Tag Archives: grace

Sunday’s Service, Festival of the Christian Home

Yesterday was Mother’s Day in the United States. I know that it is a complicated holiday and not the least of which has to do with the sometimes chessy card and commercials that encourage people to honor their mothers. Yesterday in worship, I preached about how this holiday filled with both joy and sorrow. In the United Methodist tradition it is called the Festival of the Christian Home which allows the focus to be on home, rather than on whether or our mothers were amazing or a mess. In my own life, I heard from my kids, on Facebook my son said I was wonderful and my daughter posted this wonderful Story People card: (on if it is on Facebook it must be true, right?!?!)


How I would like that to be true….I certainly write often enough that I long to love that was God loves and they way I see God loving and gracing the world in Jesus. In the end I do trust that the Divine Spirit is making their Home with us, in fact I am clinging to it.  Here is the service from yesterday:

http://sundaystreams.com/go/firstwichita

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Mother’s Day and All will be Well

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day in the United States. Celebrated with flowers, candy and often meals, mothers are praised and loved and remembered. However, this day can bring mixed feelings for many. Those who have longed to be mothers, grieve. Those who have lost their children to death, to disease, to addiction, to broken relationship grieve. Those who have lost their mothers to death, to addiction, to broken relationships, grieve.

I am one of those who is “motherless.” My own mother died not quite four years ago. While her transition was a good one, there are things I miss. I am sorry she was not able to see me appointed to First United Methodist Church. She worked there as a receptionist and I grew up there. She would have been thrilled for me and (not a little proud as mom.)

I am also, one of those women who happen to be a mother and a grandmother. Mother’s day becomes a joy as I celebrate the love I have for my children and grandchildren and appreciate so many women who have mothered me and mentored me throughout the years.

Today is also on some calendars the Feast Day of Julian of Norwich. There is some discrepancy as some celebrate it on May 13 and others on May 8. Since tomorrow is Mother’s day in my neck of the woods, it makes sense for me to reflect on this amazing woman today.

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Not much is known Julian, not even if that is her real name. What is known is that she wrote a book around 1395, the first known to be written in English by a woman. Her Revelations of Divine Love is filled with such amazing imagery and faith.

There are many sayings of Julian’s that are important to my faith journey,

” As truly God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother.”

“Our Savior is our true Mother in whom we are endlessly born and out of whom we shall never come.”

These next words, are the ones I return to again and again and again.

When I first saw that God does everything that’s done, I didn’t see sin, and I saw all is well. When God did show me sin, He said then, “All will be well.” God also said to me, “You won’t be overcome,” and these words were said adamantly, and I was convinced. They gave me certainty and strength against every tribulation that might come.
God didn’t say, “You won’t be attacked” or “You won‘t be overwhelmed” or “You won’t be upset” or “You won’t be stressed out.” No, instead He said, “You won’t be overcome.” God wants us to pay attention to His words, and always be strong in our certainty–when things are going well and when things are going terribly–God wants us to love Him and delight in Him and trust in Him with all our heart, and all will be well.

All will be well. All will not perfect or fun or wonderful. Julian lived in times of great uncertainty, illness, pain. Out of that experience she was able to speak of great strength, comfort and love. Her words centuries later still speak of a Divine Love that never lets us go. A love that is with us in life and in death and in life beyond death. A love that promises each of us that we are beloved and graced beyond anything we can imagine.

In Julian’s words: ” All shall be well, all shall be well….for there is a Force of love moving through the universe that holds us fast and will never let us go.” As I think about Mother’s Day, I pray for all to know that Force of love that will never let us go. I pray for the certainty that “all will be well and all manner of things will be well.”

The author of Second Timothy reminds him “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother and your mother and now in you….rekindle the gift of God that is within you.”   Jesus, in the gospel of John states, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”  The promise is that God is at work within each of us, by the faith given us by mothers and grandmothers and mentors and by living out Jesus’ command to love God and love one another. The Force of Love makes its home with us and in us…and all will be well.

As a motherless child, as a mother, a grandmother, an aunt and a friend, I am certain that God loves me and loves us all. In that certainty, I trust that God is rekindling the gift of grace and love within me.  As I remember and give thanks for the mothers and grandmothers who have offered me love and faith, I  am graced to serve.

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For the Love of Jesus, I am not going away

Yesterday, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church (UMC) released its decision on a request from the South Central Jurisdiction of the UMC concerning the application of certain paragraphs from the Discipline on the nomination, election and consecration of bishops. In shorter terms, the question had to do specifically with the nomination, election and consecration of Bishop Karen Oliveto from the Western Jurisdiction of the UMC, and the paragraphs have to do with “self avowed practicing homosexuals.”  Here is the link to the full review of the case before the Council.

There are a “lot of words” out there on this case, before the Council met and now since they have released their decision. For non United Methodists, the Judicial Council is basically our Supreme Court. They make decisions based on requests from United Methodists that question acts by bishops or pastors or annual conferences and rule on what is “lawful” or “constitutional” within the UMC. The Judicial Council doesn’t make the laws or the rules that are within the Discipline, they only make decisions as to whether entities within the church are following them, or upholding them. The General Conference is entrusted with writing or rewriting or changing the Discipline every four years.

The church, for some time, has wrestled with the issues surrounding human sexuality. This is not the first debate the “church” has had over biblical issues. The church has split over many other kinds of issues, over power, over structure, over biblical authority, over slavery, over women in the ministry, divorced people in the church and in the ministry, over the use of alcohol, playing cards or dancing. I am not making light of the conversation and deep divide that is in front of the UMC right now. I am pointing out, that the church is constantly struggling to figure out how to be the church and how to live out following Jesus Christ in a real way in each generation.

The Methodist church divided over slavery a little over 150 years ago. Each side believed they were right. Slavery is biblical, there are verses in place as to how to treat a slave appropriately. And yet…..I do not believe there is a church left that still believes that “owning” another human being is Christian. Women have been in the pulpit just a bit over a 100 years, and yet it was not until 1956 women were full members as clergy. There are still people who walk away from the church when a woman is appointed as pastor. There is plenty in the New Testament to cling to if one wants to deny women the opportunity to live out their call as pastors and preachers and teachers. It has only been since the 1970’s that divorced people could be ministers. If a pastor went through a divorce he (and at that time it was usually a he) had to turn in his credentials. Of everything that I have noted, divorce is the one thing that Jesus had some very strong and judgemental words to say. (Matthew 5: 31-32)

I was saddened by the Judicial Council’s ruling, but not surprised. Their job is to rule on what the Book of Discipline states. As someone who has been clergy for 35 years, I know what the Discipline states and have worked to change the language. Our, as in United Methodists, statements that all people are of sacred worth and that homosexuality is not compatible with Christian teachings is contradictory. Obviously I disagree, but the Discipline states what it states, so the decision by the ruling should not surprise anyone. Judicial Council’s function is not to question or change what is in the Discipline, it is only to rule on whether or not the question before them is valid and then what if any acts are in violation of the Discipline. The Western Jurisdictions College of Bishops released this statement. The College (which is the name of the group of bishops for a particular area) already has had Bishop Oliveto’s “case” under review. The sad thing is that her jurisdiction elected her with no dissenting votes, which is practically a unanimous vote. They elected Bishop Oliveto because they believed she had the gifts and the graces to lead the church forward. Her assigned annual conference also have many who agree with her giftedness for the church.

I am saddened by this because I continue to see the best and brightest and most gifted people turned away because they are gay or lesbian. Men and women are told they are sacred worth, but not holy and sacred enough to share their lives and their gifts for ministry in the church. Some congregations won’t even allow them to be on staff or in leadership. I, divorced and remarried, am allowed to stand up Sunday after Sunday and preach grace, love and hope and promise and faith and the good news of new life in Jesus. Yet, someone, who happens to have a different orientation than I, is denied that privilege not because of an action that Jesus clearly condemns, but on the basis of their “being.”

I have been told that those who think the church needs to change should just go away or start a new church. What if those who had worked diligently for slavery to be abolished had just gone away? Or those who worked for full inclusion of people regardless of the color of their skin had just gone away? Or those who worked for the full inclusion of women just went away? I have loved the United Methodist Church my whole life, I am not going away. I am not leaving. I want to be part of bridging the divide that honors what I believe is the real grace and love of Jesus for ALL people.

There are many bumps and mountains and disappointments in the long round to justice, to the reign of God. I never thought I would see in my lifetime, all the changes that have been made. I never thought I would live to see gays and lesbians being able to marry legally, to have the same basic civil rights that I enjoy. And yet, it is now the law of the land as well as the law in many countries around the world. In the church, I have seen many things that are disappointing, but I have seen a movement towards equality and justice. Baby steps, I tell myself, baby steps.

Yesterday, in Egypt, Pope Francis spoke these words, “”History does not forgive those who preach justice but then practice injustice. History does not forgive those who talk about equality but then discard those who are different.” While I know Pope Francis was not speaking about the UMC, he was speaking about equality and justice. I will continue to work for what I believe is true justice in the UMC. I will work with and walk with those who are most hurt by our lack of compassion and grace. I will not walk away or leave, because I believe that I am called to do the working of inviting, including and proclaiming God’s grace for ALL. For the Love of Jesus, I will continue to Stand Up!

 

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Giving Thanks

Today I give thanks for so many things: family, friends, a job, a home I love, a chance to cook and for the people who will gather around my table tomorrow. Thanksgiving week usually tends to be a slower week at church, even though we are gearing up for Advent.

Today, once I got home, it was full swing into getting ready for company. We had kids and grandkids coming home. We finished up cleaning and making beds. For me, it was cooking and baking.

I tend to do as much preparation as I can before a big feast day. I want to enjoy the day and not spend the whole time in the kitchen. Tomorrow, three of us will participate in the ‘Say Grace’ 5K race in the morning. The money supports a ministry of the United Methodist Church and it’s fun.

So, today I made a chocolate bourbon pecan pie, caramel apple banana muffins, a cranberry tart.

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I tasted the cranberry curd….oh my is it tasty! I also bought pies from the youth, so dessert is covered! We smoked a natural ham in the smoker and I I just pulled the turkey out of the oven.

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My twin sister is bringing the green bean casserole and the make ahead mashed potatoes. The 7 layer jello salad will be done before the evening is out. There will be relishes, corn and dressing to finish up tomorrow.

When it is all said and done there will be ten around my table and I couldn’t be happier. Surrounded by love and laughter, that for me is the bedrock of Thanksgiving. The food is important, but the fellowship is what makes the feast.

So from my house to yours, may you experience love and laughter this Thanksgiving and may grace and gratitude bless you.

 

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Valentine’s Day Reflections

I actually enjoy and love this hallmark/FTD holiday. I didn’t used to. There was a time I loathed it or at least disliked it a bunch! About twenty five years ago I wrote a pretty cynical article for my church’s monthly newsletter. I didn’t mean it to be so down, but my first marriage was ending and I had stood in front of a row of Valentine’s and couldn’t find one to buy for my husband. It was a time of sadness and uncertainty.

I had friends who wrote me and called saying that was just not like me. And to tell the truth it was not. Valentine’s had never been my favorite holiday. Too much teenage drama back in the day, but even so, cynicism is not my style.

So I started to re-look at the holiday. It is not untruthful to claim that the florist industry and candy industry has taken it for their own. Throw in greeting cards and jewelers and the pressure to have the “perfect” love day magnifies.

The Christian tradition, however, does have its roots in love. Love of God and love of neighbor and in the words of the old camp song, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Except of course, when Christians are not known for their love, but rather for the bigotry and prejudice and for being judgemental.

So, those many years ago, I chose to re-claim Valentine’s day. I began by buying boxes upon boxes of children’s Valentines. You know the kind that come 30+ to a box and children give them to each other at Valentine Day parties at school.
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And I sign them, literally now, hundreds of them. They go in the worship bulletin and we have a “love” fest at church. The first few years it surprised me how happy those little Valentine’s made people. It became clear over time, those were the only valentines some people received. It also became clear to me, that even with all the “grinching” about the day, I can’t think of one person who doesn’t want to hear they are loved.

So, in my little world, once again people will receive valentines tomorrow in worship. I will talk about love, and I will emphasize that mostly love in known through what we do, not what we say. The little things we do for one another matter and paying attention to one another can transform the world.

So on this day, I share a vintage Valentine wish to one and all.
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May love abound. May each one know that they are loved deeply by the Divine source of Love. In that love I am graced to serve.

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A Song for every Occasion

Today’s National Blog Post Month prompt for today on Facebook was this:

NaBloPoMo Day Eighteen:
What’s your go-to shower song?

I was caught by this prompt. I can’t say I have a “go-to” shower song. In truth, I have many “songs” and it depends on the day, the circumstances and what is happening in my life. In “truth” I probably have a “song” for any occasion. In worship planning at my church, I can come up with a song, a hymn, chorus for just about any worship service or any circumstance that may be happening. It has become somewhat of a joke!

I can’t help it. I was raised on music. Maybe there were times in my earliest memories that music wasn’t playing, but I can’t recall them. Back in the day of “record players” my mother always had an album on, usually musicals. I grew up on Gilbert and Sullivan, Lerner and Lowe, Rogers and Hammerstein, you name it, if it was on Broadway, we had the album.

So there is not one “song” that becomes the soundtrack of my life, there are many, from a variety of genres and from classical hymns to contemporary Christian, from classic rock to pop and folk, old time Broadway musicals to some of the newest musicals on Broadway. Music speaks to the heights and depths of life and experience.

My go-to music changes some with what I am currently experiencing. When I am tired I lean into those old hymns and choruses that restore my soul:

“It is Well With my Soul”

When I am hungry for God:

“Rediscover You”

When I need to remember that the ordinary is holy:

“Holy as the Day is Spent”

When I need to be reminded that I can be more than I think:

“Defying Gravity”

When I need to be reminded that I all I need will be provided:

“Aramaic Lord’s Prayer”

I could list dozens of songs for the soundtrack of my life, for this night, these are enough to speak to my heart and soul and encourage me to be graced to serve.

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The Ongoing journey of Grief

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. ”
― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

I have seen this quote dozens of times. I have always appreciated it. However, in the last few days it has felt more real and more true than it ever did before.

Around mid-August last year, my mother  took that journey that would begin her final days, weeks and months.  She was surrounded during that time with her family.  There was hardly one night that she was not kissed goodnight by one of her children and very few mornings one was not there when she awoke.

She died in early November as the days grew shorter and the leaves began to fall from the trees.  The celebration of her life and spirit was held the week of Thanksgiving.  The plan had been for her children and as many of her grandchildren to gather to feast and celebrate together.  Instead we gathered to remember AND to feast.

Some of the words of good friends and colleagues were “take some time off.”  I would have, but the life of the church and the life of a preacher very rarely stops.  Advent was upon us, there were special services to plan, three Christmas eve services and then all the necessary programs would need attention after the first of the year.

A crisis at the church, funerals, Lent, Easter, you can imagine the calendar pressing on and on.  I have a phenomenal staff, so there was a trip to see grandkids, a continuing education event, Annual conference and grandkids visiting.  No real down time and then, more funerals, more funerals.  Difficult funerals, a tragic accident, a suicide, well-loved members of the congregation, six since June 28. Then there is the world-wide sadness: Ferguson, Missouri, ISIS terrorizing in Iraq, the Ebola virus in West Africa, I could go on and on.

I share this not for pity or sympathy, but grief sometimes weighs heavy on the heart and soul and catches one unaware.  I am not unique in that experience.  Many I know struggle just to get out of bed with the deep sadness in their spirits.

In some ways it is the “road less taken.”  Many avoid it, filling time with activities and avoiding those whose grief is palpable.  Widowed spouses and partners, parents with empty arms know this well.  Many, however, are filled with grief that has been multiplied over time.  Loss of jobs, broken relationships, friends and family who have died and all of a sudden the journey of grief can no longer be denied.

I have all the right training to understand “grief.”  I know the stages and the explanations, but like C.S. Lewis I need to note that no one can actually describe grief, it is a little like fear, or nerves or any number of things.  I only know that it feels like a heavy weight around the heart, like a hand that squeezes and makes it difficult to breathe.  It is sad and dark and dreary and lonely.  It a journey that is traveled in moments and memories, in tears and in laughter, in darkness and light.

So here I am, taking that ongoing journey of grief.  I am not alone in this journey, others travel it as well, but I remember the words of Jesus, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  “Come to me all you who are heavy burdened and I will give rest.”  Or the words of the Psalmist: “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil, for you are with me. ” Trusting in the comfort, the strength and love of God on this ongoing journey of grief, I am graced to serve.

 

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