God has place this wonderful creation in our hands. As U2 sings, "It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away." We have this one life to live on this beautiful planet so enjoy these reflections on God, faith, life, and music. "After the flood all of the colors came out. It's a beautiful day."

Monday, October 31, 2011

Spirit Lake or Devil's Lake

Devil's Lake State Park, WI
Devil's Lake State Park, WI
Devil's Lake State Park

This weekend while I was on Halloween Break as my son and I like to call the vacation days he gets the last weekend in October.  We decided to take a trip to the Wisconsin Dells.  On the way, we stopped at Devil's Lake State Park.  A number of people had told me how beautiful it was, so we decided to hike along the lake.  
At one point on the hike above the bluff my Brother-in-law remarked about how still and quiet it was at the peak.  How he had being hearing birds and forest noises for the whole trip up but when he reached the peak it was still and quiet.  I said that maybe this was a sacred site, a spot where earth and heaven touch and you can just sense God’s presence.  We then began talking about how there are thin places in the world and how in the United States some of these thin places have been renamed Devil’s Lake.  Our ancestors believed there was one way to God and the Native American practices deemed not from God. 
Devil's Lake State Park, WI
When we got home, I wanted to check and see if my guess about the name of Devil’s Lake was accurate.  Diane Pillsbury on the park website writes: “Native Americans have been at the park since the glaciers receded over 10,000 years ago. The Ho-Chunk name for the lake is Tawacunchukdah or Sacred Lake, which may have been mistaken for an evil connotation and translated as Devil's Lake. The Ho-Chunks maintain that the bluffs were created during a fierce battle between the thunderbirds and the water spirits. Mound locations seem to confirm this belief. A 150-foot bird mound on the southeastern shore of the lake represents the upper world. Bear and panther mounds on the north end of the lake, represent the opposing lower world.”
Devil's Lake State Park, WI
So we took a lake called Spirit Lake or Sacred Lake and turned it into Devil’s Lake.  Yet the energy of this spot still speaks to people of the sacredness of the earth.  This lake and trails still remind people of the beauty of creation.  Even those who are not religious notice a beauty and stillness to this park that once was used as a sacred space.  It’s at moments like these when I stop to say a psalm like 104 
10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, 11 giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst. 12 By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches. 13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. 14 You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, 15 and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart.16 The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. 17 In them the birds build their nests; the stork has its home in the fir trees. 18 The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the coneys. 19 You have made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. 20 You make darkness, and it is night, when all the animals of the forest come creeping out. 21 The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God. 22 When the sun rises, they withdraw and lie down in their dens. 23 People go out to their work and to their labor until the evening. 24 O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mission 1

When I was little, one of the nights we gathered around the TV was to watch "Mission Impossible."  It was on the only station we got, but it was a show all of us loved.  The show always began the same way.  Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) would receive a tape recorded message which said, "Jim, your mission, if you choose to accept it is..." and then it began.  Jim was then given an impossible mission to save the world.  He always accepted the mission and set about choosing agents, with the right skills to complete the mission. As you might guess, the super secret agents of Mission Impossible were always able to complete their mission and save the US or the world from catastrophe. 

Well this is your tape recorded mission, should you choose to accept it.  From 11-1-11 to 11-11-11, the United Church of Christ and our congregation will be focusing on hunger in the United States and around the world. The goals for the campaign from the United Church of Christ are:
  •         Collect more than 1 MILLION ITEMS OF HEALTHY FOOD and other household items for local food banks
  •          to gather more than $111,111 DOLLARS for Neighbors in Need
  •          to gather $100,000 for African famine relief
  •          Offer more than 11,111 LETTERS to Congress asking our government to reform U.S. foreign assistance in a way that more effectively benefits hungry and poor people worldwide

As part of this focus, our Mission will begin on November 1, 2011 with an All Saints Day Prayer Service focused on hunger.  During the service we will read scripture, sing songs, and focus on raising awareness about hunger and poverty and turning that awareness into action.  You are invited to bring food for the Lake Geneva Food Pantry and/or make a donation for hunger relief in Africa.  On Sunday, November 6 we will continue our focus on hunger with Each One Bring One Sunday.  The motto of the United Church of Christ is Jesus’ prayer “that they may all be one.”  On this Sunday, as we celebrate being one together as Christ’s body on Earth, you are invited to:  Bring 1+ Can(s) of Food for the Food Pantry; Bring 1+ Dollar(s) for Neighbors in Need; Bring 1+ Friend(s) to Worship; Bring 1+ Offering of Letters to Worship ( a sample can be found at: http://www.bread.org/ol/2011/sample-letter.html).  After worship the adult education class in the pastor’s office will focus on hunger. 

Each of us in the Church, like Mission Impossible agents, have been given special talents to help accomplish the mission. Who among us have the resources necessary to help others?  Who among us are willing to sharing our faith with others and inviting them to participate in our worship and mission?  Who among us will write letters to congress?  Who among us will teach others about hunger?  Each of us can bring our gifts to this mission and then the goals for the United Church of Christ can become a living possibility expressing our belief that they may all be one. 

How about you? Are you willing to accept your mission?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Grandmother's Generosity

When I moved in with my grandmother while attending graduate school at the University of Connecticut, one of the things that frustrated me, exasperated me, that I can now look back at and chuckle and appreciate is the thriftiness of my grandmother.  She knew that there was a second use for many items from bread loaf bags to cottage cheese containers.  One of my fondest memories of her is of this little, and I mean tiny, pink suitcase she would pack to set off on her trip to visit family.  She knew that all you really needed was a day dress, a Sunday morning dress, underwear, stockings, and a nightgown.  Everything she needed fit in this little case.  She would then set out to visit my parents in Illinois or my aunt’s family in California.  On the way, she would stop and stay at every relative that had settled from shore to shore.  She knew there was someone who would put her and my great aunt or grandpa up for the night.  She expected to receive generosity, but it also helped her to be a generous person.  She gave of herself and her wealth.  What she had was never much, but there was always enough to feed my 26 cousins and 14 aunts and uncles when they dropped by.  There was always enough to help the nursing students she adopted knowing how tough it was to get through school with a family.  Generosity was a way of life, a part of who she was and what she expected of us, her family.  Grandma never had material wealth but she was blessed with the gift of generosity.  As Jesus says, “Give and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap, for the measure you give will be the measure you get back (Luke 6:38).”  Jesus is telling us to live lives of blessing.  The more generous we are the more blessed the world will appear to be.  Our life will be full of giving and receiving.
When we give to our faith communities, we are experiencing part of what it means to live a blessed life.  When we give, we provide food for those who hunger spiritually, emotionally and physically.  We give so that as we celebrate the Lord's Supper and share coffee after worship so as we eat together we become the body of Christ.  We give so that our building is ready to host the Lake Geneva Food Pantry which serves over 500 adults and children a month; Side by Side which provides assistance (rent, utilities, medical) to over 200 families a year.  We give so that our children may be fed the stories of our faith.  We give so that our spirits may be fed by music that moves our souls.  We give so that 75 young children can come to our building to grow and learn in United Child Care Center.  We give to OCWM (Our Church’s Wider Mission) to assist our church in the work of Jesus Christ throughout the world.  We give so that when a hurting neighbor calls, we are able to listen to what is happening in their lives, pray for them, and offer our support. 
"Give and it will be Given to You."