Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Qualities that Build Enduring Love

This is perhaps my final GPS insight blog entry for Church of the Resurrection. At least while I'm at Woods Chapel UMC in Lee's Summit, MO.

This August, my husband and I will celebrate five years of marriage. When we “tied the knot,” we were both in our thirties and had spent a significant amount of time alone developing habits that worked for our individual lives. Sharing and collaborating define the past five years of our lives together. We love each other immensely, but sometimes that love is tested when our individuality asserts itself. Our conversations, as well as our disagreements, are passionate because we both know that our tastes, opinions, and routines are correct.
For example, I know that creamy peanut butter is far superior to crunchy. However, my husband believes the opposite. In fact, he claims that extra-crunchy is the only way. I make grocery lists, and he just goes to the grocery store. Of course, I know that I am correct in all things because right now we have two large jars of creamy peanut butter next to a jar of extra-crunchy. My first instinct when I realized this had happened was that he didn’t check the grocery list on the refrigerator. He would have noticed that peanut butter was off the board. In the past (in fact just leading up to a few weeks before this sermon series), the extra peanut butter would have set me off. My mind would not have thought about how considerate he had been for thinking of my taste! Instead, I would have accused my husband of not paying attention, or of being self-absorbed because he thinks his way is the only way. Again, I would have overlooked his actual attention to what I like. Now we have a wonderful reminder that creamy peanut butter always wins! (Upon inspection, though, I realized I had not erased it from the grocery list. I was glad I didn’t confront him!) Maybe in this instance, crunchy wins.
However, a committed lifetime relationship is not about winning. The Apostle Paul tells the Church in Ephesus, “Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say.” There are times in our relationship that foul words have escaped my mouth out of anger when he didn’t live up to my “non-communicated” expectations. Many times my words have been neither loving nor helpful. They have been instigated by my incessant need to be right. They have caused the foundation of our relationship to crack and crumble from time to time. Rebuilding on a fractured foundation can be tough work, but it is possible.
God’s grace affords ample opportunities for the foundations of our relationships to be repaired and redeemed. We have been sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption. This isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime-when-you-go-to-heaven kind of thing–-redemption starts now. Each second, minute, hour, and day we are given chance-upon-chance to be renewed in the redemptive grace of God. We are given the opportunity to build our relationships through kindness, compassion, and forgiveness-–in the same way that we have been given through Jesus Christ. Christ is the mortar that builds and repairs the foundations on which relationships are built. It’s almost like the peanut butter, creamy or crunchy, that holds two slices of bread together, but infinitely more durable.
I hope your lunch today consists of a PB&J, or honey, or bananas… or maybe even bacon!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Keeping Our Paths Pure

I was invited to write another insight for Church of the Resurrection's GPS Guide (Grow/Pray/Study). Here it is in all its glory! 

In my late teens and early twenties, I believed that Christianity was judgmental and restrictive. I felt that it was not relevant to what it means to be a young adult. For me, a life in Christ meant that I would have to relinquish a fun life. When I pierced my eyebrow at nineteen years old, I walked boldly into my grandparents' church to see what kind of reaction I would receive. It was mixed, but my focus landed on those who wanted to judge. On top of that I took a logic class in college, and I decided logically that God did not exist. From that point I decided to officially leave the church to live the life I wanted, according to my rules.

At first life was great! It was fun and exciting! However, fun, without boundaries or accountability to another, can become more restrictive than the negative glances I would experience at my grandparents' church. Over the course of several years, I became directionless. When my job or my relationships ended, I would change course immediately to try to figure out what would really make me happy. Nothing really ever did.

During the summer of 2007, I visited Cairo, Egypt. I was once again at a divergent road, trying to figure out which way I was going to direct my life. I had always told myself, if God wants me to believe, then God will make God’s self known to me. And boy, did God ever do exactly that! In July of that summer, a group of girls that I had met in Egypt and I decided to take camel rides out by the pyramids to watch the sun set. As the sun dipped behind the horizon, the minarets of Cairo came to life with the Muslim call to prayer. As I looked back over the city, I was overcome by the presence of God. It was a palpable and radiating sensation. In that moment I looked to the west, and I knew. While I had been trying to figure out how to make something big of my life, I knew in an instant that I was already a part of something bigger than myself. I knew in that moment that I was a part of God’s story, and that my life actually had a purpose.  

As I returned to Kansas City later that summer, I began attending church again with my grandparents, and within a year I was reading Scriptures during Sunday morning services. Within a few years of getting to know God, my life became much more free than it had been. As a broken human, I do stray from God’s commandments often, but just as the psalmist proclaimed in this passage, I know that by guarding God’s words close to my heart, I have a greater ability to live into the abundance of life that has been offered to me (and you too!) through Jesus Christ. We often get it wrong, but God’s law does not restrict--it frees.

Check out the GPS guide at www.cor.org

Monday, March 6, 2017

Building God's Temple

Recently I submitted a devotion for one of the Church of the Resurrection staff members.
The passage I was working with was 1 Peter 2:5-10
I have been invited to provide another "insight" next month.

Enjoy!

If you want to see other writer's contributions, click here: COR Insights

When I was younger my grandpa would frequently tell me that my body is God’s temple, that I should treat it with respect--and that I should not get tattoos! I always found his advice odd, because on his right arm he has a prominent tattoo he acquired during World War II while on leave at Coney Island. My response to him was always the same: “We should decorate God’s temple then, shouldn’t we?” (Yes, I was that sassy teenager!) My retort, of course, was for him never an appropriate reason to even think about tattoos. However, over the years my grandpa has gained a new appreciation for how elaborate and beautiful some tattoos are. So long as we’re alive, we’re growing somehow!

While the Apostle Paul does say that our bodies are temples in 1 Corinthians 6, I like that Peter lays it out and says, “You yourselves are being built like living stones into a spiritual temple.” Not just the body, but all of who we are is being built into a spiritual temple. We are the stones that build upon the cornerstone that is Jesus Christ. Not only that, the cornerstone was chosen with great care and is highly valuable. Therefore, as living stones being laid upon that foundation, we too are highly valuable. As each stone is laid upon the next, as God’s holy priesthood we are being made into a holy temple.

This past week these words became real for me as I joined one of our Silver Link volunteers to visit one of our members in assisted living. For the past three years, the volunteer has dedicated his love and service to this man who has gradually lost the ability to communicate because of multiple sclerosis. Even though words cannot leave his lips, his eyes filled with tears of joy when he saw the man who has become his friend. Together they shared the day’s GPS passage, shared insights and later shared communion. In that moment of sharing the Lord’s meal, the Spirit overwhelmed my soul. I asked them if they would mind if I sang “One Bread, One Body.” As we ended our time together holding hands, praying our Lord’s prayer, we became not only the stones, but the walls of God’s spiritual temple. God’s love flowing through us bound us together into Christ’s mighty church.

In moment’s like these, we become joyously aware that our lives are not ours. We have been called by God to be a royal priesthood, a holy nation – we are God’s possession. We begin to see that we ourselves, the full being of who we are, are the decorations upon the walls of God’s holy temple. God’s light offered to us through Jesus Christ illuminates that temple and all darkness is overcome. When we share God’s love freely and sacrificially, we begin to know that the hope of resurrection becomes tangible and begins right here on earth through us.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Commissioning Questions: What is the Meaning of Ordination?


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At the heart of ordination is the response to God’s call on an individual's life. It is rooted and is a continuation of the gift of the sacrament of baptism. God’s grace is not limited to entering into our lives through the sacrament of baptism, but it is the human response to God’s initiation and incorporation into the Body of Christ. Each individual is therefore responsible for responding to the gift of baptism by participating in the life of the Church through their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. Like baptism, ordination is a gift from God and the human response to God’s gift of baptism. Ordination is the outward affirmation affirmation of an individual’s inward commitment to serving God within the context of a local church or an agreed upon extension ministry setting. Ordained elders are those who have been called and have responded to the role of servant leadership and who have been affirmed and been given authority by the church to preach the Word of God, provide care for the charge, to administer the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion, and to order the life of the church into ministry and service. 


What is your understanding of the expectations and obligations of the open itinerant system?
Each year, the members of an Annual Conference are appointed to serve local churches and other assigned ministry settings by the Bishop. Appointments are discerned by evaluating the gifts and graces of each clergy member and a church to match the needs of a particular congregation through consultation with the congregation, the pastor, and the District Superintendent. An open system means that appointments are made without consideration to race, ethnicity, gender, marital status or age. This means that appointments are made based on gifts of the pastor and needs of the congregation. Itinerancy is the manifestation of the connectional system and serves as the overarching testament to the world about what we believe about the nature of Christ to the world.
Often times the itinerant system may seem like a temporary stop for clergy to deliver a message and quickly leave within a few years.  However, the system provides local congregations the opportunity to experience the fullness of the human experience within God’s world. Congregations are not limited to the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures and understanding of our actions in the world through one person’s perspective. Particular congregations may be homogenous in their demography, but an itinerant clergy allows for the diverse experiences of God’s children to be shared. One of the perceived weaknesses congregations may believe is that the conference does not understand the needs of the local congregation. However, miscommunication about needed gifts tends to be the human weakness that perpetuates these sentiments. No system is ever perfect because they are ordered and maintained by imperfect humans, but when done well, the open, itinerant appointive system allows for the building of healthy and vital churches and ministry settings.  

 


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

My Daughter

This morning when I walked out the door was the first time since I was 13 years old that I was afraid for my safety simply because I am a woman. The man who regularly goes for his early morning jog terrified me because yesterday as a nation, we said to the world that we believe a woman's worth to be inconsequential. We told the world that we are a sex to be dominated. We told the world that only some are made in the image of God. We have failed the world. We have failed our God who made us all in God's image. Where were the Christian women of faith who thought this was ok.
The simple fact that you voted for a man who doesn't consider you of any sacred worth breaks my heart. You didn't need to vote for Hillary, but you could have voted for someone else. Anyone else.

Today as my daughter and I left for work and daycare, she reached out to me to bring her down the stairs. Usually she wants to do it alone, but today was different. I realized in that moment that it will be my responsibility to assure of her worth. It will be my responsibility to protect her from the savagery of dehumanization that we just approved of.

Today, one of my Korean friends sat next to me. I could feel his anxiousness and I stopped writing. He asked me as he broke into tears, "Do you want me to leave?"

Today, my ethics professor shared a story about her elementary school teacher friend. The children of the school chanted around a Muslim child as they left for the day, TRUMP, TRUMP, TRUMP!

Now imagine children surrounding a child in a German town in 1933 at the end of a school day chanting: Jude, Jude, Jude.

Tell me America? Is this what it means to be great again? Or is this the beginning of a horrific nightmare that doesn't need to repeat itself.

I pray for our entire country. I pray that this is not the beginning of a deep darkness.

Lord, hear our prayer.