Saturday, July 29, 2017

Thoughts about names

Names. They define us.  We respond when we hear it called out, we can even look for our names on Coca Cola cans now.

We choose names.  We choose nicknames.  We do this for ourselves and others.  Other people choose names for us.

Think about it for a moment, what are your names?  How many names have you had throughout your life?

I have had lots of nicknames throughout my life, some I've kept because I liked them and they fit.  Some I discarded.  I have grown into my full given name, though I struggled as a kid with my middle name, a family French name, DeLoach.  I struggled with it because it could be made into cruel nicknames.  However, as I got older and started learning French, I became proud of my name and my heritage.  I learned of my French Huguenot background, that we are from Loches, etc.

When I became pregnant, I had the opportunity to name my child.  That honor and privilege of picking a name and passing down heritage and meaning.  The name I chose for my child connected to a grandparent and an aspect of life that had truly saved my kid.  I almost added one other grandparent's name in there, but that would have been a mouthful.  I often just used the initials too and the kid was known by those two letters for many years.

Nicknames came from friends, from school.  There was even one nickname that came from a cartoon in elementary school and stuck through middle school.  It was a fun nickname that we all used.

The conversation with us about changing names began sometime in middle school.  What I learned was that names had already been researched and thought out.  There were several names that had been considered.  What I appreciated most about this process of research and choosing a name was that I saw in my kid the desire to find that name that fit and was meaningful going forward.

The chosen name?  Charlie.

Charlie started off high school with a new name, but we didn't make it officially legal until the following summer.  That was a special celebration for us as a family to celebrate the legal name change.

It was also a paperwork hassle as I then had to send or take copies of the document to every place where I needed the name to be changed.  I'm not sure I have the name changed everywhere yet, but we've covered the major bases.

For Charlie, these were and are exciting times.  Charlie researched names, went through several names, and picked out this name and now is living into it.  It was a blessing to be invited on that journey with Charlie because some of the names were shared with me along the way and I was able to be part of the discussion.

For me, it has been a time of grieving and letting go.  You see, I too had picked out a name that was meaningful to me.  But that name no longer fit.  It was uncomfortable in many ways. I had to come to the understanding that it was only a name and that I could let it go.  I still have this super awesome, wonderful kid.

Yet, there are moments in which I grieve.  Last summer as I was packing to go the the Fellowship of United Methodists Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders (FUMSDRL) retreat, Charlie and I came across my hospital band.  It had the child's name on it.  I burst out in tears as Charlie put it around my wrist because it represented a different time.

Fast forward a few days when I was at the retreat.  Frank Rogers' theme for us was compassion-- God's compassion for us and compassion we have for others.  My spirit was restless on this one day, I think it was the first day of the retreat.  During our breakout and contemplation time, I went back to my room.  Then, I felt nudged to get back outside on the property.  It was as if God was telling me there was something I needed to see.  I wandered around the property noticing the beautiful flowers, bees, birds, etc.

And then, I stumbled upon the garden.  Charlie's Garden.  There it was.  A big, literal sign.  Charlie's garden.  I stood there crying.  The tears flowed.  It was like the passing of the baton from the hospital bracelet to this sign.  Somehow this sign gave me assurance, encouraged me, made me smile; it even made me chuckle a little bit.  You see, I had been in this same spot a year before.  Every year we hold our face to face board meetings at the place where the retreat will be.  I didn't remember this sign.  We were already using the name Charlie, but somehow it didn't stick or I didn't even see it.  But when I needed it most, I saw it.

And to be associated with a garden for a kid who loves plants, well that was an extra bonus!

In the back of my mind, I've been waiting for a picture to show up in my Facebook feed on the Facebook memories.  I knew it would be coming soon but I didn't remember the exact day.  It showed up recently and jump started these thoughts.  The picture of Charlie's garden from last year's FUMSDRL retreat at the Cenacle in Houston, Texas.

When it came across my feed, I felt gratitude for the literal sign.  From time to time I still grieve the loss of a name I chose.  It was meaningful.  I'm learning to let go.  Letting go is an ongoing practice in my life, especially in this second half.

I don't know if any of this touches any aspect of your journey, but I do hope you find encouragement here.

Blessings on the journey,


Friday, July 28, 2017

Open Hands

This morning I heard a new song to me by Laura Story, "Open Hands".

The lyrics caught my attention as I try to live my life open to God.  There are constant challenges and activities in life, but my desire and goal is to live open to God, to God's guidance and direction.

In order to hear the voice, One voice clearly, I know I need silence and solitude.  That has been an ongoing learning opportunity over the years.  It seems the more that is going on, the more I need to make that space.

I am grateful for reminders throughout the week to take and make that space.

As I balance events this weekend (LINK@ the Y fundraiser tonight and the ice cream social on Saturday, preaching on Sunday) with pastoral care, personal care, and family care, and as I prepare for the board meeting next week, I am reminded to keep open hands.

"Open Hands" by Laura Story

The sweetest sound, the highest praise,
Is the letting go of this life You gave
Our greatest prayer, an act of faith
Is an open hand; Lord have Your way

Take it all
Every hope, every dream, every plan
Take it all
Every weight, all the shame and brokenness
Jesus, I surrender all
Every victory and loss
Take it all, take it all
'till all I have is open hands

A clenching fist
A life of fear,
A burden held
Has no place here
Cause You call me now to cast it all
On the shoulders of the one who's strong

Take it all
Every hope, every dream, every plan
Take it all
Every weight, all the shame and brokenness
Jesus, I surrender all
Every victory and loss
Take it all, take it all
'till all I have is open hands
All I have is open hands

I'm not afraid of what I lose
My greatest joy is finding You
I'm not afraid of what I lose
My greatest joy is finding You

Take it all, take it all
Take it all, take it all

Take it all
Every hope, every dream, every plan.
Take it all
Every weight, all the shame and brokenness
Jesus, I surrender all
Every victory and loss
Take it all, take it all
'till all I have is open hands

All I have is open hands. I surrender
'till all I have is open hands

I don't know what is going on in your life or on your journey these days, but I pray that you too may have open hands.

Blessings on the journey,


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Here I Am

On Monday morning I had my 3 three month endocrinology check up.  In an ideal world, I would be at a 6 month check up visit, but my A1C was up a little last time, from 6.2 to 6.8, so the leash got shorter.  I probably need to switch to a once-a-week non-insulin shot or maybe even a daily shot rather than a twice a day shot because that evening shot gets left out often if I end up out and about, in meetings, etc.  The doc and I discussed those options this Monday morning, even after the happily surprising reveal that the A1C was exactly the same as the last time.  Considering all the transitions going on, all the extra work, meetings, and stress, I was pleased.  But, I don't want to stay there.  The goal is to be 6.5 or below.  I think we can achieve it.  Yet, here I am.

I left the office encouraged and headed down to Starbucks for a cup of coffee before heading in to the office.  Monday is one of the Rossville office days.  I got my coffee and as I was heading out, I felt a nudge to go to the hospital chapel to pray.  Here I am.

I walk into the chapel all ready for my personal quiet time with God.  This hospital chapel has recently been redone and is beautiful.  The moment I walked in, I recognized that I had walked in on a situation.  I stood still as I observed a family in the room crying, talking, and filling out prayer requests.  As I stood there, for a moment I contemplated leaving them in their space.  Yet, that nudge came again and prompted me to let them know who I was.  The nudge was like 'tell them you're a pastor and you will pray with them if they'd like'.  I still stood there with my coffee and my pack over my shoulder with my medical records, bag of medicine, etc.  I probably had a 'deer in headlights' look and what seemed to me an eternity was probably no more than a moment.  I finally said, "I'm a pastor.  Would you like me to pray with you?"  Here I am.

Most pastors don't wear blue and white tie-dyed shirts with grommets on them, so I pulled out my clergy hospital ID that I had in my bag and a business card for proof, after setting down the coffee and taking another sip.

As I listened to the family's story and got the introductions of the people in the room, I realized that the nudge for me to go the chapel to pray wasn't really about me.  It was about being available for others.  Here I am.

We prayed together and then they gave me permission to go up to the room and pray with the patient.  Oh, what an honor and blessing that was.  I asked which elevator and floor because it had been a while since I had been there and I wanted to go straight there.  They told me.  When I got there and picked up the phone to get in, it was odd to say that I was there to visit someone whose family I had just met, but that is the case.  I was there sent by the family to pray.  As I write this, I remember another time where I read about a situation from some friends and I told them I was local here in Chattanooga and I went to see the family and that family also invited me to go in and pray with their family member.  Being available.  Here I am.

I went in and prayed.  I spoke to the family member and I spoke to the few staff I saw as I was coming and going, to encourage them in their work.

I haven't heard an update yet, but I plan to check back in.  One of the hardest things for me was that the situation touched the edges of my borders and took me back to 1993.  It wasn't the same situation that put my brother in his journey, but it was still that journey.  To walk that journey, even a little bit of it, with others is a privilege.

Here I am.

I don't always hear/feel the nudges.  When I do, I don't always trust them or obey them.  Sometimes I don't want to hear or feel them.  At other times I'm too busy.    There is that moment of truth, like on Monday, where I knew I was in a place, in a moment, 'for such a time as this'.  My choice was to not live into my being, my calling or live into it.  My choice and my response was: here I am.

Are you wondering why I hesitated in the room?  I'll tell you.  Sometimes I still don't feel like I'm a pastor.  I'm in my 3rd year of my first appointment.  I've been a pastor to pastors and others long before this appointment, but sometimes it still doesn't "feel" right.   I had the same feeling with teaching and I taught for 24 years.  I was once on an elevator at a conference with colleagues and they looked at me and asked if I was a graduate assistant somewhere.  At that point I had been teaching for about 5 years.  Living into who I am and whose I am has always been one of my battles, but the Creator, the GREAT I AM continues to draw me near and remind who and whose I am.  Therefore, as I take the time to listen to the One Voice, I am able to say 'here I am'.   Each time I respond, I am reminded, encouraged, and affirmed of my calling.  I AM a pastor.  Here I am.

Where are you on your journey?

How are you being encouraged  to live into what you are called to be and do?

Or what do you need to encourage you?

Take a moment to listen to this song:

Blessings on your journey,


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Friendship or Fellowship?

Last week I picked up another "circle of friends" candle holder.  I now have three of them.  When I first came across one several years ago I didn't really know what one was, but it was intriguing to me.  A circle of people together embodies unity and exemplifies how we are to live as kingdom people.  Maybe that is what draws me to these.  I have used mine to begin Bible Study class and I have seen them used in Centering Prayer, at retreats, etc.  I wrote an earlier blog post on 10/28/13 and shared about the Circle of friends candle and using it in a bible study.  Click here for that blog post, that includes a song by Point of Grace, "Circle of Friends".

I found this information about the history of the "Circle of Friends" from candles.lovetoknow.

Circle of Friends
The Indian legend says that at the end of the evening, friends would gather around a bonfire and share their hearts and speak of the good qualities of each other and remember times shared. As the embers faded, their friendship was said to be sealed anew bringing them closer together. As you sit with the candle lit in the middle of your circle of friends, it will surround and embrace all who sit with you and bring good luck to those who stay together.

My new circle of friends candle holder is not one of these Mexican mayan styles, but I do have one of those too.

Friends gathering together, sharing with one another, sharing their hearts, speaking of the good qualities of one another and remembering times shared.  These are important things for us to do and for us to be for one another.

Friendship is a high calling.  Today I read something that caused me to chew on the difference between friendship and fellowship:

"While it's wonderful to have friends, fellowship is a higher calling.  Friendship proceeds from the soul and is based on the emotion, while fellowship proceeds from the spirit and is established on God's kingdom.  What passes as "fellowship" in some churches is usually just friendship." ~Kent Crockett

As I mentioned, I'm chewing on this distinction.  I hear the author's distinction, yet I am not so sure there is such a defining difference.  Both friendship and fellowship proceed from deep places within, according to the author, but fellowship is founded on God's kingdom.

Does that mean for the author that friendship cannot be founded on God's kingdom?  I don't think the author is going there.  It seems that fellowship is a higher level of relationship and not all people or churches truly attain it.

I think the author is also saying that at times because of the emotional investment in friendships, we in the churches will compromise the true fellowship of God's kingdom and kingdom priorities.  (I take this from this quote and other writings in the book.)

Friendship is a wonderful blessing.

Fellowship is an added blessing.  When I think of fellowship, I hear "fellowship sweet" ringing in my mind and go seek and find the lyrics to "Trust and Obey".

Trust and Obey

  1. When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
    What a glory He sheds on our way!
    While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
    And with all who will trust and obey.
    • Refrain:
      Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
      To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
  2. Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
    But His smile quickly drives it away;
    Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
    Can abide while we trust and obey.
  3. Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
    But our toil He doth richly repay;
    Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
    But is blessed if we trust and obey.
  4. But we never can prove the delights of His love
    Until all on the altar we lay;
    For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
    Are for them who will trust and obey.
  5. Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
    Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
    What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
    Never fear, only trust and obey.

Friendship or fellowship?  As I reflect on it, my thoughts are that it doesn't necessarily stop with "or", but can become a "both/and".

It is truly when we as followers of the Way, as followers of Christ live into this way of living of trusting and obeying that we have true fellowship with our Creator and one another.

May you be blessed on your journey with a circle of friends to share life with, to share your heart, and to share fellowship with as well.

Blessings on your journey,


Monday, July 17, 2017

Scattering seeds

Good morning.  Though there is some humidity, it is cool enough to sit outside and drink coffee this morning.

The sky was a little dark, but it isn't supposed to rain today.

Before I can start on this week's message, I need to let go of last week's message. It was still working on me, in me, and even through me yesterday afternoon and evening. 

Yesterday I preached on the Matthew 13 passage from the lectionary (1-9, 18-23). The focus that came to me over the week was the indiscriminatory scattering of seeds, so that is the direction I took. 

We recently did a series on building relationships for real life and I made a connection to that. You can read yesterday's sermon below, noting that not everything is said and other things are added.

"Discipleship: Growth"
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 (CEB) [Common English Bible]
July 16, 2017 (6th Sunday after Pentecost)
 Flintstone UMC [United Methodist Church]

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 (CEB)
1That day Jesus went out of the house and sat down beside the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he climbed into a boat and sat down. The whole crowd was standing on the shore. He said many things to them in parables: “A farmer went out to scatter seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path, and birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up, it scorched the plants, and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked them. Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit, in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one. Everyone who has ears should pay attention.”
18 “Consider then the parable of the farmer. 19  Whenever people hear the word about the kingdom and don’t understand it, the evil one comes and carries off what was planted in their hearts. This is the seed that was sown on the path. 20  As for the seed that was spread on rocky ground, this refers to people who hear the word and immediately receive it joyfully. 21  Because they have no roots, they last for only a little while. When they experience distress or abuse because of the word, they immediately fall away. 22  As for the seed that was spread among thorny plants, this refers to those who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the false appeal of wealth choke the word, and it bears no fruit. 23  As for what was planted on good soil, this refers to those who hear and understand, and bear fruit and produce—in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one.”
THANKS BE TO GOD.                                             
Three weeks ago I started a series on discipleship from Matthew with the sermon title "Be Like Jesus".  Last week's title was "Come To Jesus".  Today's title is "Growth".  It's been a little different preaching a series when I've been at a different church each week, but for me it's still a series.  And, even if you don't hear every lesson, each of the parables points us to Jesus and teaches us about discipleship. 

We know from the overall Gospel message that we are called to live, love, lead, and serve like Jesus.  That comes from our relationship with Jesus and our discipleship.  There is a cost to that discipleship as we follow the ways that Jesus taught us. 

Today's passage is a parable and has been labeled many things over the years: that of the farmer, the sower, the seeds, or the soil, depending on how you look at it.  

As the passage worked on me this week, I ended up focusing on the abundant hope and opportunity of the scattered seeds.

Looking back to verses 3-8: “A farmer went out to scatter seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path, and birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up, it scorched the plants, and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked them. Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit, in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one."

Notice where the farmer scattered the seed-- everywhere: on the path, rocky ground, some on shallow soil, other on deep soil, some among thorny plants, other on good soil.  

The farmer's position was to scatter the seed and he did, without discrimination. This is counter intuitive for us.  We would want to prepare the land, do everything we are supposed to for the planting.  But he simply scattered the seed.

There is a time and place to do all the preparation, but there is also something to be said for a willingness to scatter the seed, the good news and allow it to grow.  We aren't in charge of its growth.  God is.

We have tools to help us till the land demographically, such as MissionInsite, so we can know our people.  I used it when I first got here.  I have also started asking people in community what they think the greatest need is here in the community.  We can learn much from these tools and conversations and adjust our mission and ministry.  

However, are we not still called to scatter the seed of the good news, the gospel, in all places?  If it grows and produces fruit, super.  If it gets grabbed up and taken away by the birds, maybe it will grow elsewhere.  Ours is to scatter the seeds.

Brennan Manning wrote the Ragamuffins Gospel.  In another book, Reflections for Ragamuffins, he writes, "What the world longs for from the Christian religion is the witness of men and women daring enough to be different, humble enough to make mistakes, wild enough to be burned in the fire of love, real enough to make others see how unreal they are." (Quoted in A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, p.278)

Are we willing to be this type of Christian?  Are we willing to share the good news of Jesus Christ wherever we are, with whomever we find ourselves?

I know it's awkward and it's risky.

We spent a month on learning how to talk about God moments and share our faith stories in order to help us engage in conversations with others so we might better listen to their stories and build relationships for real life.  It takes time.  It takes vulnerability.  It takes a willingness to get out of our comfort zone.

I came across another quote in my studies this week:

"The gospel calls us to count up the cost of our witness.  Part of this process is the assessing of our power as well.  In God's grace the Church discovers that its members are not helpless victims of aliens powers but bearers of gifts, competencies, and influence for effecting change.  Just as Moses was told to use the rod in his hand and the disciples were bidden to feed the multitude with the lunch they had, so we are expected to use what we have. (James Forbes in A Guide to Prayer for All God's People, p.232)

What do YOU have?  You have your life, your stories, your history, your faith, your witness.

Example:  Vivien.  Because of Vivien having gone through the surgery, she was asked to speak to a woman who was about to go through the same surgery.  Vivien shared with me that she could tell this woman was afraid.  Vivien shared with her from her experience, upon request, showed the woman her scar, listened to the woman.  Because of Vivien's experience, she was able to come along side another person and speak love and life into them.  Each of you is part of that story because you spoke love and life into Vivien, you have prayed, you encouraged her faith in worship, through emails, texts, and calls.  

On Friday we explored the Raccoon Mountain Caverns and then drove on up 41 to a place where I had heard they had good pizza and views.  And, they did!  Delicious wood fired pizza and a spectacular view of the river.  What I wasn't expecting was the conversation with the young lady who worked there.  She was an art teacher, taking a break from teaching, hoping to go back if she can recover from burn out.  She would like to be at Rossville Middle or Chattanooga Valley Middle.  We talk teaching for a moment, then there's that awkward moment for me when I wonder if I really want to scatter seeds of the gospel and build relationships for real life or not.  I jumped in.  And what a blessing it was.  I learned she grew up with Carey Forrester and had a nickname for Carmen, "the smiling lady".  She remembered that the Forresters attended 'the little rock church' and had recently driven down the back road, saw the church, and thought about them.  I mentioned that Gary plays piano and they are here.  Later in the conversation, I asked a harder question (for me): where do you worship? and I learned that she worships at home these days.  We talked about how that is good, yet worship in community is also needed for strength and growth. I invited her and her family.  I also gave her my contact information if she wanted to talk about faith stuff.  Whew. 

Scattering seeds.  That is what we are called to do. Building relationships for real life so that we can share the good news of our faith. It takes willingness, intentionality, and getting out of our comfort zones.

[Share about the seed packet from Courtney and Justin's wedding.]

The disciples asked Jesus to explain the parable of the farmer and he did, in the second portion of today's reading, verses 18-23.  He explained where each seed fell, what that meant, etc.

But we don't need to worry where the seeds fall.  God will work on the growth of the seeds.  We are called to scatter the seeds and allow God to grow them, to trust that God will grow them.  

As we obediently scatter seeds, God will work on our growth.  It's a basic principal of discipleship as we live into who God is calling us to be in following Jesus.

The more seeds we are willing to scatter, the more conversations we are willing to have with others, we will notice the growth that takes place in us.  

I want to close with a portion of a prayer I found:

"Lord, I already know the best way to alter my life-style to the best advantage for all-- live like Jesus.  The Christian existence ideally is to imitate what you do.  You send the sun and rain on everyone, you want me to get back to the basic facts of life, to love without reservation, to distinguish between life's needs and life itself, and seek first your kingdom knowing you will meet all my other needs." (Thomas Pettepiece, quoted in A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, p. 235)

May it be so.

On the way home I read an article several people had shared and commented on about one pastor's experience in Waffle House. It was somewhat long, at least reading it in a phone, but well worth the read. It reminded me that we are called to love folks in community, to be available to them, and meet them where they are. We show up, we live life, we share life, we listen, and we love. God takes care of the rest. Like the example in this blog post, there may come a time to do more than that. We might learn the deeper reasons of the behaviors of people. If not, we continue to show up, listen, share life, and love.

Here is a link to that article by Gary Liederbach at One Direction Community (North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church), "He's My F*cking Pastor!."  Yes, it has the "f" bomb in it (and some others), but they aren't in full word form. As I posted on Facebook, move beyond that. If you can and do, you will see the bigger picture.

A week or so ago, a colleague of mine posted about her experience in community. Because she takes the time to get to know folks in the store where she shops, she knew this employee was having a difficult day. Though I can't recall the exact details in how the dialogue began, a conversation took place and the employee shared what was going on. My colleague is this employee's pastor without her ever having been to the physical church. 

Scattering seeds of love and life into those we meet daily. That is the task of a follower of Christ. This packet of seeds is from the first wedding I officiated at Flintstone UMC and made its way into yesterday's message.

Scatter those seeds folks.

Blessings on the journey, 


Monday, July 10, 2017

Abiding time-- Remember

This morning's abiding time is out on the patio, in front of the running fountain. It is cool outside for the moment.  The sun was already up when I arose because I slept in some this morning.  I have coffee and I've walked around the yard to check out some of the flowering trees.

Now it's time to sit with the Word.

As I pick up Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God by Macrina Wiederkehr, I'm at the last chapter.  This book has been an excellent one to read, reflect upon, and work through.  I have not read through it quickly. In fact, I started it in 2012.  It has taken me 5 years to read through this book.  Now that may be considered something more like 'slow reading' lectio tardi rather than 'sacred reading' lectio divina, the spiritual discipline of prayerfully reading a text, but I have taken my time with this book to savor it.

Today's final chapter is entitled "Little Lights along the Way".  The concept in the chapter is about remembering.  The Scripture passage for today is Deuteronomy 8:1-20.  If you'd like to take a moment to read it, you can look it up or click on the passage in the previous sentence and it will take you to, where I have linked to the NRSV.  From there you can pick any other version or language.

The key verse for the chapter is verse 2: "Remember how for forty years now the Lord, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert."

As I mentioned, the focus for this chapter is the word "remember".

Macrina notes, "Remember is a beautiful word.  To remember can be the source of much healing." (204)

The Deuteronomy passage calls the people to remember their 40 year journey in the wilderness, to not forget the Lord God, to remember the commandments, to remain humble, and to never forget the origins of the blessings that they will receive.

It's important for us to remember.  In the midst of the difficult times, we call out to God.  However, we can tend to forget to be thankful and/or rely on God when things are plentiful, bountiful, or easy.

Yesterday I preached on the Matthew 11 passage in the lectionary.  A portion of that is 28-30.  On my way home from the District Superintendent reception, I needed to get gas for the car.  The sign "rough road" that always gets my attention, got my attention again.

This time, while my car was filling up, I walked to the edge of the parking lot and snapped a picture.  When I got home, I wrote these words to go with the picture and posted on my Instagram and Facebook accounts, as a way of remembering:

This sign on Boy Scout Road indicates there is a rough road ahead. It is good to be warned. We aren't always so lucky. Regardless, when it gets rough, remember the mandate that Jesus gives in Matthew 11:28-30--“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (The Message)

We are called to remember. We are called to remember the mandates given to us, to remember the blessings, to remember the things we've been through, the people in our lives, etc.

Macrina also notes, "Remembering is a spiritual practice." (204)

Macrina adds, "Remembering the source of our blessings is an important piece of our life's work." (204)

As the Hebrew people were coming out of the wilderness, they began to show that they had learned much on their journey through the wilderness together.  

Macrina suggests, "They learned how to serve one another.  God took the sometimes questionable raw material of this incongruent group and formed them into community." (206)

In the reflection and prayer section, one of the reflections is this: "Name some of your own wilderness journeys.  How have you been led from slavery to freedom?  Who have been your guides?"

One of my wilderness journeys has been my journey to ordination.  As I have sought to correctly hear the One Voice on this journey, there have been many folks who have spoken life into me along the way, who have supported me, prayed for me, nudged me, encouraged me, and even pushed me. 

From the 5 Day Academy to the 2 Year Academy to the HH Bible Study at Burks UMC and my Sunday School class there, to the support I had at Grace UMC when I started taking seminary courses to official mentors like Rhonda Hobbs, Amy Whatley Cook, and Ginger Isom to non-official mentors that would be too many to name to our Provisional class to seminary friends and colleagues along the way to my first appointment to my family to the Fellowship of United Methodists Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders (FUMSDRL) to the Walk to Emmaus community.  All of these things and people have shaped me on this journey (and MANY others, again.... SO MANY!!)

It has been a journey with questions and doubts, but also one with affirmation of calling. 

Just yesterday I had the opportunity to go through a catalog of memories because it was Linda Bird Wright's birthday and Facebook reminded me of that.  I was Staff Parish Chair when she came to Grace UMC and she is the one who was able to get me started on that purple book (that was no longer being used, but I did it anyway) with a mentor.  I went through mentoring prior to official mentoring for candidacy.  I remember that from my time with her and many other things.  Among them, she would say that she say me as a teaching elder.  Here I am today as a provisional elder in my 3rd year in my first appointment, working toward my full connection as elder with my ordination paperwork.  Who knew?!?!  

I take time to reflect and remember the blessings in my life.  The people, all the provisions God has made, even the rough times because they too have molded and shaped me to become who I am today.

Above all, I remember that I am wonderfully made and loved by the Creator.  That helps me going on the journey.

In closing, here is Macrina's prayer for this chapter:

"O Star and Staff of My Life, 
On my journey into the good country of my life you have lavished me with gifts and surrounded me with miracles.  Such treasures have come from your hand, O my God.  Thank you for your abiding presence on my wilderness journeys.  You are my light! You are my support! Guide me with your law and teach me.  Shine on the paths I must walk. Uphold me when I falter.  Feed me with the Bread of your Word.  Receive my love! Increase my love!  O Star and Staff of my Life-- on you I have leaned since birth." (208)

May there be times of remembering on your journey.

Peace and blessings,