2900 County Barn Rd. Naples, Fl. 34112

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We had the opportunity to visit the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone on vacation earlier this month. We did a fair amount of hiking during the visit as well as viewing many of the photo op places in the parks. One of the things that happens in a national park is you meet people from all over the world not just people from this country. Walking on a trail or stopping to admire the beauty of nature you often speak to those on the trail or next to you. Sometimes English is not their primary language. It doesn’t matter everyone is there for the beauty of nature. You can’t make the assumption that because a person has the same skin tone as you that they speak the same language. We encountered a number of Europeans on the trip. Their heritage is similar to ours but they do not speak the language we do. One does not have to go to a national park to experience this, just go to Naples Pier and sit there for a while.

The point is we look only at the surface of another person all too often and judge them by skin color, language, dress or any number of other things. When we find ourselves doing that it is an ‘ism’ at work in us. If we look at skin color and judge a person, it is racism. One of the blessings of being in a national park is that the ‘isms’ we often see and feel are not as evident because we are there as tourists admiring the beauty of the parks.

Racism is the most prevalent ‘ism’ in the news today. In many ways it seems as though we are going backwards in our acceptance of the ‘other.’ The other is to be feared. Sadly those feelings seem to ebb and flow throughout human history. Someone is always in fear of the ‘other.’ Racism and humanity’s other ‘isms’ have been and are a part of who we are as humans. Every so often racism rears its ugly head in what we think are new ways. But if we look at human history, there is nothing new under the sun.

The one who gave us the example of how to live as humans is Jesus. He reached out to the ‘other’ all the time. The people that society shunned at the time of Jesus, he reached out to and broke the social barriers of the day. In essence that is what we see happening on the news today as people try to counter racism with love for another.

A long time ago I tutored children after school. One girl I tutored was in first grade. I would go their home and tutor after supper. The family was from Puerto Rico. As the time to end the tutoring came the family said to me that I was the first person who came into their home in the six years they had lived there who treated them normally. That just saddened me. But how often do we look at a person and judge them because they are different than us? The answer is all too often. Learn from Jesus, we are all made in the image and likeness of God regardless what country of origin we come from, the color of our skin or any else that we may see as different. If we continue to learn to love the other as Jesus did, this world will be a better place.

That was the title of a marketing brochure to entice prospective students to attend the seminary I graduated from. The pamphlet was handed to me by a mentor friend of mine. I guess he could see something in me that I had not seen about myself yet. Needless to say that pamphlet was one of the seeds planted in me that took me on the path to ordained ministry.

Years later, I am not sure it is God that keeps me up at night. I think it is more me than anything else. Most nights I am able to fall asleep relatively quick. But on those nights where my mind and heart are concerned about something or someone I find it difficult to sleep. If I lay awake long enough I will get up and read for a while then head back to bed. Sometimes that does the trick sometimes not. Sometimes I go back to bed and toss and turn until finally, I ask God to take this away so I can sleep.

I am like everyone else I will try other things before asking God for help even a simple thing like sleep. But you know what, that does the trick. Before I know it, it is morning. Why do we rely so much on our own understanding and not on God? After all in Proverbs 3 it says,   Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding.

It is our human will at work. How often do we recognize it, then turn to God sooner rather than later. God often ends up being the last resort. It’s a life-long lesson for us all. Again even though Jesus says in Matthew 11, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

If you find it difficult to sleep some nights remember that it is not God keeping you up at night, you may be wrestling with God about an issue but we know who wins the wrestling match.

Ask and it will be given to you, Matthew 7:7

Back when I was in school we used to call them report cards. In some places they were called progress reports. From one school year to another you would progress to the next level if you met all the requirements. Progress is a movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage. If we think about it, a good percentage of the population makes progress every day in what they do. Those in school and employed are always learning new things and expanding their knowledge base. If we use that definition of progress in the church then we are learning more about God, our faith and ourselves in the process. It seems like a good way to live, always striving toward a goal and/or furthering our knowledge and understanding.

The opposite of progress is regress, which to move backward or to revert to an earlier or less advanced state or form. If that is the case it seems as though it is a good thing to be progressive. That is our aim in this church, to be progressive in our faith and walk with God.

Those two words are important to our health and well-being.  Yet a lot of times we neglect them.  In our fast paced society we don’t take time to rest.  The desire to do more, be active is a symbol and symptom of our society.  We do not take enough time to rest even though Jesus tells us to.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  If you notice he is actually not saying rest but where to find rest.  We find our rest in him.  Which leads us to, how do we find rest in Jesus?  The best way is to set aside some time in the day to sit in prayer and meditate on God.  The first thought to this idea may be, “I don’t have the time!”  That, my friend, is the very problem.  We think we have to always be doing something.  We are not called human doings, we are called human beings.  To be with Christ is to find rest in his presence.  Rest and pray.  Three simple words that we can incorporate into our lives on a daily basis to become more healthy, more compassionate, more loving and more like Christ.

All we have is today.  Let’s make the best of it.  One scripture verse that has this theme is, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  Most of the time we think all is well.  Depending on the day we seem to either worry or look forward to the tomorrows we take for granted.

We got word over the weekend of a colleague who was in an automobile accident.  Her husband died as a result of that accident the following day.  For those of us in this denomination in Florida, it has shocked us.  It is one of those events that cause us to think that we may not have tomorrow.  By the grace of God we are given one day and it is today.  AA and other twelve step programs use the slogan, ‘one day at a time.’  If that person makes it through the day without picking up a drink or drug, it is a great day. 

Let us live for today, yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.  Today is a great day!

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MAYFLOWER CONGREGATIONAL UCC

2900 County Barn Rd 
Naples, Florida 34112

Office Hours: 
8:30 to 4:30 p.m. Mon - Fri.

Sunday Worship 9:30
            Refreshments 10:30

Church Phone: 239-775-0055
Fax Number: 239-775-3253

Pastor Alan's Cell: 239-227-8500

office@mayflowernaples.com
pastor@mayflowernaples.com

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