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.