A Journey of Faith

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!!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

In the Silence

In the Silence

in the silence thoughts
crash and tumble.
in the silence they become songs
waiting to be sung.
songs about joy and happiness
fear and despair.
in the silence thoughts become stories
to be told.
stories about trial and triumph
winning and losing.
in the silence thoughts become dreams
that dance before us
come, live, be.
in the silence there is no distraction
from illness and struggle.
or from hearing
His whispers to our hearts.
in the silence
we learn who we are
where we have been
where we are going.

if we, too, are silent 

Friday, May 24, 2013

It's All About the Climb...

I was driving home, listening to the radio the other night, and heard this song by Miley Cyrus called 'The Climb'

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there's a voice inside my head saying
"You'll never reach it"

Every step I'm taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going

And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

'Cause there's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Somebody's gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!

Keep on moving, keep climbing
Keep the faith, baby
It's all about, it's all about the climb
Keep the faith, keep your faith, whoa

The song just reminded me so much of my current journey. Going into it I wasn't sure what to expect. I have been out of school for *ahem* 22 years, so I wasn't sure what to expect when it came to having assignments to complete on time. I wasn't even sure if I had what it takes to do well in school... I was definitely not what one would call a model student while in school. And then there were all the skills that I need to work on to be a good pastor. And all the skills I need to work on to be healthy body, mind and spirit while serving whoever GOD sends me to. There have been days that the whole idea of completing this process seems a little overwhelming.
But then GOD touches my life again, refreshing the fingerprints that seem to be everywhere, all over this process.
After my charge conference last week there were some papers I had to sign. A simple piece of paper stating what my intentions were (ordained elder). Just a simple piece of paper, but it carried so much meaning. Ok, a little dramatic perhaps, but really it did. It was written proof that I am determined to obey my GOD. As I signed the papers my heart was racing and my mind was spinning, and I had an overwhelming urge to toss down the pen and do a very very happy dance of joy... I am obeying my GOD!!!! I wanted to shout it out.... I AM OBEYING MY GOD!!!!! I didn't know it would bring such a feeling of joy and completeness to do such a simple thing as sign a paper stating my intention to follow through with His plan for me.
As for the school part of this journey... I am finding that I really enjoy it. Each assignment that I complete is one step closer to my goal. Every time I get a good grade back it is confirmation that I am doing what GOD wants me to do (I am going on the assumption that it is His strength that is giving me what I need to succeed!!)
I like the part in the song that goes like this...

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!

Keep on moving, keep climbing
Keep the faith, baby
It's all about, it's all about the climb
Keep the faith, keep your faith, whoa

It doesn't matter how long it takes to get there, I will get there in GOD's timing... and one thing I have learned so far is that His timing is absolutely perfect. Whether it takes me four years or ten... I will get there when He wants me to, all I have to do is do my best, trust Him, and follow the nudging of the Holy Spirit. And keep the faith that He wouldn't call me to do this if He didn't intend to give me the things I need to accomplish what I need to do.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Another Step in the Journey

Yesterday was my charge conference. In the Methodist Church when someone wants to go into ministry there  is a process that involves getting the support of the church. When I made the decision to follow GOD's call the first step was to meet with my district superintendent, then with the Pastor Parish Relations Committee (PPRC), then to have a special charge conference where the whole voting membership of the church has opportunity to hear my story, ask me questions, and vote on whether to approve me as a candidate for ministry. This is what happened yesterday.

My nerves kicked in Saturday. I had been pretty calm about it in the last few weeks, a little nervous about speaking, a little more nervous wondering what questions would be asked, but nothing too overwhelming. (that has been a significant thing in this whole process... my sense of peace about it). But Saturday night I really started to get nervous, complete with shaking and racing heart. Oh, the enemy was sending his fiery darts left and right... attacking me relentlessly with these whispers of doubt...'you got it wrong... you would make a terrible pastor' 'no one is going to believe that was God calling you' 'you are going to make a fool of yourself' 'people will think you aren't well enough to do this'... and so on and so on. By Sunday morning I was pretty much a wreck. Adding to the nerves was that I am doing the pastoral prayer each week while I am taking my public speaking class to get me more experience in speaking and praying. I don't remember much about the sermon (too bad too, I do know that I enjoyed it, just don't remember it) or anything else about the service because I was praying through most of it.

That's ok though, cause GOD was listening.

For my class we have to do four speeches. As I understood the assignment, we aren't supposed to read our speeches, but just speak them. So when it was time for me to get up and tell my call story I just stood up and spoke. Let me clarify that... GOD put words in my mouth and they came out. And I stayed calm (and upright... no passing out!!!) and watching it later I was amazed at how calm I seemed. I got choked up a few times, but it wasn't a fear or an anxiety thing, it was a 'I need you to know how much I love GOD and want to do this for Him' thing. The questions weren't that bad, mostly about time management and my church background, that kind of stuff. There weren't really that many, and before I knew it I was being sent out (my family and I had to leave so that they could discuss me freely) so they could vote.

I went into the sanctuary and prayed and played my violin. It seemed like fooooorrrreeeevvvveeerrr before Pastor came in to get me, and when she did I couldn't tell by her expression what the results were. The closer we got to fellowship hall the more my heart started racing, because I knew that whatever the results of the vote were, my life wouldn't be the same. Not that it will ever be the same again anyway, but it just seemed like a huge moment in my journey.

Thankfully the district superintendent (who was running the meeting) didn't waste any time telling me the results of the vote. 33 said yes, 4 said later, and one said no. I started tearing up and felt like the breath had been sucked out of me. They said yes!!! And even the one that said no said it because they were concerned about my health. And the comments that they wrote on their ballots. Oh the comments were so loving and supportive and encouraging. The DS told me to hold onto them and look at them when I need encouragement. Oh without a doubt I will keep them. They are a blessed reminder that I am loved and respected.

The thought occurred to me later that, even if I didn't go one step further in this journey, even if I stopped right now, GOD has already used my obedience to bless my life. He has shown me that I am loved by a whole lot of wonderful, godly people. He has shown me that I am capable of doing things that I never dreamed I could do. He has shown me that no one is a hopeless case, and that with trust in Him, and the support of His hands and feet... and  heart... in this world, I can do that which He has called me to do. What an enormous blessing this journey has been so far. I know it hasn't been easy, and it will undoubtedly get harder and more challenging in ways I can't begin to imagine... but I'm seeing glimpses of the truth that it will be soooooooo worth it in the end.

Thanks be to GOD!!!!

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Holy Spirit is Whispering... are You Listening?

          The Holy Spirit is busy lately. Well, ok, the Holy Spirit is always busy I'm sure, but it has been busy watching out for me and my family more than I even knew lately.
           We homeschool our kids. It is a choice that has had its ups and downs, but for the most part it fits our family well. With all that has gone on in the last two years though, we haven't been as involved with other homeschoolers as much as we have been in the past. So when biggest duckling came to me and asked if we could look into attending a co-op that my niece takes her kids to, I said I would see what I could do. I said this knowing that that particular co-op was not taking new families at that time. I told duckling to pray about it and I would email a friend who is on the board and see if there was any chance a spot might open up. A few weeks later I heard that they had decided to let 8 more families in, so I put our names in the 'lottery' that would determine which families got in. I told the kids to keep praying (and put it on the prayer chain at church) and we waited. The morning of the drawing my niece called me crying... we got in!!
Today we went to the sign ups... and I saw even more evidence of the Holy Spirit at work...
I was thinking all the way there that this was going to be an awkward situation. I  am pretty shy, and I only knew of three people that I would know there, my niece, my friend (who does our homeschool evals) and a friend I haven't seen in about 7 years. Surprise... when I got there there were probably about 4 or 5 other people that I knew, some that I have been hoping to reconnect with even before knowing we were going to 'rejoin' the homeschooling community! And we got into all the classes we wanted to sign up for, which is awesome (usually the first year it is hard to get into the classes you want, people who are already members get first priority, and classes fill fast).
      But that wasn't the best part. That friend that I haven't seen in so long... she was telling me that even before my niece told her that we were joining, even before we knew... she had felt it on her heart to pray for me. How blessed I am that not only am I surrounded by people in my everyday life who love and support and pray for me... I even have people storming Heaven for me that don't even know why they are praying, just that they are being led by the Spirit to lift me up, and they do. I know that those prayers weren't any more heartfelt than any of those offered by those I see on a regular basis, but their meaning is so powerful. My GOD wants me to know that He is working on a much bigger scale than I ever realized. To put me on my friend's heart... to get us into the co-op with so many good, godly, loving, supportive people... to make sure that my kids get into classes that will broaden their horizons and be able to make new friends... so many answers to prayers, all wrapped up in to a big, beautiful picture of His care and love. Amazing.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Look for the Helpers

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." -Fred Rogers

             A tragedy happened about two hours from our home today. Just yards from the finish line at the Boston Marathon an explosion shook the ground and sent people to their knees. Two people died and over 80 were injured, some critically. Many more were forever changed in that instant, and just minutes later when a second explosion happened a few blocks away.
             I have been watching the reports with thirteen year old duckling. He just keeps saying 'oh my goodness' over and over. Part of me wants to shield my kids from such evil, letting them believe for as long as possible that the world they live in is completely safe. But that would not do them any favors. The day has to come when their innocence takes a blow and they come face to face with the reality that there is evil in the world.
             But there is good too. Immediately after the first blast people began running. Many of course were running for their lives, but many were running into the blast zone to help those injured. With no regard for whether they were running into another explosion, they went to the aid of those who needed it without hesitation. As I watched them running, intent on doing what they could to help, I thought about what GOD was thinking. Was He mourning the separation of those responsible from His plan? Was He shedding a tear over the pain that those killed and injured and their families would be feeling? Was He smiling with pride at the determination of those helpers to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world? I don't know the religious affiliations of those helpers, and it doesn't really matter. Whether they were Christians, Jews, Muslim, Atheists  or some other religion isn't important. What is important is that they were doing just what He wants us to do, reach out to those who need our help and help them.

Lord, be with those affected by the explosions in Boston today. Please hold them in Your comforting arms and let them feel Your strength. Thank You for the helpers, those who step in...run in... to help their fellow human beings without hesitation. Thank You for their bravery and compassion. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Carry On

 If you're lost and alone
Or you're sinking like a stone
Carry on
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on

(Carry On by Fun. Lyrics from elyrics.com)

           I've been thinking a lot about this song. It's so easy to feel like you are alone in life's storms and trials. It's even easier to feel like no one 'gets it' or wants to be bothered by your troubles. And even for those whose faith is what sustains and carries them, it is easy to think that GOD is tired of listening to your troubles and is ready to give up on you. 
          For those who struggle with depression or anxiety, it's easy to fall into that pit where just the thought of taking one more step on the path of life is just to much to even contemplate. Maybe that's why I like this song... "if you're lost and alone or you're sinking like a stone Carry on." Just one more step, one more breath is all it takes. Just one more day. and one more. and one more. Because even when we think that the hope is run out, Jesus is there waiting to offer us a refill. Pastor spoke about doubt this week. Last week was Easter, and she talked about how we can count on there being something more than what we are experiencing now. This week she talked about Thomas and his doubt, and how we are so much like him. We so often doubt that our pain is anything that He would bother with. We are so sure that we have to figure things out before we can get to where He is. We fear that we are the one person that He will give up on, that He will turn His back on us because we aren't 'getting it right'. Thankfully we are wrong. Jesus will always meet us where we are... even in the midst of our doubts, or fears, or anxieties, or whatever it is that is pulling us down. He will never leave us alone. He will always be on that path with us. 
            We just have to decide to keep taking another step. And when we get to the end of our lives, our past will in fact be the sound of those steps on the ground, the 'sound' of our decisions to keep going. Even if we felt lost and alone. Even if we felt like we were sinking and drowning. 

             Carry on my friends. Carry on. The Savior is walking with you. He will never leave you, never forsake you, never ever give up on you. You were bought with a price that is far too high for Him to let you go. Let Him meet you on the road. Let Him hold you and carry you and give you His peace. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Different Kind of Nervous

              I filled in at the pulpit again today. It was the first time I had filled in since making my decision to go into ministry. Where before I was just plain terrified-nervous, today I was a different kind of nervous. As I sat there waiting to start the service, looking out at my church family (wow, there were a LOT of people in church today!!!) it occurred to me that these people, many of whom have become dear dear friends, would be seeing me differently today. The other time that I filled in it was just me... just a person in the congregation filling in when Pastor was away. Today it was me...a future pastor that was speaking to them. In 7 weeks I go before them for a special church conference to ask for approval for candidacy. They will have the opportunity to vote on whether they think I should move forward in my journey to becoming a pastor. And as I sat there waiting to start the service it occurred to me that if I totally botched it, they may very well say no that day. It threw me off a bit, and made me very nervous. After the children's time (which did NOT go well) I took a breath, looked at the pocket rocks that GOD gave me this morning, and said a quick prayer. It worked, the sermon went well (other than that I need to slow down more!)

        Pocket rocks. Yeah. So I have written about my pocket rocks before a few times. About how GOD picks them for me (I pray before I pick them, close my eyes and take the ones I feel Him 'pulling' me to). Here are the ones He picked for me to day:

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in CHRIST he is a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come.

Isaiah 41:13  For I AM the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, "do not fear, I will help you"

Psalm 16:11  You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.

Isaiah 40:31 For they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.

 (and the best one...)

2 Timothy 1:1 GOD did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and love and of self discipline.

            So today, before I even got nervous (well, before I got really nervous)... my Heavenly Father gave me words to hold in my heart that would remind me that I am a new person in Him. No more am I to be a nervous, fearful person. He reminded me that I didn't even have to be afraid, because he will take hold of my right hand and help me! He will show me the path of life HE wants me to take, and fill me with joy on that path! He will renew my strength, even when I am running a race that I do NOT feel qualified to run! And most importantly... He did NOT give me a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self discipline!! And He wants me to use that spirit to share His love with His children! What an amazing glimpse of His grace and mercy! What an amazing pouring out of His love.
           Our God is so amazing, it takes my breath away. I am feeling stressed lately...just some things that are weighing on my heart...nothing too earth shattering. But the stress of it has taken its toll on me. Yet, even in that stress, I can still see His fingerprints so clearly. It amazes me that, even when I am not feeling at my most joyous, even when I am feeling the weight of stress so heavily that it is almost tangible... HE can and does still use me somehow. He can and does still give me enormous shares of grace and mercy and strength.

Heavenly Father, thank You for standing next to me today, for holding my hand and helping me speak of Your love and grace.Thank You for my church family who supports me and loves me and gives me feedback to help me keep getting better, so that I can serve You well. I love You my GOD!!! In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Two Wolves

        I remember a bulletin that we had in church one week. On the front of the bulletin was a picture of two wolves and a Cherokee proverb. The saying goes like this: "There is a Battle of Two Wolves Inside Us All. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, lies, inferiority and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy and truth. The wolf that wins? The one you feed." And it is so true! So many of us have those two opposing 'wolves' who dwell inside of us. It might be the wolves who represent the two views we may have of ourselves. Or the two wolves who represent our struggles with an addiction. Or maybe the two wolves who represent our efforts to be in the world and not of the world.
        I spent some time thinking about this the other day. I wonder how many people have these wolves who are doing constant battle in their hearts? How many of us have spent years 'feeding'...or allowing to be fed, the 'bad' wolf? The wolf that is our poor self-image, or our giving into temptation, or our allowing ourselves to conform to the world's values instead of GOD's. How often those wolves gorge themselves like a king at an endless banquet, stuffing themselves with the lies, fears and doubts that can bring us to our knees? And the good wolf, the one who is the truth that we are beloved, cherished, forgiven children of a mighty GOD, the one who is our strength to turn from temptation and to stand strong in our beliefs... the poor little wolf who hungrily gobbles up anything and everything he can. How we need to learn to feed him! To put him on a steady diet of love, and truth, and honest encouragement. Every time we feed him, we starve his wretched counterpart. Every time we give him a morsel of truth, we deny that 'bad' wolf the sustenance he needs to continue his reign of lies against us.
       I pray that anyone reading this has a fat and happy 'good' wolf, and that the 'bad' wolf is but a shadow far back, so far that you can barely see it. I pray that we all learn to nurture and nourish our 'good' wolves, and learn that is in fact ok to starve that bad wolf... and send it packing!!!

Heavenly Father, please help us to send our 'bad' wolves packing. Please help us to see our lives, and ourselves, in the truth of your love. Thank You for being our strength. In JESUS' name. Amen

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


              Hubby has been watching the show 'Hoarders' lately. Not sure why, but he has watched it a few times now. I was watching with him the other night and the woman they were helping was very cooperative, letting them basically throw out just about everything that had accumulated in her home over many years. Of course this got me thinking...
               As we grow up we take in the words of others. They get stacked in piles in our hearts, in our minds, even in our very souls. There is the stack over there that is full of teasing and taunting by bullies. The stack next to it that is full of condemnation, and the one that is full of put downs by those who said they loved you. Hopefully there are also stacks full of kind words, words that built you up and made you feel safe, loved, respected. Stacks full of words that remind you of good times with people who you loved and who loved you.
               There comes a time in our lives when we need to stop hoarding. Just like that woman on the show, we need to let people come in, sometimes professionals, and help us clear out all those stacks of junk that are cluttering up our minds. The difference between the woman's home before and after was amazing. I just thought 'wow, now she can really live'. Isn't it the same when we clear out our minds? When we get rid of all those stacks, we can really live! We can stop hearing that endless loop of negative words that has been playing for all our lives, and really live in the freedom that CHRIST wants us to have!
              Not everyone that appears on the show is so cooperative. Many of the people they are trying to help just don't, or can't, let them help. They hold onto their stuff, their 'stacks', so tightly that the professionals that are there to help them are unable to. Their hands are tied because the ones that need the help are unwilling to do their part. How like that we can all be when it comes to letting go of the past! I wonder if sometimes we are just too afraid of what life will look like without that which is familiar around us, even if that which is familiar is the very stuff that is weighing us down. Just like those on the show, we get used to working around all our 'stacks', we get use to navigating so that we can continue living. But are we living? Or are we just existing. Watching this show, I just feel so sad for these people. They basically just exist. They can do little more than just be in their homes. They can't move around freely, most can't use their kitchens so they can't cook a meal. They certainly can't have friends over. But when the house gets cleaned out, their lives suddenly open up. Without all the clutter, they can move freely, they can sit on their couches, eat in their kitchens, sleep in their beds. Little things like opening a door, or walking across the floor easily. Things that we take for granted, things that they couldn't do. How will our lives open up if we cleaned out all our stacks? How much easier to hear GOD's still, small voice if our minds aren't cluttered with all those stacks of negative words that won't let us live freely? GOD wants us to live as His children, it really doesn't matter what people think of us, the Bible tells us what GOD thinks of us. And He loves us. Just the way we are.

Heavenly Father, help us to clear out those stacks, it's time for us to stop hoarding them. They are doing us no good! Please help us to rid our minds and souls of the negative words we have heard spoken to and about us, and to focus on Your still, small voice. We thank You for the words You gave us in Your Holy Bible, reminding us that we are in fact Your beloved child. In JESUS' name, Amen.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

It's Just Too Hard...Or Is It?

I have a confession to make. I was given an assignment that I have not completed. Not for my schooling (I got all that done and turned in...early even!), or from Pastor (I am working on my next sermon, not exactly an 'assignment' from her, but something I need to do in a certain amount of time.). Nope, this is an assignment from my music teacher. I have been practicing so much (1 1/2 to 2 hours a day, off and on throughout the day) that I am progressing fairly well. So she wants me to learn to play 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (see an example on youtube... this woman plays beautifully!!   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwINOcFwTjc )

I would love to play that way. It would be amazing to play that well. And I know that if I work hard and practice it a LOT... I will at least get close.

But it is still a scary thing...

I have taken out the music a few times. I can play a measure or two... not well, but well enough that my ears don't hurt and I am not overwhelmed by the desire to throw my violin across the room (NEVER would do that!!!! We broke a string one day...easy enough to fix but it made me want to cry!) But when I try to play more than just a few measures, well, I quickly get overwhelmed with the difficulty of it. I want to play it, and play it well.... NOW. I don't want to have to (this is a yucky word... sorry for having to use it...) wait. I'm not good at delayed gratification... which means that GOD gives me many many opportunities to practice it. I have to convince myself that anything that is worth doing will probably take time, and just because I don't succeed quickly and all at once, it doesn't mean I never will.

It reminds me of my journey, this journey that GOD has sent me on. I started my first class this week and a few times I have caught myself slipping into the 'what if I fail at this? what if it is too hard? what if I am wasting my... and everyone else's time? what if I am no good at it??' mindset. So far I have been able to avoid falling for the enemies lies that I am going to fail at it. When I first decided to obey GOD and go into ministry I had a meeting with our District Superintendent (a very wise man) and he told me something that has really stuck with me, and that I am really trying to remember when I start to doubt myself. He told me (and I am paraphrasing here!) that no one expects me to be a good pastor right now... that that is what the journey, or process, is about. The process to become a pastor (not even counting the schooling part... there is a whole process within the church in addition to getting a degree) is meant to prepare one to serve. It is such a comfort to know that where I am now is not where I will be when I complete this journey. Which is a very very good thing... I don't see in myself what it would take to be an effective pastor. But GOD must... or HE wouldn't have asked me to be one! And just like that piece of music, obeying Him... and being a blessing to His children, will take a bit of practice, a lot of persistence, and a whole lot of patience.

I think I need to get out my violin...

Heavenly Father, thank You again for the gift of music, what a blessing not only to hear it, but to be able to make it! Thank you for my music teacher,and her patient instruction, encouragement and optimism! Thank you for the wise words spoken by my DS, and the way they have helped me have the determination to persevere. Please help me to continue to see the goal... serving you, and to not listen to the enemy when he tries to convince me that it's just too hard. In JESUS' name, Amen.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Love Covers it All

I've been thinking a lot about love lately. In a Christian sense, not a romantic sense. See, I have a facebook account, and I am 'facebook friends' with many people, who have a very very wide range of beliefs. From the far right to the far left and everything in between. From the pro-life, Bible believing, conservatives to the pro-choice, every kind of faith goes, liberals. (And might I mention that I love them all... just so that is said!).

One thing that has gotten my attention lately is the polar differences in the posts I have been seeing. And to add to it, the bumper stickers I have been noticing lately too. It occurred to me that they all have one thing in common... no matter what the content... and that is love. Whether they are talking about the need to love people who are gay, or the need to care for those who can't care for themselves, or the need to care for the environment. The main theme is love. Now, I don't agree with all the posts that I see. There are some that I disagree with quite strongly, but the love part... I can only say a whole hearted 'Amen' to that. After all, isn't that why JESUS came? Isn't that what HE preached in His short but powerful ministry? Didn't He time and time again look past all the 'details' of who His children were... be they tax collectors or prostitutes, adulterers or lepers, and see to the heart of the one He loved? Didn't He allow Himself to be humiliated and tortured, nailed to a tree all in the name of love? He didn't come and make the ultimate sacrifice so that we could turn to our neighbor and see only their sins, or their weaknesses, or even simply the ways they are different from us. He made that sacrifice so that we would know what unconditional, limitless love looks like... and DO something with that knowledge.

Now before I get any grumpy comments...I don't mean that we shouldn't live the way GOD tells us to. He gives us some pretty clear instructions about how to live. But that doesn't mean that we are to be judge and jury over others. JESUS tells us to be salt and light. He tells us to live in a way that others will see Him in us. He never says that we get to get angry at someone because they don't do the same. And He certainly doesn't want us to treat others in a way that pushes them away from HIM.

Matthew 22:35-41

New King James Version (NKJV)
35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”