When the Kingdom Grows

I realize that most of you won’t make it through this whole blog but hang in there with me.  I would like to give you a small glance into one of the most significant privileges in the life of being a minister.  Confirmation Sunday is one of my favorite Sundays of the church year.  [For all of my non-Methodist friends, in our denomination we baptize children as infants honoring the work the Holy Spirit does in their lives.  But as young teenagers we have a process called Confirmation in which we spend weeks teaching, mentoring, challenging and loving on our youth so that they learn about their faith, the church and what it means to profess your faith in Jesus Christ.  At the end of the process, youth can choose to be confirmed and join the church.  It is the personal choice part of Believer’s Baptism other denominations practice.]  Last Sunday we confirmed 33 young people into Christ’s universal Church.

Part of this process involves the pastor laying hands on the heads of each confirmand and confirming them into the faith.  They have answered the questions of faith in front of everyone, they have professed their belief as Christians.  And I get to offer them a blessing.  I grab hold of each one of those precious heads with two hands longing for every ounce of the love of God

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“Being born by water and the Spirit, may you live as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.”

that I have in my heart to pour into theirs.  I long for them to experience a lifetime of assurance that God truly does see them as a beautiful child of God and will be there for them during the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. I look at their faces and pray that they will always leave time and space in their lives for God when they are faced with so many choices and demands on their time and their hearts.  I hope that they will grasp the life-giving gift that having a faith in Jesus Christ will bring them.  And finally, that when they grow older and make their way in life beyond Centenary, they will find a church community in which they can experience the joy of meaningful Christian relationships that will live life together with them.

So much happening in the 20 seconds I have them in my hands.  I know they will go on to experience many more significant life moments beyond their Confirmation Sunday.  They will graduate from high school.  Many will go on to college which will be a string of significant moments packed into a 4 (or 5 or 6!) year experience. They will all experience their “first love”.  Many will get married.  Many will experience the birth of a child.  Many will experience the joy of their first promotion.  Some will experience the struggle of losing a job.  All will experience the loss of a loved one at some point.  So many memorable moments.  I know this Confirmation moment will get bumped down the memory lane of experiences.  But I pray that it hangs in there as a special moment in their faith journey when they truly began to own their place in God’s Kingdom.

Part of my joy during Confirmation Sunday is it reminds me of that moment in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original cartoon version) when they do an “X-ray” on the Grinch’s heart and show it instantly growing three sizes larger.the_grinch1-e1401029272580  It feels like the Kingdom grows a couple of sizes during Confirmation as these newly professed Christians join the ranks of the church family and take on their vows of upholding the church family with their “prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.”  Man, is that a win for Jesus’ Kingdom.  Because these young people are awesome!  They represent a multitude of gifts, an unlimited amount of love yet to be shared, hours of service offered for the good of others, and a new set of witnesses that powerfully remind others through their actions that they love God and they understand that God loves them.

And I am pretty sure that when the Kingdom grows in that way, God is smiling. And to be just a small part of that, makes my own heart expand a couple of sizes every year. Thanks be to God!

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

 

Encouragement for A Weary Soul

Friends, I am exhausted emotionally.  It has just been one of those weeks that lots of good things have happened but some tough things as well and with all that is swirling around in the world around us, I haven’t been sleeping well.  My soul has been feeling weary and I realized I needed to find some extra spiritual nourishment soon.

I realize others may be feeling this way as well.  I want to offer two resources that have been life giving to me this week.  Maybe you can suggest some resources that have been life giving to you in the comments section so others can benefit!

The first is a series that is on the Netflix TV show called The Kindness Diaries.

“Watch my travels around the world on my yellow motorbike Kindness One. I rely entirely on the kindness of strangers and give back to unsuspecting good Samaritans along the way… The show is about sharing compassion and empathy with others. It’s  about smiling at the world and seeing what happens when the world smiles right back at you.”                     -Leon Logothetis

The-Kindness-Diaries-Screenshot-YoutubeI stumbled upon this on Netflix and discovered these short 20-25 minute segments revealing the very best of humanity all across the globe.  It gave me such hope in human kind and reminded me of the power of kindness and generosity.  You will enjoy this!

Secondly, while I was on the stair climber listening to music the song “Thrive” by Casting Crowns began playing in my ear.  I found myself hitting replay because the words so resonated with this desire to nurture my weary soul.  Click on the title of the song to listen but for those of you who do not care for contemporary Christian music here are the lyrics.  I invite you to pray over these words as a gift from the God who longs for so much more for us than weariness.  May you truly know the living water that God offers every one of us!

Here in this worn and weary land
Where many a dream has died
Like a tree planted by the water
We never will run dry
So living water flowing through
God we thirst for more of You
Fill our hearts and flood our souls
With one desire
Just to know You and make You known
We lift Your name on High
Shine like the sun made darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more
Than ordinary lives
It’s time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive
Into Your word we’re digging deep
To know our Father’s heart
Into the world we’re reaching out
To show them who You are
It’s time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive
Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable,
Love unstoppable, anything is possible
Just to know You and to make You known
We lift Your name on High
Shine like the sun made darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more
Than ordinary lives
It’s time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive
Just two little things.  Nothing earth shattering here.  But life giving.  I’d love to hear from you what has been life giving this week?  Where do you go to drink from the Living Water?
Grace and Peace,
Lory Beth

Mother’s Day Reflections

As an adult, Mother’s Day has always been a difficult day for me personally.  Growing up- it was a chance for my brothers to show off their rhyming skills with some Mother’s Day poetry (Hallmark had nothing on us!) and our gardening skills by picking out the best potted plant we could find to show our mom how much we loved her.  I was home this past weekend and had the chance to spend some time in the home I grew up in.  It was interesting to look around at some of the things that just haven’t changed in 46 years.  So many memories of love shared.

I saw a bottle of Avon bubble bath and it brought back memories of “The Avon Lady” that used to knock on our door once a month to bring the latest catalog of Avon makeup, perfume, and jewelry.  It was kind of our little ritual mom and I would share.  I’d get to look in the magazine for the latest little girl makeup or trinket of jewelry.  My all time favorite was the pink and orange lip gloss that game in the plastic shaped hamburger!  I loved doing that with my mom.  Mom used that time as a way of teaching me how to grow into a woman.

My mom and dad in the early 70’s.  Mom holding me.  Yes, my room was originally the Raggedy Ann and Andy theme.  My bedroom almost 20 years after leaving home!

While I can spend the day giving thanks for all of the ways that my mom nurtured and raised me, I also always feel like I’m missing something.  As an adult woman who has been unable to become pregnant, I find myself in one of those categories of awkwardness on days like today.  I’m ok with it now.  Truly.  It has been enough years to lose the sensitivity around it for me.  But I am acutely aware that not everyone feels like I do and it’s a day of loneliness or feeling inadequate for some.

I appreciated an article that went around Facebook this week that empathized with all the women who lost their mothers prematurely in life.  It invited us to give an extra long hug to our moms and not take for granted celebrating this day with them in person while acknowledging that for some, the loss of their mother was still very tender.

Of course there are those whose biological mother just wasn’t able to be the kind of mother that cared for their children in all of the emotional and physical ways that we assume mother’s will provide.  And there are those who have never known their mother.

But there are also those women in our lives who have been surrogate mothers with seemingly never-ending love to share with everyone.  There are those women who have mentored or encouraged, stepped in when we needed them most impacting our lives like a mother.  Thank you, women of significance.

My best word on this day is we celebrate and give thanks for the mother’s of the world.  It is important work that women do.  It’s not the only work women do and not all women choose or get the opportunity to be mothers and that is ok, too.  And in all the ways that we think of mothers at their very best- I also give thanks to God because God models those very same motherly characteristics in the ways God loves and nurtures us, God’s children.  So moms, I hope the works of art that your children have given you and the clumsily written poems or specially cooked meal or flower arrangement has brought joy to your heart.  Because momma-like love is some of the best in the world.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

What is happening in the United Methodist Church?

I realize that some folks follow the happenings of the larger United Methodist denomination and some members at Centenary do not.  But there have been some big things taking place in the realm of human sexuality in our denomination and we need to understand what they mean.  Let me be clear.  I am not sharing my opinion on these happenings and this is not a political statement about these happenings.  This is merely an opportunity to educate ourselves about what is taking place beyond us as a church but will affect us as a church.

umc_prays_logo_final-690x380The United Methodist Church has been wrestling with the issue of human sexuality for a couple of decades.  But events within the last year have brought a new dynamic to the conversation.  Here are a few bullet points to give you a general picture of these events.

  • May of 2016 at General Conference the delegates representing the United Methodist Church from around the world voted to create a Commission on a Way Forward that consists of 32 people from around the United Methodist Church convened by 3 Bishops.  The work of this commission is to find a possible path forward for our church around the issue of human sexuality.  Our reality is that we have differing theological and Biblical views on this issue and it is putting pressure on our global denomination.  Instead of taking votes on language in our Book of Discipline which has been our historical pattern, this is the first time we have tried a new approach.
  • July of 2016 at Jurisdictional Conference the Western Jurisdictional voted to elect a gay bishop.  Bishop Karen Oliveto is married to another woman.
  • April of 2017 our Judicial Council (think Supreme Court for the UMC) rendered a ruling last week on the election of Bishop Oliveto.  The judgement basically said that the consecration of a gay bishop violates our church law but she remains an active bishop until official charges are made and processed per our typical complaint process.
  • February 2019 there will be a special called General Conference to hear the report of the Commission on a Way Forward.  This will actually be the moment when decisions will then affect our denomination and more specifically, our church.  As our denomination tries to figure out what this new way may look like we have churches and Methodists who are at their brink and these decisions could affect people choosing to stay or leave our denomination for theological reasons.  Centenary will not be immune to those tensions as we have differing perspectives right here at home.

I have included links to a couple of other resources in this blog so you can see summaries or statements by people far more informed than I am on these happenings.  They are worth a look including the most recent letter from Bishop Paul Leeland, of our own Western North Carolina Conference.

These are important times to hold our Church in prayer as we await the work of the Commission.  These are difficult times for many in our denomination as we do have different perspectives on the issue of homosexuality and how it affects leadership within our churches as well as our stance on marriage.  These are challenging times as our denomination embraces the beauty and the obstacles of being a global Church where differing cultures clash theologically.

There are so many factors that have influenced our Church so I encourage you to read a history that briefly summarizes (in 5-7 minutes!) what has brought us to this point written by Bishop Ken Carter who is from Western North Carolina and is one of the 3 presiding bishops for the Commission but is currently serving the Florida Conference.

Finally this is just a good synopsis of where we are written by Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson from the North Georgia Conference and also includes the statement from our Council of Bishops reacting to the Judicial Council’s ruling last week.

I am happy to answer any questions you might have.  Mostly we are in a place of waiting and praying for the work of the Commission on a Way Forward.  As there are updates to share, I will pass them along.  In the mean time, we might do well to reflect on our own theological understanding of human sexuality.  But that will be a blog for another day.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth