Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tonight We Realize


Please join us for the much anticipated


All the participants of the Alpha Course have been invited to celebrate together as we bid farewell to the ten weeks that kept us all connected.  This is where we gather and listen to stories of one another's revelations while on the Alpha Journey...

Please join us.

Dinner starts at 5.30 tonight and Alpha Presentation will start at 6.30.

See you there!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Power in Numbers - Fusion

The point of this blog was to share the events hosted by Devonshire and give all the members (and perspective members) a place to read about the work being done here.  When I say ‘work’, I do not refer to the obvious strength of its leadership, the growing presence it has within the community, or even the aesthetic renovations of its location.  I refer entirely to the ‘work’ of God’s hand as we all perk our ears to listen.
When I started attending this church, I really and truly thought that prayer had everything to do with being a devout Christian.  I thought of prayer as a language; one that had to be learned and understood before my spirituality could be put into valuable practice.  I had heard others pray and it was as though I was hearing something personal and not meant for my ears.  Prayer intimidated me a great deal and more so: the boldness of placing your innermost thoughts out there for the world to hear.

A few months into a more regular church schedule, I noticed the practices of a devoted Christian began to develop a bit more within me.  This language I had thought of prayer to be is really more a type of communication.  It is a two way street and for some reason, that came as a surprise to me.  Prayer is just the talking part of it, but equally as important it the listening part.  Seems obvious, I know.  I grasped the standards of effective communication years ago: listen, then speak… speak, then listen.  I have many years of experience, but it is a much more complex process when the one with whom you are communicating is, well, the One. 

Tonight a large group of us from church gathered in worship, music and ministry.  The purpose was to communicate with Christ: Fusion.  (def: the merging of two substances into one, under the element of extreme heat.)  The goal is to combine the worries, thoughts and desires of all these people and pray together; to create and listen to music and sing our praises to the Lord so that our message might be sent as our voices rise up.  For my husband and me, it was another opportunity to gather with them and continue our spiritual education.

I loved every minute of this new experience.  Walking into the church, the sound of music greeted my ears and the corners of my mouth turned up.  We walked in and saw a friend right away, holding his daughter with patience and consideration.   We found our seats and the music swelled in my chest, like I was breathing water into my lungs.  It was warm and engaging.  A few people spoke on the stage and then, before I knew what was really happening, we were being called to pray over a man.

I watched and learned as I went, resting my right hand on the shoulder of someone who had her hand on the shoulder of someone who was holding the man’s hand.  We were five or six people deep and someone was speaking… praying out loud for the man with whom we were all connected physically.  I felt us begin to connect spiritually. 

The etiquette of this form of prayer was unknown to me.  I raised my head too soon at times; I used two hands instead of one at other times, I was afraid to raise my voice above the crowd to share my prayer for this man.  It didn’t matter though; I had a powerful sense that we had been heard.

My personal prayers to Jesus have evolved over time.  I have gotten better at forming my thoughts and clearing my mind.  I have become a better listener – taking note of subtleties and pondering the relevance of things a bit more deeply.  I am proud of my personal progress, but experiencing the power of combined prayer like we did tonight was, by far, the most moving experience I have had to date.

Again, I walked through the doors of Devonshire not knowing what to expect, and again I leave having found more of myself.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Alpha Course

The impact ten weeks can have on you, your life and the
way you navigate through your days.

Putting it all together.

Sounds easy, but I have found “putting it all together” to be much harder than I imagined. I have been accused of being a control freak – a slanderous remark thrown at me in a time of verbal confrontation and in less desirable context, but I’m sure there is some truth to it. My retort is: control-freak, maybe, but suggestion-maker, more likely.

Imagine my surprise when I started to listen to my own thoughts and take note of the wording I would use to describe them. They usually started with something like, “I hope…” or “I wish…” or the greatest of all, “I got so lucky when…” As I familiarized myself with Devonshire I started to realize the critical fault in those thoughts. I had proudly announced to people in the past how I didn’t believe in coincidence, and yet I used words like ‘hope’, ‘wish’ and ‘lucky’.

On the flip side, when something happened that was unfavorable, I would painfully internalize it and wish I could go back: “I must have done something wrong for this to have happened…”, “I should have…”, or “Why is this happening to me?”

Is it possible a control freak could accept blame for things out of my own control? Would a control freak hope or wish or believe in luck? I have known a few control freaks in my lifetime and none of them would place logic on hope. So how do they deal with the inevitable failures that life sometimes serves up? I asked one, and the answer was dismal: they don’t. They don’t deal well, at all.

So now that I have comfortably relieved myself from control freak status, I need to get to the point: For those among us who are critical or controlling by nature, how do we rely on faith to help us make sense of our daily victories and defeats? If we rely on our faith, is it truly faith by definition or is it an opportunity to decant reality and simply find peace with it?

Tough questions, right? It’s hard to ask questions like this; Tougher, is finding the answer.

The only real place to go to explore these questions is to find a local church and get the real story. Asking friends only further confused me. Asking family was too controversial. So I summoned the courage to go to church and there I found myself face to face with a person who has lived his entire life for Christ. I was too intimidated to ask my questions, never mind look him in the eye. (After all, I’m an undeniable, unconscionable sinner.) How will I ever find the answers to these questions?

Fulfilling my duties as the American majority, my husband and I attended church for Christmas Eve service. It was during this service that the pastor I couldn’t bring myself to speak to, talked about a new course that was coming to this church (their church – the one I was invading for Christmas Eve service). The title, “Is there more to life?” flashed on the screen above his head and the image of a man standing on a cliff overlooking some glorious unseen sight was under the caption. His arms were wide spread, as if opening himself up to something. Someone. I looked at my husband just as he turned to me and whispered, “We should look into that.”

One month later and after a childcare juggling act, there we were: Week One, sitting in a room of people who already knew one another. Sam and I were again, the invaders. After the ice was broken and we started to feel a bit more at ease, I still felt terrified. Each time it was my turn to speak to the group, my lungs lost air, my temples prickled and my palms turned clamy. If they don’t know already, they will find out I’m a biblical idiot. I have read almost none of the bible and I can’t even recite the Lord’s Prayer. I’m a sad example of Christianity and yet those burning questions remained and it was the only reason I returned the following week; that, and the free dinner.

As the weeks passed, my anxiety waned. The people in our group were warm and friendly. They didn’t care when I said something stupid, even when I didn’t know it was stupid at the time. I started looking forward to the meetings so I could see them – my small group. Each discussion left me feeling rejuvenated. It was as though I had come into contact with an element that took energy from me, but refilled my chest with emollient fullness. Sometimes the conversation was intense enough to leave me feeling emotionally exhausted, but I always walked away wiser and more intrigued.

By week ten I was hooked. The pastor asked me to speak in front of the group to give a testimony of the mildly miraculous changes that took place in my heart, my mind and my being. I gave him an emphatic “No way.” He shrugged and said alright.

Fast forward 30 minutes and there I was, in front of all these people among whom I had once felt like an invader, and I was telling them how I was affected by Alpha. My usual confident stance took on a much more childlike demeanor – hands swinging by my sides, I was shifting from left to right and kicking my feet. I opened up a lot with regard to my Alpha journey, but I heard myself saying how I had been relying on my faith in Christ before Alpha, even when I didn’t know I was.

My faith was shoddy at best and totally underdeveloped, but I had always relied on a higher power in times of weakness and was giving thanks at times of joy. Alpha helped me to give shape to the faith I already had and helped me to make sense of it. It was as though Devonshire – the people, the pastor and the course – had placed a pair of lenses on my face and they were the perfect prescription. Some call this an “awakening” or “turning toward Christ” but those phrases were intimidating to me. For someone BRAND NEW to the concept, it was more like a complex puzzle where I had been looking at the pieces all along and now all the edge pieces were connected, creating the border. The only thing left is to fill in the gaps.

So now, back to the point I was trying to make in the very beginning: “For those among us who are critical by nature, how do we rely on faith to help us make sense of our daily victories and defeats?”

Alpha helped me to realize just how in control I really am. I cannot control my circumstances, but I can control how I deal with them. When I’m not sure if I’m dealing with something the right way, I have a place I can go to find out if there is a better way to deal. There is guidance in places where, before there were only questions. There is a place where not knowing is okay – and asking is expected.

Although the border is confidently pieced together, my puzzle is nowhere near completion. The insides are developing and in some places an image is emerging, but many pieces still float about in wonder. That sense of ‘emollient fullness’ I talked about earlier is still in my chest and these pieces that float about don’t bother me like they once did. I know where they belong and as I continue to grow in my faith, they will find their place. There is extraordinary comfort in that alone.

In summation: control freak, pacifist, realist, optimist or pessimist – there is a place for us all to find answers and a place where comfort prevails. Comfort and answers are primal needs of all God’s people and like a good father, he provides them.

If you are still not sure about the commitment of ten weeks, then consider how small ten weeks is out of your lifetime. Consider the significant impact you could have on your remaining years if you DON’T check it out. If there is one thing about Alpha I can guarantee, it is that Alpha will help you find it. Whatever your ‘it’ may be.

Use the contact information to the right to sign up.

Sam and I will see you there.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sharing a message...

Good Afternoon!

Many of you know I keep a personal blog as well as this one.  Devonshire Diaries has been a platform on which announcements and celebrations among the church are shared and viewed. 

At times even this site gets a little personal for me and today may be one of those days.

Today I invite you to:

where I found God's hand at work, right in my own backyard.

All my best,


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Surprise Volleyball

As we grow closer to the people of this church, we learn the comfort that goes along with finally finding people who are like us: family oriented, open and warm with one another and couples that share a genuine understanding of love for one another. 

Devonshire Church has opened its door to us,
and with it: it's arms.

Tonight was a small volleyball gathering that Dan the Man (Stutz) started - after feeling particularly moved by the closeness of a camping trip shared by a few friends of our church.  The idea was, "Hey, this is so much fun, why don't we do stuff like this more often?"  And so came the volleyball gatherings.

Today's volleyball entourage was a bit bigger than usual and it was to include the celebration of Miss Lisa Proctor's *Ahem*th birthday.  Although her dear hubby wasn't much of a story teller, she was still kind of surprised to find friends and family buzzing about the lower pavilion come 7.00. 

She may not have been too surprised,
but much fun was had by all... 

Cake, Soda and Snacks... then the ball begins:


and Volleyball:

Thank you again, Devonshire, for showing us once again why you are so special.
Until next time...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Baptism Ceremonies - On the Juniata

Baptism is an outward symbol of an inner change and a transformation that takes place beforehand, usually within a much more private realm.

I know my journey towards this transformation is occurring and I look forward to the day when I can sit comfortably in my own skin and know I am living a Christ-like life.  In the meantime, I continue to educate myself and surround myself with this very special parish.   With the eyes of an adoring fan, I will witness these baptisms in humble gratitude - as these stars of life begin to glow with the light of Christ. 

Emily Foltz                           Meaghan Mills

Sue Bailey                         Maggie Bailey

Each of these special ladies took a moment to speak a bit on the reason behind their decision to give their lives to Christ and the significance of the moment when they decided to announce their decision for all of us to hear.  For some it is a complete life make-over: intended to leave behind all that had turned bad, into something good.  For others, it is a natural life milestone, one that was known since birth.  No matter the words used to describe each personal account, they all end the same way: with the willing vulnerability of putting their lives in the hands of God and trusting in Him.

While the ladies of the day speak, the large crowd gathers and listens intently...

Afterwards, nearly everyone followed these four  ladies down to the water...

Soon, the pastors take to the water...

Emily was guided into the water by Todd...

Next up is Meaghan...

Sue descends into the waters...

And finally, Maggie...

Derek takes a moment - the water was warm and inviting on this day - an invitation to rebirth.

The pastors look forward to these days - said Todd, "Baptisms never get old. The heavens are rejoicing"

After the ceremony, Wade led us in prayer in the places where we stood...

Afterwards, a gathering of friends, food and... babies!

There is one more yet to come.  (below)
I had a wonderful conversation with this lovely little lady,
and I would like for her to know what joy I took in snapping this picture.  As her body breathes new life into a new person, we have watched tonight the rebirth of new people.  Her courage in becoming a mother is moving and as I watch her, she is at ease.  In beautiful, bountiful life, she extends her faith to her unborn child.

As I witness these days, I feel the significance well within me.
As I meet the members of this congregation, I learn more about the stories that guide them here.
As I study the stories of the bible, I find myself more intrigued...

...the people are what make this so real.  So significant.  So incredibly beautiful.

Thank you.