Experience it

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Exodus Challenge Day 40

What’s next? We have come to the end of this part of the journey together. I am not sure how many, if any, of you read though the entire book of Exodus with me. Perhaps you read bits of it or maybe today is the first time that you joined in. It doesn’t matter, welcome.  The question that I wrestle with now is what happens next. 40 days, 40 chapters.

However, at my core, I think that truly may be a problem for many of us. We think about what happens next. I barely made it through the final chapter of today’s reading and I was already thinking about what I would write about tomorrow. I decided to read the 40th chapter again and there I saw my answer.

It was after the tabernacle was finished. All the pieces had been put together. the altars had been arranged and the priests had been cleaned up.The courtyard had been set up. It was after the anointing oil was used. Things were all in place and then it happened. The presence of the Lord filled the tabernacle and the Hebrew people saw it and just waited. There was no need to rush anywhere they had all that they needed. They were able to enjoy God’s presence.

Too often, rushing to the next thing we miss the current thing. We miss the laughs, tears, frustrations, and celebrations. We miss the struggles and the successes. Most importantly at all we miss seeing and experiencing God at that moment.

So today, there is no thinking about what is next. Today, I am going to enjoy the moment and enjoy God.

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Done!

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Exodus Reading Challenge Day 39

It is early on Friday morning, the car is packed and it is almost time to head back to New Jersey. Over the last 30 days I have been on an educational leave that has taken me to Charlotte, Cape Coral, Clermont, Philadelphia, Ocean City, and back to Clermont. It has not been exactly the 30 days that I had planned. I got a lot of things accomplished. I got a lot of planning done.

I came down to Florida with the idea that the sermon planning and worship planning would be all geared toward my ministry in Glassboro. My plans were altered quite a bit 2 weeks ago when I was informed that the Bishop and cabinet had other plans for me. As I sit here this morning with my coffee, I can’t help but think that God has hand in this from the beginning.

My ministry setting will be changing in July, so a lot of what was planned will now be altered a bit for a new context. Yet, I find myself confident that God knew that. God has been walking alongside of me this whole time and simply has been asking me to be faithful. Just do the work that I was called to do and let God take care of the rest.

This morning’s reading from Exodus is a reminder of just that to me. Moses and the Hebrews had been listening to God and the instructions given to them. They had been faithful in the creation of the Tabernacle and the various other pieces needed. They were not exactly sure what God had in store for them next but they stayed faithful to the task given to them.

God wants the same for us. Stay faithful to the call that God has given us. We are never sure God will use our faithfulness in the place or situation. The task that we are invited in will be used as a blessing by God even if we don’t see it or understand how. Just stay faithful.

The job you are given may be done but rest assured, God is not done with you yet! Just stay faithful.

 

Keep Out!?!

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Exodus Reading Challenge 38

Last night we went on a Sunset Airboat ride. It was an amazing experience, gliding over the water with the wind and a little water on my face. The captain of the boat was funny and engaging and gave us some nature lessons and helped us identify some birds that we encountered. We saw several bald eagles, ibises, and herons to name a few. It was so relaxing and the water seemed so welcoming and then it happened.

We slowed down on the boat and eased closer and there it was…about a 5 years old alligator. The picture on this post is the picture that I took of this magnificent creature. It was seemingly not concerned about us as we approached it and then eventually gracefully swam away. The water that once seemed so welcoming now needed to be looked at a little differently.

I relived that experience as I read the chapter from Exodus this morning. One could imagine that the tabernacle as a very impressive and welcoming looking place. The care that was used to build it and the materials used to construct it would add to the allure. Yet, reading about the courtyard was a reminder.

When the people went into the courtyard to give their offering to place on the burnt offering altar they would see the inner tents, the holy place. They would be reminded of God’s powerful presence. the people would remember that God was in this place and the offering they were giving mattered. They needed to approach this with honor and reverence.

How easy it is to go through the motions in worship sometimes. We have so much on our minds and such busy lives. We show up to “put in our time” yet forget that we are there to encounter the Living God. We need to approach God in an attitude of worship and reverence. God is powerful and grace filled, God is calling us to gather together and worship. Abandon our fears, doubts, and anger and focus on God. Are you ready to jump into the water…and worship God?

 

Hands Down

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Exodus Reading Challenge Day 37

I have a confession to make. It is not easy but I just have to do it. Are you ready? Ok here it is…I get a manicure! Ok there I said it. It is over now. I know for some of you it is no big deal but I also know that some of you may give me some grief the next time that you see me. 

I have a friend who used to always talk about getting them but it never appealed to me and then I tried it! It was fantastic. I try not to go more than a few weeks without getting one. I like my hands to be cared for. In my head, I justify it because now my hands look nice when I hand out communion in worship. A weak argument but one I used for a while.

So, if I care about my hands being cared for so much than why do I use a picture of someone with dirty fingernails and calloused hands? I thought about those type of hands while I read today’s chapter in Exodus. The construction has begun on the table, Ark of the Covenant, and lamp stand among other things. The skilled workers were doing hat they were gifted at. They were serving God.

Well my well manicured hands can’t do any type of construction, In fact, my wife often lets my church folk know that I am forbidden to use power tools. She things I am dangerous. I can’t do that type of service but there is so much that I can and try to do. Getting my hands dirty is nothing that I am afraid of while doing the work of God in the community. there is so many ways to use my hands, feet, heart, and brain to share the love of God and show compassion and concern and love in the world.

So no matter what your hands look like or even if you have hands, please know that there is service for you. God wants you in the community. Get busy ,it is one of the greatest feelings in the world to be part of a community and share God’s story in many ways.

Hands down!

Bottomless cup

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Exodus Reading Challenge Day 36

I love sitting in a Starbucks with my laptop and a big cup of coffee. the firs taste of coffee  is so good. It is also a very productive environment for me to get work done. I enjoy the atmosphere and engaging with the employees that you get to know after a while. However, I REALLY like the coffee. I just enjoy knowing that no matter how long I am going to be there that a new cup of coffee is a few steps away.

In fact, I will not ever empty the coffee reserve at Starbucks there will alway be more. So I leave Starbucks knowing that the coffee supply is safe for my next visit. I was thinking of Starbucks this morning as I read from Exodus. the Hebrews were told to bring their offering so that the work of the Tabernacle could begin. the response from the people was so overwhelming that Moses had to tell the people that they had enough and not to bring anymore.

What a wonderful thing to read, this response to God’s blessing. the people responded from gratitude…finally. They, for a moment, realized how far God had brought them and their need for God. They weren’t worried about “what will happen if I give all this?” They weren’t concerned about anything they wanted to respond from love, faith, and hope.

There has been many blessings that God has given me. I have had a great life and yet at times I struggle as well. I struggle with what is “enough”. I struggle with balance. I struggle with resources. I struggle with my gifts. As I re-read the chapter again this morning, I am humbled by the Hebrews response. I am reminded that God’s grace is never-ending. I the well will never run dry. In fact, Starbucks coffee supply will shut its doors one day and god will still be giving and loving because that is who God is. there is no need for fear and no need for doubt.

Just grab another cup of coffee and give thanks to God. Now that’s good.

Time is now

Exodus Reading Challenge Day 35

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The news has FINALLY been announced. Over the last 10 days or so, I have been in communication with the cabinet as a pastoral change has been worked on. It has put me in that nebulous place of the in-between. I have been praying, worrying, praying, and worrying. I have talked to my beautiful wife so much about this that I think she needed this little vacation we are on more than I do.

The in-between will continue over the next few months as I work through what it means to be the current and not yet pastor of these two wonderful congregations. There will be laughs, tears, and plans over the coming weeks. It will be a time filled with challenges and opportunities. Yet through it all we will see God working, of that there is no doubt.

As I read the Exodus passage this morning, I was reminded of the fact that everything is connected in God’s kingdom. the plans that the Hebrew people had been given, the instructions from God, the journey from Egypt has bought them to this place. It was time to act. It was time to bring everything that they had to God. Conversation and planning are important. We need to take the time to discern God’s word for us and our community. We need to be patient when patience is needed. Yet, the time is coming when we are called to bring it all to God:

Our worries and doubts.

Our fears and anxiety.

Our joy and excitement.

Our dreams and visions.

Our heart, love, and gifts.

Bring it all.

So pray. Pray that we respond when God calls us. Pray that we are aware of God’s call for us. Pray that we will be the light for our community. Pray.

It is tough sometimes

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Exodus Reading Challenge Day 34

Let’s be perfectly clear, life can be unpredictable. This is often both a good and a bad thing. Things happen that we do not expect and we learn to adapt and move on if we want to grow. What do you do when everything goes your way? What do you do when nothing seems to go your way? The answers to these question matter, they matter a lot.

There is nothing that we accomplish in this world in isolation. There are people who have surrounded us that have assisted in many different ways and that is important to remember. There are people who have walked alongside us in the darkest of days and been there with us throughout them all.

What do you do when everything goes your way? What do you do when nothing seems to go your way?  I was really thinking of these two questions when I read the Exodus chapter this morning. Moses was being told by God once again that things were going to go well. They were going to see the power and love of God on full display. yet, it came with a warning:

“Be very careful never to make a treaty with the people who live in the land where you are going.”

If we stop there is would seem bizarre of God to say such a thing. Isn’t peace exactly what God wants for us and we need? So let us not stop there and keep reading, God then says this:

“if you do, you will follow their evil ways and be trapped.”

Ok, see this makes more sense to me.

God’s warning is about our very human nature. God knows that if we forget who we are we will get into trouble. Make no mistake it will always be easier to give in to the world than to follow Jesus. It will always be easier to take a shortcut than to do the right thing. It will always be easier to give in to the crowd than to follow the word of God.

The Israelites were heading to the Promised Land, the goal was in sight they believed. Things were going to get tough and when they did God wanted them to remember that God had walked with them through the good and the bad. God had never left them alone and they had gotten to this point with the strength that comes from God and community.

It would have been so easy for them to forget that and God wanted them to hold fast. God wants the same thing for you and I. Hold fast when things are choppy and seemingly out of control. God is there with us. Hold fast when there seemingly is no sense of the world because with God all things will be made right. Be faithful when things go well because they didn’t go well on their own, God was there through it all making the rough waters smooth.

Hold fast to God. Hold fast to your community. God has a great plan for us all. We just have to be faithful. Are you ready?