January 13 2021

Reflection 2021-01-13

I was talking with the Assistant Principal today at school.  She asked what kind of day one of my students was having.  I told her that he was very engaged and gave a great answer to one question in particular.  I told her that I made a big deal with the class about his great answer, and that young child beamed.  As she walked away the Assistant Principal said, “It’s the little things that can make all the difference.”  

It is often the little things that we do that reveal where our heart is.  It is often the little things we do that will display our faith. People are looking for light in this darkness of our times.  They long for hope, for healing, for a vaccine, and for a new day.  Many people are probably noticing acts of kindness and compassion even more now.  Some people may even want to do some of those acts themselves and be involved positively in some way.  However, some people looking to do good just may not know how or where to do that.  

Coolwater is going to give people an opportunity every month.  Every month we are having a major outreach effort.  We are putting a banner on our property advertising the weekend to those who drive by.  We are putting ads in papers.  We are distributing material to advertise events.  We are advertising the next months project to anyone who comes to donate items. Coolwater is seeking ways for us and for others to do little things that make a difference.  When you put a lot of little things together, it can become a big deal. 

On Sunday I mentioned a show on Netflix that my wife has binge watched. The show is “Call the Midwife.”  In one episode, Jenny a nurse who works as a midwife has tragically lost her boyfriend.  Jenny is talking to Sister Julienne. Sister Julienne has invited her to go to a service in the chapel.  Jenny says, “I don’t see where God fits into any of this.”  Sister Julienne responds, “God isn’t in the event.  He’s in the response to the event.  In the love that is shown and the care that is given.” 

You and I can do “little things” during these dark and troubling times.  You and I can be vessels through which God’s love and care are shared in some way in our world. 

At the close of the sermon, I asked a question.  What does the church need to be in this time?  The church is to be a people called by God and sent on a mission.  We are to be an instrument of God's healing of the pain and the brokenness in our world.  We are to be an answer to the clouds of fear and the clouds of distrust, and the clouds of prejudice and the clouds of inequality.  We are sent out to show the world a taste of God's idea of loving kindness and compassion and justice and walking humbly with God.  We are to show that God is in the response to the event.  God is seen in our actions where love is shown and care is given.  Yes, Coolwater, God can be seen through you and me, especially in the little things we do and we say.


Blessings,

Pastor Rick

 

 

 

january 6 2021

In a crazy year when Covid has altered so much about our lives, it was not all that surprising that Covid interrupted the Advent season.  However, the Christmas Eve service was not canceled; it was merely postponed.  Last night Coolwater had a Christmas Eve service on Epiphany Eve.  

 

I wouldn’t want to do this every year.  Christmas Eve belongs where it is on the calendar.  However, this year the alternate date worked out quite well.  The people involved were determined to offer this special worship service celebrating the birth of our Lord.  

 

Hard work had gone into developing and practicing the parts and the planned production.  We gathered to offer this worship service.  The pandemic was not getting the last word on the Christmas Eve service.  That has been a recurring theme in many places this year.  Grit and determination, the hope in our hearts and the tenacity of the human spirit have sustained many in these troubled times. 

 

Perhaps we were determined to offer the Christmas Eve service because of what this service recalls to our minds and hearts.  Here is a message of a great hope, light breaking into the world, God’s love taking on flesh and dwelling in our midst.  The light and love of God in Jesus working in us and through us.  This is a message that needed to be proclaimed and celebrated -  no matter what day it happened.  

 

For me, one terrific highlight of the evening was hearing Jenn and Sydney LaDuke sing “Silent Night” in German.  Underneath my mask I was joyfully grinning from ear to ear.  In that moment there was such joy and wonder.  Words can’t adequately describe such moments. And that is exactly why we have a Christmas Eve service, and worship on Sundays – so that God can fashion moments of wonder and joy, choosing to use even you and me to shine His light out to the world.   Merry Christmas to you today and every day!


Blessings,

Pastor Rick

 

 

december 30 2020

Reflections 2020-12-30

 

While going through a stack of papers recently, I found a poem called “The Work of Christmas.”  Chris Bonta read “The Work of Christmas” during worship on the Sunday after Christmas last year.  I had asked her for a copy.  Howard Thurman, an African-American theologian, educator, and civil-rights leader wrote this marvelous poem.  The poem contends that when the song of the angels has faded and the shepherds are back tending their sheep, the work of Christmas begins.  That work is defined as finding those who are lost, healing what is broken, feeding the hungry, releasing those who are captive, rebuilding, forging peace, and making music in the human heart.   

 

As I read the poem again this week, I thought I recognized something familiar in the ideas expressed by Howard Thurman. Something Biblical perhaps.  I got out a Bible and began to search, and found a connection in Luke 4:16-21. Jesus is in Nazareth at the synagogue and he reads part of a scroll from Isaiah. He finishes by saying, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  With this statement Jesus defines his mission…and ours.  

 

In The Work of Christmas, Howard Thurman eloquently phrased these ideals and actions that Christ claimed that day.  God’s light and love broke into the world in a new, wondrous way when Christ the Savior was born.  The day has come and gone now.  Our celebrations and quiet reflections are past.  But what Christmas means shines on in the world and for the world.  Christmas is a beginning.  The work of Christmas carries on for us as we share the light and love God sent into the world in Christ.  

 

Luke 2:19-20 tells us that Mary treasured these words and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned from Bethlehem, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.  Part of the work of Christmas is to treasure and ponder.  We need to reflect, study, worship so that our faith and our hearts are sustained for the Christian journey.  And part of the work of Christmas is to do as the shepherds did, returning from Bethlehem to share the good news as we live our lives.  

 

How will you treasure ponder Christmas?  How will you return from Bethlehem?  Will people see and hear the good news of Christmas in you and me?  It is time to continue the work of Christmas.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Pastor Rick

december 23 2020

Reflections 2020-12-23

 

Someday I will reach the point that I finally retire.  I am contemplating a future career of writing for greeting card companies.  Here is an example of the work I could offer:

“Santa is red. His toes are blue.

Cookies are sweet. Merry Christmas to you!”

I may have a remarkable new career in front of me.

 

You are familiar with getting cards for special occasions or events.  Perhaps you have gotten a card that really struck you just right, whether the thought was funny, uplifting or poignant.  Christmas is a time many of us send and receive cards. There are some Christmas cards that put thoughts about the season just perfectly.  I found one of those on the desk of the Pastor’s office.  The card came from Marilyn Fiddmont.  She works with the Christian Church Foundation, one of the parts of the Disciples of Christ General level headquartered in Indianapolis. The card read: Rejoice…In the spirit of Christmas which is PEACE, the miracle of Christmas which is HOPE, and the heart of Christmas which is LOVE.

 

This card reminds us of the timeless gifts that last beyond the day of Christmas.  When the tree is taken down and decorations are put away, these gifts will still be there. You will not find these gifts under the tree.  However, you might find them gathered around the tree. You may be blessed to find them warming your heart.  You may be fortunate and find them at work in you wherever you go.  You may discover them shining out to the world with the Light of the World heralded by the Christmas star. They are gifts given to the world, born to us in the city of David, which is Bethlehem. Those who keep Christmas in their heart will know the blessing of the Christ child not only one day, but every day., 


A very, Merry Christmas!

Pastor Rick

 

 

december 17 2020

First of all I must confess that I am the reason the newsletter is arriving on Thursday instead of Wednesday.  I had the articles ready but forgot to email them to Karen.  Karen texted me on Wednesday morning.  When I saw that the text was from her, I had a sudden flash of insight – I had forgotten to send the newsletter articles.  They were on the computer at home and I was at school. I called Karen and she said that she could send the newsletter on Thursday.  Thank you, Karen!  We decided that she would send an email announcing the newsletter would arrive on Thursday – and I promised that I would tell you why.  So now you know…the rest of the story. 

 

Rick’s Reflection

I love listening to Christmas carols and songs of both the secular and religious variety.  Christmas music is one of my favorite things about this time of year.  When I was growing up in Atlanta, I usually got out the Christmas music on Thanksgiving Day to start getting ready for Christmas.  

 

The Christmas songs have a message of hope, joy and love that warms the hearts of those who sing and hear them.  That is one way for me that Christmas lifts my heart and soul.  That is one way I experience the wonder and the joy of the gift of Christ.  Yet, I have realized recently that I haven’t listened to Christmas music this year as much as I normally do.

 

In years past many of us have experienced the hecticness of the Christmas season.  Decorating, shopping, cleaning for guests, writing cards, wrapping presents, parties, concerts, school programs, church programs…Our reality this year is much different.  

 

This season feels profoundly different for some because of many things we associate with the Christmas season are cut back significantly, greatly different this year, or just not happening.  For some it may not feel much like Christmas at all.  For practically all of us, our celebration of the season has been more low key.  We are not doing many of the things we normally do this time of year.

 

However, while we may be missing ways we are used to celebrating this season, the reason for our celebration remains.  The good news is that Christ still comes into our world.  Christmas doesn’t depend on cold weather and snow.  Christmas doesn’t depend on presents and shopping.  Christmas doesn’t depend on large family gatherings. 

 

In this less busy Christmas time you can have the opportunity for more quiet reflection, and prayer, and giving thanks for your blessings.  In those moments savor the wonder of the gift of our Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  As long as there are moments like those, the good news of Christ has the opportunity to come again to you this year, and the opportunity to enter your heart and life anew.  That is the real message of Christmas. 

No matter what shape our world or our lives are in, Christ still comes to us. Christ comes to bring gifts of love, joy and hope to the human soul.  ,

 

Maybe it is time for me enjoy some Christmas music and some quiet moments and reflection that those songs can bring to me.  That might help me be ready for Christ to enter my heart anew.  Christmas is coming. How are you making ready this year? 

 

Blessings,

Pastor Rick

december 9 2020

Reflections 2020-12-09

 

When I worked with youth groups in my earlier years in ministry, one special seasonal event was visiting some of the homebound or members in nursing homes to sing Christmas carols.  It was certainly one of my favorite youth events during the year.  It made an impression on the youth to see how much our appearance meant to the people we visited.  Our performances were not magnificent by any stretch of the imagination, but we gave a gift of joy and love.  We gave a gift of caring.  That was what mattered.   

 

It gives you a good feeling to see that you have done something special for someone else.  That is part of what Christmas is all about.  However, this Christmas is like no other. How do we get ready for Christmas when our activities are curtailed and our usual ways of celebrating are limited?  How do we get ready for Christmas when so much is different?  How do we celebrate when loved ones and friends may have suffered greatly during the pandemic?

 

Here is the opportunity for the real meaning of Christmas to shine in the darkness.  We have the opportunity to give the gift of joy and love to others.  We have the chance to share the hope and redeeming grace that shines in the birth of our Savior. We also have the opportunity to receive those timeless gifts.  Through our actions this Advent Season, we will be getting ready.  

 

Here are some things that you might do to help make yourself ready. Watch a Christmas special or a classic Christmas movie.  Perhaps there is one that really resonates with you.  For me, it is “A Christmas Carol.”  There are numerous versions, but I prefer the 1951 version with Alistair Sim as Scrooge.  I watch it and my heart fills with joy.  This classic also delivers a powerful message.

 

Take a drive around neighborhoods and look at the lights.  It will be a delight for your eyes.  You might quietly reflect as you drive around.  You might play Christmas music as you drive and have a delight for your eyes with the decorations and a treat for your soul as you hear the message in song. Just getting out this year will lift you as well.  

 

Take time for special people.  Sign up for zoom or some other media/video stream and visit and enjoy the cheer of the season with family and friends. Stay connected, especially over the holidays.  Reaching out feels good.  Being reached out to feels good as well. Part of really finding out what Christmas is all about is spending special moments that say, “I care about you.”  These are presents that will last much longer than a day.  They are gifts of love – and that is what God did for us in the gift of Christ.

 

So, my friends, get ready for what Christmas is really all about.  The world needs to hear it, and we need to hear it, perhaps this year more than ever.


Pastor Rick

 

december 2, 2020

Reflections 2020-12-02

 

Once again, Sonya Tinault has transformed our worship place.  With decorations and lights our sanctuary is bright with lights, color and symbols of the season.  The sights are certainly uplifting to see, and their meaning seeps deep down into you. They whisper of those wonderful blessings of hope, peace, joy and love that Jesus offers. 

 

Around the Phoenix area holiday lights and decorations have gone up this year seemingly earlier than ever.  I think that our society longed for the boost to our spirits that this season brings to many.  We have plunged into the light and cheer of the holidays like a runner lunging for the finish line with his last bit of strength.  For so many the holidays couldn’t have come soon enough.  

 

Decorating and using lights is a normal activity this time of year. There is comfort in doing something that isn’t altered by the cautions of the pandemic.  Decorating and putting up lights is something we can do in a time when so much of what we normally do has been changed, cancelled or curtailed.  During this pandemic, so many have felt a growing lethargy and feelings of helplessness.  For many these have been long months of inaction.  Putting up decorations and lights is an action we CAN take.  It is an action that spreads light out into the world.  

 

Symbolically, putting up Christmas lights in our homes, on our homes, or on a tree is an action that pushes back the darkness.  But there can be a lot of power in symbols, a lot of inspiration, and a lot of hope.  Putting up decorations feels familiar and it helps some of us feel not quite as helpless in these times. It is something normal that we CAN do and helps make a difference.  

 

Doing something to light up the world makes us feel good, too.  It provides a positive way to respond.  The decorations and lights are good for our mental health, our spiritual health, and it is definitely good for the soul.  People are looking for those things now in these uncertain times. 

 

Back to our worship place at Coolwater and the places you decorate.  For us as Christian people, the lights and decorations have deeper religious meaning.  The decorations and lights represent a season of reflection and celebration.  The reason for the season is to celebrate the birth of Christ, the gift of redeeming grace from God to the world.  Our message is that in all times, especially in uncertain times, His presence brings hope, gives peace, offers love and spreads joy.  In these times especially, when many are looking for the light of hope, the church has a wonderful opportunity to spread the message of the One who is the Light of the World.   Happy Decorating and Happy Shining for Christ!


Pastor Rick

 

 

 

November 24, 2020

Reflections 2020-11-25

 

“It’s beginning to look a lot like…” – WAIT A MINUTE PLEASE!!!  I began the sermon last Sunday in a Grinch face mask.  Why?  I wanted to lift up that Thanksgiving Day is being more and more swallowed up by the approaching Christmas season. So many stores and commercials are promoting the Christmas season already.  Even the TV stations are playing Christmas movies and specials earlier than ever.  Fry’s was playing Christmas music – a week before Thanksgiving!  It seems that for some in our society, Thanksgiving Day is a speed bump somewhere in between Halloween and Christmas.  As Lee Corso on ESPN’s Gameday on Saturday mornings is known to say, “Not so fast, my friend!”

 

Thanksgiving Day is a fabulous holiday.  I am grateful to see that it is very alive in the hearts, practices, and celebrations of many people – even though this year will be very different for most of us. I am thinking that living with thanksgiving is a way to really live a healthy and fulfilling Christian life.  Our blessings are many - the air we breathe, the food we eat, the jobs we have, the homes that shelter us, family and friends and in this time their health and safety, the birth of a child. 

Isn’t it true that it all depends on the way you look at things?  If you have love, friends and family, health, good humor and a positive attitude toward life – you have so much!  You can’t buy any of these things!  You can have all the material possessions your heart desires, and all kinds of resources and provisions for the future, and have a position of standing in this life.  But if you are poor in spirit, you really have nothing that can really sustain your life.  

Look for those things in your life that really count, and express gratitude to God for them. Look at the world with glasses that will show you just how rich we are when we have love and joy and friends.  How much more happy our lives are when we look for what is good and positive, that which really counts, and give thanks.

God has blessed each one of us!  May we count those blessings.  This Thanksgiving Day and every day, make your expressions of gratitude, make your thanks-giving, a constant hymn of praise.  Let me suggest to you that we should be in the habit of thanks-living.


Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Thanks-living!

Pastor Rick

 

November 18, 2020

Thanksgiving Town Hall - Sunday, November 22 at 11:15 am

You are invited to a Thanksgiving Town Hall this Sunday, November 22 at 11:15 am. At Coolwater, we will have our Thanksgiving Sunday on November 22.  However, there will not be the feast that we normally enjoy following the service.  So, we are bringing the opportunity for a Thanksgiving gathering to you via zoom.  The time is 11:15 since we are hoping that you will stick around for this time right after worship.  Think of it as staying around and visiting at Coolwater Cafe after worship - only online.  As part of the Town Hall we will be sharing things for which are grateful.  If you desire to share, please have two things in mind to share with others at the Town Hall.  From many locations, we will have one celebration of thanks and gathering together. I hope we see you this Sunday!

November 11, 2020

Reflections 2020-11-11

 

Last Sunday I spoke about habits.  It is said that practice makes perfect.  The practical idea here is that practice will make one somewhere from better to marvelous in whatever is being practiced.  That could be playing a piano or cooking, listening with caring or praying with an open mind and heart.

 

Habits define who we are.  You can create habits.  You can change habits.  For example, I was once featured in the dictionary as the example of a night owl. I could easily stay up working, reading, or any number of things around the house until anywhere from 11 pm until 2 am, or later.

 

When I began teaching as a profession, my night owl habit had to go – at least during the week.  I had to be up, functional and at school by 7:30 or earlier.  Grouchy night owls and teaching lively First Graders in the morning do not mix well.  This required me to break one habit and then create a new habit better suited to my life situation.  Now, I actually prefer to get up early.  Sleeping in late is 8 or 8:30.  I am almost always up between 6:00 – 7:00 am, even on the weekends.  I have become what would qualify as a morning person.  

 

During this Thanksgiving month I invite you to reflect on your habits.  Do you have habits that are healthy for you?  What are the habits that are helping you grow as a person?  What are the habits that are benefiting your future?  Do you have habits that are hindering you and your future?  Do you have habits that are holding back your growth as a Christian? 

 

At Thanksgiving we may be fortunate to enjoy marvelous meals.  Those meals are made with ingredients to create culinary masterpieces.  As Christians there are some “ingredients” that will help us grow. Practicing these qualities will help us grow as Christian people.  For example, practice love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  These Christian “ingredients” are better known as the fruits of the Spirit, from Galatians 5:22-23.  These would be great habits to practice at any time of the year, and help bring out God’s masterpiece in you.

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Town Hall

This Thanksgiving Day will be unlike any other we have ever experienced.  At Coolwater, we will have our Thanksgiving Sunday on November 22.  However, there will not be the feast that we normally enjoy following the service.  So, we are bringing the opportunity for a Thanksgiving gathering to you via zoom. You are invited to a Thanksgiving Town Hall.  As part of the Town Hall we will be sharing things for which are grateful.  If you desire to share, please have two things in mind to share with others at the Town Hall.  From many locations, we will have one celebration of thanks and gathering together.


Blessings to All!

Pastor Rick