Has someone who shined the Light of Christ in your life died this past year whom you would like to remember at our All Saints service this Sunday?  Please send their name and a brief idea of how they’ve made the Light of Christ real in your life so we can have candles for them too!

One of the great classics of Christmas literature, Henry Van Dyke’s “The Other Wise Man” (made into a TV movie in 1985), starts with a gathering in Persia of a group whom we come to know as “The Three Wise Men.”  They and others, including “The Other Wise Man” this powerful story is about, were gathered around an altar with a small fire atop, in which part of their liturgy showed their strong connection to whom we know as God: “we worship not the fire, but Him of whom it is the chosen symbol… it speaks to us of One who is Light and Truth.”

Fire and candlelight have always had strong spiritual power for many, hence our using candles in worship each Sunday to represent God’s presence with us, and our use of candles in special services at Christmas when we celebrate “the Light that shines in the Darkness” first coming into the world.  So it’s no wonder that candles are also often used at All Saints celebrations to honor those who have brought the Light of Christ into the darkness of our lives.  Many churches light candles in this way to honor church family who have been lost across the past year, which we will do this year as well.   If you would like to remember with us someone who brought Light into your life, let me know, and we’ll have a candle of remembrance for them.  Feel free to share a bit about the Light they brought to you if you would like, and I may be able to use that blessing in some way in our time together.  Let your light shine!

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

I really don’t know why billiards popped into my half-sleeping, half-awake mind this morning. I’ve not thought of nor played any kind of billiards in quite some time, so why now? Throughout the scriptures and throughout my life, I’ve noticed God often uses dreams or impressions in this twilight of consciousness for conveying “dreams and visions” and insights to those eager to have eyes to see. So I have learned to pay attention to what may seem to be random synaptic firings in the brain. Perhaps the Holy Spirit has something to say through the colliding pool balls on a billiard table?

We have a lot going on in our world today that demands our spiritual attention—the resurgence of COVID, Hurricane Ida, Afghanistan, health issues with church and family, the saints moving on to Glory, the season of reports and Charge Conference to name a few. Kinda seems like the opening “break” on the billiard table, with balls colliding with each other, bouncing and rebounding in every direction at once. Such a scene is a great image for the chaos we seem to live in these days.

But wait—I think I’m hearing whisperings of God’s Still, Small Voice from the balls crashing around the billiard table. As chaotic as these balls bouncing off each other and around the table may SEEM, remember that such a scene is only a small piece of a larger, very targeted and intentional game. Even that first play with the cue ball breaking the starting set is aimed and intentional, and every shot after that is also aimed, intentional, and working toward downing specific, seemingly chaotic balls one at a time, often in a specific order. Sometimes the shots seem to go awry, but in the hands of a talented player, even what seems to be a random shot is often setting up the next shot, as with an expert chess player planning three, four or more moves ahead.

We often hear something along the lines that “these sure are crazy times,” as if we are stuck facing unusual challenges in life right now. But the preacher of Ecclesiastes proclaims that nothing is new under the sun. Charles Dickens’ memorable words, most often quoted only in part, are a good reminder that we’re not is such unfamiliar territory as we like to believe: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

But just as God was busily at work both in Dickens’ time, and in the times about which he wrote—contemporary to the forging of our own freedoms in our baby United States—God is also still at work in our seemingly chaotic times, even though our world, too, reflects the same paradoxes of which Dickens so eloquently wrote. Perhaps we find ourselves now in the opening “break” of a new round of billiards, where everything bouncing around seems to be chaos. But if we trust that God is holding the cue stick and taking careful aim with each shot, perhaps we can find a bit of peace, even if it is ‘’the best of times/the worst of times.”

Rebounding with the Spirit- Rev. Jim

Count Your Blessings

Count your Blessings— Nov 25

With COVID 19 numbers and new cases still sky high, we are back to streaming worship only at Twin Falls.  We’re thankful for the blessing that we CAN still worship in this way!  We’re eager both to have those helping bring the music and service to you with us at the building, and to also be with the rest of you joining us via our streaming service.  Yet even now, we still have an abundance of blessings to count and give thanks for, if only we can lift our eyes from the dreary to see a bigger picture.

Not long ago, Karol and I were on the road somewhere on a cold, dreary, rainy day like today.  Approaching a construction zone on a narrow road, we passed close enough by the first flagger to see the droplets of water coming off her hard hat, sometimes in her face, sometimes down her back.  She had the most miserable look on her face, having to be out in that mess all day.

At the other end of the construction zone, we again came close enough to the flagger to see another young adult, also dripping wet in the same cold rain.  But despite the same long day standing soggy in the cold, her expression was definitely not one of misery.  I may have almost seen a smile there instead.  Same cold, wet day, standing all day on the side of the road, but a different enough reaction I could see it passing by in my truck.

I wasn’t able to stop and chat to ease my curiosity to know the difference between the two.  But in my line of work, I’ve seen that same difference in many others enough to be able to make an educated guess on that difference.  As a pastor and Army Chaplain, I’ve been fascinated seeing that difference a lot, and often in situations much worse than just having to work out in the rain and cold one day.  It usually comes down to whatever it is we focus on.

The soggy, miserable flagger was likely focusing on her immediate discomfort, and the rainy day stretching ahead promising more misery.  But just passing quickly by, I couldn’t even a guess at the other worker’s focus.  I doubt it was the cold and rain, though, and I bet it included counting some kind of blessing.  Maybe she was just happy to have a job and not be cooped up inside with the pandemic raging.  Maybe she could count the blessing of the pride she could take in a job well done, or maybe she lives on a farm, and is thankful for the rain coming now after harvest rather than during.  She may have even been living in the blessing of being able to pray for the safety of her team and for those driving by.

“Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your blessings, see what God has done…” is the chorus of a wonderful old song, reminding us not of the times we feel blessed or like giving thanks, but even when we are “thinking all is lost,” reminding us amid challenges “great or small, do not be discouraged, God is over all.”  The magic of God’s peace only just starts with my kids’ favorite prayer, “Thank you God for everything,” but it’s deepened and grows to God’s peace that passes all understanding when we name those blessings “one by one.”

In fact, there’s a recently validated scientifically proven formula for making God’s peace real in our lives (something we church folk have known for millennia), found in Philippians 4: 4-8.  It can be summarized by a few words—rejoice in the Lord always, don’t worry, pray with thanksgiving, “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds…and be with you.”  Try it if you don’t believe the science or the scriptures, and let me know what you find out!

Count your blessings, name them one by one—and be thankful!  Pastor Jim