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.