Back Roads, Jesus, and Holy Hospitality

I recently travelled to Ohio to attend a required week long class at Seminary.  Being somewhat of a novice traveller, I printed off the directions on my home PC before I hit the road. Preparation is important in the life of a Seminary student. On the best days, preparation has allowed for some smooth sailing. On the worst days, preparation was a humorous ploy to gain a sense of control of the uncontrollable.

I learned that my printed directions failed. Road construction and frequent trains derailed my carefully thought out plan. I advanced to the next best thing: GPS. Too bad those old country roads with twists and turns, land covered in wheat with sunlight sprays of gold, didn’t allow for GPS interruptions.

Failed preparation and feeling lost………….Sound familiar to anyone?

Swallowed up against the backdrop of a sunset so big you thought it might fall from the sky from it’s vastness and weight, it’s on these back roads where I felt lost, that I gained direction. I kept hearing one thing as I made my way home. The one thing I already knew, but forgot to live… Make love your aim.

1 Corinthians 14:1

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Shooting arrows of holy love aimed at bridging the gap between misunderstandings and disconnections in a world which is at best unpredictable. Darts of crimson that tell the message of hope, risk, adventure, and love of our radical rabbi, Jesus Christ.

Our best Christian witness is clothed in the one who clothed us through two planks and three nails. Radical love is required and transformative and we are in the transformation business are we not?

My host family for the week never blinked an eye when they said yes to opening their home to me. Holy hospitality was received in neither obligatory stance nor reciprocity for payment. Who flings the doors open to strangers in such a way? Oh, the beautiful Christians I have met on the road, who live a life centered in Christ and His teachings. It still makes me stop in my tracks and catch my breath.

I wanted to know one thing from this generous family, one thing they thought would be the most important of all to know as a future minister.

She answered………

“You need to love the people. Don’t forget to love them first.”

And I think that’s perfect advice.

May we always remember to stay at His feet in all that we do and love in such a way that no one mistakes the One Whom we are tethered.

.

 

 

Back Roads, Jesus, and Holy Hospitality

I recently travelled to Ohio to attend a required week long class at Seminary.  Being somewhat of a novice traveller, I printed off the directions on my home PC before I hit the road. Preparation is important in the life of a Seminary student. On the best days, preparation has allowed for some smooth sailing. On the worst days, preparation was a humorous ploy to gain a sense of control of the uncontrollable.

I learned that my printed directions failed. Road construction and frequent trains derailed my carefully thought out plan. I advanced to the next best thing: GPS. Too bad those old country roads with twists and turns, land covered in wheat with sunlight sprays of gold, didn’t allow for GPS interruptions.

Failed preparation and feeling lost………….Sound familiar to anyone?

Swallowed up against the backdrop of a sunset so big you thought it might fall from the sky from it’s vastness and weight, it’s on these back roads where I felt lost, that I gained direction. I kept hearing one thing as I made my way home. The one thing I already knew, but forgot to live… Make love your aim.

1 Corinthians 14:1

1-corinthians-14-1

Shooting arrows of holy love aimed at bridging the gap between misunderstandings and disconnections in a world which is at best unpredictable. Darts of crimson that tell the message of hope, risk, adventure, and love of our radical rabbi, Jesus Christ.

Our best Christian witness is clothed in the one who clothed us through two planks and three nails. Radical love is required and transformative and we are in the transformation business are we not?

My host family for the week never blinked an eye when they said yes to opening their home to me. Holy hospitality was received in neither obligatory stance nor reciprocity for payment. Who flings the doors open to strangers in such a way? Oh, the beautiful Christians I have met on the road, who live a life centered in Christ and His teachings. It still makes me stop in my tracks and catch my breath.

I wanted to know one thing from this generous family, one thing they thought would be the most important of all to know as a future minister.

She answered………

“You need to love the people. Don’t forget to love them first.”

And I think that’s perfect advice.

May we always remember to stay at His feet in all that we do and love in such a way that no one mistakes the One Whom we are tethered.

.

 

 

It’s All in the Recipe

Baking is my mission! I’ve been challenged by my family to become a baker. This does not come easily for me. I’ve had some successes and a few failures ( we won’t talk about those).

Since my daughter has moved into the status of “high school senior”, our lives have changed. Walking down that Senior road with her is life-giving, sweetly satisfying, and yet I’m anticipating the tearful end of something great. Prayers are going up! I hope life is meaningful and that you share it by being gathered and deeply rooted in God’s love.

shayla

Raising up a girl is like baking a cake.

Say what?

A simplistic comparison of daughters to cake will not do. I’m talking about daughters who knock your hearts right out of your chest, who inspire you, daughters who keep you full of life. And well, cake can have that same effect. Really good chocolate cake or homemade carrot cake. Savoring the sweetness while it’s here and grieving when the last piece is gone all the while knowing your life was impacted by its presence. Daughters and cake can be on equal terms.

Raising a Daughter…..

I’ve read a great book by John Ortberg titled, it all goes back into the box. He emphasizes the importance of living each day to its fullest as tomorrow is never guaranteed.

I see you parents, parents of seniors, and feel your grief along with mine. I pulled out a calendar and counted. I have 263 days left with Senior daughter. I’m crossing one of those days off today. I hope that I was present to her and that I taught her something I’ve been meaning to get to, told her how much I love her, anything substantial and meaningful.

I see you, moms and dads. Working hard to give your kid everything you didn’t have when you were young. And I see your tears as you smile when you anticipate their departure into the wide, wild world of adulthood. I see you.

Raising a Daughter…..it takes a good baker and a lot of ingredients.

Over 17 years, this senior daughter has taken in a lot. She’s been shaken, stirred, refined, and today sits on the threshold of masterpiece. I wish I could take credit for all that I see in her, but many have poured into her life.

Main ingredients: love, kindness, creativity, fun, laughter. Grandparents who always showed up and offered these ingredients unconditionally.

Additional ingredients: perseverance, tenacity, curiosity

Moms and Dads who poured out these traits in their own life and sparked a young-mind in the process. Parents who have a life-long love for learning inspire others around them. You parents who work long hours, create family dinners amidst the chaos, and speak love into your child’s life. I see it. We see it, in them.

 

Daughters and Cake…. too simplistic? If you knew how much I love cake this makes perfect sense. Every day we have left with our Senior can become a precious moment to add another spice, cup of sugar, candy-coated decoration to this already created gourmet goodness.

I’m marking off the boxes on the calendar with tears in the wells of my eyes. Looking at her with all of her anticipation for the future. A piece of heaven showing me a glimpse of God’s unending love for all of us. Praying that I’ve emphasized enough how much Jesus and chocolate can fix anything!

Senior Daughter… She is at the 17-18 year old threshold, a liminal space. She holds the tension of this place so exquisitely, balancing between known experiences and bursting enthusiasm for the new life ahead. Ready to make big decisions altering the course of life; aka college, career, travel. And as I look at her in this space, it all comes rushing to my mind, this masterpiece was created through so many ingredients, stirred by many hands, over many boxes on the calendar. Time and love can create masterpieces like cake……. and daughters.

Please know that she contributed to her own craftsmanship. Her perseverance, dedication, vulnerability and mindset allowed her to open opportunities and paths ahead.

Our family is thankful for what the Lord has done and may all of what we do in life attest to the glory of God.

Looking at the fullness of my daughter now, I am able to see where God’s hand interwove in her heart.

So, I am with you parents’ of seniors. Every day is a gift and at the end of this road a bittersweet moment will surely come to pass.

And now the revelation comes to me through the favorite scripture of her’s….

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25

cheer

A Life Worth Living

hope-found

Hope Found…..

Working as a mental health counselor, I listen to personal stories for a living. I am always deeply touched and honored when a person shares a glimpse into their world, including the many trials, relational challenges, and inner struggles that may occur from time to time. What I’ve learned are the common threads among us, young and old, that are woven through us.

First, life is messy. It’s often unpredictable and chaotic at best. Second, people sometimes hurt us. Our families and friends disappoint, we don’t get the promotion we had hoped for, or our children make mistakes we don’t foresee. Yet somehow, we keep on moving ahead, left foot then right.

I once knew a woman who was really struggling, we’ll call her Lydia. Past wounds were wide open and seeping into every aspect of her daily life. For her, surviving the day was the main objective and mission. Depression had the upper hand and the medications weren’t strong enough to hold off the beast. Emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially bankrupt Lydia hit rock bottom. Or though she thought……

God gives us an intricately woven plan for our good….

jeremiah_29-11

Lydia began to take steps to heal, first in counseling and finally in the church across the street. Now the church was not much to look at with its peeling paint and broken brick foundation. It’s what was inside that was beyond beautiful, past any human measurement. In that church, Lydia found the unexpected. She found old pews filled with smiling women and bouncing babies on their laps. Lydia found really good food where no exchange of money was required. She found warm and caring people that remembered her name and who called her children by theirs.

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Lydia’s heart began to soften. This sacred space full of life-giving people allowed Lydia a space to let down her guard and receive what was hers all along, the grace and mercy of her savior, Jesus Christ. It was God’s promise lived out in others, a mirrored reflection of love.

It was here that Lydia discovered her purpose in life and found redemption of her suffering, true freedom. It was here where she began to live in the daily resurrection, out with the old and in with the new, all for God’s glory.

Not everyone has a happy ending such as Lydia’s, many continue to suffer. Lydia’s story has given me a powerful and memorable notion in redemption and transformation in the hand and heart of God. I will never underestimate the chance that at any given moment God can and will intervene in someone’s life in such a mighty way that they will forever be transformed.

JEHOVAH-NISSI

There is no pill, no prescription, that will solve our deepest pain.

There is no substitute for the radical love given from the body of Christ to others.

When we learn and come to fully know Jesus, we finally see ourselves as beloved.

Lydia’s story goes much deeper and richer than this text, but I will leave it on this note. That woman, Lydia, back when she was feeling worthless, ashamed, beaten down and broken…….she was me.

Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 5:1-5 give us God-breathed words about suffering turned to redemption, woundedness turned to life. God knows our pain and works out things for our good in His plan.These words also bring us into hope for the church. The body of Christ shines through old buildings and stained carpet aisles. The hope is not found in newly constructed and modern furnished rooms, but in the souls who fill them. God’s divine promise seen in and through the love of others. It’s powerful, transformative and it’s forever.

 

A Suitable Reflection

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I will begin to step forward in the path of becoming a UMC pastor in December. The discernment for this has been met with joy, fear, anticipation, doubt, and deep reflection. As I write of my experience, the anxiety of it all begins to seep in.

2 Timothy 1: 6-7   For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.

I remain hopeful that the desire in my heart to serve the people who have loved me to the ends of the earth will feel that flame. The burning desire to know God completely. How He loves us every day despite our mood.

My largest struggle has been the question “who am I to walk in those shoes?” Doubt of being good enough. I do not have a pure white past nor a family lineage of pastorship. The idea of not being good enough leads to covering up past ill decision-making and regretful circumstances, but these are the same things that Christ has lovingly redeemed for me. It has been a year-long unveiling of my inner soul who constantly yearns to serve and serve transparently.

Make in me, a clean heart, dear Abba. You know my yesterdays, my today, and my tomorrows that await me. Help me to serve each day with a thankful heart and fire for you, O God. Amen

Treadmill Epiphanies

treamill running

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize~ 1 Corinthians 9:24

This past month has been a constant struggle to add some self-discipline into my daily walk. Just returning from a beach vacation where there were no time restraints, no agendas, nor work commitments adds to the struggle.

I’ve jumped back onto leading a healthy lifestyle, full-force, and it has been difficult. Changing a lifestyle of 10 years is like pulling teeth and starting over with new habits to replace defunct ones is painful. Baby-steps is what I tell myself. So, yesterday I searched my heart and found a loving God who was willing to lend a hand…..

I ended my day with a run on the good ole’ treadmill at the local YMCA. I am not a natural runner and with each stride comes the pain and the effort to remain steady on my feet as not to fall flat on my face. As I moved forward, one foot in front of the other, I could feel the burning of my shins, my ankles weak, struggling to stay steady. My entire body was tightening under the pressure…I was feeling the burn. When the pain became too much, I opened my eyes, and there was my God. The one who never leaves my side, the constant presence, adoring me in all of my awkwardness. My God, who was cheering me on despite the fact that I have brought all of this mess onto myself over the years. Pain, sweat, and tears, He loves me still……...

songofsolomon 2.10

Hope arises up past the burn. This mysterious God, three-in-one, shows up when I need Him, every time, constant. My race is for this eternal one, the one who spiritually feeds my deepest needs. My God, the one who is true and good.

This race I am running is toward the glory of God. I long to live as long as I can to let my life be a testimony of this God who has given so much for me. Staying healthy and fit to see my the faces of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Living another day in adoration of my God and to hear the sound of my daughter’s laughter just one more time. Her laughter on my ears is like new life, new beginnings, joy times ten.

We are all in this race together, trying to keep our heads above water, striving toward the prize. I will end with this scripture that hits it home for me.

Hebrews 12:1-3 ~Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

God bless all of you in this race and always choose love in all that you do………..

God and the Crusty Crab

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Psalm 145:21     My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name forever and ever. 

My family just returned from a much-needed 2-week vacation at the beach. I expected to spend my time relaxing at the beach, take in a few local sights, and watch my daughters take in all the wonders of the east coast. 

We spent a few days at the beach and came across a huge horseshoe crab. We saw some other cute ones like the picture above, but the large, rocky arachnid caught us by surprise. In fact, we were swimming in the very area where a gentleman scooped him up in. “I knew I felt something on my leg,” my daughter and I both chimed. We could only see this crusty crab as ugly and gross. I spent the rest of my vacation vigilantly searching the swimming area just in case another water specimen showed up. You know, just in case. At least I could make a mad dash up to the shore to escape these claws of death on my toes. Looking back, I’m confident that I was scaring him a little. After all, I was the one showing, up unannounced on his turf. 

What I learned on this trip………..

God always has a way of showing up, teaching me something new, and sometimes helping me to unwind years of entangled thinking. In my simple mind I only wanted to relax and sip a cool drink on the beach. Why now God? Why must I learn something now?

      Genesis 1:21     So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it,..And God saw that it was good. 

God created this horseshoe crab and named it good. It has life and a purpose. Maybe the purpose was to freak me out a little. He helped me to see that I still have fears and worries. He helped me to see God in all things, not just in other people. 

I learned on this trip that I still have a dozen fears, undiscovered, but still unsettled. Fear of unknown creatures, fear of the what-ifs, and discovering that God, family, and love are still the top three even at the beach.

I always was set on moving some place near an ocean.I had a premonition that salt-life was better and now at a much wiser age, I still find my thoughts drifting there. I could pack up and move 1200 miles away to enjoy coastal living, but all that I would lose is so much more. I would no longer be close to my parents, the ones who gave me life by giving theirs away. I would miss my friends, church family; my roots. 

For now, the beach will be a vacation spot. A place to discover God and His creation, even the crusty crabs.

Psalm 145:21     My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name forever and ever

How I came to join the United Methodist Church

UMC Logo

     My faith journey is unique, with ups-and-downs, and is centered in the loving kindness of many other believers. How or why God decided to see me despite my many flaws, I will never understand, but will always be forever thankful.

     I have read hundreds or articles, documents, and studies about what brings one to church. How do we reach the unchurched, the lost persons of society, or the next generation? Church leaders, consultant groups and business minded professionals have studied hard to answer this question. Countless books have been written and surveys conducted, with various conclusions. Perhaps the answer is staring us in the face. Maybe the answer is much simpler than we think. Definitely, we cannot forget that God is the main ingredient whether or not a person has even an ounce of curiosity about seeing what the body of the church is all about.

     Condensing my faith journey into 200 words or less would be nearly impossible. My faith journey is similar to most and unique among others. I’m guessing. I can not really be sure if one’s spiritual walk is authentic or not. Nor would I ever try and guess one’s salvation. That is only between them and God. Period.

     Three things brought me to the United Methodist Church. The first thing was a busy parking lot. What’s that you say? Yes. It was a busy parking lot with the hustle and bustle of people everyday of the week. It prompted a curiosity in me to wonder what these people were doing as I peeked out my living room window. Point here is don’t underestimate the power of a busy parking lot. People are watching. People are wondering.

The second thing that brought me into the church was a feisty, red-haired lady named Suzanne. Rest her soul, she is with the Lord now, but she met me where I was. One day I watched her hurriedly walk toward my porch and met me on the sidewalk. She was not particularly polite or charming on that day, but she was not afraid to come to me. She stood on my turf and showed a small bit of interest. I later grew to love her dearly. Second point: the power of one person showing interest and able to meet you on your own turf is powerful.

The third thing that brought me into the church body was food, something to eat for me and my family. I was a single-parent for over a decade and I was tired. I was exhausted on all levels and the church across the street had a Wednesday night meal. What did this mean for me? It provided relief for me in many ways and allowed me to recharge as a parent. Although at that time, I only saw that I was hungry and the church had a meal for me. I could never have comprehended the spiritual poverty of my soul and how Jesus Christ had set a heavenly banquet for me. The church not only fed me a nice dinner, but Christ swooped in and fed me spiritually. I never saw it coming.

      Another question people often ask of the church is what’s in for me? What do you gain? What’s the point? I could give a theologically concise answer about what the church stands for, its history, and the importance of eternal life in Jesus Christ. While these are of extreme importance, I would like to answer this by listing the things that I lost by coming into the church. Yes, I lost a lot of things. Big things. Things that I would have preferred to hold onto. I lost fear, loneliness, anger, discontentment, and a CEO “lone ranger” mentality. I lost fear to become a woman that God created me to be. Fear of failure, fear to step outside my comfort zone, fear to love others. I lost anger and depression that haunted me for more than a decade. I no longer worshiped material things like cars, career, clothes, and things. They became insignificant in this pursuit of something more meaningful. The CEO mentality that I possessed began a metamorphosis into a more humble attitude.

What I lost became all that I gained……..

Going Forward

Today, I am blessed to become into the church as an official member. I am jumping for joy to be a United Methodist.

God has filled the empty place in my heart and has given me a sense of purpose and belonging. God and the church are my “home base” for all things in life. Today’s adoration is that I am thankful for all that God has fed me. I hope to always have a thankful heart and to become fully alive in the missional life of the UMC.

Hosea