It's almost time! There only 38 days until Christmas morning (as of November 18). Stores have been prepared for a month, homes are already decorated and lit up, and Black Friday is less than a week away. So much to think about, and only a few short weeks to get everything done! But right now, I invite you to take a deep breath and let it out to center yourselves. Stop whatever you are doing, set everything commercial aside, and take just a moment to remember the story that started this holiday. It is scandalous, exciting, scary, and unbelievable, all at the same time. It is the beginning of the greatest story ever told: the story of our salvation.

The story starts with a very scared young woman, who gets pregnant, but not by the man she is engaged to. Both she and the man she is to marry are visited by angels who tell them not to be afraid, that they were "chosen" for this by God, and that this child will be the Messiah the world has been waiting for. This child will be the one to deliver them from bondage, and make right the broken relationship between humans and God.

A baby! But of course God started with a baby. How else was God supposed to enter life on earth so that they could experience what humans experience, live as we live, and prove that God’s love is abundant and overflowing and includes every human – no matter who, no matter what?

So, enter: a baby. But this is no ordinary baby. This is a baby who frightened kings and religious leaders. A baby who brought gifts of abundant hope, peace, joy, and love to a broken and desperate world.

Hope of freedom and salvation. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

"For there is nothing that God cannot do." (Luke 1:37)

Peace to those whose hearts were – and still are – filled with fear. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)

"I have told you these things so that in me, you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Joy to the broken hearted. "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15:11)

"So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." (John 16:22)

Love by spending time with those people who were considered outcasts. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

The second is this "Love your neighbor as yourself." There is no commandment greater than these.

Advent and Christmas are just the beginning. But it is a beginning to celebrate. In this world that is shrouded by darkness, this is a bright spot. It is a time filled with abundant hope, peace, joy, and love. Maybe not in the way we want it to be, but these gifts are present with us, and God does want us to celebrate. These are the first gifts of Christmas. As you celebrate, though, don't forget to share this very special story. Better yet, be the gift of hope, peace, joy, and love to all those you encounter this season, even if you don't want to. They were gifted to you, may you gift them to others.

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi



The Way of Jesus

I have stated this before, but we are embarking on my favorite time of year. Autumn comes with temperatures that require heavier clothing; the smell of bonfires; and shorter days with a sun that shines a more golden hue. Autumn also brings with it football, pumpkins (which are being carved not by us, but rather, our resident squirrels and chipmunks!), and porches and yards being decorated for Halloween. In church, we are working on preparations to celebrate the Reformation and All Saints which are underway, and last minute finishing touches on all things Holiday Bazaar related being done. These are just the "normal," yearly things; the ones we can count on every year.

Then there are those things that happen which catch us off guard – continued hurricane recovery, wildfire fighting in California, a shooting in Las Vegas, and a rise in car theft by 11-13 year olds in our own community.

While I am tempted to state "There is so much happening right now!", I need to take a step back and look at a much larger picture: the fact that things like this have always happened. Our world, since the beginning of time, has always been in some state of chaos. Once we learn to recognize this, then we can ask the big question: How have we made it this far???

I know how, so let me share it! We have lasted this long, because we have a God who is so big, we can't even begin to fathom all God has done for us. And this same God walks right beside us, every single day of our lives, letting us live our own lives, and yet, caring for us by providing us with everything we need. In terms which have become very familiar during this time of year – God has gifted us with Abundant Stewardship. (Stewardship simply means taking care of something or someone).

What do we do in response to this abundant stewardship gift? Simple, we offer abundant stewardship to all of God's children and creation. We are called to care for the least of these, and for our planet. We are commanded to love one another as we love ourselves, and we can find many ways to do this. One simple way is through the giving of our time, talent, and treasure through our church community.

While Faith UCC may not be a large church, we most certainly are a strong and faithful church, and we should be very proud of these qualities. We have leaders who are hard working and faithful to God’s holy work. We have members who are our prayer warriors – praying for everything. We have willing servants, regardless if it is for making sandwiches, bringing altar flowers, bringing food for Share-a-meal, giving to our 5 special UCC offerings, sitting on Council, reading, ushering, greeting, or setting up and cleaning for Coffee Hour. We are also faithful, and understanding, financial givers.

Last Sunday, we met as a congregation and approved the 2018 proposed budget. Sitting in the pew, it amazed me that it took such a short amount of time. I am very proud of, and thankful for, all those who worked hard to come to some difficult decisions this year in order to keep the increase to just over 1% overall. Thank you to the Council members (especially Deb, for working with us on health care coverage), for your heady, hard, and diligent work. It is holy, and you did a wonderful job. Thank you!

As we move into November, and prepare for the Pledge Card Dedication Service on November 26, I invite you to first, look for your letter from the Stewardship committee, second, pray for how you can help financially care for the ministries of our church, and finally, pray for God’s will in all you do. God is with us, even in the business and chaos of life! Thank you to all of you!

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi



Liturgical Year

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." ~ Joshua 1:9

Summer is over, although you wouldn't guess it this week! After some very beautiful weather, we find ourselves amid a week of 90+ degree days. Welcome to weather in Iowa! As we continue to celebrate God's Abundance in our lives, we move from the Season of Creation during September, to the Season of Stewardship in October and November. The Church as a whole doesn't recognize a season such as this. But historically, this is the time of year that many churches hold their "Stewardship Campaign", or the time when church goers are asked to pledge their giving to the church for the next year.

While this is one of the things we will be doing during this time, this year, in keeping with our theme, we will spend time listening to, and remembering, the abundance in our lives through our relationships. In October, we will listen to God's stewardship and relationship with us, as children of God, as well as with creation. In November, we will celebrate our stewardship and relationships with one another, with creation, and with God. While "stewardship" is typically thought of as "time, talent, and treasure", I want us to see "stewardship" through a new lens – the lens of relationship, or care of one another and all of creation. If we didn't have a relationship with God, with one another, and with the church, there would be no reason to give. I want us to realize that everything we have, everything we do, everything we share, comes from God, and is possible because of our relationship with God. To help us see through the lens of abundance, during these two months, I have invited 7 people to share with us their experiences and life at Faith UCC.

Many times over the last month, I have been asked if I thought God was punishing us by sending these storms, fires, earthquakes, and volcanos. I believe in a God who doesn't create the chaos. God makes order of the chaos; takes all that is bad, and creates something new. God is a creator, not a destroyer. God is a God of abundance. These storms, and fires, earthquakes, and volcanoes, are the result of what is happening to the Earth. Whichever side of the fence you fall on when it comes to the how and why of climate change, nobody can dispute the fact that the climate is different than it used to be. Our big blue marble – Earth – is a living, breathing, being. She needs to stretch, and move, and let her gases go. She isn't any different than we humans. If you sit too long, don't you need to stretch? I know I do! If something bites you, or invades you in an unnatural way, don't you react? So does Earth. While what is happening is always awful – death and destruction is awful – I want us to remember that what we are doing is looking at this through the lens of scarcity. If we could, even for a moment, look through the lens of abundance, I believe life on this, my favorite planet, would be vastly different – dare I say, more like the Garden of Eden that God intended for us.

But how do we look through death and destruction with a lens of abundance? We stop complaining, blaming, and pointing fingers, and we start loving. We pick up a shovel, or a pail of water, and stand with our brothers and sisters. We become the voice of those who have no voice. We look for ways to show compassion, mercy, love, and grace. We work together, instead of in our separate silos. We listen, pray, and cry, as well as offer forgiveness, solutions, and the courage to negotiate for the best possible outcome. We are children of God, who are given everything we need, in abundance, when we need it, even-or especially-in the midst of chaos and disaster. In the wake of these disasters, we see and hear the stories of people coming together. This is God. This is abundance. What has God given you in abundance, that you can bring to the table?

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi



These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: 'The kingdom of heaven has come near'. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give". ~ Matthew 10:5-8


"I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America….".

Is your hair standing on end? Do I have your attention? I can imagine there are a few who are a little wary about what words you are about to read. That makes me sad. Because where we are in this society right now, even those words are enough to set some people off.

For some, it is the words "one nation under God…" which upset them most – that whole separation of church and state, you know. For others, it is the beginning: "I pledge allegiance to the flag…". We are given the Commandment "You shall have no other Gods before me," so some feel that when we "pledge our allegiance to the flag" we are placing the flag, and the country, before God. But I don't believe that is what it was meant to say.

Simply put, a pledge is a promise. In terms of the flag, we are promising to stay true to our country, and its ideals, to the best of our ability.

Within the church, we have "stewardship pledges". Much like hearing those words in the Pledge of Allegiance, many people's hair stands on end when this conversation comes up. But a "stewardship pledge" is simply a promise you make that you will give a certain amount of money to the church each year – this is the "offering" we take every Sunday. This pledge helps the church fulfill its mission of serving in the world by paying bills, mending the church/parsonage/property, paying salaries, and the many missions we give to within our community, the wider Church, and the world. (For your information, as of July 31, our general fund is short just over $3,100. If you have pledged, and have been gone for the summer, I encourage you to catch up. Contact Martha if you have a question about your pledge).

By now, most of you know that our theme this summer has been "abundance". God gives to us in abundance, and we are called to share that with those who need it. While many churches teach the practice of tithing (giving 10% of your gross income) there is no "right" way to give. We are, however, called to give of our first fruits, meaning offering to the church first, instead of last. When you make a pledge, please understand that it is a promise – to do your best, with the help of God. But life happens. Sometimes things come up which makes it impossible to fulfill that promise. These pledges are made in good faith, they are not contracts, and therefore we will not come after you if you don't fulfill them. While as pastor I am not privy to the amount you pledge, I am told if someone isn't giving, so that I can follow up to make sure things are okay, because most of the time, when an active giver stops giving, they are either upset with something in the church, or have an issue in life, either of which the pastor may be able to help with.

As we journey forward, we will continue to celebrate God's abundance as we move into the Season of Creation and Season of Stewardship. You will hear more about pledging, and hear testimonies from people in the church. I challenge you to think about how you pledge your allegiance to this country, and how you will choose to pledge to the church in November.

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi



Animal Blessing

“And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind. And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good." ~ Genesis 1:24-25

“All God's critters got a place in the choir. Some sing low. Some sing higher. Some sing out loud on the telephone wire. And some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they got now."

I learned this song at one of the yearly Vacation Bible School programs I attended while growing up. I love this song because it reminds us that truly, every creature has a place, and a voice. God created each creature – great and small – to work together, to be in relationship with one another in a certain way. And as humans, we were given the gift of caring for these creatures. So often, as a culture, we forget that there is actually a natural order to things.

As we continue to journey through our theme of "God's Abundance", we are reminded that humans are not the only ones who have been given gifts – God's other creations have also been given gifts. And the natural response to being given a gift? To say "Thank you". Birds sing their praise in beautiful melodies, sung from the branches of the trees – even in the middle of the night. Wolves and coyote howl at the full moon; whales sing long, mournful sounds; beaver and otter swim playfully in the lakes and rivers; caterpillars give up the safety of living off the plants of earth to grow beautiful and intricate wings to flit back and forth, carrying pollen from plant to plant; and I could go on and on.

Sometimes, this relationship between human and animal is highlighted in and through our pets. In the same way other species have been given gifts, so have our pets - the gift of companionship and unconditional love. Some species show it better than others (dogs and cats come to mind….) but recently, I have watched some pretty crazy videos on Facebook which showcase unusual animals showing affection toward humans – lions and tigers jumping into the arms of the human who raised them; chicken, ducks, goats, cows, and even elephants, bears, and chimps giving hugs. I even saw birds of prey – owls and a golden eagle, are shown laying their heads on a human’s shoulder and preening their hair.

While some of these may seem odd, what is important is the relationship. When we care for and love another – no matter what species, we want to keep them safe, and help them grow into whatever God has created them to be. One way we can do this is through blessing.

For the first time since I have been at Faith, we will hold an Animal Blessing on Saturday, August 26, at 5:00 p.m., followed by a potluck. (We will have treats for our non-human guests, as well!) You are invited to bring your animal to be blessed. I do ask that you make sure your pet is okay around people and other animals. If you want them blessed, but are not able to bring them, bring a picture. (Disclaimer: I will bless all creatures – even if I am afraid of them – as all creatures come from God. It may just be from a distance!)

I am excited about being able to give God thanks for our pets, and all God’s creatures, in a way that I have not done before with you. God gives us everything in abundance, and our response should be one of thanksgiving and praise. I hope you can join us as we bless the animals of God’s awesome creation!

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi



Summer Solstice

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." ~John 10:10

One of the things I love most about faith is that life - almost all aspects of life, as far as I am concerned – are a mystery. Upon scrolling through Facebook this morning, after my daily devotions, I came across several pictures of people gathered around Stonehenge as the sun rose. Now Stonehenge – THAT is a great mystery! But why were they gathered there this morning? It is because today – June 21 - is the summer solstice – the longest day of sunlight of the calendar year. The solstice marks the point in time when the sun stops moving north, making our days longer, and begins its slow decent south, taking with it a small amount of sunlight each day. For centuries, Pagans have celebrated the solstices, and many people make the trek to Stonehenge every year to watch the sun rise. Why? Because the summer solstice is the only day of the year that sun rises just over the structure’s Heel Stone and hits the Altar Stone dead center. How is that possible, when it was built in three stages between 3600 BC and 1500 BC? And we think our modern world is genius? We have nothing on those who had no computer technology to help them out! Only human power and brain power. That is amazing!

As I glanced at pictures and read through some of the stories from this morning, I was brought back to this summer's worship theme – Abundance. This is one more piece of tangible proof that God fills our lives with abundance. The fact that people gather to celebrate together in the wake of terrorist attacks which have plagued London this year, reminds us that God’s plans for us are bigger than fear. God lavishes mercy, grace, forgiveness, and love on us, in such abundance, even in the midst of tragedy, that God creates something new from what once was. This is our blessing. This is the good news which we are to share with the world. The mystery of the details, will always be just that, a mystery. In the same way that it doesn’t matter how Stonehenge got where it is, (large pieces of stone being brought to that spot from between 19 and 150 miles away – some 5000+ years ago!), or how the people (without technology) figured out that the sun would only hit the dead center of the altar ONE DAY out of 365, why the earth is tilted on an axis instead of being straight, or how the sun is still and Earth and all the planets revolve around that big ball of fire, it doesn't matter how God continues to lavish abundance on us – God just does. We but have to be open to receiving it!

As we move through the rest of the summer, I pray you allow yourself to be open to the wonder and mystery that is life; to celebrate with family, friends, and strangers, the lavish abundance which God so willingly blesses us, and all of creation, with. Happy Summer Solstice!

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi



Exceedingly Abundant

Abundance verses scarcity. We live in a society which feeds on our fear and insecurities, and continues to try to convince us that we don't have enough, or that we aren't enough. Bombarded every single day with commercials which tell us we aren't happy until we look younger, have more things, bigger cars and homes, and the newest in technology. All of them are meant to get under our skin and continue to tell us we aren't enough.

But as Easter people, we are supposed to know better than this. We are supposed to know that we don't need any of those things, that who we are, and whose we are, is enough – no matter what the people in power, or those who think they are in power, say. God gives us everything we need, exactly when we need it. And when we remember that our lives are overflowing with blessings, we can't help but become grateful. And grateful people are filled with hope, faith, and love. How do I know? How does the song go? Because "the Bible tells me so".

We have been a family with one income for a year now. We understand that starting a new business takes time, but often times I find myself getting impatient and scared that we aren't going to be able to make ends meet. When I get to this place, God has a way of reminding me that, although we don't have as much as we used to, we still have more than 2/3 of the people on this planet. A roof over our heads, three vehicles (even though only two of them are running right now), healthcare insurance, food enough to eat as many meals as we want, heat when it's cold and a/c when it's hot. Those things alone make us rich. And sometimes we just need to be reminded of that.

Like me, our world is in need of this message. Day after day I hear people who are afraid because they don't have enough. This fear has permeated every single space on this planet, and I believe it's time to dispel that fear. This summer I want to do something different. Each week, instead of following the Revised Common Lectionary like I normally do, I will be preaching a common theme: ABUNDANCE. I will pick scripture which reminds us that ours is a God who wants to give to us everything we need, and then some.

I invite you to join us this summer in worship at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings (and three Saturday evenings – June 24, July 22, and August 26 at 5:00 p.m.), as we remember to recognize the abundance in our lives, and celebrate the one who gives us all we need.

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi



Keep Calm

"Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to GOD, your God. Don't do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days GOD made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; God rested on the seventh day. Therefore GOD blessed the Sabbath day; and set it apart as a holy day." ~ Exodus 20:8-11

In the life of the church, the stretch of time between the beginning of Advent and the end of Easter isn't all that long in terms of days. But it is packed with so many things, including lots of extra preparation for extra services and programming. While I have been fairly good about keeping my hours under 45/week, this year, I made a mistake – a pastoral faux pau, if you will. I didn't take any time off following Christmas to rejuvinate myself – to recharge my battery. While this may not seem like a big deal, it is.

Being willing to work hard is a wonderful trait to have, until we forget to rest. A colleague once told me that our Spirit will find a way to make us rest, if we don't take that time. Unfortunately, that usually comes in the form of a breakdown in our health. But keeping Sabbath is difficult for me. While I am all about rest, I often find myself feeling like I should be working. This is not healthy, nor is it biblical.

The Bible says "For in six days, God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them, God rested on the seventh day". I can totally understand how tired God must have felt after creating order out of chaos. I struggle with working, scouting, baseball, cello lessons, concerts, plays, trap meets, and everything I am missing! And Sundays? Half the time I find myself falling asleep at the lunch table!

We live in a society where we define ourselves by what we do. The more we do, the more we are liked, the more "successful" we are, and the further up the ladder we will climb. But the thing our society forgets, is that, while having a good work ethic is important, so is rest.

Many of you know this, but I was diagnosed with narcolepsy when I was 21 years old. The most noticable symptom of this disease is excessive daytime sleepiness. My body, when I am stationary too long, will just fall asleep. I don't get a say in it, it just does it. And trust me, it is very embarrassing when you fall asleep in the middle of a conversation. About 10 years after I was diagnosed, at my annual checkup with the neurologist, she asked me what I was doing to help curb some of the daytime sleepiness. I said I would take a nap every once in a while. She said that wasn't enough. She said that even a 10-15 minute power nap would refresh my body enough to keep it going longer, and without them, I would continue to struggle. She then pulled out her tablet, and actually wrote me a prescription to take a nap 1-2 times a day! Permission to rest – what a novel concept!

Except it isn't really all that novel. Thousands of years ago, a man with a stutter climbed a mountain, stayed a while in the presence of God, and then came down the mountain with two stone tablets which held 10 instructions on how to be in relationship with one another and with God – and one of them said "REST"!

While I am able to take a nap each day, I often wonder about friends and others who have to work two and three jobs because they are trying to make ends meet. When do they rest? Look around, I would bet there are more people than you realize who are not observing the Sabbath, not because they don’t want to, but because they need to make money in order to put food on the table and shelter over their families heads. What can you say to those who need rest? As Easter people, what is our role to ensure that all people are provided with the opportunity to take their Sabbath time, and not have to worry about working on that seventh day? How can we help our neighbors receive the rest they so desperately need?

I am blessed to have the opportunity to rest a short time each day. And I am so grateful to each of you for your dedication and hard work which you so willingly give every ministry here at Faith UCC. And while it is holy work, let us remember that the instruction to observe our rest time comes from God.

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi



"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" ~ 2 Corinthians 5:16

IrisAs I write this, it is the first full day of Spring. It is the season where the days grow longer, the sun shines warmer, the grass turns a bright green, and the trees and flowers (and some animals!) wake up from their long winter naps. The whole world is teeming with new life, in one shape or another. Spring is the time of year long awaited by many who are tired of the darker, colder days of winter. Out of the old, God creates something new.

This is true in the areas of our lives that are filled with hurt, pain, loss, and grief. Out of these things, our broken relationships, the sadness and grief of our losses, and our pain, God reveals new life in ways that we cannot anticipate. And in a world where violence, hate, and exclusion are not only normal, but accepted, this is good news.

When something bad happens, we open a door of opportunity for God to enter, to pick up the pieces, and build something new. It's like the child who spends an hour building a tall tower with Legos, only to knock it down a few moments after being finished, all so they could start all over.

But what about other times? Like when we know we need to let go of a bad habit, or change our perspective on a story, or give up a part of our deeply engrained belief system? If we intentionally choose to let go of these old ideas, God will fashion new life out of them.

Making new out of the old is God's specialty. It started with creation when God took chaos, and put order to it. God separated light and dark, made the animals, created humans from DIRT, and then breathed life into them. Old dirt, new life. God continues to do this throughout history.

When Jesus died on the cross and was buried in the tomb, nobody on earth had a clue that there was something new in the works. All they knew was that their leader, teacher, and friend, was gone. And then, on the third day………new life!

Do you have areas of your life that could use a breath of fresh air? Where could you use some Spring Cleaning from God – taking away the old, and making something sparkling new?

Of course new anything can be scary! It's because new is unknown, that's what makes it new. But friends, when that new comes from God, we will not be disappointed. It may not look anything like it did before, but because it comes the one who fashioned human life from breathing into a dirt form, it can't help but be good!

So go on! Say YES! to the new, and enjoy!

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi



"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…..." ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11a

The Power of Words

"Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it."

I'm fed up! I’m tired of hearing people call each other horrible things, and of hearing people spread half or full out lies about each other. I thought it was bad during the campaign, but that has nothing on what I am hearing now. Each side has part of the truth, and each side has their nasty natures. I'm fed up with all of it!

So, what's a pastor to do? This pastor chooses to return to the Bible. I think I have spent more time in prayer and in the Word in the last month than any time during my 44 years of life. And maybe that's what this is about. Returning to our energy source, our Creator, the one who should be our center. Maybe the rest of it is just distraction; intentional chaos to draw us away from God. Regardless of what is going on, our focus needs to turn back to God, and living a Godly life; one of forgiveness, mercy, grace, and love. (Remember that whole "Love your neighbor as yourself"thing?)

But how? Language, that's how. Many of us can't help but talk – even though we should be listening. So, when we talk, our language should be words which build up, not words meant to tear down. I said on Scout Sunday, that it only takes one. One person can make a difference. And using language which builds up is a wonderful place to start.

In our society, we aren't very good at doing this. Or at least, we aren't always intentional about building one another up. In fact, social media has made it easy for us to be nasty to one another, sharing our negative energy with countless people, just by the press of a button. And in this time of fear and chaos, being intentional about building one another up is, and will continue to be, a vital part of spreading God’s love and light.

In less than a week, we will be holding our Ash Wednesday worship service, marking the beginning of our journey through Lent. During this Lenten season, the theme of our Soup and Conversations on Wednesday evenings will be “Letting Go.”

One of the things we will talk about letting go is our old ideas. In our tradition, often times we choose to give things up for Lent. For many years, I would give up chocolate and ice cream. But this year, I would like to encourage, and for some, challenge, us to "let go" of using language which tears down, and instead, choose to be intentional about building one another up using our words.

So, I am going to "borrow" (with permission!) an idea that I came across when we attended worship with David's sister and her family while on vacation in Montana last summer.

There will be a basket set on the table in the narthex with cards which will read Encourage One Another. I invite you to fill them out, and either give it directly to the person whom you are wanting to build up, or bring it to me, and I can give it to them. I can even place them in the newsletter, if you would like! Maybe you want to thank someone for a kind deed they did for you, or for someone else. Maybe it’s an encouraging word to help someone through a tough time. Or, maybe you like what they are wearing that day! Whatever it is, in this world of chaos and words of tearing down, let’s be intentional in spreading the light and love of God.

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi



Lord is My Light

" Light, space, zest—that's GOD! So, with God on my side I'm fearless, afraid of no one and nothing.”~ Psalm 27:1 (The Message Bible)

I feel like I have done a lot of preaching on the topic of fear in the recent months. Chalk it up to whatever you would like, but hardly a day goes by where I don't have a conversation which involves someone being afraid of something. Fear is real, it is everywhere, and if we let it, can render us immoveable.

With the advancement of technology moving at breakneck speed, we find ourselves bombarded by stories from around the world 24/7; most of them horror stories. For whatever reason, we seem to be drawn to these stories, and as we continue to watch, we allow fear to overpower us.

Because of this, I would like to invite you all to a retreat which will be held on February 4 from 9:30-4:00 at the Cedar Falls UCC in Cedar Falls, Iowa, called "Here Be Dragons".

Together, we will explore one of the dragons of our lives: fear. Where does it come from? What impact does it have on the community, on our society? What is the relationship between fear and faith? How do we cope with the awful fears that threaten to paralyze us, that suck the joy from our lives?

Sometimes we need to learn how to live without fear. Sometimes we need to learn how to live with fear. Together we will discover tools which will help us.

The cost is a free will offering, with lunch and snacks provided. If you are interested, please contact me by Monday, January 30. And if you are unable to go, no worries! I am confident we will have a discussion or two on what is learned!

God promises to walk with us, and never leave our side. And with God at our side, we need not be afraid. Yes, fear is real, but we don’t have to be afraid of it. We can acknowledge it, and then work with it. And when we trust in the promise that God is with us, who knows what new things are possible!

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi



Christmas Candles

"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising." ~ Isaiah 60:1-3

Some of you know that I am an early riser. I like to be up and ready before everyone else in the house. I love this time because it is quiet; it is one of the times I intentionally listen for the still small voice of God.

Because I am up so early, especially during this time of year, the earth is blanketed by the indigo of twilight. Eventually, the darkness gives way to the sunlight, and the sky goes from the blue/purple/indigo to orange/red/pink.

While I love this time of day, there are many who dread the darkness before the sun makes its way over the horizon. Maybe it's because they are afraid of the dark, and the light can't come fast enough. Maybe it's because the thought of having to face yet another day is unbearable. Maybe it's because they just aren't morning people.

This year, we held our first Blue Christmas service on December 21, because it is the longest night of the year. A Blue Christmas service allows space for us to remember and recognize that the Advent and Christmas season isn’t always filled with the joy and fun that society says it should be. Sometimes in our lives we just feel blue, and many times, this happens around the holidays. And the fact that the day which has the most amount of darkness of the year falls during this time, doesn’t help.

But there is good news that comes with this longest day, and that is that every day following it – up until June 21 – the darkness slowly gives way to more and more light.

The Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany seasons are all about light. We light candles every week in worship to celebrate the flicker of hope, peace, joy, love, which Jesus brings with his birth. Christmas comes with the story of the light that shone from the chorus of angels, and Epiphany brings with it the light from the brightest star, leading the Magi to the little baby. And Jesus himself is the "Light of the World".

In the darkest of night, in the lowest valleys imaginable, God is with us. God is that flicker of light which shines so we can know we aren't alone. Sometimes, it's hard to see it – but if you look closely enough, you will find it. And if you can look into the inviting glow, you will find the peace and comfort you seek.

There is so much going on in this world, and the darkness seems to be winning over the light. But here is the good news, friends – scripture tell us that won’t happen:

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." ~ John 1:5./p>

Each one of us carries the light of God in us, and it is our job to let that light shine so that others may see it, and believe.

"You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Creator in heaven." ~ Matthew 5:14-16

In these seasons which are filled with light, may you find the light within you, and shine it for the world to see – shine it so that the darkness cannot overcome it.

Always Peace ~ Pastor Heidi