Friday, September 23, 2016

O, begin!

I'm reminded once again of one of my favorite John Wesley quotes as I use the Devotional Life in the Wesleyan Tradition by Steve Harper for a GaP-wide study.  [GaP= Georgia Parish] This quote can be found in other texts too.  In fact, because of "Our Covenant Oath" series this month in the GaP, I've been going back through James Harnish's The Disciple's Path to glean information for the sermon series.  Both books contain the quote, with the latter containing it in full.

"O, begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises.  You may acquire the taste which you have not: What is tedious at first, will afterwards be pleasant.  Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily.  It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days."  ~ John Wesley

In this moment I am sitting in my hammock.  I hear the birds chirping.  I can hear the water feature in the background on the patio. There is a slight breeze.  I am attempting to center my heart, soul, and mind while enjoying some of God's creation.


There are many things on my to-do list. Today is my Sabbath rest day, yet....

Because my mind is swirling with things, I know that being still is important.  "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)

Because of all the things going on in life, I also have been reminded (twice) this week of the importance to put on the armor of God daily.  I'm reminded that the situations we face aren't against flesh and blood, but against the powers and principalities.  These are good reminders.  I remind myself that it's all about God, that it all belongs to God.

In a study on Wednesday, the word "unleash" came forth from the study.  Yes!  An unleashing of the Holy Spirit to work and move in and through the people, the communities, to bring healing, hope, encouragement, restoration, etc.  Ah, what would it take for the power of God to be unleashed?!?!  What would it take for the Holy Spirit to be unleashed?!?!  O, begin!!!  That is my prayer.

May I continue the daily spiritual disciplines that I need to in order to live, love, and lead as a follower of the Way.

Resting in my hammock, reflecting on God's creation, and resting in the Word "Be still and know that I am God" is helping.

The spiritual disciplines of silence, solitude, prayer, worship, study, writing, etc. ARE for my life.  They sustain me.  Thank you John Wesley for the reminder.  Thank you God for the time with you.  Thank you community for the small group time Wednesday and Thursday night.

As I left the study time Wednesday evening, I got to see the new cross lit up at night for the first time.  It was stunning.


The cross reminds me of God's love for me and for all. And I think of the song "At the cross" and these lyrics: 'At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light...'  but I really think of them in Spanish: 'En la cruz, en la cruz, donde primero vi la luz'... and I hear Steve Green singing it.


As you read the John Wesley quote at the top of this post, what speaks to you?  What action will you take?

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

P.S. I took some time to "be still" prior to a monthly board call for FUMSDRL (Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders). My spirit is always more calm and at peace after these board meetings. This board is a great example of how meetings can be spirit filled, led, and transformational--individually and collectively.

One last picture-- a few of the things I noticed in my yard as I was on the call. All but one picture was taken after I got off the call.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Coffee, water, and a breeze



Sometimes I just need a moment to reflect, to be reminded that God's got this, whatever "this" is.

Right now I'm taking a moment.

With a freshly brewed cup of coffee, I came outside to enjoy the breezes and the sounds of the waterfall.

Breathe in, breath of God.

Breathe out, everything that is not.

Again.

And again.

Until my lungs and every ounce of my being are filled once again with the inner peace of the Holy Spirit flowing in and through me.

Yes, God's got this.

But I need reminding over and over.

I don't know about you, but I've noticed a theme coming through in my spiritual discipline of writing lately.  It has been a difficult season.  That seems to be an ongoing theme in my journey.  And, that's okay.  I continue to learn and grow through life's opportunities and challenges.

I have lots to learn.  I am a life-long learner, so learning is a great thing for me.

One thing (of many) that I continue to be reminded of is that it's all about God and it's all God's.  What this helps me with is perspective.  Even when things are swirling around me, I'm learning to see God, to be still in the chaos, and to wait for the next visible step.

There are both/and paradoxes all throughout life.  I am learning to keep my hands open, palm upward to what God would have me learn, be, do.  It's not without growing pains.

This week I had wanted to go to a friend's funeral, but I wasn't able to to attend because I knew I had to be up at 4:30am the next day for my husband's surgery.  I would have gotten in late the night before and I needed rest.  That's the second funeral in a year that I have opted out on for the priority of knowing my body needed rest.

Why do I share that?  Because the "me" 10 to 20 years ago would have pushed myself to the bitter end.  I would have tried to be all places, do all things, and I would have crashed eventually.  I still crash at times, but I just can't do what I used to.  I am learning to listen to my body and to God.

As I continue opening myself to Creator and seek to live out the greatest commandments as Jesus noted (Mark 12:30-31), love God and love others as we love ourselves, I find myself stretched, growing, changing.  My heart continues to be opened and broken, the borders of my life expanded, my life transformed.

Lincoln Brewster:  "Love the Lord"



I know we can get easily discouraged if we look around at all the problems in our daily lives, in our communities, in society, in our nation, in our world.  But, I know that I can't let that stop me from living, loving, or leading like Jesus.

I must continue to live a compassionate life, to live from the center of Christ in me.

For me, that requires time apart.  Time to be with God in silence and in solitude.  Time in prayer.  Time in Scripture.  It also means time in community with others who are like-minded.  Time in small groups.  Time in worship.  Time to take Eucharist, Holy Communion.  Time to share the love of God with others.  Time to listen.

I'm grateful for these moments of time apart, now I'm going to spend some time in community.

God is good.  Life is good.

Seeking to live, love, and lead as a follower of the way of Christ.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra


Monday, September 19, 2016

Standing where hope can be found

Today I'm thinking about God's goodness, even though my brain and body are a tad tired right now.  I've been to two hospitals in two days and will be at another one tomorrow.  Tomorrow isn't a visitation for someone in church or community though.  Tomorrow is a shoulder nerve surgery for my husband.  

I enjoy being able to visit folks in the hospitals.  It is always a blessing to be able to visit with folks, to talk, to sit, to be in silence, to pray.   There is something sacred and holy about that time of being with folks in the hospital.  I consider it to be a special part of ministry.  I always have.

Today in a meeting I was reminded to focus on what God IS doing, how God IS working, where God IS moving.

What is God doing?  How is God working?  Where is God moving?

God continues to surprise me, work through worship services and meetings to bless and encourage me, and God is moving in and through me.... even if I don't always see it.

Yesterday morning was week 3 in a stewardship series on "Our Covenant Oath-- Gifts".   Of all the Sunday mornings to forget to take the weekly check in, it was yesterday.  That got worked into the sermon.  But that's not what I wanted to share.

The opening song was a song I hadn't heard before (or if I had, it didn't register like it did yesterday) by Laura Daigle, "O, Lord".

That song touched my soul and resonated within me unexpectedly.  I picked up my pen and bulletin and jotted down one of the lines: "I will stand my ground where hope can be found."

Here are the lyrics to the song:

Whoa...
Though times it seems
Like I'm coming undone
This walk can often feel lonely
No matter what until this race is won
I will stand my ground where hope can be found
I will stand my ground where hope can be found
Oh, O'Lord O'Lord I know You hear my cry
Your love is lifting me above all the lies
No matter what I face this I know in time
You'll take all that is wrong and make it right
You'll take all that is wrong and make it right
Whoa...
Your strength is found
At the end of my road
Your grace it reaches to the hurting
Still through the tears and the questioning why
I will stand my ground where hope can be found!
I will stand my ground where hope can be found!
Oh, O'Lord O'Lord I know You hear my cry
Your love is lifting me above all the lies
No matter



I had several meetings yesterday, two of them church-related.

I was lifted up at both of the meetings.  The Scripture at the first meeting touched me particularly. The leader read portions of 2 Corinthians 4 from The Message (1-4, 7-12, 16-18).  I decided to post the entire chapter:

1-2 Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.
3-4 If our Message is obscure to anyone, it’s not because we’re holding back in any way. No, it’s because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention. All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won’t have to bother believing a Truth they can’t see. They’re stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.
5-6 Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
7-12 If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!
13-15 We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!
16-18 So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

Why did this resonate within me?  Perspective.  It reminded me to not give up, to keep on keeping on, to keep on taking risks, that on the inside God is making new life, that God's grace is unfolding.

Yes, there are hard times.  There are challenges, trials, difficulties-- of all shapes and sizes.  But, yet, even so-- God is working.  God is not done working in me or through me.  God will work through this broken and imperfect vessel.  I am grateful for the continual growth and learning opportunities, that I am not the same follower of Christ that I was 5 to 10 to 15 years ago, that God has taught me so much about grace over the years.  But I still have so much to learn.

I continue to recognize the need for silence and solitude, for time apart, for prayer, for study, for openness to the Holy Spirit.

As the breeze blows this afternoon through the leaves, I pray for a refreshing of the breath of God in me.

I don't know what it is for you in your life, on your journey that may be difficult right now.  Whatever it may be, it is my hope that there is some encouragement here from the song, from the Scripture, or even from Creation-- be it a breeze, the song of a bird, the gurgling of water... that something helps you hang on.

May the Light shine in and through the darkness so that hope can be found.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Find rest in God

I slept in this morning.  Sleeping in means that I didn't get up at 5:30 am to start the day. I got up at 7:45 am.  Truthfully, I would have liked to sleep much longer.  It's the first Saturday I haven't had anything pressing to go to or an all day workshop.  I do have work to do today.  It has been one of those weeks where I haven't been able to get out on paper what needs to get out for tomorrow's sermon on "Our Covenant Oath: Gifts".  We are doing a tag-team sermon series in the GaP Parish on stewardship, based on the 5 points of presence, prayers, gifts, service, and witness.  Today will have time dedicated to getting that sermon out of my heart, mind, and soul and onto paper.... and worked on.  I don't like it being this late in the week, but some weeks it happens.  This is one of those.

The other thing for today? Rest. Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  Heart, mind, body, and soul rest.  Fridays are usually my Sabbath day, but I made time for a super opportunity to attend a Partnership 2000 breakfast.  I also spent some time in prayer in one of the sanctuaries as I listened to Francesca Battistelli sing "Holy Spirit".  It was a powerful time of prayer for the people.


It's one of those songs that helps me center, become grounded.  It focuses me.

This morning as I got my coffee, books, and computer to head out to the patio for some quiet time, I noticed my husband had left his devotional booklet open on the table.  Whether he did on purpose or not, I don't know.  But it caught my attention.

The title, "The Survival Float" grabbed my eyes.  As a swimmer and someone who was water safety instructor (WSI) certified, I knew what that was.  Yes, I took those classes for life-guarding, WSI, and to teach swimming.

The line at the bottom of the page said, "God is a safe resting place."  Amen.

The Scripture passage for the day is Psalm 55:4-23 and the focus verse is 55:22 (NIV) -- "Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you."

Click here to read today's devotional from Our Daily Bread.

The survival float in the water allows you to rest when you are tired, exhausted, weary.


Today's reading and Scripture is a great reminder to rest.  We aren't to attempt to use our energy to keep working things out.  We are to cast our cares on the Lord and he will sustain/support us.  As we release our problems, situations, cares into the hands of a very capable supporter, we can rest.

The problems, situations, and cares don't go away.  I know that.  But, as the devotion says, "we can pause, relax, and enjoy the knowledge that He is sustaining us."

I pray for hearts, minds, and souls to find rest in God, to truly come to that place where they find peace in the One who created them and can allow the Creator to guide and direct.  I pray that for me.  I pray that for those God is allowing me to shepherd and to walk alongside.

Truly, the best place to be is at rest in the Shepherd's care.

May we all find that place of rest and peace.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

Friday, September 16, 2016

Following those nudges

Last week I saw a post where a friend was in pain and prayers were requested. I responded to the post asking if I might visit. This friend was someone I had been in Sunday school with for several years and my husband and I knew her through that group.

The answer came back that I could. I learned she wasn't in town, but up the road. Since I was going to be in Cleveland all day Saturday for an event, I asked if I could call after that to see if the timing was good for a visit.

After the training, I called. It had been a long day, but I felt that this was not something I was supposed to miss. They said come on. I drove through the beautiful countryside.

I had a very pleasant visit with my friend, assuring her family that she wasn't confused on her facts.... that yes, I was in her Sunday School class and am now a pastor serving three churches.  I can see where one might question that when they hear it.

We sat together with her two sisters. We shared some. I learned she was going to get her nails repainted. I asked what color was her favorite. After a moment, she responded "red".

Though we spoke some, we also sat in silence with one another. Sometimes there are no words.

I asked her if I could pray for her and anoint her and she said yes. We had a time of prayer.

I learned that others from the class had been up to visit her in the recent weeks. I was glad to learn that.

As we talked some more, there were some beautiful smiles that emerged. Oh, how I remembered seeing her smiling face in class and church. What a gift.

It was a true blessing to spend some moments with her and her family. I am grateful for the nudge to ask the family and to follow through.

We never know the timeline, do we? I felt a sense of urgency, but I couldn't have known.

I got the call this afternoon from her niece. She is free from pain, suffering, and cancer. For that I am grateful.

My prayers go out to her family and friends as they mourn and process the loss of a dear one, another life well lived.

As I continue to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I have more and more reason to live abundantly into my calling and to attempt to be faithful in loving God and loving others as myself.  Time is too short to not live, love, and lead like Jesus.

As followers of Christ, our lives are for the the sake of others. That means our blessings, our church buildings, our gyms, our property, our time, our energy, our money... it is all for the sake of others, for the making of disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. If we say are Christian, but we are living for ourselves, what message do we show others about Christ?

All that we have, all that we are is because of God working in us and through us. I think all belongs to God. We don't take it with us when we die.

Will I live my life, use my gifts, share the money, share the spaces I am blessed with, and love others as Christ would? Or will I bury it all in the ground until my master comes back?

It is worth risking love, risking failure, risking not always getting it right, in the hopes that I will somehow share what God has given me with others before the day I leave the kingdom here on earth.

Loss of life ways causes me to reflect on how important it is to live well... and to die well.

Cindy, I will treasure those last words you spoke to me last Saturday as I hugged you and kissed your forehead for Riley.  I know you now know the peace of Christ in a truly intimate way.

Last night after teaching, I saw these clouds. I posted the picture last night. After learning of Cindy's passing, I thought of these wings again.


Obituary for Cindy Curry

May we all recognize the opportunities we have daily to make and be a difference for the sake of others.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra






Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Selling boiled peanuts

Yesterday was one of those days.  Today may end up being another one of them by the end of it.  We'll see.  Every now and then I go to a place where I say that I will sell boiled peanuts.  It has become my "go-to" place when I am frustrated in the box, the red tape, folks not wanting to live kingdom living outward, but focused on inward living.  And it may not be lots of situations, but enough.  Enough to wear down my soul, to cause me to rethink this living, loving, and leading for Jesus thing and trade it in for selling boiled peanuts.

I would get one of those big black kettles or an old trash can to use.  Get those south Georgia peanuts. Set up on the side of the road.  Or go on the road and sell them.  I could have one on one conversations with all kinds of people and talk about their lives, their faith, their hopes, their disappointments, who Jesus is to them, what change they would like to see in their community, etc.

Ah, those are the conversations I can have on a daily basis with the folks in my life now. Yet, that doesn't seem so easy.  Most folks seem to want to protect the borders of the castle.  To talk about hopes, dreams, who Jesus is to them, what change they would like to see in their community has not been easy.

Now, don't get me wrong. There are some folks with whom I am able to have these conversations.  Yet, we all know that there are days and times that present us with challenges.

I know, no one ever promised me it would be easy.  Teaching wasn't easy either.  There was work involved there too.

My point in sharing today is this: yesterday morning before I hit the day, I was blessed with a beautiful view of the sky, of the sun rays bursting through the clouds.  That spoke to me.


This is what I posted, along with the picture: "May the sun rays break through the clouds. May the love, peace joy, hope, and strength of God prevail."

Last night as I pulled into the driveway, I caught a glimpse of a cloud formation that could be taken for a slightly bent and misshapen heart.  My heart is still in tack, albeit bent and misshapen.


There was a quote I saw in the middle of the day from the SoulCare project (from September 11) that nailed it for me.  It resonated with me.

Here is that quote: "Never shy away from opportunity and wholehearted living. Never be fearful of putting yourself out there. The courageous may encounter many disappointments, experience profound disillusionment, gather many wounds; but cherish your scars for they are the proud emblems of a truly phenomenal life. The fearful, cautious, cynical and self-repressed do not live at all. And that is simply no way to be in this world." ―Anthon St. Maarten

The quote reminded me to not shy away, to not be fearful from putting myself out there, to continue being courageous, no matter what.

No, I'm not giving up.  Yes, I do get frustrated when it seems there are obstacles after obstacles to share the love of Christ through the walls of the building into community, when turning outward with love seems like a task rather than part of the mission of following Christ, and when the focus is not on God's kingdom and trusting God to work in and through them.  Thankfully, it's really the Holy Spirit's work to do this stuff.  I am a vessel through which the Holy Spirit works.

Where I see obstacles, I am reminded that they are really opportunities; opportunities to continue to show the love of Christ and to share the mission that Christ gave, and to live, love, and lead as Christ did.

If you do see me on the side of the road one day selling boiled peanuts, stop by for a conversation, even if you don't like boiled peanuts.

Pressing on in the faith.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra

P.S.  In case you're wondering, I recognize that I don't always live, love, or lead like Christ. Thus, there are many obstacles to turn into opportunities daily for me in this adventurous journey.  I'm just trying to live it authentically.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Down by the water

This morning I went to the Chickamauga Lake boat ramp for a few moments of quiet and solitude prior to meeting with my spiritual director.

I needed some water time and I hoped to get a picture of the glorious clouds silhouetted by the sun rays. Unfortunately, the clouds were behind the trees when I arrived. I did spend some good time soaking in the view and just "being".



As I was leaving, I heard a new song on the radio with lyrics about being near the water. It resonated within.

In looking for the song I heard, I found this one:


Lyrics for "Still Water" by Sawyer Brown and Donna McElroy:

Lord, I talk too much and say the wrong things
Time and time again
Still when times get rough yours is the voice
That says I can come home again.

Chorus:
Beside the still water
This world can't touch me
You're my shield - You're my true friend indeed
You're the still water where I find my peace.

When I feel for from you all I need do
Is sit and whisper your name
You're the one place I know where I can go
And find love - that never will change.

Chorus:
Beside the still water
This world can't touch me
You're my shield - You're my true friend indeed
You're the still water where I find my peace.

When I feel I can't go on
I can feel you hand gently lead me home.

Yes you are You're the still water
Water
Where I find my peace...


The song I heard was: "He Waits For Me"


Lyrics for "He Waits For Me" by Consumed By Fire:

There's a place I go 

when I need a getaway
there's a peace I know
that soothes the soul
And this life I've found
I know it's not my own
so when I run to you
it's like I'm running home

where I find peace
I find my way
down by the water
He waits for me
where I find strength for each and every day
joy in the midst of any pain
I believe down by the water
He waits for me 

so if you're rollin’ the dice
and just tryin' to make it through
there are hands that are reaching out for you
and if you're holding back tears
and just trying to be strong
there's a place that is calling out for you
this is the place that I'm always running to
yes it is

where I find peace
I find my way
down by the water
He waits for me
where I find strength for each and every day
joy in the midst of any pain
I believe down by the water
He waits for me 

yeah 

oh there is peace
here down by the water
lay it down
here down by the water
lay it down
here down by the water
He waits
He waits
He waits for me
here down by the water
just lay it down
here down by the water
lay it down
here down by the water
He waits
He waits
He waits for me
here down by the water
There is joy
here down by the water
And there is strength
here down by the water
He waits
He waits 

where I find peace
I find my way
down by the water
He waits for me
where I find strength for each and every day
joy in the midst of any pain
I believe down by the water
He waits for me 



There was peace in my soul as I left the lake and even more peace as I left my spiritual director's home.

Making time to be still and know always refreshes my spirit.

Blessings on your journey,

Debra