It’s true. I am an Olympic junkie. I’m kind of glad to get my life back now that the Olympics have ended. I always feel as though I might miss something if I don’t watch them! But the Olympics never disappoint me. A periodic reminder that although we come from all the corners of the earth and sporting different looks and characteristics, different languages, different native dress, different national anthems, we can come together and do something beautiful together.
Yes, the competitions are spectacular displays of the best of the best. As an athlete myself, I marvel at the beauty and power, discipline and drive that all of these athletes display, whether they win a medal or not. Of course, the icing on the cake are those moments when true sportsmanship and what they call the “Olympic Spirit” gets displayed. Those moments when the best of humanity trumps competition and winning. Like when American runner, Abby D’Agostina and New Zealand runner, Nikki Hamblin assisted each other to the finish line of the 5000 meter. Or watching gymnast Aly Raisman encourage and guide the young and talented gymnastic team around the gymnastic floor, encouraging the women and watching their genuine support of one another in spite of the incredible hype given to their teammate Simone Biles. Or my all time favorite this Olympics was seeing the Refugee team compete under the Olympic flag. Especially poignant as our church welcomed a refugee family from the Congo into Winston-Salem just this week.
Of course there has been the opportunity to see some of the very best not just in this 4 year span but maybe ever compete- Usain Bolt running as fast now as he did 12 years ago. Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian and the best swimmer I’ve ever seen. It was also nice seeing his maturity over the years and serving as a leader of this swim team, not just an individual chasing after medal records. Katie Ledecky winning so definitively but with such grace. Our own local athlete Kathleen Baker unexpectedly winning with such joy. Simone Biles in her Olympic debut beating gymnasts by 2 points which is like 15 touchdowns in football. Women’s and men’s basketball – looking as if they barely had to try.
So every 2 years when we experience either the Summer or the Winter Olympics I always hope that this display of unity amongst our amazing and beautiful diversity will remind the world that there is a better way. That violence, isolation, xenophobia, and hatred always lead us down a losing path. That it is possible to find common ground and celebrate what is best about our humanity. A girl can dream….
Grace and Peace,
It’s hard for me to believe it’s been a little over a year since I left the life of a District Superintendent and reentered the pastoring a church world! I have been thinking a lot lately about this past year. It has been a very good one for me. But as I reflect, it has also been emotionally complex, physically exhausting and mentally and pastorally as challenged as I have ever been. It seems lately that each appointment I take ends up being “the hardest job I have ever had”. And I love the fact that life is stretching me and tapping all of the capacity and potential that God has given me.
There have been some incredible moments over the past year while serving at Centenary. Every baptism brings unspeakable joy carrying that baby down the aisle for all to meet or looking in the eye of every adult who has made this critical life decision. The 55 Lattes with Lory Beth where I was able to visit in people’s homes all last fall and begin to get a pulse on who the people are that make up this incredible church. Preaching in both the auditorium but especially the sanctuary, a magnificent space that was designed for nothing else except to glorify God. Worship in the “ark” where I found myself dancing down the aisle as the processional had planned to do but for some reason I was the sole person far out ahead of the others joyfully feeling the spirit in that moment! Christmas Eve, a high holy moment. Looking at the staff at this church and realizing I have an awesome team of people to work with.
But also with the high moments are difficult moments as well. With every new pastor comes that moment that we in the business affectionately call when the “honeymoon period has ended.” That moment when people who graciously welcomed me my first six months realize who I am and what I bring to the church and then have to decide whether they appreciate those gifts or not. As a pastor we naturally want everyone to like us. But smart and realistic pastors know that will not be the case in any size church. But that never makes it easy when you realize no matter how hard you work or how much you love the church, some people will not like you. It is the challenge of living life in community with one another.
What I give the most thanks to God for in this time of reflection over the last year is what I see God doing in our midst. When I arrived the church was recovering from a few rocky years casued by lots of different reasons. But now as I look around, not only has this church gotten its feet underneath it but it is getting ready to dance! Some truly exciting things are getting ready to happen and I hope the people of the church will also see God moving in their midst. Because leadership has worked hard to join me in listening for God’s direction for Centenary, we are getting ready to unfold Vision and Core Values to guide the church, we are in the midst of determining some significant renovations in the life of the church, we are figuring out how to use a property on 4th Street that we have previously been leasing to businesses but are now using for mission and ministry that is new and exciting for us, we are creating a new discipleship making system to help our people engage their faith development more holistically, and we are focusing more intentionally on evangelism and hospitality with a great new team of folks led by a newly added staff position.
God is so good! I am so thankful to have the privilege and opportunity to serve this great church. I can’t wait to see what God does with us in the next 12 months!
Grace and Peace,