Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Work in Progress

Watch this space for new reflections and a new direction...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Community at Sesame Street

Following a significant transition, I have once again been readjusting and acclimating to our new home.  This includes not just the actual house where we reside but also the communities into which we have entered.  There are for us several layers to community, as we share life together.  First, we are surrounded by a lovely community in Clay County/Hayesville where we live.  Second, we are living out faith and ministry within the community Reid's Chapel United Methodist Church where I serve.  Third, we are experiencing community through Young Harris College where my husband serves.

I couldn't help but think about my own life in community while the 40th anniversary celebrations were happening for Sesame Street last week.  It brought to mind community, neighbors, and life together.  How could it not, after all?  This is a street filled with friendship, laughter, learning, conversation, and sharing.  Then, my reflections about community at Sesame Street were confirmed when I saw Cookie Monster, Elmo, and Abby in a Today Show interview.

When asked by Matt Lauer what they have planned for the next 40 years at Sesame Street, Elmo responded:  "We hope that we get to sing and dance and love each other as much as we have been loving each other for 40 years."  My intention is not to moralize or to be sappy, but I think that Elmo has offered a helpful message about life together in community.  Maybe thinking about it as simply as this will help those of us who strive and even struggle to live together because, with or without new transition, community life is not always easy.

So, how do we form, nurture, and sustain life together in community?



Loving each other...

This is a pretty good start!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thousand of Miles (and Almost As Much Luggage)

Thousands of miles traveled.

Five months have passed.

What can I say?  It has been a quite a ride.  We shared an adventure of a lifetime in England, and then it was time to return.  We left London like this...

(And in the end, we only had to pay for one extra bag.)

Thankfully, our travels with a toddler were great from Gatwick.  Needless to say, she is well-seasoned at the ripe age of three.  She took in the sights at the airports and enjoyed the escapades.  This was a very familiar and comfortable vantage point for her along the way...

(This "buggy" has been faithful through the journey.)

Having the premier window view for the 8 hour flight, she remained content in her seat with her books, DVDs, crayons, stickers, and plush friends the entire time except for several potty breaks.  And there was a nice, long nap somewhere in there as well.  This prepared us for our arrival in Philadelphia where we would meet the newest addition to the Spivey clan.  There is no denying this cuteness...

(My nephew is five months old now but was only two weeks old in this photo.)

Following our visit with this sweet baby and his parents, we ventured back into North Carolina to prepare for our relocation to Hayesville.  This included catching up on some of our favorites, including sweet tea, Mexican food, and Grandpa's convertible.  Quite the combination, I know.  This is the joyful evidence...

(Notice the sunglasses and the most appropriate queenly wave.)

After the convertible ride and lots of other fun, we literally headed for the hills.  And what beautiful hills they are!!

(This is a view from the highest elevation nearest to our house.)

Home sweet home.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Friday Family Outings

We are intentionally looking for "England experiences" in these final weeks of our living in Thatcham.  Since Fridays are our designated day off, we use Fridays as a day for family time. Usually, our criteria are very simple.

1.  Fun
2.  Three year old friendly
3.  With an England "flavour"

This is really not too much to ask, and in fact, we have been quite successful in our Friday family outings.

We ventured out several Fridays ago to an inside museum that replicates a Victorian English town.  We were quite pleased with our choice and were looking forward to the experience.  It met all of the criteria (so we thought...).

England "flavour" - check
Three year old friendly - check
Fun - not so much

Upon arrival, our resident 3 year old climbed into her stroller, and off we went.  We purchased tickets (yes, we paid for this soon-to-be short-lived adventure), and we stepped back into time. Very pleased with ourselves we perused the exhibits, looked at the antique buses, cars, fire trucks, and wagons, and window shopped along the old town streets.

Then came the verdict, as stated by the discontent and convincing 3 year old:

"Let's go somewhere fun and play."

Yep, this pretty much sealed the deal for this Friday family outing.

In all fairness, the resident 3 year old wasn't simply being difficult.  She was actually rather creeped out by the "people" standing in the shops and sitting on the vehicles.  She was sort of confused by the large, dark roof that covered this "town."  (At one point, she even wanted to make a quick getaway through the wide open loading zone doorway.)  She had simply endured all that she could and knew good and well that this place for her did not equal fun.

Needless to say for our 3 year old, who by the way doesn't forget anything, this particular Friday family outing is without a doubt a faded memory.  No turning back for one last glimpse of the chemist or tobacconist or blacksmith or the actual working pub.  She was outta' there.

So, we resumed our Friday family outing at the park and playground by our house.  Definitely a sure thing for FUN!

Fun - check

More fun - check

A Meditation

We celebrated the Easter Offering Dedication Service last night for our Sunday evening worship. The Easter Offering is an annual mission emphasis for Women's Network of The Methodist Church. This order of service is crafted each year for churches to use, and the offering is taken for the Fund for World Mission.  Included within this service is a beautifully and faithfully written meditation.  I can take no credit, but I am compelled to share. 


He will walk
A little in front of us
Towards Jerusalem

He will not be scared
Though we are apprehensive

If we try to discourage him,
He will recognise the devil in our voice,
And he will tell us as much
In no uncertain terms

Then he will go on again,
In faith,
Towards Jerusalem.

He will walk
A little in front of us
Into controversy.

He will not be scared,
Though we are apprehensive.

He will argue with the intelligent,
Stop in their tracks the self-assured,
Touch the scabby,
Upset bank balances
By his outlandish behaviour in the sanctuary,
And weep in public.

Then he will go on again,
In faith,
Towards Jerusalem.

He will walk
A little in front of us
Into Gethsemane.

He will not be scared,
Though we are apprehensive.

He will sweat blood
And ask God if there is another way,
And when God says no,
He will take the traitor’s kiss,
The soldier’s spit
The bile and venom from the princes of religion.

Then he will go on again,
In faith,
Towards the cross.

He will walk
A little in front of us
Towards Calvary.

He will not be scared,
He will not be scared.

He will feel the pain
Of wood and nails;
But more than this
He will feel the weight
of all the evil,
all the malice,
all the pettiness,
all the sin of the world
heaped upon his shoulders.
He will not throw off that weight
Though he could.

He will not give back evil for evil,
Return malice for malice,
Take revenge on the petty minded,
Or spew out hate
On all who have despised or rejected him.

He will not give back the sin of the world,
He will take it away…
Into death, into hell,
So that he can lead us into heaven.

Then he will go on again,
In faith,
Towards resurrection.

He will walk
A little behind us
Through the graveyard.

He will wait
Until we realize that he has died
And admit our complicity in his life’s ending.

Then he will come up behind us,
And say our name,
So that we can say his,
For ever.

(The Easter Offering service was prepared by Sandra Lewer, past President of Women’s Network, with the help of the Connexional Team’s Communication Office.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Village Procession

I exited the front doors of St. Mary's Church with the cross firmly in tow.  I followed the path through the church yard, entering Swan Street with my plain, black robe billowing in the misty breeze.

I traveled along the pavement (the sidewalk) in Kingsclere

past the hair salon
          past the gallery
                   past the cafe
                            past the grocery store
                                    past the butcher
                                            past the chemist
                                                     past the pub

until I reached St. Peter and St. Paul Church.

I entered the front doors and leaned the cross at the front.  This cross-bearing was profoundly strange and wonderful.  This was my own early start to Good Friday.

Then, our collective worship began, and we ushered in the truth and the darkness of the cross.  We prayed together.  We sang together.  We followed the cross together along the pavement on Swan Street

                                                       past the pub
                                             past the chemist
                                    past the butcher
                           past the grocery store
                  past the cafe
          past the gallery
past the hair salon

until we reached St. Mary's Church yard.

"It is finished."

One by one the Good Friday crowd placed red carnations at the foot of the same cross that had quietly and prominently led our procession.  The bed of red carnations organically (and unexpectedly) formed into the shape of a prickly crown of thorns beneath the cross.  There was no turning back.  We were living into the memory of our crucified Lord.

It was finished...

but it was not the end.

The red carnation crown of thorns formed by the hands of humanity was transformed into a never-ending ring of snowy white, resurrection lilies, bearing witness to our God of life and our risen Lord.

In the end, it wasn't just a Good Friday procession of life-draining finality.  It was a procession aiming in the direction of life-giving grace and salvation for an Easter people.  That is where our walk along Swan Street would ultimately take us--to the empty tomb, to the resurrection, to hope, to life!

Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Toe-Tapping Palm Sunday

It wasn't until this past Sunday that I realized I had not really planned or been involved in a more traditional observance of Palm Sunday in five years. You know...the donkey, the road, the Hosannas, the waving palms, and the little children.  In fact, last year I missed out all together because my Palm Sunday involved high fever, aching body, and full blown influenza.

In recent years (other than the last), I have been privileged to share in the Cashiers UMC choir presentation on Palm Sunday.  And what a faithful presentation they offer thanks to Tom Adams (director of music) and Bryan Heller (pianist) and many wonderful choir singers and musicians.  (Although no longer present in Cashiers, I was still able to read online about the powerful message that was offered by the choir once again.)

With this said, my new location this year afforded me the opportunity to share in Palm Sunday with all of its traditional elements as well as some new experiences too.  Thatcham Methodist Church joined with St. Barnabas Church (Anglican) for the morning.  Many of us gathered half an hour early to prepare for our Palm Sunday processional between the two churches.  I had never before processed outdoors on Palm Sunday.  A cross led the way.  We followed along the roads of Thatcham, bearing witness through action of our allegiance to Jesus the King.

Our ecumenical worship enhanced the celebratory and joyful spirit of Palm Sunday, and we altogether were blessed, especially with the parade of children.  In they came, waving their paper towel roll/shredded newspaper palm branches, and they were proclaiming, "Hosanna!  Jesus is coming!  Hosanna!  Jesus is coming!"

As a pastor, it was a joy to see and experience such an uplifting and contagious act of worship.  As a mother, it was simply beautiful to watch my daughter with her palm branch in hand, proclaiming the announcement, "Hosanna!  Jesus is coming," while grinning from ear to ear.  And how wonderful that those very words, "Hosanna!  Jesus is coming," have been echoing in our home and in our cars and in our lives ever since she marched alongside her Sunday school friends on Palm Sunday morning!

Thankfully, my Palm Sunday did not end there.  I finished out the day with an evening service for the older adults and community friends at the local sheltered housing facility in Kingsclere.  With service sheet in one hand and the paper towel roll/shredded newspaper palm branch in the other, I entered for another Palm Sunday celebration.  We opened with our own "Hosannas!" We reflected upon Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  And we sang lots and lots of hymns, which are chosen by this residential community for the services.

As meaningful as it was for me to be leading the Palm Sunday worship service that evening, the highlight came while we were singing our closing hymn, Onward, Christian Soldiers.  If I must be truthful, this probably would not have been one of my song picks for Palm Sunday had I been doing the choosing, but there is no doubt that this hymn, its sound, and its rhythm strike a particular cord and resonate well with this faithful generation of Christians.

"Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before," we proclaimed in song.  And then I noticed it:  the rhythmic toe-tapping.  Almost everyone had at least one foot moving to the marching beat.  Although a moment shared only with myself in my own thoughts, it too was an uplifting and contagious Palm Sunday act of worship.  We marched together, as if on the road!  We marched together, as followers of Jesus the King!  And you can imagine that I marched my way right out of Rose Hodson Court with thanksgiving for this wonderful, toe-tapping Palm Sunday!