Category Archives: Hope

On the edge…

I just spent a lovely afternoon with a beautiful cousin of mine celebrating her soon to be wedded bliss. It was a fantastic day with a great group of people.  It’s always fun to get together and celebrate a joyous occasion.  As I walked into my house tonight I was met by a sense of contentment.  I was home, my feet were free and life was good.  It had been a good day.

After a quick snuggle with my little guy and a visit with my husband I got comfortable and waited my husband’s work in the laundry room to be complete.  I grabbed some apple cider, sat down at the kitchen table and began to read. I read a little about the future of the Church, about the PCC’s upcoming General Assembly and of course a little news.   It was a little disturbing to say the least.

In a short time I had read about a shooter at the Eaton Centre in Toronto who killed 1 and injured 7.  I read about Churches and their lack of desire to find ways to connect with new generations as it often means change and discomfort.  I discovered that the pension fund of my church has serious issues and I’m very grateful I am not relying on it as a source of income for retirement {but I worry about those who are}.  There were also cannibalistic killers, teenagers addicted to ‘Bath Salts’, governments struggling and people being oppressed.  It was not a good day for reading.

How do we deal with these things?
How do we deal with trouble that surrounds us?
How do we cope in such a broken world?

In truth, lately as a ‘church’ it seems like we’re not dealing with it very well.  There is so much out there that is troublesome.  So much out there that we cannot cope with.  We have turned our heads inward.  We have sought a safe place.  We have hidden from the world.

This week I am afraid that my denomination is hiding from the world.  Hiding from the reality that what we’re doing isn’t working anymore.  This week Wynford Drive will ask for more money from churches who are struggling.  This week the Pension and Benefits Board will let us know that costs will rise, there isn’t enough invested and something bad might {perhaps will} happen in the future.  This week as I tune in to watch the sederunts online I will likely be frustrated as I watch people argue over rules and structure, phrasing and form.  I will watch people get stuck in the process instead of ministry.  I hope I am wrong but I’m afraid that’s where we’re at.

As a people we’ve been blessed with a great message and mission.  We need to be spreading truth in the world. We must be blessing it in our actions.  We can’t be holed up in a room arguing about protocol and procedure, we need to be out in the world doing mission, living the message and sharing the Gospel.

It is my hope that we start to deal with the things that are happening around us soon. We need to invest in our communities so people know someone cares.  We must recognize the power in shared moments.  Our children need us to invest in them as opposed to maintaining for ourselves.  The people outside our doors need care, attention and grace.  They need good news and someone to share their life with.  If we would stop worrying about ourselves {and our books/rules/order} and started moving out into the world to actually do the ministry of Christ, I think we would be far more Christ like than we presently are.

That said, I have faith.  I believe in the power of God.  I trust that the Holy Spirit still moves.  So this week:

I pray for change and inspiration.
I pray that new ways to minister will be discovered.
I pray that the Holy Spirit will descend upon the gathering and breathe new life into a gasping organization.

I pray for truth to be revealed, for grace to be offered and for passion to be felt.

If you’re the praying kind please pray with me.  The world is desperate and struggling.  It needs good news and we are a people who have it.  It’s time we realized this as the gift it is and start spreading it into the world.

It’s time to move out.  We need to move in.  Let’s live on the edge…
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Worrying gets us nowhere.

I feel like I write about this all the time but it seems like all we do as a Church is worry and let’s face it, worrying gets us nowhere.

Think about it.  When in your life has worry actually accomplished anything?  In my life worrying never accomplishes anything.  I can worry all I want but worry doesn’t change the outcome.  All worrying does is cause anxiety and waste energy.
When the Church worries the same thing is true.

The Church right now is living in a state of anxiety and we are wasting energy discussing and debating all of our worries for the future.  Sinking into the worry and allowing it to consume us has not propelled us forward.  It has prevented us from visioning or making plans because we are worried of what might happen and we’re not focused on what is happening.

In my reading this morning I ran across this statement in 1 Chronicles 28:20, where David tells his son Solomon not to worry but instead to “…Be strong and of good courage, and act.  Do not be afraid or dismayed; for the Lord my God is with you…”  What I loved about this was that David reminds Solomon to act.  Not to get caught up in other things but to be strong, of good courage and act.  When we worry we fail to act.  When we worry we think about what might happen but we don’t act in the present.

It’s time to act.  To be the Church.  To stop worrying about the future and start thinking about the present.   It’s a tough time to be the Church.  Decisions need to be made.  Choices are going to be difficult.  Things must change.  All of that is hard to do but worrying about outcomes and wondering what’s going to happen doesn’t make it any less necessary.

I know it’s difficult.  We really don’t know where we are going but we aren’t the first people to have no clue what lay ahead.  The Israelites had to trust that God would lead them.  The Apostles waited in faith for the Holy Spirit to arrive.  Countless others have waited on God and now it’s our turn.  We are in a time of transition but as David reminded his son when he passed the torch “…the Lord my God is with you…”.  We aren’t alone in this.  God is with us.

When we give in to worry we cease relying on God.  We must have faith.  We have to trust that God is leading us somewhere.

Worrying gets us nowhere.

As David reminded Solomon, God is with us and we must act.
God is indeed with us. Are you ready for action?
How are you going to let go of worry?

Flames

The dance of a flame is incredible to watch.  Colors merge into one another. Slight variations in the atmosphere can cause it to burn brighter or fade away. Flames dance and flicker as they reach out around them seeking to spread their warmth and grow stronger, bigger.  They are as dangerous as they are intriguing. Flames are not something to mess with unless you know what you are doing.

I wonder if this is why God sent the Holy Spirit to the disciples in flame.  So they truly could feel the majesty and awe of it’s presence.  So they might be inspired to live in the flame, to dance boldly and spread the flame as they move in the world.

When the flame fills you, you must dance.  When the flame fills you, you must fan out into the world.  You are as dangerous as you are intriguing as nothing can stop you.  You must move.  You must share.  You must spread the light that’s in you with those you meet.

This week we celebrate Pentecost.  The coming of the spirit.  The dangerously intriguing spirit that inspires us, that motivates us, that changes us.

Are you ready to receive it?
Will you let it’s flame fill you and wrap you in it’s warmth?
Will you live in it’s message and spread the flame out in the world?

The spirit is coming…

Do I need a label maker?

Everyone has a label nowadays.  You have to be an ’emerging liberal conservative with evangelical tendencies’ to feel like you fit in in the Christian community.   It seems as though people believe that if you haven’t labeled your beliefs and put them in a category you’re not thinking enough about what it is you believe.

I don’t really understand the need for all this labeling.  Labels don’t really move us ahead and usually lead to division.  Then once you’ve divided yourself into categories you often find conflict comes next as each division thinks they’re right. After all the conflict you’ll find a lot of wounded people crying out in pain and I’m fairly certain this is not what Jesus wanted for us.

I cannot find one place in the Bible where Jesus said ‘you must label yourself according to beliefs and theological interpretation’.  Jesus is all about relationship and God’s love.

We all have labels that get put on us.  To some I’m a preacher.  To others I’m a teacher.  Some might call me pastor while others call me friend.  I’m also a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister and if I’m honest a pretty decent singer.  I can embrace a label for each part of my life and separate out sections of me or embrace the uniqueness that is me.   God created me to be all of these things.  Each part is important to the whole.

God created us all to be a part of the people of God.  Each part is important to the whole and we need to look at our differences as things that enhance the faith rather than detract from it.  We need to co-exist and embrace our diversity as it helps to create a rich, full faith that is constantly revealing truth to us.  When we focus on our differences as a negative thing and bring judgement into the mix we’ve lost perspective and purpose.

I don’t want a label.  I just want to follow Jesus.
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Do you think labels are important or do they hurt us?  I’d love to know what you think.

Stuck

I think we’re stuck in the same model.  You know what I mean, the model of ‘doing church’ that we’ve been using for the last 75 years or so.

I use the term ‘doing church’ instead of ‘being church’ because most of us really are just doing it.  We get up Sunday mornings {or we don’t} and we go to church to have worship done for us.  We might throw some money on the plate, attend a few dinners and help out here and there but in actual fact the church is something we expect to be there for us.  It’s a place we go when we want tradition, to be comforted or just as a habit.  It’s something that doesn’t really change.

We are stuck.

Stuck is not a good thing to be.  When I think of stuck I imagine gum on the bottom of a shoe or a door that just won’t open.  Not pleasant experiences and definitely not something that will entice or serve anyone in a positive way.
As a church we are stuck.  We are unable or unwilling to move or release ourselves from the holding pattern we have been in for years because of fear, because of tradition, because of a desire to maintain some control over the process.

The thing is, we are not in control or we shouldn’t be.  God should be the captain of our ship.  God should be the one who is in charge and if you read the Bible you’ll see that often times people who get stuck on control or who like things a certain sort of way get into a lot of trouble {I’m looking at you Ahab & Solomon}.

It’s time for us to vision.  Not those stupid visions that happen when you throw 7 people on a committee and get them to draft a new statement of who we are but actual real life visioning.  We need to throw the people of God into a room and ask them where they want to be in 10 years.  We need to hear what they are passionate about and find ways of making ministry real and vital in our world.  We need to make a choice to work with God.  We need to seek out who God wants us to be.

Who does God want us to be?
Where is God leading us?

I’d love to know what you think.

Frozen in fear

I have been accused in the past of having high expectations of people.    That I think they are capable of more then they actually are.  I’ve been told that I should just accept that some things won’t change.  I doubt God endorses this philosophy as God is constantly pushing people to change, to be better and to trust him.  This is seen time and again in the Bible and in our own lives if we’re honest.  God wants good things for people, for all people and that rarely lets anyone off the hook when it comes to change.

I think this is why I get so frustrated with the church.  Presbyterians in particular are notorious for halting any hint of change with debate and discussion.  We table absolutely everything.  We claim we are waiting on the Holy Spirit but I have a feeling the Holy Spirit is dancing about in the room and no one is willing to see it. We are afraid of doing anything for fear that it might be wrong or it won’t work.

This fear is killing us.  It’s paralyzed us.  We aren’t doing anything for fear of offending or losing people.  We do this delicate dance around this issue of change and growth.  We never want to talk about what needs to be done because we are afraid.  In my reading this week I came across a passage in Deuteronomy where Moses reminds the people of God that God is always with them.  That God in fact goes before them:

“It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.”  Deuteronomy 31:8 NRSV

We need to remember that God is going before us.  Our trust should be in God, not our processes.  We need to accept that movement is part of faith.  Movement and change are built into our history.  There is only one constant, God.  That constant is the thing we should cling to.  We need to push through the fear we feel.  God has moved on and is expecting us to catch up.  It’s time to let go of our attachments to what we know and move forward into the unknown believing that God will provide.

Do you think that’s possible?
Will we find the courage to follow God into a new {different} life?

You’d think I was in Seminary…

My Bible is permanently cracked open to the page that I last left off.  I cannot stop reading.  Not because it’s always interesting {it’s not} it’s because of the one random detail I never noticed before.  A small fact that had previously slipped my notice or was long ago forgotten.

There’s a book that rests beside my Bible filled with notes on random things.  If you peeked inside you might find a comment on how old Aaron was when he died, how crazy the Israelites are to constantly complain over and over again when God is sure to hear them and how not much has really changed as it still happens.  There are quotes and scripture references to go back to in the future.  It’s probably something I’ll never read again but at the time I felt like I had to remember whatever it was I wrote down.  So it’s written.  It is written.

I have no idea why I’m doing this.  I’ve read large chunks of what I’m reading before.  I am a little crazy I think.

I’m not getting anything accomplished really.  When I’m not doing this I’m reading Andy Stanley’s book Next Generation Leader and talking about it with my optometrist who then encouraged me to abandon everything and go to the Drive Conference in Atlanta.  It was tempting.  I’d love to be filled spiritually and find some new direction.

This might seem like rambling and I believe that it is but that’s truly where I sit right now.  I’m feel like we’re weaving through the desert heading into the promised land and I’m surrounded by people who don’t believe it, cannot fathom it, would push it away.  There are others who stand with me.  Others who stand apart and believe that things are possible but I wonder where our Moses is.  Who will lead us and push us and say the tough things?

I guess I should mosey on over to the New Testament and see what Jesus has to say for this week but my heart still hangs back with the Israelites as they threaten to enter the promised land.  Will they do it?  Will it actually happen for them?
Of course we know the answer.  We would know the answer for ourselves too if only we would trust.  The question is when will we do that?  When will we trust?

I probably should stop reading.  I probably should stop worrying about others and think about where I’m going to go next.  It’s just not likely to happen.  It’s not really my style.

So here I sit.  Reading and thinking.  Praying and reflecting.  Coming up with more questions instead of the answers I seek.  God is funny sometimes and I look forward to seeing where this all leads.

Shadow Days

There was a time right around when my son was born that I like to call the dark times of my soul.   I was so angry.  So very angry.  I didn’t know why X. was created in a way that required him to have surgery.  I was angry at God, at everything in our situation and I didn’t know what to do.  There were days when I couldn’t pray, I just sat frightened and fearing the worst.

The prayers of others carried me through that time.  The prayers and thoughts and encouragement of so many of my family, my friends and throughout the community of faith carried me through.  As I stand on the other side I can see the hand of God pressed on me, carrying me, my husband and X.  We survived.  Some might say we thrived.

When I first heard the song Shadow Days by John Mayer I loved it {which should come as no surprise as I love everything by him} but I didn’t pay too much attention to the lyrics.  This week however I happened upon the video and I was struck by one particular line.

“Had a tough time, had a rough start but I finally learned to let it go.”

We had a tough time and a rough start as a family but we pulled through.  I’m so grateful for the love and support of everyone.  The prayers pulled us in.  God was there with us.  We were truly blessed. This song reminded me of how far I’ve come.  How my dark days are indeed over and how blessed I feel right now as part of this family and in my ministry.

Here it is…

When I announced the I was going through Leviticus I knew that someone would want to know my stance on Homosexuality and Jesus.  I didn’t expect it to come quite so fast but thanks Robert for prompting me to share.

Here’s it is:

God doesn’t make mistakes.  God makes people.  Some people are gay, some are straight and I think God loves everyone.  Some of you might wonder why I would say this.  You might think I’m a horrible Christian for believing this but here me out.  I don’t think God ever intended for us to hate gay people and I’m fairly certain as a church we’ve got it wrong.

The first thing I thought when I got to Leviticus 18:22 was “well I guess it’s ok to be a Lesbian”.  There’s no mention of women/women relationships and I guess that’s probably due to the fact that women were not really citizens.  I’m not sure why we got hung up on this line really.  It’s one line in a bunch of lines that we don’t really follow anymore.  Think about it for a moment

Truthfully there’s a lot more said about menstruation, semen emissions and sleeping with other animals then there is about homosexuality.

I do not know why one rule is held up over these others.  I do not understand why  Christians who follow Jesus think it’s okay to hate others.  Jesus spoke love into the world.  Jesus lived love in the world.  Jesus showed us how much God loved us and tried to demonstrate how we should live.

When asked which were the most important parts of the law Jesus said “‘…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” {Matthew 22:37-40 NIV}

We need to love our neighbor.  We need to love them.  This is what Jesus taught us to do.  We are called to love, serve and speak God into the world.  We need to love.

I love gay people.
I love you too.
I try to love everyone.
That’s what Jesus taught me to do.

God doesn’t quit.

I’m wading through Leviticus right now and am awfully thankful I was not a priest back in the day.  I don’t think I could have done it.  I really would have had a hard time killing a cow/sheep/insert animal here.   I’d make friends with it and then when the time came to say good bye I don’t think I’d be able to do it.  It’s really not something I would have to worry about though as I’m a women and therefor unclean a lot of the time and also unworthy of the task.

Have I mentioned how thankful I am not to have been a priest back then?

A few days ago I decided to read the Bible from front to back as I was jumping all over the place.  I started to wonder if I was missing key things because I wasn’t following a plan.  This forces me to hit areas of the Bible that I forget about. Leviticus is one of those areas.

As I’ve been reading through from Genesis to Leviticus 16 and what I’m really appreciating about God this run through is that God lays everything out neatly in great detail {in fact some might argue too much detail} so that the people of God ‘get it’.   God’s people make mistakes and he stays with them.  Explaining things over and over again.  He doesn’t quit.

We worship a God who doesn’t quit.
This is great news!

God doesn’t quit.  God is there.  Persevering through the ages.  Trying to catch our attention and draw us back into right relationship with him.  God loves us so much he even joins us on earth for a bit to see if that helps.  God is pretty great that way.  We’re pretty lucky people.

I think this is something we need to remember.  We think if we’ve made a mistake it’s over.  We think we can’t turn back but the truth is we can.  We can always go back.  Even when we build a golden calf, we can always go back.

We worship a God who doesn’t quit.
Even when we as individuals don’t ‘get it’.
Even when we as a church don’t ‘get it’.

God doesn’t quit.
We shouldn’t quit either…