Good afternoon to you on this very snowy day!
I hope that you either dug yourself out easily enough or don’t need to go anywhere today. I myself am grateful to get to sit by the woodstove and just look out the window at the beauty of the snow today!
Here’s the news for the week:
This coming Sunday will be a busy one. We are celebrating communion together in worship, so please remember to bring a bite of something to eat and a drink of some sort when you sit down to watch Sunday’s service.
Then, after the service, at 11:30 am, we will have our annual congregational meeting via zoom. Here’s the link, if you need it again:
Returning to In-Person Worship February 13
I have good news to share! Omicron is starting to run out of people to infect in our area and caseloads have dropped significantly. The active daily positive case count for the county, which hit 2,500 people a few weeks ago, is now down to 831, as of yesterday. Given this recession, Session feels that it is safe to re-open the sanctuary for worship once again.
I know that some of us still have health concerns that prevent us from coming for in-person worship, and so I want to reiterate that it’s ok to stay home if you need/want. Each of us is given the responsibility of making the best decision for ourselves in our own individual situations. But it’s also wonderful to have the option once again to come back together! Huzzah for choices!
Friends, Omicron is in retreat, but we still need to take it seriously. I know that for some people this particular variant has brought on mild cold symptoms, but for others it presents as a serious, miserable flu. And there are still those for whom it puts them in the hospital– primarily if you haven’t been vaccinated. Right now 32% of the beds at the hospital are being used by Covid patients, down from 36% earlier in the week. So while it does seem safe to gather in groups once again, we have to be vigilant about making healthy choices for ourselves.
Gifts from Above– a Little Story about Grace
This week I want to share something a little personal. A number of years ago, I was really struggling in my life and felt like the entire world was crashing all around me– which in all honesty, was truly the case. But even as my world was crumbling, I decided to pray for eyes that could see the gifts of grace that were all around me, in the midst of the crumble. Every day I would tell myself that I was going to choose to be open to receiving God’s abundant life. And I would ask God for the sort of eyeballs that could detect where that abundance was. It took a while to adjust my eyesight, to being able to “see in the dark,” but after some practice, I started seeing the grace. And it made the heavier things a little lighter. I felt people’s love and concern for me more vividly, I began to notice when things were going well, and I started having moments of joy mixed in the pain.
Fast forward a few years, and now some things are easier. I’m no longer swimming through the grief of divorce or dealing with homelessness and bankruptcy, but my health is still a challenge for me, and I still get tripped up and fall into the hole of despair sometimes. Last week this was my reality, and I found myself slipping into “fear mode.” For whatever reason, however, I happened to remember my old daily practice of opening myself up to abundant grace, and so I decided to make it a practice again.
And can I tell you? God has been having fun with me ever since!
Here’s what happened. The very first night I prayed this prayer for openness to grace– a resolve to myself and a request to God for help to see it– something unbelievable happened. Not even 15 minutes after I had opened myself up to experiencing grace, a giant gift fell out of the sky. A friend of mine, who also has EDS, called me to say that she had a friend in Rochester whose uncle had just died, and who used an electric scooter in the last 6 months of his life, which his family now wanted to give to someone who could really use it. They didn’t know anyone locally, and my friend suggested they think about giving it to me. And so, next month I’m going to be receiving an expensive tool that will make getting around in certain circumstances much, much easier for me!
When I hung up the phone that night, I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I started laughing with God about her hilarious sense of humor. It was almost as if I needed to be hit over the head with a 2×4 to be reminded that gifts are everywhere.
Since then, I’ve started noticing the more subtle glimmers of gleaming grace. Yesterday I felt trapped inside the house, since crutches/wheelchairs and falling snow don’t play well together. I felt sorrow for feeling trapped, but also…. I got to watch deer hunting for something to eat out in the woods behind my house. And I took in the beauty of the gently falling snow. And I savored the taste of chocolate on my tongue. And I heard myself laughing out loud at our kittens, as they stumbled and tumbled over each other in their clumsy play. And all of a sudden, my fear of being trapped turned into revel and joy for the freedom I had found in treasure hunting for grace.
Friends, I don’t know what difficult things you’re going through today, but they’re not all you’re going through. There are also bits of abundant grace– of wonder and joy and beauty– tucked in between the folds of sorrow and difficulty, and they’re there for you when you’re ready to see them. And enjoy them. And play with them.
So here is my prayer for you today– that you really taste the deliciousness of chocolate on your tongue. That you notice that your car starts up when you turn over the ignition. That you give thanks for plowed roads. That you open yourself up to taking in the love of the people around you. And most importantly, that if you don’t have enough of any of these things in your life, that you realize that you have the power to make the sorts of changes that will give you what you do need. Because God’s grace abounds all around!
In Isaiah 30, the people are in serious political trouble and they’re digging themselves in deeper and deeper by making backroom deals with countries that don’t actually have any allegiance to the people’s well-being. And so Isaiah, whose job is to point out the truth of what they’re doing, shows up to tell them that they’re being idiots; that they’re putting their eggs in the wrong basket– trusting the wrong source of life. He’s there, on the one hand, to point out the poor choices they’re making, but he’s also there, on the other hand, to remind people that they already know who they can trust, and what will see them through. He tells them:
“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!“~Isaiah 30:18)
Friends, when you’re in trouble, make sure you’re also choosing to stay plugged into God’s grace. It will carry you through, and maybe, just maybe, will make a way out, too.
Hunting for grace today,