You're Pre-Approved! 
Monday, June 26, 2006, 10:05 AM - Extra Christy
Do you have days when the only positive feedback you get is the bright APPROVED display on the check-out card machine? I always wait for that message to light up and I let out a little yip of joy that I was tested and approved! (One of the many reasons I am famous at the grocery store.)

I also marvel at the mail I get. Somehow the mailers have found me at my parent's home. I get official looking letters saying I'm not only approved, but I'm pre-approved! Imagine that. Could there be anything better than pre-approved! (Okay, maybe "check enclosed";)

Pre-approved means you are already in! You don't have to worry about qualifications, tests, references, co-signers--you're finished with all that before you start! You're good enough! Glorious!

Presbyterians like the idea of being pre-approved. Here is a Bible verse, pre-approved of course, about pre-approval by God:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ-even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.- Ephesians 1:3-4
God chose us before the foundation of the world! Now that's PRE-approval of the best kind! Even on those bad days, I remember the pre-approval celebrated at my baptism as a baby, that before I loved God, God loved me.

Hoping you God's Pre-Approval lights you up!
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Ties for Father's Day 
Monday, June 19, 2006, 10:01 AM - Extra Christy
Every advertisement for Father's Day seemed to compare their wares favorably to the traditional gift of ties. I confess to be such a church junkie that I hear a hymn every time the subject of "ties" comes up.

When I was growing up, when a church member moved away, we said Good-bye by singing the hymn "Blest Be the Tie that Binds". To my young mind sitting all dressed up in church, I thought it was a funny hymn because although ties did bind my young neck, I experienced anything but God's blessing by that binding.

Here's a couple of the verses:
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
Father's Day is a good day to celebrate ties. Not just the kind that bind the neck but the kind that bind the heart. I hope you called or visited your Father yesterday if he still lives to bless your life, and if not I hoped you visited him in memory, honoring that tie.

Think also during this "tie holiday season" about the other ties your heart wears and how their binds have blessed you. Maybe, in honor of the season, consider giving such a tie to someone else. A phone call, a card, an email, or a visit could make a blessing binding that folks would be pleased to put around their hearts.

And don't forget to tie on a prayer to your Heavenly Father! He likes to get those ties, no matter what the commercials tell you.

Hope your ties are blessed!
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Carry-in Worship 
Monday, June 12, 2006, 09:58 AM - Extra Christy
My wife and I were invited to a Friday night Shabbat service at a synagogue recently. (According to Jewish tradition, sundown Friday is the beginning of Saturday: the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath (the english form of Shabbat). We have a taste of this tradition in our Christmas Eve services. Whew!)

Throughout the service, the rabbi invited members of the congregation forward to read scripture, lead the singing and prayers, open the doors to retrieve the scroll with the scriptures, give announcements, and drink wine together at the end of the service.

I was reminded of the church tradition of a "carry-in", "pot-luck" or "covered dish" dinner when everyone brings a contribution to the meal and the result is greater than the sum of the parts. The playful exploring of connections of offering to the preparer is something missing from technically perfect preparations of a catered meal professionaly provided.
When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.— 1 Corinthians 14:26

If worship tastes bland to you and the presentation isn't interesting, try bringing something you made to the gathering to share with others. A prayer request, a scripture reading, a greeting for that person sitting alone, a hearty song, or a open heart prepared with prayer and seasoned by life. Worship should be more a shared family meal than fast food eaten alone with others.

God can't wait to see what you bring!

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Monday, June 5, 2006, 09:56 AM - Extra Christy
I got a graduation party invitation recently. What fun! This is the season of graduations. At GHPC yesterday we welcomed "graduates" of our confirmation process, 5 young men and women who are seeking to leave the shadow of their parents' and grandparents' faith and take on the privileges and responsibilities of the faith on their own.

Garrison Keillor describes pushing his daughter on a swing and describes the highest point of her swing as "the place where joy and terror meet—and religion begins."

Graduation is a place where joy and terror meet to form a beginning. Joy of a job well done (or at least done!) and terror of uncertainty of the next chapter in life. I like the term "Commencement" rather than "Graduation" for ceremonies at this transition time. Commencement focuses on what is beyond instead of what is behind: where that joy and terror meet—a new beginning.

No where does Joy and Terror meet for a new religious beginning than at the cross. Jesus' final words from the cross: "It is finished" makes one think of graduation and commencement, graduation from sin's penalty to the commencement of love's pardon; from end of earthly life to the beginning of the joy of eternal life.

In Jesus' appearances after the joy and terror of the cross, he frequently greets us with the words, "Do not be afraid." Beginnings can be fearful times, forged out of joy and terror, but as the first words of the Bible proclaim: "In the beginning, God!" God is in the beginnings and endings, God is the Alpha and Omega, we need not be afraid to go where God already is.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.— John 14:1- 2

Hoping God pushes you even higher!

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Memorial Day 
Monday, May 29, 2006, 09:52 AM - Extra Christy
I was looking over activities for Memorial Day with my family. The paper listed memorial services and a parade, but also a pancake breakfast, a motorbike race, a fun run, blockbuster movies, and a "traditional" picnic.

One of the activities that was special to me as chaplain of the Ottawa Volunteer Fire Department was placing red flags with the fire fighters seal on grave markers of former firefighters. We put on our dress uniforms and drove the engines to the cemeteries to honor the memory of those who went before us. As the years and memorial services went by, the flags marked more than just a place in ground for me, but brought to mind the firefighters I knew.

Our communion table has a quotation from Jesus engraved across its front
This Do In Remembrance of Me — Luke 22:19b (King James Version)
The meaning of communion is broad and deep, but one image for me is like those red flags in the cemetery, it grounds a memory of a loved one.

Author Mitch Albon in The Five People You Meet in Heaven says it this way:
Lost love is still love, Eddie. It takes a different form, that's all. You can't see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken,another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it. Life has to end—Love doesn't.
A fitting quote for both Memorial Day and Communion—everything else passes away, but love never ends.

Hoping you dance with love that never ends

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