Swallowing the Disappointment Pill

I still can’t believe I am typing these words.  I am not going to climb Kilimanjaro next week.  I should be over the moon that in less than 48 hours I would have been making my way over the Atlantic Ocean heading towards Tanzania.   Not any more.  Last Saturday I was well on my way to completing my final training hike on Grandfather Mountain when I slipped (on a flat and easy part of the trail, to add insult to injury) and sprained my ankle.  Sprained all three ligaments – 6 week recovery time.  Yep.  I did that.  One week out from a trip I have been planning for about a year and training for the last 6 months.  Words do not adequately describe the feelings I have experienced the past 5 days.  Shock.  Embarrassment.  Chagrin.  Discomfort. Heartbreak.  Disappointment.

Everyone has been so kind to me this week.  Thank you for all of the acts of kindness, injections of humor into this infuriating turn of events, prayers, and encouragement.  That has kept me from sinking into a pool of depression or wallowing in self-pity.  It has made swallowing the disappointment pill so much easier.  I am grateful for the reminder that we share life together and with that is the opportunity for others to celebrate our joys as well as join in our laments.  And there is comfort in that.  I think I had forgotten this truth.  Or hadn’t had community to share significant life events with. (As a District Superintendent you are not surrounded  by a community like you are while pastoring a church.)

The bad news – I have trained and dreamed and planned almost everyday for 6 months all for naught.  I have spent a bunch of money preparing for this trip.  My ankle doesn’t feel so good.  My heart is broken over not getting to experience this adventure that I was ready for and that was within my grasp.

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Bum ankle with all of my Kili equipment waiting to be packed in the background.

The good news – My ankle is not broken and will heal.  My trip was insured so I can get reimbursed and reschedule for another day.  I am in the best shape of my life and it looks like I will get to do that all over again next year! I have two weeks of unexpected vacation to figure out what to do with. (Although that is kind of stressful for someone like me who has a hard time unplugging unless I am away doing something fun/cool.)

So when I consider the big picture – I’ll get over it.  And there are far worse things that other people are dealing with.  Hurricane Harvey’s destruction of homes and lives, cancer diagnosis, terminal illness, fear of not being able to make next month’s rent, I could go on.

But that disappointment pill still tastes pretty darn bad.  And we’ve all had to swallow it at one point or another.  I know I will learn some amazing lessons from this experience.  I know I will climb Kili one day.  (I am sorry some of you are going to have to listen to me talk about it again next year!) But I will do it when I’m 100% ready and can enjoy the experience, not worry about every step I take.  I know I will now have some quality time with my husband who was not going to Tanzania with me anyway.

While I lick my wounds and make an alternative vacation plan I will remember the following Psalm.  I’m not quite 100% there but I’m working on it.  I may be elevating and icing my ankle now, but before long I’ll be running and dancing again with my usual joy. Maybe these words will speak to your heart if you, too, are having to swallow a disappointment pill in your own life these days.

I give you all the credit God. You got me out of that mess, you didn’t let my foes gloat.

God, my God, I yelled for help and you put me together.

God, you pulled me out of the grave,  gave me another chance at life

when I was down-and-out.

All you saints! Sing your hearts out to God!  Thank him to his face!

He gets angry once in a while, but across a lifetime there is only love.

The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.

When things were going great I crowed, “I’ve got it made.

I’m God’s favorite.  He made me king of the mountain.”

Then you looked the other way and I fell to pieces.

I called out to you, God;  I laid my case before you:

“Can you sell me for a profit when I’m dead? Auction me off at a cemetery yard sale?

When I’m ‘dust to dust’ my songs and stories of you won’t sell.

So listen! and be kind!  Help me out of this!”

You did it: you changed wild lament into whirling dance;

You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers.

I’m about to burst with song;  I can’t keep quiet about you.

God, my God,  I can’t thank you enough.

-Psalm 30 (The Message)

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

What is going on?

This week has felt a bit surreal.  I keep shaking my head trying to figure out “What is going on?”  Tonight I found myself at an Interfaith prayer vigil held at Temple Emanuel trying to make sense of the events in Charlottesville, VA and the aftermath of rhetoric

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Temple Emanuel Interfaith Prayer Vigil- all of the clergy that showed up last night from multiple faiths and a many different Christian denominations.

swirling around.  What a powerful night to see people standing together calling on love and hope to move us forward.  I will confess that there was a moment this week that I found myself going back to 2012 standing in Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, staring at the exhibits telling the story leading up to the Holocaust, scratching my head wondering how did they get to that moment.  How did we get to this moment? That was a hard day because I was on an Interfaith tour of the Holy Land with Christians, Jews and Muslims.  We were having honest conversation and learning from one another and at times also challenging one another.  I listened as the Jewish guide painfully made obvious all of the moments in time when Christians could

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Our own Jason McKinney leading singing

have stood up to the Nationalism that began to take over their country.  It was to this place that my memory took me, and it was chilling.

What has been on my heart is a new conviction that we have finally reached a place where I can no longer be guarded or silent for fear of those around me reacting negatively about a difference in politics.  This is about so much more.  This is about right and wrong.  This is about ok and not ok.  This is about love and hate.  This is about diversity and white supremacy / racism.  And I will not find myself on the side of wishing that I had said something sooner.

My soul aches for what I see happening.  A weird nod being given towards those in our country that think white people are superior.  Where chanting Nazi phrases and aggressively carrying torches, guns and sticks is an appropriate way to protest taking down Civil War historical statues.  That is not ok.

It’s not ok because I am a Christian who believes in Jesus’ ethic of love.  I may not always agree (and I do not think any statues should just be defaced or ripped down but that local authorities need to handle those decisions), but I respect a variety of opinions and believe that diversity of beliefs and people makes us stronger.  I am ok if a conversation ends with “we are going to have to agree to disagree on this.”  And I will live my life as Jesus prescribed – we are to love one another.  Love is so much more powerful than hate.

So I choose to be a voice advocating for love.  I do not intend for my voice to be incendiary.  I do not intend to sound more divisive or angry or judgemental.  If you hear it that way than I encourage you to listen carefully to your own heart.  I am simply speaking my truth.  More importantly, I am speaking Jesus’ truth.  And I think I speak for the truth that makes this country of ours amazing and beautiful.

As Bishop Ken Carter from the Florida Conference of the UMC encourages, I will use the words white supremacists instead of masking it in code language.  I will hold

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You must love your neighbor as you love yourself

accountable the moral and ethical obligation people in power have regarding taking the high road of how we treat one another.  I will hold myself accountable for seeking out opportunities to have difficult conversations, again not for the purpose to incite but to learn and stretch myself in a culture where race relations are tense.  I invite you to do the same. Let’s start having these critical conversations with one another.

And please remember that the point of it all, is to be faithful to Jesus’ love ethic.  Because what is gong on right now, is not acceptable.  We can do better than this.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

The Balloon Brigade

Each week 2 persons from our staff visit a different downtown business with a few Centenary balloons, a loaf of banana nut bread and a notecard that all of our staff have signed and prayed over.  Why in the world would we do this?  This is the church staff’s way of living into our Vision Statement that calls us to Love our Neighbors.  And let me tell you, it has been an interesting and fun experience for us.  Let me share a few stories so you can imagine the impact of such a small gesture.

A few weeks ago Doug and I took our bread and balloons to Frogman Interactive, a new marketing company that moved in right across from us on 4th Street (also owned by our very own David Caudle!)  We entered into the beautifully redone office space where all of the desks were in the center of the room with shared work space among about 12 employees.  When we entered one person stood up and came over to us but 12 pairs of eyes began peaking over their computers at us, getting more curious as we explained our gifts.  One person even exclaimed “Is that for us?!”  We shared that we were from Centenary UMC and we simply wanted to say hello and offer these gifts as a reminder that we have prayed over them this week and that we are glad to be their neighbor.  By the time we were done explaining ourselves every single one of the employees (all looked like they were under the age of 35) walked over to shake our hands with big smiles on their faces.  What a wonderful moment to bring a moment of joy into the lives of these neighbors.

And then there was the time Stacy and I delivered balloons and bread to Tropical Smoothie further down on 4th Street.  We went at lunchtime and when customers saw what we were doing they asked where we were from and exclaimed “how cool!”.  Smiles everywhere as we walked back out of the door.

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Centenary’s Vision Statement:  Striving to be a vibrant Christian Community, loving God and loving neighbor downtown and throughout the region.

And then when Martha and Jeremy delivered to Tattoo Design Archive they learned that they actually house a museum of beautiful artwork (I assume that can be turned into a tattoo) but were so gracious (with purple hair and tattoo sleeve) in explaining their business that several of us want to go back and take time to go through the museum.

 

Of course not everyone gets excited when we arrive but just about everyone is pleasantly surprised by the unexpected gesture.  Our hope is that very soon, all of those businesses that we have delivered to might join us for an informal gathering of neighbors to just say hello and see how we can be better neighbors to one another.  I don’t know if anyone will come, but we want to try and provide 4th Street with an opportunity to connect with one another.

We think it is important that Centenary find ways to be a spiritual presence in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the downtown rebirth.  In fact we have a unique opportunity to be a spiritual voice and bring the love of Jesus into our surrounding community.  And we won’t do that effectively without going to actually see and meet our neighbors.  And, it’s just flat-out fun to bring smiles to people’s face with a random act of kindness.

If you would like to bake bread for us that would be awesome!  If you would like to help do a delivery let us know!  Our plan is to keep working our way through the list the Chamber of Commerce gave us until we have connected with all of the businesses on 4th and some on 5th and Trade Streets (we may define “downtown” loosely).  And maybe this is a prompting for you to think about who your neighbors are and how you might show a little love.  After all, Jesus said it was part of the greatest commandment.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

It’s all in the Preparation

So, many of you know by now that I am on the home stretch of preparing to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro the first two weeks of September.  I have 5 weeks and 2 days before leaving for an adventure of a lifetime!  I don’t know that I have ever prepared as much for a journey as I have for this one.  But as one of the words of advice from the company I am climbing with offered “Your enjoyment during the climb directly correlates to the training effort given during the previous months”.

Training for climbing a high altitude mountain (19,341 ft but who’s counting!) includes a variation of endurance training, strength training and cardio vascular

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Upper Profile Trail at Grandfather Mountain

/interval training.  There is no one kind of training to do.  Instead it is a combination of strengthening your heart and lungs to handle a high level of activity and Oxygen demand.  Add to that endurance so you can sustain the level of energy output over an extended amount of time.  Add to that strength training so you can carry your (only 25 pound) pack up the mountain.  Thankfully there are porters on Kili that carry the heavier stuff so the load is a little lighter than on other mountains.  To do this requires training 6 days a week.

So obviously with the high level of fitness required, you can’t start training one month out.  I started in February.  And I am thankful to say, I feel physically ready.  I have had some great friends (many of them new for me) that have helped me train by going on long hikes with me.  I have new encouragers at the YMCA that have heard about what I am doing and ask me questions and have been so supportive.  (I realize I look a little funny walking around the Y in my clunky hiking boots and weighted vest headed for the stairclimber).  And, I have probably sweated the full amount of my body fluids out at least 120 times!  There can be absolutely no toxins left in my system right now.  But it takes time and discipline to work up to the high level of fitness this excursion demands.  But it can be done, one day at a time.  And literally how I will get to the top of the mountain -one step at a time.

Oh, not all of the preparation is physical.  Today I sent off for my visa to enter Tanzania.  I have had to prepare a massive packing list.  Check to make sure all of my vaccines like Yellow Fever and Tetanus are up to date.  Securing a flight schedule to get me from Greensboro to Arusha, Tanzania was no easy feat- almost 18 hours in the air!  Lots of details to make sure I have in order days before boarding the plane.

The point is, 75% of this experience is in the preparation.  The anticipation of the adventure.  The attention to detail to prepare for every need but not over prepare (as you do have to carry that stuff most of the way).  The challenge of preparing yourself physically (which is my favorite part).  That is what helps make the experience

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Hiking with friends is way more fun!

amazing and positive.  Not just the amazing mountain, view, the animals, the cool new people you meet, the interesting food you get to try, or the sleeping out under the stars with no electronics within earshot!

Isn’t that how it works with our relationship with God?  We don’t just wake up one day or arrive at church and experience great joy and spiritual renewal without any sense of preparation.  God doesn’t do all the work so we just get to sit back and bask in the experience and say, “isn’t God amazing!”  So much of the work of spiritual formation and growing in our relationship with Jesus IS the preparation.  Those who enjoy a rich and deep experience of Jesus know what I’m talking about.  They have put in the hours in the spiritual gym.  They have pushed themselves to read God’s Word.  They have been disciplined to pray on a regular basis.  They have committed to giving time in their lives to worship and serve God.  The Holy Spirit uses all of this and multiplies and blesses it.  A mature spiritual life?  It’s all in the preparation.  And it happens one step at a time.

Speaking of worship, it’s also kind of the same principle.  One doesn’t just show up for worship and necessarily have a life altering experience.  But when one spends time preparing for worship, anticipating encountering God, reading the Scripture ahead of time, planning what offering we might give, longing to offer God our best whatever that might look like, then our worship experience is often full and powerful. It’s all in the preparation.  God blesses our preparation.  Deeply.

So what are you preparing for?  If you look at your schedule, what captures your heart and mental thinking time; where you spend your resources of time, money and ability; what does it tell you?  What are you preparing for?  It’s a valid question worth considering.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

Let’s Do This!

It is so much fun to be a part of something way bigger than yourself.  Especially something that is part of God’s bigger plans.  I was reminded recently of a wonderful summer opportunity one of my best friends and I were a part of several summers ago.  We were both living back at home and decided to audition for the summer community theatre production of Brigadoon.  It ended up being so much fun.  We both had dance and singing experience but were not star performers by any means.  We got cast in the chorus and on the dance team and had a blast.  We were just a small part of a

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Brigadoon- Summer Theatre 1993

multifaceted performance.  We each contributed our part to the whole performance.  Without each of our contributions, it would have been incomplete.  Even the leading roles could not pull off telling the whole story without each of us doing our part along the way.  And when we closed the final performance, my friend and I looked at each and felt like we had been a part of something special, and something important.

This example is not so much about furthering God’s Kingdom, but it is about being a part of something bigger than yourself.  It is about recognizing it feels good to take on something big and meaningful and pull it off.  Let it be focused on furthering God’s Kingdom and it just multiplies the potential joy.

Centenary members and friends, we find ourselves in a position to grasp an opportunity for us all to be a part of something way bigger than any one of us individually.  We have the opportunity to impact the life story of our church, the ministries that take place within and do something hugely significant.  We have the chance to support and implement some much needed renovations to our facilities that can impact multi-generations of Centenarians for centuries to come.  These renovations have been talked about (some of them) for over 20 years!  Let’s stop talking about them and bring them to life!  Now is the time.

Our vision right now is to tackle three projects.

  1. Renovate 3 floors of our 1960’s Building for both updated Children’s Ministry space as well as expanded adult classroom space and better connection to our 1930’s building.
  2. Renovate our 4th Floor 1930’s Building that houses our Youth Ministry.
  3. Create a new lobby and 5th Street entrance into our church facility with a possible vehicular drop off and a much needed new elevator.

Now some folks question whether now is the time for Centenary to tackle such a big vision.  But the truth is, Centenary has had or found reasons for many years to postpone doing some of these much needed renovations.  Many of these spaces are original construction and are limitations and inhibitors to two strong ministries of our churches (youth and children).  Some concerns have been raised about our recalibrating our budget last year and wonder if we can do this financially.  But friends, our church is capable of doing this financially, if we see the larger vision, look at this as an awesome investment in our future, and desire to be part of something that is bigger and more meaningful than anything we could do individually.

Our Capital Campaign Planning Committee want to have church wide conversations to explore the projects we are proposing and answer questions and hear ideas from each one of you.  We want to share with you why church leadership thinks now is the time to do something big and beautiful in and through Centenary United Methodist Church.

Please accept an invitation to attend a small group conversation that will be offered coming up soon in August and into September.  Listen up for tour options so you can see some of these spaces for yourselves and how badly they need our attention.  Hold our church and its leadership in your prayers as we faithfully respond to God’s direction to invest in the future life of this church and improve the existing facilities for our own members now.

Centenary, we are a big and beautiful church filled with wonderful people who love God

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Striving to be a vibrant Christian community, loving God
and loving neighbor downtown and throughout the region.

and work hard to love one another.  As we try to live into our vision statement (see the caption) this renovation project provides us the opportunity to increase our vibrancy visually within our building; to enhance the ways we build Christian Community – especially among our children and youth ministries; it gives us ways to love our neighbor better by using our facilities in new and creative ways.  It helps us live into our Core Values of Intentional Hospitality and Engaging Discipleship.  And so much more.  But only if we as a church family come together and say right now, this is important for the life of this church, for the ability of our church to further God’s Kingdom, and for the future generations that will benefit from the work we do right now.  Only if you and I say Yes!  We want to be a part of that.  Of something bigger than we are and even bigger than what we may need personally.

 

Let’s do this Centenary!  Join us for conversation, idea sharing, and aligning the design plans with our financial abilities.  Let us joyfully say yes to God’s great plans for our church.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

Oh the Things We Can Do!

I am reading (actually listening to an audio) the book, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson and have learned so much.  I am struck by the visionary leaders and the city, and to some degree, the whole country, taking on such a massive project – the 1893 World’s Fair – and seeing images-8all that they were able to accomplish.  A group of people daring to dream big, daring to actually do something larger than most people imagined possible, daring to overcome much skepticism and hurdles to achieve greatness.  With much hard work, they were successful.  They were willing to take a risk.

We truly cannot appreciate the value and opportunity the World’s Fair brought to the world.  It was like a real-time, in person, 3-Looking_West_From_Peristyle,_Court_of_Honor_and_Grand_Basin,_1893dimensional access to the internet but for a limited time only (6 months) and limited to the topics for which exhibits had been created.  But from May to October of 1893, some of the most interesting and advanced ideas were on display.  In fact, just having the
Fair to plan for inspired so many new ideas and creative inventions, idea sharing, and experimentation that it is fascinating to consider what was born out of this event.  Here are a few:

  • Writing and reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance by children across the US
  • Moving Walkway
  • Indoor air conditioning

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    Ferris Wheel – 36 cars held 40 people each totaling 2,160 per ride, taller than the Eiffel Tower!

  • Forerunner of the zipper
  • Ferris Wheel
  • The first electric kitchen
  • Aunt Jemima pancake mix
  • Shredded wheat
  • Cream of wheat
  • Past Blue Ribbon Beer (named because it won a blue ribbon as the best beer at the fair!)
  • First exhibition of Tesla Alternating Current (AC) electricity – and for many the first time they say lightbulbs light up the nighttime sky
  • Juicy Fruit gum
  • Third Rail- elevated tracks
  • Vertical files
  • First commemorative coin from the US Mint and first Commemorative stamp from the US Postal Service

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    First Electric Kitchen

  • The first filtered and treated drinking water en mass
  • Milton Hershey bought chocolate manufacturing equipment to expand his caramel making business.

Just think about all of the positive additions that came out of the goal of tackling puttingon a World’s Fair.  Did it come with cost?  Of course.  Did it come with disagreement?  Absolutely.  Did it involve taking risks?  Yes.  Was it worth it?  You bet.

It’s scary sometimes to take risks.  The rational side of our brains can talk us out of just about everything that involves a risk and leave us living a very conservative and small life.  And then we miss out on the beautiful discovery of air conditioning.  Of the useful device called a zipper.  The magical view from on top of a Ferris Wheel.

Or to make it more personal, the intoxicating but unpredictable experience of love.  Failure to take risks can also limit our experience of this great big God we worship.   God took a risk that creating us humanity would be a blessing for this world.  God took a risk on us by sending Jesus Christ into this world.  I’m not so sure we are willing to take any risks on God.  Yet, faith in God is a sure bet.  God will not let us down.  And time and time again, when we take a risk, when we step out in faith, when we allow ourselves to trust God, when we seek the positive in our midst instead of tearing down with the negative and critical, God can create some amazing things out of nothing more than our trust and faith.

I pray that each of us as Christians can live more into our faith and trust of God.  I pray that Centenary can see the big picture and take some risks that allow amazing and unexpected future advances to bubble up within our community.  I pray that our country can live into a more trusting environment of one another.  I pray that our world may be filled with people of faith who seek the good in all situations.

As I have said numerous times before, a girl can hope.  I’ll take it one step further.  I actually believe this can be so!

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

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.