October 2017

October 6, 2017

One of the most satisfying things in life is to put all we have into something, and see our efforts pay off.

It’s good for us human beings to try our hardest. It’s good to “leave it all on the field” – whether our “field” is the backyard garden, the office, the church, the kitchen, a research laboratory, or a difficult-but-important relationship. Granted, we each have many “fields” and our best effort tomorrow may not match our best effort today. But we should always strive to do the best we can at the time.

Regardless of our age or stage in life, we never know what we can achieve unless we try our best. Most often, we are pleasantly surprised to find we have more in us than we knew. We discover that God has endowed us with more endurance, more strength, more brainpower, or more compassion than we gave ourselves credit for.

Trying our hardest and achieving more than we expected is deeply satisfying on its own. It’s doubly satisfying when all that effort brings about something positive, for ourselves or someone else. In the spring, when we toil and sweat to create a garden, we end the day with sore muscles and a heap of dirt-stained laundry. Then, for weeks, we anxiously monitor what Mother Nature provides in the way of wind, sun, rain, and bugs. Too much? Not enough? The right kind? We do what we can to respond. It’s a lot of work, but soon, the fruits of our labors are filling our countertops, and possibly the countertops of our friends and neighbors.

Three years ago, dozens of us labored long and hard to begin a mobile summer literacy mission project in Cherry Log, Georgia, where none of us had ever been. It took a lot of work to get us there, a lot of work to figure out what we would do, and a lot of work to actually do it. Frankly, we didn’t know what we were getting into, and neither did the good folks at the Craddock Center. It was the center’s first time hosting a church for a mission trip, the first summer of a mobile “Camp Craddock,” and for many of us, our first mission trip.

We were blessed to meet Dr. Fred Craddock, who started the center to address the literacy and culture needs of Appalachian children. As we admired the work of the center, Dr. Craddock said the church’s best response to a mission trip there would be to return home and start a similar program.  The Missions Committee took that message to heart, and began searching for additional opportunities in our own back yard, including our now monthly service at Mercy Meals & More and ongoing work at the Carlos Pacheco school, both in New Bedford. Meanwhile, back in Georgia, the Craddock Center used our experience to continue its Camp Craddock mission trip experience, and is now hosting churches from all over the country. For everybody concerned, the experience was energizing and galvanizing. (We’re headed back to the Craddock Center in July 2018! Please see article, page 7).

These kinds of experiences – creating a garden, or piloting a mission project – are what “stewardship” is about. First, it’s about discovering just how much God has endowed you by challenging yourself to do your absolute best. Second, it’s about seeing your efforts result in good, wholesome, worthwhile things. Third, it’s about trusting that God is multiplying the effects of your offerings in ways you may never know. Fourth, when stewardship is a community endeavor, doing your best inspires others to do better than they originally intended.

The theme of this year’s stewardship campaign is “This Is Who We Are.” It’s an invitation to celebrate who we are – individually, and collectively – as a church. It’s also an invitation to imagine how God continues to call us forward to respond to the needs of the world, spiritual and material.

While the stewardship and finance committees sort out the dollars and cents of stewardship season, my hope is that you will spend the next month or so considering whether there is an area of your life where you might challenge yourself a bit more. Maybe it’s eating more healthfully, becoming engaged in an important issue, reconciling a painful relationship, or developing better work habits. When we challenge ourselves spiritually, physically, or intellectually, we open new doors of being. It’s often through those newly opened doors where God greets us.

Many blessings for the fall,

Rev. Amy Lignitz Harken


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