Are you ready?

Caroline Noll, Pastor for Children and Families

Summer ministries are winding down. My season of travels to workshops, camps, travels and rest has come to a close. It’s difficult to reconcile the end of summer with the first couple of days of August!  And just like that, with the turn of the calendar page, comes one particular question.  Are you ready for school to start?

Are you ready?

At first the question makes me laugh and think of familiar parenting advice.  Don’t ask a question unless you want an answer. What if I say no? What if the children say no? Ready or not, here it comes. 

With the laugh, though, comes the anxiety. What do I need to be ready? Do we have the schedule? How is everyone getting to and from school this year? When do we meet the teachers? Do we have clothes that still fit? An outfit for the first day? Do we need new shoes? Will last year’s backpack still work? Who has school supplies on sale and what’s on the list? What do they want in their lunch boxes this year? Do I have everything checked off the list to be ready?

And then I have to breathe. And wonder about being ready.  What really helps us get ready.

In Godly Play, we have some practices to help us get ready. We arrive early to prepare our rooms and ourselves.  We are mindful of thresholds, of crossing over from one space to the next, expecting to join the circle with God and one another.  We find a place that is just right for us in the circle. We settle our bodies in order to focus our minds and spirits. We breathe. We watch. We listen. And then all we can do is begin.

As this season changes, may we make ourselves ready to encounter God in worship and in the world.

The gift of figs

Valarie Englert, Senior Pastor

We have a fig tree in our back yard that is outdoing itself this summer – it is loaded with figs!

We pick them every day, and there are plenty to share with the birds and the squirrels; for making preserves; eating fresh; and bringing to the office for others to enjoy.

I’m pretty partial to this particular fig tree.

Several years ago, Rick and I prepared to put an addition on the back of our house. This required cutting down the fig tree to make way for the new construction. I shed tears as Rick cut it down to the ground.

Rick made other adjustments to the yard so that a pier-drilling truck could enter and do its work.

A week or two later in the wee hours of the morning, our daughter Eva appeared in the bedroom doorway. “Mom, Dad, there’s water all over the kitchen floor.”

We heard the noise before we reached the kitchen: rushing water splashing from our busted hot water heater.

As a result of that busted water heater, we decided to put the addition on hold and remodel the existing house.

As we shifted our focus and made new plans over the ensuing weeks, the roots of the fig tree began to send up shoots. And wonder of wonders! That little fig tree produced seven figs that summer.

This now big fig tree is a botanical reminder of God’s abundant grace; there is plenty for all.

Even during the winter, when the tree is bare, energy and sugars are stored in the roots, preparing for a new season of long days and warm sun, leaves and fruit.

The gift of figs never ceases to amaze me.

As one young friend reminded me, God’s abundant gifts are all around us, overflowing and ready to be shared.

When we share God’s gifts – whether they be figs or other signs of God’s love – that divine grace grows more and more in us.

There is a rippling, snowball effect: the more we allow our inner vision to “see” God’s grace around us, the more that grace takes hold in us, and the more we can be conduits of that grace.

This summer in worship, we have spent time considering the good news of God’s grace using the gifts offered to us through Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

As an ordained minister, Fred Rogers understood his call to be that of offering unconditional love and acceptance to young children and their families.

Mister Rogers spoke frequently about “growing:” not only growing up, but growing in character, in patience, and in understanding – both of ourselves and others.

Mister Rogers reminds us that we “grow” inside and out – just as trees grow, and grass, and flowers, and birds, and mammals.

God’s grace is not only the glue that holds us all together, but it is the medium and fuel for our growth into the ever-present, overflowing abundance of our ever-loving God-in-Christ.

May we have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to accept the ever-present, abundant grace of God!