When is the last time you danced? Dance is the act of spiritual truth, and it signifies joy and gladness of the heart! In ancient times happiness of the heart was attested not only by musical instruments and songs, but also by dances. Even very young children who can barely talk, read, or write can react to music by movement of their bodies and clapping their hands. In the bible there are many references to dance symbolizing victory, a promise from God, and celebration. It's an expression of our emotions and our spirituality once we let go of the fear that may be hiding it.
"Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body."- Martha Graham
For as long as I can remember my dad has always loved dancing. Where ever we were if there was music he was either clapping his hands, tapping his foot, or would break out in a two step! Anyone who knows me knows that I'm much like my dad when it comes to dancing and music. If I hear a beat or a song that I like it's hard to hold me back. I will skip dessert at a wedding because I'm too busy on the dance floor!
My dad was diagnosed with cancer when I was ten years old. He went through countless rounds of chemotherapy and radiation for many years. The cancer would leave and then return in a different form attacking different parts of his body. After over thirty years of fighting he was laid to rest this past February.
" Life may not be the party we hoped for....
but while we're here we may as well dance." - Jeanne C. Stein
When I think about my dad's journey the two most significant things that stand out are his strength and his joy. Through all of those years of battling he still continued to dance! His last birthday celebration was spent on the dance floor doing his favorite two step! Now in honor of my dad, I continue to dance through my tears and the pain of losing him and I picture him right there getting down with me!
I shared this with you today to encourage you to dance through whatever you may be going through. Release your happiness or your pain and dance, dance into your healing, dance into your victory or dance in praise for God's goodness and mercy!
You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy Psalm 30:11 NLT
One of the things I love is taking long walks along the bay beach. Because the area is not manicured, cleaned, or policed, it is about as natural a landscape as exists in south Jersey. It has become a place of both renewal and healing for my spirit, and each time I am there, the Holy Spirit reveals some new truth or insight to my soul.
While walking a few days ago, I was busy meditating and picking up stones and breathing in rhythm with the immense and soothing body of water to my right. I stopped when I realized just how far I had gone, and I felt a quick wave of adrenaline wash over me; not because I was lost, but because I realized I had gone further than I had before. I decided to keep going, just to the next jetty, enough to notice and experience a new terrain. I was not disappointed. Because of the way the tides flow, the beach in between each jetty is different; some are filled with small rocks and stones; one is scattered with oyster shells, another completely smooth sand, yet another littered with washed up reeds and driftwood. They are all beautiful and unique.
Walking back I realized just how far I had walked. My legs ached. I was thirsty. And I wondered how long it would be until I was back home. But something made me look down. What I notice stopped me in my tracks. Though the beach is at least 20 yards wide, I had been walking back over my own footprints. Literally tracing my steps without being aware of it.
And then I heard a whisper- "Go back over where you've been- this is your path."
As I hope is evident in the latest sermon series, "Interruptions and Upheavals," we should notice that we have indeed gone beyond where we have walked before as a congregation. We are at a place where we realize it, and yes, we have a chance to go just a bit further, or quickly turn and head for home.
But before we take a step one way of the other, let's take a moment to retrace our steps; to look at the path we've traveled to get here. It doesn't take much to see that God has been steadily equipping us and strengthening us for such a time as this.
People: Look at the people God has brought to our congregation over the past few years. Each one with a specific gift, talent, idea, skill, quality. They are too numerous to mention here; but mixed and integrated with the people already at FBCM, it feels much like a puzzle with each piece being fitted into the other perfectly. Each one enhances the gifts of another to complete this beautiful colorful community of faith. Because of your willingness to follow the spirit a little further, each person, each one of us, found their way to and/or stayed at FBCM.
Programs: Reflect on the structural changes that have taken place In our church over the past few years. The way we function day to day, the implementation of a one board system, ministry teams and circles, and a streamlined model of leadership; one that is efficient enough to continue through a quarantine, and at the same time, encourage new ministries to develop and grow. This could not happen under the old system of church governance and without a willingness to follow the spirit just a little further.
Personnel: The church staff over the past few years has also grown and shifted. God blessed us with a loving and passionate Associate Pastor who's broad range of gifts enhances our congregational life and spiritual walk. Our kind and selfless Pastor of Visitation who continues to bring pastoral care and inclusion to our stay at home congregants, making sure every one feels valued and connected. Our Children's Minister- a joyous surprise to our congregation who has been with us just a short time yet has made such a huge impact on all of us, young, and young at heart. Our Music Minister who brings a passion for sharing the love of Christ and a talent for multi genres and styles of music to our worship so we can experience the spirit in the sacred and the secular. Because of our congregation's willingness to listen to the spirit's call to go a little bit further, each of these people now minister in an unprecedented time and share pastoral leadership and responsibility which is beyond what any solo pastor could do.
Perks: (or: Some incredible gifts which emerged from our new people, programs, and personnel) A person who used his gifts in Art Ministry enhanced our worship for the past two + years and now, because of his willingness to go beyond and learn new things, we are gifted with online worship technology and creativity that affords us a way to be connected each Sunday morning. Our food pantry continues to operate because of two people who feel called to share their time and think outside the box creating safe practices which will change the way we address food insecurity from now on. Online giving has enabled our church and beyond to participate in the ministry in big ways that is allowing our ministry to thrive. Small groups have formed and are taking root because of our need to stay connected, but because of someone saying yes to the Spirit urging them to begin a small group initiative. Each ministry circle has been listening to the Spirit to go beyond, just a little bit further.
Plans: In 2017 we took a long hard look at ourselves and began to live into our new structure and even our new region; following the Spirit a little bit further had changed and grown and shifted us as a people of God. We discovered spiritual gifts and how our call might play out in this community of faith. And God increased out number again. In 2018 we took a year in our "backyard" to get to know one another (old and new), assess our gifts, grow and deepen relationships and enjoy the people God brought together in ministry who we now sat next to in the pews. We worked hard, and played hard, and at the end of the year we were ready to walk beyond our backyard. In 2019 we prepared for and lived out the pastor being on sabbatical. Our Associate stepped up, our leadership team stepped in, and the church learned another facet of being community and lived out congregational care and communion in confidence! Of course!! the spirit said, 'go just a bit further,' and the response was a resounding yes!
Provision: Our last sermon series before worshiping apart yet together, was called "On the Road Again." We talked about how we can't go with God and stay where we are at the same time- and how intentional Jesus was about ministering to people he met, not in church, but on the road. Simultaneously, we were commissioned, deployed, sent out, on our own ministry roads. You can't look back at the path we've traveled and say we were not prepared.
Our latest discipleship journey began when we heard the spirit to urge us to go beyond, try something new- connect and worship in new ways, and we've listened. And if we are honest, she is still speaking to us, still urging us a little further down the beach to what lies beyond the next jetty. I can't promise you it will be easy, or that the terrain will be recognizable. But what I can promise you that God will bring us new revelations, new insights, healing and renewal as we go.
Just a little further...
**You can't press the play button above, it is a screen shot. :-(
“…be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It was an absolute joy to be watching the church service and then see the First Baptist Choir pop up! To see faces I haven’t seen in two months and to hear the Spirit-filled and harmonious voices that I have come to love made my Sunday morning. I have found that music lifts my soul. I’ve always leaned this way but during theses times of social distancing, music is something that can come close and soothe my soul.
I am on an email list for The Crossing. The Crossing, as described on their website, is “a professional chamber choir conducted by Donald Nally and dedicated to new music. It is committed to working with creative teams to make and record new, substantial works for choir that explore and expand ways of writing for choir, singing in choir, and listening to music for choir. Many of its nearly ninety commissioned premieres address social, environmental, and political issues.”
This is the choir that Lois and John Dinsmore’s son, Jeff, was a founder of. Almost six years ago Lois and John invited me and Sandy to hear The Crossing sing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the Perelman Building. Here the choir sang a piece that moved forwards and backwards. Literally, the song was sung and the choir moved forward as the notes and words were sung in a left to right reading direction. Then the notes and words were sung backwards and the choir moved backwards. There was a beauty and mystery in this for me. How could some and all of the choir be singing and moving forward and others moving and singing backwards and sound like a beautiful creation that deeply touched my soul? I had never heard anything like this, and have never been so deeply moved by a choral piece.
Just about every day I receive an email from The Crossing. Some days I hear pieces that lift me from the midst of living in a pandemic to a place where joy and rejoicing reign. Some days I encounter a piece that leaves me scratching my head and thinking, “Hmmm, maybe that didn’t resonate with me because one of my favorite group singing times is when the Phillies win a home game and we belt out, with the video of Harry Kalas, 'High Hopes'.”
I share this with you because music, in its various forms, is a gift that lifts spirits, calms the restless soul, and inspires us to see the beauty around. To the choir of 1st Baptist Church thank you for making this world a better place. Thank you for singing of the moving Spirit of God and challenging me to connect with the Holy through miraculous melodies. Thank you for modeling how we can be our own unique individuals and still come together to make this world a better a better place.
So, what are you listening to these days? Is there a piece of music that resonates with you on difficult days? Are there lyrics that speak life in the midst death? Is there chorus that shines brightly? Le'ts share what we're listening to these day. In the comments below share the title, musician, lyric, or link. Le'ts connect through music!
May the music and the musicians help you connect more deeply to God within and around.
*I searched all over for a video of the piece that The Crossing did at the Perelman Building but could not find it. Instead, below is a link to a piece that I enjoy listening to called 'The Beautiful Land of Nod'.
And for those of you who miss a Phils win and singing with Harry Kalas or have no clue what I am referring to regarding the Phillies, Harry Kalas, and High Hopes, here you go...
When the sun is shining bright I feel amazing. I have more energy and I feel like I can accomplish anything I set out to do that day! The sun is millions of miles away and still has the ability to affect us. We know a lot more about the sun now then we did years ago. We have to wear sunscreen at all times and avoid long exposure to the sun. It can cause heat stroke and dehydration. The sun can be very dangerous. On the other hand the sun has many benefits! It provides nourishment and energy to all living things on Earth. The sun provides heat and light. We need the sun for many health benefits stress, immune support, blood circulation and much more! The sun is powerful!
When comparing God and the sun we see the connection. God at times can seem far away. God, just like the sun still has the ability to have a direct impact on our lives despite the distance! Like the sun, God has the power to both destroy and create. God is our healer, provider, and comforter much like the sun. "GOD is like the sun; you cannot look at it, but without it, you cannot look at anything else."-G.K. Chesterton. God lights our lives, guides us like the sun can guide us in navigational direction. We know that there will always be sunshine and sometimes we take it for granted. God is always present yet, we sometimes over look that presence. Without the sun there is no life and without God....well you already know!
God created the sun, the sun is life and life is….. God! The sun is our light, life, energy and heat. It reminds us of God's eternal presence in our lives. Our lives are determined by sunrise and sunset, a time for work and play and a time for rest. Even at night there is a light in the sky. Showing us that God is there even in our darkest times. The sun is God's great light shining in our lives!
For The Lord our God is our sun and shield.
He gives us grace and glory. Psalm 84:11 NLT
Love Is Here To Stay
In the spring of my sophomore high school year, I signed up for Music Appreciation Class taught by our band director, Mr. Cortese. He was an excellent clarinetist who exhibited a gruff personality. I distinctly remember him standing in front of the class, clarinet in hand, introducing us to early 20th century music - at which point he flawlessly demonstrated the opening glissando of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. My eyes were as big as saucers as the sensuous brazen sound oozed from the instrument, soon followed by a full listening to an LP recording of the work. Immediately after school I ran to the record store and purchased Leonard Bernstein’s famous recording with the NY Philharmonic. I was permanently hooked. For the next several years I was transfixed with all things Gershwin. While my other musician friends were listening to current popular artists like The BeeGees, Queen and Fleetwood Mac (I'm dating myself, I know), I was the music nerd at the piano, endlessly analysing Gershwin’s compositional style, harmonies and orchestrations.
So when Pastor Linda asked me to sing “Love Is Here To Stay” directly preceding her sermon last week, I did a quick doubletake. I mean what kind of pastor incorporates known secular “worldly” music into church worship? Well, that’s another side trail, but anyway - my inner music geek jumped for joy at the opportunity to present Gershwin’s final composition. Could it be that one of my favorite romantic jazz songs also holds spiritual truth? It is famously known that Martin Luther used melodies, and sometimes poetry, from non-liturgical songs for congregational singing. What a rebel rouser! And I have long seen parallels with our own human relationships, earthly though they may be, and God’s unwavering love.
With that said, here’s a brief look at this small, but timeless classic. In the opening verse, one hears the words, no doubt sung to his or her fearful lover. From a spiritual standpoint, the text speaks of our own questions about the insanity and instability of the world around us. But soon the perspective shifts to the voice of our Lover, assuring us that we can indeed rest in a love that is endless as time.
Romans 8:35, 38 & 39
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Love Is Here To Stay” was the last song that George Gershwin composed before his untimely death in 1937. The lyrics were soon added by his brother Ira Gershwin. It was used briefly in The Goldwyn Follies (1938) as an incidental tune. It was not until 1951, when it was sung by Gene Kelly in An American In Paris, when it gained it's tremendous popularity. Since then it has been infinitely reinterpreted and continues to be a favorite in standard jazz repertoire.
“Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Luke 3:11
I guess it’s no secret that I love food. I think about it, I talk about it, I make it. I love to make food for groups of people since it seems to bring so much pleasure and opens up channels of conversation. You could say I am fond of food. (A little culinary joke.)
Think of some of the best times in your life. Were they around the table with people you love? Or at least like a lot? Ruth Reichl has said: “Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.”
Mental health professionals will tell you that food is one of the most reliable sources of comfort in our lives. That’s why so many of us have a bit of a problem with keeping our weight under control. It’s just so darn disappointing to have to diet.
In these troubled times, especially now, I worry about so many people who don’t know where their next meal will come from. People who won’t be sitting down to wonderful warm and generous family meals filled with talk and laughter and good food. People who may be sitting in front of the TV in a vain search for entertainment and humor while eating stale cereal out of the box with no milk, no sugar, no fruit and no love. Yeah. Food is love.
But a lot of people don’t cook or think they can’t as though it was some kind of magic trick reserved for the pros. That’s not the case. Many recipes are quite easy and I thought I would share one for easy comfort food. Good old Mac & Cheese the easy way. One pot, no draining the pasta, and easy to get ingredients. This is easy to double or triple or more and is great for sharing.
Love somebody. Make them dinner.
Stovetop Mac & Cheese Serves 8
You want American or other processed cheese in this recipe because of the emulsifiers that have been added. This keeps the sauce creamy.
Ingredients: 3 Cups water Bring the water and milk to a boil, stir in
2 Cups milk the mac, lower the heat to med and cook,
1lb of elbow macaroni stirring once or twice 6 - 8 min. Mac should be almost done
8oz American cheese, Stir in the cheese, mustard and cayenne shredded and cook, stirring, until cheese is melted
1 tsp Dijon or other mustard
1 big pinch cayenne
8oz Cheddar, shredded Off heat stir in the cheddar, cover the pan and let sit 5 min. Salt and pepper to taste
That’s it! You’re done! Top with toasted bread crumbs or tomatoes in some form if you wish. Say Grace. Tell your family you love them and eat.
1 Corinthians 9:4
Don’t we have the right to food and drink?
I look into a screen
Im connecting or am I
This odd way to say HI
Is something new
Faces on screens
Shirts are required
Whatever you’ve got on below
No one ever sees
Someday I will see you
I will run to you
And hugging you friend
I say MISS YOU DEARLY
Zoom Meetup or Hangouts
I must see you
* Do you recall Edgar Allen Poe's famous piece, Valentine? The first letter/space of the first line, the second letter/space of the second line and so on and so forth revealed the name of his secret love. Well, the words above contain a message to you FBC Moorestown.
They say happiness comes from within, found deep inside our hearts and souls. For each one of us happiness is defined in different ways. Lately it has been a little hard on some days to find that happiness. I know that there will always be good days and bad days. Times where you feel great and times where you don't feel so great and that is okay. However, dealing with this pandemic is completely different then just having a bad day or feeling down. There's uncertainty and sometimes fear in ways we never imagined. We can't connect like we use to. We are spending a lot more of our time at home, more time just thinking some of us are completely alone. I decided to make a personal check list of reference to keep me on track with my thoughts and I decided to share it with you...….
Whatever happiness is for you enjoy it as much as possible whenever possible! Even in darkness we have to remember we just need to turn on the light!
Before Covid 19 and social distancing and quarantine, each Monday morning I did three things.
1. I got up super early (around 4:30am) to pray, study, and plan out the service for the coming Sunday. I needed a few hours for this process and lots of silence; the early morning is my favorite and most productive time of day.
2. At around 8:30 AM my 5 year old granddaughter Lucy (pictured left) was dropped off, and after spending a few moments with my son in law catching up, Lucy and I would go through our own morning routine. This usually included making some type of letter or animal shaped pancakes, juicing oranges or apples, doing her "schoolwork"(Highlights puzzle magazine), dance, (Lucy is a born performer) and play.
3. At 9 AM in the midst of the Lucy routine, we would tune in to what Lucy calls, my "fish friends' radio show. The name of the show is "Urban Hymns"(1) which is broadcast out of Wales, UK (hence the 'fish" link for Lucy) The show highlights secular music for use in worship. The hosts (pictured right) are The Rev. Alexier Mayes, Vicar St David's & St Mark's Connah's Quay, and her husband George Bearwood, soon to be ordained to ministry as well. George holds extensive knowledge of music of a wide variety of genres which he shares generously (and occasionally snarkily) with the listener. opening up possibilities for theological reflection and revelation. Alex brings lively and joy-filled conversation, laughter that is contagious, and a passion for Christ that is evident throughout.
By 11 AM the show is over, the kitchen is cleaned up, the bulletin for Sunday is (mostly) finished, and Lucy is ready to be picked up by her Mom. One last hug, a wave, and a smile, and my Monday moved along.
Now my Monday's look somewhat different. I sleep a little later. I pray, study, and plan a little longer. Planning services online is a much more intricate process requiring more time and more coordination. Howard (our Music Minister) and I have a standing meeting Monday afternoons to plan music for the service, so that he can start practicing and recording earlier in the week (which helps Dave- the video artist). This week's Monday morning included phone calls to three of you (gosh it is good to connect) and thinking about how to expand our small group system.
Alex and George (my fish friends) are also in quarantine but thankfully have figured out a way to still broadcast the show so when I can, I still tune in. However, more often than not these days I listen during the week (they upload each show to the mix-cloud). The show has undergone some transitions as well as they adjust to life while in quarantine, but still fills me with joy and inspiration each week.
Monday's are not the same. Most things during this crisis are not the same. We've all shifted and shoved and shaved our schedules in some way to settle into this space of time. And some things are easier to settle into than others.
Yet, when I think about It, God hasn't shifted, shoved, or shaved at all. God hasn't settled Into a space that she hadn't occupied before. God didn't have to adjust to quarantine, or adapt to anything he hadn't been doing already. Before Covid 19, God was with us, in everything we do, everywhere we are; in Monday Mornings with Lucy, Alex, and George, in prayer time and planning time. And God is here with us now.
Sometimes It takes a while to settle Into the right now, and even longer to notice the God who promises to never leave us, actually has not gone anywhere. Perhaps its why the scriptures tell us to "have joy in all circumstances" and "pray without ceasing' and "be grateful at all times." We are surrounded by the love and goodness of the Eternal Presence, right now. God is here! And no matter how many changes and shifts we experience, God's care for us and presence with us never changes. Thanks be to God!
Peace to you In your Morning Meditation.
(1) Find out how you too can enjoy Urban Hymns as well as George's radio show Church of Noise (with slightly more, um.. intense music offerings) by going to their FaceBook Page
James 2 The Voice (VOICE)
Do we see them? Do we see the others? Those that are impoverished and suffering the inequities of our society. Do we see the ones who look like they are fine, but deep down inside they are suffering? Suffering from lack of insurance, suffering the loss of providing for their family, suffering the mental strain that they had before this pandemic struck, but are now suffering even worse, and the homeless population.
Would you consider the other the least of these? These are the people Jesus tells us to invite to the head of our table to sit and eat with us. These are the folks that Jesus says will inherit the kingdom.
So, what are we to do? Are we to say look at those underserved communities and peoples? Something should be done to help them. In
James 2 14-16 we read: “Shalom, friend, you should get inside where it’s warm and eat something,” but doing nothing about his needs—leaving him cold and alone on the street. What good would your words alone do?
So how can we as a body and/or person, see an inequity and not move on it to make a change? Our words alone can have some influence on change, they may stir someone to action, but we are called to do something to cause or make this change happen. As people have come to realize when there is
a mass shooting, that yes, we need to pray, but we also must act along with our prayers.
James 2:20 says: The fact is, faith must show itself through works
performed in faith. If you don’t recognize that, then you’re an empty
Acts 1:8 says: Here’s the knowledge you need: you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. And you will be My witnesses, first here in Jerusalem, then beyond to Judea and Samaria, and finally to the farthest places on earth.
These are action phrases. They call us to do something. They are asking us to be the witness for Jesus to the least of these in our world today! To show the Others that we come across in our journey who Jesus is.
May this be our prayer….
Lord, as you walked amongst the Others, those who suffered inequities of life, may we be drawn to not only see these people, but also be the change that they are seeking. We would also pray for those who we think are suffering but are quite content to be where they are. May we be accepting of them and meet them right where they are. May we love them just as they are. We also pray that during this pandemic, you Jesus, will provide for all your creation. Be the support for all who are suffering both seen and unseen illnesses and inequities. We pray all this in your name … Amen.
Please listen to this song and see how it speaks to you today….