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.