Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Midweek Moment

This past Monday, Debbie and I were in Ocala serving with North Central District Committee on Ordained Ministry. This is the group that initially interviews those persons seeking to become pastors in the United Methodist Church within the Florida Conference.

As part of our time, one of the board members offered a devotional and closed with a prayer from St. Patrick, the Irish Prayer. I was so moved by this prayer and the words it contained that I wanted to share it with all of you. So, I invite you to find a quiet and comfortable place and allow these words to wash over you.

As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me. Amen.

I encourage you to read this again and notice the thoughts that go through your mind as you experience it. I found this to be an incredibly powerful and simple prayer; Christ in all things and Christ at all times. What a wonderful way to start the day, what a meaningful way to navigate a day, what a poignant reminder of the place Christ should have in our lives!

I know this time of year gets hectic, I know this time of year holds varied emotions for us all. As you continue your Advent journey, as you continue to exist in the waiting of this season, I invite you to remember Christ. In all ways and at all times and in all ways…Christ.

Blessings to you all,

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

1. Sunday Morning Worship - This week we will begin our Advent preaching series: Christmas Gifts That Won't Break. Pastor Daryl will be preaching this weekend with a focus upon "The Gift of LOVE" from Luke 2:10-20. Know someone who needs the  LOVE of Jesus this season? Invite them to come with you this weekend. We'll be worshipping at 8am, 9:30am, and 11am. 









2. Upwards Sports Returns!!!! 

Upwards Basketball and Cheerleading returns for another season at Community in 2019. Both basketball and cheerleading are open to students in grades K-8. Cost is $75 per student for the season, including the uniform. First practice is December 18th and the season runs in January-February. 







4. Looking Ahead to Advent - Be sure to mark these dates on your calendar for things coming up this season of Advent -

* Holiday Grief Seminar - Saturday December 8th from 10:30am to noon in the Fellowship Hall (no charge; call church office to RSVP) 
* Many Moods of Christmas concerts by our very own Chancel Choir - Sunday December 9th at 3:30pm and 6pm
* Blue Christmas Worship Service - Sunday December 16th at 3:30pm
Christmas Eve Worship - contemporary service at 5pm in the Family Life Center; traditional services at 7pm and 9pm in the sanctuary



4. GROW Night Dinner and Classes

We have just one final night of classes left in 2018: December 12th.

GROW Night classes will take a break from December 19 through January 9th. Dinner will resume on Wednesday January 9th and a new slate of classes will resume on Wednesday January 16th, 2019.



5. Christmas Eve Offering for Missions - Our Christmas Eve offering at all our evening services will once again ALL be going to missions. You raised over $10,000 last year for Water is Basic, to provide clean drinking water in Africa. This year, we will be raising money for Hurricane Michael Relief in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. One of the congregations in our conference is still matching gifts for Hurricane Michael Relief through the end up the year, so that means every dollar you give on Christmas Eve will actually be doubled! 

If you won't be here for Christmas Eve and would like to donate ahead of time, you can put your check in the offering plate or offering boxes (9Thirty and Seven02) and mark it "Christmas Eve offering" on the memo line. We'll make sure it all gets where it needs to go! 

Have a wonderful week and we will see you on Sunday! 

Blessings, 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Midweek Moment

Many of you know I lost my daddy this past September, the 17th to be exact. In the immediacy of his passing, I struggled to find the words to express how I was feeling. That is a funny thing for a preacher, for a wordsmith, to be at a loss for the words. Well, it wasn’t so much for words, but the right words. I was searching for the words that would give the proper weight to this loss in my life. It was more than sad, that was too shallow. It was more than a deep grief, that just seemed inadequate.

This was a man that shaped me, encouraged me, and loved me my whole life. This was a man that taught me the value of faith; as a parent and as my senior high Sunday School teacher. This was a man that I cannot remember a single moment of my life without his presence and support. And now he is gone. I know he is not gone from me forever, I know and believe what my faith has taught me that he has finished his race here on earth. But none of that touched the pain and loss I felt at his passing. Words…I needed words.

Then one day I received a letter from a colleague of mine. In it, he said he was sorry and that he would pray for me. But it was the last of his three lines that really struck me. He said, “This is a big deal.” That was it! Those were the words for which I had been searching. My daddy’s passing is a big deal. Those words, and all they implied, resonated with me.

With my daddy’s passing, I have entered the year of firsts; first Thanksgiving, first summer vacation, first birthday, and the list goes on and on. Those moments, those firsts, where I will be here and my daddy will not. One of those firsts is staring me directly in the face, the first Christmas. This one will be tough, for so many reasons, least of which is that he was the one that handed out the gifts on Christmas morning.

Several years ago, I started a tradition of offering a Blue Christmas service each December. This year we will offer this service on December 16th at 3:30pm in the Sanctuary. This is a service where people can come together and acknowledge the grief and loss they are dealing with in their life. Whether that be a loss of a loved one, a relationship, a chapter that is closing, or any other situation. These losses are hard…and they are a big deal.

This year, this service will be different for me. For many of you that have experienced loss, you have felt those difficult emotions in your own life. This service gives us as the church the chance to lament those losses, feel whatever emotion we experience as a result of it, and at the end of it share those feelings with God and acknowledge the hope we have in Christ Jesus.

Over the years I have come to see this service as a truly tender and sacred time. It means different things to different people, depending on their situation. But when we conclude the service and we come forward, write down our loss on a blue Christmas ornament and hang it on the tree as we ask for God to walk with us through it, there is something about that moment.

I want to encourage each of you to look around at the people in your lives and if you know of someone, including yourself, that could benefit from this service, please invite them. Invite them, offer to come and sit with them, and offer to sit with them afterward. One of the greatest means God has to share his love and presence with humanity is us.

While this time of year brings great joy to so many, it also brings difficult feelings to others. I pray each of us can be that vessel by which we can sit in the "blue" and share the hope of Christ with another person this year. May we be that light of Christ, in Advent, and all the year long!

Have a great week!