Heaven bound or ambivalent?

With everything that has been swirling around the news and our church in recent days and weeks, it’s been kind of nice to spend some time dwelling on our worship topic for the next few weeks.  I’ve been dreaming about heaven.  Well, actually, I’ve been asking questions about heaven and rehashing some of my ongoing wonderment about this theological doctrine.  For Christian believers, it may be the one doctrine that peaks everyone’s interest at some level.  And the interesting reality is, we actually KNOW very little about it.heaven-or-hell_si

Is it an actual place?  Is it a future experience or does it begin on earth?  Do we find out about it when we die or will we wait until Jesus comes again to discover its glories?  I’m sure you have questions as well and I would love to hear them!  Especially as I plan the final sermon it will be based on questions from you.  Ask me anything you have been wondering about heaven.

As I listen to people I hear different language about heaven.  Some people have been brought up to believe it is a carrot dangled in front of us in order to elicit good behavior so you receive the reward.  Others worry about it at the “last second” hoping if they get their act together soon enough God will ignore the rest of their life.  Others see it as a welcomed respite from the very difficult day-to-day existence they find themselves living.  Others don’t even believe in it- think it’s hype and mental propaganda to entice believers to Christianity.  Others have assurance that they are faithful and therefore heaven will take care of itself at the right time.

We are going to look at it from a biblical and theological perspective during the next 3 Sundays at Centenary.  I personally began thinking about heaven at an early age when I lost my father and grandfather before my 5th birthday.  I have studied God’s promise of eternal life nearly all my life so I look forward to sharing some of those thoughts with you as we explore our beliefs about heaven.

In the mean time, I encourage to take a few minutes and just reflect on what it is you actually believe about heaven.  How much of it is based on pop culture, movies, literature, your own longings, and Scriptural teaching.  My own thoughts have a hodge podge collection of all of the above if I’m being honest.  Because I don’t actually have any first hand experience!  Join us Sunday as we continue the conversation.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

 

 

“Those” People

I guess it was timely that my Leadership Winston Salem class focused on Human Relations the week before Martin Luther King Jr Day.  I was actually looking forward to it as I care very deeply about figuring out how we get along with people who are different from us- no matter what the categories.  But race is especially painful to me over the last year because there was a time I naively thought we had made such excellent progress.  Only to discover that my perceived progress is only in starts and stops, with hiccups and facade sprinkled among peeled back layers and shared common ground.  ou_hr-logo

There are still way too many people in my life who use the phrase “those people”.  It can mean people who are gay or people who are of color.  It can mean disabled people, women, children or older adults.  I hear it way too often and for too many reasons.  So many ways in which we categorize and divide ourselves.  We like for people to be like us and think/act like us.  And when others don’t we start to get uncomfortable.  And when we get uncomfortable we begin to modify our behavior. We either try and control those not acting the way we want them to or we begin to push them out.  The flip side of that is if we are the cause of the disruption we often try and minimize it so that we fit in.  One of the facilitators of my workshop said the phrase we “go along to get along”.

Have you ever done that? Felt like something was unfolding that you didn’t quite feel good about but instead of saying what probably really needed to be said, you kept your mouth shut and went along in order to get along with those around you?  I have and it doesn’t feel very good.  As a person of privilege, those are the very moments I need to find my voice and leverage my given power by speaking up.

MLK reminds us in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail that it really is about relationships.  How we relate to one another matters:

 “Moreover I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states…Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – MLK, Jr.
With that in mind, I choose to bypass the proverbially these problems are too big for me to make a difference and instead to own the fact that one relationship forged makes a positive impact.  One safe space to have honest conversation about our differences is a step forward.  Just one moment in which I can love God and love  my neighbor is an act of faith completed.
I pray that this weekend you will find an opportunity to love like Jesus loved and love everyone, especially “those” people – whoever those people are in your life.  It just might not be as hard or scary as you think it will be.  I’ve found that just about every time, Jesus kind of knows what he’s talking about.  For that matter, so did Martin Luther King Jr.
Grace and Peace,
Lory Beth

I have heard so many people say they were ready for 2016 to end and 2017 to begin.  I don’t recall this generalized a sentiment before.  Sure, I’ve heard it with someone having a specifically bad year of events personally take place in their lives that I was aware of happening.  People seemed eager to shut the door on last year.  Some really good things happened in 2016 for me.  And some really painful and disappointing occurrences took place.  So like most years, I appreciate the blessings I experienced and I have learned a great deal from the challenges. And I eagerly await what 2017 has in store for me and us.

There are some significant challenges I am already aware of both professionally and personally.  I have some big dreams for the next 12 months (like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in August and actually being able to do a full on pull up unassisted!).  Our church has some exciting opportunities I hope we will take advantage of and some typical problems to try and solve.  Greg and I have continued work to do in our shared life together and we both have families that need our love and attention.

But I keep thinking about this collective sentiment of wanting to move forward almost as if people are running away from something that has happened.  Or at least desperately wanting to look away.  Or maybe it’s look forward.  Or simply just look at something else, a change in scenery.

As the calendar turns another year and January begins, I was able to spend the New Year in the mountains where it snowed.  I love the snow.  As my devotional reflection a few snowmornings ago put it, fresh snow offers a fresh start, a new beginning.  It covers the stark and drab winter landscape with a layer of inviting white beauty.  The New Year stretches before us like a new landscape offering a fresh start.  As we step into this new year, may we embrace new opportunities, may we break the repeated patterns that continue to trip us up, and may we find courage to live fully into the beautiful person God created us to be.

If that sounds great but a little scary, or intimating or maybe overwhelming, consider the following quote.  A church members shared it with me as an encrouagement for the New Year.  I spent the Christmas Holiday bingewatching Crown on Netflix so I was already in the English monarchy mindset of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II.  (BTW, Crown is an interesting watch to see how a woman leader carves her path in a male dominated realm.)

Maybe these words will bring comfort and direction as we ponder the path our life journey will take in 2017.  They were spoken by King George VI during his Christmas Address of 1939 when London was being bombed by the Germans.

“I said to a man who stood at the gate of the year: ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand in the hand of God.  That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way.’  So I went forth, and finding the hand of God, trod gladly into the night.  And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone east.  May that Almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.”  
                                                                                                                                                                     King George VI
May you seek and find God’s hand.  Don’t be afraid of the darkness.  And don’t just trust the “known way”.  God may have something much more amazing in store for you.
Grace and Peace,
Lory Beth