Sunday, June 30, 2019

A Tiadaghton Adventure

Erin and I went to Tiadaghton today in search of timber rattlesnakes off of the Pine Creek Rail Trail. We did not find any rattlesnakes, but there were plenty of wild neighbors to appreciate from the scouring rushes along the trail to the tall sycamore trees with their sturdy frames. We identified three species of flycatchers and at least four species of warblers. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the six-spotted tiger beetles flit about on the trail.

To end our afternoon adventure on a high note I went for a swim in the cool flowing waters of Pine Creek; most definitely good for my spirit!

It was a good afternoon and a great adventure, and even though we did not locate the rattlesnakes that we had set out to find there was so much to be thankful for!










(six-spotted tiger beetle on the Pine Creek Rail Trail in Tiadaghton)


Saturday, June 29, 2019

A mystery of hope

Here are two truthful statements:

The love of God is the most powerful force in the world.

The world is filled with an incredible amount of suffering.

There are some very serious issues that might cause someone to despair; poverty, drugs, global warming, and loss of critical habitats and sensitive ecosystems to name a few.

Is there hope?

Could we ever mess things up so bad that God can't fix it?

The Christian tradition says that there is hope for all creation because the power of the love of God in Jesus Christ is without limit.

There is hope because of Jesus. That's right; nobody thought a dead man could be raised back to life but it happened in the life of Jesus some 2000 years ago; and this is a testament to the power of the love of God. The God who created the world and everything in it is the God who brings order out of chaos, life out of death, and hope out of despair.  

The Christian tradition also says that the church is the body of Jesus Christ in this world and as such we have work to do.

As we consider these truths we find ourselves invited to enter into a mystery of hope.

At the heart of the mystery of hope is yet another truth: With or without us the power of God’s love will prevail. 

If life was simply about acknowledging that God is in control so I don't have to do anything that would make life easy. While I would certainly acknowledge that God is in control this should not translate into apathetic living.

The mystery of hope (in the Christian tradition) brings us to the intersection of these two truths:

1) With or without us the power of God's love will prevail.

2) Human beings have a critical role to play in the establishment of God's peace on earth. 

As we partner with God in living the lives we've been given, we hold these paradoxical truths simultaneously within ourselves.

As I ponder the mystery of hope I'm once again drawn back into the same heart space, this prayer of openness to God's continuing work in me:

Change the desires of my heart, loving God, so that it beats in tune with yours; and may the changes you're bringing about within me find expression in my living. Fill me with your hope, and make me to be an expression of it in this world, in Jesus' name, Amen.



Friday, June 28, 2019

A morning of campground ministry at Ives Run Recreation Area

My friends Patti and Emmry joined me at the Ives Run Recreation Area Campground this morning. We spent two hours there from 9-11am. I did not lead a worship service today. That's happening tomorrow.

To me, what we did today was far more important than Saturday's worship service. Today I had the joy of taking time to get to know many of the campers, share some stories and hear some of theirs, get to meet their canine and feline family members, and even get to hear about some of their deepest joys and most significant struggles in life. It was a very spiritually fulfilling experience to take time to pray for and with a handful of campers this morning.

As we seek to take our next steps as disciples of Jesus and as we seek to inspire others to discover for themselves that love, joy, hope, and peace that we have come to know through our relationship with God; that's one of the very significant factors that gets me motivated every day for camp ministry and for life itself.

What's going on in your life? How can I be praying for you? (feel free to email or call me if you have a prayer request)

Do you know what's going on in the life of your neighbors? How can you be praying for them this week as you and they seek to take next steps in relationship with God?

(new friends at the camground Tom and Nellie)


(Prince is staying at the campground with his family and as a registered service dog he helps his dad)

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Peace like tranquil waters

Erin and I took some time to go kayaking at Cowanesque Lake today during our day off. We enjoyed watching great blue herons, ospreys and bald eagles among other birds, we experienced the joy of listening to a bullfrog at close range, and we unknowingly surprised a huge snapping turtle that had been sunning itself on a snag but made a jump for the water as soon as he/she became aware of our presence making a giant splash! It is always an amazing joy to spend time with our wild neighbors getting to know the wildlife and wild spaces in my part of the world and today was no exception.

While we were out I took note of something that is fairly obvious to anyone whose ever been in a kayak or a canoe; with every stroke of the paddle the water is stirred up as the kayak is propelled forwards. But when Erin and I ceased paddling the water became very tranquil. This got me thinking about the following words that are attributed to Jesus in chapter 14 of the Gospel according to John:

“I am leaving you with a gift- peace of mind and heart; and the peace I give is a gift that the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

Jesus promises his disciples the gift of inner peace; if I were to attempt to define this inner peace that is God’s gift I know that my words would fall incredibly short of the experience; so while I won’t attempt to tell you what it is, I’ll do my best to tell you what God’s gift of peace of mind and heart is like based on my life experience.

It’s like that moment when you are in a boat over open water and there is a great calm; as the ripples cease the water’s surface is as smooth as glass; the sky, trees along the bank, and even your own reflection can be clearly seen as if looking into a mirror.

Many of us lead busy lives amidst chaotic schedules that make life feel like we are weathering some very turbulent waters indeed. In my experience, as I remain attentive to God through prayer, sometimes the Spirit of God moves me to go to a quiet place to find rest and sometimes the Spirit of God gives me a tranquil heart in the midst of chaos so I can be that peaceful presence for others.

I’m thankful that God is with me and with each of us through all that life brings.

What is your experience of God’s gift of peace of mind and heart? How would you describe it? What is it like for you?






Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Hope of deliverance

I'd like to share with you a Call to Worship on the theme of hope that I got to co-write today with my friend Seth Watkins. Seth has a strong appreciation for music and when I spoke of hope, he immediately thought of Paul McCartney's song titled Hope of Deliverance. It took us about 45 minutes to write up a Call to Worship (the intro to the worship experience) for Sunday morning. The words in bold are to be read by the whole gathered church.

Here it is:
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Call to Worship: Seth Watkins (Written by Seth Watkins and Pastor Rich Hanlon; inspired by Romans 5 and Paul MCCartney’s song titled Hope of Deliverance)

The Spirit of God welcomes us here today.

We gather as a community of hope.

We are people of hope; believing where we have not seen. Nobody thought a man could be raised from the dead, but then it happened in the life of Jesus.

Praise God for Jesus, our source of hope!

Jesus is the reason we have hope of deliverance from the darkness that surrounds us.

Deliver us, Lord, from the anger and frustration that we feel within ourselves. Fill us with your peace.

Deliver us, Lord, from every form of marginalization; from the stigma that too often accompanies mental health, disability, ethnicity, race, and national identity.

We place our hope in you, Jesus. Help us to live our hope, extending your peace to others.

Holy Spirit, fill us with God’s love, that this beloved community of disciples may be the embodiment of hope as we trust in Jesus.

Holy Spirit, lead us in our worship today. Amen.


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And a final word from me for today's blog post is this:  The community of hope that is comprised of those who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ is not limited to those gathered in the church building on Sunday morning. The community of hope; that beloved community of disciples who are the embodiment of the love of God and the hope for all in Jesus' name knows no social or geographical boundaries.

You and I are parts of that same community of hope whether we are gathered together in one place or scattered all over the world. God's vision of peace among people and peace between people and everything else that has life is a matter of hope, because in a world where there is still so much brokenness we must catch God's vision with the eye of our hearts and believe where we have not yet  seen.

And as we trust in the Spirit's work upon us may we follow the example of Jesus, seeking justice as we work to include into community all who have been marginalized; and I suggest that our working for justice for sensitive animals, plants, and ecosystems around the world is of equal importance with that justice which we hope for for our human neighbors.

Let us dare to hope, and let our source of hope inspire our actions.



(clouds over Wellsboro today)

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

a changed heart = changes in living

Part of my life's experience is that the more I come to know about the love of God in Jesus, the more God sets my heart ablaze with love for all that has life.

When it comes to God...
 
 a changed heart = changes in living
 
Sometimes a change in heart that's brought about by the Spirit of God leads to a totally altered course and sometimes its an added inspiration to the good course we had already begun; Its always the result of God's work within us, and of our taking the time to nurture our relationship with God through prayer. A relationship with God is a lifelong experience of strength, of joy, of peace, and of hope; if our hearts have been changed by God we should expect our hearts to be changed again, and again, and again. More like you, Jesus, more like you.

Our hearts are like garden spaces where God works the soil, and when we partner with God, allowing those heart changes to find expression in our living, amazing things happen and the garden that is our life (and our lives together!) produces a beautiful bountiful life-giving harvest.

How have you experienced God working on your heart?
 
Change the desires of my heart, loving God, so it beats in tune with yours; and may the changes you're bringing about within me find expression in my living.
 
 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Brownies with Brenda!

I’m going to deviate a little from my typical genre today to bring you a heart-warming-sweet-tooth-satisfying tale of occupational therapy. My friend Brenda ended up in the hospital a week and a half ago and now she is on the mend at one of Wellsboro’s local nursing facilities called The Green Home.  Occupational therapy is part of her treatment and for today’s occupational therapy they had her bake brownies. This to me was a real experience in building community; as the Green Home staff served Brenda for the sake of regaining her health and strength, she was able to serve some of them in return with homemade brownies which the baking of was part of her steps towards healing. I was glad to see Brenda today and as you can see I unknowingly arrived at the right time as I too was offered a delicious homemade brownie that was fresh from the oven!

The whole situation made me think of a particular form of worship that (in the Greek) sounds like “Latrevo.” Worship is about declaring what is most important. Latrevo is a form of worship that is about serving others as an expression of our love for God. 

In this particular case the baking of the brownies as well as their serving and consumption was a moment of worship for Brenda as she so kindly and beautifully baked and shared the fruit (I mean sweetness!) of her occupational therapy in the kitchen. I only hope that the occupational therapist’s care of my friend Brenda is just as much an exercise of worship for her/him as it was for Brenda to bake and serve her homemade dessert.

How will you engage in Latrevo worship today, declaring that God is most important in your life by giving yourself in service to others as an expression of your love for God, in Jesus’ name?


Sunday, June 23, 2019

We are Sanctuaries

This afternoon I had the joy of leading a special outdoor worship service at Second Chance Animal Sanctuaries, one of the animal rescue shelters in Tioga County. We gathered in the space adjacent to the building that is called Memory Garden. There were twenty-one people, seven dogs, and one cat present for the experience of worship. As we worshiped God in the small apple orchard we were surrounded by the songs of bluebirds, tree swallows, and a distant meadowlark; the dogs in the yard could be heard barking in the background, and a wind chime, moved by the gentle breeze, sounded off.

During the sermon I referred to the teaching of Jesus about loving God with all of our faculties and loving our neighbor as ourselves followed by the story of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Both can be found in chapter 10 of the Gospel according to Luke.

By Jesus' interpretation of his Jewish scriptures to treat someone as a neighbor is to extend to them the mercy (loving-kindness) of God. Furthermore, Jesus is always challenging his disciples to expand the boundaries of who we include as our neighbor.

As we take in God's big picture vision for this world, a vision of peace among people and peace between people and everything else that has live, it is imperative that we grow to count all of our human neighbors, dogs, cats, and other animals, plants, trees, and all of the many diverse ecosystems of the world as neighbors to whom we extend the mercy of God.

We ended our experience of worship with the song called Sanctuary that is number 2164 from the United Methodist hymn book The Faith We Sing.

A sanctuary is a safe space; a space within which life can be nurtured; a space within which love can be felt and hope can be found. While we celebrate that the Second Chance Animal Sanctuaries facility is a place of sanctuary for the animals, those who make it as such are the staff and volunteers whose very lives have become sanctuaries for the animals we all love so dearly.

The song goes like this: Lord prepare me, to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true, with thanksgiving, I'll be a living, sanctuary for you.

Let us pray that we would be empowered by the presence and power of God at work within us, as we trust in the love of Jesus Christ, to live as sanctuaries for all that has life.

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Here is the responsive prayer that we prayed together:


God, as we praise you for the beauty and wonder of your creative love; Of singing birds, of blooming flowers, of flowing rivers and expansive oceans, of cloudless skies and of life giving rain, of mountains and valleys; of life in all of its forms; of the night sky that brings into view distant planets, stars, and galaxies. As we ask, loving God, that you would open our eyes to all of the goodness and beauty of your creation and of our responsibility as its members…

Together we pray, Come, Holy Spirit



Together we pray, Come, Holy Spirit

Loving God, we lift up to you in prayer those among us who are sick and injured. As we pray that your healing presence would be upon our brothers and sisters…

Together we pray, Come, Holy Spirit

Loving God, we lift up to you those animals who have become the victims of breed-prejudice and other forms of marginalization. As we pray for your healing presence to be upon them…

Together we pray, Come, Holy Spirit

Loving God, we lift up to you those animals who are suffering due to mistreatment and neglect. We pray that you would release them, as…



Loving God, we release into your loving care those special animals whom we have loved and lost, embrace them in your perpetual loving presence, and embrace us as well, as…

Together we pray, Come, Holy Spirit

Loving God, we pray for hope for animals everywhere; and we pray for your blessing upon this Second Chance Animals Sanctuaries facility and upon the staff and volunteers who give of their time, energy, and love for the animals we all love and care about so dearly. We pray for your blessing upon those animals currently at Second Chance that they would receive the gift of loving forever homes. And we pray for your blessing to be upon all of us gathered here, that you would empower us, loving God, for the fulfillment of the call you've placed upon us as we seek to be a presence of hope as…

Together we pray, Come, Holy Spirit

Loving God, empower us to be an answer to these prayers we’ve lifted. We lay down our lives before you as a holy and living sacrifice in union with Christ’s offering for us. We want to live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. So change the desires of our hearts, loving God, so our hearts beat in tune with yours. Make us to be the beloved community of disciples that is the embodiment of peace, justice, and hope for all creatures. As we pray that the changes you are bringing about within us may find expression in our living…

Together we pray, Come, Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit, fill us with the grace and love of God, empower us with inner strength as we pray together as Jesus taught us…

Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy, may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us of our failures to love as we forgive those who have not loved us. Do not lead us into temptation and deliver us from evil. Yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever, Amen. 





Wierd Wild Neighbors: Chocolate-tipped Devil's Claw

Welcome back to the bestlife.community blog for day two of Weird Wild Neighbors! The more we grow in our understanding of the weird wildlife...