Unexpected Opportunities

You never know when it’s going to happen.  That moment when someone realizes that you are a practicing Christian and they seek you out.  It happened to me yesterday at the beach.  I’m down with my family and we are renting half of a beach house.  In the other side of the house is a family with an adult son named Tim.  I’m not sure how best to describe Tim but the closest I can come up with is that he needs three doses of medicine for ADHD.  And I do not mean that with any disrespect at all.  His brain must be going a million miles an hour.

We were gathered on our deck and Tim comes over saying he wants to meet the “preacher woman”.  Now let me explain the reason I felt startled when he came over and asked me to pray with him.  He was over on his side of the deck taking apart a beach umbrella, removing the rainbow covered material from the metal skeleton.  He told his family he was going to make kites out of it.  Then it was like watching an improv sketch where you take an object and come up with different uses for said object.  He took the umbrella material and stuck his head through the top and called it a poncho.  It was like he had put on Joseph’s technicolor dream coat!   Then the next thing I know he comes over to our side and kneels down in front of me and asks if I will pray for him.  For a second we couldn’t tell if he was serious or not.  After babbling for 5 minutes about where he is from and the fact that he didn’t really go to church and that Winston Salem was too far from where he lives (I did invite him to Livestream our services on Sundays!) he reached out his hand and began a prayer with me.

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Request for prayer

I have to say, I was a bit nervous with my whole family sitting around watching this take place and this stranger kneeling in front of me in his Joseph poncho.  It was just a surreal moment. But the strangest thing happened- as soon as I closed my eyes and started praying with and for Tim, with the sound of the ocean in the background and the beach breeze blowing by, this strange moment became unexpectedly familiar.  I could have been holding the hand of someone in the hospital, in my office, or in their home, praying for someone I actually knew, with life circumstances I was familiar with.

But when I opened my eyes, there was this odd but interesting person named Tim, holding his unlit cigarette peering up at me.  He smiled, thanked me and off he went, I guess to go make kites out of his umbrella material.

Admittedly it was a moment that my family sitting around were trying hard not to laugh, partly out of the awkwardness of the situation, partly because it was a humorous sight to see.  But the more I thought about it and the more I have looked at this picture, the more I have appreciated the moment.  I have no illusions that Tim’s life was impacted in a significant way by that 5 minute moment we shared together.  But my life was impacted by it.  By the courage of this person to come up to a stranger and share a spiritual moment.  By the curiosity in his questions.  By the way the synapsis in his brain move so quickly that his ongoing monologues move from one topic to another smoothly and without break.  And by the fact that my family rarely prays together, other than blessing our meals yet there we were praying.  Giving thanks for the beautiful creation surrounding us.  For the reminder of the immensity of God as far as the horizon stretches and then beyond.  For the gift of time with family.  For the gift of the opportunity to just take a break from the rigorous rhythms of life.  And for new friends.

I hope you have an unexpected opportunity in the near future to share your faith practice with someone else.  Whether that is to pray with someone (you really can do it!  It’s not as intimidating as you think it will be.).  Or to have a meaningful conversation about what you believe.  To ask someone else questions or to answer theirs for you.  To express why Jesus is important in your life.  Don’t pass it up.  Even if it seems awkward or comes at strange times.  You never know when you might have the opportunity to make a positive impression.  And besides, who can pass up a Technicolor dream coat moment.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

Addendum:  Tim thoughtfully picked up this special wheelchair beach mobile so both his mother and my mother could use it to get to the beach.  My mom fell this week and broke her upper arm and could not comfortably handle walking out to the beach.  As of Thursday night, he has not been able to talk his mother into using it.

It’s About the Community

Today I finish up a wonderful year participating in the Leadership Winston-Salem program. (woo hoo!)  I’m so grateful to Ed Pleasants for opening this door for me and

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My Action Learning Team- fabulous group of people!

encouraging me to apply.  Many cities across the country have a similar program that help leaders learn about their community, its origins, how things function, who leads what, what the current problems or challenges as well as the successes are.  I have learned more in 9 months than I ever would have in the next 5 years.

As I reflect back on all that I learned I am struck by this challenge from Micah 6:8,  “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?  (NRSV)  Two of the three requirements cause us to focus beyond our personal selves and relationship with God.  God calls us to pay attention and care about what is happening in the community around us.  Doing justice and loving kindness are communal challenges.  My eyes have been exposed to all kinds of ways I personally and my church can “do justice” and “love kindness” for others in our community.  There are some amazing projects and work already taking place and merely need a helping hand, some public attention, or some well placed resources.  Friends, I discovered things that are not, in fact, overwhelming that can be done.  I did not leave feeling discouraged or helpless.  It’s actually not that hard to positively impact the community around us because there is good work already taking place!  And that is exactly what God longs for us to do as witnesses into this world of the amazing love of Jesus Christ.  This is the nature of the Church that God created.

This past weekend our church celebrated something we call Pentecost Festival and it was a glorious day of worship, music, and fellowship together around delicious food.  Our theme for Pentecost this year (the birthday of God’s Church) was focused around

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Pentecost Festival – notice the white dove flying through our sanctuary in the top left!

Spiritual Gifts.  We talked about how God has indeed gifted each one of us when we profess our faith in Jesus Christ with some sort of Spiritual Gift that we are given to build up the Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God.  We have been gifted to make a difference in this world!  God has prepared YOU to do justice and love kindness in your communities!  I love that idea.  We are not tasked with some larger than life expectation to figure out on our own.  God has prepared you with all that you need to lend a hand!

I have had the chance to get to know 50+ wonderful classmates but to work closely with an eight member Action Learning Team.  What a wonderful opportunity to practice leadership skills among a diverse and talented group of leaders.  I’ve made friendships that I hope will stay with me for years to come. Our assigned group studied the challenge of raising public awareness around the issue of Universal Pre-K.  That fit nicely with our church’s work with Winston Salem-Forsyth County School System on the Pathway to K with our sister United Methodist Churches.  I have already seen the huge need for better preparations for all of our 4-year-old children for school (and last year there were over 400 children in this county on a waiting list for a spot in a Pre-K class!).

 

I am committed to helping raise awareness about this important need and support the work community leaders are doing to help bring Universal Pre-K to this community.  I believe this will help all children have a fair and equitable start to the learning environment and be ready for the classroom both socially and academically.  I may just be a pastor with no education background who has no children and shouldn’t really even care.  Except I do.  Because what helps children struggling the most helps all of our children be successful.

Thank you Leadership Winston-Salem for exposing me to so many opportunities and so much information.  I’m grateful for the new friends I have met, learning more about the community leaders that I admire.  And for the reminder that we, the church, have the opportunity to be a strong member and positive force in this community and that we, Centenary, have made, and will continue to make Winston Salem a just and kind community.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth