Annual Conference this year was both a whirlwind and a marathon. Busy-ness or business was everywhere and it was both challenging and inspiring, a call to action and a test of will as we waited/persevered to the end.
I’m starting to think I’ve become more and more emotional as I grow older. There were several times over this past week when I felt tears come to my eyes. Some of those times were times of happiness and thanksgiving – feeling the Spirit move as Telley preached at Annual Conference, Josh’s ordination, the prayerful and powerful way our South Carolina delegation laid hands on Dad and prayed over him after unanimously deciding he would be our episcopal nominee. There were so many great moments from the teaching to the preaching to the videos shared like this:
It was also a great time to camp out for Imagine No Malaria and to train some amazing Students In Mission (SIM) to commit their summers to being in mission = ministry with. Much to be joyful about!
Sometimes the tears were both thankful and a little bit of just overwhelming gratitude. It was surreal being back at Annual Conference this year. Last year, I came in for two days right before the brain surgery and although some probably thought I was insane for coming, for me, it was my church. The conference – both lay and clergy – are our people and that’s where we as a body share our joys and concerns. I didn’t realize going into this how much being back at conference would bring up for me in terms of last year’s struggle.
We sang the song, “In Christ Alone” during the opening worship and those words and all of us a large body singing together was such a powerful witness and testimony to the love and providence of God. (A video and lyrics are below.) I’m glad we also sang this song during the ordination. What a powerful song for our commissioned members and ordinands.
My mom’s birthday is June 11th and the brain surgery (left frontal craniotomy) was on her birthday last year. There’s a part of me that would love to forget that date and not have any mark or reminder of it. There’s another part of me that knows that it was everyone’s prayers and the grace of God that brought me through and it should be celebrated. Don’t know which one is winning yet. The jury is still out. I get teary just typing about it. Does that mean I haven’t fully dealt with it yet? Could be. Too soon? Maybe, but not entirely. Does that mean that was a mucho grande big deal and it’s still crazy to me that all of that happened a year ago and wasn’t just a bad dream? Yes. It’s hard to believe that that was me and if I didn’t have my lovely scar that I worry about getting sunburned, I might forget.
It’s hard to process things. There’s a certain grief and emotion that swells up when you least expect it sometimes. And it happens to all of us. I was sitting in the Memorial Service for ministers that have gone to be with God over the past year on Mom’s birthday on the anniversary of my brain surgery and I just couldn’t do it. I got through the sermon but the slide show of the pictures just did me in. It’s always been a powerful service to me since in my mind the South Carolina Annual Conference is my home/my church and I know that one day there will be a service for each of us. And there goes a Sandi Patti song and slides of the pastor that helped during my Gandaddy’s funeral and I have to head on out. Even in the midst of the thanksgiving for life, even in the midst of the joy of the swelling of the Spirit, even in the midst of realizing that nothing can pluck any of us from God’s hand – there’s still both the realization that something really scary and really serious happened and a something that’s even beyond the word thanksgiving that describes that depth of feeling behind all that could have been and is now.
As I think about those that have faced such devastation in the storms and floods this year, those that have lost loved ones, those that are facing moves and transitions, those that are searching for hope and a rock to lean on when it feels like the walls are closing in around you – I know that the great Comforter is at work in our world and is blowing, inspiring and surrounding us every step of the way. I am grateful that it is in Christ alone our hope is found and that we will never be turned away from it. It’s available to each of us.
What are you grieving today? What are your struggles? When’s the last time you felt that ground swell of emotion? How do we see the Spirit at work in our world? What are the fears and frustrations that we’ve held on to and not given over to God? What are those buttons of grief that can be turned in to sources of joy in our lives?
We are given songs or videos or movies or sermons or scriptures or friends or emails or a beautiful tree or the melody of the ocean or the stillness and quiet to claim as our promise from God. It’s there waiting for us. May we open ourselves to the Word God would speak to us this day. May we claim it and know it and feel it to the depths of our souls. May we know and trust.
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand
In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless Babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live, I live
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin?s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From a life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand
Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand
I will stand, I will stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground, all other ground
Is sinking sand, is sinking sand
So I stand