Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wishful Thinking

Autumn is a busy time of year. When our children were still young enough for school, during autumn, our family spent time and money and energy getting ready. We got ready for school. We got ready for Fall activities. We got ready for recitals and assemblies and sports. When we lived in Minnesota, we got ready for hockey. When we moved to California, we got ready for basketball and track. We put youth orchestra and jazz band concerts on the calendar. It took a lot of planning and organizing in order to get ready.

Now that our kids are grown up and I see others going through the motions, I marvel at how much there is to get ready for. Parents (and grand-parents) have a lot to keep track of and it doesn’t seem to be any less stressful or urgent just because your kids have grown up. We’re all getting ready for something on a year-round schedule.

In a few weeks, Advent will be here. Advent is the season for getting ready. Advent is the four week period, beginning on November 29th, leading to Christmas. During Advent we prepare our hearts and minds for the promised Messiah. We duplicate the church’s tradition of preparation for the birth of Jesus through ritual (the lighting of the Advent candles) and celebration (with festive decorations and singing Christmas carols) and reflection on the incarnation of Christ.

It’s easy during the Christmas season with all the preparations, all the hustle and bustle and getting ready, to lose sight of what Christmas means. Above all else, Christmas means God came among us. Pleased in flesh with us to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Jesus is: God with us. It’s not the candles, the carols, the rituals, the decorations, the family gatherings and traditions. As wonderful as those are they are incidental to realization that Jesus’ birth means God is with us. And because God is with us, all things are possible.

The great Presbyterian author Frederick Buechner wrote: Evil evolves. Holiness happens. He was writing about the meaning of incarnation, not because it can be proven through doctrine or tradition, but rather because it is so not like us. A different author, a New Testament author, put it this way: For mortals it is impossible but for God, all things are possible.

Christmas is our deepest hopes and dreams fulfilled in the birth of a baby. Buechner says that Christianity is primarily wishful thinking. That’s probably true. But if we allow it, our wishful thinking, our hustling and bustling, our getting ready, can be a moment of breakthrough, that opens our eyes to the wonder and reality of God among us. May it be so and thanks be to God.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"Just Coffee" is back!

“Just Coffee,” a project of Presbyterian Women, is available for sale in Swain Hall again. It is fresh roasted and this year’s crop. It is ground and packaged in Agua Prieta Sonora by cooperative members. Started in 2001, the coffee is sold in all 50 states and is owned and managed by the coffee growers. Frontera de Cristo is one of six bi-national border ministries of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico and the Presbyterian Church (USA) that support this project to provide a fair income to farmers and their families in their home locales. If you do not drink coffee, you may wish to buy a bag for a present or donate it to the Justa Center.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Capital Campaign News

The good news:
  • On Sunday, September 20, Master Gardener Kris Coates presented the landscaping plan for the 103rd side of the church campus during Fellowship Hour following worship services. Kris is also working on a plan for the planting bed on the east (parking lot) side of the chapel. The small beds around the Clarke annex will be filled with maintenance-free rock. 
  • The new fountain has been installed in the Memorial Garden (above). The existing benches in this area have been repositioned so that visitors may sit facing inward, toward the fountain, or outward, toward the niches and Memorial Wall. 
  • The interior painting has made the public areas of the church look much cleaner and brighter, and the women’s bathroom in the narthex looks like an entirely different room. The dated wallpaper has also been removed from the Fireside Room and that wall painted. 
  • The memorial tree for Helen Woeller that her Circle paid for has been ordered, and some of Helen’s friends have purchased an engraved plaque to go next to the tree.
The bad news: Repairs to the Sanctuary air conditioning system mean that the landscaping work must be delayed due to cash flow issues.

Have you contributed everything you can to the capital campaign? Help keep our church campus safe, comfortable, and beautiful!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bell Ringers Needed!

The bell choir area in the Sanctuary has been reconfigured and repainted, so it’s time for the Great Bells of Fire to get their act together! Practice this year will be 4:30-5:30 pm on Wednesdays starting in November, with Mary Lou Pancy directing.

 If you’ve ever considered joining the bell choir, now is the time. You don’t need to read music as long as you can count to four! We will also take your hand and arm strength into consideration when assigning bells. The bell choir needs you—please join us this Wednesday! Call Carol Maxwell at 623.249.3005 if you have questions.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Presbyterian Women in November

This year’s Horizons Bible Study, Come to the Waters, is being well received. One reason may be that each chapter is a stand-alone topic based on a particular experience or occurrence in the Bible, where water is discussed from a different perspective. Before perusing your copy for the first time, how many stories would you have been able to recall from the past in which water was the theme? If you’ve had to miss one month’s meeting, no problem—there’ll be a whole new focus on water in the next lesson. Come—and bring a friend—“to the waters!”

October’s Gathering, featuring the receiving of our annual Thank Offering and a visit with Senator Debbie Lesko, was enjoyed by guests from Faith Presbyterian and Emmanuel Baptist.

There is no PW Gathering in November.

The NW Unit of Church Women United World Community Day will be Friday, November 6, at the New Song United Methodist Church, 16303 W. Bell Road in Surprise, 9:30 am to 11:30 pm. This will be a Celebration of Unity featuring Messianic Jewish traditions and Baha’i Faith messages.

Of course the highlight in December is always the Holiday High Tea—this year on Saturday, the 12th, at 1:30 pm. If you would like to set a table with your finest dinnerware and centerpiece for this major fundraiser in Swain Hall, please contact Gail Bickel at 623-815-7290. And kitchen help on Friday and Saturday is always welcome, preparing the special treats that are served—call Lois Rotenberger at 623.875.4423 to volunteer. To donate cookies, contact Beth Mabee at the church office (623.974.3605), and to volunteer as a waiter contact Diane Nestlebush at 623.972.3059.

On January 28th the annual chili feed will be at 11:30 am. The men of the congregation are guests. “An Interesting Conversation” will take place, with Dick Zabriskie and Zane Porter at the microphone!

Blessings, Peace
~Marge Hagerman, Co-Moderator