Pastor’s Ponderings March 2016

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If you have been wondering where on earth is the March Grapevine  then you are one I need to apologize to! I am so sorry this issue is late. It is entirely my fault! I am just back from a lovely week’s vacation, and I had forgotten to write my “Ponderings” before then. It has taken me quite a bit of time to catch up from other things I had forgotten as well.
 
As I approach my 65th birthday in September, I find myself worrying more about forgetfulness. It has always been a problem of mine. I can still hear my mother’s exasperated voice in my head as she says “Lynn, you would forget your head if it were not attached!” I have a feeling, though, that I am not the only one who can be chronically forgetful. I’m willing to bet you are more forgetful than you’d like to be too! If so, do you ever feel bad, as I do, about the forgetfulness in our everyday lives, whether it’s been your forgetfulness or someone else’s? If that is true, then this season of Lent is the perfect time to bring our forgetfulness and those who seem to have forgotten us to the Lord in prayer.
 

Lent is a time when we particularly look for those things in us that we struggle with, when we remember how inadequate we really are. Forgetfulness is actually a human condition – how easy it is to forget things we are supposed to do or others’ feelings when our acting or not acting affects them too.

As I think about my own forgetfulness and offer it up to the Lord, I am reminded of the thing that we are never to forget. And that is to love the Lord with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul, and all our strength and to love others as we love ourselves. We have a hard time remembering that from time to time too!

So here is the good news: God promises us in Isaiah 49:15 that even if a mother could forget her baby, God will never forget us, his children! In fact, God has proved that he will not forget us through his Son’s death and resurrection. God will, however, forget all our sin as we trust him to save us through Jesus Christ our Lord. May you never forget how much God loves you!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Lynn



Pastor’s Ponderings February 2016

Heart Leaf Banner Widget
February already, and we have a very busy month ahead! By the time you read this, I will be attending the Nehemiah Leadership Network Annual Gathering the 1st-4th.  We will be entering into the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday the 10Th; our Annual Meeting is Sunday the 14th; and children will have their winter vacation week the 15th-19th
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That’s enough activity to make our heads spin! But whenever I think of February I think of Valentine’s Day; this is the month dedicated to love, so beautifully symbolized by hearts in all sizes. So I just thought I would share what is on my heart concerning all of you and this church we call First Baptist of Ogdensburg, NY. 
 
In the 10 years I have served you as Pastor, I have seen many changes: our Sunday school is thriving and our attendance in worship is nearly doubled (when I first came in 2005 we counted a weekly average of 17-19; now we see about 35-40). Another change is that we have become more outwardly focused. We are more involved with outreach to our community through monthly sponsorship of the Community Free Lunch, our Blue Christmas, ongoing support to our city’s Neighborhood Center,  Rescue Squad, and Salvation Army. These changes are all very good. It shows our heart for ministry is in the right place – we want to be God’s agent for making God’s love visible. We want others to know the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We want to fulfill Christ’s great commission:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20).

At the same time, we are anxious. We are a small church that presently cannot sustain the costs of being the church as we know it without the funds drawn from our Endowment. It is estimated that we will come to the end of that funding in 6-8 years! What will be our church’s future? What is God’s answer for us and how will we know?

My heart has been heavy for the future of First Baptist Church of Ogdensburg, NY. It appears that our church is going the way many, many other old established churches in North America have gone – a memory.

Yet my heart is lifted as I hear stories of churches who have been on the brink of death have been reborn; they have been transformed into communities of faith who are interfacing with their surrounding community in significant ways. They are healthy and vibrant; they are passionately making disciples for the Kingdom of God! Can we become that kind of church? If so, how?

To answer these questions and learn what the Lord will have us do to make our way forward, the Official Board has committed to becoming a discernment leadership group. We will meet the 3

rd Tuesday of every month, first, to learn a discernment process and then to do this work of discerning. We will be using a book, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups by Ruth Haley Barton. She says:

“Discernment, in a most general sense, is the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and the activity of God—both in the ordinary moments and in the larger decisions of our lives. . .

Corporate or leadership discernment, then, is the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and activity of God as a leadership group relative to the issues we are facing, and to make decisions in response to that Presence. Spiritual leaders are distinguished by their commitment to discern important matters together so they can affirm a shared sense of God’s desire for them and move forward on that basis.”

We want to know with confidence what God has for us in our church’s future. We want and need to know what God would have us do in response.

Please pray for your Official Board members as they embark on this journey. Pray also that God will speak to your heart, that you will discern God’s desires for you and for our church. Feel free to share with us what is on your heart.

As I anticipate this work and look forward to the mighty things God will do in our midst, my heart is full. It is full of hope for our church and love for you.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Lynn


Pastor’s Ponderings January 2016

Red Happy New Year with Lamppost

It’s that time of year again! For me, the New Year always brings a deep desire to “do better” than I did the year before. Do you feel that way too? As I look back at all the times I have failed in keeping my resolutions I have come to realize that they have often stem from not measuring up or self-reliance (I need to improve and I’ll do it myself). How difficult it is for us to live into God’s unconditional love and acceptance of ourselves and to rely on God to help us become the persons God has created us to be. Rather than try so hard to become the people we yearn to be, maybe we just need to embrace the mystery that God loves us and gives us all we need to live out the call God has on our lives.

And so I share with you words of wisdom by Christine Valters Paintner, my online abbess with whom I have taken several online retreats to deepen may relationship with the Lord. May they guide you into the New Year as well!

New Year’s resolutions often come from a place of lack, or of thinking we know how to “fix” ourselves. Unfortunately, they are often fueled by a consumer culture that is eager for us to buy things to improve ourselves. Embracing mystery, on the other hand, honors our profound giftedness and depth and acknowledges that coming to know ourselves and God is a lifetime exploration. Here are ten essential practices to help support you in this journey.

  1. Breathe deeply. Our breath is our connection to the life force that sustains us. Let yourself be filled with awe and wonder at the marvels of this intimate gift. Sit for three minutes savoring that you are breathed into.
  2. Embrace night wisdom. One of the great gifts of dreams is that they reveal the shadows we must wrestle with and the joys that call to us, whether or not they make sense to the waking world.
  3. Dance freely. Dance is a way to experience union with ourselves, one another, and the divine. Each day put on one piece of music that you love, close the door, and dance. Pay attention to what rises up in the process.
  4. Follow the thread. Each of us has a unique unfolding story and call in this world. We don’t “figure this out,” but rather we allow the story to emerge in its own time.
  5. Trust in what you love. What experiences make your heart beat loudly, no matter how at odds they feel with your current life (and perhaps especially because they do)? Make room to honor what brings you alive.
  6. Let the rhythms of nature guide you. When we turn to the natural world we find with each day, each moon cycle, and each season a rhythm of fullness and emptiness. Embrace the filling and emptiness that immerses us in an experience of mystery.
  7. Release what is no longer necessary. Reflect on what is most essential. Then ask yourself, what are the thoughts, attitudes, or expectations about life that keep you from freedom?
  8. Remember that you will die. St. Benedict writes in his Rule to “keep death daily before your eyes.” This is never an act of morbid obsession, but a reminder of life’s incredible gift.
  9. Ask for the wisdom of your ancestors. Each of us is the inheritor of generations of stories that beat through our blood. We can call upon this great “cloud of witnesses” to support us in our own wrestling.
  10. Open yourself to receiving a word for the year ahead. In quiet moments, what are the desires you hear being whispered from your heart? What word or phrase shimmers forth, inviting you to dwell with it in the months ahead? Imagine if your New Year’s wasn’t about fixing or improving, but about deepening and transforming, about embracing the holy mystery at the heart of the world
© Christine Valters Paintner at AbbeyoftheArts.com Used by permission.

 

I hope you’ll choose one or two of these practices to embrace God’s mystery and honor your profound giftedness. God bless you and Happy New Year!

In Christ’s love, Pastor Lynn


Pastor’s Ponderings Dec2015

Advent Christmas Bulletin Template

By the time you receive this issue of our newsletter, we will have already observed our first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a very special time in our Christian year. Its 4 weeks mark a time leading up to Christmas, a time in which we are waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We remember how the world waited to receive him as a babe in a manger; our hearts yearn for his return as Prince of Peace to set the whole world aright.

Waiting. Waiting is the operative word.

I really don’t like to wait, do you?

I remember a waiting time when I was about 7 years old and my sister, Jan, was only 5. As soon as our father came home from work or right after supper, we would beg him to play a game with us. Dad usually didn’t oblige because he was tired, but this one time he did . . . or so we had thought.

“Ok, ok,” our father said. “We’ll play a new game. It’s called The Farmer and the Pigs. I will be the farmer and you two are the pigs that got out of the pen. You run and hide, and when I hear you go ‘oink, oink’ I will come and find you.”

“Promise?” I said. “Yes, I promise,” Dad replied.

Jan and I excitedly ran off through the house and hid together behind a bed. “Oink, oink,” we squealed. We waited. We oinked again and again louder each time. Jan turned to me and said, “He’s not coming. He is asleep on the floor like always (for some reason, our dad loved to stretch out on the floor as he watched TV).”

“No, he’s not,” I argued. “He will come for us. He promised!”

Jan would not believe this and went off to see if she was right. She was. She reported back and laughed, then she skipped off to find something else to do. I sat there stunned. I was crushed. He had promised!

Our lives are filled with waiting times and, often, broken promises. Waiting becomes hard when our hopes and dreams and, at times, when even childlike requests do not come to pass.

The good news about Advent is that Jesus will come. We who believe in him will live and reign with him in his kingdom forever. God our Father has promised! And God’s promises are never broken!

As we wait, may we be filled with hope; may God’s love be birthed anew in all our hearts!

Blessings to you this Advent season and a very joyous Christmas and New Year as well!

In Christ’s love, Pastor Lynn



11/22/15 Sermon & Reflection Question

Below is the last sermon in our stewardship series Live Free called “Free to Take Hold of the Life” and a reflection question for you to ponder. it is my prayer that as you have listened, reflected and prayed that you have deepened your understanding of what it means to care for all that God has given you and have grown in your love for God, yourself and others.
 
May you live free as you “do good, to  be rich in good works, generous and ready to share, thus storing up for yourself the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that you can take hold of life that really is life (1 Timothy 6:18-19)!

Free to Take Hold of the Life

How can I more fully seek God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness?




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