Advent Theme -” How Does a Weary World Rejoice?”

Christ was born into a weary world. King Herod ruled the land with a legacy of ruthlessness. The Romans treated the people of Israel with contempt, imposing harsh taxes and land seizures that forced many into subsistence farming. Poverty and destitution were pervasive. And yet, Christ was born, bringing good news of great joy for all people.
As Advent comes again to a weary world, we ask, “How does a weary world rejoice?” From the opening chapters of Luke’s Gospel, we have found a few answers: we acknowledge our weariness, we find joy in connection, we allow ourselves to be amazed, we sing stories of hope, we make room, we root ourselves in ritual, and most importantly, we trust our belovedness. In the parallel birth stories of Jesus and John, joy arrives—despite trepidation, fear, or grief. In these stories, we find rhythms for rejoicing. As we move through our series, we hope to create space for acknowledging the weariness of our world while celebrating God’s closeness with great joy.
And so, this Advent, we will hold space for our weariness and our joy. We will seek a “thrill of hope” in our hurting world. We will welcome joy—even if, like the prophet Isaiah, we cry out for comfort (Isaiah 40:1). In this weary world, may we find many ways to rejoice.
Join us this Advent season as we find comfort in community and rejoice in God’s goodness

What Can We Give?

One of the questions often heard in the days following Christmas is “did you get everything you wanted?” First and foremost, it is important to remember that it is not our birthday. We are celebrating the birthday of Christ. While there is significance and importance to demonstrating our love and admiration for friends and family during the holidays, and there is joy in exchanging gifts, it is also good to do so with purpose and intention. What matters are those things you can’t buy – time spent with family and friends; experiences shared; kindness; love; patience; compassion; tolerance; sharing; service to others; making a difference. I encourage you to invest your time and energy in those gifts that don’t break, rust, become outdated or need to be returned – it will pay great dividends to you and your loved ones.
And during this time of the year that can be stressful and overwhelming, gratitude never grows old, and it shouldn’t be tossed out with the turkey leftovers. Before we get drawn into the holiday mindset of “what am I going to get?” let’s take a moment to give thanks for what we have been given, and give thanks to God and the people around you.
•    Gratitude helps us stay in the present. When we’re focused on things we can give thanks for today, we’re not living in the past or worried about the future.
•    Gratitude helps us avoid negative thinking, which when left unchecked, leads to negative emotions. You can’t be grateful and envious at the same time.
•    Gratitude increases our resistance to stress. Grateful people tend to bounce back more quickly from adversity.
•    Gratitude increases our sense of self-worth. Grateful people recognize the contributions others have made to their lives, and this transforms the way they see themselves.
•    Three ways to cultivate gratitude
•    1. Keep a gratitude journal.
•    2. Count your blessings on a regular basis. Similar to keeping a gratitude journal, without writing everything down. This can be done in the morning, in the evening, and all throughout the day. It’s the application of the “give thanks in everything” verse.
•    3. Use visual reminders.  Simple reminders, like putting Scripture verses in places we’ll regularly see them, can prompt us to be grateful. Some people like to drop notes of gratitude in a “gratitude jar.” The point is to do whatever helps us recognize and appreciate our many blessings.
In remembering God’s grace given to us through Christ, may you find much to be thankful for. Wishing you a blessed holiday season and a joyous Christmas.
Karen

A Greeting from FCCG

May the true spirit of Christmas shine in your heart and light your path this holiday season and into the New Year. Wishing you a season that’s merry and bright with the light of God’s love, and may you receive the priceless gift of spending time with loved ones, and sharing in the joys of generosity and gratitude.
Merry Christmas& Happy New Year!

Happy Birthday to all December Birthdays!

Happy birthday!! We hope your day is filled with lots of love and laughter! May all of your birthday wishes come true. God Bless!

8    Deliena Paschal
10    Linda Taylor
11    Ariel Osorio
17    Ryder Bertolette
18    Hannah Majidi
18    Mattea Davis
19    Jerrie Nackos
27    Robert Deering
29    Stacy Velky

Happy Celebrations to all November Birthdays and November Anniversaries!

Happy birthday!! We hope your day is filled with lots of love and laughter! May all of your birthday wishes come true. God Bless!

Nov 3     Edward Allender
Nov 6     Summer Wines
Nov 26   Nikki Hendricks
Nov 27   Dylan Johnson

Congratulations & Happy Anniversary to Our November Couples
Sending anniversary congratulations and best wishes for the years ahead to all those celebrating October wedding anniversaries.

4   Dan Wilshire & Karen Cullen

Opening Doors

When I was contacted by the Pastoral Search Committee of First Christian Church nearly 31 years ago, it was after they had selected my resume as someone that they wanted to interview. The selection process was a bit different, in that the chair of the search committee decided to cover the names and gender of the candidates, and ask the committee to make a selection not knowing any specifics about the individual. The purpose of this was to overcome hesitation to consider any female candidates. Following the committee’s decision to proceed with an interview, and ultimately to recommend me to the Board and to the congregation, there were those individuals that said that they would leave the church if a woman was hired. Some did leave. Others stayed and eventually changed their minds. The resistance was rooted in a belief that “scripture” said that women shouldn’t be pastors, or at least not teaching or leading a congregation. For some the thought was “maybe they could be youth pastors or Christian Education leaders, but no lead pastors.” I have always been confident in my calling from God to be ordained and lead a congregation, and continue to stand ready to answer any questions that might arise regarding my gender. While looking back on how the search committee brought my name forward, we might chuckle and think that we have come a long way. But the task to be open and affirming of ALL God’s people is an on-going work in progress for each of us. Not only has scripture been used to exclude women, but it has too often been used to justify hostility and exclusion towards the socially marginalized, including people of color and the LGBTQIA+ community. As Christians we are to inspire faith, hope and love, and we begin to do that when we open the door, and our hearts, to all God’s children and love them as God loves them.

Just as people have asked me how I can “justify” being a woman pastor when their reading of the bible tells them otherwise, I believe that through conversation and questions we can all learn what the scriptures do and don’t say about one another.  I encourage you to attend the panel discussion we are co-hosting with the United Methodist Church on November 9, and I would also hope that if you have questions, ask them.  May we strive to demonstrate in words and action that we value the uniqueness of all God’s people and affirm the worth and dignity of all.

Blessings,

Karen

The History of Halloween

While American cinema has often turned Halloween into an evil or gory holiday, it actually has its roots in religious traditions and celebrations. The term Halloween is shortened from All Hallows’ Even (both “even” and “eve” are abbreviations of “evening”, but “Halloween” gets its “n” from “even”) as it is the eve of “All Hallows’ Day” which is now also known as “All Saints’ Day”. In the ninth century, the Church measured the day as starting at sunset, in accordance with the Florentine calendar. Although All Saints’ Day is now considered to occur one day after Halloween, the two holidays were, at that time, celebrated on the same day. Liturgically, the Church traditionally celebrated that day as the Vigil of All Saints, and, until 1970, a day of fasting as well. Like other vigils, it was celebrated on the previous day if it fell on a Sunday, although secular celebrations of the holiday remained on the 31st. The Vigil was suppressed in 1955, but was later restored in the post-Vatican II calendar. As part of the “All Saints’ Day” belief, Halloween was perceived as the night during which the division between the world of the living and the otherworld was blurred so spirits of the saints (the dead) and inhabitants from “the underworld” were able to walk free on the earth. It was believed necessary to dress as a spirit or otherworldly creature when venturing outdoors to blend in, and this is where dressing in costume for Halloween comes from. This gradually evolved into trick-or-treating because children would knock on their neighbors’ doors, in order to gather fruit, nuts, and sweets for the Halloween festival. Salt was once sprinkled in the hair of the children to protect against evil spirits. The carved pumpkin lit by a candle inside, is one of Halloween’s most prominent symbols in America, and is commonly called a jack-o’-lantern. Originating in Europe, these lanterns were first carved from a turnip or rutabaga. Believing that the head was the most powerful part of the body containing the spirit and the knowledge, the Celts used the “head” of the vegetable to frighten off any superstitions. The name jack-o’-lantern can be traced back to the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, a greedy, gambling, hard-drinking old farmer. He tricked the devil into climbing a tree and trapped him by carving a cross into the tree trunk. In revenge, the devil placed a curse on Jack, condemning him to forever wander the earth at night with the only light he had: a candle inside of a hollowed turnip. The carving of pumpkins is associated with Halloween in North America, where pumpkins were readily available and much larger, making them easier to carve than turnips.

Happy Birthday to all October Birthdays!

Happy birthday!! We hope your day is filled with lots of love and laughter! May all of your birthday wishes come true. God Bless!

1     Jessica Paschal
2     Carol Nissen
9     Richard Fawcett
10   Dana “Sachi” Dootson
17   Tim Osorio
26   Valerie Hite
31   Glenna Allender
31   Karen Davis

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you’re age 40 or older, join the millions of women who get mammograms on a regular basis. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month educates women about the importance of early detection. More and more women are getting mammograms to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. As a result, breast cancer deaths are on the decline. Encourage the women in your life to get mammograms on a regular basis. Since the program began in 1985, mammography rates have more than doubled for women age 50 and older and breast cancer deaths have declined.
This is exciting progress, but there are still women who do not take advantage of early detection at all and others who do not get screening mammograms and clinical breast exams at regular intervals.
According to the experts, if all women age 40 and older took advantage of early detection methods – mammography plus clinical breast exam – breast cancer death rates would drop much further, up to 30 percent. The key to mammography screening is that it be done routinely – once is not enough. So if you are a woman age 40 or over, get tested, and if you are not, tell them women in your life that it is important.

Resilience for the Long Haul

The holidays have begun…..yes, I said it. Halloween is just around the corner and stores have begun to put out the Christmas decor. Before we turn the page on the calendar, plan now how you are going to “pace yourself” and take care of yourself as life picks up pace and demands on your time, energy and pocketbook increase.  Here are some important tips on how to care for yourself and be resilient.
•    Turn off the TV and get off of social media.  (Yes, that is what I said) What you read on social media isn’t always reality and we can’t allow other people’s opinions to shape our opinion of others or ourselves. If you want to be on social media for entertainment or to keep in touch with family and friends, don’t read stuff that will stress you out.
•    Exercise – Just 20-30 minutes a day of aerobic activity like walking, biking or swimming will make a huge difference in how you feel. Exercising will help you stay healthy too, and keep up your physical stamina.
•    Get more sleep – Lack of sleep results in decreased alertness, impaired task performance and poor decision making. Instead of trying to get more sleep each night, think about getting more sleep each week. Getting 49 or more hours of sleep a week will make you feel better and others will notice it.
•    Be proactive in your time management. Get together with your family and plan how you want to spend your week. Then write that on a calendar and follow that plan regardless of how you feel.  People say “if I only felt better I’d do that.”   But the truth is that if you do something, you’ll feel better and not miss out on opportunities.
•    Take care of yourself. Tend to your own needs and feelings. Participate in activities and hobbies you enjoy. Eat a healthy diet. Practice stress management and relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing, prayer or journaling.
•    Get connected. Building strong, positive relationships with loved ones and friends can provide you with needed support and acceptance in both good times and bad. Establish other important connections by volunteering. Spend time in prayer and reflection to strengthen your relationship with God.
•    Make every day meaningful. Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose every day. Set goals to help you look toward the future with meaning.
•    Learn from experience. Think of how you’ve coped with hardships in the past. Consider the skills and strategies that helped you through rough times.
•    Remain hopeful. You can’t change the past, but you can always look toward the future. Accepting and even anticipating change makes it easier to adapt and view new challenges with less anxiety.
•    Be proactive. Don’t ignore your problems. Instead, figure out what needs to be done, make a plan, and take action. There are resources available. Feel free to ask for guidance and referrals.
Take good care and Merry Christmas, I mean, Happy Halloween, Karen