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Archive for November, 2009

On this second day of Advent on our Pilgrimage to Bethlehem, we encounter Gabriel, the Archangel whose name means “God is my strength.”

Byzantine icon of the angel Gabriel

Byzantine icon of the angel Gabriel

In the Bible we find the angel Gabriel announcing to Daniel (chapters eight and nine) about what happens in the end times. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter one, Gabriel suddenly appears to Zacharias, the husband of Elizabeth who is also the cousin or aunt of Mary. The angel announces to Zacharias  that his prayers have been answered and that Elizabeth is pregnant. In her womb is the prophet John the Baptist who will be the one who prepares the way for the Messiah and who will be like the great prophet Elijah. Zacharias, who is a priest serving his turn in the Temple in Jerusalem questions this angel-man about how this could be true since he and his wife are both old and beyond child-bearing age. This angel boldly declares, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of  God. And I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.”

Then six months later, Gabriel is commissioned  once again by God  to go on an incredibly important mission to the virgin Mary. The angel tells this young woman that she has found favor with God and will be the mother of the long-awaited Son of God. Gabriel goes on to declare that even her aged cousin Elizabeth who was barren is now pregnant because “nothing is impossible with God.”

Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God and overhears daily divine dialogues,  is able with full authority  to firmly declare, “nothing is impossible with God.”

On our Pilgrimage to Bethlehem, let us in good hope hold Gabriel’s words close to our hearts and our minds, “nothing is impossible with God.”

Advent Prayer (begin with a moment of silence): Dear God, I need to hear that angelic message that through You nothing is impossible. I bring to You my difficult situation and ask that You turn it to good. Help me to have hope that my impossibility is Your possibility. Amen.

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During this time of Advent, it is my aspiration to have a devotional for each of the twenty-six days of this holy season. I hope you will join me each day as we pilgrimage together to Bethlehem to  experience the birth of Christ into our lives anew. As we journey on this Christ-seeking pilgrimage, we will meet all kinds of characters along the path from the Gospel accounts of this universe-changing and life-transforming birth.

Watch out for that Star!!!

George of the Jungle rings in my head as I think about the Star that shone above that innkeeper’s little backyard stable where Christ was born and that led those Magi from the East on a pilgrimage to Bethlehem to see this newborn king…I know you are thinking, you must have had too much of that “star” juice!! Well, hear me out….Remember, how George of the Jungle while swinging around in that forest had to “watch out for that tree”?

Watch out for that Tree!!
Watch out for that Tree!!

We too we too need to watch out for that star… that star that is sometimes in our way when we are preoccupied with daily living and slam bam, we run smack into it. Sometimes we stumble over that star that illumines the way to the birth of Christ into our lives, sometimes we just ignore it, sometimes we try to cover up its brightness, and sometimes we just try to hide from it. But, that star that shines in the darkness still beckons us two thousand years after Christ’s first coming to follow it and let it lead our tired, worn-out, overbusy, beat-up lives into the light of Christ’s healing presence. When the journey just gets too difficult, look up to the Star to light the way to Christ’s birth anew in your life this Advent season.

The light of the Bethlehem star shone upon that little stable already radiating and pulsating with the newborn Light of the World.

Advent begins today. Let us journey together on our Pilgrimage to Bethlehem. Just remember…Watch out for that Star!!

Watch out for that Star!!!
Watch out for that Star!!!

Advent Prayer (begin with a moment of silence): Light of the World,  guide me this day as I begin this Advent journey. Help me to watch out for that star that illumines my pilgrimage path to transformation and a renewed life in Christ. May I be aware of those who are seekers on this journey  and be a blessing to them. Help me to be a reflection of that starlight so that those I encounter today may find their way to that Bethlehem stable also. Amen.

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I have been reminiscing this Sabbath day about wonderful worship experiences that I have had during this 3 month sabbatical… Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Iona Community, Taize, Anglican, Church of Wales, Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and even in nature.

The first Sunday of sabbatical, Harvey and I worshipped at my dear friend Rev. Carol Petty’s church, Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Angleton, Texas. What a perfect name for this very special congregation. We loved worshipping with this hospitable congregation and enjoyed the delicious lunch afterwards.

The following two Sundays, I worshipped  and had communion in the ancient stone Iona Abbey in Scotland with Christians and seekers from around the world. What a blessing to realize that in this location, Christians and seekers have worshipped the living God for over 1400 years!

Iona Abbey, September 2009

Iona Abbey, September 2009

When I came home after Iona for a week to check on my Dad in Dallas after his two surgeries, we worshipped at East Dallas Christian Church where the Rev. Deborah Morgan pastors. It was a joyous service of magnificent music, communion, and a masterful sermon.

While Harvey and I were in northeastern France, at a noonday service, we sat on the floor of the huge tent-like sanctuary  of Taize, filled with hundreds of twinkling candles and even more young people from all walks of life and from many cultures. What a sacred place! Harvey said that this was one of the most meaningful experiences of our travels.

Inside of Taize Sanctuary, September 2009

Inside of Taize Sanctuary, September 2009

While touring through Wales, Harvey and I attended a short noonday mass at St. Winefride’s well in Holywell where each person was offered the blessing to kiss the relic of a finger  of St. Winifred’s that is encased in a jeweled monstrance. She and St. David are the patron saints of Wales and she was an abbess in the 600’s. Now, that was a first for us Protestants!

St. Winefride's Holywell, Wales, September 2009

St. Winefride's Holywell, Wales, September 2009

During my three week stay at St. Deiniol’s Library, I had communion often early in the morning during the weekdays in the beautiful new chapel and then worshipped on Sundays in the beautiful ancient St. Deiniol’s Church (Church of Wales).

What a treat it was to participate in an early morning communion service at Chester Cathedral in the St. Werburga Chapel. She is the patron saint of Chester and was  an abbess in the 7th century.

St. Werburga Shrine in the chapel of Chester Cathedral

St. Werburga Shrine in the chapel of Chester Cathedral

Two Sundays ago, we worshipped at Kingwood Christian Church where my friend and colleague, Rev. Renee Hoke pastors. It was a celebratory service with another wonderful sermon with a great powerpoint from this very special person who preached my ordination sermon.

While in beautiful British Columbia this week, being surrounded by God’s magnificent creation caused me to daily worship and praise our living God amongst nature.

Brenda appreciating God's creation on McKenzie Beach, Tofino

Brenda appreciating God's creation on McKenzie Beach, Tofino

Today, Harvey and I worshipped with St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Beaumont that is just down the street from our home. Rev. Nancy DeForest has a wonderful congregation of filled with members of all ages including many young families.

While I was in Europe, Harvey also took a sabbatical and attended several different churches. He enjoyed worshipping with a variety of churches and denominations. He also loved attending their Sunday Schools and seeing what they are doing during this weekly Bible study time.

It will be a joy to return to worship with my congregation, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Beaumont on November 22nd.

What a blessing to see that the Spirit of God is alive and working through all kinds of denominations. We can worship God wherever we are, but what a joy it is to gather with believers and seekers to worship, grow in our faith, and serve in the name of Christ. May the unity of the Spirit continue to bring people to faith in Christ and to allow us as disciples to be the hands, heart, ears, and feet of Christ to people in need of the good news of the gospel of Christ’s all inclusive love, forgiveness, peace, and acceptance.

Modern Day carving of the cup of Communion, Iona Abbey Cloister

Bread and cup to nourish and transform us to be Christ's disciples-Iona Abbey

Bread and cup to nourish and transform us to to be Christ's disciples-Iona Abbey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blessings!

Pastor Brenda

brenda. directory photo. 2008

Pastor Pilgrim Brenda

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Sea Treasure…sand dollars and other shells are nature’s treasure that they pour onto the beaches for us humans to admire and cherish. It is amazing that little sea animals could make such beautiful and varied homes to live in.  Sand dollars particularly are inspiring to me. Their beautiful round flat shells with flower designs on the domed top with little dove-like shapes inside are awesome. Today on Chesterman Beach in Tofino, Harvey and I found several pieces of treasured sand dollars. Thank you ocean for those gifts poured out.IMG_1815

Sea Stars and Sunflower Sea Stars…around the Wickanninish Inn on Chesterman Beach, Harvey discovered  several “constellations” of  brightly colored sea stars. I know that most of us call them starfish, but we are told that the ones here are Sea Stars. We also found a huge 17- legged blue and orange gigantic something on the beach. Sort of reminded us of those ceramic suns that are are sold at import stores  like Jack-a-lope in Santa Fe or The Market in San Antonio. We came back to our little half-canoe shaped hut and looked on Wikipedia and found out that this”something” is a Sunflower Sea Star that is native to British Columbia. Now, that’s something we have never seen before!

Sea Stars on Chesterman Beach, Tofino BC

A Few of the Constellation of Sea Stars on Chesterman Beach, Tofino BC

Seaside Sunrise ...Harvey and I arise early here everyday because of the two hour time difference and the daylight savings time change. So after a pre-dawn breakfast we put on our warm coats and waterproof boots and headed out to the beach before daybreak. The sunrise was incredibly beautiful with searing pink sky. Another piece of treasure.

Sunrise at Ocean Village Beach Resort, Tofino BC

Sunrise at Ocean Village Beach Resort, Tofino BC

 

Sea Sounds…We love to hear the sound of the waves crashing. This music of nature is soul soothing and superb for sleeping. Another bountiful treasure from the sea.

Sunflower Sea Star on Chesterman Beach, Tofino BC

“See” You are Treasure…In 2 Corinthians  4:7, St. Paul speaks of us as being treasures in earthen vessels that display the power of God. Since sea treasure can display the glory and power of our incredible Creator God, then we as treasure in earthen vessels, also show forth the magnificence and mystery of our God. You are God’s specially designed and cherished treasure. Don’t hide or hoard your incarnational treasure, pour it out as an offering and a blessing. Treasure is  meant to be shared.

Blessings of the Sea and Sea-Maker to you this day!

Pastor Brenda

Our little hut at Ocean Village Beach Resort on McKenzie Beach

Our little hut at Ocean Village Beach Resort on McKenzie Beach, Tofino BC

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Fractal Forest on Beach at Tofino, BC

Fractal Forest on Beach at Tofino, BC

On the beach in front of Ocean Village Resort in Tofino, British Columbia I was mesmerized by these amazing “forests” in the sand that the wave action placed there. Truly unbelievable! Harvey told me that these are fractals, whatever that means. I remember seeing something about this on the Discovery Channel last year.

All I know is that God is a magnificent Creator who allows nature to provide amazing paintings in the sand. I took hundreds of photos of these fractal forests with my i-phone in a couple of hours. The waves kept incising them in the sand  and I kept photographing them. Waves in and out and a fractal forest appears. A wave comes again and erases that forest and draws another. James over the years has collected lots of fossils and that is what these fractal forests look like to me.

Fractal Forest, beach at Tofino, BC

Fractal Forest, beach at Tofino, BC

Thank you God for nature and science and beauty. You are The Amazing Artist. If God cares enough to sculpt a fantastic fractal forest in the sand that lasts for a few short minutes, then think about how much God cares about each of us and desires to create something beautiful in our lives.

Be amazed at God’s handiwork. Let the Spirit of  the Creator God make something beautiful of your life. You are God’s magnificent creation!

Pastor Brenda

Dancing Trees

Dancing Trees

Fractal Tree with real leaves that landed there-pretty amazing!

Fractal Tree with real leaves that landed there in just the right place-pretty amazing!

Three Tofino Trees in the Sand

Three Palm Trees in the Sand

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Olympic Torch, Tofino, BC, November 1, 2009

Olympic Torch, Tofino, BC, November 1, 2009

Tofino, British Columbia…one of our favorite places on earth. Pacific West Coast…Gorgeous pristine beaches, crashing surfs, tall majestic swaying evergreen trees, mountains, soaring eagles, and cool air. So, of course, I had to spend one week of the last part of my sabbatical in this little glimpse of heaven. We usually stay at the very lovely Wickanninish Inn on Chesterman Beach, but decided to choose a different kind of accommodation this time. We are staying right on the beach in a converted quonset hut with bedroom, tiny bath, wireless internet, and efficiency type kitchen. The Ocean Village is not glamorous, but it is clean and the views are million dollar.

Torch light: On the ride over on the ferry from Seattle to Victoria, I looked up what was going on in Tofino this week and we happened upon a serendipitous event. The Winter Olympics that will be in Vancouver, British Columbia this winter was bringing the Olympic flame to Tofino on Sunday night. We arrived in late afternoon at our little half-canoe shaped quonset hut, pitched the luggage into the hut, and headed downtown to the flame festivities or let’s say, we tried to head downtown. We were stopped at the end of the road by massive numbers of motorcycle escort police (don’t know where they imported these in from, don’t think Tofino even has a police officer) and hundreds of locals joyously, yet reverently escorting the Olympic flame bearers into town. How wonderful to have the flame bearing runners right in front of you! I even ran beside them (for about 3 steps! hah!) After the flame went by, we joined in the long parade line to town following the flame bearers. We actually found a parking place and joined the thousands of Tofino-ites in celebrating the biggest thing to happen to this little town in a long time. There was music and dancing and shaking the free tambourines that were given out. The various leaders of the national and local governments gave short speeches, several former Olympians were introduced, and then the mega-flame was lit on stage by the last Olympic running torch bearer. What an awe inspiring moment! One woman behind me said, “I just can’t keep my eyes off that flame.” The celebration continued with lots of gorgeous fireworks lighting up the sky over the harbor. Harvey took a photo with me with one of the Olympians and she let me hold the flame holder. Sadly, the photo did not turn out in the dark as my i-phone does not have a flash. Let me tell you, those Olympians are strong…that flame holder is about 30 inches long (without the flame) and it is heavy!! So carrying the flame and trying to run at the same time is quite a feat. One Olympian even carried the flame and skateboarded up and down the town’s skateboarding rink…now that’s an athlete! I’m impressed. What a joyous, light-filled evening!!

Olympian holding a torch in Tofino

Olympian holding a torch in Tofino

Fireworks for Olympic Torch Celebration, Tofino Harbor

Fireworks for Olympic Torch Celebration, Tofino Harbor

Jack o’lantern light: From ferry landing at Sidney, BC near Victoria to five hour drive to Tofino, we were escorted into the upper Vancouver Island area with a charming and unusual greeting. It seemed that every bridge, roadway, and big rock was adorned with rows of smiling, snarling, adorable, goofy jack-o’lanterns. I don’t know what that was all about or how this province could have grown that many pumpkins, but maybe families vie for the best place to display their jack o’ lanterns in some sort of annual tradition or maybe schools bring all their students lovingly hand-carved pumpkins and line the roads. Don’t know the reason, just know that it made us smile.

Jack o'lanterns line roads and bridges on Vancouver Island

Jack o'lanterns line roads and bridges on Vancouver Island

Lights of Olympic torch bearers and lights from jack o’lanterns…Light of the World, thanks for the reminder through two very different ways of shining and sharing the Light.

May the  The Light of the World shine on you today and always,

Pastor Brenda

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