Tag Archives: love

Year of Gratitude

Last week, I didn’t get a prompt posted for our year of gratitude. It’s not that I wasn’t grateful or that I didn’t send a thank you note, I just didn’t get the blog written. Some of that had to do with the life of the global United Methodist Church. While I have tried not to be anxious, I have been.

As I write, General Conference has not yet concluded, but the One Church Plan which I supported and many of my colleagues and friends supported was defeated twice. I am heartbroken. Sunday, I preached a sermon about why I was going to continue to be on the side of love and acceptance of all. You can find both the worship service or the sermon by itself here.

Today I was attending a Sunday School lunch which was called  “picnic.” There was napkin that looked like this:

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Honestly, I have probably felt more like the cat than the girl! And yet being sad and angry and grieving does not mean I am not thankful. Many of my collegagues and friends from the Great Plains Conference have represented the church I love well. In the four short days, these persons have found themselves at the microphone using the legislative process to do what is right and just. The have diligently worked for good for the greatest amount of people. I am grateful for their passion, their faithfulness and willingness to serve in such a difficult time.

I can not say thank you enough to Amy Lippoldt, Adam Hamiliton, Cheryl Jefferson Bell, David Livingston, Mark Holland, Shayla Jordan (one of the youngest elected to the General Conference), Stephanie Ahlschwede among others. I know I missed some, but still I am deeply grateful for their commitment to living out God’s love for all people. I don’t know what the future holds. For so long, 35 plus years as a clergy in the United Methodist Church I have supported and worked for full inclusion of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters and friends. I don’t intend to stop.

I want to tell those who feel most bruised and broken by what is occuring that you are not alone, there are many allies who will continue to work for justice, for love, for grace, for everyone to be part of the community of faith. We do not lose hope, we cling to faith, we remember that nothing, NOT ONE THING can separate us from the love of God in Christ. I am grateful for the reminder of that promise and that somehow, in someway, we will go forward.

Years ago, a wonderful song was penned that has been sung for several decades: the story and sharing of that song is one that I pray brings hope and promise to those of us who continue to sing for our lives and the lives of the church together you. You will find that story and song here.

 

 

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Year of Gratitude: February Week 3

Toward the end of this week is Valentine’s Day. Last week I invited you to share Valentines. This week, if you haven’t done, I invite to still share some love with people that are close to you. I would add, perhaps you could share some Valentine’s with people are not close to, people perhaps in your orbit, but with whom you do not have a great deal in common or whom you do not know well.

A few weeks ago Leonard Sweet asked this question: “When we see someone else, what do we see? Do we see others through a self-screen of our ideas, our beliefs, our politics? Or do we see another person as an inimitable and precious handiwork of God?” I’ve pondered it since then. How do we see others? Not just those whom we love, but other’s whom we have just met or perhaps know from a distance or from their “reputation” whatever that might be?

When we give thanks or share Valentines is what we share from an open place in our hearts and minds and spirits? Or do we share only from that space within ourselves that acknowledges what we already think we know about someone? Do we see someone else as a unique and unrepeatable gift from God? Or, do we see them somehow only in terms of our own ideas and beliefs?

This week, I invite you to get to know someone new, someone who you do not really know. Get a cup of coffee, or tea, sit down and just open yourself to who this person was created to be. Then write them a thank you note for the time spent together, and add a note to your gratitude jar about your experience. Or, write a thank note to someone whose services you take for granted, the custodian in your building, the postal carrier, the person who brings you coffee at your favorite shop, a checker at a grocery store. People often need a reminder that they are created by God and are a gift to the world. Find a way to get through the “self-screen” of the people you meet this week and see each one as “an intimitable and precious handwork of God.”

 

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Year of Gratitude: February Week 2

So far, the month of February has been cold, cold, cold. Schools have closed all over the state and I won’t even mention the polar vortex. Well, maybe I will mention it! I love snow, but if it’s going to be this cold I WANT snow!!! So far, in Wichita, we have ice, sleet, but not much snow. So, stuck indoors it’s good to continue to focus on gratitude. God is good and life is good.

For the month of February our gratitude focus will be:

Relationships: This month is filled with “Valentines” but love is more than hearts and flowers. There are many relationships which call for gratitude. This month we give thanks for all our relationships.

Next week is Valentine’s Day. Many people tend to be dismissive of this so-called “Hallmark” holiday. I used to be one of those people. I was reminded by friends many years ago, that love isn’t something that one buys or sells, love is gift, a Divine gift. So for more than two decades I have given out Valentines to my congregations on the Sunday before Valentine’s Day. Relationships are important whether or not they are romantic. We are named and claimed by those who love us, and for me, that points to the deep love of God.

I buy Valentines by the hundreds and sign hundreds each year. Sometimes it takes me back to being a kid and choosing just the right one. So today and in these days before Valentines Day, I invite you to give out some Valentines. You can make them, buy them, or take a plain sheet of paper and color some hearts on it. Share love with your neighbors, your friends, your family.  Send at least one note thanking someone for their friendship and their love. Know that I am deeply grateful for your friendship.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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A Peculiar Pentecost

What an interesting few days it has been. I missed the first reports of the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. I often try to stay away from e-mails, social media and news on Fridays. It is my day off, and doing something other sitting in front of the computer is what I usually do. I planted flowers, weeded the vegetable garden and generally attempted to not sit in front of a screen.

By the middle of the day I had checked in, saw the news and was dumbfounded. Again, I thought. Again? I turned away from the computer. I posted nothing, I had nothing else to comment on top of all the other comments.  Later that night I“` saw a twitter post from the Reverend Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City. On Thursday night they hosted a high school graduation and there was a shooting in their parking lot. Good grief!

On Saturday morning I was up before dawn. The rest of the world was up for a royal wedding. I had no intention of watching, but my alarm goes off every morning at 5:45. Our local NPR station plays BBC Radio until 7:00 a.m. on Saturdays and 8:00 a.m. on Sundays. Well, of course it was all about the wedding. Right about 6:00 Andrew said to me, well should we get up and watch. We are awake. So we did.

Of course, the Royal wedding was everything it was expected to be. The dress and the bride were beautiful, the music heavenly, the liturgy properly dignified. This wedding though, was a brilliant mix of old world and new world, of African American Church and Anglican liturgy, of sacred and dignified moments and powerful and amazing preaching.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of American, the Most Reverend Michael Curry preached a moving, poignant, and powerful sermon on love. The full text of his sermon and a link to the video can be found here.

One can can criticize the scale of the wedding, or the shallowness of those who watched and are caught up in the romance of a mixed race woman from the United States marrying a British prince. I suppose one could even criticize the Bishop’s sermon as too long (fourteen minutes).

Me? I was captivated by Bishop Curry’s sermon. As I watched, it appeared his style made some uncomfortable, I have heard him preach in person, and it was toned down some without being fake. He truly preached consistent to his style, his ethics and his beliefs. I have to believe that was exactly what Meghan Markle wanted, along with a gospel choir. This spanned the ocean and the cultures of African American and British Caucasian.

This American Episcopal Bishop, an ancestor of slaves, preached love. Radical love. Powerful love. Life changing, world transforming love. Afterwards, what did people talk about? Love. God’s love for the whole world. In that sense, what is more “pentecostal” than that? People in different countries, with different faith expressions and understanding, in different languages talking about God and God’s love.

I mentioned all of that today in my sermon for Pentecost Sunday. We celebrated and honored our scholarship recipients and graduates. I quoted Bishop Curry and noted that Pentecost long ago took place in a world that was uncertain and violent. Yet God’s Spirit came with fire and wind to forever change lives and transform the world. You can watch the service here.

I am going to spend this week pondering that Pentecost Power and how God’s Spirit might make that love and grace real in my heart and spirit. May you experience that same Spirit as well.

 

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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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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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