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

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.


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?

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.

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.