Expressions of Joy from Martha Rowlett, Senior Pastor Emeritus – January 2018
It was a once –in-a-lifetime experience for me: four unique, beautiful, heartwarming, Christmas Eve celebrations in one day. The nativity story was read from Luke’s gospel four times. The Advent candles symbolizing hope, peace, joy and love were lighted four times. The Christ candle was added to their number four times symbolizing the long anticipated birth of Jesus. The story was portrayed by enthusiastic children dressed as animals, shepherds, wise men, angels and the Holy Family singing with their soft voices and ringing chimes. Nearly 20 traditional Christmas carols were sung, each with its own artistic take on the story. Chimes, bells, guitars, drums, organ, piano, mandolin, solo voices, duets, trios, choirs of children and adults joyfully shared the nativity message that so naturally expresses itself in music. The day ended with communion that felt so right, and a passing of the flame from the freshly lit Christ candle to the individually held candles of the congregation, spreading the light from the Christ candle through the entire darkened sanctuary. The day ended at midnight as the worshippers processed out into the night carrying the light with their candles symbolically into the world. I was so delighted to be in town to join the congregation for this day. It was a once-in-a-lifetime for me because I had done just three of these services for years as your pastor. But Christmas Eve comes rarely on a Sunday to add a fourth service in the morning, enriching the experience by giving both pastors a chance to add the dimension of a Christmas sermon. I came out of this incredible day feeling a palpable sense of hope, peace, joy and love. My friends at RHUMC, I thought, really get the Christmas story and they know how to share it with the world.
Are You Mad at God? – November 2017
If you are, the Chaplain at my retirement community knows a lot of people like you. As he passed my table in the dining room recently, he stopped to tell me: “So many people are mad at God, that I am thinking about just going home to hide.” Hard day at the office! We both chuckled a bit. But at the same time we were feeling sad that people about whom we care are alienated from the resources of their faith by belief that if God is powerful, God should prevent – or at least fix promptly – things like devastating hurricanes and wild fires and mass murders and opioid epidemics, and…and…and.
So is this a time to get mad at God? Not by a long country mile, as we say in N.C. We have known forever that God does not keep us from making bad decisions or getting into messes. The ancient Adam and Eve story expresses that faith of our ancestors. History is full of human encounters with snakes that mess up God’s best ideas. Bad things happen to good people. But our faith is that God’s love for the creation is constant and that God’s will is for the best possibilities for who we are and where we are at every moment.
Could it be that it is time for us rather than turning our backs on God to turn our faces and our hearts toward God? Times like this are times to trust in God’s loving presence with us, to listen very carefully for God’s will for us in every moment, and to respond with gratitude.
One of the joys of being in a congregation like RHUMC is that we can share with other people of faith in trusting, listening and responding.
God’s Creation – October 2017
I am now Great, Great Aunt Martha. Twin girls, born on August 20th gave me the title. I visited them when they were two days old, and held the smaller one at five pounds wrapped in a blanket looking up at me. I was immediately reminded of seeing Niki Lorentzen when she was just hours old. Randy had called to breathlessly announce that Stevie was in labor and asked us to come to the hospital. Bob and I immediately hopped in the car thrilled at the prospect of sharing this birth with this family. By the time we arrived, mother and baby were available for visiting. I have a treasured picture of the two of us beaming with delight at the wonder of new life before us. It is amazing to look at this wholly formed little person and say “Nine months ago this was a nothing but a sperm and an egg.” But here is a brand new human being with all of its complexity and rich possibility. The parents of my little great greats are both elementary school counselors, and they are aware of the challenges of parenting. They witness daily damage done to little people by adults in their lives. They talked with me about this awareness over lunch on Sunday. I thought again about all the Rolling Hills church does day after day and year after year and decade after decade to support parents and nurture children into the full development of their God-given potential as part of God’s creation. That led me into a fresh appreciation of what this congregation is doing to create new facilities so that this incredibly valuable ministry will have a solid future that can bless the lives of tomorrow’s wondrous newborns. I am proud to be part of your team.
Wonder and Awe – August 2017
It happened! Exactly the way we knew it would. On the nano second that we were expecting this to occur, the black daytime moon moved between the sun and my North Carolina home and with beautiful flashes of light precisely totally covered the sun. At 2:38pm on an August afternoon we were in total darkness for 2 minutes and a few seconds. The temperature dropped and we could see the stars. Through our protective glasses we were able to see things about the sun that are otherwise beyond our visual tolerance. Scientists from NASA and around the world had come to an old satellite tracking station tucked away in the mountains near me to observe through high powered telescopes. Also as expected, I was completely awe-struck. The sun and the moon are visible doing their thing every day. We can take them for granted. But when our two primary sources of light get together like this and leave us in the dark, the wonder of the universe strikes home. We are created parts of this same universe, but nobody can predict where we will be or what we will be doing at any time in the future. We have free will. God has created us to be part of this universe and calls us to serve God’s loving will in the ongoing creation. Wonder and awe at what God has done and is doing on this cosmic scale makes me eager to know what God wants me to be doing in my little space. As I read the CORNERSTONE, I think that I am observing one community of people who individually and together are listening to God’s loving and creative call and responding in so many ways.
News from Martha – July 2017
People from around the world are expected to come to Western North Carolina on August 21. They want to share with those of us who live here the awe and wonder of a total solar eclipse that will be visible here at about 2:30 p.m. for, depending on exact location, about 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The whole show lasts about 3 hours from the first “bite” the black moon takes out of the sun until full sunlight reappears. At totality, viewers see an amazing light show, and aspects of the sun not normally visible. We have known for centuries that this will happen here at this time. A total solar eclipse is visible from earth somewhere about every 16 months, but will not pass over this spot on earth again for @330 years. I witnessed one in 1998 with stepson Rob from an eclipse cruise in the Caribbean. I was breathless with awe as the size of what I was seeing and of how small and insignificant I was in comparison. At the same time, I was stunned with wonder that I was a piece of that same creation with my own value and role to play in what God has done and continues to do. I invite you to remember on August 21 those of us who, will be waiting and watching in a straight line across the US from Oregon to South Carolina to see the world go dark early on an August afternoon. I invite you to share in our awe and wonder because what is true for us is also true for you.
A New Year’s Prayer from Martha Rowlett – January 2016
Eternal God, creator of everything that ever has been, is now and ever will be, we give thanks at the beginning of this new year for the amazing gift of life as a part of this stream of history new in every moment to both you and to us. We give thanks that we can trust your presence and your love to be with us always and everywhere. We can hear your voice calling us from the heart of life to be part of what you are doing to fulfill the best possibilities for what is here now. In this season we define as a new year, we remember that our selfishness often has blocked your love. We trust your mercy in forgiving us and your grace in renewing the light and the love with which you would bless our lives. As we step out into this new future, may we be strong in our souls, resistant to the wrongs of the world, compassionate toward those who suffer, and faithful to what is dear to you. In the power of your Spirit and in the name of Jesus Christ we pray, AMEN.
Dr. Martha Rowlett, Senior Pastor Emeritus
Advent Prayer from Martha Rowlett – December 2016
In this December season of lengthening darkness, our hearts wait eagerly for the light of the Christmas message. In a time of alienation and anger we are ready to remember your love for all of your creation. In the middle of confused babble of conflicting claims, we are eager to listen for your clear calling to the hopeful future you prepare for us. Touch the deep places of our being with the miracle and mystery of your eternal presence with us, within us and among us. Strengthen our souls so that we may become the people you have made us to be. Bless us with joy as we celebrate your gift of love to us in Jesus by giving to others our gifts of love. We pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.
A Letter from Martha Rowlett – October 2016
Dear Jonathan and the RHUMC congregation,
I am a bit giddy today as I adjust to the honor of being named Senior Pastor Emeritus for my favorite congregation, The Rolling Hills United Methodist Church. I am savoring the implications of being no longer just a previous pastor and friend, but being a current member of the family. Now I am related not just to the good folk who were there 17 years ago, but to everybody in RHUMC. And since you elected me and the Bishop did not appoint me, the Bishop cannot move me. We are in this together! North Carolina is a bit of a commute for regular worship with you. But I may write occasional messages for the CORNERSTONE, and do whatever Jonathan asks. I have just turned 80, and I am thrilled to have this new relationship as a delightful dimension of this new decade of life. I experience it very clearly as something God is doing now with what was once the empty sheet of my life. Thank you very much for the open-hearted gift of this new relationship and for the honor of the naming of Martha’s room.
Love and best wishes to all of you, individually and as a congregation,
Weaving Prayer Into the Tapestry of Life
Martha Rowlett is a minister in the United Methodist Church, a prolific blogger, and author of four books on prayer. Her book, Weaving Prayer Into the Tapestry of Life, provides an overview of the understanding and practice of prayer, offering an invitation to the reader to move from thinking to doing.
Read Martha’s writings from her blog at WeavingPrayerIntoTheTapestryOfLife.Com
Former senior pastor at Rolling Hills, Martha has served in local churches and on Conference staff in the United Methodist Church. Originally from Virginia, she has lived most of her adult life in California and Washington and currently enjoys mountain living in Asheville, North Carolina.