Monday, September 26, 2011

Next Sunday, October 2, is a busy day, with two meaningful themes occurring at the same time.

First, it's World Communion Sunday, one of six "special Sundays" in the United Methodist calendar. Your offering gifts given on this day helps provide scholarships for racial and ethnic minority students. During the last four years, the UMC family has raised $900,000 to $1.1 million each year.

Secondly, October is Saint John's Bible Month at First Church and we will be celebrating this remarkable achievement church-wide.

Our scripture for this week -- Genesis 1 - 2, there's only one because it's rather lengthy -- is a rather fitting way to honor our opportunity to participate in the Saint John's Bible tour. This is the only handwritten and illuminated Bible commissioned since the advent of the printing press more than 500 years ago. The bible was written and drawn entirely by hand using quills and paints hand-ground from precious minerals and stones such as lapis lazuli, malachite, silver, and 24-karat gold.

Prints of some of the artwork and scripture will be on display at FUMCSD throughout October. This Saturday, First Church is hosting a kick-off evening, an opening gala with a price that can't be beaten, $10. If you haven't registered, but sure to do it soon. We expect a lot of interest. There are also classes and events throughout the month of October that will satisfy your need to learn more.

Those who attended the Wednesday evening classes with Rev. La Due and Rev. Smith agreed, the classes set the stage for a deep learning experience. We reviewed some of the illustrations from St. John's Bible and you may be surprised, as we were! "The Saint John’s Bible illustrates scripture from a modern perspective, reflecting a multicultural world and humanity’s enormous strides in science, technology and space travel, as well as recent wars and genocide." One of the prints we studied, pictured above, showed a communion table as one might imagine it in biblical times. however, if you look closely, there are modern-day reference. For example, in the upper left-hand corner, the small chapel. Definitely NOT from biblical times. In fact, it is a chapel on the Saint John's campus.

What I have enjoyed most is reading the reviews... imagine! People getting excited about the Bible. What a tribute, what a miracle... Why? According to the Pew Research Center, in 2010, religion stories accounted for two percent of all coverage, up from one percent in 2009. "The uptick in coverage was driven by a few big stories, including controversy over the Ground Zero Mosque and Pastor Terry Jones' plan to host a Koran-burning event."

Now, thanks to the folks behind the Saint John's Bible, the world is taking notice. Perhaps this "undertaking of biblical proportion..." will touch a new heart, change another life... and the Good News marches on!

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rivers, Oceans, Bodies of Water

We have reached our fourth and final Sunday in our Season of Creation celebration: River Sunday. But since your Water's Edge Worship Team is San Diego-based, we had to broaden the subject a wee bit. We're going to celebrate the ocean too, and frankly, just about any body of water that is sacred or significant to you!

I'm guessing a lot of you will feel like Beckie Henselmeyer and I, two girls who grew up Boogie boarding and body surfing in the great Pacific: to us, the ocean is God. The power and majesty of crashing waves, the never-ending horizon, the place where your crazy day comes to a close with a breath-taking sunset. Our ocean is a constant and reliable reminder of just how small we are and how much bigger God is. Surely, if he can handle the great waves of the Pacific, he can handle our concerns and problems, no?

I lived in Missouri for the first year or so of my reporting career. My house was in Macon, Mo., a very small town with one stop light, a Wal-Mart and an adorable town square centered next to the courthouse. The nearest body of water was right there, Long Branch Lake State Park (Picture above). I made about 10 cents an hour back then so my days off were filled with free recreation. I often loaded up my bike and headed for the lush, tree-rimmed lake. One time, a friend and I rented a canoe and promptly tipped it over. We were laughing so hard we couldn't get back in the canoe, but made new friends when a speed boat full of folks came to rescue us.

As beautiful as it was, that lake did not tap into my spirit as a visit to the shores of our Pacific would. I could not shake the feeling that I was land-locked. I longed for the violent crashing roar of some monster waves. Years later, living at the edge of Lake Michigan, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I thought that feeling would ease, afterall, that horizon seems never-ending too. Not a chance. I need the ocean. Even though God is with me wherever I go, and I never doubt that, I get claustrophobic if I can't "feel" the nearby shoreline.

Hmm. Whadya make of that? My cousin (pictures above) would say, "You're a bird!" By that, she would mean I'm odd. I say, "Okay, I may be a bird, but at least we know what kind of bird I am: a seagull!"

Where in God's great creation are the waters that speak to your soul?

See you Sunday!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Jesus' Wilderness

This Sunday is Wilderness Sunday, according to the Season of Creation liturgy. In previous posts (see below), some of us mentioned trees, flowers, mountains... as the images that come to mind when "wilderness" is mentioned.

But Rev. Elbert pointed out that, in Jesus' time, and really throughout the Bible, "wilderness" is more akin to a desert scene.

In Mark, we read about Jesus' baptism and his temptation... in the wilderness/desert. In Hebrew, the word "midbar" means wilderness, uninhabited land, tracts of land (around cities). So, wilderness is more than a place; it's a concept... an area that is beyond: beyond cities and organized civilization. Perhaps that's why the word, in our modern day, elicits thoughts of getting away, putting down the electronics, turnning off the phone, and spending time in a place and space where faith can be honed and the spirit can take root.

See you Sunday... and leave your Blackberry/iPhone at home! ;-)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Call of the Wild

On Sunday, September 18, our third in the Season of Creation series, we will be celebrating wilderness. (Forests. Land. Wilderness. Rivers.)

The related Bible verses are many... we'll chose key portions for Sunday's service, but, if you'd like to read all of the related texts, here's what the Season of Creation liturgy recommends:

Joel1:8-10, 17-20
Psalm 18:6-19
Romans 8:18-27
Matthew 3:13-4:2 OR Mark 1:9-13

Do you have a favorite spot in "wilderness?" I'll admit, I'm not much of an outdoorsy gal. Silver-level Girl Scout badge aside, I'd rather read about wilderness from the comfort of a down-filled hotel bed... or so I thought.

Then, I read John Steinbeck. His capacity for description is boundless. He made me fall in love with the Salinas Valley before I ever set foot near it. After reading this, I made a pilgrimage of sorts to Monterey-Salinas to experience- in person- Steinbeck's Salinas wilderness.

In East of Eden, (modern version of Cain and Abel... man was cast out, East of Eden, after his "fall.") Steinbeck describes the good and the bad in all of us, beginning with the land. He hits this theme, from the opening chapter, using the splendor of Salinas Valley, saying
I remember that the Gabilan Mountains to the east of the valley were light gay mountains full of sun and loveliness and a kind of invitation, so that you wanted to climb into their warm foothills almost as you want to climb into the lap of a beloved mother. They were beckoning mountains with a brown grass love. The Santa Lucias stood up against the sky to the west and kept the valley from the open sea, and they were dark and brooding—unfriendly and dangerous. I always found in myself a dread of west and a love of east. Where I ever got such an idea I cannot say, unless it could be that the morning came over the peaks of the Gabilans and the night drifted back from the ridges of the Santa Lucias. It may be that the birth and death of the day had some part in my feeling about the two ranges of mountains.

Later, he describes the bounty of the flowers, in all their glory... and this is truly, exactly what I saw:
The whole valley floor, and the foothills too, would be carpeted with lupins and poppies. Once a woman told me that colored flowers would seem more bright if you added a few white flowers to give the colors definition. Every petal of blue lupin is edged with white, so that a field of lupins is more blue than you can imagine. And mixed with these were splashes of California poppies. These too are of a burning color—not orange, not gold, but if pure gold were liquid and could raise a cream, that golden cream might be like the color of the poppies.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Land Ho!

As we head into our second week in the Season of Creation, we're leaving the forest and heading out to explore "the LAND, the soil and land creatures."

The particularly cute "creature" in the picture above is Marion Hart's son, at home in the garden, enjoying the soil! Thanks for sharing, Marion! And to all of you who sent photos, many thanks.

Do you have any favorite memories of land? Maybe it's the land that your favorite school sits on? Or memories of a special hide-away you built as a kid? Land, soil, Earth - the connection can provide stability and calm in so many ways.

When they were young women, my great aunts joined their father and "homesteaded" in the great land rush in Oklahoma in the late 1800s. Even though I grew up in California, I love the idea of being connected to that land.

Maybe it's because I'm Irish, but I adore that scene in Gone with the Wind when Gerald O'Hara promised Tara plantation to Scarlett: "Land is the only thing that lasts..." he said.

And, eventually, even Scarlett O'Hara set aside her vanity and recognized the the power of that land and of going home.

Connecting the land back to its Creator God, our creator, is our Season of Creation journey for this week. So, come on back to the Water's Edge... come home...

Hi all,

Just thought you might enjoy reading the poem that Bill wrote and shared in Sunday's (9/4) service at the Cove.


The task of every generation is to make sure

They don't end up knowing a lot about nothing.

Wisdom is knowing what is and is not important.

In my "tribe"

There are those who are "in" and those who are "out."

There are those who are "good" and those who are "bad."

There are those who are "saved" and those who are "lost."

What tribe does God belong to?

How do we break through our prejudices and judgments?

Who I listen to depends on what I hear.

Do I listen to CNN or CNBC or Fox?

Do I listen to the Democrats or Republicans?

Do I listen to the Conservatives or the Liberals?

Jesus, listened to the victims, the persecuted, the survivors.

If I am to make it through this crisis I am in,

Then I must seek the courage and humility

To expand my love so that no one is left out.

Not even the one who is causing me so much hurt.

I must be open to the breath of God into my life...

The breath that is common to all of us.

To breathe yet again,

And deeper,

And bring me to my own soul's awakening.

It is then that change and hope will follow.

Friday, September 02, 2011

A Poem as Beautiful as a Tree

Trees on the brain. That's my new malady. I've been thinking about trees all week. As we approach our first Sunday in the Season of Creation, we will be considering and honoring the forest. That could mean any creature in the forest... lush ferns, tiny, hopping frogs, freshly-fallen pine needles... But, what's the most prominent picture you see when you close your eyes and picture the word "forest?"
For me, it's the trees.

My sister-in-law, Jennifer, loves to re-connect with nature and God by visiting the Muir Woods in Northern California. For her, it's an all-senses experience with sounds: birds, babbling brooks, a quiet where "everything stops"; smells of pine and fresh air; sight- those magnificent redwood trees. "It's so majestic. You couldn’t possibly be any closer to God than when you're lost among in those trees. I feel like such a tiny, little spec next to something so huge and old and gorgeous."

What are your favorite trees? The avocado tree in mom's backyard? Palms trees in Hawaii? Share your memories with us!

For more on writing about trees, I turned to an expert- Joyce Kilmer: poet, journalist, father and man of faith. Some say his poems were too simple, but his most famous - TREES - surely speaks to what we are celebrating on Sunday.

by: Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)

I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

See you Sunday!