Posted in calling, Campus Ministry, God's Voice, Movies, Nathan, Sermons

Nathan – The Editor

This semester at Gator Wesley, we are going to use as our backdrop, Leonard Sweet’s book, 11 – indispensable relationships you can’t be without – in which he talks about the 11 people [relationships] that we need to be who Christ creates us to be – we need
• an Editor
• a True Friend
• a Butt-Kicker
• an Heir
• an Encourager
• a Yoda
• a Back-Coverer
• a Reject
• a ‘Little One’
• a VIP
• a Place
• a Paraclete – “one who consoles, one who intercedes on our behalf, a comforter or an advocate”

This week we have Nathan, the editor.

1 Chronicles 17:1-15
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
God’s Covenant with David
17 Now when David settled in his house, David said to the prophet Nathan, “I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.” 2 Nathan said to David, “Do all that you have in mind, for God is with you.”
3 But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying: 4 Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the LORD: You shall not build me a house to live in. 5 For I have not lived in a house since the day I brought out Israel to this very day, but I have lived in a tent and a tabernacle. 6 Wherever I have moved about among all Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people, saying, Why have you not built me a house of cedar? 7 Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people Israel; 8 and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies before you; and I will make for you a name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 9 I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall wear them down no more, as they did formerly, 10 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will subdue all your enemies.
Moreover I declare to you that the LORD will build you a house. 11 When your days are fulfilled to go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, 14 but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever. 15 In accordance with all these words and all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.

Have you ever heard of a “yes” man or woman? It’s a thing. Merriam Webster defines it this way, “a person who agrees with everything that is said; especially: one who endorses or supports without criticism every opinion or proposal of an associate or superior.” You will meet “yes” men all the time in the workplace. Have you ever heard of a celebrity out of control because they’ve surrounded themselves with no one that ever tells them no? I can name all sorts of actors/singers/entertainers that died tragically because they were surrounded by people on the pay roll. They received no unbiased opinions, because the machine around them depended on their celebrity for their livelihood. We can give countless examples of these behaviors…..Hello, Britney shaving her head or Justin Bieber in his latest trouble or need I even say Lindsay Lohan without images flashing through your head?

They needed someone to be “real” with them or keep them grounded. They needed an editor, like Nathan. Nathan spoke truth to power. Who’s not afraid to call you into account for your actions? Who’s not afraid to get under your skin? Who’s not afraid to gently, but firmly say that you’re acting like a jerk? That’s your Nathan.

A Nathan reveals, pulls back the curtain, to who you truly are. Recently I went on a facebook posting rampage, where I watched the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance. In the movie Bagger played by Will Smith, says, “Inside each and every one of us is one true authentic swing. Something that we were born with. Something that’s ours and ours alone. Something that can’t be taught to you or learned. Something that got to be remembered. Over time the world can rob us of that swing. It can be buried inside us in the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s. Some people forget what their swing was like.” A Nathan’s not afraid of calling you out because he can see through the layers to YOU. And the Nathan’s in your life, care about and love you, but they’re not about to let you get away with anything, just like Bagger Vance.

Nathan figured prominently in David’s life 3 times. At 3 critical junctures. In the text for today, 2 Samuel 7, David had just finished building his palace. He had been greatly blessed by God and decided that the ark of the covenant, which was still in a tent, needed a permanent home. He consulted with Nathan who agreed at first, but as you hear in the passage, Nathan changed his mind because it was not what God wanted. Nathan also said some good things to David – that David’s name would be great, his people would have peace, his son would build a “House for my name,” the throne and kingdom of David and his son would be established forever, and what would later become the Davidic Covenant – that Jesus would be in the lineage of David. You may be thinking that’s not gutsy speaking truth to power, he just told him not to build a church, and he said several good things after that. Well in 2 Samuel 12, David had recently committed adultery with Bathsheba and had arranged the death of her husband Uriah. Nathan was sent to David by the Lord with a parable – a poor man had one lamb, a rich man had great flocks of sheep – a traveler came to the rich man who prepared a meal for him – the rich man took the lamb from the poor man rather than use one of his own for the meal. David heard the story and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die!” [vs5] Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” [vs7] Awkward.

David repented of his sin, and the Lord forgave him – but the consequences of his sin then meant that the child born to Bathsheba did in fact die. The sign, however, of forgiveness was that David and Bathsheba had another son, Solomon, the inheritor of the promise.

The third time doesn’t have the same sting as the Bathsheba story, but it’s important nonetheless. It happens in 1 Kings 1 right at the end of David’s life. God had made it clear that Solomon would inherit the throne from his father – when another of David’s sons, Adonijah, tried to usurp the throne, Nathan supported David rather than Adonijah. He informed Bathsheba of the plot and advised her on how to ensure the right successor. Nathan was called in by David and told to anoint Solomon king – this he did and it was proclaimed to the people.

An editor works tirelessly so that you can be the best that you can be.

“Joe Myers illustrates the editability with the story of his wife, Sara, handing him back an essay she had edited for him, and all he could see was red. Every page was dripping with blood. As he tried to find one pure white page, she said these words: ‘Joe, this is fantastic! This is one of the best things I have ever read! This is going to change people’s lives.’
‘You’re kidding. You hate it…’
‘No, I love it.’
‘But look at all the red. You hate it.’
‘Joe, I love it. I just want you to get your ideas out as powerfully as you can. Every time you see red on the page, you should hear me saying to you, ‘Joe, I love this, I love you, and I want the whole world to read this book.’”

How many times do we see the editors of our lives as our biggest critics? How many times do we see the ink all in red and think that we’re not good enough? How many times do we take personally what we see as criticism but those that love us have said it to make us better?

Leonard Sweet writes, “What makes the Nathans unique in your life is that they are fundamentally best understood as welcome intruders. They tend to pop in unannounced to take the moral temperature of a particular moment, especially at the most inconvenient and disturbing of times. But because you are already in a relationship with them, and authenticity is your brand, their temperature taking isn’t always welcome. In a culture of increasing transparency, thanks to the internet and ubiquitous surveillance (the average Londoner is captured on camera over three hundred times a day), you refuse them entrance at your peril.”

In biblical language, Nathans “speak the truth in love.” As it says in James 1:22, a Nathan is not someone who rushes to “tell you the truth” but someone who helps you to “do the truth.”

As anyone who has ever written some words on a piece of paper, it’s not always pleasant or fun to get edited. The English major in me, cringes at the thought of taking my paper to the writing center and for them to pull out the fine tooth comb or the magnifying glass to make corrections. It’s like they see my soul stripped bare and the vulnerability is apparent. They see me. In all of my weaknesses, in all of my vulnerabilities, in all of the places I would rather not see – they see me.

So prayerfully consider the Nathans in your life. You don’t want to pick a person that is critical for critical’s sake, that is destructive to your world, or does not care about your well-being. So be discerning as you notice the people in your life that make you better, aren’t afraid to give you a reality check when the situation calls for it, and do so in love.

But as you notice the Nathans in your life they have some tell-tale signs. The first is they get under your skin. They look at the inner workings of your life and are not afraid to call BS. An English teacher in high school taught me the acronym meant Be Specific.

The second is they will ask you questions. Sweet says that questions can comfort, challenge, or convict. A Nathan looks at the heart. Snow White on Once Upon a Time wouldn’t get away with the darkness growing in her heart, if a Nathan was around. A Nathan would ask the familiar words of Wesley, “How well is it with your soul?”

The third and final thing is that they will tell the truth. A Nathan helps us see the truth about ourselves – truth telling, not truth dumping. Truth dumping is when we tell someone the “truth” but we’re really giving our own opinion, and it’s needlessly hurtful because the truth teller is not seeking to make us better but is seeking to destroy, cut down, or belittle. Nathan’s words are blunt, but with love. It is said about a Nathan, “There are kinder words that could have been said to me, but there aren’t truer ones.”

My brother Josh just happens to be a Nathan in my life. You’ll meet him on fall retreat because he’s going to be the speaker. He’s not afraid to call me on the carpet when he thinks I’m not being my most Godly. But I trust him implicitly. I don’t always like what he says. I don’t always agree with what he says. But 9 times out of 10 he has a point. He has perspective on my life. Even when I don’t see it. Even when I can’t see it. He has a way of breaking through. It may take a couple of days, of inner debate within myself, to see truth in his observational interruptions, but I trust him. So I listen to him. Because I know he’s watching out for me and just wants me to be the best that I can be.

So I’m glad that Len Sweet writes, “Everybody needs a Nathan. Even Nathan needs a Nathan.” Even Josh needs a Nathan in his life.

So open your eyes to the Nathan’s of your life. Your Nathan’s may easily come to mind. They may not. But we all need them. Oprah is attempting to be Lindsay Lohan’s, but that is another story and another sermon.

Do you know what David named his son? That’s right. Nathan. And that’s the line through which Jesus came through Mary’s side. You see, the Nathan’s of your life will have a big Godly impact in your life if you will let them. May it be so.

Holy and gracious God, may we be ever on the look out for the Nathan’s in our life. That they call us into account and are willing to ask the hard questions. May you set our feet on right paths and may we walk in your ways. Thank you that we were fearfully and wonderfully made and we can rest in the promise that you will never leave us or forsake us. May you give us wisdom as we discern answers to questions that seemingly have no answers. May you give us your peace that transcends all understanding, when we wrestle or need your comfort. May you give us your grace that we may know your more fully and as we continue in your sanctifying grace to be the person you created us to be. In Jesus’ name I pray. We pray now as you taught your disciples to pray….

Posted in Battle, calling, Grief, Health, Hope

Little Hairs

I’m crying alone at my desk with the door closed because it’s been a really cruddy day.  And I can’t go anywhere without seeing these little hairs everywhere.  I’m frustrated.  And I want to go on a date with Mike and stop thinking about these things.  He’s promised me to shave my hair completely off tonight so I won’t see the little hairs anymore.  I may be vain.  But I liked my hair.  I was sort of attached to it.  Or it was to me any way.

Bald is beautiful.  It will grow back.  This too shall pass.  It’s only for six weeks.  There’s people worse off than you.  No one is unaffected by cancer.

But I want to scream.

And break stuff.

Then I listen to The Call by Regina Spektor and the tears are flowing freely down my face.  I first heard the song on The Chronicles of Narnia:  Prince Caspian soundtrack.  I really relate to the beginning of the song, “It started out as a feeling/Which then grew into a hope/Which then turned into a quiet thought/Which then turned into a quiet word
/And then that word grew louder and louder/’Til it was a battle cry…”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WY0QcSQf_mc

Thanks for letting me vent.  I’ve stopped crying.  I will hold fast to the truth of John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Posted in affirmation, call to action, calling, Campus Ministry, clergy, Discernment, Ministry, United Methodist Church, Young Adults, Young Clergy

Affirmation and Calling

It’s been an interesting process the past couple of days as our search committee at Winthrop Wesley interviews candidates for the Director/Campus Minister job. I have been thankful to not be directly a part of the process and able to spend time at the end of each candidate’s interview times being able to answer questions and affirm them.

What I’ve found from a lot of them as well as from some of my current and former students is that our church is not always in the practice of affirming our young, capable and qualified leaders if their calling is something other than that of the local church.

As a member of a District Committee on Ministry and as someone who was loved and affirmed in my calling and in this process, I’ve seen some of this from both sides. I felt some of this as someone going through trying to articulate something that didn’t necessarily include a steeple or a pulpit. But, call me crazy, I thought that with all of the research talking about young people going into ministry and with it being over 10 years since I went through our process that things had gotten better. That committees and boards were more open to young people seeing church in sometimes different ways and wanting to live out their calling in ways that doesn’t always fit the life-long career path of previous generations.

I have people tell me all the time that they feel called to campus ministry and want to work with young people but that their committees on ministry or their senior pastor or those giving them counsel on how to get larger appointments with higher paying salaries warn against this because of their career or how they’ll be perceived or pigeon holed asking questions like, “Why would you waste your gifts there?” Yes, I have really heard this.

It feels like we just want to lift up people that look like and talk like us…40 years ago and we want them to follow our exact life map. We’re talking about the Call to Action and vital congregations and I’m all about us having that conversation, but changing our general agencies in no way completely solves the problem of our relevance or our connection with the world. If we ask the same questions that we asked 40 years ago and we expect the same answers, leaving no room for change or growth or a flip the script moment, we’re setting ourselves up for great failure. Not as a Church, not as a body of Christ, not as a movement but as a system – a structure that exists to continue its existence.

In contrast to all of this our amazing intern Erica just got back from her interview process with the General Board of Global Ministries for the Mission Intern program, which would train her to be a missionary 16 months internationally and 16 months domestically. She had an awesome experience. She felt affirmed. She felt heard. She felt like it was actually intentional and discerning and open…and she is bubbling from the experience! Hers is not the most traditional road to ministry, but it is such a rich and wondrous thing to witness. It’s exciting. It gives me hope for our church. Hearing about her wanting to share the Good News of Christ makes me excited that the United Methodist Church sends out missionaries all over the world – with all of their quirks, oddities, diversity, and high caliber!

I want to be able to encourage young people into ministry – whether ordained or in great UMVIM or GBHEM or World Race or whatever opportunities. I want to know that yes, they are questioned and people help them discern and give them counsel, but I also want them to be affirmed that God has called them to serve God’s kingdom – not in a particular venue or in specific cookie cutter ways. Not hating on the cookie cutters because I love them and I am related to them, but we’ve got to lift up our young people and listen to them and hear their hopes, dreams, and passion. We’ve got to see and believe, not just say that all of these ministries are not just valid but just as “important” as the other. And this can’t just happen in our campus ministries. Our students can’t just be affirmed here, in the safety of our communities. The larger church has to be willing to affirm this calling as well and there has to be room made at the table.

I’m sitting here listening to Erica tell two of our students about her experience and what she could possibly do and it’s so contagious that we all need to hear it. We all need to hear this joy and passion. We all need to have a chance to sit down with a group of young people and listen to how they see the world and how they view the church.

So a huge thank you to all of those who have affirmed some of us crazy folks that love the local church – absolutely love it – but are called to serve in a variety of ways. A huge thank you to those that see quality, solid people and don’t say things like – you don’t want to serve there, you want to be able to move up our system, why would you waste your gifts with such a transient and changing group. A huge thank you to those that support these crazy ministries that we do and who believe in the work that we are doing. A huge thank you to our advocates who have stepped into the gaps, who have tried to translate for us, and who have journeyed with us.

May each of us experience times of affirmation and calling, as well as time of challenging and questioning. AND may we as a church realize that some of our larger struggles are not just structural, but so much more. Help us Lord to not just break glass ceilings in our particular ministries but may the greater church realize the gifts, graces, and beautiful ministry that is happening throughout our connection as we seek the already and not yet of your kingdom.

Posted in calling, Elections, Faith, Justice, Politics, United Methodist Church

A Great Nation

This past March the students and I went on a trip to Washington, D.C. on a seminar by the General Board of Church and Society on Human Trafficking.  There were so many things that struck us at the time, both the things that were disillusioning like walking into the Senate chamber and only 3 Senators being in there and the things that were truly moving like many of the war memorials that we saw.

The thing that was most hard for us to understand was how our houses of Congress work now.  I had never been on a tour of the Capitol building before and it was really neat to see the sculptures and history.  It was really cool going under the ground in the little cars made by Walt Disney.  It was amazing that our Senator’s office squeezed us in under short notice and that we got such a great tour.

It was one of the most disheartening things I’ve seen to witness an empty room with three Senators going back and forth over air quality and asthma and  these Senators primarily talking to the camera because there wasn’t hardly anyone else in there to hear them.  I understand what the aid said that these days our Congress people get briefed in the mornings and evenings and the transcripts are given to them and they are pretty much told how to vote in their briefings.  I also understood when he said that today our Congress people have to work hard with their constituencies taking meetings and working on those things during the day so that they can get re-elected.  I get that getting to that place is not easy and I’m sure it takes a lot of money and support and you’ve got to keep the people that give you those happy.  I get that.

What I don’t get is why we keep letting this broken system survive without all saying, “Enough.”  This is ridiculous.  I’ve heard most of my life that you’ve got to work in the system to change the system and I get that.  You’ve got to know what you’re dealing with and sometimes be able to speak the language so that change can happen.  But we are also called to be in the world and not of it.  We can be in the system and understand the system, but we don’t have to be one of the people sucked into it and trying to make it survive without glance at justice or mercy or ethics or even some good ole character and integrity.

I’m not talking about pointing fingers and blaming this group or that group or this person or that person for all of our problems.  I’m not talking about demonizing some of our fellow Americans even if we may completely disagree with them and think x, y, z about them.  The bottom line is that we are all in this TOGETHER.  We don’t need to waste our time trying to pit people against one another.  We don’t need to waste our time blaming all of our problems big and small on a select party or group or body.  We need to work at solutions, asking the right questions, having a dialogue with one another, figuring out ways that we can live it out with or without the support of the powers that be.

I realize that power is a precarious thing and I know that nothing is ever “that” simple, but I would love to see leaders that lead.  Not just when it’s popular.  Not just the party line.  (Either party.)  Not just what you’re told.  But what you think.  What you have discerned.  What you have wrestled with.

I know that Washington is not just a movie – it’s not just Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The American President, Air Force One, or even the President’s speech in Independence Day.  But we’ve got to do something here.  In this nation that seems more and more divided.  In a place where unemployment is growing and I have more and more students graduating without finding jobs and more and more coming in barely making it through on loans and what little they can make on part-time jobs and not even enough money for raman noodles.

The thing that most moved me in Washington was the Lincoln Memorial.  Reading those words on either side, the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address, and the face of a Congress that even then was working on a budget – was a powerful contrast.  There’s no way we’re more divided now than we were then and yet the words of Lincoln ring out.  “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.”

We may not be a nation warring with each other but it is time to bind up the wounds of our people.  When it is clear that many of our children are going hungry.  Many parents are wondering how to provide.  Our churches and organizations that are working to clothe and feed and help educate and give shelter, have more than enough work to last a lifetime and the numbers are doubling and tripling and growing by leaps and bounds.  Do I think all of the responsibility lies in Washington?  No.  Do I think it all depends on a President to shape the course?  No.  But I think it’s a start.  There are unsung heroes all around and I know that God’s people are faithful and that the words of Micah to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God are words that many are living by not by just words but with their lives.

When I think about that nation that I believe in, this crazy idea of America, of freedom, of representation by the people for the people, I don’t think of trillions of dollars spent on defense.  I don’t think about loop holes or pork barrel spending or people after their own wealth or power.  I don’t think of people wasting time talking to the media or to the rich and wealthy in their districts.  I think about the men and women who have fought to make this freedom a reality.  I think of those who live their lives every day with grace and mercy and selfless service.  Not people that are going to cram an ideology or there own culture onto someone else.

I pray for people to step up in conscience and discernment.  I pray for people that will say, “Enough.”  I pray for people who go back to their roots of what this country was founded upon, of what truly makes us a great nation – not a superpower, but a great nation that has character and respect.  I pray for the people hanging in the balance of some of these programs and spending and I pray that we as faith communities step up and see how we can reach out across our communities and lead the way.  I pray that we will open ourselves up to the One who knows all of our needs and who can direct our course, to the One who doesn’t just bless America, but seeks to be in community and relationship with the whole world.  Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

The Gettysburg Address – Abraham Lincoln

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The Speech on The American President

What would “A Great Nation” look like to you?  What do we as a church do to step up ready to work and to grow and to fight in this battle for justice and mercy?  (Yes, I know I used the word – “fight” – because at this point I feel like we’ve got to dig in and take action no matter what the opposition or what the cop out.)

Posted in calling, change, Community, Family, God's Providence, home, Methodism, Moving, Parenting, Preacher's Kids, United Methodist Church

I Want to Go Home

There’s something about that saying, “I want to go home.”  We’ve been at the beach this past week with my fam and the kids had a blast playing in the ocean and the pool and going to the inlet to see Aunt Guyeth and catch crabs and play with Nemo the dog.  It was a great week.  But it’s funny, every time Enoch would get tired or cranky or even not get his way, he would say, “I want to go home.”

Now that didn’t mean that he really wanted to go home.  We would ask him if he wanted to pack everything up and get in the car, and of course he said no.  But there’s something about saying, “I want to go home.”

This past Wednesday parsonage families across the South Carolina Annual Conference moved.  These families are always close to my heart during this time of year because I remember how that was as a preacher’s kid in a parsonage family myself.  I don’t attempt to speak for all preacher’s kids because we all have different experiences and see things differently, but for me “home” was a big concept.

In the early years, my two brothers and I were sent to our grandparents house while Mom and Dad moved everything from one house to another.  They would set up our rooms with the our “stuff” and toys in them and it would feel a little more like home by the time we got there.  In one of these first houses, apparently I wrote my name and our phone number on the mattress in my bedroom in case it got lost.  I didn’t realize that not even the bed came with us and this was a running joke for the family that came after us.

We’ve gone down the road of explaining to people, yep, in our church one family moves out in the morning and another family moves into the parsonage in the afternoon.  For some reason, that’s a hard one for people to get.  It is a little strange.

As we got older we knew that when Mom started playing Steven Curtis Chapman’s “For the Sake of the Call” that we better get ready to move.  The Spring around the Cabinet convening time was always a time of anticipation/nervousness/fear that this would be the year when we moved.  And different families do this so many different ways in terms of how it’s communicated to kids, how the transition is made, how much of your own furniture goes, preparing the child to move, etc.

Now I want say that every move was great.  Or that every transition was smooth.  Or that each of us felt the same way about each place we lived.  There were definitely highs and lows and everything in between at each place.  But however we were taught to understand it, we knew that we were moving and that this wasn’t just something that was Dad’s job – it was his calling and that God would take care of us too.  Does that mean everything was always sunny and rosy?  Nope.  But I think I can speak for Josh and Caleb as well when I say that we wouldn’t be the people we are today if not for all of these experiences.

Even those times when we would say, “I want to go home.”  And that home be a house that now had another family living in it at our old church.  Some clergy couple friends have said that their daughter is having a hard time saying goodbye to her friends and her school and I totally get that.  It’s hard and tough and not fun.  And not all of us cope well.  Not everyone makes new friends easily and wants to leave the old town behind, but I think there are a great many of us that learn some things about ourselves along the way – making new friends, being able to talk to a wide variety of people, seeing different places and different communities and how different churches work, and all sorts of things that are just engrained.

So blessings on those this week in between “homes” and trust that not just home is where the heart is but home is also where you make it and how you create it.  Even if it’s the one picture hung on the wall or that one stuffed animal or everyone being together.  May we know and trust that our home is with God and that it’s not just something we cling to when we’re scared or angry or things aren’t going our way, but is something that is eternal and can’t be taken from us.  May we feel it and may we know it.

Prayer for Moving Preacher’s Kids

Lord Jesus, please bless all of these children moving this week whether they’re toddlers to teenagers.  Give them peace and strength and courage as they move from place to place.  Help the move be an easy one.  Give them the friends that they need and the comforts and hope they need for them to feel at home.  Create a haven and shelter for them in this new place and a community of faith and support to surround them and lift them in this time of transition and uncertainty.  Provide the teachers, youth leaders, people that will give them that word of encouragement and will nurture and help them grow into the people you created them to be.  Give their parents strength and clarity and the rest they need to not only be pastors and leaders but also spouses and parents.  Give them the time and priorities and balance of both church and family and the vision and tenacity to know what needs to happen when.  Help these families find the special things that they need and locate the right box or restaurant or grocery store or park.  Give them not just a physical house, but a real and spiritual home.  Help make their way easier and for them to know and trust in your providence and love for them.  Surround them in your grace and peace that they may be wrapped in your mercies anew each day.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

Posted in calling, Community, Epiphany, Faith, Grace, Journey, Story, Vocation

What’s Your Story?

I have no idea who said this but I know I didn’t make it up myself.  Someone told me once that we all have a sermon and each Sunday we just preach it a lot of different ways.  I’ve thought about this for awhile, and I have found this idea intriguing.  In discussion with Josh back and forth over sermons or with Mike back and forth over music, there’s a part of me that does believe that each of us is given this essence, this thing within us that’s just trying to get out and that’s our story.  It’s our thing to share with the world.  All of us are different.  And that’s what makes it beautiful.  We’re not competing over who has the best one or who has the loudest or most compelling, but we each have one to share.  Each of us.

I think for me it’s this incarnational theology thing.  I don’t even want to know how many sermons I talk about Emmanuel – God with us, that the Great God of the universe decided to come and be one of us, that God is with us in the midst.  I know I must say in the midst all the time.  I don’t know why this gels with me so much, but even if I’m not preaching about it – let’s say I’m talking about human trafficking or Ruth or the early church in Acts – whatever it is, somehow I end up back with this same uncontrollable and thirsty desire to talk to people about this Savior that wants to know them.  Not in an arrogant, aren’t we humans so cool, kind of way, but in a I want to know you and I created you and I have this awesome and amazing journey for you to go on.  Not saying that those are always easy stories – because there’s a lot of hurt and evil and junk out there, but a God that goes with us and that gets down in the mud and muck with us – that’s a God I can follow.

I could go down a list of what I think people’s sermons/songs/stories are.  Is that weird?  But can you think about it?  The people around you – what is their thing?  What is their essence?  What is that thing that they point to?

Let me put in a musical perspective.  I am not a musician.  I am married to one and I love him and he says I don’t count anymore as a non-musician because I’ve heard him talk so much about it.  Maybe that’s true.  But I love music.  Y’all know I love music.  My mind thinks in songs which is why I should give money to youtube because I use their videos so much.  So back to music – I digress – there’s this guy Stephen Oremus – arranger, orchestrator, musical director.  Randomly in July 2005 Mike and I won tickets to Wicked, the musical on Broadway.  (I know, I know, I can’t shut up about Broadway, but I like it.  I really, really like it.)  There’s was a guy conducting or whatever you would call that and he had the best time.  He was laughing and smiling and enjoying it in an amazing way.  Then here we are this past May and we won tickets to the Book of Mormon Musical and here’s this conductor smiling and so enthusiastic and really loving it and lo and behold – same guy.  Stephen Oremus.

Now the guy doesn’t even have a wikipedia page, and I’m tempted to write it myself because I really enjoy what he does.  He arranged the music for Avenue Q and Wicked and 9 to 5 and High Fidelity and All Shook Up and the Book of Mormon and as someone who at least loves and owns the soundtrack to three of those, I can hear similarities and musical themes that are common throughout and it’s so cool.  It’s just good music and arrangement.  As Mike and I were talking about this he talks about how sometimes musicians don’t want to have those themes throughout – you know just like in Project Runway when the girl had all the clothes with petals – you don’t want to be stuck on the one note.  But then he changed his mind and said, maybe that’s this guy’s thing.  Maybe that’s his gift, his essence – his thing to give.

I don’t know.  Call me crazy.  But I feel like all of us have that “thing” within us that’s waiting to burst out.  That gift whether it be the timid girl who then starts belting out the notes in Sister Act or even the first time Billy Graham stepped behind a pulpit or the first time you do that thing that just makes you feel beyond any word like happy, but alive or content or at purpose.

What’s that thing you want to share with the whole world?  What is it that you think they just have to know?  How do you share it in your own unique, God-given way?

I get the fear and the doubt and the times you may not feel it and the times when you’re frustrated or annoyed or just plain old pooped.  But what’s the story of your life?

Is my story – tired, frantic mother?  Is my story – I’ll be glad to talk to you when I’m fully rested and in a good mood and with the right amount of caffeine?  Is my story…

If you could tell someone in three sentences or less your greatest purpose or piece of advice or rule to live by or other cliched phrase.  If you could share the very essence of who God created you to be with someone, what would that look like?  Words?  A picture?  A song?  A hug?  A sweater?

Think about it.  What’s your thing to share?  Your gift to give?  What’s your story?  And how is it part of the greater story around us?  How are we sharing it with the world?

 

I love this song.  I actually love Michael W. Smith’s entire Trilogy on the I’ll Lead You Home album.  I know, I know – old school Christian music.  Don’t ask me how something titled Angels Unaware fits with this, but somehow I think we live our stories.  We live who we are in the good, the bad, and the ugly.  On the great days and on the dark days.  Whether there are angels unaware or whether we’re right there in the presence of God – we’ve been created and life breathed into us and a story placed in our hearts and on our lives.  We don’t always have to have it figured out or feel like we’re good enough, but God is faithful to us and we can trust God’s grace and mercy and never-ending love is available to each of us.

I honestly think of this song every time I say, what’s your story?  Matthew West says it well in the Next Thing You Know.

So what’s your story about God’s glory?  How are you letting your life speak to the world?

Posted in calling, Faith, Fear, God, Guidance, Jesus, Mission, pride, Sermons

Great Commission not just for Superheroes…

Yesterday morning’s lectionary text, Matthew 28:16-20 was one of the most well-known scripture passages around.  It’s commonly known as The Great Commission.  In verse 18 it says, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.  And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

There’s a lot summed up right there.  Matthew’s Gospel doesn’t have Jesus ascending into heaven or promising that the Holy Spirit is coming to help them.  Matthew has the disciples showing up to a mountain where Jesus told them to go and both the ones who began to worship Jesus and the ones who doubted all being commissioned to go ye and tell the world.  He didn’t just commission the Super Christians that had done everything right (do those even exist anyway?).  Jesus commissioned these eleven – a motley crew – to go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Trinity, and teaching them to obey the commands of Christ.  Surely some of these were gung ho and ready to go.  Surely some of them were a little scared and wondering what was going to happen next.  Surely at least one of them thought – wow, that was a cool three years, is this about the time I go back to my day job?

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to participate in my brother Josh’s ordination service.  During the ordination service at a certain point you go up to the altar and there the Bishop, your District Superintendent and two people who have touched your life in some way or who have helped you on your journey to ministry, all lay hands upon you.  I was honored to lay some hands on the little bro.  Listening to the words the Bishop said to him reminded me of my own ordination.  One of the parts that stands out is where the Bishop says something about authority.  I actually carry the cards she read from in my Bible as a reminder of what I was ordained to.  Here’s what they say:

Narcie McClendon Jeter, take authority as an Elder to preach the Word of God, and to administer the Holy Sacraments, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

There’s more to the whole service course, but there’s something important about that authority part.  Not that we want the ordinands walking around with big heads and saying what’s up, look at me, I’ve got it all figured out now and I’m taking my authority and running with it.  Not even.  But there’s something about this ordination, the laying on of hands and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit that lets you know for sure and for certain, that it’s not about you.  It’s about this larger story that you’re apart of.  It’s about all of the years that you’ve worked, all the hoops, all the times of doubt and struggle, but even more than that it’s about this Greatest Story Ever Told that we’re apart of.

Enoch has now turned 4 and he’s close to 4 feet and the size of one much older than him.  If you try to put the straw into the CapriSun for him, walk across the street holding hands, put him in his booster seat, you’ll hear him say these now familiar words.  “By myself, Mommy.  I do by myself.”  There’s something inherent in us that wants to do things by ourselves, by our own might, our own smarts, our own strength, our own glory.  Yes there’s the natural claiming of one’s identity and independence, but there’s also something in us that wants to do it by ourselves and not ask for or need someone else’s help.  I hear the “I do by myself, Mommy” so loudly and clearly and confidently.

Jesus with all the authority of heaven has commissioned us (sent us out with blessing) to preach the Good News but we don’t have to do it by ourselves.  There’s a tension there.  It’s not all on whether we do everything right, have the most energy or enthusiasm or have all the right words to say.  A little secret – we don’t suddenly get ordained and have everything figured out with the perfect eulogy, all knowledge of scripture and the ability to pray beautifully on command.  So it’s not all about us or our merits, but we do have to DO something.  It’s not about earning anything, but it is a command to GO and make disciples and baptize and teach and remember.  Those are action words.  It’s not based on our power, but God’s power.

Enoch is loving superheroes right now.  Somehow he heard about Iron Man and Spider Man and Batman and he loves them.  He wants to pretend to be them, he plays with the action figures, the whole thing.  We can’t let him watch a lot of the cartoons because they’re scary and violent but he still loves the whole idea of these heroes.  We were talking to him about Sunday school last week in the car on the way to church yesterday and he was talking to my mom about Jesus healing the paralytic man and how the man got up off his mat and walked.  Enoch started asking a lot of why and how questions.  Why did Jesus heal him?  Why did he need healing?  How did Jesus heal him?  It finally ended with – because Jesus is powerful.  Jesus is powerful.

Jesus is powerful.  More powerful than any superhero – Iron Man, Green Lantern, Black Widow, any of them.  It’s not about our power in this Great Commission, it’s about God’s power.  It’s about being willing to go forth and tell all nations.  Not just the people in our church already.  Not just the people in the USA.  Not just the people that look like, act like or believe like us.  Or the reverse of that – it’s not just about going to some far off place like Fiji, India or Zimbabwe to tell people about Christ.  We have to look around right here, in our time and place and live not just by our lives and actions but also by our words, the Great Commission.

What does this commission of God mean to us?  What does it mean that Jesus called these folks, not great scholars or awesome speakers, not just ones full of faith, but also those with their doubts?  Who are the “all nations” or all people that we are called to reach out to?  How does our life, our home, our family, our community, our church show by our words and actions that we are taking this Great Commission seriously?

Those are questions to think about, pray over and wrestle with.  It seems like a tall order at times.  Especially verse 20 – “and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”  That’s a lot of stuff to teach.  It seems pretty big.  But we can’t forget the promise, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  We are not alone in this journey.  We are not alone in this task.  We are not alone in this great story.  We just have to be willing to be an active part of this tapestry of movement within our world.  We have to trust that even when things look darkest and at their most doubtful that God is with us and we have been given the blessing and the commissioning to go and tell the world about this great God we serve.

What does the Great Commission mean to you?

What are those little nudgings from God about ways to serve or ideas that may seem impossible or people that you just can’t stop thinking about, praying for, and wondering about, or the things you keep wanting to do but putting off?  Often God calls us toward something, long before we answer.  What is God laying upon your heart?  What is holding you back?  Who are the bad guys/girls that your superhero is facing?  What fears and concerns can possibly stand up to the power and majesty of Christ?

May we not push aside or compartmentalize, may we not put off until another day.  May we embrace and wrestle and intentionally wonder and vision and ask God to lead us and guide us as we depend on God’s power and might to carry us forward.