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- ReadMarch 2022Cornerstone Newsletter
From Pastor David . . .
The season of Lent begins March 2nd and runs through April 14th. Lent brings an opportunity to deepen our relationship with Jesus. Whether we take this opportunity is completely up to us. Not all will. But those who do find renewal.
Jesus said that he came so that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). However, he isn't the only one who makes such promises.
During the Lenten sermon series, Damaged Desires, we will look at the Eight Thoughts that Evagrius Ponticus believed were at the root of all sin. Later, these thoughts were developed into the Seven Deadly Sins. These eight thoughts promise life, but rather bring death.
When Jesus was in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13, Mark 1:12-13) he encountered Satan who promised him pleasure by turning a stone into bread, protection by having angels lift him up when he jumped, and power by giving him authority over the world. These are things we all want; pleasure, protection, power (or control).
Jesus denied all of Satan's offers because he knew he couldn't live by bread alone (pleasure), that tempting God was not the pathway to life (protection), and any power that Satan gives is not power worth having.
Through his life, Jesus showed us a different way to live and a much different pathway. Lent encourages us to quiet the suggestions of these eight thoughts and lean into the call of Jesus. Lent invites us to get away to the wilderness of our soul where we seek to listen deeply to the calls which usually get drowned out.
Will you go on this journey? Will you find time to draw away to a quiet place with Jesus? Will you listen? Pray? Read? Let go of attachments through fasting and denial?
Lent begins a path toward renewal and resurrection as it takes us to the Resurrection of Jesus. May we find true life on this journey.
Pastor’s Renewal Leave
Lent provides an opportunity for us to slow down, or perhaps even stop, and listen to the subtle call of God’s spirit, which usually gets drowned out by our culture, schedule, and general business.
I appreciate the opportunity provided by all of you and the Lilly Endowment for a renewal leave through the Lilly Clergy Renewal Grant. This grant provides up to $50,000 for pastor and congregation renewal.
I along with a few others, with the Governing Council’s support, applied for the grant last year. The focus of the application was “Hearts In Tune and Rhythm with God’s Joyous Song”. The church received $35,000 to go toward my renewal activities and $12,500 for church renewal activities.
The church activities include a catered goodbye luncheon on April 3rd, at noon, monies to help start the Food Pantry, and the rest of the funds going to a neighborhood meal and party.
The original idea for a Food Pantry came from congregational conversations. The common theme of those conversations was that we didn’t want to spend all the money on “us” but rather find ways to bless our neighborhood and community.
From those conversations, a Food Pantry was born as was the idea for a neighborhood party. The Food Pantry is going strong feeding people in our community. The neighborhood party will take place later this summer, so keep an eye out.
As for my part of the grant, I will be stepping away from congregational ministry for four months beginning April 3rd the last Sunday before my sabbatical. During those four months, I will be traveling to Scotland, going west to stargaze with a friend, spending time at the Ghost Ranch in New Mexico for a retreat, taking a class in Spiritual Direction, and reconnecting with my family. I will also be studying what it means to be in rhythm and tune with God through researching some Desert Fathers and other spiritual masters.
Since the Clergy Renewal Grant is a time for renewal, I will not be “producing” but rather finding activities that promote renewal. After almost 30 years of ministry, that renewal will include connecting with God through nature, music, and others.
I will return in August and we will have a worship service in celebration, during which, I hope to share stories, thoughts, reflections, and music about getting in rhythm and tune with God’s joyous song and hearing stories from all of you.
While I’m gone, you will have an opportunity to find renewal through connection with each other and with our neighborhood and community. I look forward to hearing your stories!
If you want more information, I will be focusing on the Renewal focus, Heart’s in Rhythm and Tune with God’s Joyous Song, during our Lenten gatherings on Wednesday evenings in March. You can also follow along at https://davidmullens.com/sabbatical/. I plan to post reflections as I journey through this time.
My prayer is that you find renewal activities as well during this time! Aaron will be leading the congregation during this time and I know you will provide him your full support!
- ReadJanuary 2022Cornerstone News
From Pastor David . . .
New Year - New Life
Even though one day folds into the next, January 1st seems different. Even if you aren’t the kind of person to make a big deal about resolutions, there’s something about January 1st that seems new. Maybe it’s because our Holiday Celebrations (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s) are all over and it’s back to the “grind” or at least a more normal rhythm. But deep within we hope things will be different, fresh, and new.
A year ago, in the 2021 January newsletter, I wrote this:
I don't believe that very many people are sad that 2020 is over. While every new year brings on a sense of anticipation, 2021 brings even more because there's a sense, or at least hope, of relief. Even though we don't know what we will face in 2021, we believe it couldn't be too much worse than what 2020 was and there's potential that 2021 will be much, much, better.
In retrospect, I’m not sure that 2021 was all that better than 2020. It was good to at least be able to gather together and even move to two services, but we now have a new COVID-19 variant and more concerns. Once again we are reminded that we have no idea what the new year will bring us. So we hang on to Jesus and each other as we navigate uncharted and unknown waters.
I hope this year brings relief and things will be much, much, better but it may not be. The new year may bring more challenges…like every other year we’ve ever experienced. Every year seems to bring its share of challenges. The good news is that along with challenges, there will be opportunities.
Jesus gives us good direction when he tells us not to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34). He makes the point that worrying about tomorrow actually brings that potential trouble into today. In other words, you are ruining today because you are worried about what might ruin tomorrow.
The reality is, worrying about tomorrow or the coming year doesn’t change any challenges or opportunities. Worry, says Jesus, never added anything to anybody’s life (Matthew 6:27). Instead of focusing on potential problems (let’s face it, most of what we worry about never materializes), we are to focus on God’s Kingdom. Instead of focusing on potential challenges, we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Kingdom of God, and the opportunities God presents us. Focusing on God’s Kingdom leads to life.
Sometimes we can’t seem to help ourselves. Worry shows up uninvited and unwelcomed. Worry doesn’t care. Worry opens the door, walks in, finds a seat, and sits down!
While the quote has been attributed to many people, I believe it was Martin Luther who said, “You can’t keep birds from flying overhead, but you can keep them from making nests in your hair.” So true. You may not be able to stop Worry from making an appearance, but you don’t have to invite him to sit down while you make him a meal! You can choose to send Worry on its way as you instead focus on God’s kingdom and God’s opportunities.
My question for the new year is “How do you want to be?” Not, who do you want to be, or what do you want to do, but how do you want to be in 2022? What word would best describe “How you want to be” in this year? Peaceful? Content? Joyful? Focused? Intentional? (I hope so!) Worried? (hopefully not!)
I encourage you to come up with one word that describes how you want to be in the new year. Then, throughout the year, work toward that word being a reality. Even though every year seems to transition to the next, each year brings the potential for new life. What do you want your new life to be?
- ReadDecember 2021Cornerstone News
From Pastor David . . .
My memories of Christmas are filled with family. There were years when my sisters would bring their families to our home and we would eat, open presents, and celebrate. As I got older, there were trips to my sisters’ homes as well. After I was married, sometimes my family would come to my home, and Delora and I would host the festivities. The best part of Christmas may have been being at home. Not always my home, but somebody’s home where we were welcomed and loved.
There are many wonderful Christmas traditions such as putting up the tree, stringing lights and other decorations, and making hot chocolate and candy for friends and neighbors. Perhaps you even had a Christmas party inviting neighbors and friends into your home. Home, in many ways, is the center of our celebration. Not always our home, but home nevertheless. Perhaps that’s why Perry Como sings, “There’s no place like home for the holidays”. It’s no wonder we will spend time, energy, and money traveling home and when, for whatever reason, we aren’t able to spend the holidays at home, Christmas isn’t the same.
However, we can’t always spend Christmas at home, but we can always go home for Christmas. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but home isn’t really a place. Home, as it has been said, is where your heart is. Home is the place where you belong, are welcomed, and loved. This Advent season, we can go home because Jesus has come into the world and shows us the way to our true home.
There’s a sad reality, that for too many, home is not a place they want to be. Homes can be wonderful, but they can also be places of abuse and pain, so the songs about being home for Christmas, or even this article, just don’t ring true. Home is not where some individuals want to be. Home is not a place of welcome, love, or belonging for them. If you find yourself struggling when you think about being “home” for Christmas, there’s some good news.
Our true home isn’t in the place where we grew up or currently live. Our true home is with God and because Jesus has come into the world, we can go home to where we are welcomed, loved, and belong. God calls us to that place and when we arrive, we are welcomed with open arms.
This Advent season, I pray that you can hear Jesus inviting you home. I pray you would find that home where you truly belong, where you are welcomed, and loved beyond belief. Jesus came into the world so that we could finally find our way home.
- ReadNovember 2021Cornerstone News
From Pastor David. . .
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas...at least in the stores and in TV commercials. I started noticing Christmas themes even before the end of October. From the looks of what I see, the holiday season is upon us, or at least very close.
Over the years, I’ve grown used to seeing Christmas items in October and, at times, even earlier, so I’m no longer surprised. I do wonder if our desire to get ready for Christmas so early causes Thanksgiving to become almost an afterthought. Of course, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, but there’s a danger that Thanksgiving becomes a prelude to Christmas, becoming a day that marks the beginning of a fuller season rather than a time to stop, reflect on our lives, and be grateful.
Given the challenges over the last almost two years, it may be hard finding reasons to be thankful. Many things aren’t the way we want them to be, causing us to wonder, “What do I have to be thankful for?”
Yet, that’s exactly why Thanksgiving is so important. True gratitude is not based on good things happening. Of course, we are thankful when good things happen, but true gratitude is evident even when life isn’t so great.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. Giving thanks can be tough when our circumstances are difficult. Yet, we are not told to give thanks in good circumstances, but in all of them, including the not-so-good ones.
Dr. Susan Muto believes that it is possible to cultivate gratitude in difficult situations. We all go through tough times and the times have been tough recently. On top of tough times, we all have limits in age, health, training, etc., limiting us in what we can do. Difficult times along with our limitations may sap our sense of gratitude.
Being grateful as we continue to live through a pandemic is even more important than in good times. In good times, everyone is thankful. It’s easy to be grateful when things are going well. To be grateful in trying times takes faith.
In her book Gratitude, Dr. Muto offers the following directives for cultivating gratitude:
1. Trust your story, and let others know of its positive outcome.
2. Train yourself to find a silver lining in every limit.
3. Never push against the pace of grace lest you lose your peace.
4. Abandon yourself to God, and never feel abandoned by him.
5. Let the spiritual hunger you feel be a reminder that in the words of St. Teresa of Avila, “God alone suffices.”
6. Strive every day, with the help of grace, to overcome the temptation to be ungrateful and instead to practice what St. Theresa of Lisieux called “the ministry of the smile.”
Some of those points are easier than others. As I read through them, I realize that gratitude isn’t something that happens to us. Instead, gratitude is a practice. As we practice and cultivate gratitude in our lives, we find even more reasons to be thankful. Hope takes shape within us. We know that God has not abandoned us. God is with us!
One active practice to cultivate gratitude is a Gratitude Journal. Perhaps you are already practicing it. It’s simple to do. Every day, write down three (or at least one) things for which you are grateful. Were you able to drive somewhere? Give thanks in your journal. Did you eat today? Write it down. There are so many blessings when we take time to reflect. I’m changing the lyrics a bit, but you may know the reference: Write down “your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
May you find gratitude this Thanksgiving and may it form hope within you!
- ReadOctober 2021Cornerstone News
From Pastor David . . .
My first two churches were in Seymour, Indiana. I was a student traveling back and forth to Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY. I’d make the trip to seminary two times a week.
Growing up in central Indiana, I grew to appreciate the change in seasons. Winter to spring, spring to summer, summer to fall, and then fall to winter fulfilling the cycle.
Fall became one of my favorite seasons with the cooler days, leaves changing colors, and, of course, football. Who could forget football? Yet, it was my time in Seymour that showed me how beautiful fall could be. Don’t get me wrong. Fall in central Indiana was beautiful, but in southern Indiana, I was wowed. The colors of the leaves were vibrant and varied. Just driving around was a joy.
Of course, such beauty has its price. The first time we went to Brown County over the third weekend of October, we could barely move. Cars driving slowly through the Autumn foliage caused congestion and some anger. Some drivers were wanting to experience nature while others were trying to get to a destination.
As I think about that day, I find it interesting that surrounded with so much beauty, anger can form. I hate to admit this, but as I think back, I believe I was a bit frustrated as well. Congested traffic can do that. Even though I wanted to experience the beauty of nature, I wanted to do so at a normal speed. Traffic congestion can cause me to become fixated on what’s wrong and miss the beauty all around me. What about you?
Perhaps my challenge, even now, is to not allow all the frustrations of life to cloud the beauty of life. God blesses time and time again. All of life is a gift from God. God continues to pour good things into our lives even (or especially) when we don’t deserve it.
The temptation (or should I say, tendency) to focus on what goes wrong rather than on God’s grace, mercy, and gifts, causes us to miss so much of life. What would happen if instead of allowing frustrations to ruin the day, we allow God’s beauty to be our focus? What if we allowed gratitude to rule the day? Looking not to frustrations, but to God’s faithfulness and goodness.
Here’s a practice that might help: Whenever you find frustration, anger, judgment, or other negative emotion taking hold, step back. Take a couple of breaths. Close your eyes for a moment, if you are able. Say a short prayer such as, “God, you surround me with so much beauty. Thank you! Open my eyes so I can see the gifts you give me.”
Who knows. You might be amazed at what you discover!