Seeking and Finding

I love looking for things.  I have always loved word searches as a kid.  I loved “Where’s Waldo”.  [If you don’t know what this is Google it or ask someone in their 30’s or 40’s.]  I love those pictures where there are two different images depending on how you look at it (I can always see both images).  And since I was a little girl I have loved looking for shells at the beach.  Not just any shells but special shells.  Beautiful shells.  Whole shells that are rare finds.

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Beach finds! (Small sand dollar is the size of a quarter.)

Yesterday could be the best day of shell hunting in my entire life because in one walk on the beach in Hilton Head I found a whole starfish and 3 sand dollars!  There were so many sand dollars on the beach after three I just stopped picking them up.  I have never found a starfish in my life and only one other time was I able to find sand dollars.  Shell hunters on North Carolina beaches know that these days you mostly find shell pieces or run of the mill, dime a dozen, plane shells.  Nothing special, boring shells. Or shell fragments.

This week I am with the Reynolds LEAD Academy (Leadership, Evangelism and Discipleship) learning from Kevin Myers, founder of 12 Stone Church in Atlanta.  He talked today about leaders and how whatever is in you comes out of you- either fear or faith. What is in you is what you breathe into your congregation. If you carry fear internally you breathe it externally and don’t even know it.  If you carry faith you breathe it externally.  If you carry a love for the lost you breathe it externally.

He also said if pastors don’t weep for the those far from Jesus then why would we expect our congregations to shed a tear.  It’s so true.  And far too many of us pastors have not shed a tear ourselves for those far from Jesus.

As I consider my beach finds and my love for finding lost things, I realize that I do shed tears for those who don’t know who Jesus is and don’t have the peace of Christ in their hearts.  I long for our churches (mine included) to care about those who do not have a relationship with Jesus.  I hope others will join me in looking for things that are lost, most especially de-churched or un-churched brothers and sisters.  And may we breathe a desire to seek and search into the heart of our communities.  I believe this is Biblical. (Luke 15)

Grief and Loss and MLK Day

So it is Martin Luther King Day and with all my heart I want to honor what this day means for our country, for our collective memory, for our future of unmet dreams.  I truly do.  But I confess my heart is still stuck in the muck of last week’s events in the life of my church staff family.  And so I’m going to try and wrap it all together if possible.

MLKThis has been one of those weeks that you never want to live through again but will never forget.  When the phone rings and life will never be the same again.  Jonathan Brake, one of the Associate Ministers on staff at Centenary, lost his youngest son, Sam, age 11.  It was an unexpected death and it sent his family and those that love them reeling.

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Prayer candles for Sam

Four nights later I received word that our youth director, Tammy Pollock’s house caught on fire and received extensive damage.  Thankfully no one was hurt but between the fire and soot damage and the water damage from the fire hoses, another traumatic kind of loss.

It has been a week filled with prayer and supplication for the deep hurt and loss of friends.  My chest has literally been heavy with sadness for these friends.  And I find myself at the crossroads between faith and life.  That place where you wonder if life can get any harder and if God is paying any attention at all.  And it is at these crossroads that every time I am reminded that God is even more present and doing God’s best work during these excruciatingly difficult times.

We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

I know in my head this to be true but sometimes it is hard to feel it in my heart.  And then I stumbled upon these words from Henri Nouwen in my daily devotional.  I think it ties up both MLK Day and the profound sense of loss this week has brought.  It is about the difference between hope and optimism.

“Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes.  Optimism is the expectation that things- the weather, human relationships, the economy, the political situation, and so on- will get better.  Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God’s promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom.  The optimist speaks about concrete changes in the future.  The person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in good hands.

All the great spiritual leaders in history were people of hope.  Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Mary , Jesus, Rumi, Gandhi, [King] and Dorothy Day all lived with a promise in their hearts that guided them toward the future without the need to know exactly what it would look like.  Let’s live with hope.”  – Henri Nouwen – Bread for the Journey

Let’s be people of hope!

Remember Your Baptism

Today was such a powerful example of that intersection where faith meets life.  I’m still on a spiritual high because of how moved I was from our worship together this morning.  We did a Remember you Baptism service in wbaptism shellhich everyone had the chance to recall our profession of faith as well as remember the powerful work God did in and through us with the baptismal water of our original baptism.

So each person was invited to come forward and touch the water in the baptismal font.  What was so powerful for me was the privilege of pressing a yellow sea shell into each person’s wet hands and looking them in the eye and blessing them.  In a church where the back row and the back pew seems like a long ways away, it was wonderful to be able to connect with so many people today in such a personal way.

And one man shared with me that he was baptized 86 years ago!  Another older lady shared that she was 5 years old when she was baptized and she still remembered it.  One older gentleman pointed over my shoulder to the altar rail of the sanctuary and said he was baptized right over there.  So many people with tears in their eyes as they remembered what God had done in their lives so many years ago.

That beautiful intersection of the movement of the Holy Spirit surrounding those few seconds of holding the damp hands of each person and praying with them.  All that life has brought them- good and bad, years of struggle or moments of pure joy, family and friends that love, relationships that aren’t what we wish they would be, more questions then answers, or little people who have so much of their life to unfold before them, eyes that shed tears of joy, and eyes that shed tears of deep sorrow.  All of these moments wrapped up in the powerful act of worshipping and remembering- together.

My heart is indeed full.  I am both thankful for the grace that offers forgiveness and eternal life to me and you as well as for the high holy privilege of serving as pastor of a wonderful church.  Thank you for letting me be part of your lives.  It is a gift.  Today I am remembering and I am thankful.

 

 

What Are Your New Year’s Resolutions?

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New Year’s Resolutions are very hit or miss for me.  Some years I do them and some years I do not.  But this year I have some things I really want to work on so I will give it a whirl and see how well I (and others) do holding myself accountable to them.

  1. Change my sleep patterns so I go to bed earlier, get up earlier and get 6-8 hours a sleep a night.  Those who know me know I tend to be a night owl and sometimes have bouts of insomnia so often I struggle getting 7 contiguous hours of sleep.  I want to do better with this.
  2. Be more punctual and end on time.  Those who know me also are very familiar with my timeline- usually 5-15 minutes later arriving than I should be.  Often talking and sharing ideas after we should have wrapped up.  So I am going to work hard on giving myself more space between calendar events and work intentionally to arrive on time.  Where there are meetings, to end those as promised and schedule another if the work is not complete.  This one runs the most danger of being broken within 3 days!
  3. Meet the Centenary deadlines on time.  This is not typically something I have trouble with but I am just now figuring out the rhythm of deadlines at this church.  It’s very different than other places I’ve served- working so far in advance.  For me that has meant that when I need to have something completed, I’m not really ready to have focused thoughts.  I have a much better sense of the weekly, monthly and quarterly rhythms now so I plan to meet my deadlines on time with few exceptions.

Yes, I realize my resolutions involve mostly time management and have absolutely nothing to do with money, my weight, my exercise or eating habits. Those are not the things I want to work on.  What is it that you want or need to work on in the coming year?   Who will help hold you accountable so you can be successful over time?  I have some staff, my husband and a brother that will help hold me accountable.  Without that piece within days it will back to my usual.  I know it will take time to make changes that will stick around but I am hopeful of making some progress.  I’ll keep you posted.

Happy 2016!