So, how is your prayer life?
Are you praying?
As I walk most days, the first thing that I do is to lift up prayers of thanks and gratitude and confession, followed by prayers of intercession. The list is long and growing longer for those intercessions. I prayed over a mile of prayers the other day before I turned on the music and lost myself for a couple of more miles. The one constant during this sabbatical has been my daily walk/run (much more the former than the later). I'm steady at four miles now and the knees haven't been cranky at all.
The Christmas Program
The Christmas Program "The Dance of the Night Wind" is humming right along. It is the story of the birth of our Savior told by the Wind that has born witness to God's creative and redeeming work since the beginning of time. The wind dances through creation and the fall, the prophets of judgement and those bearing a word of hope, with shepherds and sheep, Mary and Joseph, and even in a simple manger until finally, the wind dances through us. With solos and a children's choir, plenty of readings, dancing, of course, and oh, and it is interactive a bit - it should have something for everyone.
Some Friends from the Past
We worshipped at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Palm City last weekend where Eloise and Jeanne Cerniglia are now members. I am happy to report that they are both doing well and that Jeanne's hip seems to be recovering nicely after surgery. As visitors at Immanuel, the greeters went out of their way to make us feel welcome, to ask our names, where we were from, and to thank us for being with them. Sharing of the Peace there is much like Trinity and for communion it was cool to see another church using real bread. Instead of plastic cups creating more landfill waste, they had individual small re-useable handmade glazed stoneware communion cups, a nice touch and good stewardship of creation to boot!
Becoming A Blessed Church
What kind of garden is our church?
Standish speaks of six types of gardens, representing six types of churches.
I repeat his prelude to this section because it is just so good.
"For churches to become blessed churches, the first thing they must do is to become grounded in God's purpose by reconnecting with God the Creator, God the Eternal Purpose. They must become more aware of who they are and why they exist. The more firmly grounded in its purpose a church is, the more it opens conduits of grace that allow god's blessings to flow. For a church truly to become a blessed church, it must become grounded in a deep experience of and relationship with God as Purpose.
Churches are like gardens in that they grow best when planted and cultivated according to a clear plan and purpose. In fact, certain types of gardens resemble specific kinds of churches."
Planting A Garden for God
The Old English garden is a carefully planned plot - typically, a whole slew of professional gardeners meticulously maintain it. Its purpose is to provide a beautiful and inspiring landscape to awe and inspire visitors. A church like this provides a space where people are inspired to worship the transcendent God in holy space. Among the members there isn't much interaction or a sense of relationship. People there come to worship to be awed, inspired, and transported into a mystical, sacred world.
The Cottage garden provides beauty, shade, inspiration, comfort, and screening from nosy neighbors. Churches like this have as their purpose to provide shade for those scorched by life's heat, small-scale beauty for those needing a respite from life's ugliness, inspiration for those seeking God's Spirit, and comfort for those suffering pain. In these churches much more interaction connects the members.
The Vegetable garden has as its purpose to feed others, both in their midst and abroad. Churches like this are mission-focused places who feed others physically, mentally, and spiritually.
The Herb garden's purpose is to provide spice and healing. Churches like this are places of healing for those who are broken and hurting, salving their wounds and helping them discover God's love. They also provide "flavor" to the lives of people whose existence has become bland and flavorless.
There is also the Wilderness garden which is planted on a large tract of land and has some organization, but the gardeners have a propensity to let plants and flowers grow wild. With delightful experiences, but dead patches as well, they can be places of inspiration, but with mazes where people get lost. Churches of the New Age movement can be light this - inspiring and nourishing yet deadly and misleading.
Finally, there is the Conservatory. A conservatory is a large structure that contains many kinds of gardens. Each room in the conservatory offers a contrast - and visitors are invited to spend as much time as they want in each garden or to walk through all. Large non-denominational churches can be like this - they present a range of experiences - a bit of everything.
Standish finishes up with this explanation:
"...Just as there are many types of gardens in the world, there are many kinds of churches. Unfortunately we live in a cookie cutter McWorld and would prefer to find the one model that fits all churches. But like gardens, churches are meant to be unique. The point is that when planting a garden, gardeners have to be true to their purpose....To plant and cultivate a healthy garden, we have to be as clear as possible that we are being true to the garden's purpose, otherwise the garden becomes chaotic."
For the church to become truly blessed with God's grace and bear fruit, it must live and grow according to the purpose it was created for....The more we ask, "God, what is your call for us?"and patiently wait for the answer, the more we become a blessed church.
Some things to ponder...how often do churches blindly try to imitate what another chruch is doing just because that ministry or church is successful, rather than inquiring of God what God's call for them? And what would it take to become such an inquiring church? Prayer and patience? Faith and trust? Risk and sacrifice?
Till next time : )
Ever with you in Christ who has already Won for us the Victory!