It’s Time

I’m still reflecting on a truly amazing moment in the life of Centenary last Sunday.  For over 19 years plans and designs have been drawn up and discussed, vetted and unfortunately most times shelved.  But not anymore.  We voted 301 to 8 to support a $6M renovation project to renovate our 1960’s Children’s Building into new Children’s Ministry space as well as some new adult space.  To renovate our 1930’s youth ministry area, gutting the  old systems and architecturely reshaping the space. And finally adding a stretcher size elevator since our main elevator outside of our sanctuary is no longer functioning due to its age.

Not anymore are plans and dreams being shelved for another day.  Not anymore are we just talking about doing something about our dark and dreary interiors and outdated program ministry spaces.  Not anymore are we questioning whether these priorities are the best next priorities.

images-7We have said as a congregation It’s Time!  It’s time to stop talking and start doing!  So we are moving forward with the important two-pronged next steps of this process.  We will kick off our public phase Capital Campaign to raise the remainder of our $6M campaign. We are going to fund this project 100% with pledges and taking out no long-term loans.  While a small group of folks have been approached with early asks to get the Campaign started and we have raised approximately 3.4M in early pledges, It’s Time now for everyone to engage and participate.  Together, we can do this.  Every contribution and everyone’s participation – no matter how big or small- matters.

And while the funding is raised we will turn our exciting Design Plans into Construction Documents so the hard costs can be finalized and so construction/renovation can begin.

And this is when the church gets really excited.  Not only because the plans paint a picture of an exciting future filled with new possibilities and opportunities but also because it feels good to take on such a big project as a church and be successful.  To see God working within the congregation, stretching our faith and making something amazing happen that no one person in the church could or would do but together as a group, God’s dreams becomes reality.  Our dreams become reality.

So it is with excitement for your future that I step back and look at what is happening and feel thankful. Thankful for all of the youth, children and adults that will enjoy for years to come a space that welcomes them in and so fully and completely helps them experience the love of Christ.  Thankful for all of the people who will be able to access parts of the church building through the new elevator that they haven’t been able to get to without navigating stairs before.  Thankful for new and beautiful spaces that celebrate both better function for groups and people Loving God and Loving Neighbor more fully and spaces that glorify God by being part of God’s house.

It’s time.  Let’s finish the good work that has been started.

 

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

Easter Changes Everything

Easter Church Design (31)

Easter changes everything.  The difference between Good Friday night and Easter Sunday morning is astronomical.  The heaviness of the cross, the darkness of the tomb.  We have seasons of our lives that feel like Good Friday.  When nothing seems to be going right.  When we feel like failures.  When we have more questions then answers.  We are confused like the disciples.  We don’t understand what the authorities have done.  We are scared.  We are sad.  You’ve been there.  I have too.

But Easter changes everything.  Because this morning, this day, we are reminded that Good Friday was not the end of the story.  Easter is coming.  And Easter is going to change things.  Today as I look at the beautiful sunrise and celebrate this amazing truth that death and darkness could not contain Jesus neither will failure and darkness dominate my life.  We are an Easter People.  We are people who love and follow the resurrected Christ.  And today, that light is going to shine fully into my life.  That light is going to shine fully into this world.  That light can also shine fully into your life, too.

Easter changes everything because Christ has the final word.  We may have to wait out the darker periods of our lives thinking they will never end.  But Easter is coming.  And yes, Easter changes everything.  With Easter comes resurrection.  New life.  New possibilities.  With Easter comes the fulfillment of all of God’s promises.  With Easter, that which is very wrong, in God’s way, gets made right again.

Maybe most importantly, with Easter comes the ability to look towards a future with anticipation that God is going to do something good.  Easter brings hope.  Easter brings images-6the metamorphosis of the caterpillar through the dark and lonely cocoon into the beautiful butterfly.

So if you feel like you have been caught in the darkness of Good Friday and Black/Holy Saturday keep looking for the cracks of light that sunrise on Easter brings.  Take heart that God is always working a new thing and today of all days, is that powerful reminder that we worship a God of new beginnings.  Of Easter mornings.  Of resurrected futures.

Happy Easter!  He is Risen!

Lory Beth

The Most Impressive Act of Trust

Holy Week starts tomorrow (on Sunday) beginning the powerful last few days of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  We talk about the cross event throughout the year in one way or another in our weekly worship.  But this week is the most powerful week of our faith to remember Jesus.  This is when we truly see the intersection of Christmas and Easter.  What I mean by that is this is when we see the humanity of Jesus really struggle with the divinity of Jesus.  The incarnation of God with us in human form crashes against the human will out of sorts with God’s will.  And this week is the point when the humanity of

Why-Did-Jesus-Pray-In-The-Garden-Of-Gethsemane-58-On-Simple-Home-Design-Planning-with-Why-Did-Jesus-Pray-In-The-Garden-Of-Gethsemane

“Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” -Luke 22:42 NIV

Jesus suffers the very worst that being human has to offer.  And Jesus teaches us much if we just look closely.

While Jesus’ last week seems so foreign to our own experience, our own level of suffering, our own understanding, there is something profoundly recognizable.  As we watch Jesus enter Jerusalem with Pomp and Circumstance, teach in the Temple, and then gather his friends to say goodbye and give some last lessons, we see an anxiousness, a suffering that is familiar to us.  We see grief and pain.  We see shame and loneliness.  We see bullying and false accusations made.  And in some of that, every one of us can relate at one point in our lives.  Jesus is teaching us that even the Son of God suffered these hurts at the hands of others.  A reminder that we cannot escape this kind of pain in life.  But Jesus offers some valuable lessons in how to withstand it.

This quote is a long one but a powerful point of reflection as we prepare to hear the Passion story of Jesus’ last week.  A reminder that Jesus modeled for us the most impressive act of trust when he eventually let go of his anguish while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and trusted God.  That moment when the humanity of Jesus fully trusted the divinity of Jesus within teaches us the importance of letting our humanity fully trust the beautiful and powerful divinity of God.

In this story we find reflected the universal experience of loss that plunges us into anguish, evokes cries for help in our weakness, and invites trust in God who is in, under, and beyond the present affliction.  The alternative to trust and letting go is a hardness of heart that refuses the grace available to us in our ordeal.” Elizabeth J. Canham from Weavings

Jesus’ story does speak to our experiences of grief and pain.  Jesus’ story does remind us God is in the midst of it all.  And the antidote to ending up with a hardened heart that is unable to feel the wide range of emotions and soar with joy is trust.  God offers us grace in the midst of our struggle even when no one else around us may.  The invitation is to trust God’s grace more than we trust the negative voices of our pain.  Is there something in your own life that you need to dig deep and muster the courage to display a most impressive act of trust?

I hope you will take some time and read one of the Gospel versions of the Passion this week.  Join us for worship Sunday to hear the Passion as told by the Gospel of Mark.  Or by Monday afternoon, take less than 20 minutes to go here for the link to see our reading recorded from Sunday.  Attend a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday worship service (ours are at 7:00.)  Please, don’t go from the joy of Palm Sunday to the joy of Easter morning without pausing at the Cross.  That’s where Jesus’ act of trust is best modeled for us.

 

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

The Power of Tears

02-tears-bitters.w529.h529I am using a devotion book this year called A Guide to Prayer for All Who Walk with God and it has spoken profoundly into my life in such timely ways.  One of the readings this week has been on the power of tears.  I’ve experienced lots of tears of late for so many different reasons.  Tears of joy when UNC beat Duke in the semi-final of the ACC Tourney.  Tears of frustration as UNC lost to Virgina in the Acc Tourney final.  Tears of love as I attended a beautiful wedding filled with love and tenderness.  Tears of sadness as we have shared with Centenary my departure in a few months.  Tears of confusion.  Tears of anger.  Tears of sweet kindnesses experienced.  Tears of admiration from watching a movie.  Tears of happiness from watching a frolicking kitten bound around the condo.

Wendy Wright shares that the ancient East had an interesting understanding and interpretation for the different types of tears we might experience.  They had all kinds of different spiritual categories and interpretations for tears in our lives.  Some tears have spiritually purifying power in our lives.  So someone just experiencing a spiritual renewal these purifying tears would feel differently than for someone who has been traveling long on their faith journey and felt the refiners fire multiple times in their lives.  But both are purifying experiences.

Some tears purify us by convicting us of sins and brokenness that we have participated in or experienced.  But sometimes our tears purify us by coming from a place of deep gratitude and joy when we think about the true goodness of God’s love for us or our desire to live eternally with Jesus.

No matter how our various tears would have been interpreted by the Easterners, they would without a doubt claim that tears are a God-given gift to us and a wonderful physical sign that our inner world or self was being transformed.  For those who have been following along our Lenten series on Renovation of the Heart here at Centenary, the whole point is seeking that inner transformation that being a Jesus follower brings about in our lives.  This ongoing cleansing that takes place as a person draws nearer and nearer to Jesus can sometimes happen without us noticing all of the signs of change within us.  But our tears?  When they blind our eyes and then fall on our cheeks when we blink and roll down the sides of our face. Well they can become signs and reminders of our baptismal waters redeeming us, a small piece of God’s good creation in this world, again.  The power in our tears.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

Finding Jesus Space

Ever had one of those situations where you just couldn’t make sense of what was happening?  It wasn’t that you stopped paying attention and then got surprised.  Quite the opposite.  You were working really hard towards a goal but then it all starts heading in a different direction.  I was having a conversation with someone earlier this week who talked about how sometimes people make choices in their lives that have deep effects and consequences on your own life.  Even though it wasn’t your choice to make originally, you are trying to make sense of the reorientation.

What do you do when you find  yourself in one of those interesting situations?  This season of Lent our church is spending time doing a “renovation of the heart” series,  based on a book by Dallas Willard of the same name.  We have basically been spending time looking at the inner self and all of the ways we can experience transformation.  I have found it to be entirely timely and helpful reflection.  Sometimes the best thing we can do in the midst of unexpected situations is to deeply discern what is God’s goodness, what is God’s desire and God’s path for us and simply take a step towards sitting in that space.

All of us find ourselves in situations we could have never predicted.  All of us find ourselves at one time or another  in a place where the hopes and desires of others trump our own.  And that can be confusing.

 

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Jesus with Martha and Mary. Painting by He Qi

This past weekend the women of our church were on a Women’s Retreat and one of the Scriptures we talked about was the infamous Mary and Martha story where Martha is fussing and taking care of everyone and getting annoyed at her sister, Mary, who has decided to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen.  Jesus commends Mary and fusses at Martha.  For us doers, this is highly annoying.  But right now, I am understanding Mary’s perspective better than I ever have.

 

What if Mary found herself in a situation she had not expected, a circumstance that was contrary to the path she thought she was on?  What if she was feeling confused or frustrated or a little off-balance?  My sense is that instead of trying to work her way through the scenario, she has chosen wisely.  She has chosen to seek that Jesus space where she can just stop and listen.  Where she can catch the scent of the trail she is supposed to be following again.

Maybe our lesson here is if we find ourselves facing an unexpected situation that puts us off-balance, the best thing we can do is stop.  Stop trying.  Stop fixing.  Stop doing.  Like Mary, just stop and get balanced.  Be in Jesus’ good presence. Get oriented again.  Resist the temptation to work our way out of it or distract ourself from it.

Luke 10:38-42  (CEB)

While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest.  She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message.  By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.”

 The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things.   One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.”

Maybe Mary needed to align her inner self with Jesus.  If that happens, then whatever the scenario before us can and will be managed.  Excuse me while I sit and listen for a while.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

Practicing Being Still

Have you been hit with the crud that is going around?  I can’t count on one hand the people around me most that have not had some kind of sickness over the last 2 months.  It’s like nothing I remember seeing.  I am on the mends from my bout with a sore throat causing me to sound like Demi Moore.  One thing it has done has caused me to slow down and rest far more than is my typical pattern.

Be-still-and-know-that-I-am-God-christian-wallpaper-hd_2048x1536How interesting that my devotional theme all this week is “Be Still”.  Funny how God’s timing can send us important messages if we just pay attention.  Not only did my physical body need to rest but my spiritual body as well, needed a bit more focused time in order to power through all that has been swirling around me.

“Be still, and know that I am God! (Psalm 46:10a NRSV)

It’s a good thing that Lent is on the way.  This season of 6 weeks leading up to Easter is such a good time to be mindful of being still.  Of creating a little more space to look within and listen for God to speak.  A time to prepare ourselves for the coming events leading up to the Cross.  I’m not sure what it means that this year the kick off to Lent which is Ash Wednesday is on Valentines Day (next Wednesday) and the culmination on Easter Sunday this year falls on April Fools Day!  (My husband is not too happy about this liturgical/cultural crash approaching next Wednesday!)

However, I’m looking forward to Lent and this season of Being Still kicking off next week.  I always love the Ash Wednesday service because of its focus on confession and repentance.  That deep dive in trying to make right my Spirit with God somehow always helps pave the way for more fruitful and peaceful Being Still time with God over the upcoming weeks.  It helps clear the air and reminds me my imperfections don’t define me.  God is constantly trying to smooth the rough edges and strengthen the struggling aspects of my being.  All of this settles me enough so I can in fact Be Still.

I hope that you will get ready for this fast approaching season of preparation for Jesus’ Resurrection.  I hope that you will think in terms of how can you find spaces in your busy lives to practice Being Still.  To pray.  To listen.  To sit into the full embrace of the Holy Spirit.  To rest.  So worth the effort of making the time.

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am .

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be.

Lory Beth

Making Do

I love it when various conversations in my life converge and especially when it has to do with an upcoming sermon! As we continue our sermon series this week on John Ortberg’s If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, we will talk about the scary prospects of taking risks and needing help. But today my thoughts have been on the idea of what happens when we don’t think we have what it takes to handle what lies before us.  We worry that we won’t be able to continue on or take the risk.  We worry that we just aren’t the right person.  Or we have gotten ourselves into a sticky wicket and we need help getting out of it.  So many different scenarios where we aren’t brave, and we cry out for help because we have little confidence that we can handle it.

I have been thinking all day today on a quote from my morning devotional A Guide To Prayer For All Who Walk With God.  The quote was from early 20th Century author Evelyn Underhill:

We can never forecast the path God’s energy of rescue will take.  It is never any use saying to God, “I am getting desperate!  Please answer my prayer by the next mail and please send a blank check” God will answer but not necessarily like that; more probably God will transform and use the unlikely looking material already in hand- the loves and the tiny fishes- looking up to Heaven and blessing it and making it do after all.   – Evelyn Underhill, The Soul’s Delight

th-3Making do.  I love this perspective on the “path God’s energy of rescue will take” in our lives.  How often did we have exactly what we needed from the very beginning.  We look at ourselves as unlikely material.  Even this week I had conversation with a person who was not feeling particularly confident about her ideas.  But then when in a group setting in the midst of an important conversation in a meeting, she asked a wonderful question in a wonderful way so that her risky idea was well received.  I thought then how God used that person who felt like “unlikely material” in order to start an important conversation.  Making do with the material in hand.

Let’s not underestimate ourselves.  More accurately, let’s not underestimate what God can do with and through us.  Let’s not resist what God is trying to do through us.  Otherwise we will block the most amazing transformation that only God can orchestrate.  When life is asking us to take a risk- that might very well be the path of God’s energy getting ready to pulse into our heart beat in order to transform us into a moment of amazement.

Instead of listing all the reasons why not, let’s focus on all of the reasons why.  After all, God has gifted each and every one of us in some way.  Add to that giftedness a little bit of faith in God and confidence in God’s ways and we have an opportunity for some Holy Spirit magic.  But we have to be willing to take a bit of risk.  We have to be willing to risk failing.  With that, we have to recognize that failing is not always a bad thing.  God’s wisdom often times comes in the lessons learned from falling down.  But when we fail or fall down, I hang on to the following Scripture as encouragement to get back up and a source of strength to carry on.  May it offer you the same.

We don’t preach about ourselves. Instead, we preach about Jesus Christ as Lord, and we describe ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. God said that light should shine out of the darkness. He is the same one who shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in clay pots so that the awesome power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us. 8 We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out....14 We do this because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus, and he will bring us into his presence along with you. 15 All these things are for your benefit. As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory.   – 2 Corinthians 4:5-9, 14-15 (CEB)

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth