Wednesday, December 25, 2013

So This Is Christmas

Merry Christmas! By now, if you’re taking the time to pause and read this post, any early morning excitement has slowed down and maybe you’re relaxing and enjoying a glass of that wine you bought for your guests (if that doesn’t make sense, check out Ken’s sermon from the 22nd and you’ll get it).

Last night’s services were a holy, mysterious and wonderful celebration of Christ’s birth. Christmas Eve services are my favorite of the year - I’m not much of a morning person so Easter is always a little bit of a challenge. But something about spending the whole afternoon all the way through to midnight in worship of the Savior Child Jesus, in different liturgical styles, renews my spirit like no other day of the year. When I walk out of the church building at midnight, I’m both ridiculously tired and fully refreshed.

Last week, a friend of mine posted this on Facebook:

"I'm astounded Christmas is right around the corner. Can't I just add in an extra week of festivities? Pretty please? I want more tree-lightings and pageants and dressing up in sparkly clothes and people being extra nice to one another, all of it…”

I immediately related to her feelings. Well, except the sparkly clothes part. But no matter how hard I try, it always feels like all of a sudden Christmas Eve is here and I feel like I’ve missed it. I try to catch up on every devotional guide to Advent, say a couple of extra prayers, and even binge-watch Christmas movies to squeeze every last drop of this season. But then I remember something. Christmas isn’t just today. It merely starts today. While most of the world will move on to New Year’s Eve and resolutions and 2014, we get to stay in Christmas. For as long as we want. Everything leading up to this has just been preparation. NOW it’s Christmas. All of those things my friend and I fear are over too quickly don’t have to be.

So before this day winds down and before we give in to the urge to get to 2014 and new things, commit with me to celebrate the season of Christmas for as long as we can. Let’s take the hope we felt last night during worship and make it a permanent part of who we are. You never know, it might just catch on.

Joe Mazza is the Director of Worship Arts at BUMC. You can contact Joe here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Simplicity in a Cup

by Sara Godwin

We are now smack dab in the middle of a time of year when people start to get a little nutty. Almost everyone is in a frenzy of buying, shopping, cooking, decorating and trying to be “merry.” We hear stories of people engaging in fisticuffs over the latest electronic gadget, of individuals standing in a line for hours, days even, in frigid temperatures in an attempt to be one of the few who will purchase an item of some sort, many even foregoing the celebration of Thanksgiving in order to do so. Everyone has a party to go to, a children’s play to attend, one last person’s house to visit, so that they can bestow cheer and merriness upon each other; all in the name of Christmas. What we seem to forget to do is slow down. When do we take time to stop and smell the proverbial flower? When do we take pleasure in the little things?

I have found my way of smelling that flower, through coffee cups.

Coffee cups? What do coffee cups have to do with Christmas? How can they possibly help me stop and take notice of the little things? Well, every morning I deliberately set my alarm 30 minutes earlier than the rest of the household. I go to the kitchen, open my cupboard door and I ponder. I look at my 27 coffee cups and make a crucial (to me at least) decision, “Which cup to drink out of today?” Each cup in that cupboard represents something to me:  a treasured memory of a day spent with my children, a great trip that I took, a funny story about where the cup came from, and even a very special memento from my childhood.

I have a cup that my daughter painted for me when she was two years old. It has “tea time” written on it and scribbles all over it. Tea parties were the epitome of fun when she was two. I have the cup from the fun trip we took to Corn Palace in South Dakota; sipping from that cup brings back the great memories of a crazy road trip. Another cup that has a hand-drawn canoe and whale on it brings back the memories of a silly picture that my dad would draw on my belly when I was little. One cup is a hand thrown pottery cup that is squashed. The man who made it didn’t want to sell it, but his story about how it became squashed was so funny that I just had to buy it from him.

The point is that for thirty minutes each morning, I am able to reminisce, think, ponder, and be joyful. It’s my time to reflect and thank God for the thousands of blessings that He has bestowed upon me. It is my stolen moment to remember not to get sucked into the craziness of the season. Through my coffee cups I can remember wonderful trips, friends that I have made, and silly things that my children have done.  Each one of those cups has a story, a memory, a proverbial flower to smell. They are my way of slowing down.

Taking a moment for YOU is crucial, at all times of the year, but, perhaps, maybe a bit more important now, when those moments are at a premium.

What is your coffee cup? Take a moment to find one, and then sip from it every day.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalms 34:8

Sara Godwin is the Assistant Director and Teacher at Apple Tree Christian Preschool and Kindergarten. She has two wonderful children, Rachel and Ian, a loving husband, Shawn, two awesome kitties, Stanley and Lucy, and a sweet dog, Minnie. She has been a member of BUMC for 10 years. She began at BUMC working in the Children’s Ministry, assisting with Sunday School before moving to the preschool. She also helps with Wacky Wednesday and is the self-described crazy lady who wears all sorts of costumes every year at VBS.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Faith Through Trials

by Sue Morin

My tombstone should read, “So many books, so little time.” I love to read works by Christian thinkers: Thomas Merton, Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, A. W. Tozer, Dietrich Bonhoffer, Oswald Chambers, Amy Carmichael, Elisabeth Elliot, to name a few. They teach, challenge and encourage me in  Christian living and they all talk about the blessings of trials--not what a believer exactly wants to hear!

The last year has been filled with health trials. Last Thanksgiving started rounds of doctor visits and tests for my husband's different medical conditions. Some days were hard to endure, as I feared the worst and worried about how to explain it all to our kids, including two middle-schoolers. How could I support him emotionally? How would our family carry on during a prolonged illness? What if there was no healing?  I struggled with God over these questions every day during my prayer time, at work, and doing stuff around the house. It seemed like there was no answer, but I kept praying.

In early February, my husband had a major heart attack, which was complicated by his other health issues. Sitting in the ER with the hospital chaplain, my fear rose to a new level. Who else could I turn to but God? Jesus graciously took my fear and showed up through the people he sent my way: my sister-in-law, “coincidentally” newly retired, who got on the next plane from Massachusetts; an old friend from youth soccer who “happened” to be working as an ICU nurse that day; the parent of one of my daughter's friends, performing surgery at the hospital that day, who came to offer support; BUMC chaplain who “chanced” to be on the same hospital elevator; respiratory therapist who shared a Bible Study group with me many years ago; Sarah Holstein from BUMC Youth Group who called to offer rides for my girls; my best friend who showed up on my doorstep with an amazing home-cooked meal; and our extended families who prayed and posted via a Facebook family page.

When my husband had another heart attack and surgery last month, I was able to go through it, confident that God was taking care of us.

My story is not unique. Any given Sunday, everyone in the sanctuary has undergone, or continues to undergo, trials of all kinds. We are a community of witnesses of God's love that transforms us through really difficult situations. Discouragement and fear CAN be replaced by peace and faith that can “conquer impossibilities.”

Charles Spurgeon said it so eloquently:

You could not have believed your own weakness had you not been compelled to pass through the rivers;   and you would never have known God's strength had you not been supported amid the water-floods.       Faith increases in solidity, assurance, and intensity, the more it is exercised with tribulation. Faith is precious, and its trial is precious too.

Let not this, however, discourage those who are young in faith. You will have trials enough without seeking them: the full portion will be measured out to you in due season. Meanwhile, if you cannot yet claim the result of long experience, thank God for what grace you have; praise Him for that degree of holy confidence where unto you have attained: walk according to that rule, and you shall yet have more and more of the blessing of God, till your faith shall remove mountains and conquer impossibilities. (Morning Devotional 11/12;

 Pastor Ken called my husband “the Miracle Man”, but I think there was another miracle, a fundamental change in my core. I agree with Oswald Chambers who said, “You will never cease to be the most amazed person on earth at what God has done for you on the inside,” (My Utmost for His Highest).

We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! (Romans 5:3-5, The Message)

Sue Morin has been a part of the BUMC community since moving to Broomfield in 1997. She splits her time between work and keeping up with two teenagers at home who have recently taught her all about "Not So Silent Night" and "Snapchat."

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Am I Relevant?

by Shereen Fink

Recently I was listening to an interview and the question, “Am I relevant?” came from a current pop star.  The question stopped me in the middle of what I was doing (because I multi-task a lot with the TV on) and made me reflect on the answer.  Here was a beautiful young woman, whom we all presume would be happier than ourselves because on the surface she has it all: fame, money, and people literally falling over each other to hear her sing.  Yet, she wondered (out loud even) whether she was relevant.

I was so intrigued by this that it kept coming to mind for days.  We all want to feel we are relevant; that our being here means something in the “big picture.”  But it seems being relevant means different things to different people. This pop star had what others felt would bring relevance to one’s life, yet she still seemed to be seeking relevance. 

I spent several days pondering what might bring us the feeling of relevance – thinking of how we spend our time and money; what we do, how we act – actions that might reflect our personal belief of what makes us relevant.  Finally, a situation in my own life gave me the “aha moment” that I believe demonstrates a universal meaning of a relevant life.

My mother is in home hospice care.  The hospice caregivers have told us she is transitioning to end of life.  Several weeks ago, she took a turn downward – meaning, she talks less frequently, eats minimally and frequently drifts into a state of deep thought.  When this time occurred, our family reached out to distant family members and lifelong friends to let them know the end may be near.  We let them know that if they had a desire to see my mother while she is still able to hold a conversation, then now might be a good time.

This has prompted many to come and visit.  Family and friends are showing up to share a lifetime of experiences and memories with my mother.  With each visit my mother’s spirits lift.  Sometimes she finds enough strength to get out of bed and join her visitors at the table.  During these visits there are moments she seems a bit more alert and even surprises us by breaking out in laughter over joyous memories.

My mother’s underlying health situation hasn’t changed.  She is still transitioning to the end of this journey here on earth and preparing for Jesus to come and take her hand and lead her to God’s promise of His Kingdom.  But what has changed is her experience while here.  What has changed is her joy of these remaining days through being present with those she loves.

Seeing this difference in my mother’s experience made me think about the true answer to the question, “Am I relevant?”  Isn’t it about relationships? Isn’t it about being present in another person’s life? Isn’t it about believing you matter to someone else?  Isn’t it about knowing that if you don’t show up (to work, to church, to a family gathering) that someone will notice and take action to find out if you’re okay?

Isn’t feeling relevant knowing you have a purpose for being here; for living your life? And, isn’t being relevant about facing the end of your life here by spending time with those who have been on the journey with you; to know you mattered to their lives as much as they mattered to yours?

My prayer for each of you is that you know you matter.  Each of you has relevance: to the world, to your friends, to your loved ones, and most importantly, to our Creator God.

God bless you in this season of God’s evidence that he loved those of us in this world so much that he gave his only Son to us to show us that we are relevant.

“To the world you are one person; to one person you are the world.”

Shereen Fink is the Director of Servant Ministries at Broomfield United Methodist Church. In her role she has developed a comprehensive ministry, curriculum and community service network designed to guide individuals to live purposeful lives through recognition and application of their God-given strengths.  She combines her education in business management, certification in Positive Psychology coaching and extensive self-study in theology with life experiences from years in corporate environments to provide a holistic view of God's meaning and purpose for our lives.  She is the author of a daily devotional book: God's Transformation for Our Lives and a devotional meditation CD.