Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Terrible Nights (Part 2) - A Christmas Sermon

Matthew 2: 14 - 18

So Joseph got up and, taking his child and his mother with him in the middle of the night, set off for Egypt, where he remained until Herod's death. This again is a fulfillment of the Lord's word spoken through the prophet -- Out of Egypt did I call my son.

When Herod saw that he had been fooled by the wise men, he was furiously angry. He issued orders, and killed all the male children of two years and under in Bethlehem and the surrounding district - basing his calculation on his careful questioning of the wise men. Then Jeremiah's prophet was fulfilled:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
Weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children;
And she would not be comforted, because they are not.

It saddens me to say that what happened on Friday, December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut is almost identical to what happened not long after Jesus was born. There was a man filled with jealousy and a need for control and power. As a King he took it upon himself to annihilate any and all threats to his throne of power. Innocent lives were lost at the hand of King Herod just as innocent lives where lost in Connecticut at the hands of a man who was filled with rage.

This passage from Matthew shows us that evil exits. It will exist until Christ returns. So what do we do? How do we find comfort in the midst of such pain, grief and despair? The day after the massacre I made my first tandem jump. After Friday I was ready for it. All last week the excitement and anticipation was so overwhelming and when Friday came it completely disappeared. I needed Saturday. I needed something to distract me, f only for a moment, from the chaos. Well, as God always does, he met my need in and through that jump.

Before I tell you how allow me to back track. In my first sermon, "Terrible Nights", I talk about how God can deliver us in the same way he delivered Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Today I want to talk about how God can comfort us during our terrible nights.

After the 60 second free fall the parachute opens and I and my jumping partner float for 6 - 7 minutes to the ground. It is actually a lot of time to view the world. Though jumping keeps you in the "real world" you are removed from the reality on the ground. I noticed how the horizon went on for days. I saw the curvature of the earth that we take for granted when our feet are firmly planted on the ground. I saw different types of soil, grass, waterways and ponds. I saw creation in a bigger and fuller way. What I saw was beautiful.  In God's creation there is beauty and through that beauty I was comforted. In the midst of my deep pain and unrelenting darkness God's creation became my comfort.

My prayer for all of you is that God will reveal to the beauty of creation and in that beauty you will find comfort in the midst of great tragedy and darkness. For the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not extinguish the light. - John 1: 5

My prayer: Come Lord Jesus, Come quickly!

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

For more Advent and Christmas thoughts visit a fellow blogger here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Look What I Did This Weekend!

On Saturday, December 15, 2012 I took my first tandem jump.

The jump was @ Triangle Skydiving Center in Louisburg, NC.
(WARNING: This is not for the faint of heart)

You will notice that the audio did not work so I can't hear what I sad when talking to the videographer. The main thing is that I plan to do this again. It was so much fun.

Friday, December 14, 2012


I sit here in a Barnes and Noble Starbucks cafe trying to figure out what I should say in the wake of the shooting in Connecticut but I can't. The irony, coincidence or providence, whatever you want to call it is so thick for me in light of the sermon I preached this past Tuesday and then posted yesterday. The message was aptly titled, "Terrible Nights" (Click Here to Read). No doubt tonight will be a terrible night for 20 families.

Sometimes I put responsibility on myself just because I am a minister and this is one of those times. I should say something to bring comfort to a nation that is grieving right now. But I can't. My grief is so raw it is all I can do to not sob uncontrollably in this Starbucks cafe.With that I leave you with this post I found on a friends Facebook wall.

"Some days dark tremors sweep across our lives. Troubling events accost us. We have grown accustomed to such things, and often we have fenced off our natural sympathies with the thought: this belongs to somebody else.

But now a crisis of life brushes close to us, touches us, befalls us and those we love. We want, now, to know: how, and what, and why? We want an explanation, though we know that all our explanations put together do not finally explain. They but fend off worry, anger, and grief. The mysteries of evil and innocence remain. The darkness of being at a loss remains, and in this abyss of the heart we can but pray for light.

This is when I pray, and this is my prayer.

Let me be patient of all these feelings that drive me hither and yon. May I be at peace, more patient with myself. Let me live within the questions that promise no answers but only signal the mystery that gave them birth. Let me turn from every pettiness of the heart, willing to see and accept that the world does not revolve around me. Let the grief, the pain, and the nameless trouble that overcomes me also open me to feel what others have felt.

Giver of being and freedom, unbind my compassion for all beings about me, and again set free the child of grace within me. Amen." -George Kimmich Beach 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Terrible Nights" - A Christmas Sermon

This is the message I brought at HopeTree Family Services Annual Christmas Service on Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Matthew 1
18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn't want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly. 20 As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, don't be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." 22 Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled: 23Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, And they will call him, Emmanuel. (Emmanuel means "God with us.") 24 When Joseph woke up, he did just as an angel from God commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he didn't have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son. Joseph called him Jesus.     
Matthew 2
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. 2 They asked, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We've seen his star in the east, and we've come to honor him." 3 When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. 4 He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They said, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote: 6You, Bethlehem, land of Judah, by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah, because from you will come one who governs, who will shepherd my people Israel." 7 Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search carefully for the child. When you've found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him." 9 When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route. 13 When the magi had departed, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon search for the child in order to kill him."     

This would be her second child but this delivery would be very different from the first delivery. The second child was coming so fast there was no time for an epidural, something this mother had for the first delivery. When I got to the hospital she said, "Dell, I thought I was losing my mind!" I thought to myself, "How Terrible!" Here a woman is bringing life into this world and she thought she was losing her mind. It makes me think of another woman who's first delivery was probably terrible too. That woman would be Mary, the mother of Jesus. We know the story well, Mary and Joseph were on their way to be counted for the census and Mary was great with child but there was no room for them in the Inn. All they had for shelter was a stable. This stable had livestock in it and you know it smelled. Even cute sheep smell. This is where Mary would give birth to Jesus, in a stable with livestock, strong smells and hay that pokes you in your skin and scratches you. That is how our Savior came into the world and this was Mary's "delivery room". That was terrible. But lets backtrack 9 months when Mary first learned from the angel that she was with child, conceived by the Holy Spirit. It is concluded that according to Jewish customs and law that Mary was around the age of 13 when she received this message from the angel. That is not the kind of news I would have wanted to hear when I was 13 and I imagined no other woman would want that either. As favored as Mary was in the eyes of God I imagine in her native language she had a few choice words upon hearing this news. See, in 2nd century Palestine it was not unheard of for a woman who was pregnant outside the bonds of marriage to me stoned to death. Our passage from Matthew eludes to this indirectly by telling us of Joseph's compassion by him deciding to send Mary, "quietly" away so as not to shame her.

Once Jesus was born the Wise men came to see Jesus and upon their leaving God order Joseph to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt, for Herod wanted Jesus dead. Why do I tell you these terrible things during a wonderful holiday season? Context! See, blessings and thanksgivings have no meaning without the context of the struggles and obstacles we have overcome or are currently in. If we are to begin to understand the MAGNITUDE of God's love for us then it helps to understand the circumstances Joseph and Mary find themselves in within their culture and community. Just as women can deliver children into this world, God who gives that gift of delivery, can also deliver us from whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. Through this one family, Mary, Joseph and Jesus we see to what lengths God will go to deliver those that he loves. God literally delivered both Mary and Jesus from immanent death. Jesus himself was born with a death threat on his head, but God saw to it that Mary would carry Jesus to term and that Jesus would not succumb to an early death. God also delivered Joseph. He delivered Joseph from the law of his day. Make no mistake, even the laws of our day can be oppressive or unlawful and God delivered Joseph from the oppression of Jewish law by giving Joseph permission to take Mary as his wife, though she was with child outside the bonds of marriage.

If God can deliver Mary and Jesus from certain death and Joseph from oppression under the law will he not deliver you? God can deliver you from death, whether it is an early physical death due to health problems or emotion and spiritual death. God can also deliver you from any oppression you experience from the laws of our day. GOD CAN DELIVER YOU! Will you let him?

Monday, December 10, 2012

To Tell the Gospel

What does it mean to "Tell the Gospel?" Furthermore, what is the Gospel?

John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the World that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

Most Christians I know say that the gospel is summed up in this verse, but I would like to add something else. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. This too, for me, is gospel also.

So then, if loving our neighbor is also good news, what then does it mean to "Love our Neighbor?"
Jesus taught that loving our neighbor included not loving just those we like but also people who we did not like, or even those who hated us. It is very tempting to stop here but I want to explore this further. Jesus said a lot of things but he was also an example for how we are to live as Christians. If we only look to what Jesus said and repeat it, I am afraid we have fallen short of what we are called to do when sharing the Gospel. Based on the 4 gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we read of Jesus' interactions with people. More specifically we read about his relationships with those he encountered and those he lived with. The commandment, along with Jesus' example on how to live lead me to believe that loving our neighbor includes interaction that leads to the building of relationships. To tell the Gospel is to interact with people, have conversation and build relationships. I believe so strongly in this that it is the basis on which I do ministry. It is also why I was so thoroughly offended by the actions of a few this past weekend.

This past Friday I went to a Christmas Parade to see an entry in the parade. Just prior to the start of the parade I had been talking to a couple when a young lady came by and gave each of us what looked like money. Upon further reading there was the figure of $1,000,000 and Santa Claus on the bill. On the opposite side, in small print, was a list of sins that could send you to Hell should you commit them. (It really said that) Then in one sentence said how you could avoid Hell; confess your sins before the Lord, ask for forgiveness and declare the Lord as your Savior. Now I imagine you are all wondering how I would be offended by this by the fact that I am a minister and this is in the Bible. That is for another post except to say it was not the content on the paper that offended me.

Not long after that lady came by, about 5 minutes till the parade started a man on the street corner yelled very loudly in an attempt to get peoples attention. I assumed he was associated with the parade as I think most people did, as the crowd drew quiet and began to listen to the man. Very quickly, it became apparent he was not but was what I used to call, a Street Preacher. Very quickly people went back to the conversation including the couple and I that I had been conversing with.

I want to say very clearly that while I do not know these two people I encountered on Friday night, I do not hold any ill feelings towards them but their actions were hurtful to me and I will now explain why. Keep in mind that I believe that when we tell the Gospel relationship is a part of it.

The woman who, as quick as she gave the paper bill to me, left without having a conversation neither did the man. He stood on a street corner with an audience that was not going to leave because they were there to see the parade that would start in less than 5 minutes. He took advantage of the situation and talked at/to us and never had a conversation with us. What offends me about this is that neither of these people, in their attempt to tell the Gospel, learned anything about me. They don't know that at the age of 6 I heard the voice of God calling me to salvation. That at the age of 7 I followed Jesus' example and was baptized. They don't know that I heard the call to full time Christian Ministry and that I followed it to Ordination to the gospel ministry. And because they don't know any of these things about me, I don't know anything about them either. When it comes to sharing the Gospel that makes me sad as a minister. All the blessings that have come from God have come through the relatiosnhips that I have with people in which we share our lives with one another. If we are to truly bless the world we live in with the Good News of Jesus Christ we must be intentional about building relationships. Anything less and we all lose out. They missed out on getting to know me and I missed out on getting to know them as well.

One last note:

In the greek the word euangelion means "good news". How is it good news to tell people everything that will cause them to perish rather than what has been done for them so that they can know the grace, love and salvation of Jesus?

Friday, November 30, 2012

So how was your Thanksgiving?

Did you spend it with family? Did you shop til your hearts content or did you stay home and watch football. I enjoyed a nice quiet Thanksgiving with my parents. Enjoyed a movie outing and say my nieces before heading back to Virginia. What I did was not very different from a blogger named Grace.

Take time to read and enjoy her post on her Thanksgiving holiday.

Less was More

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lincoln: A Review

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, on Black Friday, my parents went to see the movie "Lincoln". President Lincoln became a person of admiration for me after completing my 8th grade US History project. I had been assigned to research and write a paper on Lincoln's presidency. The class focus was on the civil war and each student researched a different aspect of the culture during that time.

This post today is a review of the movie as well as thoughts on what we as a nation can learn from President Lincoln and his role in the passing of the 13th Amendment.

In terms of the characters I have to commend Daniel Day Lewis and Sally Field in their portrayals of the President and First Lady. The movie really showed how they related to each other as a couple and how that influenced Lincoln's drive to get the amendment past. Which leads me to one of the memorable quotes in the movie. Prior to January 31, 1865, Mary Todd Lincoln says to her husband, "You better make sure this amendment passes or you will have me to deal with." Made me think of that common phrase, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" Of the quotes in the movie, the following struck me the most. In parenthesis is the character that said the statement.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the House of Representatives. This is your house."
                   - William Seward (Republican House Leader) Spoken on January 31, 1865 to
                      the gallery that was predominantly African Americans.

"I don't know what the future holds for me and my people."
                    - First lady's assistant's response after Lincoln asked her what would she and
                      her family do after the13th Amendment is passed and they are a free people.

"It begins with Liberty."
                    - President Lincoln talking to two operators. This is Lincoln's conclusion on
                      how humanity should live derived from a geometry principle. Lincoln, in his
                      monologue quotes Euclid, "If two things are equal to the same thing, they are
                      equal to each other."

As I watched the movie I was struck by a lot of irony between 1865 and 2012 as well as the dramatic changes in the political parties from then until now. In 1865 the end to slavery was being fought for on the battle fields and in Congress, today people are fighting for equality under the law. The only difference is, and a good one I might add, is the fight for equality is in state government, federal government and the Supreme Court rather than on a battle field. It is important to remember that the battle field was the US and more specifically in Virginia and NC.

It is without doubt that the passage of the 13th Amendment dramatically changed the course of this country. What I admire about Lincoln was his willingness to stand for an unpopular cause even among his own party because, "It begins with Liberty".

As we approach a new year and new and returning representatives and senators come to Washington, we as a people of these United States should focus on Liberty. Liberty for all.

A final quote:

"Let's end this thing. No more punishment, liberality's for all"
- Lincoln @ the end of the Civil War; April 1865 
Dare I say this statement is an example of forgiveness and grace?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful for Suffering

Words from the Apostle Paul:

That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:10

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.  Colossians 1:24

The greatest period of suffering in my life began in December of 2006. For 12 years if have struggled with and suffered from PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I learned in a rude and sudden interruption that PTSD can change an extrovert, according to the Myers Brigg personality test, to an introvert who avoids social interaction and refuses to build relationships beyond those that only function on the surface. How have I suffered from PTSD:

I wouldn't share my struggles with my closest family and friends

I would have daily flashbacks and fight to stay present in reality, so as not to get lost in the past

I would lose all ability to trust anyone, including God (Though only briefly)

And I would lose my love for teaching young children

During these past 12 years I would struggle with Paul's words that I should rejoice in my suffering. That's insane, right?

Well, in the past week I have discovered something new. As suddenly as my world came crashing down in December of 2006 God would come in boldly on Saturday, November 17 and I could say, "I give thanks for the sufferings of 2011, they make the blessings of 2012 all the more special. Today, I can add to that and say, "I thank God for the past 12 years of suffering, for God has been glorified through it." God is glorified when:

A youth thanks God for Ms. Adele coming to teach the Bible

A youth thanks God for Ms. Adele showing her the truth

A youth comes to the saving grace of Jesus Christ and commits their life to Christ.

An adult tells me how I understand them and how my kindness helps them feel loved and special.

I discover a rewarding and encouraging friendship with a fellow sister in Christ.

And through my suffering I understand the suffering of others who struggle with the evils of humanity.

God has been glorified through my suffering and through my weakness God has made me strong.

In 2002, prior to graduating from Campbell University Divinity School, I had to complete my Senior Synthesis. Part of that paper had to include a one page document that was a summary of my call and goals. I wrote that for my future, "My desire is that every person I encounter, that when they see me, who they see is Jesus Christ." I believe and know that this desire of mine is being fulfilled daily through my suffering.

If God is glorified then my suffering is worth it. Can you give thanks to God for your suffering? If you can't I understand. Take courage that God is working within you and that in your weakness he is making you strong.

Thanks be to Thee, Jesus Christ,
For the many gifts Thou has bestowed on me,
Each day and night, each sea and land,
Each weather fair, each calm, each wild.
I am giving Thee worship with my whole life,
I am giving Thee assent with my whole power,
I am giving Thee praise with my whole tongue,
I am giving Thee honour with my whole utterance.
I am giving Thee reverence with my whole understanding,
I am giving Thee offering with my whole thought,
I am giving Thee praise with my whole fervour,
I am giving Thee humility in the blood of the Lamb.
I am giving Thee love with my whole devotion,
I am giving Thee kneeling with my whole desire,
I am giving Thee love with my whole heart,
I am giving Thee affection with my whole sense;
I am giving Thee existence with my whole mind,
I am giving Thee my soul, O God of all gods.”
-taken from the Carmina Gadelica,, found in The Celtic way of Prayer: The Recovery of Religious Imagination, by Esther De Waal
“You have survived the winter because you are, and were, and always will be very much loved,” said the sun. “For that small place deep within you that remained unfrozen and open to mystery, that is where I have made my dwelling. And long, long before you felt my warmth surrounding you, you were being freed and formed from within in ways so deep and profound that you could not possibly know what was happening.”                                         - Mary Fahy, The Tree that Survived the Winter

Thursday, November 15, 2012

In the blink of an eye

Back in September, Labor Day weekend I went on vacation to Martha's Vineyard and North Kingstown, Rhode Island. While in Rhode Island I took a day trip to the community of Narragansett. A beautiful ocean side community in South Kingstown Rhode Island. Here are some of the pictures I tool while there.

On October 30 Hurricane Sandy decided to leave its mark on New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Narragansett was left with great destruction. See the photos of the aftermath.

Where the Coast Guard House was there was a rock sculpture garden. Rocks placed ever so delicately you wonder how the sculptures did not topple over. With this destruction is it no doubt they are gone since the garden was by the ocean. Major weather storms always seem to carry the message that what we have here on earth is temporary, but yet we hold to them so strongly and when we lose them the struggle can be long and difficult. While I don't live in Rhode Island seeing these pictures of destruction saddened me. Though I was only there a brief time I had a connection to this place. But events like these emphasize those things that I have a stronger bond with. It is has been almost a year since I moved to Roanoke and I have a strong bond to the house I live in. I have decorated it and made it a home for me and Sophie, my dog. I know if a major storm came though and took my home away it would be traumatic. The relationships that I have made at work, in the community and at my church are a significant part of my life now and any loss would bring grief to my life.
So how do we deal with the changes in our lives? This week my devotion began with the following verse:
I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.
Psalm 121
For me when things get tough or things change going to God is the first thing I do. In a  world where nothing is constant my God is. My God has kept me for 40 years and even if I was to die today he would still keep me. Disasters and catatropies will always occur in this world but God still keeps us. He still keeps us. Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Human Trafficking (Open your Eyes!)

Human Trafficking is one of the largest criminal activities in the world. It only falls behind drug dealing and is tied with illegal arms dealing. Here are some more statistics that you should be aware of in regards to Human Trafficking:

• An estimated 2.5 million people are in forced labor (including sexual exploitation) at any given time as a result of trafficking.

• The majority of trafficking victims are between 18 and 24 years of age.

• 43% of victims are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation, of whom 98% are women and girls

• 32% of victims are used for forced economic exploitation, of whom 56% are women and girls.

• Many trafficking victims have at least middle-level education.

In a recent post by Grace, as a guest post on someones blog she raises awareness of the atrocities committed against young girls who are caught up in the sex slave industry through poetry. The poem is written out of real stories of girls who are slaves around the world. This post is not for the faint of heart. It is disturbing, appalling and will make you uncomfortable. But I believe sometimes we must be made to be uncomfortable so that God can move us to participate in his work of redemption and rescue. In the Old Testament we see God as a redeemer when he freed the Israelites from Egypt where they were slaves. Jesus died on the cross to free us from the enslavement of our own sins. Though the bible is complete God's work is not. He is still in the business of redemption and we are the ones he chooses to use to free those who find themselves enslaved and oppressed. I ask you to take a few moments to read this poem and I pray that it will stir in you the desire to help end slavery in our world. Click on this link to read the poem. Below are additional links of organizations that exist solely to the work to end slavery. Check them out and see how you can help with their cause. With all of us working together I believe we can and will see the end of slavery.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A prayer for our Nation and the World

Below is a prayer that can also be found on the Ministry Matters website. It was posted by Jessica Miller Kelley.

Eternal God, Who has sought Your people across the generations, we open ourselves to Your presence in this moment of newness for our country. We pray for peace and prosperity in our land. We are grateful for the freedom in which we have been able to choose a leader. We are glad to praise You on this day that stirs hope for some, which brings disappointment for some, but which is a time for acknowledging Your goodness by all.

For our country — Lord, hear our prayer.

We are thankful for all those who offered themselves for offices of service and vision, and for all public servants. Give them discernment. Give them wisdom. Give them vision. Grant them the patience of cooperation. We pray for Gov. Romney and his family, that they will mourn the loss with integrity and move confidently forward in whatever work you call them to do.
We pray for President Obama and his family, that they will celebrate their victory with humility and serve in faithful stewardship of this high post. Grant him a sensitive heart, a clear mind, a willing spirit, and an active courage. Help him serve wisely with both caution and risk, and always to Your glory.

For our leaders — Lord, hear our prayer.

God of all the nations, You have called all people to lives of righteousness and justice, peace and wholeness. But we confess that sometimes we have cared more for lofty places than we have for places of service. We confess that sometimes we have worked more for power than we have for purpose. Help us be humble enough to work together with those with whom we disagree for sake of the common good.
Keep ever before us the broken places of our life together, places of despair and disappointment. Set our ears to hear the cry of the poor. Set our eyes to see the needs of the sick. And blend us with all people of good will, both in this place and beyond, to be a light to the world, bringing freedom to the oppressed and hope to all in need.

For our hearts — Lord, hear our prayer. Amen.

Prayer adapted from selections from Just in Time! Pastoral Prayers in Public Places, available in the Ministry Matters Premium Subscription.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Communion

Today @ 11:30 am I will lead a service of communion for the employees fo HopeTree Family Services in Salem, VA.  Below is the order of worship. Though O know we cannot have communion over the internet I share this with you so you can come back to the Lord and re-commit yourself to his calling on this Election Day. Peace be with you.

HopeTree Family Services

Election Day Communion

November 6, 2012

Call to Worship

from Cahill UMC, Alvarado, TX

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,

And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

And also with you.


Happy are the people who serve the God of Jacob.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.


Let us Pray

Loving God, we gather to praise and worship you,

And to pledge to you our loyalty and our service.

Bless our gathering and our remembering, our hearing,

And our speaking, that all honor and glory may be yours.


Bless us that we may be a blessing — a blessing to you,

To our community, to our nation, and to our world.

We ask it in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen


Psalter Reading          Psalm 146

Observance of the Lord’s Supper     (by intinction)

Invitation to the Table
The world has called us to the voting booth to decide which candidate should run this country.
God calls us to bread and juice, to decide once more who will run our life.
So let us put away our swords and our sound bites. Let us drop our rocks and our nets. Let us come to the table that is not just for the rich and the powerful, but for the broken.
Come and receive the body of Christ broken for you, the blood of Christ shed for youClosing Hymn They will know we are Christians by our  love


Through the power of the Holy Spirit
May God take your shoes, and fill them with feet that follow the way of Jesus;
May God take your lips, and make them proclaim the good news of Jesus;
May God take your hands, and make them touch the world’s wounds with the healing and compassion of Jesus;
And may God take your hearts, and set them on fire for Jesus!
For this is the year of the Lord’s favor: Blessed be the name of the Lord!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Do not blindly follow (use the brain God gave you)

I the past month many people have posted on Facebook positions that they "Fully" support or "Completely" agree with. Some are political, some philosophical and a lot of them are religious. I must admit that when I read or hear someone say. "I completely... or I fully..." when it comes to their pastors or religious leaders, I ask myself, "And have you read the bible and made up your own mind?" See, I am a skeptic and I do not believe that anyone of us can find even one person that we will agree with on every issue in scripture. Even the disciples didn't agree with Jesus and at times argued with him. I think that gives us some room, to disagree with our pastors and religious leaders of today, and maybe even argue with them.

With this in mind I want us to look at what it might mean to, "Love the Lord your God with all of your mind"

What makes me a Baptist is what I call the four fragile freedoms. In a book by the title The Baptist Identity, Walter B. Shurden wrote about these freedoms in 1993. They are:

Bible Freedom
Soul Freedom
Church Freedom
Religious Freedom
For my purpose in defining what it means to love my God with ALL my mind I want to look at "Soul Freedom" (Writers request: if you are not a Baptist indulge me and read this post. This post is not about my denomination but utilizes how my upbringing informs how I interpret the scripture we are examining.)
From this definition we get the term priesthood of the believer. Most Baptists, and I say most because it is no longer ALL Baptists that accept this belief, believe that each person, under the guidance of the holy spirit can and are able to interpret scripture without a priest, pastor or another church leader. In the italicized definition I want to take note of two words; responsibility and every. Sometimes I think as Christians we forget our responsibility when it comes to our faith and depend upon those who are more education or serve on staff at the church. Just because you may not have a degree in Biblical studies and are a lay person rather than on a church staff does not mean you don't have the same access or ability to read and study scripture or encounter God. Jesus never sent his disciples to seminary or divinity school, all he said was "Follow me" and he gave them responsibility.  In John 20: 19 - 23 we read:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed  them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again, Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to his disciples, not the chief priests or the religious leaders of the day, but everyday working people. So, why do we rely solely on our pastors and religious leaders of our day to tell us what is true, what is of God and how we should live. When we base our faith and how we live solely on the words and teachings of another human being we are on a slippery slope. Our faith and how we live our life should be based solely on the Jesus and his teachings. So how do we do this? Don't quit going to church, do listen to your Sunday school teachers and your preacher but then go home and read the scripture for yourself, talk with other people, discuss what the teacher or preacher said, and as Paul said, "Therefore, my loved ones, just as you always obey me, not just when I am present but now even more while I am away, carry out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Take responsibility for looking at God's word and through prayer let God and the Holy Spirit show you what is truth and what is profitable to live by. This is how we can love God with our mind. By using it when we read the scripture for ourselves rather than listening and believing everything I or your pastor says.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Giving Thanks

Today I turn 40 years old and I give God thanks for these 40 years of life. I know that some people cringe each year they get older and some just stop ageing at a certain point but I give thanks. I do because I know those who die well before their time.

In high school I lost 2 friends to drunk drivers. Not long after graduating high school in 1991 I lost another classmate to murder. Since 1991 more classmates have died either to illness, crime or accidents and they do not get lost on me. The year I worked in a hospital I will not forget the 39 year old woman who lost her battle to cancer. I also will not forget the 21 year old and the 26 year old who also lost their battle to cancer or the 9 year old girl who died from a car accident. I know that each year I am blessed with is a gift. Each year, month, week, day, hour and each minute is a gift from God.

As I turn 40 today I pray that I have used my life to show love, mercy and grace to others as God has shown to me. And in gratitude to the life God has given me I will commit myself again to proclaiming Christ's death and resurrection to all I encounter.

Thank you Lord for 40 years. May you bless me with 40 more. Amen.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I am a Human Being

On May 15, 2011 I was ordained to the Gospel Ministry by Heritage Baptist Church of Wake Forest, NC. It is a day I will not forget. It is one thing to know and feel the call of God on your life but it is another thing when a church affirms that call; meaning they see the call of God on you that you have felt for so long.

After a year and a half I think back to that day often but I have come to experience some pitfalls of having "Reverend" in front of your name. I have learned that people, whether they are of a faith group are not like to put you in a box or assume certain things about you. All I know is that on October 23, 1972 I was born into this world as a human being. Being born human God saw fit to make me a girl.  Without the fact that I am a human being I could not then be a woman, a christian or a minister. I want to take this time to share a little about myself so that you can see the humanity and uniqueness of a person who just happens to be a minister.

In spite of being an introvert I do enjoy the occasional social outing. Outings where I meet new people, converse with those I already know and enjoy a nice meal with a glass of wine. Now that I am a minister I still like to go out to various social events to meet you new people. What I don't care for is someone wanting to engage in a theological debate on the whether God is real and if God hates us or loves us and what do I make of Jesus Christ, I like to keep my social like somewhat free from inendation of my occupation. But what I do not appreciate is when I get a look or even hear, "you are drinking wine?" I am a minister, but I am most likely not going to fit into everybody's idea of a minister. Just as each person is an individual and has a personality true to only them, ministers are the same way. We are not all the same.

As a minister who works outside the church I view church very different than I did when I was a lay person who volunteered my time @ the church. No longer do I want to immerse myself into every church program. Since my ministry is my occupation church is a place for me to worship my God with other fellow Christians and a place that is my get-away from my ministry. I say getaway because Jesus gave us an example of "Self-care" by going away between his gatherings with the disciples, miracles performed and preaching opportunities.

As a child of the 80's/90's I love Rock and Roll and ordination has not changed that. Just this summer I enjoyed a Kiss and Motley Crew concert with my best friend. Listening to some good 80's rock allows me to escape to a world where I can just get lost in the music.

Also as a child of the 80's and 90's I am a fan of all things Vampires. When your formative years include movies like, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Interview with a Vampire and the Lost boys, I have naturally formed a guilty pleasure of watching The Vampire Diaries.

During my time in high school I attended a modeling school. You know, even I had that dream of becoming a beautiful and famous model. So to indulge in that never forgotten dream I live vicariously through those who do by watching the reality shows, America's Next Top Model and Project Runway. (I know, it is a little vain, but I just love those shows)

But probably the one thing that will come as the biggest or unexpected surprise is my current distrust and cynicism towards the church. The best way to describe it is by borrowing the title of a blog I recently read, "I am not in love with the church". Go read it before continuing on.


I have gone through the pain of a divided church, seen a pastor forced out and left that church disillusioned and wondering where God was in the midst of all of it. I have served in the church and felt the judgment and criticism when what I did was not "good enough" for some church members. As a result of both of these events in my life I walked away from church ministry. Really, I told God that I would go anywhere and serve except a church. People say you should not tell God what you won't do but I did and still feel the same way about it.

I was 38 last May when I was ordained and who I was that day and today has been shaped by numerous life experiences, good and bad and becoming a minister does not change who I was prior to May 15, 2011. My ordination is but one event among thousands of events that have occurred in my life and that shape who I am. That one event in no way negates what happened before and I would not want it any other way. Just as I like who I am now I liked who I was on May 14, 2011 and really don't want to change everything about me. God looked past my gender, my faith and called me to Christian ministry because of who I am, whose I am and what I can offer as a result of my life experiences. So why do I write all of this to you:

At this point in my life, following my ordination, all I want and would give anything for is for people to look past my gender, my faith and my occupation and see me. See a human being created by God and in the image of God. I imagine that every person reading this post wants the same thing too. 

So in the spirit of loving our neighbor let us meet people where they are and how they are with out any agenda to change them or label them to fit some box we have created, but only to get to know the person that has been created by God and in the image of God.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

For the Love of Dogs

October 4 is marked as the Feast of St Francis. On this day or the Sunday following it, Catholic and Anglican Churches around the world have a service where animals are blessed. The Feast of Saint Francis is in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi (Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone) Saint Francis is the patron saint of animals and the earth. You may also know him by the following prayer that has been put to music:

The Prayer of Saint Francis


 So, in honor of Saint Francis, I took my dog Sophie to a Feast of Saint Francis in Roanoke, VA on Sunday, October 7, 2012 and she was blessed by an Episcopal Priest.

 So why bless animals? Why not bless animals? In both accounts of the creation story, Genesis 1 and 2, we read how all the animals came into being. The animals of the sea, earth and air all came from the earth, or dirt we might call it. Something else was created from dirt as well. Adam; mankind, was created from dirt and that life was formed from the breath of God. We as humans are connected to every animal and creature by where we came from, the dirt(earth) Throughout scripture we read story after story of how God blessed his people. If God's people, us, came from the earth and are blessed then why would all the other creatures that came from the earth not be in need of blessing or be deserving of blessing? In the 2nd story of creation God gives Adam, mankind, dominion over all the creatures. As we have dominion over all the creatures of this earth I think it would be of great importance for us to follow God's example. That example would be one of blessing. In response to the blessings God bestows upon us let us in return bless all creatures that we have dominion over. Not just for the love of dogs but for the love of all of creation.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

in the meantime...

While I ponder, wrestle and thoughtfully craft what is on my heart I give you this post from Suzanna Paul.

I am one who will not write to all my thoughts are clear and so I don't betray the word of God that has been laid upon my heart. So in the meantime, enjoy this post. May it inspire you, as it has inspired me to seek out the ordinary.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Spiritual Work

In a monthly email I receive from "Friends of Silence" I read the following and wanted to share them with you here on my blog.

A spirituality of work is based on a heightened sense of sacramentality, of the idea that everything that is, is holy and that our hands consecrate it to the service of God. . . when we care for everything we touch and touch it reverently, we become the creators of a new universe. Then we sanctify our work and our work sanctifies us.
A spirituality of work puts us in touch with our own creativity. . . Work enables us to put our personal stamp of approval . . . the autograph of our souls on the development of the world. . .
A spirituality of work draws us out of ourselves and, at the same time, makes us more of what we are meant to be. Good work . . . develops qualities of compassion and character in me.
My work also develops everything around it. There is nothing I do that does not affect the world in which I live. In developing a spirituality of work, I learn to trust beyond reason that good work will gain good things for the world, even when I don't expect them and I can't see them.
~ Joan Chittister, in "Vision and Viewpoint," an e-newsletter

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The least of these

On Tuesday, September 18, 7 teenagers joined myself and a co-worker on a trip to the local Rescue Mission in Roanoke, Virginia. That evening between the hours of 5:00 pm and 7:30 pm we served 350 people. Since we began serving in January of this year this number surpassed our record of 324 in January. On this particular night we saw a noticeable increase in the number of families and the size of each family. Parents came to ensure they and their children had a meal to eat and a roof over their head to sleep under. We also served people under the age of 30, middle aged men and senior citizens(those who would qualify for Social Security). And as always it included veterans. I don't know their personal stories but I do know the feeling of not being able to put food on the table. During 2011 there was a period of time where I did not have enough money to buy groceries after rent, prescriptions and utilities were paid for. I can tell you from personal experience that food, housing and health care are not an entitlement in life but a necessity FOR life. We all need food to sustain our bodies so it will work to keep us breathing, we need a roof over our heads so that we can reasonably live a long life and yes, we do need health care so when we have the unexpected cold or illness or have to mange a chronic illness the money is there to pay for it.

My life has changed dramatically since 2011, from struggling to put food on the table to now having a job that actually affords me to have money at the end of the month. Because the lord has blessed me I want and should bless those who are in need. In Matthew chapter 25 we read of the passage about a King (the Son of man) who says to the people,

"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

As Christians we are called to serve the least of these. To feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the imprisoned, we are actually serving our Lord. This seems like a simple and a reasonable thing to do in light of the cross.

I invite all to step outside your homes and your churches and volunteer at your local Rescue Mission, food bank or soup kitchen. For when you do, you will look into the eyes of your brother and sister and acknowledge their humanity. I believe we can use a lot for of this than we can of the marginalization we are currently creating in America.