On Growing Up…

From the desk of Dottie…

We have been finding ways make major changes in our lives through the series, reStart Your Life.  So far, we’ve considered 1) What needs to die in our lives; 2) How to be your own Life Scout; 3) The need to fail big and fast, and get up and do it again; 4) How to be creative with your new life; and 5)  Falling in Love with God and life again.  It has been a journey that has taken some of us deeper into the stores of our memories, bringing us to look at our current situation, and called us to the place where a reStart is possible.

This Sunday, we will look at Going Deep with God.  What I mean by “going deep” is moving away from our childhood view of God and life, and releasing ourselves to finally grow up!  Jesus wanted us to be Christians who gained height in the faith, and not ones that remained in childhood forever.  He called his disciples to “grow up” and “grow out” right before he left this earth.  And Ephesians 4:14-15 (in The Message) reminds us,

“Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything–and I do mean everything–connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And take on an entirely new way of life–a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.”

We all need to continue growing, to resist complacency with life as it is, and to move toward a life that is a reproduction of God’s character.  The invitation to mature faith is not easy, but it is rewarding.  After all, who wants to live with a 2-year old Christian forever?

I’m looking forward to seeing you Sunday.  I’m confident you will bring along those in your life who also are seeking growth.  And I’m so glad that your worship of God will take place every day this week.

See you Sunday!

In faith, hope, & love,

Pastor Dottie

on reading Scripture…

This week I’m in Fresno, California in a studio called Floodgate Productions.  I am being taped reading portions of the new Bible translation, The Common English Bible.  Yesterday I read Ruth, Lamentations, and some Psalms.  I have put in one and a half days, and have three more days of reading.  I have been really excited about this project because I love reading the Bible, and because I want everyone to read it.  But there are many people who just don’t like to read that much, but now, with an audio version, you can listen to it on your way to work or while working out, or as a devotional time at the beginning or the end of your day.  The thing I’ve been jazzed about, is that people will hear the word in a way that reaches into the future.  We will never know how this reading brings hope to people, but we know it will bring hope, and faith, and love for generations to come.

I’m grateful, then, to Paul and Len at Abingdon Press, and to Gary(Doug), Judy, Dave, Jason, Josh, and Lorrie at Floodgate Productions.  They have done the hard work, and they have dedicated so much time and expertise to the project.

But, I thought….really, I thought this…that reading the Bible would be easy.  After all, I’ve been doing it for awhile.  But on the first day of recording, I found out otherwise.   I was on the second verse of the first chapter of Ruth (which was the second verse I had read in studio) and we had to do it over so many times…maybe 22 times….  It’s embarrassing to be at Take 22 on Verse 2!  AAAUUUGGGHHH!!!!

Day Two was easier.  I changed some things.  I imagined reading to the people of CrossRoads.  I saw your faces and told the story to you.  I took away the chair and stood up…like I was standing you before you on Sunday morning.  And I took off my shoes, so that I understood I was on holy ground.  Reading the Bible is being on holy ground.  Then it came…I read without 22 takes per verse.  We laughed, sometimes the scripture made me cry and I had to stop and breathe, and then we laughed again at some of my stupid mistakes of the tongue.

Amy Grant sang a song that made a verse in the Bible popular.  The line in the song (and the Bible verse) goes:

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

The Common English Bible version of Psalm 119:105 says it this way,

“Your word is a lamp before my feet and a light for my journey.”

I pray this week will benefit all of us who need light for the road of our lives.  And, as always, I’m praying for you!

With faith, hope & love,

Pastor Dottie

I Forgot to Dance!

I had an incredible weekend with Jim in DC.  We went to celebrate with our friend, Rev. Dr. Joe Daniels, who has pastored at Emory for 20 years.  Twenty years in one church in the UMC is quite an accomplishment these days.  And this faith community reflects the deep love that has bathed them by Joe’s presence among them.  If I could choose any church to attend, besides CrossRoads, this one just might be the one…

So we celebrated with the church community on Saturday night at a banquet.  We enjoyed every speech and a special message about real love from Pastor Rudy Rasmus, all the accolades for our brother and his beautiful family, the worship music, and the way Joe just sat there smiling through it all…

Then Sunday came.  Jim and I walked into the church and received the usual hugs. If you’ve never been to Emory, it’s worth going just for the hugs.  They aren’t polite hugs, but hold-you-till-you-feel-the-love-hugs.  The hugs alone make me feel the heart of God.  The first worship song had me in tears.  (I have never gone to this church without experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit to move me to tears).  As the worship with music continued, and I felt the sway as the congregation moved their bodies in unison with the sound, and unashamedly raised their hands to lift up God.  Wanting to close my eyes and melt away into the flow of God’s love,…its a powerful pull…

The Reverend Vance P. Ross was preaching.  His was a powerful word about how we worship God in spirit and truth and how our lives are a worship service, and how sometimes we pretend-worship because our lives don’t match our hearts desire.  That’s how the sermon touched me:  every moment is worship, and in order to be in worship, we first need to be followers in spirit and truth with all of our day-to-day lives.

But, later, something hit me really hard as I sat in the airport waiting to board for the long trip home.  It was like a bright flashing light entered my soul and reminded me that I could’ve danced!  I could’ve danced, but I missed the chance to let loose and let God move in my stiff, Hispanglo body.

It happened before the sermon…

Joe was in a celebratory mood.  The celebration dinner was done and the sermon was being delivered by a trusted friend, and he was just there to greet and worship.  I know that is a relief for a pastor every once in awhile to just join in the fun.  And somehow the band got to vamping after the offering, and Joe started leading us in singing these words to the music of the Electric Slide…

Ain’t no party like the Holy Ghost party,

Cuz the Holy Ghost parties all the time…

And then he and others got up front and started doing the Electric Slide line dance to the music.  Pastors were dancing.  People were dancing.  Family members were dancing (one family member was videotaping the fun), and of course, children were right up there dancing to the Holy Ghost party.

I really enjoyed watching everyone, but like I said before, I missed something crucial!  I missed the one chance I had to really join in the worship with my BODY, mind and soul…  I was hesitant to dance because it’s not in my culture to do so in church, and because I’m shy, and because I’m not a very good dancer, and because I have a thousand and one excuses not to dance before God my Creator, the Lover of my Soul…

King David was transporting the Worship Chest back to its proper seat and he knew that worshipping God was a part of the deal.  And so it says, that David worshipped the Lord with abandon:

David, dressed in a linen priestly vest, danced with all his strength before the Lord. 2 Samuel 6:14, CEB

David didn’t just move his body a little, he let loose and used everything he had in him to dance before the Lord.  He really let loose!  I wish I could’ve seen that!

Oh, but ,… maybe I did.  I did see dancing with abandon before the Lord at Emory UMC, led by The Rev. Dr. Joseph Wayne Daniels (that’s Daniels with an “s”).  It just happened later, in my lifetime, in a church on the other side of my world.

And I stood there and enjoyed it, but I forgot to dance.  My bad.  My sad.  I could’ve danced.

Sunday’s coming… I hope you worship God in spirit and truth.  I hope you feel the love.  I hope you don’t hold back in worshipping the One who loves you the most.  And, mostly, I hope you get to dance.

In faith, hope, and love,

Pastor Dottie

Another Christmas Sermon or Two…

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus (reimagined by Matt, Laura, and Noah)

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus (reimagined by Matt, Laura, and Noah)

Today I am digging in the home front and spending the day preparing two Christmas sermons:  one for Christmas Eve services, and one for Christmas Day.  Every year I tell this story at length, utilizing Advent season to bring out the nuances of the amazing miracle of God coming to earth to be present with us.  It’s an incredible story and one that takes more than one Sunday to tell…  (The same goes for Easter!)  So today as I think of all that I’ve already said, and the two more messages to get out, I’m wondering what is left to say.  Really, so many times what I really want to do is play “A Charlie Brown Christmas” where the story is told in its beautiful simplicity by little Linus.  (Charlie Brown Christmas – YouTube)  And yet every year I seek to make it fresh by adding something current and relevant.

In seminary we took a class on Story by Mary Elizabeth Mullino Moore, and she taught us that the story itself will transform lives.  Our interaction with the story matters, but even so, the simple story will go down deep into a soul and do what stories do:  change the world.  I am remembering this as I prepare.  God is in the story and I am the story teller, but all that we preachers have to do this season is remember, relate, and retell an old story that never gets old, boring, or mundane.

Especially now.  When culture is barfing up materialism in the name of Christmas, this story will shine brightly to a world seeking for the real experience of God.  This is it!  This is our experience!  The story of a God who loves and cares for us so much that this God moved toward us, embracing us with the kiss of a sweet baby, a lone manger, and a tender message of hope.

Hope I do the story simple this year.

Faith, hope, & love,

Pastor Dottie