Thursday, July 21, 2016

Systems and the Deceiver

This summer has been dedicated to developing the spiritual disciplines of devotion and Scripture reading. One would think that if one is a pastor, then one would being doing this on a regular basis.

     Yes, one would think.

However, finding time to just be with God is often difficult. One June 7, 2016 I began reading and writing out the Psalms. As of today I have made it to Psalm 18! I know, there are more than 18 days between June 7 and July 21. I could give you all the excuses for my slacking, and there are good ones, but I'm just going to "give it to God" and ask for forgiveness and continue to try my best to continue this discipline. 30 minutes every day to start my day! When I've got Ripley, things are harder, but life is hard sometimes and making room for God on a daily basis should be number one on the list. I'm working on it God, I promise! You see me!

It has taken me two days to write out Psalm 18. It is 50 verses long! I know, I know Psalm 119 has 176 verses, but I'll tackle that when I get to it. Hopefully the next one hundred Psalms will prepare me!

These first 18 Psalms have really been about being delivered from one's enemies. Enemies? Do I have any enemies. I am a white woman, living in twenty-first century America. I have never been to war. My country is not technically on the verge of violent war, maybe ideological, (and my husband would probably suggest otherwise), but there is relative peace here. I think there is a deep desire in this nation to want to work together for real peace, but we are trapped by our systems where the deceiver dwells.

The deceiver? Yes, satan, the devil, the tempter, whatever your name for that presence, that's the one I'm speaking of. The deceiver is so blinding, so sneaky, so devious. Sometimes even within our churches, the deceiver is crawling around dismantling the work that we are trying to do for Jesus Christ. The deceiver lurks in our attempts to make mission statements, visions for the church, discipleship pathways, mission partners, ministry opportunities, condolence meals... you name it. Anytime there is an exertion of control and power, then the deceiver scores another point on the scoreboard. This happens in every church, and our jobs as pastors and leaders is to recognize when it is happening. However, so often we see only our successes and tend to dismiss anything that doesn't fit in with OUR vision.

See that, OUR vision. OUR control.

That, my friends, is the enemy.

Psalm 18 is all about the victory over the enemy. Yes, VICTORY over the enemy. And what is the victory, God's reign not only on earth, but in our hearts and lives.

In those moments when the enemy seems to be winning. When our lives seem to be consumed by the drama of our lives, God will be there to deliver us. We have to be able to recognize within the systems of our churches where the enemy is ensconced and shine the bright light of Christ on it to eradicate it from its nesting place. When we do that, then we will be better equipped to call out the enemy in our societal systems.

Psalm 18: 30-32
Everything God does is perfect;
    the promise of the Eternal rings true;
    He stands as a shield for all who hide in Him.

 Who is the True God except the Eternal?
    Who stands like a rock except our God? 
 The True God who encircled me with strength
    and made my pathway straight.

From the Voice translation of the Bible

Peace my friends.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Things and happenings...

So I love that when I sign in for the first time from my new computer on blogspot, I was not asked for a sign in id or password. That is curious. Maybe I need to find a new blog provider? Anybody could post as me apparently and that would not be ideal!

For tonight though, this is me. Angie, Cap't Coco...

Over the past couple of days I've been reading from an assigned book in my preaching class, The Fully Alive Preacher by Mike Graves, my preaching professor. Most reading for seminary (and school in general) is taxing. I can always think of a million things to do instead of reading my assignments. But this book is great. The chapters are long, but they divided up into one to two page vignettes that offer insights into the discipline of being a preacher ...Of being a preacher. Who knew I would ever enter into this world of being a preacher... but here I am.

The title of my blog is Coco's Drama Free World.

Coco is a nickname derived from my maiden name that my lead at Worlds of Fun called me by. I was Coco for 5 years. It waned, but I picked it up again when I entering into the cyclist world of Kansas City. I called myself Captain Coco because, obviously, I am a pirate!

Drama, because life tends to be thoroughly dramatic. I don't think we can escape it. Drama just happens and it is apart of being human. This does NOT mean that I embrace drama; it simply means that I try to tackle it head on when it rears its ugly head. And boy does it ever rear.

What I've learned though is that you have to take things in stride (Apparently I'm channeling my inner horse tonight). 

Squirrel! So my professor's book has been invigorating. It reminded me of how much I really enjoy writing. As a preacher, my task is to find the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, as it is lived out in society. In heartache, in joy, through the tears, through the laughter, in the mundane, in the whirlwinds... in the drama of life.

Life is about living into each moment and figuring out where God is speaking to us.

My prayer, my hope tonight is to embrace those moments of awe and even those moments of torpor and find the ru'ach of God. The wind, the breath, the Spirit of God. 

 Genesis 1:2 - 
וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵי תְהֹום וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל־פְּנֵי הַמָּֽיִם
The Tree of Life version has the closest translation... my opinion

"Now the earth was chaos and waste, darkness was on the surface of the deep, and the Breath of God was hovering upon the surface of the water."

Ah... God is the one who brings order and peace to the chaos. It makes you breath in deep the refreshing life that comes though that commanding surge that first said, let there be light!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Wired for Community

Last week I was driving home at that time when the sun was just setting behind the tree line. If you drive west ever at sunset, you know that when the sun is about to slip behind the trees there is a moment of temporary blindness.  All you see are the rays of a brilliant sun. On this particular occasion as I drove up the crest of a slight hill, a cyclist broke the summit from the other side. In a moment of panic I swerved slightly in order to not hit him and the two other riders behind him. As I looked in my rear view mirror I saw that none of them wore helmets. I continued driving slowly and wrestled with myself internally, "Do I go back? Do I say something?"
I pulled into the turning lane and second guessing myself pulled back into the driving lane. Then I flipped on my blinker and decided that I needed to turn around and talk to them. I pulled into a neighborhood, turned around and hesitated before making my final decision to go and talk to the kids. 

I followed them down a side street and pulled ahead of them to give myself enough room to get out of my car and address them. 

As they swerved from left to right up the street I called out to them, "Do you know that when riding you should ride with traffic? I didn't see you. I almost hit you!" 
The kids retort was a typical teenager response, "Well I saw you." 

And he continued to ride on. I followed him and told him that that wasn't the point and that I am the one in the large rolling piece of metal that could have hurt him had I not swerved."

He proceeded to apologize and I told him that he needed to be safer on the road and to wear a helmet. I wasn't concerned with his apology as it didn't hurt my feelings, but that had I hit him I would be the one apologizing to their parents.

As most teenagers go, they of course didn't want to hear from some strange adult on the side of the road and kept moseying right along.  But I had to say it, I had to approach them so that they at least heard it somewhere that cyclists when riding on city streets should ride with traffic.

As I've reflected on this situation, I have asked myself, why did I do this? What prompted me to get out of my car and confront teenagers. The answer is because I have been apart of the Kansas City cycling community. As somebody who has used a bicycle as my main means of transportation, I am an advocate for safety when out on the road. I have attended and assisted with bike safety training for children because I feel that so many just see the bicycle as a "fun" piece of equipment. However, it is a vehicle as well and needs to be operated in that manner. Bicycle safety must be taught at a young age. 

Community is so important. We are all a part of different communities and they are essential for us to thrive. God created us for community. God has intended us from the very beginning to be in relationship with one another. When God created humankind, God created us both male and female so we would not be alone. In community, we learn what it means to be in relationship with one another and ultimately with God. When we surround ourselves with people who value the same things, we ultimately end up holding ourselves accountable to one another.

John Wesley, the founder of the unintended Methodist Church, understood this concept. He created bands, class and society meetings where people could meet to hold one another accountable to their spiritual faith walk that would allow them to grow closer to God. It is in small groups where our faith grows. 

In these small communal settings we learn to study the Word together, pray together and live out the gospel together. Together we grow closer to the heart of God.
Creator God,

You are the One who brought order out of chaos.

You are the One who created us in your image. You created us, both male and female because you knew that through relationship we thrive. Through our relationships we learn what it means to be in relationship with you. This life that you have given us is such a blessing God and we want always to please you and live into the lives that you’ve given us.

But you know how we are. Sometimes we remove ourselves from one another. Sometimes we hide away from those that can help us grow closer to you. When we find ourselves looking inward, we pull ourselves far away from you. We fracture into pieces and we go our separate way. Forgive us God for all those times when we lose sight of the life you’ve intended for us.

As a part of a community of your followers God, you taught us that when we come together we should pray for one another. So today, God we take these moments of silence to lift up to you all those who are suffering whether in mind body and spirit…

Teach us God to walk in your path. Teach us to be your presence in the lives of those we meet daily.

We ask all these things in the name of your Son Jesus Christ who taught us to pray…

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Defeating Self Talk - 3/15/15

When I was in High School I suffered from very low self-esteem. In fact, this issue persisted into college and I was a master at self-doubt and demeaning self-talk. I never thought I was very smart so when I wanted to contribute in class discussions, I would often sit trying to convince myself to speak up and say something. More often than not, the opportunity would pass and then I’d beat myself up even more and tell myself that I just didn’t quite measure up.
This negative self-talk eventually took its toll on me and in my mid-twenties I struggled with pretty bad bouts of depression.
But God touched my heart and on a random Sunday I attended church with my grandparents and the Scripture lesson that day was from Romans 5.

8…God proves his love for us in that while we [were still] sinners Christ died for us. 9Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him… 10For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.

It wasn’t until I took the time to listen to God rather than my own voice that I began to realize that I AM good enough. God loves me so much so that God would send himself into the world and then die for me.

In this moment of listening, I felt all the feelings of fear of unworthiness lifted.

I let the voice of God fill me with assurance.

Does that mean that I don’t experience moments of negative self-talk? 
No, absolutely not.

I find that I need those moments of silence to let God’s love fill me up. I need moments like an hour of worship to connect with God through raising my voice in praise and thanksgiving.

I need moments to be here with all of you offering our prayers together.

So, I invite you in this moment to join me in conversation with God – let’s pray:

Pastoral Prayer
God of strength,
You are ever present in our lives, you guide us and lift us up in times of doubt and struggles. As your people we strive to constantly turn to you, to hear your voice amid the voices that tell us that we aren’t good enough… amid our own voices that so often drown you out. Help us Lord to take moments of silence and reflection so that we can hear your voice, your voice that assures us.
We have been created in your image and we know deep down that your love is boundless. You want all that is good for us, you want our lives to be abundant.
So God, we ask that you help us turn our hearts always to you.
We ask that you help us to be aware of your constant love.
Remind us daily of how you see us.
Remind us that we are worthy and that with you by our side there is nothing to be afraid of.
We put our trust in you God, knowing that you will deliver us.
Today, we lift all that is on our hearts and minds as we pray the prayer that your son taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name; they kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Second Sunday in Advent

Every week I craft a prayer for our church services. Instead of just keeping them quiet, I thought I'd share them. So here is this past weekend's prayer:

Have you ever been to someone’s house leading up to Christmas and noticed the gifts that extend beyond the wide branches of the Christmas tree?
Do you ever think to yourself, and Santa hasn’t been here yet either???
I don’t have a children… yet, but I do understand already wanting to give my future daughter everything she could want or need. I’ve already found myself wanting to buy her Christmas presents and she’s not even here yet.
I’ve had to stop myself and say, really Angie? Does she need that? Or is it me that WANTS that because it’s so cute??? 
I have to stop and think that the first thing she is going to need is her parent’s love and comfort.
One of the things that I have actually begun is reading one of those rhythmic Baby Bibles to her and saying nightly prayers because I want her to know how much God already loves her.
I want her to know that the ultimate present she could ever have is the love of God and the gift that has been given through the incarnation, life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
During this busy holiday season, I hope that we all take time to remember that gift: The greatest present of all that God has given us.
Will you pray with me?

Pastoral Prayer
God of abundant life, you have blessed us with so many gifts and we give you thanks. We give you thanks for the gift of life that you have given to us through your Son Jesus Christ. You are the ultimate provider and you fulfill our lives. But during this Season as we await with anticipation the celebration of your gift to us, we find ourselves too busy with preparations. We find ourselves overspending of presents so that we can provide our children and loved one with material things that we think will make them happy, when really it is you that is often needed most. God, we ask for your forgiveness when we pull away from you and forget that you are the focus of this season, you are the one that truly loves us.
God, we know that your Spirit is upon us, you have called us to work alongside you to bring good news to the poor, to liberate those captive to darkness. You love is our strength. Through you we can do all things, you surround us with constant forgiveness and love.
And we offer to you now our prayers for healing for those in our lives who need you most.

God, we lift up those on our hearts. Help them to know that you are ever present with them. Help us be faithful witnesses to your law of love and unity.
We ask these things in your son’s Holy name, Amen.