Sunday, May 1, 2011

Open Spirits, Open Minds…

Let me tell you about Liz. She was the daughter of close church family friends during my childhood, and three years my elder. I remember, during youth events, Liz playing guitar, leading prayer groups and bible studies, and often helping others go deeper in faith. Liz was very cool, I thought. In fact, I first undertook church leadership roles because I wanted to learn whatever Liz seemed to know about God. Serving other youth, as she did, seemed the way to do it.

A few years later, during college, I met Mark. He was the college group minister at a local church and brilliant acapella musician. A Christian acapella musician myself, I thought Mark too was very cool. As I got more involved in that church group, Mark and I grew closer. I learned about his personal devotional habit, even joined him for a few months of reading the entire New Testament in thirty days. And I believe that because I’d spent time learning what Mark knew about God, in Spring 2002 I decided to attend seminary.

In seminary, April the first year, I attended Laura’s church. She preached with passion and brilliance, personal investment and scholarly depth. Thus, I was really impressed. I thought, “Whatever this woman knows, about church and God, I need to learn.” So I asked to be Laura’s intern the next year and, thankfully, she agreed. It was the best internship I could’ve imagined. Her example and ideas still guide my steps. In fact, I trace the root of my decision to not be a Navy chaplain or full-time theology professor, but an honest-to-goodness church pastor, to her wonderful mentorship.

Maybe you’re noticing a pattern- Times that I’ve opened my spirit further to what God was doing in my and others’ lives have led to me opening my hands wider in service and stewardship to God and God’s church. And these are just mentor/friend figures; don’t get me started on my faithful parents and amazing wife! In fact, I think that’s one familiar- maybe typical- path for Christian spiritual growth. We open our spirits to God in some increasingly sincere way. God inspires us, feeds us, challenges us, leads us. Then, suddenly, we’re opening our hearts and hands wider to others.

This month, you’ll hear more about the many ways this idea has played out in many lives besides mine. Through scripture, guest speakers, sermons, etc., Open Spirits, Open Hands will PCCC’s May Theme. Not coincidentally, during May we’ll also ask you to make pledges for the 2011-2012 budget. As you may know, our annual budget ends every May 31st, so we’ll construct a new one to discuss and approve at the yearly June congregational meeting (June 26, this year). Therefore, we’re asking you to have pledges into the church on or before May 22nd. A letter with more detail and a pledge form will be mailed soon. I’m simply planting the seed so you can begin thinking now.

As a side-note, I hope you don’t take this as reason to skip church during May! Indeed, we won’t talk just about money, but the many ways we can be constantly growing as Christians- in our knowledge and love of God, our openness to God’s always different ways, our stewardship of the time, talent, treasure and earth God’s blessed us with, our service to God and others. In other words, while we’re giving May a specific ‘stewardship’ focus, the truth is that’s not very different than what we always do. Open our spirits wider to God. Leading to further opening of our hands and lives to others. It’s kind of the rhythm of Christian living. Yes, we’ll ask you this month to put a dollar amount on that and help build next year’s budget (and if you thought last year was big, I’ve got an even greater feeling for next year!). Nevertheless, I pray that’s only one step you take during May to grow in faith by growing in service and stewardship. And while I’m at it, let me again thank you for what you already give so generously and courageously, in so many ways!

Grace and Peace,

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