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Carry with You Peace and Hope

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At first glance it's easy to see that Paul is a senior citizen, maybe a senior, senior citizen even. He has a cane, hands that are gnarled, and what hair he has is snow white. All of this is taken in at a glance as you walk up to the information desk at Reston Hospital, but then, just as you lean on the counter to ask your question, you look into his eyes. Paul's eyes twinkle – really twinkle – and they look into yours with joyful expectancy, as if he can't wait to answer your question.

This particular day I needed room information about a person in the ICU. It turned out to be rather complicated. Paul and I spent about fifteen minutes together during which time he made multiple phone calls on my behalf, all the while assuring me we would find the information I desired. The entire time he was kind, calm and helpful. As I told him goodbye and began to thank him for his help he stopped me and said, "It is I who was privileged to help you. Go visit your friend and I pray that you carry with you peace and hope."

Wow. As I walked toward the ICU I reflected on his words, peace and hope. What would it mean to live remembering that I carry with me peace and hope? Sometimes it is natural in life to pick up fear and anxiety; they are the by-products of a broken world. But what if when we encountered situations that naturally lead to anxiousness we remembered we have a generous supply of peace and hope? My new friend Paul reminded me that even in the most difficult of times we are not without the ability to find hope and peace and that the words found in the letter to the Philippians are true, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Paul was a special servant to me this week and I am so grateful for his reminder that carry with me the peace of Christ wherever I go.

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Sermon Response: The Voice ~ by Wendy LeBolt

"LITTLE PIG, LITTLE PIG, LET ME COME IN!"
There, did you read that in a big, deep voice? Reverend Miner says, "I hope so, or you're not a very good storyteller." Because you want the child to get the message: when danger comes knocking, don't let it in. Isn't it funny how children's fiction speaks so much truth, in a voice that sounds very much like our own?

We are blessed, really, and I am not just saying that because this is a "church blog," with preachers at Floris who are good storytellers. Barbara went on to share the stories of no shower but my family loves me anyway, of Timber the golden retriever who lives to be with Becky, of famous people who have undermined our national trust, of a groom and bride who sob with 100% joy. Way to tug at our heartstrings, Barbara.

But story, well told, does that. It engages us and then unleashes the "aha!" But, more than that, it stays with us in a way that lectures and exhortations and, well, regular preaching, doesn't. I love hearing a good story on Sunday, don't you? Partly because I'm still chewing on it on a Monday morning. I guess I am a "morning after" person.

Now, true disclosure, I take notes during worship. Perhaps some of you sitting near me have noticed this. I hope you don't find it distracting. They're for my Monday. They are actually an act of worship for me. I come on Sunday expecting a gift, so I bring my pen.And I am neverdisappointed.

Oh, the notes I take don't look very much like this blog, because everything looks different on Monday morning in the light cast by worship. But today I am feeling better about this because Barbara has reminded us that it's not about the words, it's about how you say them.

I need to go back and read some of those children's stories we still have on our kids' shelves. That's what they tell you to do if you want to write your own story…read what you're trying to write. And, as it happens, I am in the middle of trying to write a children's story. It's fictional, but the truth keepsgettingin the way. Makes it hard to write, but I hope it will make it easier to read.

But, isn't it like God to come to my rescue just as I am threatening to take myself too seriously? This morning, I am paging through gift catalogs on my kitchen counter – yes, that time is upon us – and open to a page of t-shirts with silly sayings. Somehow I gravitated to the page for scrabble players, I guess. One of the shirts read:

"Let's eat Grandma.
Let's eat, Grandma.
Commas save lives."

For a storyteller the message may be all in how you say it, but when you write it down, punctuation is NOT optional. Commas save lives!

If you just chuckled, too, perhaps you are a worship service note-taker who finds God on a Monday morning, too. Take it from me, the accidental blogger, you can trust Him. And the Monday morning blog would love some new voices.

Remember, it's all in how they READ it.

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Sermon response: Love Casts out the What-if's ~ Wendy LeBolt

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I am not brave, though I'm braver than I used to be. I am, however, afraid.

Barbara reminded us Sunday of just how many places scripture tells us to "be not afraid." Indeed,

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" ~Psalm 27:1

I had always thought if I was a good and faithful follower of Christ I should not be afraid. After all, why would I? If God is for us, who can be against us? So, whenever fear crept up on me, I felt like a bad Christian. Or at least one who was weak in faith.My Disciple Bible Study group this year helped me see this differently. They pointed out that God said "do not fear…" so many times because God knew we would be afraid. He just didn't want us to remain in our fear – because fear disarms us. Perhaps even disables us.

I used to see this in the students who came into my class to learn anatomy and physiology. There was much to learn and they tried to cram it all in. On test day, they would pore over notebooks and note cards. They'd be quizzing each other. They'd be asking and answering all therightquestions. They'd be looking up last minute details in their text books. Then I would hand out the tests. Immediately, their faces were frozen in fear. "Oh no, the test. What if I don't know…What if I get a bad grade? What if I get confused? What if…"Yep. Fear opens the door to the 'What if's.' And out that door flows our confidence and every bit of preparation we've put in.

God knows our capability and He doesn't want us to fail the test. I think that's why He told us over and over "do not fear." He knows the power of the 'what if's'.

I read an account this weekend of a young woman in that Colorado movie theater who dove to the floor out of the line of fire only to find herselfat the feet of the gunman. Round after round he fired sent scalding shell casings onto her body. She could not scream, or move or he would finish her. So she lay, in terror and in pain, silent. She lived. She was brave.

What do we have to fear?

Ironically, in the church I think we (and I mean we adults) are often afraid to share our faith. What if they ask us a question we can't answer? What if they are offended? What if they disagree? What if they point out an error? Funny, it may not be a faith problem but a 'what if' problem that does us in.

Thisoccurredto me as I watched nearly 70 students and chaperones spill out of their seats at the 9:15 worship service and assume their places in a line stretching the entire length of the chancel. They came to be commissioned on mission teams – 48 heading to New York to share their witness in word and presence and 19 to West Virginia to witness in word and deed. These young people were excited to be sent out. I could see it on their faces; they were not afraid.

It is amazing the difference between students who know they go with God and those who fear they go it alone. Our world is way too dangerous a place to go without God.

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Sermon Response: This Year Will Be Different ~ by Wendy LeBolt

Advent Sermon Series

What I Really Want for Christmas

I stared at my worship bulletin yesterday and it asked me"What I really want for Christmas."

I have shopping lists already madeformembers of my family, friends, teachers. Don't forget the bus driver and the mail carrier. But what doI really want? I want to give Christ the best birthday gift ever. So, what do you give the Son of God who really has all things? What would bring a smile to Jesus' face on Christmas Day?

I'm not sure, but I have 27 days, beginning today, to think about it. And I'm not stopping at just thinking about it. My teenaged daughter and I set up a Facebook Page, Christmas Tree for Christ, where we (and all our friends and acquaintances who "like" us) can placeour offering ofgifts for the Baby Jesus. I hope to place one gift under the tree each day. I hope you will join us there and place a gift under the tree.

Yesterday, I placed thechildren's book, the Littlest Angel, by Charles Tazewell asI read the story again. It is this story which inspired the idea for the Christmas Tree for Christ.

Today, Iplaced my (very) humble rendition of the hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel played on the baby grand piano given to me as a gift from my father in law. This offering was inspired by Reverend Miner's amazing account of singing O Come Emmanuel in the Church of Saint Anne and hearing ring in the rafters the hope-filled prayers of hundreds of generations of the faithful.

I know I will never have the "perfect" gift for Christ. But seeking to know what He wants, I think, may make this Advent different for me. It's a small way I can light the candle of hope and invite others to know Hope as I know Him.

What three things will you do differently this Advent season that will bring renewed hope and faith?

Are there friends who will encourage you to stick with the changes you have committed to? how will you encourage them?

Pamela Potts has given us some great suggestions about simplifyingand making spacefor things that give lasting meaning in the season.I very much enjoyed deleting the Cyber Monday specials from my computer this morning without reading them.

I am choosing to believe in hope. Redskins fans?

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Sermon Response: Vanity Plates

I love deciphering personalized license plates. I think it all began when I started doing the "jumbles" in the comic strips many years ago. Now, it's second nature. A quick stroll through the Floris parking lot will net you tons of reading material.

Over the years I have written down some of my favorites. Now, it's easier than ever to record them since I can snap a photo with my cell phone. I try to limit how often I do this while driving. What's amazing to me is how timely some of these license plate messages can be. Forinstance

Loved North Carolina

Just when I had returned from a great retreat in North Carolina.

and:

Just when I had committed to coaching a girls U9 soccer team.

Girls Soccer

Even last Monday, right before the Redskin/Dallas game, I saw a license plate that said, "Btdalas". Ah, license plates are not always prophetic are they?

And even thesimplestmessages can be misinterpreted. My license plate reads "IXRSIZ." My husband got it for me many years ago. One time an acquaintance asked me if it was my husband's way to "get me to exercise." This did not go over well with me; my husband, of course, thought it was hilarious.

But in worship yesterday we were reminded of the times of the people of Israel in the book of Judges. They revolved in the cycle of apostasy/suffering/turning back to God/Deliverance. In that momentI recalled a license plate I'd seen recently. I didn't get a photo, but it made me sigh. It read "CRY2GD." It just seemed so right for our times, our earth and ourworld,especiallyyesterday on World Communion Sunday.

One interesting thing about personalized plates is that they speak for you. But without punctuation and vocal inflection, sometimes it's hard to know whether they are a description or a command. Is this driver saying she cries out to God? Or is she imploring us all to cry out to God? I guess, the message is pretty hollow if it doesn't mean both.

And that, I suppose, is the thing about crucial conversations; our words are empty if we haven't first dialed up the conference call and gotten God on the line. Then, if we're brave enough, we live the message and we carry it into the world ready for the response it will bring.

I guess the question is: in these days, when the stakes are so high, are we willing to display the message we carry and risk the conversation?Because I have a feeling Reverend Miner (and Prophetess Deborah speaking to Barak) are very right. If we don't speak now, the conversation may get really ugly. For instance, this is a license plate I saw recently:

Never Enough

It kind of speaks to you, doesn't it?

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