Monthly Archives: January 2018

Loving God with all our Mind

Yesterday we continued our sermon series based on John Wesley’s essay “The Character of a Methodist.”

Jesus said we are called to “Love the LORD our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, all our minds and all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.” This series is focusing on each one of those statements and this week we looked at how we love God with our minds. Personally I think this can tricky. One the one hand we think ourselves into a state of anxiety and uncertainty. Or we can dismiss what we think and focus only on the heart and spirit. I think we are called to dedicate our minds to do the will of God.

You can find the link to the worship service here.

During the sermon I shared this prayer from St. Anselm in the 10th century as one way to focus our minds on seeking God and learning from God.

O Lord my God,
Teach my heart this day where and how to see you,
Where and how to find you.
You have made me and remade me,
And you have bestowed on me
All the good things I possess,
And still I do not know you.
I have not yet done that
For which I was made.
Teach me to seek you,
For I cannot seek you
Unless you teach me,
Or find you
Unless you show yourself to me.
Let me seek you in my desire,
Let me desire you in my seeking.
Let me find you by loving you,
Let me love you when I find you.

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Praying Always

“Most high and glorious God, bring light to the darkness of my heart. Give me right faith, certain hope, and perfect charity. Lord, give me insight and wisdom so I might always discern Your holy and true will.” – St. Francis of Assisi

A few weeks ago in worship I shared how this prayer has guided and directed me for almost all my ministry. Not just the words, but the song. John Michael Talbot recorded it on his album Troubadour of the King. Here is the version I sing every morning and every evening.

I sing it as I wake and when I go to sleep, when I wake up in the middle of the night wearied with all kinds of inconsequential things or by major happenings in the world. When I need to pause in the middle of the day and discern what I will say or what I will do.

“Most high and glorious God, bring light to the darkness of my heart. Give me right faith, certain hope, and perfect charity. Lord, give me insight and wisdom so I might always discern Your holy and true will.”

I learned these words quickly, music does that for my heart and soul. I carry this prayer with me in my comings and goings, in my solitude and in my community. This prayer, these words of St. Francis has sustained me in life’s highs and lows.

The deepest desire of my heart and spirit is to have “right faith, certain hope and perfect charity.” When I pray those words, I am not aiming to be perfect in terms of making no mistakes. “Right faith” isn’t about an arrogance that I know it all or understand it all or an am expert. For me, right faith is tied to the hope, a certain hope that God is always with me and that God’s perfect love (charity) will guide and direct me.

Faith gives me courage to live out the will and grace of God. Hope sustains and undergirds the belief that Emmanuel, God is with me. Perfect charity becomes God’s spirit at work in my spirit, that I might love as God loves and learn to love in a deeper and more holy and grace filled way.

God knows how much I long to discern God’s will and way for my life. Asking God to bring light to the darkness of my heart  is not so much about being depressed as to acknowledge how many things cloud my heart and soul and mind. There are so many things that get in the way of my being a conduit for God’s grace and love.

So on this day, when I have a brief pause in a schedule that has been way too busy these last few weeks, I pray this prayer and I share it with you.

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It is Well With My Soul

Yesterday’s worship service was good for my soul in so many ways. In both the 8:15 and 11:00 service I listened to Trevor Stewart play viola and in the latter service the Chapman Stick. I first heard him on a Saturday at the Old Town Farmer’s Market and promptly bought his CD. The choir sang beautifully, but also, some of my favorite hymns were sung.

I have loved the hymn “It is Well With My Soul” for so long. The words written by Horatio Spafford after several tragic events in his life, he lost a son, his livelihood in the Great Chicago Fire and then his four daughters on ship crossing the Atlantic to Europe. It is said he penned the words to this song near the spot where his daughters drowned on his way to meet his grieving wife. This is one of my favorite renditions of that hymn. In worship, we ended the service with this hymn.

Our sermon series is focusing on how DO we love God with all our hearts and all our souls and all our minds and all our strength and our neighbor as ourselves? This service was looking at our soul work and how is it we can find peace in our souls.

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I used this great quote from John Wesley that I received this last week at the Order’s and Fellowship meeting.

“Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life: There is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days….do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow.”

A link to yesterday’s worship service can be found here

How is it with your soul today? How will it be with your soul this week? I pray it will be well with your soul and that through your life, your heart and your spirit God’s grace and love is made real in the world.

 

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#ClergyShaming

It has been an interesting week. I usually come to clergy events with mixed feelings. I know not to expect over the top great continuing education. Annual conferences don’t have those kind of resources to usually underwrite top-notch events. In all my years of ministry that has been true. Occasionally someone has been brought in that was pretty great, but mostly I don’t expect it. I go to national events for those kind of experiences.

I go to annual conference events mostly for the fellowship, seeing people I only see a couple of times a year. This year was no different. I have heard Michael Slaughter more than once  and heard OF Clif Christopher so I knew it would be ok, or perhaps more accurately, I thought it would be. I am saddened and angry that it was not.

It is hard to know where to begin, but suffice to say that after thirty plus years of ministry I did not expect the overwhelming arrogance and maleness of the event. When I was a young clergywoman (and yes I was young once) I expected to do a great deal of translating. There were not many clergy women and so all the examples and all the stories were about men and for men and were usable by men. Jokes were often about male experience and too often with women as the lesser partners in the mix.

Fast forward to 2018. I would guess at least one-third of the room were clergy women. Women serve on the cabinet, as executive directors of our institutions, and are senior pastors of large churches. To have session after session with little or no positive examples of women’s leadership is unconscionable. PARTICULARLY in these days of the #MeToo movement.

The opening session and the example of a prostate exam and the doctor being somewhere “his wife” hadn’t seen was terrible and inappropriate and if not boundary crossing, it was border line. Women have been having “invasive” exams since their teens. Humilitating? Ok, but don’t expect everyone to have a moment of sympathy. It wasn’t funny for many and frankly wasn’t needed. Then the comment by the other speaker “Sorry I’m off the market ladies and I know she’ll (his wife) “have my supper ready.” The context was about thank you’s, but again it was inappropriate. There are far more examples that could have conveyed the same point, unless of course you are more interested in using the same tired “good ol’ boy” strategies for the 21st century.

Using military examples can work for some people. However, using the example of being in the Gulf War and having the Iraqi’s surrender was in my ears terribly demeaning and racist. The point the speaker was trying to make was that we need to be trained as Christians rather than pretend to be Christians. The example was that the Iraqis were wearing an Iraqi uniform, carrying Iraqi guns and when confronted with the American troops surrendered. The way it was told was patronizing. And the tag line of the solider who only had twelve bullets for his gun and needed back up in case those P.O.W.’s got ruly just was icing on the cake. How many other examples are there of people who are “pretending” to be Christian can we use that doesn’t look down on another country or another people? How about cowboys that wear the ten gallon hats but have never ridden a horse? Or snow bunnies who go to the lodges wear ski clothes but never get on the slope?

And the Body shaming was stunning. I was not personally affected by that other than amazed that it was being said. Comments like, “you can not be an effective leader if you overweight.” That was said in more than one way and in more than one session. I am ten pounds overweight and know it. Others are being humilated by being told they are ineffective and “fat.”

 

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I talked and heard from dozens of women and men who were unimpressed and saddened and even sickened by what was happening. Yelling at clergy, at anyone and telling them they are dumb and stupid for not doing something is not just unhelpful, it is abusive. The thing is, there was so much potential and opportunity to help clergy to learn and grow. One young woman said to me (and I have permission to share), “I don’t care if he wants a Mercedes convertible, I don’t appreciate being told that getting my Master’s degree was stupid and going into debt to do so on behalf of the church was dumb. He can talk money to me all he wants, what I want is enough money to pay my children’s pediatrician bills.”

I am not listing every comment I heard from the speakers or from my colleagues. I may have another blog coming on this subject. I know the purpose of the conference was to help clergy in terms of stewardship and reaching out to change lives. Yelling at clergy, telling them they have done it all wrong, regularly using like stupid and dumb usually is not very motivativing. I believe it counter-productive. Frankly, I am DONE with listening and exposing myself to people who think they have all the answers and are insulting to my intelligence. I am DONE with male jokes, the mansplaining, and the clergy shaming. Done.

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I want to motivate clergy to do better. I want people, my colleagues, myself to be healthier, stronger and more productive. I don’t want the church to fail or to miss opportunities to change lives or make a difference in the world. What I do want is an environment that is healthy, that is encouraging, that is godly and that does not demean or belittle or stereotype. I want a  place that does not assume that everyone is the same, that every church is the same and that every person will come with the same abilities and gifts.

In fact, isn’t that what “church” is all about? We are the body of Christ, not all alike, with different gifts and abilities, and we are brothers and sisters. We are the beloved children of God.

So, I say #TimesUp church! #TimesUp! We can do better, we must do better if we think we are going a reach out beyond our walls. I don’t want to have one more #MeToo story from the church. No more verbal abuse, no more #bodyshaming, no more #ClergyShaming. Not only do we need to do better, we need to be better than this.

 

 

 

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The Character of a Methodist: Sermon Series

Today at First United Methodist Church we began a new sermon series called the Character of a Methodist. The sermon series is based on an essay or treatise by John Wesley titled the same. You find this work by John Wesley here. Wesley’s words are quite interesting and challenging. The essay is not long and I would invite you to read it.

The next five weeks at the church we will be using this work of Wesley as well as the lectionary to focus on how we can deepen our faith. When the religious leaders challenged Jesus on the law and which law was most important he said, “The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’” (Mark 12: 29-31)

On this Sunday, we celebrated the Baptism of Jesus by remembering our own baptism and focusing on loving God with all our hearts. Each person received a prayer word to focus their hearts in God over the next year. Over the next few weeks we will also ponder and focus on loving God with all our souls, with all our minds, our strength and our neighbors as ourself.

You can watch today’ service here.  If you would like a prayer word, please e-mail me or send a facebook message. I will be glad to provide a prayer word for 2018 for you.

 

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Speaking out

I am tired. I don’t know about you, but I am weary of the hate-filled rhetoric. There are many times I might have blogged, but chose not to. I,often, have no words, I who am supposed to have a “word” for everything. I am a preacher after all, and am called to have something to say in times of joy, in times of sadness, in times of uncertainty, in times when words seem to fail.

I often have had to something to say, when there has been horrible violence:

Horror and Violence in the nth degree

Prayers for Paris,  

Another Shooting

When there are times that are anxious:

Anxiety, Fear, and Rumors of Wars

When I am upset and overwhelmed by racism or sexism:

Standing up, Speaking Out, Praying for Peace

#MeToo

And my blogging started years ago with the shooting of Dr. George Tiller and then the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford in a post:

Words Matter

Today, once again, I KNOW that words matter, that denigrating human beings and their homelands is bad, period. I can not be the only tired of the words that are coming from our nation’s capital. Words matter, language matters, manners matter and holding one’s self to a higher standard matters. It matters when the president of the United States does not condemn racist language or hateful speech. It matters when the president of the United States uses twitter to belittle other people, to bully other people, to make policy statements or post anything untrue. Words matter, even on twitter, even in private meetings about immigration.

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As an “old pastor,” one who has been around for a while, I often talk with new clergy about things that matter, words, certainly, but also dress and behavior and the higher standard to which we are held. It isn’t fair, it isn’t! When I was young, I lived in a very small town and not long after I was there, some of the people came to talk to me about how I dressed when coming downtown to pick up my mail. I saw nothing wrong with wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Some people saw it differently and said they didn’t want to be embarrassed to introduce me as their pastor.

Did that upset me? You bet it did. However, I decided as a young clergy woman, I had enough strikes me against me that I didn’t want my appearance or my clothing to distract from my service, my work, my calling, my ministry. I probably over dressed for a long time, but no one ever said they were embarrassed again about the way I dressed.

I also over the years have become aware that my facial expressions, my aside comments, my overheard comments and critiques can also be incredibly damaging. I confess, I have not always done well or that I don’t still fail pretty regularly. Rolling my eyes at things I think are ridiculous, making comments about situations or people, these are not only unhelpful, they are wrong and hurtful.

Anyone in public service, whether ministry, or teaching, or government are held to a higher standard of behavior and they should be. We are called to be leaders, we are called to thoughtful rhetoric. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with everyone. It doesn’t mean there can not be deeply held beliefs that are divisive. It doesn’t mean there can’t be heated argument, debate and disagreement.

What it does mean is that WORDS MATTER. Using offensive language to describe a person’s home country, making insulting and derogatory comments about human beings is unacceptable as a public servant, or for anyone. The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church have made this statement about the offensive remarks .

I would invite the President, but more importantly all of us to re-think how we behave in private and in public. What he says, what we say can make a difference for good or ill, for peace or violence, for what is right and what is wrong. As a follower of Jesus, I am convicted that I must stand against racism, bigotry and words that incite hatred and violence.

My words matter, as do all of ours. I call on all of us to stand up against hatred, against racism, against any language that is used to put down, bully or insult other human beings regardless of their race, their age, their nationality, their gender, their orientation, their religion. I, we, can do better than this. Let us choose justice, let us choose goodness, let us choose a higher road and a higher standard for our behavior.

 

 

 

 

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Celebrating Epiphany: The Challenge of Faith

Today at First United Methodist Church we celebrate the Visitation of the Magi or the Feast of Epiphany. In many other churches, particularly those who attend worship on the actual day, January 6, today was the baptism of Jesus. We will celebrate that next week.

This morning, was another moment to breathe and to immerse ourselves in the incarnation, Emmanuel, God-with-us. The story in Matthew 2 is a complex and deeper story then we often believe. The Christmas season and Epiphany are no just sentimental stories that are cute and sweet.

At the heart of them is a God who enters a world filled with violence and hatred and pain. God comes in Christ not when the world ready or perfect, but when the world is broken and needs grace. In worship today, we focused on Epiphany not only as a festival, but as a season where God’s light is there for all. You can watch our worship service in its entirety here: Downtown Alive

As with most Epiphany services, I ended the sermon with Howard Thurman’s poem:

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May these words come true this year! A blessed Epiphany!

 

 

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