Longing

Susan David – Emotional Agility – SusanDavid.com

I often say that I can’t look at my old photos without feeling sad.

Tonight, as I was deleting thousands of promotional emails and unsubscribing in an attempt to quiet my inbox, I ended up in my photo albums, looking for some items to delete. I felt that sadness.

Then, I remembered this image of a ‘sad’ umbrella published by Susan David, who wrote Emotional Agility.

If I were to try to pinpoint a more specific emotion that evokes that feeling of sadness, perhaps it is longing.

Longing for people I miss.

Longing for pets we have lost.

Longing for places we called home.

Longing to hold onto those happy memories.

But you know what I think? All that longing has made me sad.

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Leaving the Presence of God

Photo by Eva Elijas on Pexels.com

Moses and the people of Israel were in Mt. Sinai, where they had been camping for perhaps 2 years. Moses had been on the mountain with God and had received the first set of the Ten Commandments. While he was gone, the children of Israel grew impatient for his return and demanded a new god they could worship. They took themselves off the path God was directed them in, determined to lose themselves in a wilderness of misguided worship.

Seeing this, God told Moses, Please—take these people and go. I’m sending you to the land I promised you and I will clear the way for you to occupy the land. BUT, these people are stubborn and I could destroy them as soon as look at them so I’m not going with you. You’ll be without my presence.

We must understand that it was not that God did not love his children and didn’t long to be with them. Rather, since the time He had rescued them from Egypt, they had repeatedly acted like they didn’t care whether His presence was in their midst or not. Once the Israelites heard this disastrous news though, there was a sense of finality to it. Could they imagine their future apart from God? Even in a place as wonderful as the Promised Land sounded? They could and they instantly mourned.

As he did over and over while the Israelites were under his leadership, Moses spoke to the Lord on their behalf, saying, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’…you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’” (Exodus‬ ‭33:12‬ ‭NRSV‬‬)

Moses gave God an “If this, then that” logical sort of an argument: IF you know me intimately and IF I have your favor, then please remember these are your people. If your presence won’t be with us, we don’t want to go. We would rather remain here in the desert than go to a land of plenty and be without your presence. They knew it was the very presence of God that set them apart from all the other people.

God heard Moses’ prayer. The presence of God would go with the people. “And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”” ‭‭(Exodus‬ ‭33:14‬ ‭ESV‬)

When God speaks to His people, it’s often with prodding, with questions or challenges that make us think, make us pause and examine our hearts which in turn can lead us closer to His presence, if that’s the path we choose.

A wandering man met with God and spoke to Him as a friend speaks to a friend and ensured the presence of God would continue on with the people in their journey.

Friends, wanderers in the wilderness—even those of your own making, God knows your name. Speak to Him as you would a friend. When you do, I think you will find a God who still sends His presence with His people and gives them rest.

We are the church when…

Photo by Tabitha Mort on Pexels.com

We are the church when we are present with each other in the realest and deepest places of our need:

When you are hungry or thirsty, we are there to break bread together and there to fill your pantry for other days ahead.

God both gives our daily bread and is the bread of life. Matthew 6:11 and John 6:35

When you have lost your home or you’re blessed with your first one, we are there to help fill it.

God gives his people people peaceful, secure and undisturbed homes for rest. Isaiah 32:18

When you are rejoicing, we are there to praise God together.

God rejoices over you! Zephaniah 3:17

When you are mourning, we are there to sit in sadness with you and lament together.

God provides comfort and joy for all who mourn. Isaiah 61:3

When you are needing a miracle, we are there to beseech God and intercede in prayer together.

He is the God who works wonders. Psalm 77:14

When you are falling apart, we are there to hold you together, with our arms and with the love of God.

God holds us up with his righteous hands. Isaiah 41:10-13

When you feel unloved, we are there to assure you that God has never stopped loving you and never will.

God loves you with an everlasting love; from forever ago to forever from now. Jeremiah 31:3

When your need is deep, we are there to plunge through it with you while we wait in hope for God to fill it.

God did not withhold anything from us, giving us even His precious Son. He will give his children what they need. Romans 8:32

When your fate seems uncertain, we are there to walk through the shadows with you.

God is already ahead of you and also behind you and He is the inescapable God; wherever we turn, He is there. Deuteronomy 31:8 and Psalm 139:7-12

When your faith is shaken, we will steady you with our hands, our prayers and our help.

God will steady you with His love, keep you from falling and He will hold you fast. Psalm 119:173, Jude 1:24 and Psalm 139:10

Thurman Meets with Ghandi

https://www.neh.gov/divisions/preservation/featured-project/tune-in-tuesdays-howard-thurman-and-sue-bailey-thurman-collections

Howard Thurman, Sue Bailey Thurman, Phenola Carroll and Edward Carroll, 1935.
From the Howard Thurman and Sue Bailey Thurman Collections, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.

Howard Thurman was born in 1899 in Florida. He was raised and influenced in his early childhood by his maternal grandmother who had lived as an enslaved person in Florida. He attended college and seminary and began a life and career as a minister.

He was “deeply influenced by how Gandhi used nonviolence in India’s struggle for independence from British rule”. In turn, he significantly influenced Martin Luther King Jr. in “shaping the civil rights struggle as a nonviolent movement.”*

In 1935-1936, Howard Thurman toured India with his wife and another couple on a “pilgrimage of friendship”. India, like the United States, was experiencing its own versions of civil unrest, inequality and oppression. Thurman being of African American descent had the unique opportunity to speak in India as one who was intimate with oppression.

Near the end of their pilgrimage, the small delegation met with Ghandi. At that time, the movement led by Ghandi to end British colonial rule had thus far failed to be successful. This was one of the things Ghandi discussed with Thurman during their visit. He explained that the movement failed for two reasons.

First, the people were hungry; in deep poverty. The poor of India grew cotton but the British did not allow them to manufacture cotton cloth. Instead the cotton was required to be shipped to textile mills in England and later shipped back to India as cloth. Ghandi wanted the people to reclaim their heritage of cottage industry; growing, harvesting and producing their own cotton cloth. He also wanted them to raise their own food and live from the land—to be more self sufficient.

The other main issue Ghandi attributed failure of his movement was the perception and treatment of the untouchables; those who were considered worthless, contaminated and relegated to the outcaste; unwelcome in any of the upper castes. He addressed this issue through adoption. He took one of these untouchables and made that person a member of his family in every way. Then he changed the name of those who were outcaste to “Harijan” which translates to “Child of God”. Ghandi theorized that looking upon one who was commonly thought of as no more than garbage and calling them “Child of God” would change the way caste members viewed them and would also infuse the untouchables with a sense of self worth and respect.

Ghandi thought these were the actions needed to energize and sustain the movement. Not violence. Give the people a purpose; a common purpose for good that returns to the community. Give the people a new sense of self-worth; no matter how you have been known in your life thus far, no matter what family you were born to, you are now considered of equal worth to all men. Family. Brothers.

At the close of their visit, Ghandi gifted Thurman’s wife Sue with a basket of fruit. A bit presumptively, Thurman also requested a gift of Ghandi.

“Would you give me something? I would like a piece of cloth woven out of material that you yourself have spun from the flax.” Within a year he received his gift of “cloth made from the thread that had been spun by Gandhi himself”.

As I was reading this, I suddenly saw an image of a cotton field ripe for the harvest as being symbolic of humanity. I thought of how many different fields are planted with many different cotton plants, producing many different cotton bolls. From these, thread is spun and then, cloth. One piece of cloth. Humanity stems from many different fields, many different plants and many different “fruits”. But through the labor of the harvest and the gentle love of the spinning, we’re woven into one cloth. We are a people stitched together and we are the stronger for it.

*Read more: https://theconversation.com/how-howard-thurman-met-gandhi-and-brought-nonviolence-to-the-civil-rights-movement-110148

The Book of Titus

Harkey’s Chapel, Ragland, Alabama

I spoke at Harkey’s Chapel as a Lay Servant Minister on Sunday, December 27, as their pastor is recovering from shoulder surgery. In preparing a message, I couldn’t say that I felt any certain prompting on what to present to them. In reading the lectionary, I wasn’t feeling inspired to use the traditional Christmas scriptures, so I referred to the lectionary a few days back to the Christmas Eve scriptures and there I found these verses in Titus. This message was expository in nature. Essentially, using different versions of the Bible, commentaries and dictionary helps, I attempted to explain the message of Titus in a relatable way. The church was very gracious and I noticed a few people taking notes. All I can hope is that I was obedient to teach and perhaps it inspired someone to read the entire book of Titus.

But—

When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. Titus 3:4-7

This short book in the Bible is a letter written by Paul addressed to Titus, who accompanied Paul on many of his missionary journeys. Together, they started a church on the island of Crete, just south of Greece. Paul left the church in Titus’ care to finish the work of building the church. In his letter, Paul gives specific instructions to Titus. In a way, it seems that Paul’s guidance was not only sending marching orders, but also mentoring Titus. Let’s build a church on a solid foundation, let’s remind them of the work we need to do and how we need to act in order to conduct this very important work. All centered on the glorious reminder; “But”, Jesus saved us!

I’ll share my message below, but I also found a wonderful video overview of Titus which articulates the book in an approachable and inspiring way: https://youtu.be/PUEYCVXJM3k

Here are the things Paul directed Titus to do: 

Appoint worthy leaders who will be faithful to defend their teaching of sound doctrine: 

These leaders must rise above the lifestyle common in the society around them and live differently, in a way that worked to transform the people: hospitable,  loving good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. They must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught–not having itching ears that Paul spoke of in 2 Timothy 4:3. They must also then be able to take what they have learned and teach it to others, defending it against those who contradict it. 

Teach living according to sound doctrine: 

Paul expressed in his letter that he expected Titus to teach the people what it is to live a lifestyle that reflects the sound doctrine they have been exposed to: living a  sober-minded, dignified and self-controlled life that is sound in faith, generous in love, and steadfast (constant; unwavering), reverent in behavior. 

Teach the people to train the young:

Further, not only should the people live differently, but they should also train the younger generations, by modeling good works and demonstrating integrity, dignity and sound speech. 

Appointing worthy leaders, teaching sound doctrine and teaching the people to further the message of the church by training the younger generations were important to the foundation of the church in Crete because theirs was a people given to a lifestyle that didn’t respect or value virtues like truth and kindness and the rewards of honest work. They desperately needed to know that God’s way was different from theirs; that God is a God who does not lie, but is a God of grace and peace (Titus 1:2-3). Regardless of the sometimes difficult character of the people of Crete, Paul reminded Titus he was there to complete the work of building the church; not just because Paul appointed him in charge, but because there was good news to preach to the people. To make sure they knew of Jesus, the redeemer. Verse 11 of Chapter 2 says “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people”.

Preach the truth with no hesitation and no apology: 

Paul directed Titus to teach all of these things with all authority and to allow no one to disregard his message. Let no one argue that God is the bringer of salvation, that this salvation is for all people, that the people must respond by word and by work: renounce ungodliness, refrain from the temptation to yield to worldliness and they must change the way they live; living godly lives while they await for Jesus’s return. Waiting for Jesus, our blessed hope; waiting to witness the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ; waiting to see the one who gave himself for all people; waiting for Jesus to redeem us from all our lawlessness and to purify all people, to make us worthy of being his own.

Remind the people:

In Chapter 3, Paul exhorts Titus to “Remind the church”. In original Greek translations, the word remind is in the present tense. Titus was to actively and constantly remind the church how they were expected to live, perhaps somewhat in the same way a parent has to remind their child to get ready to go to school in the mornings. A child can’t be told they must get ready for school once and then be expected to manage on their own from that day forward. They need active and regular guidance every day to help prepare them, to make sure they have what they need for the day, like homework and food; to make sure they are dressed appropriately, shorts on hot days and jackets on cool days and also to make sure they have the right attitude towards learning and the right responses to difficult subjects or challenging lessons.

At one time we used to be ________: Wherever others are now, we’ve likely been at some point in the past. Whatever mistakes we’ve made, someone else is making similar ones now.  It’s easy to forget life before God’s redemption and before justification and sanctification, which makes it easy to point out others’ shortcomings and to judge people for not seeing things clearly that we have only learned through experience. Further, we must not believe that it is hopeless for any type of people to be saved. We ourselves are proof of God’s grace, which is for everyone.

Live kind and obedient lives: to do the things they struggled to do and to avoid the things they succumbed to too easily. In their case, they were actively and constantly being reminded to submit to those in authority in their land; to be obedient, always ready to do what is good. And at the same time, they were being reminded to keep the peace amongst themselves, to be gentle and show true humility to everyone.

“But” God saved us: My husband Sammy likes to say that anytime you see the word ‘but’ in scripture, it overrides everything else before that point. Verse 4 begins in this way; “But” God saved us. He reached out to us and saved us because he is a God of kindness and love. Not because his people reached out to him or are righteous or because we have done righteous things. Because of his mercy, he washed away our sins and gave us a new life. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and because he made us right, we have confidence from him that we will inherit eternal life. As children of God, we are, after all, heirs with him (Galatians 4:7).

The purpose for which we are saved: Living in Crete, it’s certain that the church faced societal pressure and ridicule for choosing to live differently. Titus was to be insistent in his teachings to encourage the believers to devote themselves to doing good; to persevere in their faith. It was important the people remember they were saved, which is active and present just like the term reminder. We were saved. We are being saved. We are being made new. We are being transformed. We see similar encouragement from Paul in Hebrews 10:22-25 ESV, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…”

Stay the course: It is easy sometimes to find ourselves involved in controversial discussions or arguments that cause divisions among people; often arguments we only enter into because we feel a need to be right about something or in order to justify or defend our position or our beliefs. We have to work to remain focused on this: God saved us to do his work.

Care for one another–love people: God loves you. God loves me. God loves the most difficult, the cruelest, the most unworthy and the most lost among us. Since we will never find any person on this earth who is unloved by God, it’s our task to remember to care for each person. Do everything you can to help…give everything you can in meeting the urgent needs of others.

It’s obvious there were many things Titus was responsible for reminding the church of on a regular basis. Reminders are effective and important tools–

They help us know where and when we need to go somewhere; for example to a doctor’s appointment or church event. 

They help us send and receive communication that requires upcoming action; for example, when following maps, when to turn at which point in the road or when to pay a bill and for how much.

They help us to honor and pay tribute to special milestones in our intimate lives; locks of hair from baby’s first haircut, ornaments or refrigerator magnets from vacations past, photographs and other mementos, memorials of our loved ones in the cemetery. 

All of humanity also has shared reminders; important art housed in museums; reminders of battles and achievements and technological advancements of the past, historical architecture, ships wrecked in the bottom of the sea, notable books from ages past, all of these from which we learn and understand the history of man.

The Bible itself serves as an important reminder. It’s an active reminder like that Titus was to share with the church; a constant and ongoing reminder of our faith through the ages; from the creation of the world, till the time Jesus walked upon the water, till the time he returns again, riding on the clouds. It reminds us of God’s love, of his expectations for us, of the things he desires for his people to complete; doing the work of the church he left within our care.

Father God, we thank you that you have remembered your children throughout the ages; through all the times we have forgotten you or forgotten what is required of us as believers. We thank you for your love, for your kindness and for the greatness of your salvation. Help us listen, Lord, for your reminders to the church today. Help us to stay the course and avoid division, arguing and anything else that leads us off course. Help us be united in completing the work of the church; especially its most important mission of loving you and loving one another. Amen.

Taste and See

Psalm 34:8-10

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,

    for those who fear him have no lack!

those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

That’s what Jesus wants for us: that we may see the goodness of the Lord, that we may have no lack and that He may fill us with good things.

There are several cooking shows on television which depict a well-respected chef arriving at a struggling restaurant with significant problems to see if it can be turned around, rescued. Usually, there are problems with the appearance; like build up of dirt and grime and ages of deferred maintenance that barely scratch the surface of the full extent of the issues within the restaurant’s inner workings; chaos, conflict, complacency. All of these are manifested in the food the restaurant serves to the customers it still manages to attract.

The rescue chef takes a tour of the place to get an overview of where the most work is needed. After getting a general idea of the challenges that face him, the rescue chef orders a variety of menu items to sample. And it’s not at all out of the ordinary to see that look of disgust on their face when they spit something out and verbally attack the restaurant owner, “Did you taste that?!”

I’d like to take a leap from the transformation taking place on tv to the condition of the heart. 

It is a mess, just like those restaurants and their owners. Plagued with issues that are often neglected far too long, desperately in need of a new lease on life and some major adjustments. We are people walking around on this earth producing proverbial dishes we have served to others that we didn’t even taste for ourselves. 

The unrecognized issues inside our hearts that we neglect to resolve will ultimately flow out from us and season our lives: our relationship with Christ and our relationship with others. Every encounter we have is an opportunity to serve something from within us. We either fill others with good things, or we fill them with things that are not nourishing and will not sustain life in a healthful way.

There is hope though, if we’re willing to make the difficult and uncomfortable adjustments needed in order to turn our lives around, bring about positive change in our lives that then gives us a fresh opportunity to reach the lives of the people we encounter and ‘serve’. This hope starts demolition and gets to work on renovations. It’s hope that says if God fills His children with good things; I want to do the same for others and I’m willing to do the work it takes to get there.

When it comes to rethinking what we’ve been serving and how we can build self-awareness in the future, I think there are two things we might practice in life as you do in cooking.

1) Season as you go: It’s much easier to know how much salt should go on an onion sautéing in a pan than it is to know how much salt to put in an 8 quart pot of soup and 2) practice tasting while you cook; a way of cooking in which you taste and adjust seasoning as you add layers to your dish. If you taste frequently, you can easily tell if something needs to be adjusted in a recipe. So, in other words, if you start dishing out anger or bitterness or unfair judgement, it’s much easier to fix now than to ignore the problems and let them compound and try to fix a whole lot of issues at one time.

The type of commitment required in one of these restaurant makeovers is an all-or-nothing type of commitment. One that says I recognize now how I’ve been wrong, how much I need change, whether I am willing to ask for help when needed and repent to make things right with those I’ve wronged in order to turn it all around.

In Luke 14, Jesus told the Parable of the Wedding Feast.

I think that whenever you see the words in Scripture, “Jesus told a parable”, you can exchange it for this phrase, “Jesus saw a teaching opportunity” and then challenge yourself to understand what he’s teaching. In this parable, Jesus warned the people against placing themselves in a place of honor in order to avoid the shame of being reminded how unworthy you really are. In verse 11, it says For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Then Jesus also suggested etiquette for the guest list: Verse 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, because they cannot repay you.

He continues the parable telling of a master who planned a great banquet and invited many. At the time for the banquet he sent his servant to signal the dinner was ready. But all the people began to make excuses to explain why they couldn’t or wouldn’t keep their commitment to attend. When the servant reported this to his master, he sent the servant to the city streets to bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.

After this, there was still room. So the master sent the servant again, this time to search farther, in the highways and hedges to compel people to come in, so that the master’s house would be filled.

In these parables Christ shares who is welcome to feast with Him, and what He will stop at to see His banquet tables filled. Everyone. And Nothing. 

You are invited.

The invitation to His table is not extended with the intent to be repaid. Christ invites us to His table to freely give of himself to nourish us, to satisfy us and to give us strength. We are the poor, crippled, lame and blind. Yet He welcomes us to a place of honor.

You are compelled to Christ’s table.

If when you are invited, you make excuses or find other “more important” things to do than to sit in fellowship at the feet of Jesus, even though it costs us nothing, He will continue the search for people until His table is filled.

When Christ sends word for us to “Come”. He expects us to bring only ourselves, with our humility in tow. Likewise, when we invite others to our table, we must be willing to bring those who have nothing, those who can do nothing for us in return, those who do nothing to lift our station. 

If we don’t accept the invitation, we cannot taste and see that the Lord is good. We cannot be filled and satisfied unless we “Come”. But it’s God’s great desire that we do come and sit at his feet, filled with His good things and with his living water so that we’ll never thirst again.

The best restaurants are those that have embedded themselves in the community: they take care of their customers as though they were family. They feed into the lives of their people, supporting fundraisers and local activities, they are central in mobilizing to serve the hungry when there are crises in their hometown; like natural disasters and they also step up to an unseen plate on a daily basis to quietly care for their people, covering meals of first responders, veterans and taking care of their workers. In summary, the best restaurants are those that know the most important thing about feeding people, is the people.

In Zechariah 7, the town sent a delegation to confer with the priests. (They held a board meeting) to pose this question: “Should we plan for a day of mourning and abstinence, as we have been doing all these years?”

Zechariah prophesied God’s retort to all the people and the priests: “When you held days of fasting and feasting all these seventy years, were you doing it for me? While the people were interested in rule-bound religion, God was interested in people. He told the people: There’s nothing new to say on the subject. Don’t you still have the message of the earlier prophets? The message hasn’t changed. God said:

“Treat one another justly.

Love your neighbors.

Be compassionate with each other.

Don’t take advantage of widows, orphans, visitors, and the poor.”

One of the things the Restaurant Rescue Chef always focuses on is the story of the restaurant owner. What made them open a restaurant? What is their story? What is it that feeds their passion to continue trying their best to serve people even in the face of a failing restaurant? Who are there customers and how do they treat them? Perhaps for all of us, what got us to the point we are is very different from each other’s stories. But our future is the same because we have hope.

Hope that we do not have to stay as we are. Hope that we are never past the point of redemption. Hope that we will be called to “Come”. Hope for the day we will sit at the feet of Jesus, undistracted. Hope that when we do come to the table, we are trailing an army of friends and family we have found, invited and filled with the love Jesus poured into us.

Now, go and share: Whenever someone asks me for my recipe, I’m always willing to share it. Good recipes are worth remembering, worth sharing, worth tasting. In Judges 2:10, the people forgot the Lord because no one was sharing or passing down their knowledge. May we never neglect to share the goodness of God.

Sunday Summary July 19, 2020

Sammy wasn’t feeling well, so I went to church and left him resting. One of our church members who was recently appointed at another church as their acting Celebrate Recovery pastor; Shan, spoke in his stead.

She taught from Romans 8, drawing a comparison of toxic thoughts which enter our mind and play over and over in our heads to a computer virus. Once the thought enters our system–if it isn’t identified, quarantined and eradicated, can eventually impact our health, mentally and spiritually. As viruses tend to multiply once one has weakened a computer system’s defenses, toxic thoughts bombarding our minds can cause significant damage left unchecked. Without protective and defensive mechanisms in place, toxic thoughts will eventually consumer our mind until they also control our hearts.

Her message made me think of a recent devotional post I had read earlier in the week, about believing the worth of an item or our own personal worth based on the opinions and statements of others. Hearing negative words and statements, and allowing them space in our minds to be repeated over and over gives roots to those bitter seeds until they grow in our hearts, taking up room.

What ultimately matters is not what others say about you, nor what the devil says about you, but what God says about you. He will renew our minds.

After church, Shan and our Lay Servant Ministry Director, Pat, went to lunch and had a wonderful time with good food and great conversation. It was nice to go out with just girls, being real with one another. Then I picked up some groceries and supplies for the house and headed home.

We had cheeseburgers for dinner and I was attempting to hold them over or keep them from getting too overcooked while I waited for Sammy’s spiralized potatoes to finish baking in the oven, so I placed a lid over the skillet. The condensation created steam and those were the absolutely best burgers I’ve made in a long time. They were juicy and tender. I devoured dinner.

Today, I had volunteered to pick up a friend’s child and drop him off and band camp in Springville and wanted to go the extra mile to do something that would hopefully make his day a great one. I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and packed a dozen for him with a banana and two bottles of frozen gatorade. He plays the Baritone, is going into the 8th grade and his mama has done an excellent job raising a sweet and respectful boy.

That pretty wells sums up this Sunday and just like that, the weekend was gone!

The UMC: Tackling the Tough Conversations

Several years ago, the United Methodist Church began exploring the topic of homosexuality and its place in the church. Is it a sin? Is it okay for pastors to marry homosexual couples? Is it okay for them to be members? Is it okay for practicing homosexuals to pastor congregations? Conversations started out slowly and have continued to build over time. Some people were reluctant to join the conversations and not everyone who did speak up agreed. There are at least as many viewpoints and perspectives as there are United Methodists, so we really shouldn’t be surprised by conflict and disagreement. Sadly, pre-pandemic, conversation had reached a crescendo and a division of our United church seemed imminent. It appeared we wouldn’t reach a consensus. It appeared there were too many irreconcilable differences of opinion on this topic to remain United.

Given the rapid movement of the coronavirus into the United States, focus shifted to address those immediate needs. Conferences have understandably been postponed and thus the things we are talking about now look considerably different than they did just a few short months ago. We’re talking about virtual worship, how masks are a way of putting others above yourself and we haven’t stopped telling people to wash their hands and practice social distancing for 4 months. In ways, it feels like we’re even more disjointed and less United than we were before, but we’re all just treading water, doing the best we can to learn how to navigate in a rapidly changing environment of significant health concerns, government mandates, schooling and working from home, all while dealing with significant economic and financial impact, with little to no proven guidance. There has been an incredible amount of misinformation spreading as quickly as the virus we’re all talking about.

In the midst of the pandemic, a spark lit a fuse and racially centered conversational topics are climbing the charts, so to speak: injustice, inequality, bias, privilege, listening, amplifying voices and whose lives matter. The United Methodist Church has announced the creation of a resource page including tips for ‘Dismantling Racism’. Again, I expect there are those who are reluctant to join the conversation and again, I’m certain that not everyone who speaks up will be in agreement with one another. Personally, I disagree with one of the tips suggested on the resource page, “Do an internet search about a particular topic instead of asking your black friends to explain an issue to you.” It’s not the first time I have heard this advice or similar guidance. But I think it’s flawed advice.

In my previous role at the company I work for, one of my responsibilities was to interview candidates for open positions. I had to attempt to choose the right fit for my team based off one sheet of paper and an hour long meeting with a stranger. I quickly learned what I expected from resumes and from candidates. I also rapidly developed some pet peeves. Since that time, I have moved on to a new role, but I find myself still sharing guidance with people preparing for interviews, what to do and what not to do. I don’t share guidance because I know everything about hiring. I’ve interviewed dozens of people, not hundreds or thousands. I didn’t graduate from school with a degree in human psychology nor have I mastered behavioral interviewing methods. I share because of what I have learned through my personal experiences and I share because I have a genuine interest in helping people through unfamiliar territory. I share because I want to help them succeed using whatever tools I have to equip them with. If a friend were to ask me for advice or help on this topic, or any other they know I’m experienced or skilled in, I would happily take the time to talk through what I know. I would likely also guide them toward internet sources I have personally vetted and found to hold reliable, beneficial information.

I think it can be dangerous to conduct an internet search on a topic you are not familiar with. Have you ever searched for a diagnosis for health symptoms? You might have poison ivy or it could be the plague. By blindly searching without an experienced guide, one could surely be lost among the search results. How can you be certain the information you find is reputable? There are so many voices in the world, each one with an opinion and a keyboard megaphone, myself included. How does one who is unstudied determine which voice they will be taught by? Also, with so many voices, a person searching for answers and finding too many to process may just give up and not learn anything, choosing to remain comfortable that what they already believe they know is enough.

Friends help one another.

Friends, help one another.

You don’t have to be particularly well educated or well spoken. Share from your personal experiences. What have you learned that can educate others thoughts? What have you experienced or felt that can help guide others actions?

Conversely, for those of us who are learning, carefully choose the voices you learn from, who shape your thoughts and behaviors. Listen first to those who are close to you. Hear from those who are willing to be vulnerable and talk through the tough conversations.

This is something valuable we can learn from the UMC. There are tough conversations, uncomfortable topics. We acknowledge issues exist. We recognize there is room for us to learn and grow. We don’t know all the answers. We don’t all agree. But at least we’re talking about them.

Sunday Summary July 12, 2020

It’s been eight years since I’ve written a Sunday Summary. When I was writing regularly, they were Sammy’s favorite posts. I would talk about the sermon, church events, and general things we did throughout the day; sometimes exciting, sometimes mundane little details.

Today’s message came from Matthew 13, the parable of the sower. Summer seems a most appropriate season for this message because it’s the time when many are sowing seeds, reaping harvests and sharing their bounty. In the parable, Jesus talks about the importance of sowing into good soil, properly prepared for planting. Still, even when the soil is ideal and well prepared and the farmer is equipped with advanced tools and the power of science to make stronger seeds and healthier plants; while they grow, there are still many threats we are unable to control before the time of harvest. The feasibility of bringing in a harvest of a hundred fold is unfathomable.

Could we ever hope to be the seed sowed into good soil? The seed that hears the word and understands, the seed that bears fruit, the seed that yields that unfathomable harvest?

One definition of God’s providence is God’s involvement in all of the everyday, routine, parts of our lives. He’s there when the seeds are devoured, when they wither away without having rooted and when they are choked away by invasive weeds and of course, he is there when the seed takes root, flourishes, grows and bears fruit. He gives the increase.

All the talk of sowing seeds stayed on my mind throughout the day. After a nice dinner of slow cooked steaks, sweet potatoes and sauteed zucchini with bell peppers and onions, we gathered up a plate for a church member and delivered it to her and she gave us tomatoes from her own garden and some squash and cucumbers that she had been given. We stood outside and chatted with her for a while. Then, we left and went to the store to secure a gallon of tea.

All those moments of the evening brought us to the cash register, where we talked with our cashier about the food stamps having been down all evening and how customers had left abandoned carts, and employees had unpleasant encounters with customers who were angry. As we were paying, we both noticed a mama and her young boy a few registers over. She didn’t have much. We could tell by the interaction with her cashier that she was paying with food stamps and elected to leave her items behind when she learned that she would be unable to use her food stamps. As she was walking by, I quietly asked her if she would allow us to buy her items. She seemed to hesitate, but then agreed. It turned out to be two cans of infant formula, a box of Krabby Patties candy and two Sprites.

I’m fully convinced God brought us together at that moment to both plant a seed and bear fruit. And that’s the mystery of God’s providence. He is good and cares for us all, cares to give us opportunities to bear fruit, cares enough to keep that mama from having to leave the store without food for her baby and even cares about Krabby Patties.

Introduction

Who I Am

Welcome to my new blog! I’m Linda and I live in Alabama with my husband, Sammy of 20 years. Our personalities couldn’t be more different—but we make a good team. We have fun being silly together and also still enjoy conversation with each other. We love spending time relaxing on the porch together with nowhere to go and going on road trips throughout the country. We love sharing in meals with friends and quiet meals at home. We love estate sales, flea markets and ‘antique’ malls. We enjoy watching movies and relaxing in the evenings with our favorite tv shows. My taste in entertainment is considerably different than his, but we find plenty of shows to watch together. We love sharing our lives with other people and opening our home up with our own unique blend of ragamuffin hospitality.

We have worked together in ministry through the United Methodist Church since 2002. I have always felt (even before I met Sammy) that my role as a pastor’s wife is a personal calling, as much as my husband’s calling to pastor. Through my role, I seek to practice hospitality, serve others, feed others and apply my creativity. Although I personally feel a sense of calling to work alongside my husband in ministry, I understand there are many pastor’s spouses who did not choose this role and don’t feel it is a personal calling or even a sense of belonging and I know how difficult it can be to navigate ministry life when you are called into it. My heart is with you and you have my support. Ministry can be an all-consuming, challenging and lonely, albeit rewarding occupation but there is far too little support for and unity among those of us married to a pastor.

I also work in the banking industry, but apart from general references to work or life lessons learned in the workplace, I typically don’t write directly about my career.

We are pet parents–there are thousands of pictures on my phone and 90% of them are animals. We currently have 3 dogs and I absolutely love them and their big loyal personalities but there will never be any satisfaction more complete than that of a purring kitty in your lap.

I am solidly an introvert. I’m more comfortable in small groups of people for short periods of time and don’t have many friends I consider myself really close to. I relish solitude and being at home as a way to find comfort and refuel. I am a better communicator in writing than I am in person, largely because I can take time to carefully formulate my thoughts, express them in a clear and thoughtful way and edit them or even make them disappear if I change my mind about sharing them. I struggle with anxiety in social settings, but I have gotten better at setting firm boundaries for the social activities I will participate in and also at saying ‘No’ to participating in things that I know will expend more emotional energy than I have stored up.

I used to blog and when I look back over my long ago words, some of them seem foolish, a little embarrassing. But some of them remind me of where we were in life at that time. What we were experiencing, learning, feeling. And I’m so thankful to have those words recorded somewhere. There was a catalyst in our lives that made me nearly stop writing completely. I rarely posted after that time and for more than ten years, I haven’t returned to writing with any regularity. I’m fact, I had a draft of this very post for so long, I celebrated another year of marriage before finding the courage to hit ‘Publish’. Perhaps it’s time for change.