The Most Impressive Act of Trust

Holy Week starts tomorrow (on Sunday) beginning the powerful last few days of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  We talk about the cross event throughout the year in one way or another in our weekly worship.  But this week is the most powerful week of our faith to remember Jesus.  This is when we truly see the intersection of Christmas and Easter.  What I mean by that is this is when we see the humanity of Jesus really struggle with the divinity of Jesus.  The incarnation of God with us in human form crashes against the human will out of sorts with God’s will.  And this week is the point when the humanity of


“Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” -Luke 22:42 NIV

Jesus suffers the very worst that being human has to offer.  And Jesus teaches us much if we just look closely.

While Jesus’ last week seems so foreign to our own experience, our own level of suffering, our own understanding, there is something profoundly recognizable.  As we watch Jesus enter Jerusalem with Pomp and Circumstance, teach in the Temple, and then gather his friends to say goodbye and give some last lessons, we see an anxiousness, a suffering that is familiar to us.  We see grief and pain.  We see shame and loneliness.  We see bullying and false accusations made.  And in some of that, every one of us can relate at one point in our lives.  Jesus is teaching us that even the Son of God suffered these hurts at the hands of others.  A reminder that we cannot escape this kind of pain in life.  But Jesus offers some valuable lessons in how to withstand it.

This quote is a long one but a powerful point of reflection as we prepare to hear the Passion story of Jesus’ last week.  A reminder that Jesus modeled for us the most impressive act of trust when he eventually let go of his anguish while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and trusted God.  That moment when the humanity of Jesus fully trusted the divinity of Jesus within teaches us the importance of letting our humanity fully trust the beautiful and powerful divinity of God.

In this story we find reflected the universal experience of loss that plunges us into anguish, evokes cries for help in our weakness, and invites trust in God who is in, under, and beyond the present affliction.  The alternative to trust and letting go is a hardness of heart that refuses the grace available to us in our ordeal.” Elizabeth J. Canham from Weavings

Jesus’ story does speak to our experiences of grief and pain.  Jesus’ story does remind us God is in the midst of it all.  And the antidote to ending up with a hardened heart that is unable to feel the wide range of emotions and soar with joy is trust.  God offers us grace in the midst of our struggle even when no one else around us may.  The invitation is to trust God’s grace more than we trust the negative voices of our pain.  Is there something in your own life that you need to dig deep and muster the courage to display a most impressive act of trust?

I hope you will take some time and read one of the Gospel versions of the Passion this week.  Join us for worship Sunday to hear the Passion as told by the Gospel of Mark.  Or by Monday afternoon, take less than 20 minutes to go here for the link to see our reading recorded from Sunday.  Attend a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday worship service (ours are at 7:00.)  Please, don’t go from the joy of Palm Sunday to the joy of Easter morning without pausing at the Cross.  That’s where Jesus’ act of trust is best modeled for us.


Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

The Power of Tears

02-tears-bitters.w529.h529I am using a devotion book this year called A Guide to Prayer for All Who Walk with God and it has spoken profoundly into my life in such timely ways.  One of the readings this week has been on the power of tears.  I’ve experienced lots of tears of late for so many different reasons.  Tears of joy when UNC beat Duke in the semi-final of the ACC Tourney.  Tears of frustration as UNC lost to Virgina in the Acc Tourney final.  Tears of love as I attended a beautiful wedding filled with love and tenderness.  Tears of sadness as we have shared with Centenary my departure in a few months.  Tears of confusion.  Tears of anger.  Tears of sweet kindnesses experienced.  Tears of admiration from watching a movie.  Tears of happiness from watching a frolicking kitten bound around the condo.

Wendy Wright shares that the ancient East had an interesting understanding and interpretation for the different types of tears we might experience.  They had all kinds of different spiritual categories and interpretations for tears in our lives.  Some tears have spiritually purifying power in our lives.  So someone just experiencing a spiritual renewal these purifying tears would feel differently than for someone who has been traveling long on their faith journey and felt the refiners fire multiple times in their lives.  But both are purifying experiences.

Some tears purify us by convicting us of sins and brokenness that we have participated in or experienced.  But sometimes our tears purify us by coming from a place of deep gratitude and joy when we think about the true goodness of God’s love for us or our desire to live eternally with Jesus.

No matter how our various tears would have been interpreted by the Easterners, they would without a doubt claim that tears are a God-given gift to us and a wonderful physical sign that our inner world or self was being transformed.  For those who have been following along our Lenten series on Renovation of the Heart here at Centenary, the whole point is seeking that inner transformation that being a Jesus follower brings about in our lives.  This ongoing cleansing that takes place as a person draws nearer and nearer to Jesus can sometimes happen without us noticing all of the signs of change within us.  But our tears?  When they blind our eyes and then fall on our cheeks when we blink and roll down the sides of our face. Well they can become signs and reminders of our baptismal waters redeeming us, a small piece of God’s good creation in this world, again.  The power in our tears.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

Finding Jesus Space

Ever had one of those situations where you just couldn’t make sense of what was happening?  It wasn’t that you stopped paying attention and then got surprised.  Quite the opposite.  You were working really hard towards a goal but then it all starts heading in a different direction.  I was having a conversation with someone earlier this week who talked about how sometimes people make choices in their lives that have deep effects and consequences on your own life.  Even though it wasn’t your choice to make originally, you are trying to make sense of the reorientation.

What do you do when you find  yourself in one of those interesting situations?  This season of Lent our church is spending time doing a “renovation of the heart” series,  based on a book by Dallas Willard of the same name.  We have basically been spending time looking at the inner self and all of the ways we can experience transformation.  I have found it to be entirely timely and helpful reflection.  Sometimes the best thing we can do in the midst of unexpected situations is to deeply discern what is God’s goodness, what is God’s desire and God’s path for us and simply take a step towards sitting in that space.

All of us find ourselves in situations we could have never predicted.  All of us find ourselves at one time or another  in a place where the hopes and desires of others trump our own.  And that can be confusing.



Jesus with Martha and Mary. Painting by He Qi

This past weekend the women of our church were on a Women’s Retreat and one of the Scriptures we talked about was the infamous Mary and Martha story where Martha is fussing and taking care of everyone and getting annoyed at her sister, Mary, who has decided to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen.  Jesus commends Mary and fusses at Martha.  For us doers, this is highly annoying.  But right now, I am understanding Mary’s perspective better than I ever have.


What if Mary found herself in a situation she had not expected, a circumstance that was contrary to the path she thought she was on?  What if she was feeling confused or frustrated or a little off-balance?  My sense is that instead of trying to work her way through the scenario, she has chosen wisely.  She has chosen to seek that Jesus space where she can just stop and listen.  Where she can catch the scent of the trail she is supposed to be following again.

Maybe our lesson here is if we find ourselves facing an unexpected situation that puts us off-balance, the best thing we can do is stop.  Stop trying.  Stop fixing.  Stop doing.  Like Mary, just stop and get balanced.  Be in Jesus’ good presence. Get oriented again.  Resist the temptation to work our way out of it or distract ourself from it.

Luke 10:38-42  (CEB)

While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest.  She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message.  By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.”

 The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things.   One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.”

Maybe Mary needed to align her inner self with Jesus.  If that happens, then whatever the scenario before us can and will be managed.  Excuse me while I sit and listen for a while.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

Practicing Being Still

Have you been hit with the crud that is going around?  I can’t count on one hand the people around me most that have not had some kind of sickness over the last 2 months.  It’s like nothing I remember seeing.  I am on the mends from my bout with a sore throat causing me to sound like Demi Moore.  One thing it has done has caused me to slow down and rest far more than is my typical pattern.

Be-still-and-know-that-I-am-God-christian-wallpaper-hd_2048x1536How interesting that my devotional theme all this week is “Be Still”.  Funny how God’s timing can send us important messages if we just pay attention.  Not only did my physical body need to rest but my spiritual body as well, needed a bit more focused time in order to power through all that has been swirling around me.

“Be still, and know that I am God! (Psalm 46:10a NRSV)

It’s a good thing that Lent is on the way.  This season of 6 weeks leading up to Easter is such a good time to be mindful of being still.  Of creating a little more space to look within and listen for God to speak.  A time to prepare ourselves for the coming events leading up to the Cross.  I’m not sure what it means that this year the kick off to Lent which is Ash Wednesday is on Valentines Day (next Wednesday) and the culmination on Easter Sunday this year falls on April Fools Day!  (My husband is not too happy about this liturgical/cultural crash approaching next Wednesday!)

However, I’m looking forward to Lent and this season of Being Still kicking off next week.  I always love the Ash Wednesday service because of its focus on confession and repentance.  That deep dive in trying to make right my Spirit with God somehow always helps pave the way for more fruitful and peaceful Being Still time with God over the upcoming weeks.  It helps clear the air and reminds me my imperfections don’t define me.  God is constantly trying to smooth the rough edges and strengthen the struggling aspects of my being.  All of this settles me enough so I can in fact Be Still.

I hope that you will get ready for this fast approaching season of preparation for Jesus’ Resurrection.  I hope that you will think in terms of how can you find spaces in your busy lives to practice Being Still.  To pray.  To listen.  To sit into the full embrace of the Holy Spirit.  To rest.  So worth the effort of making the time.

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am .

Be still and know.

Be still.


Lory Beth

Making Do

I love it when various conversations in my life converge and especially when it has to do with an upcoming sermon! As we continue our sermon series this week on John Ortberg’s If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, we will talk about the scary prospects of taking risks and needing help. But today my thoughts have been on the idea of what happens when we don’t think we have what it takes to handle what lies before us.  We worry that we won’t be able to continue on or take the risk.  We worry that we just aren’t the right person.  Or we have gotten ourselves into a sticky wicket and we need help getting out of it.  So many different scenarios where we aren’t brave, and we cry out for help because we have little confidence that we can handle it.

I have been thinking all day today on a quote from my morning devotional A Guide To Prayer For All Who Walk With God.  The quote was from early 20th Century author Evelyn Underhill:

We can never forecast the path God’s energy of rescue will take.  It is never any use saying to God, “I am getting desperate!  Please answer my prayer by the next mail and please send a blank check” God will answer but not necessarily like that; more probably God will transform and use the unlikely looking material already in hand- the loves and the tiny fishes- looking up to Heaven and blessing it and making it do after all.   – Evelyn Underhill, The Soul’s Delight

th-3Making do.  I love this perspective on the “path God’s energy of rescue will take” in our lives.  How often did we have exactly what we needed from the very beginning.  We look at ourselves as unlikely material.  Even this week I had conversation with a person who was not feeling particularly confident about her ideas.  But then when in a group setting in the midst of an important conversation in a meeting, she asked a wonderful question in a wonderful way so that her risky idea was well received.  I thought then how God used that person who felt like “unlikely material” in order to start an important conversation.  Making do with the material in hand.

Let’s not underestimate ourselves.  More accurately, let’s not underestimate what God can do with and through us.  Let’s not resist what God is trying to do through us.  Otherwise we will block the most amazing transformation that only God can orchestrate.  When life is asking us to take a risk- that might very well be the path of God’s energy getting ready to pulse into our heart beat in order to transform us into a moment of amazement.

Instead of listing all the reasons why not, let’s focus on all of the reasons why.  After all, God has gifted each and every one of us in some way.  Add to that giftedness a little bit of faith in God and confidence in God’s ways and we have an opportunity for some Holy Spirit magic.  But we have to be willing to take a bit of risk.  We have to be willing to risk failing.  With that, we have to recognize that failing is not always a bad thing.  God’s wisdom often times comes in the lessons learned from falling down.  But when we fail or fall down, I hang on to the following Scripture as encouragement to get back up and a source of strength to carry on.  May it offer you the same.

We don’t preach about ourselves. Instead, we preach about Jesus Christ as Lord, and we describe ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. God said that light should shine out of the darkness. He is the same one who shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in clay pots so that the awesome power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us. 8 We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out....14 We do this because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus, and he will bring us into his presence along with you. 15 All these things are for your benefit. As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory.   – 2 Corinthians 4:5-9, 14-15 (CEB)

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

Walking on Water

John Ortberg wrote a really good book several years ago called If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat.  It’s about the famous story of Peter trying to walk on the water to get to Jesus. (Matthew 14:25-32)  There are so many interesting perspectives in this story.  What was Peter thinking when he tried to do the impossible?  Well, he was thinking originally that he was going to be faithful and obedient and take a risk.  313620

Ortberg says “You need only enough faith to take the net step.”  How many times do we look at the big picture and completely psych ourselves out?  If we are trying to do something big and important and meaningful, often times that means it’s hard.  It can overwhelm us and cause us to freeze up.

We can learn a lot from Jesus and from Peter in this story.  For the next 4 weeks we will talk about having courage and taking risks as Jesus calls out to us.  We will talk about what we can learn from failure.  Failure is not the worst thing in the world to have happen to us even though it can feel pretty rotten.  We will talk about what extreme discipleship looks like and keeping our eye on Jesus.

So for you to ponder this weekend, what is your next step?  Can you see Jesus in front of you?  Do you have Jesus in your line of vision?  How far is he from you?  So what does that next step look like for you?

I don’t know about you but when I take a moment to reflect on these questions I have a lot in the way between me and Jesus at the moment.  I am working on clearing out some of the obstacles, because I’m pretty sure that none of them are nearly as important as I might think they are.  And if they aren’t stepping stones, than they are obstacles to be worked around.  But before I get overwhelmed, I remind myself of Ortberg’s encouragement I only need enough faith to the next step in front of me.  That, I can do.

If we want to be with Jesus, and being with Jesus is the best and most amazing place we can be, we are going to have to get our feet wet.  After all, Jesus is in the water.  Man, do we have lots to talk about this month!  Hope to see you in worship or on our Lifestream.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth

Remembering Your Baptism

Water.  A simple substance.  2 atoms of Hydrogen and 1 atom of Oxygen.  Absolutely necessary for our body to survive.  We can survive longer without food than we ever could without water.  Life giving substance not only for humans but for all creation.  And the vehicle by which God offers us renewing grace.  Cleansing grace.  Fresh start grace. Child claiming grace.

imagesDo you happen to remember your baptism if you have ever been baptized?  If you grew up United Methodist like me (or Lutheran or Presbyterian or Episcopal) the answer is probably no because we baptize infants.  I’ll talk about why that is this Sunday at worship.  But we do have an option for those of us who don’t have that memory.  We have a beautiful service of remembering your baptism.  A chance to remember the promises that were made for us or by us if we were youth or adults.  It’s one of my favorite Sunday’s of the year and I can’t wait for this Sunday.

One of my most precious memories was when we did this at Centenary for the first time 3 years ago and one of the older ladies came through my line to touch the water, receive a shell and a blessing.  She looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said in 80 years she had never participated in a service like this before and how powerful it was to reconnect with something so important that happened in her childhood.  A life well lived as a faithful child of God, marked by the grace of baptism, reignited in her heart again.  That’s the stuff that makes us pastors act like a cat high on catnip!

Remembering the faith of our childhood might be a beautiful thing for some.  A terrible or painful memory for others.  Or increasingly a non-existent one for others. But when we remember our baptism, we are not remembering what we have done.  We are not even remembering what the church has done.  We are remembering what God has done on our behalf.  It is a gift of grace that lays claim to us and says we are a Child of God.  It is a grace given to us that says we are offered a life with Christ and a death and resurrection with Christ.  It is a grace that acknowledges God has the power to forgive us and renew and wash us from the sin and evil in this world.  And finally, it is a grace that is given with the touch of hands and an offering of the Holy Spirit to enter into our lives each and every day.

Almighty God, the life you birthed in us
by baptism into Jesus Christ
will never die.
Your justice never fails.
Your mercy is everlasting.

Your healing river flows.
Your Spirit blows where you will.
We cannot stop you, God!

But sometimes we try.
We try to block the flow,
we redirect the winds of the Spirit,
or we walk so far away from the life-giving Stream
that we do not hear its sound,
and we forget its power.
We parch ourselves.

We are dry and thirsty, O God.
Come, refresh us!

Come upon us, Holy Spirit!                                                                                                 Come upon these waters.                                                                                                            Let these waters be to us drops of your mercy.
Let these waters remind us of your righteousness and justice.
Let these waters renew in us the resurrection power of Jesus.
Let these waters make us long for your coming reign.

Amen.                                                 (United Methodist Baptismal Liturgy)

Water.  It cleanses.  It refreshes.  It sustains.  It’s powerful.  It’s calming.  It is one of the ways in which God offers you grace.  I invite you to join us Sunday and let the grace filled waters of Jesus once again renew your spirit, cleanse your soul, give you new life.

Grace and Peace,

Lory Beth