Acts of Kindness…change the world

Remember last winter, when two storms in a row came through and many of us went without power.  For my family, the first few hours of the first outage were fun, like camping: candlelight and storytelling, lots of blankets and cuddling.  It wasn’t so bad.  But, the fun lessened as the days passed by, and we went without tv, computer, hot water, and glorious heat.

By the third day of the second storm, all the charm had worn off.  We decided to escape the dark and cold for a few hours, and we went out to lunch.  Ah, the wonder of a warm space and hot food.  And it was fun to be out in the community, and hear people sharing stories and comparing their particular struggles in the power outage.  And then, the waitress brought us our bill.  “Your meal has been paid for.”

Surprise! Wonder!  Warmth (inside and out)!  A gift, a treat, a treasure! In the midst of the dark and cold, a glimpse of light! On our ride home, we were transformed. A gift of generosity that warmed us, fed us, sustained us.  Now when our family remembers those storms, one after another, what first comes to mind isn’t the deprivation, but the gift of a hot meal.

Acts of kindness are powerful and transformational.  They can surprise and delight, uplift and restore.  This Sunday, we’ll explore how offering kindness to others isn’t just nice or biblical, it’s life and even world changing.  Offering kindness is just one more way we choose the light, and lift our spirits.large_buscaglia_quote

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

Change the station

If I am tired and cranky (it happens), and a certain child of mine begins to whine or complain, my response is less than gracious.  But if that same dear child of mine asks to play a song, and if that song is fun and festive, well then, we dance in the kitchen.  Not well, and certainly not gracefully (ask my kids, they’ll tell you it’s not pretty), but oh there is joy and laughter.  In the singing and the dancing, I am transformed, saved you might say, by the power of rhythm, music, and a child’s loving laughter.  A cranky exhausted beast becomes a child again.

Music is powerful.  It can get deep within us to the places logic and reason just don’t reach.  It can make us laugh and cry and tap our toes.  It can inspire and move and comfort and provoke.

This Sunday, as we continue to choose practices that turn us toward the light, we consider the power of music to soothe our soul, change our mood and direction.  We ponder what it might mean to ask God to give us a new song.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

What are the songs that stir your soul, quiet your mind, lighten your spirit, draw you into the presence of God, fill you with joy?  Here are just a few of mine…

Or check out a play list of songs of light in darkness here.  What songs would you add?

Flip the Switch

After the hustle and bustle of Christmas, January can feel a little glum.

With gray skies, and short days, the sun can seem cold and distant.

While it’s a season of new beginnings, it is also a season between, not-quite, not yet…and our spirits can feel lost, beleaguered, dry, weary, and more.  Is it Seasonal Affective Disorder or Spiritual Affective Disorder that leaves us feeling less, less full, less joyful, less connected, less inspired.  Don’t you wish you could flip the switch to brighten the sun and your soul?

I’d love to offer you a solution to the seasonal blues, “in just three easy steps,” but it wouldn’t be true.  Instead, we can find together, practices that turn us toward the light and perhaps reinvigorate our souls.  We can choose practices that bring us joy, peace, grace, and time in the presence of God.  Each week, we’ll remember together practices new and familiar to help us reorient ourselves and our spirits, toward the light.  We focus not on our own efforts, goodness, or stamina, but rather on an openness to God’s love.

This week, we celebrate the gift of God’s light to brighten our lives, communities and the world.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

Choose Another Way

This Sunday, we celebrate Epiphany, the arrival of the wise ones bearing gifts for Jesus.  It’s one of those stories that we think we know better than we do.  The questions the text raises are many:

How many wise ones were there?  Where did they come from?  How old were they?  Were they all men? What did Mary and Joseph think when they showed up?  How long did they stay?  And what did Jesus think of those strange gifts?  What would a 2 year old do with a gift of myrrh?  What happened in their dream that they knew Herod was up to no good?  And what did they discover as they journeyed home by another way?

The story invites us leave behind our preconceptions and traditions, and hear it another way.  It invites us to listen as ones who are waiting for a sign, a light in the darkness.  It invites us to ponder, how might God be calling us to live or journey in another way?

With the celebration of Epiphany we begin a new Worship series, SAD: Spiritual Affective Disorder.  This new series invites us to ponder the darkness and discomfort of the season, and choose practices that lift up and enlighten our spirits.  This Sunday, come and choose another way.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

Hope…

I write this as I prepare for our Blue Christmas Worship, worship for those who are grieving, hurting, lost, afraid, frustrated, disappointed, or “just aren’t feeling it this year.”  It’s one of my favorite services of the year, because for me, it acknowledges that God is in the whole of human experience.  God is present when our hearts rejoice and when they’re breaking.

Sometimes we clean up the Christmas story so much it becomes nice, or sickly sweet, but lest we forget, it’s a story of human birth, in a stable, in an occupied land.  Jesus was born.  And his birth like every other human birth, caused his mother great pain.  It would have been messy, painful, and isolating.  And God was there.  The story of Jesus is a story of all the best and worst life has to offer, and the promise that God is in the midst of it all. Which gives me great reason to hope.

This Sunday, as we sing the fourth verse of Silent Night, we’ll reflect on what it means to sing with the angels “Alleluia’s to our king.”  What does it mean to worship a baby, God made flesh, who came to change us all, not by might, but by love?  Let us dare to hope, in the power of God’s love, to change our hearts and one by one, the world.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

Love

This week, the word of the day is Love, and it’s a really good word.  It encompasses so much in just four letters.  With some simple modification this noun and/or verb, can become adjective and adverb.  It can comfort, challenge, excite and inspire.  The word can raise your heart beat and soothe the soul.  It’s a good word, a powerful word, a transformational word.

Love. Consider all the people, places and things you love.  Consider the breadth, depth, and extravagance of God’s grace and love.55-19168-il_fullxfull-1409265151

Loved.  Ponder how very loved you are, by people and by God.

Loving.  Try to wrap your head around how  many ways God’s love is lived in the world. Try to number the ways you have expressed love for another person just in the last week–a hug, a gift, a blanket, food, notes, and on and on and on.

Love.  It’s a good word. And as good as it is as a word, it’s even better when it’s expressed, lived, shared.  This Sunday, we’ll sing love, pray as act of love, share love and more.  We’ll express our love for God and one another in word, welcome and more.  I hope you’ll be there!

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

Where’s joy?

Looking for something?

Have you ever:

walked into a room, and find you have absolutely no idea what you were there to do?

lost your car keys, wallet, or glasses only to find them in your hand or on your head?

misplaced a valuable heirloom or keepsake?

spent awhile playing “spot the difference,” or hide-n-seek?

been in a between time, discerning your next move, call, vocation, steps?

Looking for something can be confusing, humbling, heartbreaking, infuriating, frustrating, exhilarating and sometimes it can just be fun.

Tomorrow, as our celebration of the 200th anniversary of “Silent Night,” continues we’ll explore what it means to look for joy to see what “glories stream” around us.   It seems fairly easy to look around at all that is wrong with our world, but what would it mean to look for reasons to rejoice?

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

Calm and Bright

Imagine with me.  It’s Christmas Eve, and worship is drawing to a close.  The sanctuary dims, and a candle is lit, and people begin to sing, “Silent Night, Holy Night.”  Slowly the light is passed candle to candle, illuminating smiling faces and a few teary ones too.  I’ve celebrated Christmas Eve in my home churches in West Virginia, on both coasts,  the island of American Samoa, and in each church I’ve served.  And every time, I’m moved by the power of the simple moment, candle light and “Silent night.”  Could we create moments like that one in our homes and our daily lives more often?

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent, a new year in the life of the church.  I just love a new year!  An opportunity to try again, to start fresh, to re-prioritize, all with a fresh blank slate.

So, as begin another year of life as followers of Jesus, what new practices will you try to draw closer to the reason for the season?  What if instead of filling every moment with hustle and bustle, we instead chose to pause, reflect, and pray?  What if instead of being busy, busy, busy we simply paused to be?

Our theme for the season is Calm and Bright: Celebrating 200 years of Silent Night.  Each week as we get closer to Christmas we’ll explore one of the verses, and remember together the real meaning of Christmas.  We will pause together, to remember who and whose we are, and what the gift of the season truly is: love incarnate.

Tomorrow, we’ll hear again that ancient promise of the prophet Isaiah,

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined…
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us…  Isaiah 9: 6.

Join us for the start of a new year, a new promise of God’s peace.  Join us to sing familiar Christmas Carols and ponder anew, God’s gift of love for you.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

Gratitude: good for what ails you

It was one of those Sundays.  The kind where everything that can go wrong, does.  And then, something else happens.  We had the wrong prayers printed in the bulletin, and wrong hymns projected on the screen.  Our sound system didn’t work.  The mics didn’t have batteries.  I don’t remember, but it wouldn’t surprise me to hear I tripped as I processed into worship.  I’ve blocked it out.  It was that kind of Sunday.

And it got worse…our lay reader for the day made her way to the lectern to read.  She sat down her Bible, ready to read.  Instead, it exploded.  Pages and pages fell to the floor.  Whole chapters and books fluttered to the floor.  All the notes and mementos she’d stuffed between the pages, they went too.  She looked up and said something like “Well that’s never happened before.”  I wished I could say, “Go in peace,” and call it.

I’d love to tell you I found some way to tie it all together into some example of God’s grace in the midst of human imperfection.  I didn’t.  That day I was a real-time object lesson in the importance of slowing down, taking a breath.  Instead I barreled on, trying to out run the mistakes.  It didn’t work.  I got to the end of our worship, made my way to the door, grateful that it was over.  I wanted to go home and wallow.  If nothing else, we could give thanks that this Sunday, we were done, and next week was a blank slate, a new opportunity.

As people left, we greeted one another, some embarrassed on my behalf, others sympathetic, others awkward in the raw vulnerability of it all.  And here came Janet.  Janet who could always find the moment when God spoke, the moment of grace, the moment worth acknowledging.  More than once she would find some blessing in worship that I might have missed, a moment when God was moving among us.   I knew, to my bones, that this Sunday, even Janet would be hard pressed to find something good to share.

As I looked into her face, Janet was smiling with tears in her eyes.  “Wasn’t it beautiful?” she asked, real joy shining on her face.

“Wasn’t what beautiful?”  I asked, thinking of the long list of less than beautiful moments.  It was embarrassing, frustrating, shameful.

She interrupted my self-critique.  “That moment when we were showered in the word of God.  Wasn’t it beautiful?”  She meant it.  She wasn’t trying to make me or anybody else feel good.  She was genuinely moved by a moment.  She didn’t see disaster, she saw beauty, God’s word showered on us all.  And she was grateful.

Gratitude can change everything.  It helps us refocus on all that is good, right, holy and just in the world.  It gets us outside our own little worlds of scarcity, shame, fear, sadness, anger, frustration and irritation and helps us refocus on blessings abundant and extravagant.  When we notice what God is doing, we spend less time worrying about our own faults and failure.  Keeping our eyes open for a reason to give thanks can change a “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” into a sacred moment when we notice the showers of grace upon us all.

This Sunday, we’ll give thanks in word, song, prayer and praise!  Let’s give thanks for the Janet’s in our lives who open our eyes to see the world anew.  Let’s give thanks for God’s goodness and the blessings upon blessings showered upon us.  Let’s gather together and allow God to change our worry into gratitude, our mourning into dancing, and our sadness into joy!

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

God’s heart

For more than a month, our church has been exploring what it means to get outside our own little worlds, thanks to a series by Marcia McFee.  One week, through the theme, “Break My Heart for What breaks Yours,” we were each invited to consider the pain of the world.  This week, it feels like so much more than a thought experiment.  How is God feeling as the people of Pittsburgh grieve, comfort, cry out, and gather?

Outside my own little world…gunmen walk into houses of worship and sacred space is shattered.

Why?

I don’t know. Nor do I know if knowing would help, or if that kind of hatred can or ever should be understood. I don’t know.

I certainly can’t explain the hatred or the violence to my children.  I don’t know why it happened.  But I can talk about pain, and grief, the cost of violence.  I can try, again and again, to model showing up to stand in solidarity with others.  I can talk about God’s dreams for a world where all children, without exception are safe, loved, celebrated.  I can talk about differences of faith and culture as opportunities for curiosity and conversation, not isolation, division, or hatred.

Outside my little world…there is hatred, but there is love too, and hope, and great, great joy.  All the stuff that is out there, is within me, and you, too.  We’re given the opportunity to respond to tragedy, to acts of violence, to oppression and exploitation by choosing more violence and hatred, or love, compassion, grace, and justice.

What can we do in the face of such pain?  We can pray.  We can show up at vigils.  We can check-in on our neighbors.  We can talk with our children about ways to choose peace and love.  We can speak up.  We can vote.  We can learn.  We can look inside our own hearts, noticing our own hard-heartedness, and asking God to soften us, to “break our hearts for what breaks Yours.”

I hope you’ll join me at the vigil on Thursday Night at the Cape Cod Synagogue.

Praying for peace,

Pastor Heather

Standing in Solidarity, Cape Codders from all backgrounds will gather at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, at the Cape Cod Synagogue, 145 Winter Street, Hyannis, MA 02601. This interfaith gathering is in response to the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and other acts of intolerance, hatred and divisiveness.

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