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I have been so blessed to serve as one of the pastors at MCCGSL for the past 4 1/2 years.  Our journey has been filled with love, laughter, trials and tears.  I know that I am better because I have been here.  You have touched my life and have shaped my ministry forever.  I know that God is going to continue doing amazing things at MCCGSL.  Love one another and continue to grow together.  Tell people what you love about MCCGSL and invite them to come to church with you.

I hope that you will join me on Sunday as I preach my last sermon and celebrate our ministry together after worship.  

I leave you with these words by Brené Brown from her book, The Gifts of Imperfection.  "To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn't come with guarantees - these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But, I'm learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace."

I fiercely love MCCGSL with my whole heart and I know that God has a plan for me and God has a plan for you. May we live joy-filled lives that abound with gratitude and grace!

Blessings,

Pastor Katie

Pineapple Hospitality

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Because I grew up in the South, I have long been familiar with the pineapple as a symbol of hospitality.  If you travel through the cities in the south, you will see that the pineapple adorns statues, gates, door knockers, wallpaper, bedposts and on and on.

In early colonization, the pineapple became a delicacy because of its rarity and delicious juice.  Europeans had never encountered such a fruit so when it was served to guests, they felt particularly welcomed and honored.  As time went by, the pineapple was used in other ways, as well.  For example, in the deep south, if a pineapple was found on your porch in the morning, it indicated that your neighbor wanted to sit in the swing with you and visit.  Additionally, when sailors would come home, a pineapple would be speared and placed in front of the sailor’s home as a sign that there would be friendship, warmth and a welcome home party for the sailor.

Today, the pineapple is the international symbol for hospitality.  In my native Alabama, pineapple upside down cake is a delicacy and if you serve it in your home, you are communicating to guests that they are warmly and enthusiastically welcomed.  It symbolizes that the host desires for you to feel warmth, friendship and comfort while in their home.

Every week, we have guests in our church home.  We believe ourselves to be welcoming and always inclusive but it never hurts, from time to time, to check and see how many pineapple upside down cakes there are when visitors enter our doors!?  Are you one of the pineapple upside down cakes?  Is our welcome warm, comforting and enthusiastic?  Will our guests leave and understand why we say that our church is a place where Everyone Belongs?  I pray that our welcome can become like a pineapple . . . a delicacy of sweetness and warmth.

RESURRECTION!

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This week the pastor of the MCC in Omaha, Nebraska, shared this picture on his Facebook page with the message, "Perhaps this image can be a metaphor for Christianity in the West."

For more than 20 years people have been discussing the decline and possible death of Christianity in the Western World (basically meaning Europe and North America). As I chatted with my colleague from Omaha, one of the things we discussed is the irony that for decades Christians have worried about the death of our faith...even though we practice a faith that is based in a story of death and resurrection.

Perhaps we could all stand to have more regular reminders in our lives that we practice a resurrection faith. No death is final...be that the death of the physical body of a loved one, the death of a pet, or the death of a beloved restaurant, store, or organization. All death creates an opening for new life, for resurrection.

With all the anxiety in our world today, we are all tempted to put our "death glasses" on. Those glasses cause us to look around and see all the things that are dying. This week, I encourage you to ponder the image of this tree. See the new life springing forth from death. Then, I challenge you to put on your "resurrection glasses" instead. Try to look at the events happening in your life, our church, and our world with resurrection glasses that see the new life and the hope of the resurrection work God is always performing all around us!

MORE FROM MOTOWN

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We got off to a great start to our Motown Series last Sunday. If you missed it, be sure to watch the sermon video below because it opens with a great Motown medley by our choir! With all the busyness of our church these days, I also want to encourage you to sign up for the daily affirmation emails that go along with this series as well (see below). They will add a meaningful element to your experience of this July series.

Last Sunday, we focused on the Hope that can be found in the message and music of Motown. This Sunday we will look more deeply at the source of that hope by looking at what lies behind the music. There is a rich history that made all of that movin' and groovin' possible! I hope you have enjoyed some time with family and friends this holiday and are able to join us on Sunday! Maybe bring a family member or friend along with you! May God bless you today and always!

THE MOTOWN GOSPEL

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I am very excited to begin sharing our new series with you entitled, "The Faith We Sing: Motown." Each summer I partner with the talented folks in our music ministry to bring a new installment of this series. Each music genre we have explored has been special in their own way, and I am certain that the Spirit led us to Motown for this year. It is going to be the perfect message for the culturally divisive and uncivil times we are living in.

The music of Motown, born out of racially- and economically-tense 1960s Detroit, has a powerful message for the events happening in our current times. The Motown Gospel offers hope when people are despairing and worried. The Motown Gospel proclaims justice to those who are oppressed and disenfranchised. And the Motown Gospel brings love to a world that is tempted to choose hate. All this and more lies ahead for us over the next several weeks at MCC. I hope you will make plans to join us, sing along, and explore the Motown Gospel!

PRISONERS OF HOPE

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Return to the stronghold,
You prisoners of hope.
Even today I declare
That I will restore double to you. Zechariah 9:12

It has been a week . . .

Death of friends and loved ones in our congregation seem to have loomed large in our grief . . .

The Supreme Court was wishy-washy about non-discrimination . . .

      A gay man was killed in Soulard, our church's neighborhood . . .

      The big island of Hawaii continues to be ravaged by an erupting volcano  . . .

       A fashion icon hung herself in her apartment . . .                              

I suppose this list could go on for a while and no doubt, you could add your own particular things to it. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to dive full on into the rivers of all that is wrong, sad, unjust, frustrating and tragic? We are surrounded by reasons to engage these things until the lens through which we view the world become cloudy, gloomy and filled with despair.

And then . . . as people of faith, we are reminded that we are called to be Prisoners of Hope! Yes!

     We are called to remember the mystery and power of the One who loves us and walks with us . . .

We are encouraged to know that in every challenge, there is a lesson that brings us closer to our purpose . . .

We are invited to sew love where there is hate, understanding where there is injustice, grace where there is trouble and comfort where there is grief . . .

We are nudged to channel the power and presence of the Spirit who sustains and teaches us . . .

We are moved to be grateful for every blessing in every moment . . .

To be Prisoners of Hope will not take all the challenges and heartache away but it will ensure that there is a little less despair, a little less fear, a little less sadness and a little less cynicism in your own little part of the world. The promise of God is that restoration will return double to us. That my friends, can change the world. Join me this week in being a relentless Prisoner of Hope!

MEMORIAL DAY REFLECTIONS

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In Fannie Flagg's book Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man the main character says the following in the inscription: "What you are about to read really did happen to me, or maybe it didn't. I'm not sure, but it doesn't matter because it's true." 

This weekend marks the U.S. Holiday of Memorial Day during which we remember all the fallen soldiers both domestic and foreign. In the world where truth and facts are hard to come by, who these soldiers fought for does not matter so much as the fact that they all left their loved ones behind.

History can be quick to choose the winner of a conflict in a way that fails to acknowledge mutual hurt and the basic humanity of all who existed on both sides of any conflict. This weekend, while we gratefully remember those who fought for our country, I hope that we can also be mindful of those who fought for Iraq, Germany, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Korea, etc. As Christians, we celebrate Christ coming, dying, and ascending back to the Creator, while also having a faith big enough to offer grace and welcome to Jews like Paul who persecuted Christians, Roman soldiers who crucified Christ, and for all who walk this planet with different faiths or different countries.

I like Fanny Flagg's book's idea of what is true. The details of what happened, the details of our mistakes or our successes, are not as true as the Spirit with which we approach the world. And that truth is one we all must share with one another for the purpose of edification. That is what sharing the Good News of a God who is the loving Mother and Father of us all is all about.

What Has Your Attention

I have a picture in my office that says...

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I was such a fortunate child to have been the recipient of unconditional love from both of my parents.  The kind of love that is always there and is not used as a carrot or stick or chess piece.  The kind of love that caused me to never spend a single moment wondering whether I was loved.  I think that is why I have this picture in front of me every day at work.  It seems to remind me that in the simplest terms, God loves us so much that we get as many chances as we need and love is always available.

Love, grace, forgiveness, mercy . . . these are the gifts that God is always eager to offer us and yet, how often do we simply turn them down?  Sometimes, we allow our guilt and shame to take over and we reject the gift of forgiveness.  Sometimes we allow our feelings of being unworthy to cause us to turn away from God’s gift of grace.  At other times, we invest in our anger and bitterness such that we are unable to receive God’s love and mercy.

I invite you this week to work hard on noticing where you focus your thoughts, where you expend your energy and how you withhold your love because of fear, anger, disappointment and loss.  Quantum physics tells us that whatever we focus on expands so it is no small thing to notice where you focus is. 

Do you really want more negativity in your life as the result of focusing your thoughts on negative things?

Do you really want more bitterness, anger and disappointment in your life as the result of expending your energy on being angry and unforgiving?

Do you really want more fear in your life because you continually withhold love?

I fairly certain that none of us consciously want these things but I’m equally certain that we often walk around unconscious and don’t pay attention to the ways we are rejecting and turning away from the sweetness of God’s unconditional love for us.

“Lean in” my friends.  It can’t hurt to see if anticipating and focusing on these gifts just might cause them to manifest themselves!  The secret about God’s unconditional love?  It is always there and God is always ready for you to have it . . . so the power to receive it is all up to you. Open your heart to it and just sit back and see what God can do.

If We Simply Believe

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This is the interesting thing about miracles: Those who do not believe in them do not experience them. Even if they experience a miracle, they will have an alternative explanation like fate, luck, a drug, or a faulty test. However, those who do believe can attest to the many miracles they have witnessed and experienced in their own lives and in the lives of those around them. They see God's miraculous work all the time.

Doing the work of miracles also requires belief. If we are to claim the miracles God has for us as a congregation, we must believe that we can be a part of one; we must have faith in ourselves and in our God. When we dare to dream big it is not so much a test of our ability, but it is a test of our faith. Will you dare to place your trust in God?

This is a big and serious question. Some of us have risked putting our faith in God before, and we feel let down by the God we were taught about. Others of us put our faith in a church, and we were hurt when we realized that church people have all the same flaws as non-church people. 

Today...really every day...is your chance to have your faith renewed. Each day is offers an opportunity to see that while "church" may occasionally disappoint us, God never will. Scripture says that while we may be faithless, God will remain faithful. Even if we don't keep up our end of the bargain, the Spirit of God will never fail or falter. Open your eyes to the miracles God is trying to show you today. Let your faith be renewed by the Lover of Your Soul. What greater miracle is there than that?

25 + 29 = Life

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This last week Kevin and I made the mistake of going to see a financial adviser. You see, with 40 now looming large on the horizon we figured we should probably meet with someone who could tell us how we are doing with our preparations for retirement. Yet somehow, this quickly turned into a rude awakening about death.

I reached out and grabbed one of the suckers from the bowl on the desk...watermelon...my favorite since I was kid.

Our adviser, a gentle-talking man with a warm smile that made you feel safe, began by just asking the routine questions you would expect: 401k this, Roth IRA that, and so on. All the while he was typing all this information into his computer that he said would run some calculations and let us know how things were looking. What he was really setting up was a Good Cop, Bad Cop scenario.

You might be expecting this to be a story about how no one ever saves enough for retirement, about how Kevin and I were shocked by the amount we needed to save. But this is not that story. Kevin and I attended our church's Financial Peace University class so that part actually went okay. The lessons we learned here are serving us pretty well. The problem was that evil, disgusting, and rude computer of his told me when I was going to die. 

Yes, in an instant all that gentle-talking and warm smiling Good Cop adviser stuff was gone. Bad Cop computer was taking over now, and it popped it up right on the screen in a HUGE font so I was sure to see it: 25 working years, plus 29 retirement years. Add them up sir...it appears that barring any kind of violent early end or devastating cancer diagnosis that if all goes perfectly well you are still 6 feet under in about 50 years. 

It seems to me that a place designed to deliver such unwelcome news should be accompanied by more than a bowl of dum-dums on the desk to salve your wounds. Have you ever wondered if those bowls of lollipops were some kind of passive-aggressive statement from the office workers? I can imagine there being some real satisfaction after dealing with a difficult person by ending the conversation by saying, "Want a dum-dum?" (you dumb-dumb). 

Bad Cop probably enjoys tactics like that. "These numbers are just math, don't blame me," it says grinning and passing me a sucker. But maybe I am a dumb-dumb? Maybe I am a sucker?

As a Pastor, I know that death is just a part of life and that there are promises from God about what happens next. But as a normal human being, I'm a sucker. I'm a sucker for more years, more laughs, more fun, more...time. 

I'm sure there are many folks who would trade their math for mine. After all, 50 years is a good amount of time to still have sitting on the Bad Cop's screen. 

But I remind myself that I am dumb-dumb only if I fail to realize that the math has been the same my entire life. My current equation reads 25 + 29 = Life. This is nothing new. No reason to fret.

More importantly, I then remind myself (and you) that I am preparing for more than a long and healthy retirement. I'm doing a higher-level math than Bad Cop can even compute. This is not a death sentence. The very last word in the equation tells the whole story. This all adds up to life, not death. 

As I crushed the last bits of watermelon sucker between my teeth, Good Cop adviser looked at us, "You guys are going to be okay," he said with that gentle, warm tone. Kevin grabbed my hand and we smiled at each other. He was right. We are more than okay. 

Yes, in the math that matters, we are all more than okay.