October 30

Twenty years ago we were in Florida with our children and my parents. Disney World and Sea World were part of their experience, along with a trip to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic. The internet wasn’t the vast source of information back then; so, before starting on our trip to the Atlantic, I found a weather channel that had the predicted wave heights for the day. I wanted to go where the surf would be the most dramatic. Off we went to New Smyrna beach, Volusia, County, known for the best surf in all of Florida. I didn’t know at the time that New Smyrna beach is known for the most shark bites in Florida. Actually, it’s known for the most shark attacks in the US. Some have even dubbed it the shark-bite capital of the world.

In fact, this morning story of a man who hopped off his surfboard yesterday (10/29) into four feet of water. He landed squarely atop a shark that proceeded to bite him in the ankle. Turns out the larger waves in Volusia County are because a deep channel is nearer to shore by the beach there. Had I asked some locals, “Where is a beach with good waves and few sharks?” I might have chosen a different beach. When traveling there’s wisdom in choosing to learn from those who know the area. Now every time I see a report of a shark-bite there, I send a note to my grown kids. “Yup, this is where your Dad took you swimming. Oops.”

This Sunday, Grace Church will celebrate All Saints’ Sunday. In the United Methodist tradition Saints aren’t super-humans who perform miracles and are near perfect in their faith. In our tradition Saints are those we love who’ve reached heaven’s shore before us. Like all Christians they are both sinner and saint–saved by Grace. Like us, they make mistakes along the way. Like us, they’ve been created in the image of God, saved by the grace of Christ, and redeemed by the Spirit that empowers us to be our best selves from time to time. So, all Saints’ Sunday is the celebration of a God who grants us the gift of heaven after this life. But, it’s also the celebration of the God-created best in us, the reminder we are all saints by the grace of God. Each of us has wisdom to offer based on the lives we have lived and the lessons God has taught us along the journey. All Saints’ Sunday proclaims each of us is a “local” with wisdom and knowledge to help others along their faith-journeys.

Spiritually-speaking, when have you asked another for guidance and learned how to avoid the sharks? Who has been a Saint, a guide, a blessing for you (and maybe your family) along life’s journey? Today, who may need the wisdom you have to offer?

Prayer: God, use me to guide another this week. And, thank you for all who have guided me along the journey. Thanks for the chance we all have to be saints along the journey until we reach the heavenly shore. Amen.

Pastor Roger

October 23

     As I was creating a slide for last Sunday’s message:  I was using a brass compass and I was also pondering a term that seemed to be popping up repeatedly last week–Truth North.  Just days earlier, the True North term popped up in a workshop I attended.  Then I heard it again during the interview of a retired Admiral who whose book “Sailing True North” just came out.  (Thanks to the Youth Sunday School class and their teacher who gave me the book as a gift.  They purchased it after their Sunday School class scavenger hunt at Barnes and Noble.  So kind of them).  So, during Sunday’s message I reflected on Jesus’ True North commandment–Love God and Love Neighbor.  That greatest commandment is meant to help us stay the course.

     Later in the day, I also found myself thinking of my own “True North Scripture.”  It seemed God was whispering, “it’s time to get creative Roger.”  The image above is the compass I used Sunday for the PowerPoint slide and for children’s moments; the brass ship’s wheel has been on my home desk for ages; and the wood is a cheese cutting board with the handle cut off and fastened upright on the board to hold the wheel.  Now, burned into the re-purposed cheeseboard, is my True North:  Micah 6:8 —  

He has showed you, O mortal, what is good;  and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?           (Revised Standard Version)
     This upcoming Sunday is Reformation Sunday–the Sunday that commemorates many things including the beginning of an age when people were able to afford a family Bible because of the printing press and read it because of rapidly increasing literacy.  For the first time in history, ordinary people could open the Scriptures for themselves, (no Priest speaking Latin needed).  Ever since, many of us have found favorite verses that speak to us as we read our Bibles.  What is your True North passage?  How do you celebrate it?  How do you live it?  How do you share it?  Today, I invite you to open your Bible to your favorite Scripture verse, or google the passage with your phone.  Take a moment to re-read your True North Scripture.  Thank God for the way it speaks to your heart.  Ponder a new way you might keep that passage in your daily thoughts.
 Pastor Roger

October 18

“You must continue with the things you have learned and found convincing.  You know who taught you since childhood…” (II Timothy 3:14).  Recently my wife and I went to the movie “Abominable.”  It’s basically a kids movie; but it has fabulous art, my favorite song, and a story line that kept me thinking, “I can’t wait to watch this with my granddaughter.”  If the movie is out in time on DVD she’ll be getting it for Christmas–because it’s one of those movies with a  girl as the main hero.  The girl in the movie isn’t a princess hero.  She is a mix of compassion and strength, grieving a loss but persevering with hope.  She is the Jesus figure others don’t quite understand, but often turn to when they are down.  She is the one the others follow and discover gifts and strengths within themselves that they didn’t know they had.  Every chance I get I wish to present my granddaughter with images of girls and women who are strong and heroic.  It’s a grandparent goal.  For her birthday we’ll be giving her the “Moana” DVD–another story where the hero is a girl.  Both “Abominable” and “Moana” are stories where it will be easy for us as Grandparents to say to our grand daughter, “and that’s kind of how God watches over us through the good times and the bad–always with us in Spirit.”

When I read the line from Timothy, “you know you taught you since childhood…,” I am reminded of those who blessed my life with uplifting stories and faith-sharing when I was a child.  What we learn in our youngest years can be so powerful.  I want to pass on the most positive stuff in life to my grand kids–the stories that uplift, the words that encourage, Bible-stories that remind us of a loving God who is our strength, healing and courage.  As II Timothy says, “We must continue with these things” for the sake of others and for the sake of our own souls.  The world is not always uplifting.  The messages adults, little girls and little boys receive about who they are are not always helpful and often hurtful.  So, we of faith are called to continuing sharing the hope, beauty and whispers of God at work in life every day.

     What stories (from the Bible or from life) encourage you?  Have you shared that story with someone else in an effort to bless that person?  May God keep us all faithful in lifting up the best, pointing out the best, and encouraging one another on the journey called life.  Sunday’s message with me “Stay the Course” and reflect more on keeping the faith and passing on the faith especially amidst life’s challenges.
Pastor Roger