I am a United Methodist Pastor, and the season in which we live is not easy. So it is with great sadness that I see and hear churches in my annual conference choose to disaffiliate with the United Methodist Church to join other denominations. I know we are not a perfect body of believers, but we live in the promise of grace through Jesus the Christ, our Lord. The assuredness of God’s faithfulness compels me to celebrate my faith in my blessed denomination. Okay, that is about as political as I am going to get.
The times we live reflect moments of sadness as I put names and faces on those who choose to leave. I think of my friendships with my clergy brothers and sisters and realize that we will not share special moments at retreats or around a table after a brutal Annual Conference. We may remain friends, but our relationships will change. I mourn for the possibility of loss as my denomination seeks to redefine itself as we let our loved ones explore new ways to celebrate Christ in the world.
I also feel anger as the era of misinformation attempts to cast opposing sides as enemies. I constantly ask myself, “How in the name of the Almighty can people demonize their fellow clergy members with statements based on untruth?” I refuse to accept such mean-spirited attacks on my colleagues. It is wrong and should stop. We must separate because, at the heart of the matter, our disagreements prove so severe that we can no longer find common ground and must search out a new path.
With a heavy heart, I must say goodbye to pastors and churches as they seek to further their understanding of the mission of God. I pray that the truth continues to make its presence known and that those who continue to spread misinformation stop and allow churches considering disaffiliation to find the answers to their questions. Through this experience, I hope we continue to pray for one another, wishing God’s best to everyone. Let grace prevail, and the truth of Christ remains our guiding principle.
I cannot help but think of the Jewish refugees reentering the land flowing with milk and honey after the exile. Jerusalem lay in ruins, and the first temple no longer existed. The word trauma seems to be an appropriate word as the life remembered in dreams no longer existed. Many probably asked, “Where do we go from here?”
Many of us can relate to the feeling of our ancient brothers and sisters. We know what it is like to have our world taken from us. A sense of despair overwhelms soul after soul as we stand in shock, unsure of what to do next. Hopelessness permeates the air as we try to discover a way to make it through the next minute. Finally, our struggles become overwhelming, leaving us in absolute brokenness.
In the blackest moments, God begins holy work in the smallest ways. As we turn toward an almost imperceptible glimmer of light, we discover that hope finds us in all our stuff. Our journey toward the little source of illumination gives way to a greater light. Suddenly, we stand and discover the source of our light fills us with a new way of being. We find hope in the Divine. We realize that, much like the ancients, we must find our way out of the darkness by looking for a small ray of light.
I pray that all who suffer this day may find God when all seems lost. Friends may offer comfort and thereby shine the light of Christ into lives who lost their way. May we be the hands and feet of Christ just as we are, to show agape to a world that needs the good news. We step forward in faith with the assurance that we, the people who once walked in darkness, now see a great light.
Devastation and heartbreak surrounded Jerusalem. Disaster followed the Hebrew people. God officially claimed that due to the constant disobedience of the favored nation, the covenant broke. And for the first time in the nation’s history, Divine favor did not exist. No one saved the children of Israel; they submitted to the Babylonians and became exiles in a foreign land. Such proved the plight of the chosen seed of God.
I know what it feels like to be abandoned by God. I look at some of the many struggles in my life and can’t help but wonder, “I should have made a better choice.” My actions led to God’s overwhelming silence. Equipped with sorrow, I push God away. I say, “Forget about a new covenant, I want a new soul.” I yearn for a way to start all over again while maintaining the lessons I learned. I cry out, “I want a do-over, God!”
But wait, through the most horrific part of the story, the Holy-One prepares for another covenant, a new way. God did more than speak through a prophet, the Divine burned within the people an opportunity to follow the road of light. Humanity’s innermost part of their spiritual DNA points to a compass leading to God.
Praise be to the One, who gives us the strength to face the struggles of each day. Every morning we can follow our minds and souls to the very throne of God. Let us serve the world, equipped with heavenly guidance. Make this day count by staying on the path of Divine holiness.
Shame is more than a five-letter word. It can hold you hostage and keep you wholly locked within a prison of your making. For me, I carry shame for things that were not even my fault. The wounds pierce my soul with pinpoint accuracy, creating systems of thought that leave a long-lasting effect in my life. Shame is the most destabilizing of any ammunition utilized.
To the naked eye, shame is invisible, secretly doing its best work in secret. I didn’t choose one path in life because I was too frightened about what may or may not happen. I keep hearing the nagging words, “If only I would have….” The underlying decision at every turn is the shame that continues to carry on in my life.
Please don’t get me wrong. I love my life. I am blessed beyond all measure and have excellent resources at my disposal to reclaim parts of my heart that were damaged. My story is not one of victimization, but of light, healing, and forgiveness. I continue to look for those places that are still entrapped and rob me of the joy in which I am meant to live.
Surrendering to God means giving up the shame as well. We cannot hold on to the secret things that hold us back from experiencing the plans that are laid out before us. Giving up all of our stuff is not easy because it forces us to be vulnerable. Suddenly, we no longer have control. God is the one who guides us.
Today I am thankful for my journey. I am grateful that I have amazing people who walk beside me on my journey, always reflecting the love of Christ, which flows through me, around me, and over me. I pray that I may be the one who helps others come out of the shadows of shame and into the light of God. Praise be to our Amazing Creator.
There are times that I feel a little beaten up. My struggles may come in the form of unkind words, or actions meant to harm me. There are moments that I want to rise up and defend myself. I want to shout, “How inconsiderate of you to say that to me!” There are other times that I want to say, “Stop what you are doing. It is painful and completely unnecessary.”
The truth is, we all feel a little broken at times. None of us are exempt from the reality that sometimes people are unkind. They wage war against us with words that cut like knives, or actions that shake us to our very core. We leave the scene with emotional cuts and bruises. We may be Christians, but our hearts can still break.
In times of pain and suffering, God honors my sadness, but also wants me to move past my woundedness. We are not meant to live in a constant state of bitterness, but we are to live in the promise of new found life. Christ is where our hope lies. God’s power revealed to us in ways that only holy love can speak.
Today I am grateful for friends that lead me back to the source of my faith. Praise be to God that people are in our lives who share the gift of the Father’s unfailing love. Through the kindness of others, we are transformed to bring the presence of love itself into a world that needs to know that holy grace flows back to us, even in times of trial.
I am grateful for my time in Austin. While attending Austin Presbyterian Seminary, I was able to walk the campus of the University of Texas. Ah yes, that beautiful campus with the tower. As I walked down the stairs of the main building, I was taken back to my eighteen-year-old self who was enrolled as a freshman. I thought of the many mistakes that I made that would drastically alter the course of my life. Some of my choices left long lasting marks of shame and regret. I kept asking myself the age old question, “What happened to that kid? Why those choices?”
What a frustrating place in which I found myself. No matter what resolution I could find, it would not replace the opportunities that no longer existed. And then that horrid feeling of being stuck in my inability to fully resolve the issue kicked in. What a mess. I knew that in order to move forward I would have to let go of my insane thinking. You know, the kind of thinking that allows you, in all of your folly to think that you are capable of changing the past.
All of these thoughts seemed to illuminate from my soul as I looked at the past with eyes in the present. I began to talk to that 18-year-old boy. I gave him permission to be himself, that he was more than the scars of his childhood. I assured him that he would move past the effects of the battle wounds that he inherited, and that he would thrive past his wildest dreams. He was, and his more than the sum of his failures.
So, after dipping my foot into the healing waters of forgiveness, I turned and headed back to the seminary. It was time to leave the past behind, and continue forward. I gave thanks for being able to shine a light on the realization that, while I falter, there is always the promise of a new day. If my heart learned anything, it was a sense of forgiveness of myself, along with the need to keep moving in a direction that guides me to the eternal light of God.
Praise be to our wonderful Creator, who never allows us to remain in the past. And blessed are we, as we remember that we are all created in the image of God. That includes who we were, what we are, and what we will be. May we carry that promise into a future filled with the riches of our amazing Savior.
I am entering the week that marks the end of the firsts regarding my mother’s death. This is the first Thanksgiving that she will not be with us. This time last year she was in the hospital. Has a year really gone by?
My life has radically changed since last November. I have a new home, new church, new car. My family is readjusting to living in a big city. While we learned many lessons “on the prairie” we are grateful to be back in a place that affords us the opportunities to which we grew accustomed to in Houston. Having an Albertsons back in my life is wonderful!
So, while I have experienced all of these wonderful changes, I still feel an amount of sadness. I am still in a season of grief. I miss my mom (particularly at this time of year). I miss hearing the excitement in her voice as she made plans to visit us during the holidays. I miss talking about the “appropriate” things that my children should get from Santa. Of course my mom didn’t care what I had to say, my children would be smothered in gifts to their heart’s delights.
While I love my family and my life is very rich and full, for a year now there has been a hole that speaks loudly in my life. I am very grateful that my mother wasn’t ill at the end of her life. She died almost immediately after she suffered a pulmonary embolism. Praise God that it was quick and she experienced little if any pain. I am convinced that she opened her eyes on the other side and beheld the incredible wonders of God. Claiming the promises of my faith I admit that I still miss her.
As I move through my grief I rejoice that God’s work still journeys forward. I am grateful that my ministry continues to move forward with the reassurance that we are all doers of the Word. We move forward with hope, knowing that God will comfort in times of joy, grief, sorrow, etc… Name them all, God will be there.
God’s presence does not indicate that we will not feel loss. Quite the opposite. Our faith is made whole as we fall into the arms of God who will nurture us through the periods of mourning. This is the center of our hope. Through sadness, God will still be there.
I pray that the blessings of God will be with you now and always. I pray that you may grow in the love and knowledge of God. I pray for all that mourn; that they may be comforted.