Thursday, October 21, 2010

Meditational Thoughts for the Celebration of a Life

I thought I would share with you both the scripture that I refer to as well as this meditational thought as I reflected upon in response to being asked to officiate at a persons funeral who would consider themselves "unchurched". There are many in our country that do not have direct relationships with any denomination or particular church, yet they would consider themselves as being Spiritual. So what does or what can a pastor of the Christian religion say to those families that do not identify themselves as Christian, yet recognize that there is a power beyond how the church defines God? This I think is one of the biggest challenges of Christianity today, that of being able to relate to, comfort, and verbalize the love that God has for all of Creation without using "church language". A second challenge for todays ministers and congregations is to become more humble and throw off the chains of arrogance that organized religion in general presents itself with and examine the premise of life, both in this physical world and beyond. We are just starting to learn the inter-relatedness of atoms and sub-atomic life, is it not possible, then for us to start examining the traditional understanding of the relationship of spirit with that of God and entertain the possibility that God's wish of reconcilition goes far beyond and much deeper than what we have previously understood?
With these questions being raised, I now share with you a meditational thought that I presented yesterday at a "Celebration of Life" for a man who died suddenly and was not identified in the traditional sense as being a Christian, but was a spiritual individual and lived life by the qualities that Jesus the Christ would say were in line with our Creator God, our loving Parent!

Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from God, the Maker of heaven and earth. The Heavenly Creator will not let your foot slip – God watches over you and never slumbers; indeed, God watches over all humanity and never slumbers. Your Heavenly Parent watches over you. Your Eternal Parent will keep you from all harm- It is God who watches over your life; God will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

In Psalm 121, we read the thoughts the Psalmist had as he reflects over his relationship with God. One of the lines reads, “Your Eternal Parent will keep you from all harm…” When we find ourselves dealing with the loss of a brother or father or friend that comes from death, especially when it is sudden and unexpected such as with (incert name), it is hard for us to believe in words that say, God will keep us from all harm. Yet, we read these Psalms as a way of giving us comfort and eventual healing of the broken hearts that come when someone we love has left us and moved on into the next plain of life.
Life is a curious thing. As human beings we have only a three dimensional perspective. We see life only as it is contained within what we call our bodies. Because of our finite abilities, we can only recognize and define life as seen through our eyes and experienced with these bodies. This is our reality: that life begins once we are born and that it ends once our body ceases to function. Therefore, when we hear phrases like, God will keep us from all harm, we find it hard, sometimes even impossible to reconcile the realities of a physical death when it doesn’t match up with our perceptions of what living means.
Living life is a paradox. We see it only as what we do between the time that we are born until the time that we say death has come. Yet there is so much more about life that we experience but cannot physically see or rationally explain. Things like emotions, of love and hate, of what motivates us, or not understanding things that hold us back. We cannot really understand the things that give us joy, or what can bring sadness. All of these things are a part of living life, as we experience events within the mechanical functions that we call our body.
There are aspects of living life that come in the way that we interact with other human beings. We too often judge a person as having been good or not so good by how they interact with those around them. [this portions deals with some specific examples of how this individual related to those that are called friends and/or family] (insert name) was the type of a person who looked after people. (He/she) would help friends out in small but meaningful ways, such as bringing in the mail for friends, or staying on the phone late at night, giving weather reports and road conditions to friends as they would leave work and make a late night drive home from Rock Springs to Superior. (insert name)was a blessing to family and friends! And in return, those of you how took (insert name) hunting with you, or arrowhead hunting, or fishing, or letting (insert name) drive on the back hills, you were a blessing to (insert name) life as well.
You see, life as we live it within these fragile bodies, really is about relationships. It is much less about the physical aspects that we see and can touch, but more about the invisible, non-tangible things about life. It is about the joys we share with one another, it is about the pain we fell when others are struggling. It is about the acts of kindness that we not only do toward others, but also in receiving acts of generosity. Living life is about being a part of a community, a community made up of family and of friends and of strangers.
Life goes beyond this physical world. It is made up of so much more than what our physical, finite bodies can understand. This is what the Psalmist is really trying to tell us, when he says that God will keep us from harm. God see’s each and every one of us as belonging to him, as God's children. It is the love of a parent that always keep the parent on watch of their child. Although we cannot prove the existence of this parent of ours, we see, God in many ways in this world. We see God through the majestic landscape, we see God in the birth of a new born child, we see God in the eyes of two people in love, we see God in the goodness that we as human beings can give to one another. We can see God, through having personal experiences with people like (insert name).
Life is not always easy to cope with. There are times that we feel anger, or hate, or wounded, especially by those that we love. But there are also times for joy, and love, times of appreciation, as well as times of just shear silliness. We know that physical life as we experience it in these bodies, at some point comes to an end. When that happens to a friend or one that we deeply love, the pain seems almost unbearable. We deeply greive when someone dies at an early age like (insert), but also, our pain comes from the hole that is left in our life with their passing. Sometimes when someone like (insert) dies, we become fearful about death itself and wonder if this life is all there is and that once we leave this body that we have occupied for so long, that there is nothing beyond and we truly cease to exist.
These are the intangible aspects of life that the Psalmist shares with us, about the everlasting love and care that comes from God for creation. This is what Jesus was talking about to Martha and Mary as he talked with them about their brother Lazarus’ death, that through Jesus’ love for all of God’s creation, nobody ultimately dies but lives. It is a life in another dimension that we are not able to comprehend, but deep down in our souls, believe exists. During this time of lose, hold fast to these words, That God watches over our lives; God watches over our coming and going both now and forevermore.

Blessing of the Pets Celebration Oct 17, 2010

This last Sunday was one of the most meaningful worship experience of this year, with the blessing of our pets celebration. Although I have been a part of this type of celebration for many years in Seattle, WA, this is a fairly new concept for folks in Rock Springs, WY. Last year was the first celebration in worship for this congregation and we had a pretty fair turn out with six dogs, six cats, and one gold fish. This year, we had a much larger turn out with fiftenn dogs and seven cats. I regret to report that the gold fish didn't make it through this past year. I am posting the meditational thoughts that I used for this celebration which I hope will be of inspiration to you who read this blog and help you in your developing relationship with our God, Creator Parent.

Another Connection to GodBy Rev Steven R Mitchell
First Congregational UCC, Rock Springs, WY 10/17/10
Based on Genesis 1:24-31; Psalm 104: 10-34; and Luke 12:22-30

I have probably shared this story with many of you, but when I was in seminary, there was a standing reference by most of the faculty, of one of my pastoral mentors, Dr. Rev. Roger Fredrickson, saying, “That Roger could have a religious experience just walking across the golf course.” As I grow older, I appreciate more and more this back-handed compliment and hope that someday; I too, might be referred to in this manner, because this refers to the depth of my mentor’s Spiritual awareness.
There is another person that the wider church looks to as being a person who could have a spiritual experience by just walking across a field or through the simple act of observing nature. We acknowledge that man this morning as we celebrate worship with the focus on “blessing our pets.” For some of you, this might be the first worship service that you have experienced where we take time out to thank God for our pets and give a blessing to them and you might not understand “why” we do this or even if it is really “Christian”. Then there might be those of you who were here last year when we had our first service of blessing our pets and not really understand “why” we do this, especially during worship.
The person that I am speaking about is Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone, more commonly known as St. Francis of Assisi. He was the founder of the Order of Friars Minor, more commonly known as the Franciscans. Francis is known as the patron saint of animals and of the environment. It has been customary for Anglican and Roman Catholic churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day of 4 October, and as we become more aware of our relationship with our environment and a broaden understanding of an all encompassing Creator, more and more Protestant denominations are also taking part in this celebration.[3] Wikipedia
As I was reflecting on the First chapter of Genesis and the portion that we read this morning, I looked at a large number of translations to see what words were most commonly used that might have lead to we human’s misunderstanding of our role within God’s creation. The verse that most speaks to our perceptions of responsibility comes in verse 28, “God blessed woman and man, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." In general the most common words used in a variety of translations are words like: reign, dominion, rule, and subdue. All of these words, on face value imply that we have power over creation and can be thought of as being solely for our use and abuse. There is little reference here that would lead us to think in terms of working alongside or of giving equal value to those other creatures that God placed here on earth.
However in Eugene Peterson’s translation we read a very different understanding. “God blessed them: "Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.” Here Peterson uses the phrase “Be responsible for…” This gives a whole new perspective as to how we as “humans” are to relate with the rest of God’s creation.
We are to be “responsible!” Isn’t that one of the first things we learn as children, when we are adopting our first pet, be it a gold fish or a puppy or a rabbit; to be responsible to it. This means, feed it on a regular basis, change its litter box, make sure it has water, or change the water in the case of fish, and to show love toward it. These are basically the same things that we do as parents with our children, so why would it seem odd to think of our pets as any different as one of the members of our family unit?
There is this huge theological debate as to whether or not humans are the only creatures that has a sole, which then allows us to think of anything not human as less than human. We do this with people groups actually. That was one of the arguments as to justify people as slaves, especially black folks; they were less than human somehow, which then allowed us to place them in positions lower than ourselves. Through St. Francis’ spiritual growth, he began to recognize the sacredness of animals, which allowed him then to have conversations with them, as indicated in his sermon “Peace, bird, peace.” For St. Francis, it became another way of connecting with God and with God’s creation over all.
Jesus a millennium before St. Francis, spoke about this same awareness and connectedness with God’s creation, as he dealt with the anxiety of daily living. "Don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more.”
When I am in a public setting, not knowing anyone, it isn’t unusual for strangers to pick me out in a crowd and start up a conversation with me. Most people think this is because I have that look of “accessibility”, but when I ask these people “why” did they chose me to visit with out of all the other people who are in that gathering, the majority tell me it was because I looked like I was “present.” What that means is that I was a person who seemed aware of what was going on at that particular time and place.
I think this is what Jesus was speaking about to his audience. Don’t let the worries of tomorrow occupy your mind, because if you do, you will miss what is going on right now. If you are always thinking about the future or even the past for that matter, you are not living in the “present” and you will not be receiving the full benefit of what it has to offer. Animals live very much in the present. They don’t worry about what they should wear, or about planting food, all that stuff will be taken care of by God. St. Francis noted this, and we do also to some extent when we take the time to observe what our pets have to offer us, especially when it comes as total unconditional love. Living in the present, in the moment, if you will, is another connection to God.
I would like to close these thoughts with something that was sent to me some years ago by e-mail, titled, “Things I learned from my Dog”
• 1. Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.
• 2. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
• 3. When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
• 4. When it’s in your best interest, practice obedience.
• 5. Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.
• 6. Take naps and stretch before rising.
• 7. Run, romp, and play daily.
• 8. Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
• 9. Be loyal.
• 10. If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
• 11. When someone is having a bad day, be silent. Sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
• 12. Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
• 13. Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
• 14. When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
• 15. No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout…. run right back and make friends
• 16. Delight in the simple joys of a long walk.
Let us realize through our pets, “Another Connection to God!” Amen

Monday, October 11, 2010

A New Normal, First Congregational UCC, Rock Springs, WY Oct 10, 2010

A New Normal
By Rev Steven R Mitchell
First Congregational UCC, Rock Springs, WY 10/10/10
Based on Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 and Luck 17:11-19

These last couple of weeks has been exceptionally moving, spiritually for me. One of these events was spending a few days in the Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. During this time I took long walks in the woods, stopped and took long periods of time to gaze at the mired of Fall colors on the hillsides, I was able to observe big game as they grazed in the meadows, and see the raw power of the great falls and dramatic majesty of the deep canyons that had been carved out by that river – it was just taking time to commune with a piece of God’s creation.
Another spiritual high came yesterday in Fort Collins, Co. as Jonathan Firme and I attended a workshop on Church Vitality, Worship and Stewardship, lead by Kate Huey, who works at the national office heading up the Stewardship ministries program as well as writing sermon seeds and bible study materials. During yesterday’s workshop, several questions and a realization came to my mind as a result of group discussions and from pieces of her presentation. One of the questions that came up for me is from a story about a little girl who was very intent in drawing a picture. When her Sunday school teacher asked her what she was drawing, the little girls response was God’s face. The teacher thoughtfully responded with, “Sweet heart, no body knows what God look’s like.” The budding artist replied, “They will in five minutes!”
So I want to find out from some of you, “What does God look like to you?” The reason behind asking this question is this: how can we open ourselves up to someone without having some image about what that person looks like? This is an exercise in developing a part of our Spirituality. It’s like dating, we tend to be pretty anxious when we have agreed to go out on a blind date compared to if you have seen the person who is asking you out. When we have some sort of mental imagery of an individual, we are better able to relate to that person.
Another piece that was brought out in our discussions was the realization that “being spiritually hungry opens us to being vulnerable.” Again it is a relational thing. When one becomes married, one has opened themselves to become vulnerable to their life partner. The depth of any relationship is directly in proportion to how vulnerable one is willing to be with their partner. If one keeps defenses up and doesn’t trust their partner enough to be open to them, then the relationship never deepens. If we do not allow ourselves to open up to God’s spirit, we will never develop a deep trust in God and will always operate in a mode of scarcity instead of through an awareness of abundance.
This leads me into my next question, when we come to this place on Sunday mornings, “Do we come to Worship or do we come to Church?” If we say we come to “worship”, and yet not have an image of what God looks like, wouldn’t that make it harder to “worship” God? If we are afraid of being vulnerable before God, doesn’t it hinder our desire to be spiritually hungry? If we are not spiritually hungry, what then, gives us the motivation to put our trust and our faith in God?
This morning’s stories are directed at making “a new normal.” Here we find Jeremiah speaking to a people who were carried off from their home land, to a land far, far, a way. It is a story of the Southern Kingdom, Israel, being carried off to the land of their captures, off to Babylonian, a land where a different language was spoken, a land with many different ways of doing things and looking at life, a land with unfamiliar gods. How does one survive when life is totally disrupted? As last weeks Psalm 137 stated, “How can we sing the songs of Zion”, being carried off into a foreign land, where every aspect of life is so totally different than what one grows up learning and understanding? Within this particular reading, Jeremiah tries to address these questions as a way of giving comfort to those in exile, and also as a way of giving them hope toward a better future.
A week or so ago, I was having dinner at the home of Ed and Liesel Shineberg. As most of you know, liesel is a refuge from German, who because of her being a Jewess, had to flee her homeland as anti-Semitism was developing to new heights in Europe. At one point in the evening Liesel wanted to show off a quilt that had been made by a friend, from pillow slips that Liesel’s mother had packed in her suite case and carried with her flight to Holland. These particular pillow cases had been a part of her mother’s trousseau. Liesel’s story of her family coming to America is a story that closely reflects the writings in Jeremiah. Their first home was in New York City, in Harlem. Not only were they foreigners in a new land, not understanding the language very well, they were one of the few white families in the neighborhood and they were Jews. They were very much like their ancestors, finding themselves having to cope in a land that was totally foreign to them. At one point, Liesel’s mother made the comment to her husband, “and for this we left Germany?” Then there is Helmut Anderson. We often don’t hear stories about Germans who also fled their homeland in order to find safety, but Helmut has his own story about being a refugee and the challenges of moving to a new country.
Jeremiah speaks to those who physically had been carried off to a foreign land, but there are truly differing empires, those Babylon’s within our life’s that make today’s lectionary reading personal to us. Empires with names like fear, or materialism, or militarism, consumerism, violence in the home, mental illness, and even loneliness. There are times in our lives when circumstances seem to dictate our having to leave what is familiar to us and plunges us into a land that is unknown to us.
The new territory or exile can be a geographical area, or it can be a change in careers, or in personal relationships, with a death of a spouse, or a serious health issue, or even changing circumstance in our spirituality. There are all sorts of events in our lives that demand a change in what we are use to experiencing. In times like these, questions arise, such as: how long will we have to put up with not having a job; how will we be able to survive this disease; where are we going to live now that we have lost the house; how are we going to “do church” in 2010 when we really want it to remain 1950? Or even more personal, “how do I keep my faith in God, when my world is going down the toilet?”

Jesus healed ten men of leprosy, men who had lived in exile from their homes. He told them to go and present themselves before the priest so that they may once again come back home to their community. They lived in exile as lepers. Yet only one of those, who had been cured of his affliction, came back to Jesus to thank him. He was not just in exile from his disease but was a social out case because of his being a Samaritan and not a Jew. The other nine men who were Jews, did as Jesus had told them to do. They did what they were required by the religious practices of their day, yet by not going back to Jesus, they missed out on receiving the true gift that was available. Their picture of God was found in the temple. But the Samaritan, through his vulnerability, was able to see the image of God in Jesus’ act of healing him, opening up the way for this man to go back to praise God and receive a deeper blessing.
This is what the church is suppose to be about, a place where as a family of faith, we are able to provide a safe and loving environment, where as people who live in exile can find nurture and grow into the individuals that God wishes for us. A place where we trust each other enough to be vulnerable to the moving of the Holy Spirit, a place where we can come to God and worship out of the abundance in our lives. Jeremiah encouraged the Israelites to take root and flourish in a hostile land, to develop their spiritual growth and deepen their trust in God. Through worship us find God and a sanctuary in times of calamity. It is through our vulnerability that we truly receive and recognize God’s love and care. Amen

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Remember Who You Are, First Congregational UCC, Rock Springs, WY Oct 3,2010

Remember Who You Are!
By Rev. Steven R. Mitchell
First Congregational UCC, Rock Springs, WY 10/03/2010
Based on 2 Timothy 1:1-14 Psalm 137

“I am grateful to God – whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did…” What a powerful statement the Apostle Paul is making to us in this morning’s letter to Timothy! This morning’s lectionary readings are focused on remembering. In the Psalms, we read a lament of those who are finding themselves in captivity, amongst the tormenting of their captives, of remembering what life was like back in Jerusalem, not only home to the Israelites, but the spiritual center where their religious practices could be conducted without restrictions or interference of those who were none believers.
The United States is relatively a very young country and if we think in terms of the traditional first landing of Europeans at Plymouth Rock, European’s have been in the North America’s for just under four hundred years. Some of us can trace our heritage back to those earliest of immigrants, like my children can on their mother’s side of the family tree. I however can only go back to 1767, when my family’s patriarch came over from Germany as an indentured servant. That is on my mother’s father’s side of the family. On my mother’s, mother’s side of the family, we can trace their entering the United States in the early 1850’s coming from a small village in Southern England.
There is less known about my grandmothers people than that of my grandfather’s. For all of the information of my grandmother’s family history is oral and with each passing generation knowledge of this history shrinks. This is not the case on my grandfather’s side, as we have a very detailed record of the family tree. I have some very intriguing diaries from some of my ancestors who help in the settling of the Iowa frontier, specifically around Pella, Iowa.
I know from these records that I come from people who were willing to take chances to change their circumstances in life. I know that I come from people who didn’t believe in war. My ancestors are known as Frontier people. Meaning, when a new territory was opened for settlement, they would pick up and move into these new areas. I know that some of my ancestors were good friends and hunting buddies with Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan Earp, and if you know anything about the Earp family, it tells me that these ancestors of mine were probably a pretty rowdy bunch of guys. I also know that my ancestors were very interested in higher education as they helped set up a college in the Iowa territory. I come from a long line of artisans. There were members of my family involved in the Great Oklahoma Land grab. I come from people who were not afraid to push boundaries. As an example, my grandfather during Prohibition was a runner for bootleggers, as a way of providing a living for his family during the depression and as an activity protests against a law his saw as unreasonable.
What does all this personal family history, as well as the film clips on “Why I love My Church” have to do with 2 Timothy and Psalm 137? The sharing of some of my family history is an example of knowing who I am. It is a part of what helps give me balance in my life. A part of this balance is due to knowing my roots, of knowing the type of people I come from. Paul was giving encouragement to Timothy by helping him remember who he was and where he came from. Through the film clips, we gain a sense of history of who we are as a denomination. Paul found solace during those times that he found life totally unbearable, and the ability to look forward with hope, in part, because of his sense of his history. He was telling Timothy, “to remember what he had received from his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois”, as a way to continue his walk forward, a faith in Christ, which would help guide his life and ability to share God’s love with others, and be able to strengthen the local church.
I’m about to make a broad statement, but one that has a basic truth to it: When an individual has a good understanding of their “history”, they tend to be, as an individual, more comfortable with themselves, possessing a more confident attitude, giving them the ability to move forward in life’s challenges with a sense of purpose.
A church operates collectively very much like an individual. In order for it to move forward with vision and mission, it first has to hold a strong sense of its past. The United Church of Christ as a denomination is actually young as denominations go, being born in 1957, yet we are the grandchildren of four denominations with very rich and diverse history. We come from German Reformed traditions, as well as one being a uniquely American denomination, and also, as the oldest religious tradition in this country, stemming back to the Puritans who were looking for a land where religious freedom could be practice, which developed into Congregationalist’s. Of course, freedom to practice your religious beliefs meant being a part of the congregational roles, as there was no toleration for other faiths in those very early years.
Paul tells Timothy, “…to rekindle the gift of God that is within you…for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” There was a study done many years ago that studied the active faith of Christian families. What this study found is that the first generation Christian tends to be very strong in both faith and activity in their church involvement; the second generation from that family still has a viable, personal faith, but not as strong as their first generation family; by the third generation, there is generally little personal faith and if there is any church attendance it tends to come from a sense of history rather than that of personal faith experience as did the first generation; if the fourth generation continues to go to church, it only survives because of a renewed personal experience.
A congregation goes through a similar cycle in its faith life. The original group of believers that start a church have a sense of purpose and conviction to achieve its mission; the second generation tends to possess less of this sense of purpose and conviction but is able to maintain a reasonable level of congregational health; by the third generation, the sense of purpose no longer is driven by personal faith but rather by history of the church and membership begins to dwindle dramatically; by the fourth generation the church finds itself struggling for life and ultimately will be closing its doors due to lack of vitality and interest or it will find as St Paul puts it, “a re-kindled” spirit, thereby gaining a new vision of purpose.
The ability of a church to “re-kindle” its faith, in part is to understand its history and understand our history through documents, with the basic document being scripture. It is through the reading of scripture, through the contemplation of what scripture says, that we as Christians find renewal. We as a church need to take to heart what the Apostle Paul is saying to Timothy – to rekindle the gift of God that is within us! It is my assessment that currently we as a body of faith are in the fourth generation, metaphorically speaking. I do not sense as a congregation, there is a clear purpose of what the ministry is for this church. I see in the low percentage of member activity, in the lack of programming in missions, and in the disparity of younger members. You can rationalize all day long as to why this doesn’t happen or why that stopped, but the real reason boils down to the degree of our personal spiritual health and lack of vision and hunger for the ministry of Christ.
We come to Christ’s table this morning, not alone, but as part of a long history of Christians before us. There is the history of almost a hundred and twenty-five years of this congregation, there is the history of those that we call the UCC and of its grandparents, there is the history of those that believed in Jesus in the first century. Today we celebrate World Communion Sunday as a way of acknowledging our unity in Christ throughout the world.
World Communion Sunday (originally called World Wide Communion Sunday) originated in the Presbyterian Church (USA). In 1936, for the first time, the first Sunday in October was celebrated in Presbyterian churches in the United States and overseas. From the beginning, it was planned so that other denominations could make use of it and, after a few years, the idea spread beyond the Presbyterian Church.
The Department of Evangelism of the Federal Council of Churches (a predecessor body of the National Council of Churches) was first associated with World Wide Communion Sunday in 1940 when the department’s executive secretary, Jesse Bader, led in its extension to a number of churches throughout the world. Wikipedia
Let us come to Christ’s table with a hunger to re-kindle the spirit of Christ. A spirit of that gives us courage to face daily trials, of power to over come adversity, of love that helps us reach out to others unselfishly, and of self-discipline to move into the future God has waiting for us! Amen