Okay, okay, I admit that I am addicted to this precious little face and can’t wait to have him in my arms again! Josef will not be able to imagine the depth of my love for him, just as we cannot fathom God’s for us. See how much God loves us: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1 “For great is God’s love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD.” Psalm 117:2 And scripture goes on and on telling us of God’s love… What if I could have such over the top love for God, as I have for Josef, and as God has for me? And… exhibit it, to God and to the world? How awesome would that be! There are times in our lives when we can/could say that we are, “on fire” for God, but most of the time such elation does not last, nor need it. Our love for God is not diminished because it changes over time, from a wow, new born again emotion, to a seasoned, "I am so comfortable with our silence together" kind of love. I don’t know where you are in your spiritual journey with the Lord, but wherever you are, I pray that you will always find awe, and depth, and presence, and sometimes even feel the "on fire" love that says, “I cannot wait to be in the arms of my Lord again.” With that kind of relationship and our kind of God, we will have strength for today, hope for tomorrow, and our love for God will show in our loving service to God's beloved world! In Christ, Pastor Laura <><
Dear friends in Christ, February 2014
We are calendar-oriented people. I am not sure how old I was when I realized I thought of life as an ever revolving circle of time, called a calendar year, marked by (at least in our neck of the woods) the four distinct seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. As Christians we also follow a unique calendar that does not mark changes in weather, but has seasons none-the-less. Through songs sung, music played, prayers, scriptures, preaching, sacraments, colors draped, studies, special gifts given, meals shared, pageants, and candles lit, our Christian liturgical seasons shape the way we experience and practice worship, fellowship, mission, and study.
The seasons of the church year are:
Christmas Cycle - Advent (Christian New Year’s) & Christmas
Easter Cycle - Lent and Easter
Ordinary Time (not truly a season)- is celebrated in two segments: from the Monday following the Baptism of Our Lord up to Ash Wednesday (March 5th this year); and from Pentecost Monday to the First Sunday of Advent. This makes it the largest “season” of the Liturgical Year.
Ordinary Time? Sounds rather dull. Who wants ordinary? Although I agree that Christmas and Easter are the high points of our Christian year, Ordinary Time is essential to our faith, for it is in this time that we follow Jesus and learn directly from Him. It is during the “ordinary time” after Pentecost that we walk, learn, and struggle with fellow disciples. Ordinary Time is not “common, mundane, or run of the mill”.
And this brings me to you, dear ordinary friend. Maybe most of us are what the world would call ordinary, but God does extraordinary things with us ordinary people. You and I have been called to be witnesses to the new life that is in Jesus, and that is nothing ordinary! Through your loving, caring, welcoming presence here at church and out in your everyday world, you are taking with you the light of Christ as hope for the world. God chose Mary and a carpenter to parent Jesus. God has chosen and is enabling us, no matter our brokenness or weakness, so we have no excuse in our plea as “just ordinary”!
Won’t you come along and join the rest of the wonderfully ordinary bunch here at The West Hebron United Presbyterian Church? And, if you are unable to be here in person, would you please keep Jesus’ ministry, at the WHUPC, in your prayers?
God bless you and may the peace of Christ be with you!
Pastor Laura <><
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” - Philippians 4:13
Dear Friends in Christ,
In our Thursday morning prayer group, my husband Phill asked, “I wonder if the root of the word Advent is adventure?”
advent (n.) "important arrival," 1742, an extended sense of Advent "season before Christmas" (Old English), from Latin adventus "a coming, approach, arrival," in Church Latin "the coming of the Savior," from past participle stem of advenire "arrive, come to," from ad- "to" (see ad-) + venire "to come"
After reading the above I think you will agree that it certainly is related. I love the image of our Advent waiting and watching, our Advent journey to the manger, our Advent reflections and times of silence, to be part of a big, beautiful adventure! An epic Advent Adventure, where we both await and actively prepare for the most “important arrival” of all.
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (KJV)
Read it again!
That is the culmination of our Advent Adventure!
Emmanuel, God with us!
How wonder-full, how amazing that we could be loved so much!
May you have a blessed Advent and joyous Christmas,
Pastor Laura <><
Dear friends in Christ,
I have received contradictory answers to the question, “Does time continue to go faster and faster the older you get?” Some say yes, and others, including Henry, my father-in–law, who at 90, said no. I will soon turn the old speed limit of 55 and I reflect on the fact that the past two years have indeed flown by. I am hoping that Henry was correct and that life will not become a blur---the year coming to a close before we can take notice of its gifts. I do not want my days to pass too quickly. They are gifts from God, and so today, as I sit to write these words, I purposefully became aware that the sun is streaming in, the trees are gold and brown and some bare, the air is brisk, and my office warm. There are at least two keys to slowing down the rat race pace of life.
First- Most of us spend our time either worrying about the future or ruminating about the past. Instead be thankful for the past, hopeful for the future and try practicing what some call mindfulness, spending more time in the present; really, really taking notice of what we are doing… feeling… sensing, right here and now… slowing down enough to notice God’s presence and love in our lives and world.
Second- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” ~ Meister Eckhart
My prayer for all of us is that we can be counter-cultural; Slow down and say, “thank you God!”
Notice God’s generous loving presence, be thankful, and respond with our gifts in return, of our time, our talents, and our treasures.
Even though our 21st century lives will continue to be busy, practicing mindfulness and gratitude just might make it slow down a bit, helping us to find the peace that passes all understanding promised through our Lord Jesus Christ, a peace that defies the rat race pace.
God bless you,
Pastor Laura <><
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17
Dear friends in Christ,
“Summertime and the livin’ is easy!” I love that beautiful spiritual from the Broadway production “Porgy and Bess”. With the warm, humid summer weather, our bodies crave a little slowing down, a sit in the shade with a cool glass of lemonade. With the exception of the little ones, home from school on summer vacation, the rest of the world continues at full pace, resisting most any call to easy living and lemonade respites. Vacations, visitors, gardening, home maintenance projects (aka do it your self), concerts, outdoors sports, camping, BBQ…on top of our usual work schedules. Phew, I am tired writing about it. Summer vacation, what is that?
Is it possible to resist the pressure to do, do, do, and instead take a few precious summer moments to sit in the hammock or take a slow walk being mindful of all of the beauty that summer affords? The to do list needs to be done (I suppose J) but the body, mind, and spirit require rest and renewal. Summer really only lasts about eight weeks in the great northeast wouldn’t you agree? Carve out some time each day, or at least each week to slow down. Take a moment to truly experience God’s stunning creation; take in the vistas, breathe in the warm summer air, feel the breeze or even the rain, see how many bird songs you hear, count the number of wild flowers on the edge of the road.
And…remember to give thanks to our loving creator for all of the above. I pray the wonderful busyness of summer doesn’t distract us from Sabbath rest and our call to worship God. Wherever this summer finds you, find time to spend in reverence. The ceiling fans are on and I hope to see you in worship here at West Hebron, but if you are away, find a place to worship and bring me back the bulletin J. Summertime and the livin’ is awesome! May you be blessed in all you do and in your lemonade moments.
Love in Christ,
Pastor Laura <><
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)