Lent is traditionally a season of fasting and prayer. During this time, Christians pay close attention to spiritual disciplines that deepen our understanding of what God is doing in our lives and in the world. As a Congregation, we are developing our Lenten discipline through the Daniel Plan and the Walk to Jerusalem.

In the coming weeks we will be hearing about and praying for the ministries of compassion and justice done through our support of One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS). Jesus’ ministry was among those who were most vulnerable. He preached good news to the poor and release to the captives. One Great Hour of Sharing helps us share this same good news to those same vulnerable people in our world today: those who are hungry, who are suffering from disaster, who are dealing with oppression and injustice in society. Every gift made to this offering will meet the needs of people, and you will hear about just a few of these individuals over the coming weeks — in bulletin inserts and minutes for mission. These stories will help us to see the faces of those whose lives have been changed by our gifts, but they are only a few of the thousands and thousands of people served in this important ministry.

I’d like to invite you to visit the OGHS website (www.presbyterianmission.org/oghs) to find out more information on how your gift helps people all over the world, and offer prayers for the people and projects who receive this support. We will have Gracie Fish banks to collect change for OGHS. This offering will be given to our children’s Sunday School class to support a mission of their choosing from the Presbyterian Giving Catalogue. Last year the children were able to help 4 or 5 kids with school supplies.

That brings me to the challenge, which also relates to our support of One Great Hour of Sharing. While we trust our OGHS programs to respond to the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors, those programs can only do so to the extent of our generosity. I challenge each of you to give strong consideration to increasing your gift to the offering — you’ll see how giving opens your heart to God’s work in your own life. So I hope that you’ll join us on Palm Sunday and that you’ll join Christians all across the country in opening their hearts to witness tangibly to the abundant love of God through One Great Hour of Sharing. Yours in the love and grace of Jesus Christ, Rev. Julie Sterling

This month our church is going to do something new. Something out of the box. During
our Rally Day last fall, we used the story of Daniel as the theme for the new year. In the Bible we learn that Daniel was strong in faith to God. He was committed to his community and worked hard to develop relationships. He was careful about the food he ate and made sure to maintain a healthy body. Above all, he centered his life on witnessing his faith to others.

With Spring around the corner, the theme of new life is starting to show its face to the world; a reminder of God’s presence in our life. “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

Starting March 10, our church will embrace the qualities of Daniel as we make our way to Easter
Sunday. As part of our Lenten focus, the Invitation Team is offering two programs to encourage holistic healing and growth. The first program is the Daniel Plan. Through the Daniel Plan, participants are given tools in order to develop our relationships with faith, food, fitness, focus, and friendships. The wonderful part is that we do it together as community and with the help of God.

The second program is Walk to Jerusalem. Through the Walk to Jerusalem, members track
different activities which have set miles. These activities include physical fitness, fellowship,
spiritual growth, outreach, and worship. Like the Daniel Plan, this is a program we do together,
tracking enough miles to make our way from Suffolk Virginia to Jerusalem. We will have the children help tally miles each week which will help them see our commitment to growth during the Lenten season.

Now you may wonder how these programs fitinto your life. If you are anything like me, your
schedule is filled with things to do. You may be hesitant to take part in what looks like a new “diet fad” or “self-help program”. The great thing about the Daniel Plan is that the focus is on making healthy life choices. The end goal is being the best self you can be and do this together with God. In Jerimiah 32:27 God tells us “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” Whenever we let God lead, how fail. Besides, part of Lent is taking time for Sabbath to recommit ourselves to God. These programs give you time throughout the
week to stop and be with God. The best part about both these programs is that they can be used together to complement each other or independently. Also, with the Daniel Program, each week has a new focus. You do not have to go through the whole process to get something out of the plan.

I encourage you to join me in these wonderful programs during the Lenten season. Through the Daniel Plan and the Walk to Jerusalem we can work together to be the best self and a healthier church.

Rev. Julie Sterling

Interested? Please register below or contact the church office:
The Daniel Plan Registration Form

Walk to Jerusalem handout:
Walk to Jerusalem Handout

The following appeared in Feb. 2019 edition of “The Bridge”

For the first time in a long while, I thought I had everything figured out. In the final
weeks of December I had set a budget for the New Year, the house was clean and organized, and I’d set some personal goals for myself. After a long and stressful year, I had finally found a sense of peace. Funny how things change in a moment. On December 27th, four days before the beginning of the New Year, I found out we would have to move. We quickly found a new place to live and I can honestly say our new home will be a blessing for us. Things are changing for the better.

Yet, with this change comes a new game plan. The reality is that this move is a best case scenario. We get to stay in our current neighborhood just a few blocks down the street. I’ll still get to walk to work every day and be close by the church in case of emergencies. The greatest blessing is that we are moving locally instead of the normal cross country venture. The only real worry is for our dog Cooper who will have a hard time on daily walks not running up the steps of 413 Western Avenue.The new normal involves nightly packing sessions. I admit this time around I haven’tbeen has organized as in the past. Since the move is a matter of blocks, I’ve found myself throwing things into boxes and laundry baskets with the promise that a sorting process will be put into effect later.

One evening while “sorting through old  T- shirts and gym socks, a friend sent me a link to a new “tidying up method” developed by organize expert Marie Kondo. The process is called the KonMari Method and is featured in her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. In Kondo’s method, it is suggested that we tidy up not by room but by category,
starting with clothes, then books and miscellaneous items and finally making our way to
sentimental items. The challenge is to only keep things that “speak to the heart” and discard the rest by “thanking them for their service and then letting them go”. The ultimate goal is to create a living space that “sparks joy”.

As I learned more about the KonMari method I decided this may be a good commitment
for 2019, not just for my own home but also for the life of the church. Isn’t our goal as Christians to find what sparks joy in our life with God. According to Nehemiah 8:10 “ the joy of the LORD is your strength.” In the KonMarie method there are six basic rules that I feel can be a guide for our congregation as we start a new year:
1. Commit yourself to tiding up. How can we as a congregation take the first steps to
work towards a focused ministry that sparks true joy?
2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle. What dreams or wishes do you have for the church that
fit within our mission statement for SPC?
3. Finish Discarding first. What must we do to get organized so our ministry can speak
to the heart of our mission and spark joy to the congregation?
4. Tidy up by category. What ways can we reorganize our various ministries to speak to
how God is calling us today?
5. Follow the right order. How do we work together as a church family to build a
ministry for the future by doing the process that is prayerful and speaks to the heart
of the congregation and?
6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy. How do we create moments for reflection and feedback
so we can build a faith community that “sparks joy” for the group as a whole?
I look forward to the rest of 2019 with all its twists and turns and I hope this year’s
journey is meaningful for our all. Remember “the joy of the LORD is our strength”!

Rev. Julie Sterling

There is something so sweet about Christmas that I long to hold onto. I’ve found much needed hope in
the nativity scene tucked under my Christmas tree and the Christmas lights outside my living room
window provide a comfortable peace at the end of a long day. It is hard to believe that 2018 is almost at an end.

As we move forward to a new year, I worry. This past year has been long and difficult for many. I’ve
spent a great deal of time in prayer for our nation, for our community, and for friends and family I hold dear. I long to find the hope touches my soul when I view the Christ child in the manger. Even as I turn my focus to my joy and faith in God, I still wonder what the New Year will bring.

As a Pastor, and as a person of faith, I believe that God will provide blessings upon blessings. I know
this is the time where faith is important. Yet, it is not easy to look forward with hope and joy when most of us are tired, worried, and in some cases even a little broken.

This morning I come to God in prayer with the words I’ve lifted up most of this year:
God be with us in this time of need. Help us get past economic and political injustice. Help us to look
upon one another equally as brothers and sisters. Help us to work past our differences and end
violence. Above all else, help us to follow your path and live our lives guided by your love.
I believe that God is calling us today to look forward in hope and let go of the pain and hardship of the past year. Let us remember and learn from what we have experienced this past year and vow to do what we must to make our future better.

I take heart in the words of Philippians 3:13-14 as the moments count down to 2019:

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

May each one of you have a blessed New Year. May the gift of Jesus guide you in hope. May the Holy
Spirit surround you with peace and love. In closing, I share with you a Celtic prayer to start out
your day. In the Celtic spiritual tradition, each day is viewed as a new start with God. May you find hope and excitement this new day with God!

Celtic Prayer
God, bless to me the new day,
Never vouchsafed to me before;
It is to bless Thine own presence
Thou hast given me this time, O God.
Bless Thou to me mine eye,
May mine eye bless all it sees
I will bless my neighbor,
May my neighbor bless me.
God, give me a clean heart,
Let me not from sight of Thine eye;
Bless to me my children and my wife,
And bless to me my means and my cattle.

A traditional Celtic prayer translated by Alexander Carmichael (1832-1912), compiler of oral
traditions in Scotland. Source: Academia
Rev. Julie Sterling

In the lead up to Christmas, many of us spend time in search of the perfect gift — the gift that communicates to friends and family how much we know and love them. We search our memories for indications of what gift might cause the faces of our loved ones to light up on Christmas morning. We scour the stores and shops, hoping to come across the thing that will communicate a depth that our words cannot.

Although we cannot give the perfect gift, we can give generously, knowing, as the New Testament letter of James says, “every generous act of giving … is from above.”

For those of us who gather in Advent expectation, we know that the only perfect gift ever given was the one we received in Jesus Christ. The Christmas Joy Offering celebrates the coming of Jesus Christ, the “perfect gift” from a gracious God.

Devoted and caring leaders have led many of us in the way of Christ. Church workers have shaped our faith and they have been God’s gifts among us. As we celebrate Christ’s coming, and think of the profound impact these individuals have had on us, the Christmas Joy Offering provides a way for us to offer a gift in response.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), through the Christmas Joy Offering, helps us respond to God’s gift with generous gifts supporting church leaders among us, retired, present and future, who have pointed us to God. For church workers in need of financial help, whether due to declining health or a catastrophic event, such as Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, Christmas Joy provides for those needs through the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions.

Even as we support our current and former church leaders, God is calling new leaders for our Church and world, through the ministry of Presbyterian-related schools and colleges equipping communities of color. For students receiving scholarships and support at Menaul and Presbyterian Pan American secondary schools, and Stillman College, a Historically Black College, the generosity of Presbyterians means a brighter future and enhanced opportunities to use their talents and skills to serve God, the Church and the world for years to come.  When you give to the Christmas Joy Offering, you help sustain these promises and uplift our brothers and sisters in Christ by reducing their burdens and opening new paths of opportunity.

We can never match God’s perfect gift in Jesus, but through the Christmas Joy Offering, we can testify to who we have known God to be. Our perfect gift comes from above. Our gifts reflect our generous God. Our gifts support leaders in our Church and world — past, present and future.