Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What a morning! An Incredible Adventure!

I thought yesterday was a great adventure.  Truly, it was.  I posted on social media that it was a great day.  I met a new friend and got to "kick" him in prayer, learn about him and his story, share some resources with him.  I also had lunch with my Mom and brother.  I got to hang out with my husband on his lunch break that they now get at work.  I spoke with two pastors on the phone yesterday, one who is retiring and is at the churches I am projected to go to and another in South Carolina who is also a spiritual director and in Hearts on Fire.  I attended my kid's final middle school band concert last night and that was a super blessing!  Then I came home to a fire in the fire pit.  Ah, what an adventure yesterday was!

Today did not need to try to out do yesterday.  This is not "Survivor".  Though, after this morning, I can definitely reiterate that my life is TRULY an adventure.

Here is the devotional I read from Jesus Calling this morning as I started my day:

I knew my choice-points-- walking, TKD (taekwondo), Bible Study, homework, a meeting this evening.  I was reminded here to make choices one at a time.  Not a problem.

I captured a beautiful picture of the sunrise from my deck and posted this on Facebook before my morning walk:

"A new day is dawning. A wonderful cool breeze. I have to finish exegetical notes for an assignment. The other thing on my mind today is my first staff parish meeting at my projected appointment. Tonight I meet them and they meet me. This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. Holy Spirit, you are welcome here!"

I went walking at the Greenway.  I met up with my walking partner, Heather, and off we went.  We ran into another black belt, Dana, and walked and chatted with her for a while.  After our walk, my car battery was dead.  Just like had happened to us on vacation in Florida a few weeks back (an adventure I didn't share with too many folks, though I did post on Facebook).

I got out the jumper cables and connected them to Heather's car.  I shared my morning devotional with Heather, laughingly.  I figured I would take the car to get it looked at because the folks in Florida said it was okay.

On my way to the mechanic, right smack dab on Hixson Pike before you get to Big Ridge road traffic light, my car died.  Dead.  I stopped for the light and it just died.  I noticed when the light turned green.  I turned on the hazard signals, but there was no reaction.  TOTALLY DEAD.  Not wanting to get hit from behind, I hopped out and started directing traffic like an airport person, waving folks over to the other lane.  (I was in the left hand lane.)  Lauren, a manager at Starbucks who was about to go hiking, came out and helped me direct traffic while I called 911.  I got my insurance information out of the car to call a tow truck.  Somehow the car automatically locked when I closed the door.  I didn't know that until several people were going to help move the car out of the street. 

Lauren and I waved off traffic while waiting for the police.  I didn't want someone to hit a stopped car.  The hazard lights finally came on, but because of the sunshine, you couldn't see them.   And, evidently it was difficult to see two woman waving down traffic at times too.  Then Shannon showed up.  Even three women are difficult to see.  Shannon and Lauren were life savers.  A friend from church, Laura, stopped to ask if we needed anything.  There really wasn't anything to be done.  There were several offers to move the car, but with it locked.  OOPS!

Finally, the police man came and gave us a protected blue light barrier.  My first words to him?  Can I kiss you?  That probably shocked him.  I meant on the cheek.  That's how grateful I was.

Lauren took off to go hiking (I can't wait to hear about her adventures) and Shannon went to work.   Thank you ladies!

With the policeman there I called my husband at work to call the wrecker.  I didn't have their number programmed.  Nor was I going to take the time to go through insurance and wait any longer.  There is a time and place for that.  Today wasn't it.

You see, today is my initial interview with my first projected assignment.  I am projected to the GAP Parish and I meet this evening with the staff parishes of the three churches.  Initially I was only to meet with the staff parish of the Parish, but we are all getting together.  That is cool!  But today of all days for my car to die?!?!  And to die not once, but twice?!?!  And in the middle of Hixson Pike?!?!

After I make the phone call about the towing truck, the policeman invites me to sit in the cruiser, in the back.  COOL!  As I'm back there, I faintly here something about amazing grace.  Hmmm.... sounds like faith music.   I asked him what the radio was and he responded 88.9.  That he keeps it there.  I knew that to be Moody Bible Radio.   I mentioned that God sent me a fellow kingdom walker to my rescue.

We continued to talk off and on as we waited for the tow truck.  I asked his name.  He said, Martin.  Martin Santos.  I caught my breath.  I switched over to Spanish and in Spanish, said to him, then I guess you speak Spanish.  We spoke Spanish for a moment or two.  I told him that not only did God send me a fellow kingdom walker, but God sent me an angel who spoke Spanish.  On the day that I go meet with my first (projected) churches, God sent me someone who speaks Spanish.  Wow!! 

Why does that mean something to me?

I continue to be amazed, frankly, that God has called me into pastoral ministry and that God has continued to affirm CLEARLY my gifts and graces to and for the Hispanic people.  Yet, I haven't seen things work out.  But, obviously things are working in the darkness, in the cocoon, back behind the scenes where I cannot see.

My two year bilingual Academy experience affirmed my calling with Spanish over and over again.

After talking with Martin, he said that if I had told him I spoke Spanish when he first saw me, he would have responded with 'yeah, right... it's going to snow.'  Remember, I don't look latina.  I only am one by heart, «por corazón».   God used Martin to affirm my calling this morning.  Wow!  Tears literally came to my eyes when I realized that this policeman spoke Spanish and was puertorriqueño.  Spanish is my heart language.  My heart was overwhelmed and blessed this morning.

The tow truck came.  Somehow the car was thankfully in neutral and they were able to load it.  I asked Martin for a ride to BiLo so I could get my husband's car and the other set of my car keys to take to the mechanic.

I got to ride in the back seat of the cruiser!

Before Martin left, I asked if I could pray for him.  I didn't have the guts to ask if I could "kick" him. ☺  I also asked if he knew "tic tac" and passed along a message of greeting for him. ☺

If you think you saw me standing in my Dalton High t-shirt today on Hixson Pike in front of the BP Kangaroo, you did.  That was me.

me, back at home, safe and sound

There were a few moments that I didn't think I would still be here.  But, like I said, I didn't want my car to get hit or others to get hurt and cause more of an issue.

God is good.  I experienced God as protector today.  I experienced God as guide today.  I experienced God as messenger today.

Thank you God for the messages, the guidance, and the protection.

Thank you for all the hands and feet that offered help and that stayed by my side today.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for each of you.

Gracias, Señor, por siempre estar conmigo.  Thank you, Lord, for always being with me.

Life truly is an adventure for me.  There are days when it is more adventure than I could bargain for, but I will live into it the best I can.  My morning post on Facebook?!?!  Am I still rejoicing?!?! You bet I am.   To rejoice is a choice.  Regardless of the circumstances, I can rejoice and count it all joy.

How is your adventurous journey going?

Blessings and peace!

Debra  ☺

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Have you been kicked today?

"Have you been kicked today?"

That is what I was asked by someone I had just met yesterday as we stood in a parking lot alongside Hixson Pike across from the Harvest Grocery.  It is a strange question to begin with and even stranger when it comes from someone you have just met.

I looked at my new friend Byron and told him no, fully expecting to be kicked in the next moment or two.  (I am known to kick folks gently while walking side by side with a side twist kick, something I started doing long before I ever took taekwondo.) He reached over, put his hand on my shoulder and started praying for me and my family.  Wow!  When he finished, he told me I had just been kicked.  Wow!

Byron "kicks" people all the time.  He kicked everyone of us, not leaving a single person out.

The entire time Byron was "kicking" all of us, I was thinking that we should be "kicking" him, praying for him.  He was the one out job hunting on this day.  He was seeking a solid job opportunity. Before we went our separate ways, we did get the opportunity to pray with and for Byron, but not before Byron had beat us to the punch, so to speak, and in a very creative way.

Let me ask you, have you been kicked today?

If not, this is for you:  Father God, be with my friend reading this today.  Meet them in the circumstances of life where they are, guide them, and provide for them.  Encourage them and fill them with peace and joy.  Amen.

Consider yourself kicked.

Blessings on your journey,


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Reflections provoked by a church sign...

"Can you figure God out?  Um no.  But keep trying."

That's what the church sign stated.  I passed it the first time heading to TaeKwonDo (TKD) class today and it started me thinking the rest of the way to my workout.

Then I passed it again later while running errands and it continued to speak to me.  On the way back from my errands, I stopped to take a picture because I was still "chewing" (thinking) on what it said.

The first part of that message grabbed my attention.  Obviously.

"Can you figure God out?"

My response and thought as I saw that?  "No."  In fact, the sign told me, "Um no."  But I already knew that.  God is mystery.  God is bigger than I can fathom, imagine, try to think.

It was the next part of the message that sent me on a "roll" (so to speak).  The sign states: "But keep trying."

I got confused here.  What did they mean by that?  Why would I keep trying to understand an entity that is mystery?  God, Creator, cannot be fully understood.  Why would I spend time and energy trying to understand something that I will never be able to understand?  This part of the quote/message did not make sense to me.

I don't see how it is necessary for me to "understand" God better and even how me trying to do so is profitable.

Now, before you think I'm more alien than the blog title states ("The Journey is an Adventure; I am an Alien) or than you already knew, let me continue.

Let me begin by repeating one thing I already stated-- God is mystery.

It's not that I don't want to know God or be in relationship with God, but I think that is different than trying to understand God.  I am more than willing to keep spending time in relationship with God in silence, in solitude, in prayer, in Scripture, in community, in worship, in Holy Communion, in creation, etc. in order to know God better in that relationship.

I do believe that we can grow into some understanding of God through our relationship, but to think that I/we will ever figure God out?!?!  No, I don't believe that.  Honestly, I don't want to figure God out.   I want to be in relationship with God, but I don't want to figure God out.  There is something there that doesn't sit right theologically with me.  Maybe because I like God being mystery and God knowing more than me.  God being Creator God is the One in charge, not me.  ☺  That doesn't take away my responsibility to take care of myself, those in my life, or creation.  But it does free me up from having to take on things that aren't mine to take on.

And one of those things that isn't mine to take on (in my humble opinion) is trying to figure God out.  I'm not going to try.  Sorry, message sign.

What I will do is continue to invest my time and energy into growing into a deeper relationship with God through the practices and disciplines I mentioned already.  I will also seek to love God in that relationship and love others as I love myself.  I will also try to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God.  These are the things that I believe are more worthy of my time and energy.

Blessings on your journey,


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter 2015... a mixture of emotions, a time of transition.

This is a crazy time of life for me.  Focusing diligently on my studies so I can graduate in May.  Even last week during my Reading Week and my kid's Spring Break, I had work to do.  Though we took a family vacation to Seagrove Beach, FL (beautiful!), I spent hours READING and writing!  It was a profitable working vacation for me and worth every moment.  It was also a good time of relaxation and being at the Gulf of Mexico and getting to enjoy some scenic hikes.  (I hope to make time to put a blog post together about the vacation at some point!)

It was Holy Week last week.  A time of reflection even though I didn't attend any services until today.  Because of the year anniversary of Will's accident and death, I thought often of him and his family.  Will's life continues to inspire me.  This morning I posted a tribute to him on my Facebook page:
"Hey Little Buddy. You may be wondering why so many here on earth have been struggling this week since last Sunday. You've been living the good life, free from pain and suffering. We have been remembering your journey from the accident to today. How appropriate that journey has been this year being from Palm Sunday to the cross to today, Easter Sunday, resurrection. On the very day that last year you went home, today we celebrate new life, risen life. Though it is still ...difficult because we miss you, Will, we do rejoice that you are healed! You have new life. And not just you. Because of the beautiful decision your parents made, your life allowed other people to have continued life. Those families today celebrate life in gratefulness and appreciation in honor of you. Throughout this past year, there have been tears, Will. But there has been laughter. There have been stories shared about your life. There have been people who have been inspired by your life. You have continued to be a witness of love, joy, compassion, intentionality, and abundant living for many of us. I wanted to say thank you today. Love you little buddy."

My grandmother (Meemo) who passed in January 2014 would have been 98 yesterday on April 4th, so I've thought about her life too.

Today's sunrise service at Camp Dixie and the service at church were both powerful messages that ministered to me today.  Two of the pictures I took this morning:

Today's sermon at the 9am service was about dying and the dash, being intentional about the time we have in living.  Death allows us the opportunity to consider how we are living.  Are we living well?  Are there things we would change?  What about all those fears and concerns that we know about?  And then what about those things we don't yet know about, but will learn about?  Hope can and will defeat fears and concerns.

There is a purpose to living.  There is something worth living for.  And in this time of the dash, how will we live?

I was blessed by the songs sung by the chancel choir, the special music by Wil and Matt, the prayer led by Pastor Amy, and the message shared by Pastor Rowland today.  Intentional living, abundant living is one of my favorite topics.  I do want to live well during my dash.

My life isn't free of pain, suffering, worries, concerns, brokenness, or woundedness.  But, there is hope. There is joy.  And, it IS well with my soul.

I am grateful for those saints who have gone before me, many in the past 12 months, who have modeled intentional living.  And then the others who have gone on before them.  I am also grateful for a Creator who continues to draw me into relationship, holding me and guiding me along life's journey.

Today was my final Easter Sunday service as a lay person.  Next year will be my first Easter Sunday as a clergy person.  There will be quite a few lasts and firsts as the transition continues.

As I watched my pastors lead the service today, I thought about all the pastors and churches that have been a part of my journey.

From my home church, St. Mark's Episcopal in Dalton, GA to Christ Church UMC on Long Island, NY to First Dayton UMC, Dayton, TN to Hixson UMC, Grace UMC, Red Bank UMC (didn't join but was active in Bible Study for a time), Burks UMC.... all in Hixson, TN.  Then there are the churches for whom I've been able to fill the pulpit along the way.... Christ Church UMC (my first sermon in 1988), Grace UMC, Payne's Chapel, White Oak, New Salem, Fairview, Burks, and St. Luke (next week for the first time).

I started naming off pastors at these churches and then realized there were so many more in the Emmaus community, through Hearts on Fire (FUMSDRL), through the Academy for Spiritual Formation, through local ministry, etc. that have impacted my life.

Then there are the laity who have spoken into my life.  To name them would take forever too.  There are SO MANY through GBOD, the Academy, Emmaus, many churches, the Upper Room, family, friends, ETC.

Wow!  I have not only been surrounded, but truly carried by a great cloud/community of witnesses..... past and present.

I am deeply humbled and grateful.   There is hope that because of this great community, I will be able to continue defeating the fears and concerns that come my way.  But it's more than just this community that surrounds me, past and present.  I know THE HOPE that resides within me, that guides me, that carries me, that speaks truth to me when I hear thousands of other voices.  The ONE VOICE of truth, the hope that lives eternally--past, present, and future.... that is the greatest hope of all.  Because God lives, there is hope.  I can face today.  I can face tomorrow.  It is truly well with my soul.

Wherever you are in your life journey, may there be hope and may it be well with your soul!

Blessings on your journey,


Easter sermon from Burks UMC 2nd service, April 5, 2015: