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Who do our congregations want as new members?  That is the question many established churches are asking as rosters, and bank accounts, dwindle.  As we work to attract new members, who should be our focus?

I suspect that the answer depends somewhat on your congregation, specifically where you are located.   A church located in southern Missouri is going to serve a different population than a church in downtown St. Louis or out in the county.  Even county churches will differe depending on whether they are located in the inner suburbs, closest to the big city, or affluent West county.

But in the broader sense, the answer is one and the same.  We should reach out to those God sends our way whether these people are the working poor, opioid addicts, wounded warriors or multi-degreed medical professionals.

Because no matter who it is that God sends through our doors, they will come bearing burdens.  That’s the funny thing about being human.  We are all, rich or poor, educated and uneducated, imperfect and burdened.  We all have problems that can be helped by gathering together with our fellows, flawed though we all may be.

And while the person who just walked through the door may not have the gift that a congregation thinks will solve all their problems, without a doubt this person carries with them God’s blessing.

Though we may have to open our eyes a bit wider and seek God’s guidance to see it.

–SueBE

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A couple of weeks ago, I was short-sighted enough to disagree with a friend of my husband on Facebook.  I should have known.  Really, really should have known.  It isn’t that I dislike him but I know him.  He is pushy.  I think he’s condescending because I’m female.  My husband counters that he’s condescending because he’s breathing.  Female.  Male.  People in general.  Condescension will happen.

And when it did?  I lost all perspective.  It became the most important part of my evening.  Again and again I looked up his comment.  How dare he!?  The amount of energy that went into verifying, repeatedly, that he had been rude and he’d done it more than once was, in hindsight, embarrassing.  I should have just turned my back on the whole thing.  I should have turned to face something or Someone entirely different.

What if I’d spent that evening doing something God wants me to do?  Using the talents God gave me?  Facing into the Light?  Maybe nothing grand would have happened.  But, if nothing else, I’d have had a much better evening.

And if we did this often and consistently?  I can’t help but think that we’d get a lot more accomplished acting as His hands and feet on this earth.

–SueBE

Today the choir director at Florissant Presbyterian Church, where I go, tried to recruit me for a drumming class.  She signed up for Japanese drumming classes.

The truth:  I LOVE Japanese drumming.  Love.  It.  Seriously.

Her:  It will be so fun.  We can go together. It’s eight weeks.

Me:  Do you have to do that thing where you do one rhythm with one hand and another with the other hand?

Her:  Probably not for a couple of weeks.

Me:  Have you noticed how excited I get when I keep track of one rhythm for an entire song?

My husband:  It’s easy.  When you do three with one hand and four with the other than (some bunch of something I can’t even begin to repeat).

Soon she and my darling husband where going on and on and the pastor and I looked confused.  Really confused.

For those of you who don’t know, my husband drums.  He can do two different rhythms with his left hand, a third with his right, and two different baselines with his feet.

On a good day, I don’t spill my drink on myself or drop food.  On a really good day, I don’t bounce off a wall or careen off a piece of furniture.  I can, maybe, keep track of one rhythm at a time.  Apparently, I am not a savant.

The beauty of it is, we each have our own gifts.  Our pastor’s is ministry. He’s also highly intellectual.  Me?  I’ve got a thing for visual pattern and nonfiction story telling.  Other cultures and history and paleontology are like candy to me.

But I’m lucky.  My parents always encouraged me to study and learn about what fascinated me.  Other people?  Not so lucky.  Our choir director got a business degree although she had been offered a full music scholarship.  She was told she had to be practical.  She had to make her way back to music as a profession.

In 2019, celebrate the unique gifts God gave you.  How?  Be the best you that you can be.

–SueBE

 

I had to laugh when this image came up in my feed.  Last night a series of thunderstorms rolled through our area.  Thunder and lightning.  And lots of rain. Here’s hoping that the rain barrels at church are now near capacity.

The rain barrels stand near our community garden.  The vegetables from the garden go to the local food pantry.

Being part of this garden has made me rethink my attitudes about rain.  When other people are fussing because they’d rather not drive to work in rain or worry about a cancelled soccer game, I’m thinking about the garden.

Spend some time outside this spring. Reconnect with the earth and the things that grow in it.  It may change how you see the world and hopefully you’ll recognize rain for what it is.  A gift from God.

–SueBE

Even when I was a little kid, I was the one who’d find a way. “You just couldn’t stand to be told no,” my mom would say.  “You’d tuck your chin and just stare.  I knew you were trying to figure out how to get around it.”

And that still describes me today.  After my mom died, I wanted to work with one of her knitting patterns.  So I got a book and taught myself to knit.  That’s the same way I learned to crochet.  Today this would be a lot easier because Youtube has so many great instructional videos.

Bureaucracy.  Tradition -don’t say that’s how we’ve always done it.  Technology.  There has to be a way to work around it.  It just might take me a while to figure it out.  The latest and greatest tool in my arsenal?  My eighteen-year-old.  Oddly enough, I feel a lot closer to my mom now.  Because I’m the one watching my kid try to work around whatever stands in his way.

But that’s okay.  Because sometimes, a lot of times really, things do need to change.  Not only is he spotting barriers that escaped my notice, he’s finding a way over them.  It’s no surprise to his father and I that he’s planning to work with Engineers without Borders.  National boundaries, social barriers, pfft.  God gave us all talents.  It is up to us to use them.

–SueBE

 

 

 

 

Everybody knows the story. The Three Magi came seeking the Christ child, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Practical gifts? Maybe not so much, though I’m sure the gold came in handy. (Raising kids is expensive.) Otherwise, the presents were more symbolic than usable; gifts for a king who would have to die for his kingdom. (Seriously…what’s a carpenter supposed to do with myrrh?)

We come bearing gifts, too. We might not always recognize their importance, but we should. Some gifts make themselves obvious — a fabulous singing voice or a knack with decorations, for instance. Others are subtler, but no less essential. A listening ear, a kind gesture, the giving of one’s time — these gifts are always appreciated, especially at this time of year, when so many are feeling stressed out or lonely.

As we approach Christmas, let us think about what gifts we might bring to Jesus and to one another. Don’t overlook the obvious, but do look deeper. A friend of mine always wanted to learn how to blow glass. She now makes prayer bracelets out of her gorgeous hand-blown beads. I bought a slew of them for Christmas presents. Gift. My dentist found a stray pooch who was too rattled to be left alone, so she brings the dog into the office with her, where this once insecure mutt brings comfort to those (and there are more than you think) who are rattled about going to the dentist’s office. Gift.

I often find myself thinking I haven’t got much to give. My little blog posts, read by a stalwart few, probably don’t have frankincense-level reverberations in the world. But I am good about praying for other people, and believe in the efficacy of prayer. Sometimes I think it’s the only real tool that matters. I try to listen to others, to smile at strangers, to reassure bumblers (like the lady who tried to get into my car outside the pharmacy last night thinking I was there to pick her up), mostly because I consider myself a bumbler. I care about animals and justice for those who don’t usually get any.

So what is your gift? What can you lay down beside the manger? What would you give if you could give anything in the world?

Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s as good as gold. And definitely better than myrrh.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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