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Pastor's Note
Rev. Sandra J. Bonnette-Kim

May 2017

The last weekend of May and the first Sunday in June both of my girls will be graduating, one from college and one from high school.  As you can imagine it will be a time of celebration.  But, as I reflect on each of their graduations, I realize that each brings a different perspective and future for my girls.

For Ashley, it will be a time to say goodbye to those whom she has grown up with and a time of new adventures.  It will be the beginning of the next stage of her life.  But in between high school and college she will take a much needed break.  Isn't that what summer vacation is all about?  You do nothing but relax and enjoy some free time.  There are no worries, responsibilities or deadlines.

But for Amanda, this is not what is in store.  We are hoping that there will be no break for her, but that she will have a job and start being an adult.  As she and her friends have been saying lately, "I guess we have to be adulting soon." Yes, the word 'adult' has become a verb.  She knows that soon she will not have school to fall back on.  No more comfort of taking a break.  No more relying on mom and dad to take care of her anymore.  She must now start living and trying out all that she has learned from us and school. She has to spread her wings and fly.  She may fall but will have to pick herself up and fly again.

As I think about Amanda, I cannot help but to see the similarity between what she must do in a couple of months to what we must do as people of faith and church.  As followers of Christ we have been given all the teachings and guidance we need. We have heard Jesus' teachings over and over. We have witnessed his sacrifice and resurrection in our lives.  We have also been given a commandment to go out into the world and make disciples.  We have been told to spread our wings and fly! But just like Amanda and her friends, we are scared.  We don't want to go and be adults, be true disciples of Christ.  It is scary to grow up and leave our comfortable and secure places where others take care of us.  However, in order for us to grow as children of God and be the church in the world, we must learn to fly by going out into the world.

The Good News is that we do not go alone.  As we told Amanda, her dad and I will always be there for her; encouraging, supporting and loving her no matter what.  She can always turn to us for help. This is exactly what we have from God and God will always do this for us as we go forth living as Christ's disciples.  So, let us learn to live as true disciples of Jesus, who are willing to take risks, fall and then pick oneself up again and again.  Let us move out into the world and share the Good News of Christ, bringing Jesus' peace and healing to our broken world.


March 2017

Lent is a time most of us give up something for 40 days. We give up something to make room for God. Usually we give up things that tempt us or we like, for example chocolate or coffee. This year instead of giving up frivolous items, let’s give up that which may actually help declutter our lives. All of us have many items we live with that get in our way, especially around our houses. I don’t know about you but I know I have accumulated many items in my house that I do not need or want anymore. They just take up space and at times having so much stuff actually stresses me. I also have clutter in my life with responsibility and appointments. So, starting March 1st and for the next 40 days, I want to encourage you to join me in decluttering our houses and our lives so we can live more freely. Declutter so that we can truly make room for the things God wants us to do and be.
 
Each day, do only one (1) thing a day from the following list on the next page and see how much you can declutter.
 
 
Peace and Grace,
Pastor Sandra


February 2017

It seems like these days as soon as one holiday is over we have moved onto the next even before we are really done with the first one. Since the day after Christmas, stores have been preparing for Valentine’s Day. There are hearts everywhere and it reminds us to buy chocolates and gifts for those we love. However, these are not the things we need to love others.

Instead it is what I found as I was going through my email the other day. It is a wall art:

“10 Ways to Love”
Listen without interrupting Share without pretending
Speak without accusing Enjoy without complaint
Give without sparing Trust without wavering
Pray without ceasing Forgive without punishing
Answer without arguing Promise without forgetting
Love Never Fails

This is what Love is. It is how we live with our brothers and sisters, with strangers, with those who we do not like, with those we love and even those we hate. And, it seems like we need this kind of love much more than ever. So, let us go beyond getting cards, chocolates and flowers only on 1-day and see how we can bring Christ’s love to the hurting world.

Peace and Grace,
Pastor Sandra


January 2017

Every year, we write resolutions for the New Year.  We write to change the way we have lived, strengthen our relationships with others, and to be healthier physically.  We write so that the New Year will be better than last.  We write them with hope and dreams.  Sometimes, instead of coming up with a personal list, I think it would be nice to listen to those who have lived and learn from them.

A Friend of mine sent this list to me on an email and I thought it would be a great list for us to live by in 2017.   
This is written by Regina Brett, 90 years old, of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio:

  • Life isn't fair, but it's still good.  
  • Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.  
  • Your job won't take care of you when you are sick.  Your friends and parents will.  
  • Stay in touch.  
  • Pay off your credit cards every month.  
  • You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.  
  • Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.  
  • It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.  
  • Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.  
  • When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.  
  • Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.  
  • It's OK to let your children see you cry.  
  • Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.  
  • If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.  
  • Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.  
  • Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.  
  • Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.  
  • Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.  
  • It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else. 
  • When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.  
  • Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie.  Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.  
  • Over prepare, then go with the flow.  
  • Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.  
  • No one is in charge of your happiness but you.  
  • Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'  
  • Always choose life.  
  • Forgive everyone everything.
  • What other people think of you is none of your business.  
  • Time heals almost everything. Give time time.  
  • However good or bad a situation is, it will change.  
  • Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.  Believe in miracles.
  • God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.  
  • Your children (or the kids in your life) get only one childhood.  
  • All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.  
  • Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.  
  • Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.  
  • The best is yet to come.  
  • No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.   
  • "Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."


May 2017 be filled with God’s blessing and new adventures.

Peace and Grace
Pastor Sandra


June-August 2016

The other night, Ashley reminded us that we need to go to beach this summer because we did not last year.  We were so busy last summer that we never had time to go to the beach, hiking or to Boston Common for Shakespeare in the park.  We didn't do anything we normally do to have fun the in summer here in New England.  Last summer was filled with family and church events.  And, it is looking like this is going to be another one like we had last year.  However, we promised our daughter that we will take time no matter what to go to the beach and all the things we like to do.  We will find time for us in the midst of the busy church schedule and family responsibilities.

It is so easy to get caught up doing what needs to get done that we forget to stop and enjoy.  We run from one responsibility to another and miss the opportunity to be in the present.  Sometimes, we need our children to remind us what is truly important.  We cannot always be working but take time for some fun and relaxation.  We need a Sabbath for our body, soul, and spirit. God created us to take some time to enjoy God's creation, be with the world, and to be with people we love.  It is not always about doing God's work but being with God.  So, take some time this summer with me.  Help each other to take a break, to enjoy life, and be blessed.  May this summer be filled with moments that we can cherish, be refreshing, and fun.  

Peace and grace,  
Pastor Sandra


May 2016

A few months ago, we heard lots about Syrian refugees, especially after a body of a three year old boy washed up on a beach in Turkey. It hit home to many people seeing the image of an innocent boy...dead. The seriousness of what is going on in Syria became more real to the world. It was not just some news, detached from our reality. It connected us in a human way. And, since then many countries have dealt seriously with the issues of refugees, while others still refuse to admit them - fearing terrorism.

Since we first saw the picture last September, many things have happened. There have been bombings in Paris and Berlin. We are in the midst of one of the craziest Presidential elections and we have moved on to other issues. However, people who are living in war -torn countries, cannot move onto the next headline in the news. They are still suffering, living in fear and trying to find a safe place for their family. In addition there are those who are helping these people, even when they do not have much.

One of those people was our tour guide in Jordan. On our first day, while on the way to the northern part of Jordan, he told us about many refugee camps for Syrians in Jordan. He even pointed out one as we were driving to Jerash. He said that 20% of the population in Jordan are Syrian, and at one point approximately 1000 Syrians crossed over into Jordan each day. Those living in these refugee camps must rely on the generosity of others because the government is not able to help so many refugees. So, our guide and his church, go into one of these camp every Friday to give out some essential items that they need, such as clothes, soap, shampoo, etc. The volunteers, themselves did not have much, because Jordan is a struggling country. Our tour guide is only able to work and get paid when there is a tour group to guide. These days, because of all the uneasiness in that part of the world, tourism has declined. So for months, our guide does not work. However, I was amazed that this did not stop him from giving to those even less fortunate. He actually was a little disappointed that he had to spend that Friday with us and not go and serve at a refugee camp. Actually, I think many of us would have liked to have gone and helped instead of sightseeing.

Yes, we saw many wonderful things in Jordan. The mountain, where they believe Moses stood and saw the land of Canaan after wondering in wilderness and desert for 40 years, and where Jacob wrestled with an angel. However, what we learned about Syrian refugee camps and what our guide and his church were doing each week, has made an impact in my life that I carry with me each day. These Christians were truly living out Jesus' love. They do not care what politicians say about the refugees or want to be recognized for their good work. They go into those unimaginable camps each week and bring Christ to them. They go to share God's love and help to bring peace and healing. They go and be Jesus' hands and feet. They showed me once again how God's work is happening everywhere by common people, just like you and me.

At times, we may feel like God is not in this world; especially when we watch the news. But, I tell you that I have seen it with my own eyes that God is here, in the midst of all the craziness that we have created. God is here to bring God's peace and uses each of us. All we have to do is be willing, share and give, as my tour guide is doing. Let us continue to do our part no matter where we are. And, let us pray for one another,
especially those in refugee camps - in the midst of war, and those serving them.

Peace and grace,
Pastor Sandra


April 2016

One of the wonderful thing that came out of my trip to Israel was meeting and getting to know other clergy in our conference.  Some I knew from working together in various committees in the conference but most of them we only knew each other by name.  There were a few people I liked before going on this trip but I didn't know anything about most of them.  Some, I wasn't sure if I was going to like being with them in our bus for the whole trip.  But, as days went by, we started to get to know one another, shared stories, and started to create bonds with each other.  What surprised some of us was that we actually had lots in common and liked each other, even though at conference meetings we were on opposite side on issues and had different theological understandings.  For a week and a half, we put aside our assumptions and perceptions about each other and truly got to know each other as people, children of God.  We helped each other when we were in need, laughed, and explored together.  After a while, we had forgotten that we were from different camps and started to become one.  We were becoming a true body of Christ in Holy Land.  

However, we came back to United States where there is further divisions between political parties, the craziest presidential race in history, and politicians acting like spoiled rotten children who need a good time out or grounding.  It is sad hear as soon as President Obama announced his nomination for Supreme Court Judge, Merrick Garland, the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed again to block his nomination.  Instead of doing what they have been elected to do, there is nothing but a fight and the digging in of heels.  No wonder this country is going crazy.  No wonder so many people are looking into moving to Canada these days and people I met in Israel and Jordan are wondering what is going on in the United States.

How did we get to this place where we allow racism, hatred, and selfishness guide our country?  How can we say this is a Christian country and not act as Jesus taught us to live?  We live as if we have forgotten that Jesus said to love your neighbors as yourself and love your enemies.  We want to tell Muslims that they are bad and yet we do not act as the loving and forgiving people Jesus died for.
 
In this unusual political time, I think we must remember what it means to be true Christians, following Jesus' examples and living by his teaching.  We need to listen to each other, help one another, and build each other up.  We must hear the pains of those who are struggling and stand firm against hatred.  No matter what side we are on politically, we can still come together as brothers and sisters in Christ if we learn to love one another as Jesus taught us to.  Unless we start doing this, there cannot be any healing in our lives or in our world.  

So, pray with me for this country and our political leaders.  Let us pray that God will show them how to truly be a great leaders, compassionate, caring, fair, and forward thinking.  Let us pray that we also learn to love those who are different then we are, share Christ's love to all no matter who they are.  May God guide us in this troubling time.  

Peace and Grace,  
Pastor Sandra


March 2016

Someone once told Mother Teresa that not even for a million dollars would they touch a leper.  She responded: "Neither would I.  If it were a case of money, I would not even do it for two million.  On the other hand, I do it gladly for love of God." (Mother Teresa: In My Own Words).  What do you do each day gladly for the love of God?   

For most of us it will not be living like Mother Teresa.  However, we all can and must do something each day because of the love we have for God.  We can spend our time visiting those who are ill.  We can volunteer at a food pantry.  We can send a card to those who are struggling or lonely.  We can offer a ride to those who are unable to drive.  Or, we can simple be nice to each other.  Instead of being rude or impatient, we can share a word of encouragement.  We can help one another, listen to what the other person has to say, and put the needs of others first.  We can learn to let go of our need for power and control.  Instead, we can embody the love of God and share it with others.  It does not have to be big.  All it needs to be is something that you do because you love God.  For, God has shown us the ultimate love through Jesus Christ.

As we go through Lent and celebrate Easter this month, we need to remember that God has shown the world the greatest love.  God sent Jesus because God loves us so much and God wanted to give us a way back to God.  God sent Jesus so that we can be forgiven, return to God, learn how we are called to live, and be given new life.  There is no greater love than God's.  This is what we celebrate on Easter.  This is why we must live each day showing God's love as Mother Teresa did.  Our lives are not about materialistic things, power, beauty, or even longevity.  Our lives are about living as Jesus taught us to live and expressing our love for God in everything we do.  Let us be able to shout Hosanna not only on Palm Sunday and Easter but every day of our lives.  Let us live with joy and peace for God's love is in us and all around us.

Peace and Grace,
Pastor Sandra


February 2012

This year, as we begin our Lenten season, I will have an opportunity to join our Bishop Devadhar, Bishop Fisher and other clergy and laity from our conference, on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  It has been over 28 years since I was last in Israel.   Last time I was there, I was a young woman still in college, naïve and clueless of the world.  I was there for 5 weeks on a study abroad program.  I had visited all of the sites Jesus was born, lived and died.  I did not understand or know what those significant places were because I did not know much about the Bible or Jesus' ministry.   But now, I will return and revisit those places with more life experience and knowledge.   I will return with a more mature faith and understanding of what it means to walk where Jesus walked.

At first, when I found out that the trip was set during the start of Lenten season, I was not happy with the dates.   As I get closer however, I realize how appropriate it is to enter the Holy Land as we contemplate and reflect on our faith during this Lenten season.   At first, I looked at it as going on a tour.  As we were preparing for the trip, I received an email explaining that this was not a tour but, in fact, a pilgrimage.   They explained that "pilgrimages to holy places have been made as acts of Devotion, Penance or Thanksgiving.  Also, to seek blessings or miracles.   A pilgrimage is a sacred journey in which God is encountered through the places, people and situations a pilgrim meets. The physical journey coincides with an inner spiritual journey, that reflects the concept of life itself, as a pilgrimage towards heaven."   This is also what Lenten season is about.

For those who do not know what Lent is:  Lent, the period of 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays), begins on Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Saturday (the evening before Easter).   During Lent, we enter into a season of preparation, selfreflection and repentance when we seek to "turn around", realign our lives and focus toward God.   It is a time to give up things, as well as take on new life-giving practices.  This is to help us rid ourselves of distractions and our own selfish desires.   By doing so, we seek to live and love as more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

No matter where you will be during this Lenten season, I hope you will join me in reflecting on our relationship with God and others.  Take some time in prayer, read the Bible and  work on areas in your life that need to be healed.  In addition, I ask that you pray for me and all those who will be on this journey to the Holy Land.

Peace and Grace,
Pastor Sandra


January 2016

This year, I went down to Mississippi twice. Once, to celebrate my in-law's 50th anniversary and again, to attend one of my husband's oldest friend's wedding; who finally got married after being together for 12 years. 2016 will begin with us attending another wedding down south, in Dallas, for a close friend's daughter. We have seen Jennifer grow up in last the 13 years, from a teenager to an amazing young woman. Weddings are wonderful, full of excitement and love. There is hope and joy for a new beginning. There is anticipation and even a little bit of fear. But, no matter what, we enter it with love and faith.

I believe that this is how we also should enter a new year. We enter this year together with hope and excitement. We enter not knowing what the future holds, but with faith that God will lead us. We enter believing in the love of Christ that will guide us to be faithful in all that we do. We enter, trusting in God, who will provide all that we need; spiritually, physically, and emotionally. We enter, most of all, with the love of God and each other. If we work together, sharing ourselves with each other, and commit to do God's work; this year will be filled with blessings—as was last year.

Like all relationships, there will be times it will be difficult and we may even have disagreements. However, as long as we love one another as Jesus commanded us to do and stay focused on God, I truly believe that 2016 can be a wonderful year. So, let us jump in like all those who blindly, but with love, do into a marriage. Let us build a wonderful family of our own here at Grace UMC.

Peace and Grace,
Pastor Sandra


November 2015

What is your favorite part of Thanksgiving?  Is it the cooking, eating turkey, watching football, or spending time with your friends and family? For me it is all of the above.  My first Thanksgiving in the US, I actually had celebrated Thanksgiving twice, once in October to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving and one in November.  I invited all my new friends that I met that first year at the Seminary, and did all the cooking in my tiny little apartment.  Over the years, I tried to do both Thanksgivings but as I started serving a church and had children, it become harder to have 2 Thanksgivings.
  
Once we moved to Massachusetts, except for the first year, we have been going to our friend's house for Thanksgiving.  So, I put my love of cooking the Thanksgiving meal aside and enjoyed the amazing cooking of our friends.  However, this year I will be cooking once again because my friend's family will be going to Italy to join their daughter who is doing her study abroad this semester. 
 
Once we found out that we were on our own, I started thinking about the menu and got excited about doing it at our house once again.  However, Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without friends and family.  So, we started asking our friends who were in the same situation.  One whose children live in another state and won't be coming this year.  Another who will not be traveling to their family because they will be getting together after Christmas for their daughter's wedding.  And, my youngest sister who lives by herself in Vermont.  We gathered those who would be on their own, for no one should be alone on Thanksgiving. 

At our last nurture and hospitality meeting, we wondered if there are any in our church who will be alone this Thanksgiving.  So, we would like you to let me know by Nov 16th if you or know anyone who will be alone this year.  And, if you have room at your table, please let me know as well.  For Thanksgiving is time for us to be with one another and share Christ's love; to truly appreciate and be thankful for God's blessing in us.  It is time for us to be reminded that when we gather together around the table, we are with Christ.  Sharing a meal is key to our relationship with each other and God. 

Throughout His ministry, Jesus ate and shared food with his family, friends, and those who were sick, lonely, and lost.  Jesus nourished body and soul, for Jesus said, "I am the bread."  Jesus understood what happens when we are sitting around the table, eating with each other.  We not only do we share food but love and understanding.  We open ourselves and welcome each other.  We share our joys and concerns.  We come to heal and be made whole.  So, this Thanksgiving let us make sure we are sharing a meal with one another; sharing Christ's love and giving thanks. 

Peace and Grace, 
Pastor Sandra

 


October 2015

The other day, I came out of the church building using the fire escape from my office and I noticed that there was a long branch of cherry tomatoes by our fence.  At first I thought it was a strand of branch from the other side.  But, when I looked, I realized that our neighbor did not have a tomato plant, instead it was a rose bush.  I don’t know how and where this cherry plant came from.  All  summer, no one ever noticed or took care of it and yet, here is one long strand with a few cherry  tomatoes on it.  
 
On the other hand, I planted a few tomato plants and other vegetables this spring at my house and we have been trying to water, weed, and take care of them all summer.  But unlike other years, this has not been a very good year for my vegetables.  My zucchinis died after only yielding 2, my  pepper only had 3, and my tomatoes have been dismal. 
   
As I thought about these two situations, I could not help but think of how we do our ministries at church.  So often, we think we need to plan, organize, and control how they are done.  And yet at times it does not go as we want it.  Sometimes, I think we try too hard to plan and take care of it that we do not leave room for the Spirit to come and lead.  We focus so much and make sure everything is taken care of the way we think we need it that we forget to let God lead us.  We created committees and groups to control what we want and forget to hear Jesus' Words. 

However, like the tomato plant that is growing at our church only by God's wonderful work, we need to allow God to work in us.  We need to make room, let go of our control and power, and let the  Spirit move in this place.  In the last couple of months, I have seen people getting excited about  ministries, youth coming back from their mission trip all fired up, and people stepping up to help out with ministries we are doing.  Some of them even came to me and asked if they can start a ministry and wondered who they need permission from.  To them and others, I say that if God is calling you to a ministry, go and do it.  As a  Pastor, I believe in permission giving and guiding, not controlling.  All I need to know is what people are doing, help them connect and give guidance.  I believe that each and every one of us are called into ministry and when God calls you to a specific ministry, go and serve.
 
The Spirit is moving in and out of our church.  Make room for the Spirit to lead you.  Listen to God's voice and let us serve together, trusting in God, and growing in faith. 

Peace and grace, 
Pastor Sandra

 


September 2015

As I began this summer, I was anxious about all that was going to happen in next 3 months:  Annual Conference; 2 mission trips; VBS; trips to Mississippi and Toronto; and both Kitchen and Bathroom renovation.  Well, as I predicted and feared, it turned into one crazy summer.  I just plugged along one thing after another, dealing with one problem at a time, and at times wondered if my house will ever be normal again.  Even my daughters were looking forward to September and going back to school to find some normalcy once again.    

Summertime is to relax and refresh.  But, if you did not get the chance like we didn't, what do you do?  When my daughter Ashley complained the other night, "This has been one hard and crazy summer."  I reminded her that it was not all bad.  In the midst of the craziness, we still found time to visit with our families who live far away, visited a couple of colleges for her, she had fun being in a show, and found few a quiet moments in between.  It may not have been what we wanted or have done in the past but it does not mean everything was bad.  

I know I saw God in the joy and transformation of our youth who went on the mission trip.  I saw God in the children who were having an amazing time at VBS and dedication of our volunteers.  I saw God in a woman who could not thank us enough for helping to rebuild her church after the flood.  I saw God in my friends who gave me a hug when I needed, an old friend who I talked with until 3 am like we were still teenagers, and texts to remind me I am loved. 
 
If there is anything my family learned this summer it is to find a glimpse of God in the midst of the  craziness of life.  Instead of dwelling on the bad, see the blessings.  I believe that if we learn this skill, then no matter what happens in the future, we can make it through.  I know that I was able to get through this summer with all your prayers, my friends who check up on me, and God's strength. 

As I now look toward what we have planned for this fall and rest of the year, I know that it is not going to slow down but keep going as if it never stopped.  But, no matter how busy we get, what curve ball may come into our lives, with God's help all things are possible.  And most of all, trust in God who is in control and will guide us.  See God in our midst.  Be blessed by God!  


Peace and Grace,  
Pastor Sandra

 


July-August 2015

One of the things I learned being here at Grace UMC is that many people go away for the summer if not at least on the weekend as soon as the weather gets nice.  People have been coming up to me since early May telling me that they will be gone for the summer and will see me when they come back in the fall.  Such is life here in New England.  Starting Memorial Day weekend until Columbus weekend, many New Englanders head to their summer homes.  After all we had a very hard winter and who does not want to get away even if it is for a few days to relax and enjoy God's creation.  It is time to slow down and be with family and friends.  It is time to reconnect with our loved ones, make new memories and spend some time doing what we enjoy.
  
However, many people, who go away during summer tend to forget the most important things about taking a time off: Sabbath. We forget that it is not only about getting away from the demands of life but also taking those times to reconnect with God.  That is why even Jesus, who went away from the demands of life, spent time in prayer. Getting away does not mean forgetting about God or being a follower of Christ.  Just because it is summer, it does not mean that church is closing down.  Instead, it is time to live out what we believe in very concrete ways.  This summer we will be going on 2 mission trips, one for youth and one for adults.  There will also be another exciting Vacation Bible School for children.  I will also be preaching a sermon series based on the Lord's Prayer starting at the end of July.  We will also start planning for the upcoming church year so that we can continue to live out our callings.  
 
Just because it is summer, it does not mean we will be slowing down.  After all, God does not take a break from us so why should we?  So, as you spend some time at your camp, laying on a beach, or going on hikes, whatever you are doing, remember that God is still with you and wants you to be in relationship with God.  Pray for those who are going on mission trips and if you are in town, come and help out at VBS or just join us on Sunday. 
 
Let us make the most of this summer by doing God's work and being renewed by the Holy Spirit so that we can continue to live sharing Jesus' love wherever we are.
 
Peace and grace, 
Pastor Sandra


June 2015

What does summer mean to you? For kids, it is about no more school, no more homework, and playing outside. For some it is about cookouts and camping. For me, it is time to spend some time with my family and friends. It is about getting away for a couple of weeks to relax and rejuvenate my soul and spirit. And this year, it is going to start a month early. The first 2 weeks in June, we will have guest visiting us and after the Annual Conference, we will be flying down to see my husband’s family and give a 50th wedding anniversary party for my in-laws. And then, we will be driving up to see my family and friends in Canada as we begin a college tour for Ashley. When I finally get back to Massachusetts I will be taking our youth on a youth mission trip. As I look at the itinerary for what we will be doing for next 2 months, I feel like that summer is already over. I have so much to plan, prepare, and organize before I go on all the travels. I know that it will be fun to see old friends and spend time with family but it also is starting to stress me. I am also wondering will I have time to decompress, find time to relax and refuel myself so that I can come back to serve fully.

Thus, I know that I need to be intentional to enjoy those moments I have during my vacation instead of letting my anxiety and stress get in the way. In the midst of going from one place to another, dealing with crazy family members, I need to take some time for myself. Just as Jesus went away from the crowd, from his busy demands, I need to follow his examples especially this summer. “Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer” (Mark 1:35). Jesus knew how important it is for us to be alone with God, to get away from responsibilities just for a little while and be with God in prayer. Spend some time to listen and share ourselves with God.

So, as you spend time away or with your family and friends this summer, remember to take some quality time with God. Get away and find a quiet place so that you can be renewed in God’s spirit. Spend some time to pray, listen, and be with Christ. May we all be refreshed and renewed this summer in body, soul, and spirit.

Peace and Grace,
Pastor Sandra


May 2015

The last few days, I have been itching to start spring cleaning around my house. Now that all the snow has melted away and birds are flying around my house, I am so ready to get outside and clean our yard (which we never finished last fall due to busy schedules), declutter our basement and attic, put some fresh paint on my bench that was completely buried in the snow, and put our deck furniture out. For so long, we have been cooped up inside gathering up things but now is a time to declutter and clean not
only our house but our lives as well.

Over time, we have created messes in our lives, not dealing with issues, keeping grudges, or not getting rid of things that are preventing us from truly living as God intended. However, as we do our spring cleaning, plant new flowers and start our gardens, let us remember that as Easter people, we must also have a fresh start. Just as first disciples were given a new beginning after Easter, we have also been given a new beginning. As we wait for Pentecost, it is time for us to get rid of things that are preventing us from
truly living as followers of Christ.

When we free ourselves, we will have more room for the Spirit of God to move around us. We can enjoy life and see blessings. We will have more energy and be filled with hope. So, as you plan and start working around your house, remember to work on
yourself first. Make room for God and allow the Spirit to move through you and into the world. May we truly experience Pentecost!

Peace and Grace,
Pastor Sandra

P.S. Come wearing something RED on Pentecost Sunday, May 24


April 2015

A few weeks ago, we received a letter from Lake Shore Park UMC informing us that they would like to explore the possibility of merging into Grace UMC and become a part of the  mission and ministry that is Grace UMC.  The reason is that they want to continue being in ministry in the city of Lynn instead of constantly struggling to survive.  Since then, the  leadership of both churches have met for an initial discussion and more will follow in the  pursuing weeks.     

At our first meeting, as we openly discussed and listened to what Lake Shore Park  leaders were envisioning, I could not help but to get excited of all the new possibilities.  It also reminded me of Jesus' death and resurrection.  Once again, we are reminded that death is not an end but a new beginning.  We are re-created and our mission is very clear, "go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19).  Jesus came so that we can once again be reminded of who God is and what our role is in God's creation.  We are here not to live for our own pleasure or gain but to be in relationship with God and to share that knowledge and love with others.  The church is the body of Christ, living out Jesus' teachings and examples.  We are called to be in ministry with the poor, lonely, and sick.  We are to stand up for injustice and work to bring God's peace.     

For the last 10 years, members of Grace UMC have tried to live out this challenge  faithfully and now we have another opportunity to do so with our brothers and sisters from Lake Shore Park UMC.  As we move forward with another merger, let us lift one another up in prayers and show Christ love.  Let us be part of the new creation that God is leading us to be. Let us be a true Easter people, living with the risen Lord, sharing the Good News of Christ here in Lynn and around the world.  May God continue to bless us and lead us.

Peace and Grace, 
Pastor Sandra

 


March 2015

These days it seems like we will never see spring again. The snow will never melt and we will forever live in ice. We have never had this much snow in such a short time. We are all so tired of plowing and being stuck in the house. The first snow storm was fun but after a while it just gets tedious. I feel like we are living through what I call 'snowmageddon.'

All the gloom and doom seems like our lives these days, which the season of Lent seems to be for most people. After all, many people give up what they love and feel like they need to punish themselves.

However, Lent does not have to be an unhappy time. Lent is not about giving up things that we love but about making room in our lives for God. It is about getting rid of things that are making us non-productive for God; things that are keeping us from growing healthily, able to bear fruit. As we said during the Ash Wednesday service, Lent is a time for us to restore our relationship with God and others by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self–denial; and by reading and meditating on God's Holy Word. It is not only giving up things but doing all of these to build our faith.

So, I want to challenge you to live with me these disciplines during this season of Lent. Take time each day for self-reflection and prayer; work on rebuilding your relationship with others and God; fast at least 1 day of the week (as long as your health allows it); read the Bible and join our Lent Study on Wednesdays; and either give up or pick something up to strengthen your relationship with God. Share with me how you are doing and let us hold one another as we move through Lent to the Cross and finally celebrate Alleluia on Easter.

Peace and Grace,
Pastor Sandra


February 2015

This year, both my parents and my in-laws will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversaries.  Through them I have learned what it means to love and be in a relationship.  I also learned that it takes lots of work, patience, and dedication to make a marriage work.  There were times that I didn't think my parents would make it and shouldn't even stay together.  And yet, against the odds, my parents are still together and made it through  moving to a new country, losing a child, a car accident that left my mom with a brain injury, losing everything and starting all over.  There were many hard times and yet they made it through with each other.   They have taught me that love is more than just a feeling but devotion that comes with overcoming obstacles of life.  Love is not always rosy but worth fighting for.  Love is never giving up on someone just because you are mad at them or they have made a mistake.  True love forgives and builds one another up.  It takes work and complete dedication.  It is not easy but worth every second of it. This is the love that Jesus has shown us and gives to us each day. 
 
As it is stated in John 3:16:  "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who  believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" (NRSV).  God's love for us is so great that God was willing to die for our sins so that we can have new life in Christ.  God did not nor will ever give up on us. Instead, God's grace is shown each day.  God forgives all our wrong doing, guides us to be a better person, and helps us to grow to be the best person we can be.  What a wonderful gift!  So, whenever you feel like you are alone or not loved, remember that God loves you no matter what.  Receive that love and share it with others.  Work to build God's love with others this month as you celebrate valentines with your love ones. 

Peace and grace,
Pastor Sandra



January 2015

How long do you keep your Christmas decoration up? Are they down yet or do you wait until Epiphany? Do you keep them up for end of January or until the middle of summer? I take mine down after Epiphany but growing up our decorations went up the first of November and down before my birthday in March. However, the lights outside around our house never came down. I think we actually sold the house with them still in place. The reason we had our decorations up for so long was because my father LOVED Christmas. He did not want it to ever end. He loved everything about Christmas but most of all he loved what Christmas represents: Love, Peace, Joy and Hope. This is something he did not want to end with decorations coming down. But, so often in our world, we do forget about it as soon as we take down our decorations. However, like my father, we need to keep it going throughout the year. That is our calling and our gift from God.

Christmas is not only about a day or a month but way of life for all of us. So, as you take down your decorations, put away your trees, and pack up your ornaments, remember that Christ is here to stay. Christ will help you throughout this New Year. Christ will take you to places you never imagined. Christ will guide and challenge you to live out your faith. Be open to all the possibilities and grace that Christ will bestow upon you in 2015. May we live with Love, Peace, Joy, and Hope each day of our lives.

Peace and Grace
Pastor Sandra

Peace and Grace,
We live in a busy world filled with responsibilities, distractions, and commitments.  We feel pulled in many directions and lose ourselves from what is truly important.  All of us at one time or another asks ourselves if there is more to life than just living day to day.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28-CEB).  At Grace United Methodist Church, you will find people who will help you, pray for you and journey with you to find peace in Christ.  It is a place where all are welcomed, no matter who you are, wherever you are in your journey.  A place where you can grow together with others in faith, share ministries, and respond to God’s grace.  A safe and warm place where you will find friends who are willing to explore deep faith questions, be open to different opinions, and accept each person as a child of God without judgment.  

We have many wonderful ministries that help you to deepen your relationship with God and others.  We are serious about reaching out to our communities, helping the needy and working for God’s justice and peace.  We have ministries for all ages.  

I hope you come by and visit us in person and experience the welcome and love that is in this place.

May God’s blessing and love surround you each day!
Pastor Sandra


October 2014 -

On September 6th, I received a call from a friend that Bishop Martin McLee passed away.  I was shocked to hear this news.  I knew that Martin has been ill and was on a medical leave but I never expected for him to die.  He was only 58 years old and just started his Episcopacy 2 years ago.  For the next couple of days I felt sad about his death more than I expected.  Even my husband said to me, "I didn't think his death would affect you so hard."  Martin was not one of my closest friends nor had he been my District Superintendent.  He and I had served only on 1 committee that met about 10 years ago.  However, I had been with him on his journey to become a Bishop.  I had attended 2 General Conferences with him and was there when he became a Bishop.  I had prayed for and with him.  I encouraged him throughout the process and was elated when he was voted in.  I knew how much he wanted to be a Bishop and that he would do his best. Martin was not a perfect person nor had all the gifts we expect of someone who is a Bishop. However, he had passion and commitment.  And, I could not have been happier for him.  So, to hear that he passed away so soon and so young was shocking news.

Since his death, I keep thinking about all the people in my life.  I have almost 400 people who are my "friends" on Facebook.  I never knew how many people I knew and have associated with in the past.  But, as I look back, I realize that so many people have come and gone in my life.  And, every one of them has impacted me in some way.  Some were positive and some negative.  But, no matter what it was, they made me who I am today. Some I have known all my life and some only for a very short time.  No matter how long it has been, they made an impression and we have built a relationship.

Martin's death once again reminded me that our lives are short and unpredictable.  Thus, we should not take for granted any moment or any person we meet.  It is important to spend our lives doing good work, being God's servant, and building loving relationships.  Life is not about what we want but how we live out our lives as followers of Christ.  It is about loving, supporting, and sharing our lives with others.  Let us be a positive influence on others.  Let us remember the words of the Apostle Paul, who wrote this to the Thessalonians:  "Comfort the discouraged. Help the weak. Be patient with everyone.  Make sure no one repays a wrong with a wrong, but always pursue the good for each other and everyone else.  Rejoice always. Pray continually.  Give thanks in every situation because this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:14 b -18)

Peace and Grace,
Pastor Sandra

November 2014

A couple of things happened this week that made me wonder once again about what Church is:
I officiated one of the craziest funerals in Wilmington. It was for a 47 years old man, who committed suicide. What made it crazy was that even before we started the service both his twin daughters and current wife (who were all 21 years old) started laughing and had laughing fits throughout the service. They even had one of their friends take a picture in the middle of the service and told her "no selfies." I knew going in that this was going to be a strange funeral because when I met with the family, I learned about their complicated family situation and all the drama that is involved. I also knew that I was in trouble when the sister of the deceased told me, "I just want you to know that AJ was not very religious and we would like to keep religion out as much as possible." I looked at her dumbfounded and replied, "You do know that I’m a pastor and you asked for a pastor?"

While I was in the church office a woman came in. The woman said that she and her fiancé were driving by saw our rainbow flag, turned around and had to come inside. She came and told me that she and her fiancé are planning to get married in May 2016 and had given up on a church wedding because they are a lesbian couple. They had been disillusioned by the church’s belief and had given up the idea of getting married in a church until she saw our flag. I told her that we are a reconciling congregation and I am also one of a
couple of hundreds pastors in our conference who have signed a covenant to officiate same sex weddings. She was delighted to hear that we were a welcoming church and I invited her to come and check us out.

These 2 events really caused me to wonder once again what church means to people. Why do people who never go to a church want a pastor to officiate a funeral and yet do not want any religion in it? Is the church no more than a place to do weddings and funerals? Why isn’t church relevant to these people?

To answer these questions, we need to seriously look at ourselves instead of questioning their motives. In the last couple of decades mainline churches have been declining and there has been much research to find out why people don’t go to church anymore. In almost all the findings, they say that people do not go to church because the perception of Christians is one of judgmentalism and negativity. They believe that Christians are homophobic and Churches are full of hypocrites. Many say that they cannot tell the difference between Christians and non-Christians by their actions. No wonder people only see church as a place to use for weddings and funerals, for their own needs and not a place to live out their faith.

And, if these are the reasons people are not coming to church and do not want to have "religion" then no matter how many programs we have, no matter how nice our building is, it will not bring people to Christ. As a church, we have lot to do to overcome these perceptions and images. I do hope that lesbian couple does come to our church and checks us out and when they do, let us truly show them what it means to be Christians. Let us show all those who walk through our door, love and compassion instead of judgment. Let us live not as hypocrites but as true children of God.

Let us be the church that people tell others that there are truly loving and welcoming people in that church. Let us also live this way out in the world so that others can see what true followers of Christ are. We need to work together to change our image through our actions and words. We need to become more than a place of weddings and funerals. We need to be the body of Christ, sharing Christ love and peace.

Peace and Grace,
Pastor Sandra