which one was the best. We had just finished lunch and were disposing of our trash when I accidently dropped an apple core on the floor and some seeds fell out. As I looked at the seeds the name, "The Harvest" seemed to stand out. Scriptures began to fill my mind, especially Jesus words to the disciples after He had spoken to the woman at the well in John 4, "Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." (John 4:35) The image I had in my mind was focused on the whole process of planting, watering, and harvesting. This is similar to Paul's admonition of the Corinthian church as the believers were arguing and divided about who they followed, Paul or Apollos. Paul tells them, "What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe---as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." (1 Corinthians 3:5-6) Additionally, there is the Parable of the Sower which is too lengthy to include in this blog but can be found in Matthew 13. The more I thought about the process a seed undergoes to bring forth some food that is ultimately harvested and enjoyed, the more I related the imagery to what the church is called to do. God plants the seed which is experienced in worship. Our intimate relationships with each other and the use of our gifts waters those planted seeds. Finally, in the process of God maturing and growing us in Christ, we go out to serve. In our service we seek to bring forth a rich harvest of new believers for God's honor and glory. This imagery is also very dear to my husband's heart as he is an avid gardener. We can look out our side door at the garden he planted in the early spring, watered, and cared for throughout the summer. The garden is yielding many vegetables which he will soon harvest. We will enjoy that food but also share the abundance with others, and in turn bless them. I thank the Lord for His insight and ask for your prayers for the "Harvest Community Church." We pray that God will be honored and glorified as we move forward.
Be Blessed!
Pastor Sheree

Monday, August 12, 2013

Takeoff!

In one of my more recent posts, I mentioned how the house wrens had returned for a second time. Once again I was able to watch the miracle unfold as the wrens engaged in their nesting routine and finally gave birth to their chicks. I could hear the very quiet peeping as the parents began to feed the hungry chicks on a regular basis. As time passed the noise became louder and louder as the chicks grew into adulthood. The waiting game had begun as to when the chicks would finally fly from the bird house. I had prayed that the Lord would allow me to witness the event and He honored my request. Early in the morning before I started my daily exercise routine I saw a beak sticking out of the hole of the bird box. Then the first chick emerged, sat on the perch for awhile, and then flew onto the deck. It hopped around as if trying to get its "bird legs" and finally flew off into the bushes where the parents were waiting. Then a second chick emerged and again perched for awhile before flying off into the bushes. One of the parent birds flew back to the box to check and see if it was empty. The parent called into the box then flew away back into the bushes. Next a third chick came out and was perched for a mere moment before the last chick pushed chick number three off the perch, forcing it to fly quickly off into the bushes. The last chick remained perched for what seemed like forever before it finally joined the others in the bushes. The parent bird came back to the box for one final look and then flew off to join the offspring. I could hear the wrens calling to each other from the bushes. It was almost like they were rejoicing in their freedom or maybe in their bird-like way praising God for their new life. This event reminded me of the church and how I believe God wants us to operate. Each of those chicks had its own personality much like the body of Christ. Some are bold to step out in faith, others need a little push. Paul tells us, "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given us." (Romans 5:4-6) Furthermore, Paul spells out the body's responsibility to one another as we use our gifts, "..to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:12-13) Those house wrens grew together being fed by their parent until they were mature enough to be sent out. Likewise God feeds us with His word, maturing us so that we can be sent out to share the gospel. I was moved by the way the parent bird came back to check and make sure no chick was left behind. It is a beautiful picture of God's faithfulness and love towards us as Jesus calls us to go and make disciples. And as we are going and making disciples he promises, "And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) I am resting in God's promise that as I go to plant a church, He will be ever present as I spread my wings and get ready to takeoff!
Be Blessed!
Pastor Sheree





Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Humbling Experience

I have been experiencing some anxiety regarding beginning this new church plant that God has called me to start. One of the questions I had was focused on where are we going to meet? I am grateful to God that since my last blog He has provided a space at the church where I currently have my counseling practice. The leadership agreed to allow me to use the space above my office which was formerly their main sanctuary. The church several years ago built a new sanctuary and the space above my office, which they now call their chapel, became available for other uses. We in essence will be sharing the building. Many churches are starting to consider sharing their space with other congregations due to the increasing expense in trying to maintain a building especially if a congregation is relatively small. It also presents an opportunity for fellowship and in some cases cross cultural experiences. As I met with my spiritual director, I was sharing with him how the space became available. A pastoral colleague who I will call Pat (not his real name) is a member of this host church and serves as a leader in the congregation. I came to know Pat because I began counseling his children around various adolescent issues. Pat was invested in seeing me start a church plant and has been very supportive in leading the charge to make it a reality. God worked in Pat's heart to speak into the lives of his fellow church leaders and the senior pastor. In a meeting approximately two weeks ago, the leadership unanimously agreed to move forward. Pat admitted that he really wanted me to stay at that church because of the work I had done with his children in counseling. He said, "If you leave, who will take care of my children?" As I shared Pat's words with my spiritual director, something inside of me broke and tears began to flow. It felt like the grace of God had overwhelmed me and the Holy Spirit was commissioning me to likewise take care of His children. It reminded me of Isaiah's commission in Isaiah chapter 6, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8) I realized in that moment how awesome a task I have and at the same time how humbling it is to have the Lord of heaven and earth call you to take care of His people. I am at a loss for words to adequately describe what I was feeling and the magnitude of this experience. And so, like Isaiah I can only reply, "Here am I, Lord. Send me."
In humble gratitude to God,
Pastor Sheree

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Cry For Help

Believe it or not, we have another pair of house wrens that have nested in our bird house. After the chicks from the last nesting pair flew off I thought that was all to be seen until next summer. But within a week or so after, I heard the familiar song of the male house wren looking for a perspective bride. The process had begun all over again. I was wondering what to make of this "repeat performance." One of the possibilities I have been thinking about as we venture out into this new unknown territory of church planting is planting a church within an already existing church building. I happen to work in such a situation wherein my office is located in the basement of a church. The congregation of this church built a new sanctuary several years ago leaving the old space, which they now call the chapel available for use. I approached the pastor about the idea and he was open to pursuing it. Meanwhile, the church I currently attend also extended the possibility of using their space. During one of my prayer times I was watching the house wrens going through their rituals and it occurred to me that this new pair was in essence using the same bird house that was now unoccupied and available. A sort of "nest sharing" plan. While I was sitting there, the Lord impressed upon my heart the message, "a new pair occupying the same house." I began to think about the journey we are now taking. My husband and I are possibly going to become that new pair going to occupy the same house as another congregation, space that has become available. As we move closer to this new reality I find myself becoming anxious and overwhelmed by the idea of church planting. Many of my colleagues who are aware of what's happening are supportive but there is also the impression that they are glad they're not in the same situation. The Scriptures are full of examples wherein an individual or individuals find themselves in scary situations. In every instance they make their concerns known and cry out to God. God responded to the cry of the Israelites under the oppression of the Egyptians, "The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them." (Exodus 2:23b-25) We see other examples in the Psalms, "Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, My King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation." (Psalm 5:1-3) "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry." (Psalm 34:15) Likewise in the New Testament, Jesus calls out to the Father in His time of struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:40-46) Finally, Paul gives assurance that those who truly seek the Lord and call out to Him will be saved. (Romans 10:12-13) God showed me a practical example of His intervention with the house wrens. Lately, they have been disturbed by a male sparrow who perches himself in front of the opening to the bird house. The house wrens in their panic cry out and take turns flying at the sparrow. As I observed this event, I waited for the house wrens to be victorious. However, the sparrow seemed mildly annoyed by their efforts. Finally, as it looked like the house wrens were becoming exhausted, I intervened by opening the slider and scaring off the sparrow. The Lord impressed upon me that this is how He answers my cry for help. I am bigger and stronger than that sparrow and so I was able to help the nearly exhausted and frustrated pair of wrens. Similarly, God is bigger and stronger than I am and will intervene when I become spiritually and emotionally exhausted. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-29) Where do you go when you are burdened and overwhelmed? Jesus hears your cry for help and is waiting to give you rest.

Pastor Sheree




Friday, June 28, 2013

A New Season

In an earlier blog (5/23/13) I discussed my observations of the house wrens that were nesting in a bird house attached to our deck. There was much activity by the parents but nothing yet visible. Over the subsequent weeks I began to hear chirping noises every time the parents would fly into the bird house. Finally, the chicks had hatched but still remained unseen. As more time began to pass, the chirping got louder and the frequency of visits by the parents began to decline. One afternoon I decided to stand at a distance and look into the hole and to my surprise I could see the now fully grown chicks crowded in the bird house. I knew that their departure was imminent. Sure enough two days later, I no longer saw the parents. What I did see was the head of one of the chicks sticking out of the bird house. Cautiously it looked around as it saw for the first time the world outside of that bird house. Then slowly but surely it inched its way out until it spread its wings and flew off. This pattern repeated itself with the flight of two more chicks until the bird house was empty. The Spirit began to impress upon my heart the lessons I needed to learn from this experience. What was unseen and had been waited upon with expectation was now a reality. God brought to pass for these birds a new season. They were to leave the old, comfortable, and familiar security of their bird house and fly off into a new world. This is reminiscent of the Abrahamic call in Genesis 12:1 where God told Abraham, "Leave your country, your people, and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." The fact that I observed three birds fly off reminded me of the Trinity, (Father, Son, and Spirit) at work in this situation. I was also reminded that the number three is symbolic in Scripture not only representative of the Trinity but also perfection. Moreover, there are instances in Scripture where the number three proceeds God's preparing to do something special. In the gospel of Luke, chapter 1, after the angel visits Mary he tells her that her cousin Elizabeth is also pregnant in her old age and is going to give birth. At the time Elizabeth is 6 months along in her pregnancy. (Luke 1:36) Mary goes to visit Elizabeth and Luke tells us, "Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home." (Luke 1:56) After John the Baptist's birth, his father Zechariah who had been mute for his disbelief about what the angel told him (Luke 1:18-20) suddenly was filled with the Holy Spirit and began prophesying. (Luke 1:67) John the Baptist then went on to prepare the way for the Messiah. Additionally, Jesus in all of four of the gospels speaks of His impending death and how He would rise again in three days. As predicted Jesus did rise on the third day. The Lord has impressed upon me that after all my struggles trying to use my gifts in pastoral leadership I have now seen the unseen and I am to enter a new season and leave the familiar to venture out and plant a church. Needless to say, like those new chicks cautiously looking out on a previously unseen world, I am anxiously moving forward into the unknown. I don't know what lies ahead of me any more than being able to know where those chicks flew off to. However, observing those three chicks fly off gives me a sense that God is about to do something spectacular in this new season of my life. I have mentioned in the past, one of my favorite devotional books, "Streams in the Desert." The day those chicks, took flight the meditation for that day focused on Moses and how God will move obstacles for His own. I was encouraged by some of what the meditation said, "Never dread any consequence resulting from absolute obedience to His command. Never fear the rough waters ahead, which through their proud contempt impede your progress. God is greater than the roar of raging water and the mighty waves of the sea.....Dare to trust Him! Dare to follow Him! Then discover that the forces that blocked your progress and threatened your life become at His command the very materials He uses to build your street of freedom." (F.B.Meyer) Is God calling you to a new season in your life? Then hear His words to 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) 

Pastor Sheree

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Tribute

Two days before Father's Day, a close friend's husband passed away unexpectedly. Needless to say many friends and family were shocked. And of course his wife of 30+ years was devastated. In times like these, the Lord has often impressed upon my heart the need to write a poem as a remembrance that will comfort the family in the days ahead. I share with you what the Spirit inspired me to write as I pray for God's peace upon the Lewis family.
Pastor Sheree


A Tribute to William A. Lewis, Jr.
(October 8, 1932 - June 14, 2013)
I didn’t really know him well,
But there is one thing I can tell,
Bill was a very humble man,
And had so many loving “fans.”
He served his country on distant shores,
Fighting in the Korean and Vietnam wars,
He captured God’s beauty and majesty,
With his gift of photography.
His family he really did adore,
But more than this, he loved the Lord.
Our God, He gave Bill 80 years,
Through joy and sorrow, laughter and tears,
Until at last in mercy sown,
The Lord called Bill to come home.
To capture beauty not with machines,
But glory in visions beyond his dreams,
And loved ones left may yet grieve still,
But there’s peace in knowing God’s loving Bill.

(Rev. Sheree A. Harrington, June 17, 2013)

Monday, June 10, 2013

"I've Got The Music In Me"

Lately, I have been struggling with my prayer life. It has become very routinized and somewhat stale. Routines in life often become tiring and at times  boring to some degree. I have been preparing for a talk that I will be giving to a caregiver's group on June 20th. When a friend of mine asked me to speak, the counselor part of me was thinking about speaking on grief and loss issues. However my friend, knowing that I am also a pastor asked if I would speak on a topic from the pastoral perspective. She suggested the topic of prayer. Initially I resisted knowing how I was struggling but decided to honor her request. I had purchased a book awhile back entitled, "Ten Ways to Pray: A Short Guide to A Long History of Talking to God" by Dawn Duncan Harrell. I confess I just read the book through when I first bought it and didn't really apply any of what I had read to my life. Nevertheless, I decided that this book may be helpful to the folks to whom I will be speaking. In the book Ms.Harrell gives the history of ten different ways Christians have been praying through church history from very ancient forms to more contemporary. She suggests that by exploring these different forms a person's prayer life could be transformed. The idea is that we are all unique individuals who talk with God according to our needs and what best fits our personalities. A method of praying that we have been using for years because of what we were taught may not be the most helpful in communing with God. In the course of preparing I was drawn to a particular method called "Music Prayer." I have always loved music and can be moved by it especially in a church setting. I have roots in a more charismatic form of worship which draws me at times to experiencing God in a powerful way. In the appendix of her book, Dawn Duncan Harrell gives a brief step by step process of the methods of prayer that can be easily applied. I decided to try the "Music Prayer" and to my delight, I was drawn into a deeper connection to God. I should not be surprised as music is a very important part of worship in the Scriptures. In fact King David considered music such an important part of the worship experience that he put certain groups of men in charge of the temple music. (1 Chronicles 6:31-46). Many of the Psalms encourage and exhort God's people to extol the Lord with song. (Psalm 27:6; Psalm 95:2) In fact Psalm 150 which concludes the Psalter is a glorious fanfare of praise and music. Even in the New Testament after the disciples shared the final Passover meal with Jesus what we call the Last Supper, Matthew tells us, "When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives." (Matthew 26:30) In Revelation, as John is describing the fall of Babylon there is a lament, "The music of the harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters will never be heard in you again." (Revelation 18:22) God appears to enjoy music so much that He did not relegate it solely to humanity but also other created things like birds. Even God Himself sings over us. (Zephaniah 3:17) I encourage you to find what form of prayer draws you closer to God. You may be surprised to discover that you have the music in you too!
Be Blessed!
Pastor Sheree

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Waiting on the Unseen

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)

This verse is familiar to many of us but oh so hard to internalize. One of the things that this verse implies and is true about faith in general is that it involves waiting. I have been trying to patiently wait to see how God is going to work in leading me into a ministry where I am able to use the gifts He has given to me. I must confess that in trying to be patient I have felt myself losing hope and feeling disconnected from the Lord. Last week I found myself crying out to God and asking, "How long, Lord?" At the time I was sitting in our den and looking out our sliding glass window. The Lord drew my attention to a bird house that we have attached to one of the poles on our deck. The house is currently occupied by a pair of nesting house wrens. I watched the female leave the house for a few minutes and then come back and enter inside. I had just finished reading a devotional from the book "Streams in the Desert" which emphasized how God is at work even when we can't see what He's doing in the process. The writer of the meditation states, "When does He work? He works now. We act as if God does not immediately accept our trust in Him and thereby delays accomplishing what we ask Him to do. We fail to understand that "He works" as we commit "He works" now! Praise Him for the fact that this is true." Returning to my observation of the bird house I felt the Lord impressing upon my heart a question. "Can I see inside of that bird house?" The answer is an obvious "no." Yet the Lord reminded me that there is a work going on inside. It is an unseen work as the birds prepare to bring forth new life. Like the verse in Hebrews 11:1, this pair of house wrens is "sure of what they hope for." After preparing the nest they know the eggs will be laid and they are "certain of what they do not see" in that from those eggs baby birds will emerge. I share that expectation with the house wrens. Even though I cannot see what they are doing inside of that bird house, I anticipate that those eggs will be laid, hatched, and when they are old enough the baby birds will fly off. The Lord pointed out that this is a similar process that I am experiencing. He is working in a way unseen to my eyes that in the end will bring forth something new in me and for me. Father God is "preparing the nest" so to speak so I will have a place to develop and come forth into a new environment. The verse in Hebrews 11:1 is yet another reminder of the need to commit to the work that God is already doing and like those house wrens to wait with anticipation for what is yet to come. The process is not always easy and there is much work to be done beforehand but in the end God is faithful. The great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon puts it this way,"The Lord will follow through on His covenant promises. Whatever He takes and holds in His hand He will accomplish. Therefore His past mercies are guarantees for the future, and worthy reasons for continuing to cry out to Him." 

Praise the Lord!
Pastor Sheree

"I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills His purpose for me." (Psalm 57:2)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

God of the Women

Today is Mother's Day. I confess I have some difficulty celebrating this day. Please don't get me wrong, I love my mother as I know there are others who feel the same way. However, I am often dismayed at the fact that so many women are excluded on this day. In the past when I have preached a Mother's Day service, I am often mindful and sensitive towards the many women who may feel like second class citizens because they have not given birth to a child. There may be many reasons for this such as never having had the opportunity to marry or infertility issues. There are those who have lost children to miscarriage, still birth, or sadly homicide. Remember Newtown and Sandy Hook? How might these women and men (Father's Day is coming) be feeling today? Then there are the stepmothers who never had the experience of being biologically connected to a child. Finally there are those whose mothers are deceased or children who are estranged from their mothers. I often make it a point to honor all women on Mother's Day which I believe is God's heart. Today at our church service, we sang a hymn that I had never heard before. It was an honor roll of godly women who were used by the Lord to His glory. I am including it here as it was a very powerful reminder to me of how much women have contributed to the kingdom of God. It is sung to the tune "Be Thou My Vision."


God of the Women

SLANE (10.10.9.10) ("Be Thou My Vision")
God of the women who answered your call,
Trusting your promises, giving their all,
Women like Sarah and Hannah and Ruth —
Give us their courage to live in your truth.
God of the women who walked Jesus' Way,
Giving their resources, learning to pray,
Mary, Joanna, Susanna, and more —
May we give freely as they did before.
God of the women long put to the test,
Left out of stories, forgotten, oppressed,
Quietly asking: "Who smiled at my birth?" —
In Jesus' dying you show us our worth.
God of the women who ran from the tomb,
Prayed with the others in that upper room,
Then felt your Spirit on Pentecost Day —
May we so gladly proclaim you today.
O God of Phoebe and ministers all,
May we be joyful in answering your call.
Give us the strength of your Spirit so near
That we may share in your ministry here.
Tune: Traditional Irish melody; harmony by David Evans, 1927 ("Be Thou My Vision")
Text: Copyright © 1998 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
I pray that you will remember whether you are a mother or not just how valuable you are to God!
Blessings In Christ,
Pastor Sheree

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"Mirror, Mirror"

I try not to take for granted the gifts God gives to me in my counseling ministry. Although I am technically considered the"expert" in the eyes of my clients as they stare at the degrees on my wall, I learn a great deal from their lives. I consider each client's journey a sacred trust that I have been given as I enter into their life's story. Recently, a client was sharing with me how she had found new life in studying dance. This woman had just emerged from some difficult situations that she is still in the process of grieving. However, she found dance to have freed her from bondage and released the creative gifts with which God has blessed her. One of the issues she expressed struck me on a deeper level. She reported how in studying dance one has to use a mirror to make sure your body is in the appropriate position to execute the required dance moves. Similarly when entering a competition, a mirror was necessary to put on one's make-up. The woman confessed that mirrors were a challenge for her in that she never wore make-up or had the need to really look at herself in the mirror. I responded to the woman and noted that we as believers all have a "growing edge." It is a place or situation we want to avoid or hide from so we don't have to face the realities that need to be unmasked. In other words we don't have to embrace the things that God wants us to see so we can grow closer to Him. I suggested to this woman that this avoidance of looking into a mirror was perhaps one of her growing edges. Maybe God wants her to look at herself and see the beautiful woman He has created and then express that beauty through the joy of her dancing. Through the creativity of her dancing, she can rejoice in the Lord as the psalmist declares, "For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well." (Psalm 139:13-14) I was challenged to think about my own growing edges. Can I look into that "mirror" at those situations and circumstances that I want to avoid and be sensitive to what the Spirit is trying to teach me about myself and my relationship with God? When I face those challenges can I express my gratitude to the Lord in some creative way? Do I truly embrace the fact that God's works are wonderful and know that full well because I am one of those works? The growing edges in our lives are not meant to shame or embarrass us but rather help us to understand just how much God wants to transform us closer to the image of His Son so like my client we can freely express all that God created us to be. So what is your growing edge? What bondage is holding you back from being truly free in Christ? Ask the Lord to reveal these growing edges to you so you can with heartfelt praise declare, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made!"
Blessings In Christ!
Pastor Sheree

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Knowing me, knowing You

For those of you who are frequent travelers, you are aware of having to pass through the TSA inspections prior to boarding a flight. These inspections are primarily searches through your luggage and other items. In many cases a physical pat down may be involved. Why are these precautions necessary? The quick answer is a response to the threat of terrorism  since September 11. It is an attempt to prevent future terrorists attacks, although as we saw with the Boston Marathon our protection can only extend to a certain point. However, on a very personal level these searches highlight the fact that the TSA personnel don't know you. They do not have an intimate relationship with you. They don't know the deepest parts of you, what you think, what you feel, how you experience life. The agents want to determine that you are "clean" and nothing is hidden. Recently I was meditating on Psalm 139:1, "Oh Lord, You have searched me and You know me." I was particularly drawn to the words "search" and "know." In Hebrew the word "search" suggests the idea of an investigation. When the authorities conduct an investigation, they examine every facet of an individual's life. When our Lord, the Supreme Authority "investigates" us, He knows every aspect of who we are, our strengths, our struggles and challenges, our joys and our sorrows. His investigation is not limited in its detail for He knows how every cell functions in our bodies as well as our DNA make up. Before Him, nothing is hidden. The word "know" in Hebrew carries several definitions but in general it conveys the idea of noticing or observing, to find out how it is with someone. God wants to find out how it is with me. He is looking for the "real me" to show up not the "false self" or the "obligated self" that I present to others. And because He knows me so well, He wants me to pay attention to the person He has uniquely created. The impression the Lord left on my heart was, "I know daughter what breaks you and what brings you life, trust that." It is very easy to engage in activities or make choices based on what we think others expect from us or even in trying to discern how God is leading us. However, to ignore who we are at the core, often leads us to experience feelings of frustration and lack of joy. I confess I am guilty of ignoring my real self and often giving into the expectations of others. Currently I am at a crossroads of discerning the Lord's leading for ministry in the future. However, in the process I need to be reminded that part of that discernment is knowing how God has created me. The Lord wants to know that we are "clean" and not trying to hide anything from Him, ourselves, or others. I am not suggesting that we don't have boundaries but rather that we are aware of what brings us life and what is burdensome, in other words knowing our limits. The great theologian Saint Augustine put it this way, "Grant Lord, that I may know myself that I may know thee." Similarly, theologian Thomas Merton states, "There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace, and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him." Knowing myself can draw me closer to knowing the Lord. I encourage you to allow the Lord to search you and help you discover who you are so you can begin to live authentically as He intended.
Shalom,
Pastor Sheree

Friday, March 29, 2013

Resurrection Song

As we approach Easter, let us celebrate the victory the Lord has won for us. HE IS RISEN!
Have a Blessed Easter!
Pastor Sheree


Resurrection Song
Journey with me to Calvary’s tree, 
To see One who died for you.
Journey with me to Calvary’s tree,
And know what He said is true.
He came as a gift when the world was adrift,
In need of some hope and some light.
He promised that He was the light of the world and could scatter the darkness of night.
He was set apart to heal broken hearts and demonstrate God’s perfect will,
But some would not come and said, “God’s will is not done. This is a man we must kill.”
And so that last week in Jerusalem’s streets, the people would hail Him as king,
But on that dark night when His followers took flight, echoes of “Crucify!” did ring.
They raised Him up high, some laughed, others cried, was He just misunderstood?
How can it be that the ones who believed, now see their Lord nailed to some wood.
But in the end He would triumph again, and the grave would not keep Him at bay,
Victorious He rose, His enemies to expose, and usher in a brighter day.
Life is now ours for Jesus has conquered the powers of death and the grave,
His precious blood that was shed on the cross, now has the power to save.
Journey with me to Calvary’s tree and see that He hangs there no more,
Bow down and worship the Risen King, the One whom the Father adores!

(Rev. Sheree A Harrington, March 28, 2013)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cloudy Days

One of my new favorite devotionals is entitled, "Streams In The Desert." As I was reading last week during my time with the Lord, I was drawn to the daily verse which read, "The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness, where God was." (Exodus 20:21) italics mine. I never thought much about this verse. The majority of the time I am focused on what proceeds the verse which is the Ten Commandments. At the time this verse in Exodus 20 captured my attention, I happened to be sitting by my window observing the grey clouds in the sky. What stood out to me in this verse is that God is found in the "thick darkness." We don't often link God and darkness in the same sentence. John declares, "This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5) Although there is no darkness in God Himself, we sometimes have a hard time seeing Him. The meditation that day from "Streams In The Desert" encouraged  the believer to,"Forge ahead in the darkness without flinching, knowing that under the shelter of the cloud, God is waiting for you. Additionally a poem followed the meditation the theme of which emphasized that God sometimes comes in the clouds. I share with you that poem, "Have you a cloud? Something that is dark and full of dread; A messenger of tempest overhead? A something that is darkening the sky; A something growing darker by and by; A something that you're fearful will burst at last; A cloud that does a deep, long shadow cast? God's coming in that cloud. 
Have you a cloud? It is Jehovah's triumph care in this; He's riding to you, o'er the wide abyss. It is the robe in which He wraps His form; For He does dress Him with the flashing storm. It is the veil in which He hides the light, of His face fair, too dazzling for your sight. God's coming in that cloud.
Have you a cloud? A trial that is terrible to thee? A dark temptation threatening to see? A loss of some dear one long your own? A mist, a veiling, bringing the unknown?
A mystery that insubstantial seems: A cloud between you and the sun's bright beams? God's coming in that cloud.
Have you a cloud? A sickness--weak old age---distress and death? These clouds will scatter at your last faint breath. Fear not the clouds that hover o'er your boat, Making the harbor's entrance woeful to float; The cloud of death, though misty, chill and cold,
Will yet grow radiant with a fringe of gold. GOD's coming in that cloud." The last line of this poem is an encouragement because it reinforces what Jesus told His disciples about His return, They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory." (Matthew 24:30b) The book of Revelation adds, "Look He is coming with the clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and even those who pierced Him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of Him. So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)
We have a tendency to long for cloudless skies. This is what we call a "picture perfect day." When clouds approach we become disappointed and at times anxious especially when those clouds are dark, signaling possible stormy weather. But Moses was not afraid to approach the darkness because he knew God was there. So, the next time the clouds roll in and you're stumbling around in the darkness don't be afraid because, "GOD's coming in that cloud!"
Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Sheree


Saturday, March 2, 2013

One Bite

Before I begin, I have to offer a disclaimer. I am the owner of a MAC computer. So, this posting is not a MAC bashing endeavor but rather an interesting observation. I was sitting quietly last week without focusing on anything in particular when I began thinking about the Fall and Adam and Eve. The whole sordid story is told in Genesis 3. The interesting thing is that whenever the story of Adam and Eve is retold outside of the Biblical text, the fruit that they ate is always depicted as an apple. The Genesis 3 account does not tell us what kind of fruit Adam and Eve actually ate. We are told, "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband , who was with her, and he ate it." (Genesis 3:6) There is no mention of whether the fruit had a tough skin or soft skin, whether it had to be peeled or one could bite into it. Somewhere in history, the assumption was made that the fruit was an apple. The temptation Satan held out to Eve was that God was "holding out" on her. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5) As a result of their disobedience, Adam and Eve did gain an increased awareness of themselves and their choices. What does this have to do with MAC computers, you may ask? The insight that came to me is the irony of the symbol used for MACs, the apple, and the parallels with the Genesis story. God certainly has allowed humanity to develop the advances in technology that we take advantage of today. However, because of our fallen state, technology has become a "god" to many. The symbolic apple that represents MacIntosh products has a piece missing as if someone took a bite out of it. Once the apple has been bitten, the awareness of what the technology can do and how far it can go has become an endless pursuit. People worship the "god of technology" going to great lengths to obtain all it has to offer. Please excuse my taking liberties with the Scriptures but one could almost re-write Genesis 3:6, "When the people saw the "fruit" (symbolic apple, technological toys) was good for "food"(to feed the mind) and pleasing to the eye (all the visual colors and effects) and also desirable for gaining wisdom (for good and evil) they took and "ate" and also gave to their family, friends, and others." The result of Adam and Eve's sin follows all humanity and our worship of the "god of technology" has spread throughout the world. How many times have we seen the long lines in front of stores that sell apple products waiting for the newest version of phone or tablet to hit the market? Cell phone, computer, and tablet manufacturers develop their technology to be disposable and lose their value months after purchase to make way for the next new upgrade. Mental Health experts are seeing a new addiction to technological devices and have conducted studies in which people experienced actual withdrawal symptoms when they could not be "connected." Identity theft and hacking into personal and business accounts has become a popular pastime. All because of one bite. For those of you like me who grew up before all these technological advances, I sometimes wonder were we that bad off before the existence of these devices? Were Adam and Eve really that bad off before they took that bite of fruit? I have certainly come to appreciate the ease of being able to connect with others via e-mail or call for help from my cell phone if my car breaks down. But I need to remind myself that my happiness is not found in the "god of technology" but rather in the God of the universe. The One who created heaven and earth and gave His Son that I may not fall in love with what is temporary but with that which is eternal. Jesus cautioned, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21) So I encourage you to take "one bite" but "Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him." (Psalm 34:8)
Peace,
Pastor Sheree