Pastor Paul’s Thanksgiving Message

One of my favorite things that we do when it’s our turn to bring worship to Williamsburg and Sunshine Terrace is sing. Cathy Bullock will often come with the blessing of her fine piano playing. Sometimes Bess Dennison will add the beauty of her flute. As a last resort, I have banged on my guitar when needed. No matter what the instrumentation, we enjoy singing a lot of the old time tunes. What a friend we have in Jesus, How Great Thou Art, and In the Garden are among the favorites.

As I thought about this month’s message, another one of the favorites came to mind, Count Your Blessings. Can you hear the tune? Do you know the words?

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.

Nice…but what do you do when you just don’t feel like counting? What do you do when you look around you and lift up your fingers to number off the blessings, and all you can count are challenges? You know, the song just loses something when you sing Count your troubles, name them one by one…

Sometimes it’s tough to feel very thankful. Sometimes the darkness in our lives just creeps up on us and hides our blessings from our eyes. It happens. We are human. The simple realities of current events and circumstances, of sickness, of relationships that are less than perfect, of our mortality are powerful, and often overpowering.
Fortunately, for those of us in faith, feeling the weight of the world and being stuck in darkness is not the end of the story. If we delve further into the hymn, we can gather in a little more of its wisdom.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
count your many blessings, name them one by one
and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

The hymn clues us into a little bit of faith wisdom: thanksgiving isn’t based on how we feel. It isn’t something we do just when things are going well (or once a year to go along with our pumpkin pie). Thanksgiving, the kind we celebrate in faith, is a way of life. We practice it when things are easier, and cling to it when things are rough. Thanksgiving isn’t for the good times; it brings us through challenging times. It places our feet on the solid ground of God’s love, God’s providence, and upon the certain hope that even as we speak God is working to free us, to lift us up, and lead us forward.
Try it. Give thanks. Make it a habit whatever the circumstance. If you find yourself in darkness, let God know it all. Let God really know (God can take it), and then give thanks.

If you are not able to give thanks, grab a brother or sister in faith, and have them give thanks for you (and with you). Let them point out a blessing or two you couldn’t see before. Let their faith carry yours for a bit. It works. Give thanks, and you will be lifted up. As the hymn proclaims:

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Happy Thanksgiving. Paul

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  • Courageous Ministry

    Dear Friends,

    I hope this month’s edition of the Pulse finds you and your loved ones navigating life and faith with as much grace and self-compassion as possible. I know that some in our community have welcomed summer as a time to travel with family and friends, and to be reunited with loved ones. Others continue to struggle with health issues, isolation, and anxiety about the resurgence of Covid with the Delta variant. In the immortal words of Paul to the Romans, as a community, we “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” There is a chair or pew here on Sunday mornings for people in all seasons of life, and an open door to my office for any burdens (or celebrations) to be shared. I hope that you will join us or tune in via livestream on August 8th when I incorporate a compassion ritual in our worship services, to mark the lingering impact of Covid on the lives of God’s people everywhere. 

    Whether you have been in Bruner Hall often this summer, or it has been some time since you’ve walked through the doors of FPC, I want to share with you some happenings that I celebrate as we continue to serve faithfully as an inclusive community of faith and compassion at FPC Logan. Since the beginning of Pastor Derek’s sabbatical on June 1st, we welcomed four guest preachers who shared the Good News with us, from Scriptures ranging from Genesis to the Gospels, from Ezekiel to Ephesians. Two of these preachers are women who I’ve had the privilege of mentoring as ministers in the ordination process with the Presbyterian Church in Utah. At summer’s end, we will welcome two additional preachers to share in our worship life, and I will conclude my ongoing spiritual disciplines sermon series later this month. 

    This summer, FPC has been home to Loaves & Fishes and a series of Red Cross Blood Drives. In June, our middle schoolers organized and delivered a supplies drive for Cache Humane Society, with two middle schoolers traveling to American Fork Canyon for a reservoir clean-up with presbytery peers. Eight high schoolers from FPC Logan traveled with me to Denver, where we served with Habitat for Humanity for four days, offering a total of 22 hours of service each. In two weeks, we will gather at Stokes Nature Center for earth care efforts. The Mission Committee is gearing up to prepare us for another Mission Sunday at FPC this fall. I learned that just this week, the Sew n’ Sews prepared a large shipment of homemade sanitary pads to benefit our neighbors in Ethiopia. Beth MacDonald and Barbara Troisi have been busy processing Deacon’s Fund applications to provide for the safety and welfare of neighbors here in Cache Valley. Barbara and Dorothy Jones visited our neighbors at Williamsburg with Cache Ministries in early July. Truly, there is no summer break in the ministry of FPC Logan! 

    In their meetings in June and July, your session has thoughtfully and prayerfully navigated decisions about worship safety precautions, knowing that there is no “right answer” about how to be the Church in a pandemic. Even among our Presbyterian churches in Utah, there is no uniform approach to worship in these strange days. We are discerning together, and the updated policy you received this week is the session’s most current discernment of how FPC Logan can be both a welcoming and safe house of worship for every beloved child of God, from the under 12 to the most senior among us. In electing the elders to serve on session, you covenant to pray for them and to abide by their decision-making. I hope and pray that you will continue to do both in the coming days and weeks.  

    Earlier this week, acknowledging the presence and concern of the Delta variant, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, challenged us, the people of the Church, to “wait on the Lord and be of good courage.” Courage has many faces in Scripture and in our society today, but I am drawn to this Sunday’s passage from John in which the crowd went looking for Jesus. When they find him, Jesus instructs them to work for the food that endures for eternal life and reminds them that he is the bread of life. As we take up the charge to be of good courage, I hope that together, as a church community, we will be on the lookout for Jesus, the bread of life. I expect him to surprise us and challenge us, as he always does with his faithful followers in Scripture, the disciples and friends who want to do as Jesus does in the world. You will find him here at FPC Logan, whether we worship in Bruner or the Sanctuary, with or without masks, and you will find him in the community to which we are called as partners in ministry. Come and behold that God is doing a new thing in this place, if we only have the courage to answer the call, to work for the food that endures, and to fix our sight on Jesus, the bread of life. 

    In Christ’s promises,

    Pastor Meg

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