It’s “Spring” cleaning time!

WELL, OKAY… Maybe SUMMER cleaning, but you get the idea!

The honest truth is that in the 5 years we have lived here, we’ve never found the “place for everything” so that we could put “everything in its place.”  Though we manage to keep the “public” areas of the house straightened up about 50% of the time, at the time of this writing I would be appalled to have anyone show up without notice!  Our lives have been full, and with working at home sans desk and filing cabinets, etc.  our Livingroom becomes a junk heap by the end of the week! And we have let clutter build up around the edges of our lives these past few months.  So time for that Spring… uh, summer cleaning!

In my Spring-cleans, first there’s just the old mail and other junk that needs to be recycled or disposed of, and useful stuff that never got put away after use.  I’ll also be throwing out a lot of things that have lost their usefulness – old notes and to-do lists of things that have been accomplished or abandoned – things that are no longer of value to anyone but me will be removed and either tossed or packed in a memory box – I will pack away tenderly the things there’s just not room to keep out (even a few Christmas decorations still, believe it or not!).

mementoesThen there are the pictures of family members gone but not forgotten, and some of the items that they once held dear.  Those are the hardest to dispose – whether it be giving them away, or just putting them in the trash when nobody but me would value it.  Mark and I have numerous items that belonged to our parents that fit this category, and we can’t hang onto their “stuff” forever.  (Though you know we will for a while longer…  Sigh.)

During this time when we as a congregation are searching for direction – seeking what makes us unique among all the churches, and what will be the “NEW NORMAL” after this pandemic is over  – I’d like for you to also think about what needs to be stored away, recycled or simply tossed out when we are once again together for worship.

Several items will not be useful, and even detrimental to us, when we are back together.  Hymnals and Bibles in the pews, pencils and offering envelopes, etc. will all have to be cleared from our spaces until a more ‘Virus-free’ time. Anything that might be touched often and needs to be sanitized after each use of our space will need to get stored away, at least for a time.  No offering plates – and certainly not a shared communion cup!  Oh, and singing… sorry, we can’t do that for quite some time.

Who are the people from the past that we have appreciated and honored?  Let’s celebrate their memory and also celebrate several who are still present.  And… what are some of the programs we are having a hard time setting aside or throwing out because they held them dear.  And what from their work among us will still be of great value when we re-open for in-person worship?

Are there “notes” and “to-do’s” from the past that need to be tossed.   Are there cobwebs and dust of old abandoned ideas that need to be cleared once and for all, so we can get a fresh start?

And what are the things that “make the cut.”  What are the core values the past has taught us, and ideas that are “keepers?”  We mustn’t lose the momentum on the things that work the best and are feeding our souls!  And the things that don’t take a lot of breath that could spread a virus!  Maybe some of those old ideas/programs only need a fresh coat of paint, or a “remodel” like some of the spaces in this old building that we love.  Let’s pull out our thinking caps and get the creative juices boiling on and think outside the box!

What attitudes might the people of this congregation want to take on in relationship to the future and its needs.  And what are the ways that we’ve related to one another that have not been helpful and meaningful?   Is there a way to abandon those ways, or throw them away?  What healing needs to be accomplished?  How can we best get a new start, keeping the best practices of the past, without letting it overwhelm us and prevent progress on innovation?

Lots of questions!  But, here’s just one quote:  “Seek first God’s reign and  justice, and all these things will be given to you besides.”  (Matt. 6:33)

In the Shadow

Published in the June 2019 Friendly Caller:  Here is a repeat of an article I wrote almost 4 years ago for the friendly caller.  I think the images are pertinent in all times:

God  watches over you – God is your shade at your right hand.     

– Psalm 121:5

There are times in our lives when God seems vividly “with” us.  We feel a spiritual presence, connection and guidance, and there is no mistake that God exists and cares for us.  And then there are the other times when we wonder IF God is there at all.

God is very much like the shade created by a sunlit day.  At times during the day we feel very connected to God’s presence. It is very vivid and there is no mistaking it, like the long shadow cast in the early morning or late afternoon sun.  At those times we are very much aware and can recognize the work of God in our lives, and the influence of the Holy Spirit. 

It is in the middle of our everyday lives, with life’s living and trials, that we can start feeling abandoned – for God’s “shade” in our lives is so short as to hardly be noticeable, like at noon-time.  At these times, God’s work in our lives does not seem quite so certain, so evident, so obvious, and we may even have to search for it!  We may even come to clearly doubt that God even exists, just like on the days that our shadow does not seem to be present at all on the darkest of days.

And yet, at ALL times God IS with us.  God is inexorably “attached” to us like the shadow that follows us everywhere, even when we cannot recognize or detect its presence on the dark days.  Whenever there is light, when we move, our shadow moves.  When we stop, our “shade at our right hand” stops.  We can depend on the fact that God is there, as surely as shadow is there whenever light of any sort is present.  When the sun has gone down, even then, we are enveloped in the shadow created by the earth itself shading the sun from us.

One of the affirmations at the back of our United Methodist Hymnal (#883) ends with the phrase:

“In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone, thanks be to God!”

This is the hope with which we live on a day to day basis.  The hope that God does not abandon us.  That God did not just set the planets to spinning, but is involved with us all on a day to day basis.  That our actions matter, and not only does God influence our lives, but our lives influence God.  Like the shadow that is moving with us, and is inextricably connected to our own movements, we are moving for and with God.  The hope with which we live is that God walks with us, and that it really does matter to God what constitutes our daily living.  We are not alone!  Thanks be to God!

“Under the shadow of thy wing, oh may we dwell secure Sufficient is thine arm alone, and thy defense is sure.” (Isaac Watts, 1719)

In the love of God – Pastor Karla