Songs: “Joy” and “Fear Not”
Good morning everyone. A big thank you to our singers and the band: Leslie, Salethea, AJ, Mike, Tim, Chip, Keith and Jeremy. To _______ for doing sound, Mindy for being my clicker, Jessica for putting the PowerPoint together and to Robin and Ron for greeting everyone this morning.
I’m Maria Griswold and I’m one of 18 different people who take turns presenting our Gatherings each week. We are so happy to have each one of your here today. We’re going begin with a few announcements.
Meet and Greet (slide) – Next on the agenda is taking a few moments to meet and greet each other.
I have one more special friend I’d like you to meet. (Ari slide) This is Ari; some of you may know him as Bo. We adopted him from the Wilders last May when they moved into their new condo, He has been a wonderful blessing and addition to our family.
Mindy’s videos last week of dogs praying before eating, set the stage perfectly for my sharing today because my topic is (slide) “No Worries” or “Lessons I’ve learned from working with Ari.”
Like all of us, Ari has special gifts. One of Ari’s talents cultivated by the Wilder’s is singing,
(Ari singing video)
But also like all of us, Ari has a few things in life that he finds a bit challenging, such as the vacuum cleaner…and the mixer. (show video)
(Ari slide) Ari also used to get excited and start barking like crazy when he saw squirrels, rabbits, and other people on our walks. Now as we approach something I think might excite him, I happily reassure him, “No, worries, here comes a friend” or “That’s just a squirrel Ari, no worries.” We’re still working on not barking at other dogs, but as long as the coast is clear of canine friends, I can usually enjoy our walks as good thinking and praying time.
One day on our walk, Ari was calm and having a great time, but I was quite concerned about lots of things in my life. Then the thought came, “No worries, it’s just the mixer.” I laughed and began to let go of my anxiety. Now to Ari, the mixer or vacuum might seem like the devil or big bad wolf, but to you and me the vacuum means a clean house and the mixer a yummy treat in the making. From our perspective, we know that what is driving Ari crazy is not only nothing to be concerned about, but actually something very good going on. And isn’t that often the case with our lives. We get all worried about something, forgetting that God’s got things under control, that only good is really going on. And if we would only take a moment to listen, I bet we would hear God telling us, “Don’t worry, be happy. Don’t worry, be happy.” (sung by AJ over a mic)
Like our 2nd song this morning, the Bible is full of commands to “Fear not.” One of my favorite Bible stories about not being fearful or taken in by evil trying to our attention is the story of David and Goliath.
This following video is in honor of my husband’s childlike heart, but hopefully it will bring a chuckle to you also.
Veggie Tales Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Qmj2fXPvXc
So…next time something bothers you, you can say, “No worries, it’s just a giant pickle.” I find humor often helps me face my fear.
(slide of David and Goliath painting on building)
So, here’s a bit of the back story on David and Goliath, David, was a shepherd. His whole town was upset by the soldier-giant Goliath. No one dared accept Goliath’s challenge to fight…no one except David. To him, Goliath was no more of a threat than the wild beasts from which he had repeatedly protected his sheep. When David volunteered to fight Goliath, King Saul offered David the use of his finest armor and weapons, but David decided to pass on the king’s offer. He told Saul, “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.” So he took his trusty slingshot which he had proven to be so effective over and over again in defending his herd, and put five smooth stones in his shepherd’s bag. He only needed to use one. One strike and Goliath was out.
I love this painting of David fighting Goliath on a building in Regensburg, Germany. For me, it is a symbol of the story coming alive for us today. Take a minute to think about some Goliaths in your life…some big-bugaboo’s you’d love to conquer. There are 3×5 cards in the pew rack if you want to write them down. Don’t be embarrassed by your list. Just accept it for what it is. For example, over the past year, I’ve been working a lot with health and relationship issues, but at different times in the past the issues have been financial or work related.
Now think about what might be smooth stones for you. What has helped you work through challenges in the past? I’ll give you the opportunity to share yours a little later. To get us started, here are five of mine:
(slide) First, “The Word of God”– including bible verses, and songs, or sometimes an idea a friend shares. I try to keep a spiritual quote or hymn handy on both my electronic and actual desktops for my eye to light upon during the day. A favorite Bible verse that I often pray with is this one “I know the thoughts that I think toward you says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I find comfort in reminding myself that God is constantly giving me and others the thoughts we need to respond to the moment in a calm healing manner. Singing God’s word really helps me too, and I often find additional strength by actually singing the words out loud when possible. I’ve also been caught whistling worship songs in the Middle School halls where I work.
Recently I was reading through our Fellowship’s Covenant, which summarizes what we belief in and stand for. A copy is available on the back table if you are interested (hold up copy). It was fun to find that this and the other stones I’m going to mention are also foundation stones that the Fellowship rests upon. For example the Covenant talks about how we “Embrace the Inspired Word of the Bible.”
(slide) My 2nd stone is “Praying with Others”–When the going gets tough, I often call others for help. In James it says, “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him…and the prayer of faith will save the sick.” I’m very grateful for the prayers of Christian Science practitioners, whose vocations are the practice of spiritual healing. They are available 24/7 if needed to pray for you. Sometimes I ask for the prayers of family members or friends. Our church has an active Prayer Ministry team eager to pray with people through any situation. Requests for prayer can be put in the flowered box in the back. I am also grateful to everyone here who has let me pray for them. Thank you! Invariably my prayers for others bless me too and have helped pull me through some difficult times. Our Covenant talks about prayer ministry and the importance of being witnesses to the Kingdom of God as existent right here and right now.
(slide) The 3rd stone, “Gratitude,” ties into our Covenant as a way to glorify God. It is hard to grateful and sad or worried at the same time. Mindy shared a wonderful Gathering last week about getting out of the box in our expression of gratitude.
I remember one time when our children were little, I heard them downstairs them yelling at each other. While normally I would have run to intervene, this time I found myself sitting down on the floor right where I was and expressing gratitude for the exact opposite of what my ears were hearing, “Thank you God for having done everything so well, for making Heidi and Lincoln peaceful and calm. Thank you for making them gentle and forgivingm” etc. for several minutes until suddenly I realized it was quiet. They’d worked things out and were again playing happily. My prayer of gratitude was the only action needed. Gotthold Lessing says, “A single grateful thought toward heaven is the most complete prayer.”
I also find it helpful sometimes to look back and remember experiences like this one when I’ve felt God’s healing presence. Gratitude for past proofs of God’s care, helps give me encouragement and expectancy of good in present situations.
(slide) My 4th stone is “Being Still.” In Psalms we are told, “Be still and know that I am God.” Sometimes I have to consciously make myself slow down to hear what God is telling me. This can take the form of a walk, a long hot bath, or the posture of a yoga prayer pose. For me there is nothing like literally getting down on my knees to silence the mind’s chatter. Sometimes simply folding my hands and bowing my head helps. I’ve also talked before about how writing or journaling helps me still thought and hear God. Our Covenant talks about being “Spirit-Saturated,” and I think this goes hand-in-hand with being still.
(slide) However, there are other times, especially when fear tries to paralyze me or pain is great, that I need to be up and doing. My 5th stone is “Doing Good.” Two weeks ago, we had a wonderful Gathering on the blessings of service, blessings which include the discovery of abundance, transformation, and synergy. I remember times in my life when simply loading the dishwasher seemed like a big effort, but getting out of bed when I wasn’t feeling well and doing so was a gift to my family and an important step towards healing. There is always something we can do to express love towards others, whether it be a simple note or phone call, a great big hug, or a thought of blessing sent someone’s way. Love heals. MBE, who founded the Christian Science church says, “The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God,–a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love.” Doing good is referred to in our Covenant as being Jesus patterned.
Do you have any other smooth stones you’d like to share? (stones slide)
So the first spiritual lesson I’ve learned working with Ari is “No Worries. It’s only the mixer,”…from God’s perspective, only good is going on.”And by the way, whenever something seems like a Goliath to Ari, there is a smooth stone that takes care of the situation almost every time, it’s spelled “T-R-E-A-T.” (we have to spell it if we don’t want to excite him.) We need to keep our focus on God, the way Ari focuses on a treat (or any food for that matter).
The second lesson I’ve learned from Ari is to have compassion on myself when things don’t turn around as quickly as I’d like. On another walk with Ari, I was feeling guilty about a challenge I’d been working on for a long time. Why couldn’t I get things right? What must the person I’d asked to pray with me about several situations think about my needing help day after day? Then I thought, “I don’t love Ari any less because he still hasn’t figured out that the mixer is harmless. I don’t think he is a bad dog or blame him for his fears. I just smile and calmly reassure him. I know he’ll eventually get it. So, don’t let discouragement in. Sometimes it takes more than one smooth stone. David had lots of slingshot practice with lions and bears before defeating Goliath.
(Slide) One of the most important parts of our Fellowship’s Covenant is wanting everyone we come in contact with to feel accepted, respected and loved. So remember whatever trials come your way, no matter how long it takes to work through them or how messy it gets. God is going to stand by and love you no matter what. And so are we.
(slide of me carrying Ari) One of the times I still need to really stand by Ari is when he sees another dog approaching. Given the opportunity, he will bark loudly and rush towards the dog. So I shorten his leash and begin talking to him. “No worries, here comes a friend.” I’ve gotten him to a point where he’ll sit and just quietly growl , at least for a while, but as the dog being walked comes closer and closer it often becomes more than he can handle. So sometimes I’ll simply pick him up. There is something about being carried that calms him down. As long as I’m carrying him, he is quiet. It reminds me of a poem which I’m sure is familiar to many of you called, “Footprints in the Sand.” Cary is going to share it with us.
(slide) Cary reads poem — background slide of Footprints on beach
Thank you, Cary. So Lesson # 3 from Ari—“No Worries…when things are hardest, God carries us.” It’s as simple as that. God is a patient Father-Mother, who comforts us until we too see that “All is well.”
I’ve asked my friend Annie to lead us in prayer today. Besides being a great thinker and listener, Annie is Ari’s other mom.
Prayer (leave up footprints slide)
Song – Blessings of Abraham
(slide) Benediction – In parting today, we’ll move from the “Blessings of Abraham,” to a blessing of Christ Jesus, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”