A Journey of Faith

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Who is the Lady in the Front Row

I was sitting at church this afternoon, working on my schoolwork (the main reason I haven't posted in a while) and suddenly I had this overwhelming urge to pray for the lady who sits in the front row of the church I will someday be appointed to. I did pray for her. Of course, I have absolutely no clue who she is or what her needs are, but God does, so I prayed for her to feel his presence and strength, and for her to be safe and healthy, for her family and for her to feel overwhelmed by the love and peace of Jesus.

Who is she? Is she old or young, rich or poor? Does she have a huge, loving family... is she all alone? Is she the picture of health and vitality, or is she frail and weak with illness? So many questions I have about this woman and all the others I am getting ready to serve. I have been thinking a lot about that 'someday' congregation lately. Somewhere out there, right now, is a family of believers that I will be serving. Somewhere is a little baby who I will someday see before me in children's time. Somewhere is the child of God whose funeral will be the first I perform, a couple whose vows will be the first I hear as a pastor. Somewhere is the person I will someday counsel, hopefully making some small difference to their life.

I recently took my psych testing for my candidacy. There were some tough questions... not because I didn't know the answers, but because I did and didn't particularly want to answer them. But I did, with all honesty. In large part because I was thinking about that 'someday' congregation and how much I love them and want to be the best pastor for them that I can possibly be. Every step of this journey, every single one, I am thinking of how it is preparing me to do God's work, to be His hands and feet and eyes and ears and voice to His children. Every step of the journey I am thinking of how He has given me the love that He wants me to pour out on them someday. It makes it so much easier to see setbacks as just another part of the process and disappointments as another opportunity to learn and grow. It is funny to me (funny peculiar not funny 'haha') that it is so easy for me to see it this way. Usually I have a really hard time with setbacks and disappointments. Must be that I am getting just a liiiiiiitttttttlllllleeee bit better at the whole trusting God thing???

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Waking up at Home

           I woke up at home this morning. I took sleeping meds last night so that I would really sleep. And sleep I did... thirteen hours. When I woke up it took a minute to realize I was really at home. I lay in bed for a while thinking about the last week and a half and processing the fact that I was safe and comfortable in my warm bed... and those we served in Guatemala were waking up to very different circumstances. The leaders of the trip had said in emails that there would be an adjustment period when we came home... they were right. I am feeling so much right now... more even than when we were there serving. As I look around at my home and the piles of stuff... so much stuff... I think of Manuela and Francesca and their sparse homes. I think of the look of pride on their faces as they shared their humble homes with us. Homes that were small and dusty, but filled with love and pride. Homes that contained little more than a few beds, a few changes of clothes, and some kitchen tools. What would they think if they were to see the excess of stuff in my home? I have an overwhelming urge to sell everything I can and do more to help the people of Guatemala. Surely I could raise enough to do something more than hand out medicine for a week. Not that that didn't make a difference, seeing the gratitude on the faces of the patients as we gave them their medicines and prayed with them will forever stay with me. But to think what a couple hundred dollars could do for them... support the clinic, buy more medicine, help someone learn to support their family... the possibilities are endless. Coming home and having nothing more impactful to do than make sure the laundry gets done is awfully anticlimactic. How do you go back to your comfortable, safe life when you know that there are people in the world for whom just surviving is a daily struggle? How do you enjoy your health and safety when you have seen children who are suffering for a lack of simple medicines? There were children that we saw at the clinics that we had to send away without the medicine they needed to be healthy because we had run out. Little babies who would continue to suffer because there wasn't enough medicine to go around. Oh sure, their parents can always go to the next clinic and hope there is enough  medicine for their child this time... but what if there isn't? What if by the time there is enough it is too late? 
           My husband and I were talking about the trip and I told him I fully intend to go back. He asked if I wouldn’t want to go somewhere else, just to have the experience of going somewhere different. I wasn’t sure at the time why I would only want to go back to Guatemala… but I think it’s because I don’t feel done there. There is so much more to do there and I feel a part of it now. I went and served, yes. But I don’t feel like my job there is over. I feel like as long as there is more to do there I need to keep serving there. Not long term, I really feel like GOD is wanting me to stay on the path I am on into ministry, but I really think that I need to make serving His children there a part of my life in some way. I don’t think I will be able to rest if I simply go back to my life and forget that there is a way I can make life better… even just a little… for someone else.

          There is so much more I am thinking and feeling and I can’t put words to it. I can’t even begin to process. I wonder how long it takes to feel like you are back where you belong and not feel like you are short changing those you left behind who need more than you were able to give in too short a time. All I know at this point is that I saw GOD's hand everywhere on this trip, from the smiles of the patients at the clinic, to the energy that sustained the team through long bus rides, long work days, cold showers, and unfamiliar surroundings. It really brought to life the verse "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" 

Monday, July 29, 2013

"The Best Day"

            For the last five or six years I have helped run the Vacation Bible School program at my church. I love the week that we get to finally see all our hard work pay off, and do all the fun stuff with the kids. I love seeing kids who don't know about Jesus learn that there is someone who loves them beyond anything they have ever imagined. And I love the energy that just runs through the whole week and the excitement that the volunteers and children have for learning about GOD's word.
           Today was the first day of VBS. We have three kids who have never attended a VBS before, and I don't know what their church background is. One of the boys in particular caught my attention. In music he was so enthusiastic, singing with all his might and really getting into the actions of the songs. He even started playing air guitar when he saw one of the people in the video playing guitar. I saw him a little later in snack and asked him if he was having fun. His reply? "This is the best day of my life!"
          The best day of his life! That's a pretty glowing endorsement for VBS! And I can't help but wonder what seeds we are planting for that young man. He is ten years old, and I have no idea if he comes from a family where GOD is talked about and prayed to, or if his parents were simply looking for something for him to do this week. What I do know is that for the three hours that he is in our care he will hear about how much GOD loves him, about how GOD will help him to stand strong, and about how GOD sent his son to die for him. I pray that those seeds grow and bloom and become a strong faith that will carry him through life's storms. Then indeed today will have been the very best day of his life, because it will be the day that his faith journey began.

Thanks be to GOD!!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Whirlwind Blessings

          GOD’s timing is amazing. I was supposed to be leading another You and Me on the Hill at the camp this week, Sunday night until Wednesday noon. It was going to be the last time littlest duckling and I would be doing camp together (she’ll be too old for You and Me next year). On Friday the director of the camp called to let me know that they didn’t have enough kids signed up so they were canceling that program. Then he offered for littlest duckling to go to an arts and crafts camp for the whole week… by herself (she LOVES crafty stuff!! And so she was very enthusiastic to go). Biggest duckling and I dropped her off Sunday afternoon and were at the grocery store when my brother called and told me that my sister in law’s grandmother had passed away. I expressed my sympathy and thought… in the back of my mind…. hmmm wonder if I should offer to go out and help with the kids. But also in the back of my mind was the to do list that I would now be accomplishing since I wasn’t going to camp. Then Monday morning my sister in law called and asked if I would be able to come out so that she could go to the funeral. Of course I said yes!!
               Here is the cool thing… if the You and Me hadn’t been cancelled I would have been at camp. This is the only week that I could have done this for the next month or so. AND… we sometimes order food from a delivery service. I had ordered a bunch of stuff when they had a sale a few weeks ago, but wasn’t home when they came to deliver it. It arrived yesterday afternoon… about two hours after my brother booked my flights. Now my family will have some quick and easy meals while I am gone.
               And I get to spend time with my brother and his kids… without having to share them with my ducklings. So I can spoil, play, hug, read, and love to my hearts content and not have to fight off my kids (seriously… my kids are nuts about little kids! There is about six years between my youngest and my brothers oldest, so when we got together last the kids were 15, 13, 11, 8, 2 and 1. And my kids absolutely love to play with their cousins).

                So thank You GOD… for your timing. For the opportunity to spend time with my niece and nephew getting to know them better and make memories. Thank You for all the details you see to, from the timing of when people are at camp, to when the huge amount of ‘convenience food’ I ordered showed up. Thank You for watching over me, bringing me here safely and with no anxiety. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Gardening Somethings

I walked into my garden today. It’s like my own little world, with its paths and its walls of green. Looking at the sheer volume of work that needed to be done could very well overwhelm anyone, and often threatens to do just that. But I have learned something about my garden. If I resist the urge to look at the garden as a whole, and avoid the temptation to think I have to pull every.single.weed… right NOW, I can enjoy my time in my little world. Instead of thinking of the garden as a one-time project that has to be finished all at once, I see it as a series of jobs. Today the tomatoes, tomorrow the beans and peas, later in the week the potatoes, cucumbers, peppers and squash. As I was pulling each tiny blade of grass from around my beans today it occurred to me that caring for my garden is a lot like being a disciple of Jesus. Just like every weed I pull from the earth to give my plants the best shot at being fruitful… every time I give something up to GOD it gives me a better shot at being fruitful.

I worked on weeding my tomatoes first, getting two rows cleaned up and looking nice, then I moved on to the beans and peas. As I was sitting there I turned and pulled a particularly large weed from the row behind me. I started to scold myself for not staying on task, but then I realized that even thought I wasn’t sticking to one row I was still working on something. And as long as I was working on something I would still be making progress. It made me think of the way my faith has grown in the last few years. It seems that I am always working on something. Whether it’s gaining the confidence to speak in church about my faith, or finding the courage and words to pray out loud, or whether it’s learning to be still and listen to His call on my life… there has been so much to work on. And there is more yet to do. It’s like my garden. Every day I look at it and see the changes. There are weeds here that weren’t here yesterday, those plants are bigger than they were. This plant has more flowers than that one, and this one here is suffering from some plant disease.  Every day I look at my life and see the changes there too. Where I used to be a quiet presence in the pew every week, now I am taking a more active role in my church life. I am serving Him through serving my church… and it has made my faith so much more real.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

In His Hands

This was on the cover of the bulletin at church today. I love the idea of resting in GOD's hand. I love the idea of His powerful hand holding onto us when we are weary and the burdens of life get to us. What a treasure to be able to rest in His strength and comfort and be held close to Him.
Thank You Lord for holding onto us and giving us rest. Thank You for taking our burdens and giving us the promise of Your strength to help us carry the burdens of life. I love You, Amen.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Making it Official (again...)

               I had the privilege this week to attend the annual conference for our church. Four days of workshops, worship, holy conferencing, and fellowship, at a college about an hour and a half from our home. It was an awesome experience. First, it was like a huge family reunion, with people seeing fellow clergy and laity... some that they only see once a year... hugging them and chatting excitedly. Since I have been more involved in the church, and especially since I started my journey into ministry, I am recognizing more and more people.
               I attended workshops on stewardship, praise music in worship, Bible study/laity information sessions, and an orientation for anyone who hadn't been to conference before. I worshiped with two lovely ladies from my church (and about a thousand others!!!), listened to resolutions, reports and debates about amendments to our church's constitution, and had a lovely (and wonderfully lengthy) conversation with a four year old American Asian little boy (we discovered that we both speak some Mandarin Chinese and sang songs together and talked a little in Chinese). It was a busy and filling four days.
             I was very touched by the way that everyone was so focused on doing what needs to be done to bring people to GOD. As with any large group there were many different ideas, I know I certainly don't believe the same things as some of the people there. But the bottom line for all there was that GOD's love is what is important. That every single human being on the planet should have the opportunity to know and grow close to GOD...no matter what they look like, sound like or dress like. No matter where they are from or what mistakes or choices they have made. There was such a feeling of "We know His love, and we are excited to share that with the everyone we can, so that they will know it too." and of being Jesus' hands and feet in the world. It's one of the things I love about our denomination... the desire to do something with their faith. And the commitment to love the world like Jesus does.
              But the part that touched me the most happened last night, and it only lasted maybe ten minutes.
             I have been working on this process for about 10 months now, starting with meeting with my District Superintendent (who incidentally is the one who helped my pastor discern GOD's calling on her life!), then going before the PPRC, getting a mentor, doing the Ministry Inquiry Program, and having my church conference (and of course school, but that is a whole separate thing from the church process). So, really, I am official as far as being on the path to becoming a pastor. But last night at the end of the ordination ceremony the bishop invited anyone who was ready to answer a call from GOD on their life to go into ministry to come to the front and be prayed for and give their information. I was nervous (did I mention that there were about a thousand people there!!!) but I did it!!! Pastor came up and prayed with me, as did a pastor we had a few years ago, the DS and his wife came up and hugged me too. There were people hugging and praying and rejoicing, and I was shaking and crying and laughing and just feeling an amazing sense of peace and joy and love and completeness. It was such a powerful, emotional moment... I am so thankful that I decided to do it. I am so thankful that I will be a part of that community... what an amazing gift!! Somehow it felt right to 'announce' to that community that yes, I was ready and willing to make that commitment to serving our Lord and Savior with all that I am.

Amen and Amen!!!