Saturday, May 20, 2017

Abiding... United in Purpose


This morning I knew I needed to spend some time abiding, so I picked up my copy of Macrina Wiederkeher's Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God, a Bible, and a cup of coffee.  I headed outside to the patio.  It was already warm, but still nice to be outside.

I found my place in the book.

I am nearing the end of it.  Chapter 5-- "Return to Your Original Love"

In the introduction for this chapter, there are words that challenge me: "How easy it is to allow the flame of our early devotion to be snuffed out because of busyness and deadlines." (168)  Yep.  There are times when it is a battle to make space to be with God, to listen to God, etc.  Sometimes I am able to carve out time.  At other times it isn't enough.  Truthfully, the busier it is, the more time I need carved out.  Isn't that a paradox.  I do try to go on walks so I can listen and pray.  I use the time in my car for that too.  Yet, that isn't always enough when there is so much going on. I know that I need to fully abide, to "Be still and know" (Psalm 46:10)

Actually, I know the time is coming soon for a day apart and I just need to go ahead and schedule it with The SoulCare Project.  If I schedule it, it will be on my calendar and I will go.

Back to this morning's abiding.

Today's reading is 1 Corinthians 3 and the title for Macrina's chapter is "United In Purpose".

The focus verse is verse 10.

This passage mentions the spiritually immature, not dealing with others or God in healthy ways.  It exhorts the believers to move beyond their personal desires and focus more on what is God's purpose and way.  There is more, but that's a start.  I linked to the passage above and from there you can choose whatever version you would like to read.  It starts out in The Message version on BibleGateway.

In Macrina's chapter she notes: "The fact that he is preaching these words suggests that Paul has been informed of disharmony and divisions in the community.  He has heard about their quarreling." (170)

Later she writes: "Paul's response to all this bickering was that they should make every effort to become united in mind and purpose.  They are to return to their original love and embrace again the moment they became one in Jesus Christ." (170)

That reminds me of the song "They Will Know We Are Christians".  If we are not showing love to one another in the body of Christ, if we are not loving God, then how can we love others?


This paragraph was food for thought for me:

"When we see the heartbreaking violence and evils enacted by well-educated and intelligent people in our world today, it does seem that the so-called wisdom of this world is absurdity.  We certainly are not united in purpose.  We are far from putting on the mind of Christ." ((171)

A challenging question: "What kind of transformation needs to take place in our lives in order for us to live without divisions?" (171)

In the "Reflection and Prayer" section, this question stood out to me above the others: "Is giving up your own will a part of your spiritual practice?" (174)

As I seek to live, love, and lead like Jesus, I desire to be united in purpose with others in the kingdom.  Loving God, loving others, and making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is what it boils down to for me as I look at who Christ was, how he lived, what he said.

As Christ came to serve and not be served, may it be so with us.

As Christ said in John 6:38-- "for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me." (NRSV)

How do I see kingdom life? Here are some quick thoughts.  I see it that we are: to live, love, and lead like Jesus; to serve others; to love God and others; to do the will of God;  to be united in purpose; to be growing in faith; to be connected to the vine and connected in community.  

May it be so as the journey continues.

Peace and blessings to you on your journey, 

Debra

P.S.  You might desire to pray the closing prayer from this section.  Here it is:

"O Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,
It is love we need.  Your intent has always been to gather us together as one people.  How difficult it is for us to have one mind and one heart.  Look upon our hearts and minds so scattered and divided in their many loves. Plant in each of us a desire to be united with Jesus in a common purpose.  Make our longing for unity deeper than our longing to do our own will.  Give us a heart for others.  Give us the signs, the wisdom, and the love we need to learn the art of forgiveness, which is really the art of loving.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen." (174)





Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Combat Medic Prayer

I learned about a new prayer yesterday.

Before yesterday I hadn't heard of the "Combat Medic Prayer".  It's a prayer that really could be used by anyone in any type of medical emergency field by adapting some of the wording.

How did I learn about this prayer?  Through an unfortunate situation that turned out good, thanks to the quick response of folks.

It's a neat prayer.  Check it out:  Combat Medic Prayer.

In case you don't want to click on the above link, here is the prayer written out for you:

Oh Lord, I ask for the divine strength
to meet the demands of my profession.
Help me to be the finest medic,
both technically and tactically.
If I am called to the battlefield,
give me the courage to conserve our
fighting forces by providing medical
care to all who are in need.
If I am called to a mission of peace,
give me the strength to lead by caring for
those who need my assistance.
Finally, Lord help me take care
of my own spiritual, physical
and emotional needs.
Teach me to trust in your
presence and never-failing love.

Amen.

I am grateful for the gentleman who wore this prayer on his back yesterday and who lived out this prayer literally by putting his faith into action yesterday in a situation.


We are called to live out our faith in action.  We are called to put up our radars to be attentive to the God moments in our lives.

Watching this man who was wearing this combat medic prayer t-shirt live out his faith in action was one of those God moments.

The last part of this prayer is a prayer we can all pray, whether or not we are in the medical field:

"Lord, help me to take care of my own spiritual, physical, and emotional needs. Teach me to trust in your presence and never-failing love. AMEN."

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Lions, tigers, and bears-- Oh, my!

When three or more things happen together, the phrase, "lions, and tigers, and bears-- oh, my!", comes to mind.    I imagine many are familiar with this phrase and the movie from which it hails, "The Wizard of Oz".


Last week kinda felt like that for me in ministry.  Similar, yet not exactly the same.  It wasn't something to be scared of, it was something to celebrate.

Funerals, and weddings, and baptisms, oh my!

Last week was my first week in ministry where I had a funeral, a wedding, and a baptism.

That wasn't all that the week held.  There was a meeting with the family at the funeral home early in the week, visitation, a wedding rehearsal, two church services (with communion and the one with a baptism), and a leadership meeting.  Oh, the pre-conference briefing and the farewell reception for our D.S. were in there too.

[We also had our District Pastor meeting up at Camp Lookout last Tuesday and celebrated a wonderful time together with table fellowship, the passing of the leadership baton between the District Superintendents, and a special time of Holy Communion (which was bilingual in part and I got to lead in the Spanish.) I almost forgot about that special, holy, and affirming time.]

For the two church services, it was the kick-off Sunday to a 4 week series on "Building Relationships for Real Life", based on the book "Get Their Name".  We're doing it as a sermon series and a book study in all three churches in the Holston Georgia Parish.



There was much to prepare for and do last week.

It wasn't my first funeral.  In fact, it was my 12th.

It was my first wedding (as an officiant).

Though it wasn't my first baptism, it was my first infant baptism.  She was 7 months old and only one day younger than me.  (Her birthday is one day after mine, so she is younger than me by a day. Go with it.)

As I contemplated the liturgy for the week, there was one book from which is all came, the Book of Worship.  Some of it can be found in the hymnal and online too.  I have a copy of the pastor's pocket edition of the Book of Worship that goes with me in the car.  I am finding it to be a great companion.  I have another little green book, a smaller one, with other prayers that was recommended by a colleague that goes with me to hospitals at times.



One of the nudges I had for the funeral was to share from the Costa Rica mission trip journal from the year 2000 from the person's own words.  We had gone to Costa Rica together that year on a mission trip so I had known him longer than these two years in my current appointment.  As I read over those words in preparation for the funeral, those words spoke to me as appropriate for his home-going.

One of the nudges I had for the wedding was to share the bookmarks that had been given out at the showers for folks to pray for the couple.  They were scripture based and personalized for the couple.  It was a neat way to keep them in prayer and bless them.  It impacted me so much that it got woven into the service.

For the baptism, there were two nudges that became part of that service.  I felt led to provide baptism, encouragement, and prayer cards for everyone in attendance to fill out for the child.  These would be given to the parents to be read to the child and/or given to the child at an appropriate age.  In talking with the family about the baptism, we discussed using a shell and they mentioned having a special one at home.  They brought it.  We used it.



With the message on Sunday for the series being "Do You Know Your Own Story?", both churches had elements of either the wedding or the baptism woven into it, as well as some other God moments and faith story things God had done in community in my life recently.

Ministry can be overwhelming at times, especially when it comes together all at once.

But, I am blessed and humbled to be where I am, doing what I do, serving the people in the churches and in the communities I serve.

My faith story continues to be written as I live, love, and lead.

What an adventure this journey continues to be as I seek to love God and love others as a Christ follower.

To all of those who pray for me, encourage me, and join me in this journey, thank you.  I can not do it alone.  None of us can.

I don't know if or when I will ever experience a "trifecta" like a did last week with a funeral, a wedding, and a baptism all in one week, but I am grateful for the opportunity and experience.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Called By Name



The nudge to grab this cross and incorporate it into morning messages has happened twice now in the Easter season, once for Easter Sunday and again for this 3rd Sunday of Easter. On Easter Sunday the message was  "Is Your Identity in Christ?" and today it was "Set Free by Christ".

This cross was given to me by my Aunt Carol (also a godmother) in the 70s as a Christmas gift/ornament. It was a family tradition to give name ornaments of meaning. It hung on the family Christmas tree year after year with the other ornaments she gave me and went with me when I left home.

It has only been recently that I took it out of the Christmas ornaments and keep it with me, sometimes wearing it as a cross, and still putting it on the tree.

I don't think I understood the magnitude of this gift back in the 70s, but I am beginning to learn these days.

The verse in the back is Isaiah 43:1. It says: "I have called you by your name; you are mine." I don't know what version this is, but I suppose I could search biblegateway.com until I found it.

Called by name.

I don't know why this is on my mind so much recently, but it is.

For me to think back to having received this gift so long ago and to be where I am now on the journey is humbling.

We are all called by name, however, and created uniquely by the Creator (Psalm 139).

Whether we respond to that call and accept the gift of grace extended to us is another thing.

God loves us. God loved Christ. Twice God spoke aloud words calling Christ a beloved son. Christ knew who and whose he was. This allowed him to live into his ministry and calling. When we know who and whose we are, we can live into our ministry and calling too.

It also helps us remember that death is not the final answer.

I don't know what storms, trials, or circumstances are in your life right now. What I do know is that for me, being reminded that I am "called by name" strengthens my faith.

Peace and blessings on the journey,
Debra

P.S. This cross is made by the terra sancta guild. Check out their website by clicking here.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

District Day of Service


Today is our District Day of Service.  Folks around the Chattanooga area will be going to Camp Lookout, the Bethlehem Center, the Tri-State Food Pantry at Sand Mountain, the Free Store, Hosanna House, Cloudland Canyon State Park and campgrounds, among many others to make blankets, clean, play bingo with residents, make cleaning kits, etc.  It is also the UMW (United Methodist Women) retreat day.  They will meet in the morning and do service projects in the afternoon.

It is a beautiful day to get out and work together in community for the good of others.

It is always a blessing to serve with others.  Working with community in community allows us to get to know one another, to work together, to build fellowship.

In these days we need to seek out opportunities to work with others, to get to know them, to fellowship, to serve together.  In doing these things, we will find that we have much more in common than we may have thought and by working side by side we can bring wholeness and healing into the brokenness.

It is a step by step movement.  Day by day.

What can we do for those in our midst?

Today, I am going to the Bethlehem Center.

I'm looking forward to it.

Peace and blessings,

Debra


Monday, February 20, 2017

A foggy morning


Yesterday morning I took my coffee outside on the deck for some quiet time.  Quiet time for reflection is important for me everyday, but even more so on Sunday mornings.  I need the time and space to empty out any and all things that would get in the way of me being a vessel to share God's message during the service.  I try to let go of things that can be put on the "back burner" and make space to be filled so that I can be used for the good of others and the glory of God.

As I stood out on the deck, the fog was thick in the yard and even thicker in the distance.

I felt enveloped by the fog, held close.

Even though fog keeps us from seeing far in front of us, there is that protective sense as it surrounds us.  That's not such a bad thing.  Seeing too far down the road (metaphorically speaking) could scare the wits out of me.  By only being able to see what is right in front of me, I am forced to remain present with what is right here with me.  That is a good thing.  Learning to be more present with people and in situations is a great lesson.  Learning to live into the here and now is another great lesson.  Learning to trust that the fog will break open when needed is another.  Trust.  Faith.

Earlier in the week, I had read and studied for yesterday's sermon and felt it was going in one direction.  When I started writing, it went in another direction.  Really?!?! I shouldn't have been surprised.  It has happened more than once.  There are times when a message just bubbles inside and doesn't come out until later.  There have been weeks when the message hasn't come out fully and I've preached from sticky notes.  Personally, I don't like those.  I prefer for things to be more clear.  But, I have walked in faith and trust and allowed myself to go out of my comfort zone.  I have survived.  The messages have turned out pretty decent too, or so others have said.  I keep reminding myself that it isn't about me.  It's all about God.  It's God's message.

The fog lifted yesterday and it turned out to be a gorgeous day.

I was blessed to speak Spanish and French with someone I met for the first time at one of the churches, hear my co-pastor preach part of his message, see him bring in new members, and share with all three churches at a chili lunch sponsored by our youth.

When the fog seems to be all around, remember the good things about it-- the protection, the enveloping, the opportunity to be still and present in the moment.  With the fog all around, I could focus on the sounds that seemed more pronounced.  I wrote this on my Facebook feed: "The morning view from the deck is fogged in. I hear geese in the distance, making their way somewhere. Droplets of water fall from the branches onto the leaves on the ground. A train blows its horn. Birds chirp and sing in different languages. I am attempting to become present in this day, to what it has to offer, to whatever I am I called to give. "This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it." Thinking of friends today who will celebrate life for loved ones and many others with other situations. May the God who comforts be present with all who need comfort!"

I'm speaking to myself here.

But if you find yourself fogged in at some point, maybe these words will help.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra


Monday, February 13, 2017

Pilgrimage


Pilgrimage.

Though not a physical journey, I am taking a journey.

I am working my way through Christine Valters Painter's The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within.

I started this book over a month ago. Today I started chapter 2 and then reread my notes from chapter 1.

There is so much meat here that I need to chew slowly.

As I prepare to enter Lent, I recognize that this is the book for me for the Lenten season. Lent is a pilgrimage.

"Practices are an essential part of the pilgrim's journey. What practices would support you most in the season ahead?" (17)

As I read and reflect today, I think there are three practices I will take with me through the Lenten season this year: contemplative photography, writing, and letting go.

Letting go is a theme in chapter 2.

By learning to let go, we learn what is essential, we clear away those things or beliefs that hold us back.

One goal of growth in the Christian journey is "letting go of everything that keeps us l from God and moving us along a journey toward authentic freedom." (35)

There are items in my home that I need to let go. For example, I know there are books (gasp!) and clothes that have outlived their time.

There are thoughts and beliefs for me to let go and put aside.

My goal is to move towards wholeness, oneness.

I learned that the scallop shell is a symbol for the pilgrim's journey (38). Shells, not necessarily the scallop, are also symbolic of baptism and remembering one's baptism.

As I read and reflected today, I opened myself up to wonder, to packing lightly on this pilgrimage, and to surrendering.

I don't fully know where this pilgrimage will take me or how I will be at the end, but I look forward to the journey.

The picture above is what "shimmered " tome as I looked around the room I am in. I enjoy stain glass windows. From my vantage point, I can see the overcast sky. It is not dreary to me, but rather open and spacious, beckoning.

Whatever Lenten practice(s) you take on this season or whatever pilgrimage you may be on, may you experience a fresh renewing and awakening in your relationship with the Creator.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra