"Transitioning Back" Rev. Joy Mounts

Transitioning Back

Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Pastor

First and foremost, let me say thank you again for the gift of my summer sabbatical. It truly was a time of rest, renewal and refilling my well of the spirit. I am continuing to “unpack” – as we used to say in seminary - all my learnings and thoughts from my time away. I will have more on that in future Congregationalists, Word for Children, etc. During my sabbatical, I went to a poetry conference in New Hampshire, on a spiritual (and silent) retreat in Connecticut, to a few family reunions and on a Great Lakes cruise. I reconnected with old friends and made some new ones. I even got to cross off something on my bucket list – going to The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan!

Being on sabbatical gave me much needed time to wander, to wonder and to work on my poetry, artwork, writing, thinking, praying and more. Even coming back for the Mission Trip and spending a fruitful week in Denver added to this.

So now I am transitioning back in and trying to hold on to the lessons learned from my time away.   It is not easy. I had to take a nap the first Sunday I was back! But I plan to hold myself accountable to the lessons learned. That may be the most lasting gift of all. By giving me this time of reflection and renewal, you have not only helped me to refresh my spirit but also to shape my ministry.

We all need to find ways to give ourselves this gift of time. We all need help from time to time to refine our focus and see, see who we are, what matters the most and where we want to put our energies. We  don’t  always have  the  luxury of  taking a month or two off, but we can start by finding ways to carve out time. Maybe it is morning prayer or mediation, reading that book we have always meant to, or walking, calling a friend, or any of the countless ways we refresh our souls.  Prayer is always a great place to start. I know it is where I started back in June – praying that God would bless my sabbatical and would bless the wonderful FCC community who gave it to me.

I will be sharing more stories in the months to come. But for now, just know that your gift was appreciated. More than I can say.
Peace,
Joy

"A Time Away" -- Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

A Time Away
Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Pastor

Sabbatical: a break or change from a normal routine (as of employment); a time of rest, reflection, research, learning and more. A time away.

Starting in June, right after Confirmation Sunday, I am leaving for vacation and sabbatical. I will be away for June, July and August, except for helping lead the Summer Mission Trip to Denver, an experience I did not want to miss.

I am looking forward to this time off. After twelve years serving here at FCC, I am ready for a much-needed break to recharge and refresh. First and foremost, let me say thank you for this opportunity. I could not go if you did not offer and support it. Being a minister is a 24/7 job and I would not have it any other way. But my personal well needs filling and I am looking forward to the time to do so.

While away I will be attending the Robert Frost Poetry Conference in New Hampshire in late June and spending a weekend in silent prayer and contemplation at the Mercy Center in Madison, Connecticut in July. There will also be day trips and a writing class or two. I will be going on vacation with my family, seeing old friends and taking a Great Lakes cruise with my parents, Most of all I will be taking the time to write, journal and dream more, hopefully organizing my poems, prayers and Christmas Eve pageants - maybe even turning one of them into an original children’s story.

I will undoubtedly have a lot to tell you when I get back! But I want to ask you all to do one thing for me while I am away. Please keep me in your prayers that my time away will be refreshing, recharging and transformative. I will be keeping you all in prayer and will, as ever, be thankful for the blessing of being a part of FCC.

See you in September! Peace,

Joy 

"It's A Mystery to Me!" Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Pastor

It’s A Mystery to Me!

Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Pastor

In my last column, I said that I would tell you about a mystery that happened when I was writing it. Well, here it is. When I went to find the poem I wanted to share I looked in a copy of my poetry book, Come with Me and Touch the Sky. I have several copies at my house and picked one up to find it. It happened to be the one I had given my Reed grandparents and which was given back to me after they died. When I opened it, much to my surprise out fell a little booklet. It was small and on the faded blue front cover it said – “Poems” by Joel E Reavis.

The booklet was printed in 1947 and inside was a picture of Joel Reavis. The booklet had been printed by his wife. I’m guessing it was a memorial, but I don’t know. It was a beautiful booklet and the poems were lovely. Many were about the sea. From his picture, it looked like Joel Reavis was in the Navy. I wondered who he was, but not why my Grandma had put this in with my poems. Whoever he is, I am related to him. Reavis is a made-up last name that first appears here in the United States in the early 1700’s and I am related to anyone who has that last name through my Grandma’s side of the family. We don’t know why the first Reavis changed his name – that is another mystery for another time.

However, I was moved when I found the booklet inside my poetry book. Not just in discovering a long-lost distant cousin but in that my Grandma Reed had put the two family "poets" together. We never really talked about my poems but I felt somehow, she was telling me through this action, she was proud of me. I just wish we had had the time to talk so she could tell me about Joel and his connection and the poems. Still, finding the booklet meant a lot.

How often do we let a moment pass or leave a word unsaid or fail to reach out? It can be difficult. Maybe we don't think we can find the words. Maybe we don't feel it's the right moment. What I love about poetry is that in writing I can often find the words I might scramble for otherwise. That doesn't mean I don't miss the moment or let it pass. It happens plenty of times.

It is then that I turn to prayer because that is one conversation that often does not require words at all. I can speak from my heart and God knows and understands. How wonderful that we have that gift. And that it is always accessible to us. Prayer can help us find the words we need to speak to others. The words we need to speak to ourselves. God is always listening and ready to enter into divine conversation even when, perhaps especially when, the moment does not feel right. God is always there.

And that is no mystery at all. Peace,
Joy 

"Echoes From The Past" -- Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

Echoes From The Past

Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

Below is the poem I mentioned writing in my sermon I on Sunday, March 19. It is a poem written during what I consider to be a defining moment in my life, when I knew that even though I had given up on God, God had not given up on me. Writing a poem after a dry spell of well over a year and the loving presence of God helped me to see this. Also, when I opened the book this poem is in to copy it for this article, I found a mystery which I look forward to sharing with you all in the May Congregationalist.

Happy Spring! Peace,
Joy

Light Spell

Fire of the burning sun
That makes the seeing blind
The tawny glow of dusk to light the way The whisper of a candle's flame
That flickers on the wall
All of these are mine
For from my fingertips at will
And on my soul's command
Do they appear like soldiers bold
To defend at every turn
For when the path is dark and cold
And danger there unseen
When caves do hide their treasures gold Too dark for eyes to see
When enemies would stand before
So ready for the kill
Then from my soul and hearts command To surge through hands
That tremble with power
Comes light controlled
And light defined
A light that slices like a sword
Yet like an armored shield
A light that's true
A light that's pure
A light of ever changing energy
So hear my friend
And enemy alike
And gear these words of mine
If by chance that we should
Meet and thee should block my way
Or try to stop my mission, goal
Or completion of a deed
They as thee will
My light is victor yet
Come remember then
Emblazoned on thy brain 

"The Art and Challenge of Reading" -- Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

The Art and Challenge of Reading

Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

Recently on a FCC theater trip we saw The Most Reluctant Convert, a one act/one man show examining the conversion of author C.S. Lewis from atheism to Christianity. For Lewis, it was a journey marked by many discussions with his friends, J.R.R. Tolkien among them. It was also a journey marked by lots and lots of books. Many authors influenced him, opened his mind, and challenged his thoughts. Lewis was not afraid to read something that challenged what he thought he knew. He loved learning, and not just because he was a professor at both Oxford and Cambridge. He loved to read. One of his quotes that is a favorite of mine is, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” After his conversion to Christianity he wrote the powerful and poignant, Surprised by Joy.

I first came to know C.S. Lewis through his children’s Narnia book series, starting with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I devoured the nine books in the series, liking some better than others. My aunt had recommended them and, at first, I balked at reading them. They looked like kids’ books and I was already in junior high. But I came to find out they were far from simply stories for children. They are on one level, but on others a thought-provoking allegory. I then reached for his adult books - The Screwtape Letters, The Problem of Pain, Mere Christianity and others. This opened other worlds to me., and caused me throughout my life to seek other authors, fiction and non-fiction, to help me more deeply understand my faith.

What are the books that have challenged you? That you use to examine your thoughts about faith or even open the door for a deeper relationship with God? I would love to hear about them. Maybe we could even print your suggestions in an upcoming Congregationalist, like a church-wide book club. Who knows what authors will help us to gain insights into the Author of all, who not only opens our minds but widens our hearts.

Email or tell me your book suggestions. I can’t wait to hear from you. Until then, happy reading!

Peace, Joy 

"Keeping the Light Lit" -- Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

Keeping the Light Lit

Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

Although short in days, February often seems the longest month. Deep in winter the days are dark and some of the coldest days seem reserved for it. After the bright lights and cheer of Christmas have faded by the end of January, it looms as a another month to push through to get to spring. Keeping the light of our hopes and dreams and energies alive and moving can be difficult. Luckily, we do not have to face it alone. There is One we can always turn to, no matter how dark, to help us keep those internal candles burning. Thanks be to God.

Peace, Joy

Winter Night

Boris Pasternak

It snowed and snowed, the whole world over, Snow swept the world from end to end.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

As during summer midges swarm
To beat their wings against a flame
Out in the yard the snowflakes swarmed To beat against the window pane

The blizzard sculptured on the glass Designs of arrows and of whorls.
A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned.

Distorted shadows fell
Upon the lighted ceiling:
Shadows of crossed arms, of crossed legs- Of crossed destiny.

Two tiny shoes fell to the floor
And thudded.
A candle on a nightstand shed wax tears Upon a dress.

All things vanished within The snowy murk-white, hoary. A candle burned on the table; A candle burned.

A corner draft fluttered the flame And the white fever of temptation Upswept its angel wings that cast A cruciform shadow

It snowed hard throughout the month Of February, and almost constantly A candle burned on the table;
A candle burned. 

"Teatime" -- Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

Teatime

“Everything Stops for Tea”

I know now why Franz Schubert
Never finished his unfinished symphony He would have written more
but the clock struck four
And everything stopped for tea.

John Baldrey

I recently had the pleasure of once again venturing to my favorite tea place in Flemington, New Jersey Teaberry’s for lunch and a spot of tea. It was a warm, relaxing afternoon spent in conversation with a friend about life, this and that and everything in-between. It was a good way to sit back and reflect and reminisce. It was good to step outside of the world for a moment or two.

There is something about tea that naturally slows you down. It has to take time to be made. First the water must be boiling. Then seeping the tea bag or preparing the leaves if you use loose tea. Then fixing it how you like it and then the first sip. I realize this is true of other hot beverages coffee for example but I would suggest that there is something different about tea.

It isn’t there to wake you up but to help you relax. It calls for a good book or deep thoughts or simply gazing out the window. It invites you to step away for a moment or two. It is an invitation that we do not always heed preferring instead to rush ahead to the next item on our to-do list.

God calls us to also step away and spend some time in thought and prayer. But we do not always heed that call either. I had a friend whose prayer time was her time for tea. I always thought that was great idea since I usually find myself with a book in one hand and a mug in the other. When is the moment that you slow down? That you step away and spend some time in thought and prayer with God?

As a new year begins, maybe this is one thing that should be at the top of our to-do list. To find more time this year to be in thought and prayer. Maybe a spot of tea would make an excellent reminder that this is a good moment to pause and spend time with Someone who would love to hear from us! It might be a challenge but they may turn out to be the most important moments of the year.

Wishing you a blessed New Year!

Peace, Joy

"Eyes Wide Open" Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

Eyes Wide Open

Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

When I was seeing the Canstruction exhibit on Saturday, November 12 at Brookfield Place, I was struck again by the creativity and inspiration that an ordinary can or bottle can inspire. Something you see every day. Something you open, use the contents of and then discard without another thought. No beauty there. But turn the labels just so, or group them by color or size and suddenly something else entirely is going on.

This year there were among the twenty-five sculptures, a carousel, a whale tail, Sonic the Hedgehog, the Guggenheim, a volcano, a crab, a Ghostbuster ghost and even a display that changed from Yes to No. One of my favorites was a display of old fashioned Christmas lights. Seeing them reminded me of the big bulbs we used to string on the tree and outside the house when I was growing up, before Christmas lights got smaller and could do forty-three different types of flashing combinations But seeing them made me smile, and for a moment I was a little girl in a small living room in Charleston, West Virginia watching her dad put the lights up.

All from looking at cans. How often do we look at something and see what we expect to see and not what we could see? How often do we truly consider all the possibilities? Going to Canstruction every year reminds me of this. Not only do I see the sculptures but I am reminded that the struggle to end hunger is ongoing and that we cannot stop fighting. It also encourages me to see that even something as small as a can inspires us to do more, to see with different eyes, to look beyond what is and see what could be.

If we can see that in a simple can, maybe this new point of view can help us to see each other with different eyes. To see what could be. What can be. What is keeping us from seeing the possibilities around us? In our life? In our faith? Why not take a moment each day to look around and see. And what better time to do this than during Advent, the season of hope and new beginnings !

Happy Advent! Peace, Joy

"When the Words Won't Write" -- Rev. Joy Mounts

When the Words Won’t Write

Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

During my recent recovery from carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand, I was not able to hold a pen. At the risk of being called a dinosaur, I admit that I am a writer who likes to write longhand for many of my tasks. For me there seems to be a creative connection between writing by hand and pouring my words onto the paper. That is not to say I don’t do much of my writing on a computer as well. But when I want to remember something, I usually write myself a note. And when inspiration strikes, I often reach for a pen and paper first.

So it was more than frustrating when during my recovery I found that I had a lot of trouble simply holding a pen, never mind writing with it. The surgeon and my occupational therapist both said it would take time for my hand function to come back fully. But I was in shock. It was as if I could not express myself in some deeper way, as if poems were bottled up inside with no outlet. I could not even sign my name.

I had two choices be annoyed about it or follow the exercises and let my hand rest and heal. I decided to do the latter. But it was hard. I often reached for a pen to capture some fragment of thought, or question, or reminder or poem, only to find I could not write. I tried using the dictation on my iPad but it’s autocorrect had me in stitches. Slowly my hand returned to normal. I was relieved. I felt myself again.

It caused me to reflect on the barriers that keep us from expressing ourselves, especially when it comes to prayer. What are the things that distract us, make us uncomfortable, keep us from truly saying what is on our hearts? Prayer should be the one place we let down our guard and let the words flow. But often we stop ourselves. What are we afraid if? That we won’t be loved or listened to? That God will turn away?

God will not. We are loved and listened to. We need to trust and take God at God’s word. Prayer is our time together with God. It may take time to let down our guard and truly open our heart, but it will lead to a deeper relationship with God. We can’t help putting those barriers in place, but removing them can be a glorious and freeing feeling. If at times, you want help with this, may I suggest the bi-monthly Adult Studies classes on meditation and prayer, where we are all journeying together.

Happy Autumn!

Peace, Joy

"What's In Your Inbox?" -- Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minster

What’s In Your Inbox?

Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

About six months ago I started to get “A Poem a Day” from the website poetry.org. I was not sure what to expect but have enjoyed the astonishing variety of poems and poets I have been receiving. They have been long, short, wordy, precise and everything in between. And there has been more subject matter than I can recount. I have also become acquainted with old friends and learned of poets I had never heard of. It has been a daily voyage of discovery, although I have to admit that there are times it takes me a week or so to get caught up.
Still, spending time with all different types of wordsmiths has been revealing and, at times, full of wonder. I marvel at how language can be used to describe, cajole, praise, seduce, criticize, encourage and more. Sometimes it is the simple turn of a phrase, other times the question implied or the cry from the heart that leaps from the page demanding to be heard. The gifts of language should not be taken lightly.
It reminds me of all the different ways that God calls to us. But instead of words it is the language of the heart that our souls hear and respond to. And just as there is an endless variety of people, so too is there a variety of ways that God calls us. After all, my call is not the same as yours, nor is yours like mine. Our gifts, our focus, our directions are all different, so why would God speak to all of us the same? So too the way we hear that call is as varied as we are.
So what’s in your Inbox from God? How is God speaking to you and how do you respond? Is it a lengthy appeal or a simple “Go and Do”. Only we know because unlike the emails I get from poetry.org, our call from God is meant for our eyes only. Have you heard it? Have you opened it? Are you living it? There is no time like the present. And Fall is a great time for new beginnings.

Happy Autumn!
Peace, Joy

 

"Oh Say Do You See?" -- Rev. Joy Mounts

Oh Say Do You See?

Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

I was recently in Indiana on vacation. While there I took a cemetery tour of some family graveyards with my mother and uncles. While walking around one of them, I saw a sight that I never expected to see. To one side of this cemetery was a palm tree. It was

a very hot day so at first I thought perhaps I was seeing a mirage or having heat stroke. But it was a palm tree. A metal one. In the middle of a cemetery in Walton, Indiana. It was attached to the base of one of the headstones and curved so that it gave a bit of shade. I have never seen anything like this. The people it belongs to are still alive so hopefully they come out to see and enjoy it from time to time.

It was a surprise. Not a bad one but one that definitely took me back a little bit! It also gave me a chuckle since it was just so incredible to find it here amid the ancient headstones carved with weeping angels and the more modern ones with etched pictures of the deceased. I wondered if that is why they put it there, as my mom remarked that their family would always be able to find their grave!

If I had not walked over to where it was though, I would never have gotten the full picture. I might have even dismissed it as not worth going to see. Life can be like that. We see something we did not expect and often walk away from it not wanting to find out more. Maybe we are fearful of what we might find or worried that it might mean more work for us. But sometimes we challenge ourselves to investigate. And often those are the surprises that can change our lives.

Or maybe it is where we find God. In those unexpected places, moments, vistas and journeys. God says “ Hey over here! This is what I wanted to show you. Look up from your phone, your charted path, your staring straight ahead and look. Look at this! Really look. Take it all in and let it wash over you. Maybe it will change your thoughts, your hopes, your dreams, and your life.”

Where were your unexpected moments this summer? Those moments when God called to you? I know we had a lot of them on the Summer Mission Trip that we can’t wait to share. And I can’t wait to hear all about yours. They just don’t happen in the summer though they can show up anytime! In the meantime keep looking for palm trees you never know where they might turn up!

Finally, thank you for your prayers, comments, emails, cards and concern during my recent recovery from carpal tunnel surgery. They were appreciated more than you know.

Peace, Joy

"House and Home" -- Rev. Joy Mounts

House and Home

Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

Recently, my parents and I visited several historic homes and battlefields with my nephew. This was part of his high school graduation present. He loves history. We visited Mt. Vernon and Monticello, neither of which he had visited before. The trip was fun, educational and fascinating.

It had been many years since I had gone to either home. Seeing them again I was struck by what they held and what they didn’t. The way they reflected their owners left you wondering just who Washington and Jefferson really were. Of course, it is hard to get a true understanding when sharing a home visit with hundreds of other people. Still, in each home something of their owners shone through.

It made me think about how someone might view my home in the future and what it told about me or didn’t. Would the things that were important to me shine through or would someone shake their head after visiting and say, who was she? What was important to her?

What does your home say about you? Does it reveal your dreams, passions, wonders and thoughts? Not just in the paintings on the wall, the books on the shelves or the pictures on display, but the whole package? If it were all that we had to go on, would we say we know you?

It is true, we could gain some understanding, but the whole picture might remain elusive if all we had was a walk through a home. Thank God it is not the only way to know someone. Thank God our lives themselves reflect who we are - how we inhabit them, and what we fill them with.

These are good questions to ask ourselves from time to time. “How am I filling my life and how does it reflect my dreams, passions, wonders, thoughts and, most of all, faith?” “What do others learn of me from it?” When better than summer when we have a bit more time to reflect on this?

We may never be famous like Washington and Jefferson, but we are beloved by God. And that should shine through all the time.

Happy pondering! Happy summer!

Peace, Joy

"Walking the Walk" -- Rev. Joy Mounts

Walking the Walk

Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

In early May, fifteen members of the YF and ten adult chaperones went to the Cranford Presbyterian Church to walk their indoor labyrinth. I was not sure how the YF would respond but they more than embraced the challenge. The two ladies from the church, who are the caretakers of the labyrinth, welcomed us warmly. They then explained that to walk one means to make a journey. After a few more instructions we were all invited to begin. Some walked fast, some more slowly, some deep in thought. Everyone was courteous in letting others pass them. Other than the soft meditative music from the CD player and the sound of countless footsteps, all was quiet.

The tradition is to think of a question to concentrate on as you walk. In the center was a place to sit and think about this question. There were also cards with different religious sayings on them. As our guides said “The sayings may be an answer to your question or not. They may be an answer to some future question but the one you pick up was meant for you.” Some of the youth walked the labyrinth several times.

Continued above right

Walking the WalkContinued

At first, I had a hard time concentrating as I was worrying about how the YF were doing. Were they getting it? After telling one or two to slow down, I decided to let myself be on the journey that the labyrinth is meant to represent. After all, we are each pilgrims in the labyrinth as we are in life. We all move at our own pace, one that is ours alone.

I also realized that if I did not allow myself to concentrate on my journey I would miss it by worrying. It would be over and I would have never really prayed about my questions. So saying a prayer for the YF, as I do every day, I turned my thoughts inward and tuned out what was around me. I prayed and thought and watched my steps. Then when I was finally in the middle, I reached for a card. I read it. It was not the answer to the question I had brought with me but nevertheless it was an answer I had been seeking. Filled with other thoughts and prayers I slowly made my way out. I was not surprised to see some of the YF heading back in. Journeying with purpose is almost always powerful.

So should all of our journeying be. Not just when we have a canvas labyrinth under our feet directing us on a prescribed path but even when we have no idea where the path will go. We need to let go of what would distract and misdirect us. We need to put aside worry and concentrate lest we miss what we need to learn. We can move our feet with purpose, knowing that we have prayer and God to walk with us and guide us.

Where will your journey take you this month? This summer? The rest of this year? And what questions will you bring?

Happy walking! Joy

"What Do You See?" -- Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

What Do You See?

Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

In a recent watercolor class as part of an exercise, we were asked to put a blob of paint on a piece of paper and then let it dry. Then we were supposed to look at it, figure out what we saw and then draw it. Not surprisingly, everyone in the class saw something different even though our original paint blobs were surprisingly similar.

It all had to do with how our imaginations worked and how brave we were to allow ourselves the flexibility to just go for it and draw it. There were fish, birds, people and more. It was fun but a bit nerve wracking at first. Mine looked like a pond, a face, and finally, a puppy. There were so many choices; almost too many, until I allowed myself to both have fun with it, to focus ,and not to be distracted by what those around me were doing.

Life can be like that. Sometimes we see too many choices around us - things we want to accomplish, places we want to go and changes we want to make. Life looks like a blob we cannot make heads or tails of and we don’t know where to start. What will our lives look like if we do this, go here, change that? It is scary and we can feel frozen until we make a choice.

Other times we look and the choices seem limited and we wonder if we can see any path we want to take. Whether too many or limited, what we do next has to do with our imaginations, how brave we are and if we give ourselves permission to be bold and dive in. The future can look like a formless blob but we can give thanks in knowing that we do not hold the paintbrush alone. The Artist God is with us as we fill in here, paint there, shade this and erase that. Wonderful is that knowledge! Even when we are afraid to start, we know we are not alone.

So embrace the blobs in your lifethe unformed possibilities, the new ventures, the who knows what they will turn out to be’s. They may be the thing that brings a smile and the inspiration to try for even more! Best of all, God will be right there helping us to fill it all in. Happy painting! (And thanks to my teacher, FCC’s own Laura Brown for the inspiration!)

Peace, Joy

"Thru The Glass Darkly -- Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

Thru The Glass, Darkly

Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

Hanging from the sliding glass doors that lead from my living room to a balcony are a number of sun catchers. I love stained glass and they are my own miniature ones. One in particular always catches my eye when I open the curtains in the morning to let in the light. It is not the most beautiful. In fact, it is quite plain. It is heavy, an old fashioned strawberry with solid green glass leaves and a solid red berry below. The metal frame is thick. It looks sturdy and it is.

It hung for years over the kitchen sink in my Grandmother Reed’s house in Indiana. Whenever you looked out the window toward the barns and rest of the farm, there it was, right in front of you. You had to look through it to see outside. This was a problem because it is so thick. Still, it added a certain something to whatever part of the world you were looking at. And my grandmother loved it.

After my grandparents had both passed away and we were cleaning out their house, it still hung in the window. As we were leaving, I asked if anyone wanted it. My mom said no and that I could take it if I wanted. When I got home I put it on the door. It seemed surprised to be looking out on Route 22 rather than a farm. But for me, each time I see it, I see the barns in the distance, and I smile.

It changes my view, even if only with my inner eye. Stained glass can do that. It throws rainbows and shows a world outside filled with light and color. Maybe it distorts the way things are to show us how things could be.

What are the things that change our point of view when we look through them? In 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote about looking in a mirror dimly but some day seeing face to face. He was talking about how we see God and how we see ourselves in God’s eyes. Now we can only know a part of what it means to be loved but someday we will know everything, including how God has always seen us as we are and loved us as we are. God is not looking through anything special to see us, just the eyes of love. Maybe we need to use the same lens when we look at each other.

This spring, as the daylight hours grow longer, let us turn our eyes toward seeing things as they could be and then working to make them so. Maybe we don’t all have a sun catcher to remind us to try, but why not challenge ourselves to find that thing scripture verse, book, poem, song, stained glass, etc. that helps us open our view and see ourself and each other with God’s eyes.

Here’s looking at you! Peace,
Joy

"The Play's The Thing" -- Rev. Joy Mounts

The Play’s The Thing

Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

“...the play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King.”
Hamlet Act 2, scene 2

It is a pivotal moment in the Shakespearean play Hamlet. The prince, Hamlet, decides to have a company of players visiting the castle present a play that will (spoiler alert) forcibly remind the current king, Claudius, how he murdered his brother - the previous king - and took the throne and the queen. But it will do more than that. The play within the play will also set into motion events that will lead to further revelation and in turn, more tragedy.

What Hamlet has to say about the power of a play to help us understand deeper truths in ways that we might not otherwise is not tragic at all. Plays can do this in all manner of ways. They can challenge us, shine a light on hidden things, lift our spirits, or simply be great entertainment.

I was reminded of all this during the recent FCC Theater trip to Martin Luther on Trial. A lab production play, presented by the Fellowship of Performing Artists, it is still in development. There were a few spots where I felt a little work needed to be done, but overall I enjoyed it. Set in the afterlife in a place between heaven and hell, Lucifer has called for Martin Luther to be put on trial for committing the “unforgivable sin.” This is defined in the play as rejecting God. The play has a lot of humor as well as darker moments. I was moved by the flashbacks to the challenges of Luther’s life and faith. He was a deeply flawed person, as we all are. He struggled to understand, to live his faith, to help others and to push away his personal demons. Here was a man who changed the Church in profound ways and was a deeply committed Christian, but also always second guessed himself. It was good to be reminded of his humanity, sometimes lost through the mists of time, and that many of the challenges he dealt with are all too familiar to most of us. I know they are for me.

To sit in the darkness and be reminded of how God uses flawed people in more ways than we can imagine was one of the gifts of this play. I hope that as they put the finishing touches on it they will not change or soften this.

What are the things plays, books, poems, etc that help us to catch our conscience in ways that lead to deeper self-knowledge, help us to live our faith lives, and remind us of the grace of God? That help us to be ourselves as God sees us? As the winter turns to spring, perhaps now is the perfect time to consider this, find it where we can, and see where it takes us.

Happy Growing Season! Peace,
Joy

"Faces In the Crowd" -- Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

Faces in the Crowd

Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

CVS
The bored faces.
The anxious smiles.
The watch looking.
The foot tapping, tapping.
The loud cell phone conversations overheard and

unsuccessfully ignored.
The line that moves so slow roots begin to take hold in the

carpet,
So that stumbling may occur when asked to move forward.
The coat too hot to wear but too cumbersome to take off and

hold.

The flu shots.
Flu season.
Coughing all around.
The questions.
The comments.
The looking everywhere but ahead.
So as not to see how long the line really is.

Sorry sir, your meds were sent to another pharmacy.
No, your doctor never called that in.
They were already waiting to pick up a prescription; they get
to go before you.
You are in the wrong line.

People.
Shifting back and forth.
Feet tired.
Body tired.
Faces.
Every shade.
Every expression.
Worries etched in deepening lines.

Each in a personal space.
Don’
t get too close.
Just smile and sigh at each other.

Maybe shrug from time to time.

A child plays with the ropes keeping everyone in line.
Another cries.
The adults wish they were young enough to get away with

either.

Will I never get there?
Will I have to leave the line so I won
t be late for...?
Hurry, hurry
Wait, wait.

And every one a child of God.

JEM 2.19.16

Its that time of year when we often find ourselves in CVS or Walgreens needing something for our cold or flu and it is the last place we want to be. Where waiting seems to be the only game in town. Our coats insulate us from each other and we often see our fellow travelers as obstacles to getting what we want so we can get out of there. I was reminded of this as I was waiting to pick some- thing up. And then it struck me. Who we all were. How loved each one was. Including me. And at least for that moment, it made all the difference. Next time, I am going to try it in the gro- cery store. Maybe we all should. I dont know if it will make the waiting easier or shorter but it will remind us that we are all in good company.

Happy February! Peace,
Joy

"January's Song" -- Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

January’s Song
Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

This time of year always seems a bit harder, a bit more bland as the colorful decorations come down and are put away. Christmas is over and it is back to business as usual until Lent rolls around. Back to what the Christian Church calls “ordinary time”. But as the poet Ann Weems says, “It is anything but ordinary time!” Christmas has come. We have celebrated but there is no need to put away the hope, wonder and joy that the season inspires in us. They should stay out to be lived all the yearlong. But it can be difficult living the Christmas promise in the light of long, dark January winter mornings reminding us of how long it will be until Christmas comes again., and of the year ahead that stretches between now and then.

How do we to keep the Gift of Gifts in front of us and in our hearts at all times? By holding on to those promises that Gabriel told Mary, Joseph dreamed of, Mary sang about, the angels proclaimed, the shepherds went to find and the wise men followed. By remembering that even though we celebrate Jesus’ birth once a year with pomp and pageantry, God’s love is timeless. The waiting is over. Christmas has come and gone. Things may be packed away but as Ann Weems says in her poem to the right the rest of the story is just beginning abd that is good new for all time!.

Happy January!

Peace, Joy

"Waiting for the Paint to Dry" Rev. Joy Mounts Associate Minister

Waiting for the Paint to Dry

Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

I recently started an Intro to Watercolor Painting class, and I am enjoying it very much now. I say now, because in the beginning, I was not so sure about the whole thing. Watercolor is quite a different medium than I have worked with before. Plus, I have not painted at all in quite a while, instead doing sculpture for the past nine years or so.

In watercolor you build layers of texture and shadow. You get the paper incredibly wet and then lay down the paint before it dries, or you paint one part of the picture using more and more water to pull the paint from dark to light. What you do a great deal of the time is wait for the paint to dry before you can move on. Sometimes there is a handy hair dryer to use but mostly not. Sometimes it dries a lot faster than you want it to. I have found the class to be fun, relaxing, frustrating and taxing of my patience.

A lot like Advent. A time for waiting. A time to prepare, which means work and bustling around to get everything just so. A time for relaxing with family. A time that can be filled with much frustration. A time to remind us that something is coming - a promise, hope, God’s love Incarnate, peace.

Waiting can be so difficult and fulfilling all at the same time. We want things to happen when we want them to. In watercolor if you try to rush the process all you end up with is a mess and a muddy picture. Likewise, rushing the Advent season can leave us exhausted before we even get halfway through the month, or make us want to throw up our hands and say “Enough!” Either way, we are not taking advantage of the time that this gift of waiting is giving us. Time to wonder. Time to reflect. Time to see past all of the decorations and distractions to the celebration at the heart of it all the coming of the Gift of Gifts.

So this Advent, instead of saying, “I have to wait?!”, let us say, “I will wait with gladness and embrace the gift.” And see it for the gift it is. Even if it is only waiting for the paint to dry.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Advent and a blessed Christmas!

Peace, Joy

"A Voice" -- Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

“Help me, please help me.”
The voice called from another room down the hall.
The hospital was large, the hallways as long.
But the voice rang out loud and strong and weak and pitiful all at

once.
It didn’t stop.
Kept calling out.

“Help me.”
I looked out the door but could not see from where it sounded. Instead I saw,
People scurrying past.
Nurses in a hurry. Visitors getting to their patients. Doctors with

charts.
People meeting to whisper words.
Cleaners, chaplains, food delivery carts.
People with a purpose.
Caring, compassionate people.
Who walked by.
Had they heard it too many times before?
Had they helped and didn’t know what else to do?
Was there family in the room with him who couldn’t make him

understand where he was? I don’t know.

I stayed where I was, watching and helping the one who needed my help.

But it made me wonder.
How do we hear the helpless?
How do we give them voice?
Not just that man but all who cry out for help, for comfort, for

justice.
Through offering a helping hand, through words written spoken,

shouted?
Through protest, through art?
Through lifting them up?
Through deciding here is where I draw the line?
Is there an answer? Are there hundreds?
We are all striding through life, trying to live it to purpose.
Head down, forge ahead.
Do we hear?
Do we think, I’ll get back to that?
Are we moved but don’t think we have the tools, facts, skills, the

whatever it takes? I don't know.

But I wonder.
As the man's voice was finally stilled by help at hand And the hospital hallways quieted.

JEM 10.19.15

The above was a poem that I wrote while I was in Danbury Hospital with my Dad while he was recovering from hip surgery. 
 

How do we give voice to those who cannot always speak for themselves in a way that helps and is true to who they are? Something to ponder.

Thank you again to everyone for the wonderful October Surprise Ten Year Ministry celebration for Mark and me. It was a truly moving experience and reminded me again of how blessed and grateful I am for this amazing FCC community. Thanks also for the lovely comments, emails, and gifts. They meant more than I can express.

Happy Fall!

Peace, Joy