Ohmygoodness! When I got home last Saturday from our last session of Two Year Academy … Academy #38, for short … I was on Cloud 9! I felt as if I was on a different spiritual plain or level than I had been before. Or that I was more deeply attuned to the workings of the Spirit than I had been for much of my life.
In fact, I said to my husband after getting home from Schuyler, “Remember me for who I am at this particular moment in time. Remember me as I am now and for who I am being … for I am in my nearest perfect state of being, to date, and who knows how long it might last!”
To be sure, the Spirit is continually shaping and forming each of us, over time and continually, into the likeness of Christ. We can accept or deny that the Spirit is doing this, but it’s still happening, by God’s grace. If we choose to accept this, and we further choose to cooperate with the Spirit, we can grow exponentially in our likeness to Christ! And see the world through the eyes and heart of Christ!
We cooperate with the Spirit by putting ourselves in places or participating in spiritual practices or experiences that engage our spiritual selves with the Spirit itself, and I thank God for that!
Because … my nearest perfect state of being has, in fact, diminished. It was on the third day home that I lost it. Thinking back, it may have had something to do with anxiety Mr. Pat and I had about overlapping appointments scheduled later in the day. Regardless, “losing it” was a clear indication of how important it is to engage in spiritual disciplines for growing, or maintaining, our Christ-likeness!
For years, Mr. Pat has had a prayer hanging in his bathroom. He recently made a copy for me so I “might be able to pray it often.”
I want to thank you, Lord, for being close to me so far this day. With your help, I haven’t lost my temper, been impatient, grumpy, judgmental, or envious of anyone. But, I will be getting out of bed in a minute, and I think I’ll really need your help then. Amen.
I guess a sense of humor helps, too. Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
When I arrived at Academy #38 in the summer of 2016, I would say my soul was at peace each morning from praying with the monks at the Mission House, then walking around the lake at St. Benedict Center for 45 minutes. A great start to my day! But often that peace would leave me due to the stresses of ministry, living apart from my spouse, and typical family life. Looking back on those days, I would say that my prayers and walking kept me sane and connected with God, but life tried its hardest to unravel my peace on a daily basis.
Almost immediately I began "rediscovering" spiritual practices from seminary that I had set aside when life was "too busy." Journaling, fasting, creative writing (lyrics to a familiar tune), healing prayer. In a safe environment, I was invited during each session to go deeper. To work on my personal stuff. My shadow side. To seek the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and understanding in the now. And in the future. To explore or return to the less-utilized gifts God has given me and offer them to Christ’s service.
I began my Academy experience in August 2016. Little did I know that within four months my husband and I would learn he has a brain tumor. Little did we know that about a year later we would learn his tumor is malignant. I cannot begin to tell you how much strength, support, and shaping I have received through this Two Year Academy experience. The safety to ask deep questions of myself, the support of companions on this spiritual journey with me, the insights shared by faculty and sojourners alike have all made the journey to and through cancer not only bearable, but embraceable.
God loves me, as God loves all of God’s Dear Ones. God has always loved me, just as I am. Yet God is continually shaping and forming me, as I allow God to do so, more perfectly into the image of Christ. Less anger, frustration, doubt. More patience, compassion, faith. Less busyness for the sake of doing ministry. More deep listening to the Spirit and to companions on the journey of life. More confidence. More insight and understanding. More forgiveness. More peace.
Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
What happens to the Sunday morning worship bulletins after worship is over? Are they taken home for the announcements? Are they left in the pew? Or recycled? Or tossed in the wastebasket?
I learned this past week that some bulletins are taken to members of our church family who are living in assisted living or care facilities. This one-woman sharing ministry has been going on for awhile now and is appreciated by those who aren’t able to worship with their church family as easily as in the past. The bulletin has become a connecting point with their church.
To provide some back story, the Staff-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) has read Phil Maynard’s book, Shift, and is paying particular attention to the first shift he speaks of: from fellowship to hospitality. Leadership at our churches is looking at how we can best welcome newcomers to our church, as well as how to provide care for one another … regular worshipers and less regular worshipers alike.
Then the questions began: Are there others who might like to receive a bulletin? Probably so. Could we mail bulletins to some folks? Sure, let’s make a list. Is there a way folks will know we care if we aren’t delivering the bulletins in person? Yes! And this is how …
On the heart-shaped sticky note provided, you are invited to write a greeting, prayer, blessing, or “thinking of you” note. Leave room to sign your name. Then affix your “heart note” to a bulletin that you are NOT taking home! These “heart” bulletins will then be delivered or mailed to members of our church family every couple of weeks.
It’s a way to stay connected. A way to encourage faithfulness. A way to witness to our faith. A way to brighten someone’s day. A way to show we care.
God of Love, keep speaking to us and showing us ways that we can share your Love, the Greatest Love, with others.
Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
Seventy years ago this year, The Advance was born out of disaster — a postwar world where hope seemed lost for many people. Bringing people hope and healing in the hour of greatest need has been near the heart of The Advance for seven decades.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR, Advance #999895) has been central to the work of The Advance from the beginning. Whenever a natural disaster strikes anywhere in the world, UMCOR is likely to be involved, offering aid and relief in the name of Christ.
Today, every U.S. annual conference has a disaster-response office, along with clergy and laity trained and ready to help the church respond to emergency. That is a long-term strategic vision carried out by UMCOR — training people and depending on them to find and train more people, year after year.
UMCOR, one of the more visible ministries supported by The Advance, is only one of hundreds. The Advance funds more than 300 missionaries and over 600 projects affecting every geographical region of the world and the following areas of focus:
• Disaster Response and Recovery
• Economic Empowerment
• Evangelism and Church Growth
• Food and Agriculture
• Mission Personnel
• Social Justice
• Water and Sanitation
• Women and Children
As United Methodists, we have much for which to be thankful. Please join us in giving thanks for The Advance. Visit UMCmission.org/ give today, and choose the project or missionary you’d like to support. --Thomas Kemper, General Secretary, General Board of Global Ministries
Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
Maybe I was lacking in the “sense of humor” department. Or maybe my emotions were just too close to my skin in those days. Or maybe it’s because I was afraid of looking foolish in front of others. But when I was growing up, I didn’t much look forward to April Fools’ Day coming around.
It seemed like everyone else had pranks in mind to pull, but not me. I didn’t like to be made fun of, so I typically didn’t prank others. I didn’t want someone else to feel awkward like I often did after an April Fools’ joke.
I’m not sure how many times Easter Sunday has coincided with April 1, but in some sense, every Easter Sunday is kind of like an April Fools’ joke. What I mean is, every Easter Sunday, we remember and celebrate the fact that God took the death of Jesus and basically said to our world, “No, that’s not how it’s going down. You may think Jesus died on that cross, never to be seen or heard from again. But death is not the end. Things are not over!”
So the “joke” is on death itself. Not on a particular person or group of people. Which means that God’s “joke” doesn’t require a thick skin, or a certain IQ, or a sense of humor in order to “get it.” All it takes is a little faith. A little belief and trust.
On this April Fools’ Easter Sunday, let’s remember and celebrate the resurrection hope that Jesus’ life, death, and life after death gives us and all of God’s creation. Just as we do every Easter Sunday. And most every day of our lives. Living. Laughing. Loving. Healing. Hoping. Celebrating. Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
Pastor Pat Norris
Something to Ponder is by Pastor Pat and is printed on the back of the bulletin each week.