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Baptist Women of SC

Peace and Chaos

by Rev. Jennifer McClung Rygg, Pastor, First Baptist Pendleton

To tell the truth, I feel like possibly the least qualified person to write a reflection on peace. I read Mary’s words in Luke 1:38, and I am in awe of her willingness to enter the unknown with so little information. An angel unexpectedly appears and announces to Mary that she will give birth to the Son of God, and Mary says “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word”. What faith…what trust…what peace!

Meanwhile, I am struggling to keep up with all of the Christmas activities – the church programs, the school activities, the family gatherings, along with all of the necessary preparations, not to mention the “ordinary” stuff of laundry and dishes and trying to be patient with my children. As a pastor and mother of two young children, “peace” is not exactly the first word that comes to mind when I think about my life these days. How far I feel from Mary, who did not know where they would sleep that night in Bethlehem, who gave birth to her son with so little resources and support, and yet who said “let it be with me according to your word.”

But perhaps my struggle to feel “peaceful” is because my understanding of peace is too small. My life may not be calm, quiet, and organized, but God’s peace is certainly present. When my 3 year old says “I really love you, Mommy,” and my 1 year old reaches his arms up to me, I am reminded that peace can be found in the midst of temper tantrums, runny noses, and endless piles of laundry, When I see church members welcoming guests, giving generously, and excited about opportunities to connect with our community, I am reminded that peace can be found in the midst of a society that seems less and less interested in church. Peace is not the absence of conflict or worry or struggles, but peace is finding tranquility even in the chaos.

When Mary said “Let it be with me according to your word,” she had to have known the road ahead would not be an easy one. Yet she accepted the challenge, not expecting it to be free from conflict, but knowing and trusting that God’s peace would carry her through the difficult times. My prayer this Advent season echoes Mary’s words, “Let it be with me.” May God’s peace be with you this season, even in the midst of chaos.

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Resting in the Not Yet and In-Between

by Rev. Judith Myers, Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship

I love Advent, almost as much as I love Lent.  There’s something so beautiful and sacred about times of not yet and in-between. I give thanks that God presents me with seasons that allow me to slow down a little and reflect.  For those that know me, you know I’m not a very patient person. I’m working on it, but impatience runs deep in my family. So when Advent and Lent roll around, I force myself to wait.  It’s a spiritual discipline during these seasons.  I settle in the unknown. Impatiently, yes, but Advent and Lent have saved my spirit and my faith.  I love the moments that cause me to take a step or two back.  Maybe to reflect on the year behind me, hope for the year ahead, or just take time to sit in the valley of the dry bones.

At Emmanuel, we follow the Narrative Lectionary.  This past week’s sermon Scripture was Ezekiel and the valley of the dry bones.  Valley of the dry bones? During Advent? Weird.  AND YET.  It’s the perfect passage when you’re allowing yourself to rest in this not yet and in-between time.  The valley of the dry bones is a story where God’s presence comes alive, working to bring new life and to piece the bones together. God’s presence brings restoration to God’s people.  It’s a story where dry bones are given sustenance.  It’s a story where hope is found.  Many of us find ourselves in the valley of the dry bones during this season.  Divorces or strained relationships with loved ones leave us lonely and grieving for what used to be, for what should be.

On Sunday, my congregation reflected on their own not yet or in-between because this season is so, so hard.  And they heard a word of hope.  Maybe God is breathing new life into them, into all of us.  Maybe God is doing the same to you because this time of year is joyful.  Maybe you need Advent, a time of longing and waiting.  Maybe you’re approaching this season with dry bones, with no hope. Maybe you need time to reflect, to figure a few things out.  Take time this season to rest in the valley of the dry bones.  And then hear a word of hope.  Hear that God is working in you, piecing you back together, breathing new life in you.

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Advent: The Grace of God Gestating

I love the Christian calendar – that we can mark our days throughout the year according to the life of our Lord and his Church – and I love that each Christian year begins again with Advent. Waiting and watching for the Christ child to be born in and through us.

Being the mother of two children whom my husband and I adopted at birth has connected me in a profound new way to Mary’s experience of giving birth to a child that was and was not her own. This is the beauty of the Incarnation for us all! I stand in total awe of a God who still chooses to be born in me and in you in so many different ways. Meister Eckart wrote, “We are all called to be mothers of God.”

The angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” Then, Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Like Mary, what happens to us when “the Holy Spirit comes upon us” and when we, in turn, say “let it be” is simply holy. That which is birthed is and is not our own. And it is Advent that has the power to teach us that birthing God comes not without waiting and watching.

My 5-year- old son is fascinated this year by the nativity set in our home. He couldn’t wait (not such a fan of Advent :)) to place each figure in place in and around the stable, so you can imagine how tough it was to convince him to wait until Christmas morning to place baby Jesus in the manger!

It was through watching and waiting that God wrote Malachi’s and Kamryn’s birth stories for Dave and me, as I carried them in the womb of my heart. It was through watching and waiting that God gave birth to Koinonia of Columbia in Dave and me.

When I began my days at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in 2004, deep within my heart was a longing for inner-city community ministry. Looking back, I see now that this was God’s dream beginning to germinate in me. Much had to happen before God’s dream, Koinonia of Columbia found life in me in 2017. Seminary education, marriage, my first church call, motherhood and even a letting go of the dream.

I see now that this was the gestation. Birthing cannot happen without gestation. It was through much waiting and watching that Edwina Gateley discerned her call to open the Genesis House in Chicago. She writes in her spiritual memoir (In God’s Womb) of these months of solitude: “I began to think of a woman who conceives a seed of new life within her and of how she must undergo a period of gestation and waiting as that new life grows. And I realized that this is what God does with us. Although we cannot see, the invitation is to trust in the darkness and wait for the surfacing of God’s wisdom in our lives by allowing the gestation period to happen… Maybe what we need is simply to realize that God does not hide from us, ever, but that God gestates within us –the grace of God gestates within us – and we must be faithful to the spiritual process of birthing the presence of God into our world.

Like Mary as she awaited the birth of the Christ Child, may we, too, find ourselves singing as the grace of God gestates within us this Advent season! “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” And when the waiting is over and the Christ child is born in each of us in so many different ways, may we, like Mary, “treasure up all of these things and ponder them in our hearts.”

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How Light Gets In

by Rev. Anna Burch, Children’s Minister, First Baptist Greenwood

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” – John 1:1-5 (NRSV)

As I enter into Advent season this year, I find myself in a much different place than last year- in a new job with a similar, but still very different vocation, with new roles in the church and in worship, and as a newly ordained minister. While all of these changes have brought about goodness and have shown evidence of God’s faithfulness and providence, they still are new and unfamiliar. As I move around in this new space of ministry, I find myself particularly drawn to the words I read as we hung our wreaths this past Sunday in our Hanging of the Greens service.

“For Christians, the Season of Advent is celebrated in the midst of great paradox. Advent is the beginning of the Christian story; it is the first season of the Christian calendar. Advent is a new beginning, a season of preparation and hope. And yet, we already know how this story will end. From Advent and Epiphany, we will journey through the wilderness of Lent into the dark shadows of Good Friday. And from the shadows of Golgotha and the cold, dark tomb, our journey will at last bring us to the glorious light of Easter and the eternal illumination of Pentecost. If we dare to follow Jesus on this journey, we will pass through dark valleys of deep shadow, only to emerge at last with Christ in final victory over death. The Christian journey invites us into holy cycle of keeping time with God. Our evergreen wreaths remind us that as we journey with God, we may pass through darkness only for a season; but we always return to where we started in Advent: waiting, hoping, and yearning for the gift of Christ. May our wreaths remind us of this journey where we are never too far from God’s loving presence and eternal light.”

My journey to ministry certainly held a great deal of time in the wilderness. In one of my courses in seminary, we read “How the Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice” by Pat Schneider. I loved her premise that our cracks, broken places, or times in the wilderness are how the light gets in. My journey and my newest season have shown me that if we are bold enough to journey with God and find ways to be in that “holy cycle of keeping time with God”, we will find that indeed darkness comes for only seasons. We will also find that God uses those times of darkness and wilderness to let love and light shine through the cracks. To see that light, though, we must be looking. We must be waiting and hoping and yearning.

Perhaps this Advent season your journey finds you wandering and waiting in the dark wilderness? Or maybe you are standing in the bright light filled with joy and peace? Wherever you find yourself on your journey this Advent season- whether in it be in the light or hoping that your cracks might be how God’s light one day gets in- may each wreath you see remind you that God is near. God’s love and light are traveling your road with you. How will you feel and how will you see God’s love and light this Advent season?

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Including Time to Lament in Advent

By Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Nance-Coker

During this season of waiting, listening and preparing, while we inhabit the now and the not yet, I invite you to lament. When we lament, we bring our experiences of pain, loss and broken- heartedness in protest to God. We voice complaint, anger, grief, and despair in prayer before God and we share these emotions in community. We hold onto hope on behalf of those who are barely holding on. Someday it may be their turn to hold onto hope for us.
The model for lament found in the Psalms of Lament shows us the ancient way of what feels like a praise song in a minor key. Acknowledging who God is by remembering what God has done, moving into complaint, then begging for help, and finally turning to hope in God with the vow to praise God yet again for what God will do: this is the way of lament. The Psalms found in the lectionary passages for our four Sundays of Advent are Psalms containing lament. “Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved,” from Psalm 80. On the second Sunday, Psalm 85 asks, “Will you not revive us again, so that your people may rejoice in you?”

Then on the third Sunday of Advent, a time of joy, we hear, “May those who sow in tears, reap with shouts of joy.” On the final Advent Sunday, a portion of Psalm 89 asks, “How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever?” God’s Spirit works in us and through us to breathe prayers of lament for life situations of grief and despair. In these laments, we pray on behalf of the bereaved, hungry, oppressed, humiliated, refugees, homeless, inner-city poor, lonely, betrayed. We, the created ones, bring the groaning of creation to Creator God in whose image we are made. Lament carries the freight of protesting the
situations in life, and leads into hope. The Advent season gives us time to breathe these prayers, to have difficult conversations, and to inwardly digest the difficult passages of Scripture. The hopes and fears of all the years are met with hope in Emmanuel, God with us. Amen.

 

The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Nance-Coker holds a Doctorate in Worship Studies and travels to help plan and implement worship in churches. She leads a weekly chapel service at Transitions Homeless Shelter in Columbia, SC. She is also available to serve as guest pianist, worship leader, and pulpit supply for churches. 

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We Don’t Belive in That 

My story of answering a call to ministry is also a story about being able to imagine and dream of a God and a religion that welcomes and includes all people. When I voiced a call to preach to my home church, the minister I shared with responded, “We don’t believe in that.” 

What he meant is that as a Southern Baptist Church, the leadership did not believe that women were called to be ministers, preachers, or pastors. Instead, women were called to be support staff, preachers’ wives, and mothers. 

What I heard as he clung to a closed theology was, “We don’t believe in you.” I had grown up in this closed theology, but somehow as I found the courage to answer a call to preach and pastor, there was a ray of hope that the community of faith who had nurtured and supported me, the community of faith I had spent countless hours serving, would somehow release their tight grip on dogma and embrace me instead.

They didn’t. 

It was heartbreaking and disappointing. It made me doubt whether I had heard my call correctly. It made me doubt whether I was full of pride or ambition. It made me doubt myself. 

But then I found other women, many who shared a similar story, who were living into their call, yes even in Baptist congregations and that ray of hope returned. I clung to that hope even when people told me to look into becoming Methodist; even when people told me that communities of faith just weren’t ready to call a woman as pastor of their church quite yet. 

Still I clung to that ray of hope, which led me to pastor a church start in Lexington, SC, which led me to pastor New Hope Christian Fellowship. 

That ray of hope that led me and stayed me in the midst of doubt and uncertainty has become a new hope to pastor and lead a community of faith where truly all are welcome and included. 

A Story of Ordination

By Brenda Lynn Kneece

After graduating from seminary in 1978, I was called to be the Chaplain of Oxford Orphanage, a children’s home with 250 children and youth and 50-60 adult staff. When I told a professor– whom I knew to be an encourager of female seminarians– he said, “That’s great. Just remember, if you are successful you will open a door for one other woman in ministry; but if you fail you will close seven.”

In college and seminary, I served as a Youth and Children’s Minister for three congregations. Opportunities open to female students were more limited than those of our male peers. Men were asked to preach, I was asked to speak. Men were expected to state their opinions, I had to guard against appearing uppity. Men could preach, teach, evangelize, serve in missions, and whatever– the full-range of ministry. Women were expected to work with children, youth, music, counsel, teach, or serve in missions. Men were allowed to speak from the pulpit, women were often consigned to a lectern. Men had many role-models in many ministry fields. There were only one or two for me, and not one was a “preacher” or a “pastor.”

A male peer in my CPE cohort group confessed to the group that he had thought of me as an “uppity female” during a class in seminary simply because my work had been acknowledged as being well done. Once, the Director of the Field Service office at seminary called me on a Wednesday afternoon to ask if I was available to preach for a little church on Sunday. His ask included this disclaimer, “I’ve already asked all the men.”

The congregation I served during seminary asked me to “speak” in worship because the pastor had been sick and they had depleted their pulpit supply funds. Since I was going to be there leading youth and children activities, would I speak on Sunday without extra compensation? One Sunday became six. The first two Sundays the sermon was described in the order of worship as “Morning Speaker.” The next two Sundays that same part of worship was titled “Morning Message.” The fifth and sixth Sundays, the worship order said “Sermon.” For six weeks, I preached, visited, and served in other ways while taking a full load of classes and working 20 hours in the seminary cafeteria. It was an exhilarating time and wonderful opportunity. I think the church gave me a love gift. More importantly it gave me an opportunity of inestimable value.

The first Sunday, I hummed “God of Grace and God of Glory” as I dressed. I had preached a few times before, but this was my first time to preach without the pastor present and I was nervous. Imagine my surprise to see in the bulletin that “God of Grace. . .” was the opening hymn. Imagine my wonder when I picked up the hymnal– on the front pew where I was to sit until time for the sermon– and folded at that hymn were two Kleenexes. The nervous tension I had felt early that morning disappeared as we sang the hymn. God was gracious, God was glorious, I felt God’s power in that hour.

The sixth Sunday we had a remarkable worship experience. I can remember the sermon and its title “Stretcher Bearers.” I had lunch with a church family and made a visit. Then, I went back to the church to be sure it was locked up. Leaving, I met two Deacons in the hallway.

They asked if we could talk and opened the door to the toddler room of the nursery. I sat in one of the child-sized chairs, they sat on a table towering over me. They told me the Deacons had met with the Pastor after worship, and had decided to ask me if I would let the church ordain me.

Only once before had I thought about being ordained. It was several months earlier. My seminary suitemates and I had all preached on the same Sunday morning in the churches we served as children, youth, or music ministries. I suspect this was one of the first Sundays that four female Southern Baptist seminarian suitemates had all preached in Sunday morning worship on the same day.

That evening during our regular Sunday night game of Spades we shared our experiences and the conversation drifted to ordination. One told us that her home church had recently voted to ordain her. Then, just two weeks later one of her family’s dearest friends, a Deacon in the church, had led the congregation to reverse that decision. She was deeply hurt, yet asserted that she would eventually be ordained. Another told about an experience which affirmed to her that she would be ordained to pastoral ministry. The third said she probably would be ordained, but she wasn’t going to push it. I flippantly said, “I’ll be ordained when a church asks me.”

Now, in the fall of 1977, the Deacons of Providence Baptist Church, Oxford, North Carolina, asked if that congregation could ordain me. The thought was new and unrehearsed in my heart and mind. I asked for time to think and pray before I answered. I was fearful and exhilarated at the same time.

That night I called my parents. Mom answered. I said, “Mom, Providence wants to ordain me. What do you think about that?” After a pause she said, “I don’t know.” Dad wasn’t at home, so I asked, “What do you think Dad would say?” She said, “I cannot speak for your father.” She assured me they would talk and pray about it and call me back. It was a brief conversation.

In fairness to all my family and friends, I had talked about serving as a Missionary, becoming a counselor or chaplain, serving in Youth Ministry, or being a Minister of Education. Ordination had never been mentioned.

As a college student I had dated a man somewhat seriously. We participated in both BSU and Wesley Foundation activities, we played in the college band. When we talked about our future work, where we might live, and how many children we would have. One evening we were in one of the dating rooms—no door, I told him that I was thinking about going to seminary to get an MRE Degree while he finished college. We had a two-year gap between graduations because he had served in the military after High School and we had agreed not to marry until he graduated. I thought I could teach and serve a small church as its Education Director. He looked at me as if I had confessed to some deep betrayal. After what seemed to be a long time, he said, “I can’t be married to a minister.” I immediately said that’s okay I will just teach. But he knew me better than I knew myself. We never dated again. I was hurt, but my tears were quickly shed. I did not look back, so strong was the Spirit’s leading.

Even then I did not equate being a “minister” as being ordained. The thoughts of that last conversation and those lost dreams remind me that giftedness is often called out by those around us, by those who know us even better than we know ourselves. He saw a future for me that I had yet to envision.

Now in the early fall of 1977, Providence Baptist under the guidance of Dr. Bill Farrar, its pastor, had affirmed my giftedness for ministry and wanted to ordain me. I waited for my parents to call. I waited and waited. I thought and prayed and I sought the counsel of a few trusted friends, a professor, and one other family member, my sister, Cindy—with whom I had shared my thoughts and who had always been supportive.

Mid-week, I got a call from Roger Lovette, pastor of Clemson Baptist Church. Cindy, had talked with her in-laws, Sookie and Lewis Malphrus, members of Clemson Baptist, about my being ordained. Even though I had transferred to Winthrop for my junior and senior years, the Malphruses, the Clemson congregation, and I remained close. Clemson Baptist had even given me a large scholarship, the Arrington Scholarship, when I entered seminary because I had been active while a student at Clemson. Dr. Lovette said, “Brenda, if you want to be ordained, Clemson Baptist will ordain you.” I stammered a thank you for the offer and the affirmation.

The next Sunday, Bill Farrar was strong enough to preach, and I led worship. After worship, he and I talked. He asked if I had made a decision. I said I was waiting to hear from my parents. He asked, “Do you need their permission?” “No,” I said, “not their permission, I want their blessing.” Either way, I assured him, either way, the Spirit had led me to be ordained.

Late that Sunday evening, I was called to the pay phone in the hall of the dorm, I did not know who was calling. I answered, “This is Brenda.” My dad, who had never called me before, said, “Brenda doll, if you’re going to be ordained we want you to be ordained at Bethel.”

The Reverend Dr. Lon Knight, whom I did not know, was serving as the interim pastor of my home church, Bethel Baptist, in Monetta, South Carolina. Mom and Dad had sought his guidance. He had led them through scriptures and Baptist polity so that they came to see that a woman Called by God should be ordained. He did the same with the Deacons. When my parents called me, the Deacons had already agreed to recommend me for questioning by the Associational Ordination Council.

Just months before I had said, “I’ll be ordained when a church asks me” without thought. Now in eight days, three congregations had offered. It took a hymn and two Kleenexes to assure me that God’s grace, glory, and power could and would be present in my preaching. The Spirit led three congregations who had witnessed my giftedness for ministry to ask or offer to ordain me. I was certain that if I refused, I would have as Jonah ended up in a place as uncomfortable as the belly of a whale.

The Associational Ordination Council met during my Thanksgiving break in November 1977. None of these men had ever been my pastor. Most of them I did not know. I knew Rev. Marion Webb because he served congregations near to my home. I had met Rev. Marion Aldridge several years before when my sister, Cindy, and her finance took me with them to visit Marion, Dan’s college roommate, in Augusta. I did not know any of the other five. The Ordination Council questioned and talked with me for about two hours. I was dismissed and asked to wait for them to make a decision. The first room I came to was the toddler room in the nursery. I sat in a rocking chair and waited.

While waiting I remembered having been examined before at Bethel in that same toddler room. Mrs. Sallie Sims and Miss Ela Asbill, leaders of Woman’s Missionary Union, had sat in the rockers and listened as I recited scriptures and other materials I had learned for GA Forward Steps (Girl’s Auxiliary of Women’s Missionary Union). The toddler room was once again associated with an important step in my life. Three times it was the same room: when I was a GA at Bethel, as I talked with those two Deacons at Providence Baptist Church, and as I waited for the Ordination Council’s decision.

The Council unanimously recommended me to Bethel Baptist Church for ordination. The service was Sunday, December 4, 1977. Clergy and friends important to my development as a person of faith and a minister participated. My parents stood behind me and prayed the Ordination Prayer, Mom first and then Dad.

People are gifted for ministry. For decades women have been prepared for ministry. The greater struggle is for congregations. God Called me to a relationship. I have struggled at times to know and understand my role in that relationship, God has been faithful. Congregations have called me (or not) to ministry positions. The roles have been many: youth and children’s ministry, orphanage chaplaincy, seminary staff, volunteer police chaplain, nursing home chaplain, pastoral ministries, missions education, and ecumenical advocacy ministry.

During the laying on of hands in my ordination service, a beloved former pastor whispered in my ear, “Remember: if you know where you’re going, you may not be following.”  I certainly did not know the way ahead when I said in late 1976, “I’ll be ordained when a congregation asks me to be.” Yet, the assurance that God’s call is clear has given me more than enough grace in the journey.

Love

by  Stacy N. Sergent is a hospital chaplain, and author of Being Called Chaplain: How I Lost My Name and Eventually Found My Faith. She blogs regularly at stacynsergent.com. On March 26, 2017, she will marry Will Lawton and become stepmom to Jackson and Beau. Hurley will also get a stepsister, Will’s dog Madison.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

I John 4:13-18

I knew I loved the man who is now my fiancé when I started having nightmares about him dying. This is what happens when I begin to love someone. It happened when I adopted my dog, Hurley. I would wake up shaking after dreaming he was hit by a car or fell off a cliff or, in one creative nightmare, got electrocuted by power lines as we were tandem skydiving. It didn’t take long after I met the man of my dreams for the nightmares to come. My subconscious mind knew how risky it was to love Will, making myself vulnerable to the pain of loss.

It wasn’t that different when I began to consciously love God as a child. My longing to know and belong to God was strong. My prayers every night ended with, “I love you, God.” But that love was tied up with fear. I was afraid I’d mess up and God would stop loving me. Knowing my faults and capacity for failure, I feared there was no way I could be worthy of God’s love and so, sooner or later, I had to lose it.

I knew my love for Will had matured when the nightmares stopped. This is what happens over time when I truly love someone. The fear goes away. “Perfect love casts out fear” according to the above passage in 1 John. And while my love is by no means perfect, it deepens to a place of trust. I trust that loving Will, his two boys, Hurley, my friends and family is worth the risk, because even if/when I lose them, I won’t lose the love we share. I trust that although I mess up, nothing can separate me from the love of God shown in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

God, thank you for taking the risk of loving us, even enough to live and die as one of us. In Jesus we see that love is never safe, but it is strong, stronger even than death. Help us to love you and those around us without fear. Amen.

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A Gift of Words

by Melinda McDonald, Interim pastor for Saluda/Columbus UMC in Polk County, NC[

The identity of “Writer” is something that we might not attribute to God, but when you think about it, next to “Creator” and “Nurturer,” this identity is definitely one of God’s. We know of God as the Author of all life. We acknowledge that God spoke the world into existence from Genesis. We read from the Old Testament prophets the many warnings for God’s people to get their act together. We know from Jeremiah that God has written God’s new covenant into our hearts rather than on stone tablets. The New Testament refers to this new covenant in the verses we use at Communion or The Eucharist. Indeed, God has been busy writing to us as well as deeply loving humankind throughout all time.

In contemporary times, words and writing are important for relationships even though our world seems now to be so picture-oriented. Movies are the sources for communal stories that used to be transmitted through the printed word. Now we have websites, Facebook, blogs, and texting – electronic means that still rely upon words to convey messages again! We humans cannot seem to leave printed words behind entirely.

I remember being a child and telling my mother that I might be a writer one day. And things have worked out that way although far beyond my wildest imaginings! I am a listener/chaplain/pastor-at-large currently and supply preacher vocationally.

For my family’s Thanksgiving gathering this year, I shared two things with them: a small origami box and a poem that I had written in 2012 to commemorate that year’s Christmas gathering at my dear sister’s. I offer this gift of words to you now – to exhort you to take the opportunity to record some special memories. None of my family could remember when this particular event took place, but luckily I had dated it.

A Gift of Words

Not so random words on tiny tads of paper

Placed within little origami boxes made

From old Christmas cards saved by Mary.

Sister turned these into a puzzle – an after Christmas treat this year.

In the box given to my husband and me:

Rejoice… Happen… Came…

Miracles… God…

Near… Everyday…

We arranged them: Everyday God came. Miracles happen near. Rejoice!

The puzzle author had composed them: God came near. Miracles happen every day. Rejoice!

Small boxes yielding delight and pleasure – A Christmas memory now to treasure.

The gift of my sister’s words and the gift of The Word Who Became Flesh are the true gifts of Christmas. It may be Advent while you are reading this, but it is my prayer that you have spent some time anticipating, preparing, discerning your purpose in participating in the Kingdom work Christ came to inaugurate. The world awaits hopefully for the love, joy, and peace that are God’s gifts to us. It is my prayer for all of us who serve God that we experience genuinely in our own lives the true gift of Christmas: shalom – wholeness and health and completeness.

 

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