Coming and Going – Leaping

I talk to my students a lot about not being afraid to take chances, leaps of faith, embrace change. It’s a message that clearly resonates with college students and young adults who are consistently coming and going in residence halls, with roommates, doing internships, studying abroad, and one day graduating and hopefully finding first jobs and new communities.

But as you know, it’s sometimes hard to practice what you preach. It’s hard to move out of comfort zones. It’s hard to put yourself out there. It’s hard to rock the boat.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. Nor does that mean that we’re not called to do it.

On February 29th – ironically – Leap Day – I interviewed for the Pastor/Director position at Gator Wesley in Gainesville, Florida. As y’all know that was a pretty big leap for us but one that we all had prayed about and were excited about – though I admittedly was terrified as well – duh. I was trying to live into what I tell my students a bit and I posted on facebook, “Can’t help but thinking about “leaping” today. I don’t know if one would necessarily leap into Lent or the wilderness, but I hope we can leap into growing on our journey with God, loving in community, and taking risks and acting in faith in our callings and the living of our lives!”

The thing that I love about community and the comings and the goings is that just because things change, that doesn’t mean that what was shared wasn’t precious or that love and life and story shared just goes away. But we continue to journey and take risks and answer callings.

So in that vein – we “leaped.” The Jeter fam will be moving to Gainesville this summer and someone else will be leaping to Winthrop Wesley. Prayers for these comings and goings and a huge thanks to all of those fellow journeyers out there! May we all be ready to leap when God opens a window!

Link to my leaving announcement on the Winthrop Wesley blog: http://wuwesley.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/announcement-from-narcie/

Drawing Closer – Lenten Journey

I have been being slack in my blog posts and I promise to do better in Lent. Below is a post I wrote on the Winthrop Wesley blog (wuwesley.wordpress.com) that I am posting here as well because in the days to come I may need some accountability as I am led by the Holy Spirit of what this 40 days of wilderness will be.

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Our text at this past week’s worship service was James 1:19-27 which is a familiar part of James. Verse 22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.”

It’s a passage that is lifted up in a lot of Protestant congregations and we looked at it in particular leading up to today, Ash Wednesday.

Last week I had the honor and joy to speak at a conference for young adults in ministry. Relevance LEAD was a great time of talking with other pastors and lay people in ministry that were my age, to dream about the possibilities and life of the church, and to share in friendship, community building and collegiality. It was a special time. And something completely different than a typical conference as the speakers were part of the conference just like everyone else and we all have a vested interest in sharing these ideas and musings.

I liked that it was set up to dream big dreams and engage but there was another part of me that kept itching for the nuts and bolts, what would happen when the rubber hits the road. Each person was wrestling with similar things and were living out their faith and that of their community in mighty ways, but it still begged the question of what this means for our greater church. I felt a bit like James – let’s not just talk about this and know that we all feel in similar ways, but let’s do it.

It’s all well and good to talk the big talk, but if we go back home from this conference and it doesn’t change how we think or how we do things, if we don’t take away friendships that will continue as we journey together, if we don’t actually begin the first steps of these big dreams – what’s the point? It’s good to know that you’re not alone, but if we stay completely in the theoretical, than it can sometimes just be hot air and words.

Just like this Lenten season. I’ve heard students buzzing about what they’re giving up for Lent and that seems like the big question of the next couple of days. I admit, I didn’t grow up with a huge emphasis on giving things up or adding things to my life and I didn’t really do it until college. One of those years I gave up popcorn, which was my current obsession. The next year, I gave up M&M Mcflurries. Now that was all well and good and I think I could rationalize them as a step to be healthy but even that would be a stretch with all of the rest of the junk I eat.

You see, it’s not just about what we give up or add – it’s about whether those things draw us closer to God. Several of our students have talked about giving up facebook. One is giving up three hours a day with her phone – not just class time or when she’s asleep, but three hours where she won’t be checking it all the time. She plans on this being time where she can draw closer to God. Another student has covenanted to intentionally pray three times a day for the season of Lent. If you’re just giving up chocolate or ice cream or coffee for the heck of it and it’s not something that’s drawing you closer to God – what’s the point? I get the idea of sacrifice but I also think if we just do the sacrifice and we’re not adding things like reading scripture, doing a daily devotion, writing down things that we’re thankful for, renewing an old friendship, sending words of encouragement to friends, or walking in the outdoors with God in nature – than we’re fooling ourselves into thinking that we have this thing covered. It’s not about choosing something so that if someone asks us about it – we can give a ready made answer, but choosing something because we have invited the Holy Spirit into our lives and have opened ourselves to see the areas that we might need to work on.

One of the students Monday night after worship described it as a giant Pinterest board where you’ve “pinned” all these different things and they look nice and easy and like things that you would like to do “one day,” but you never actually get around to doing them. James is saying – do it now. Lent is calling us forth to realizing that yes we are dust and to dust we will return, but in the meantime let us draw close to God and walk this road.

My brother Josh is doing a Lenten series called “Holy Walkabout” and I love the idea of Lent being this special time where we’re walking with God into the wilderness. We don’t always know what we’re going to discover or the ways that God will reveal God’s self. We don’t always know what areas we need to work on in our lives because I don’t know about you, but I’m a pretty good rationalizer. I would say that I’m exceptional when it comes to finding ways to eat junk food. It defeats the purpose of Lent for me to negotiate back and forth if this counts or if that counts. Because when we open ourselves to the Spirit’s leading and we actually go all in with this thing, we realize that it’s not just about us or having something to say when people ask, but it’s about wanting to be part of this larger story of God’s love and grace for us and how we can best live that out so that the world may know God.

So are you going to keep pinning the things that you want to do on a giant to do list to do eventually or you going to actually start chipping away at some of these possibilities right now?

God’s not going to hand out gold stars for those that participate and unsmiley faces for those that don’t. It’s not about that. But it is about deepening that relationship and trusting that real change, habitual change can take place in 40 days.

So think about it…ask the Holy Spirit to come and guide you…what are some ways you can draw close to God this Lenten season? What are some things that hinder or road block your relationship? What are some ways that we can intentionally live out our faith right now?

Dig in.

Nicaragua Mission Trip

For some reason – this didn’t post when we were in Nicaragua a few weeks ago….oh the internet.  But here it is a bit late.  If you want to check out more postings from Nicaragua from me and the students, check out http://www.wuwesley.wordpress.com!

Winthrop Wesley is in Nicaragua for the week working at the Center for Development in Central America with the Jubilee House Community.  Although I’m not someone who loves plane flights or the actual travel side of the equation, this is one of my favorite places in the world.  I love the people and the countryside and being here with a group of students discovering and learning and growing.

When we arrived one of the JHC folks, Kathy, asked me what I was most looking forward to, and I didn’t have an answer.  It’s hard to say.  I enjoy the touring stuff we do like the laguna and seeing Pedro through amazingly beautiful pottery and hearing about Managua in the midst of earthquakes and hurricanes and the Contra war.  But one of my favorite things is just being here in the midst of this intentional community where very different people seek to live in community, in fellowship, in life with one another.  It’s an amazing thing to witness their commitment with the poor and the ways they help make things that seem impossible, happen.

Mike (my husband) told Mike (member of JHC) that he thought he was full of it when he said they were going to create the first ever fair trade organic cotton production line from the ground to the gin to the spinning plant to the sewing cooperative.  Fair trade made up cooperatives and organic.  And they’ve done it.  It’s just very cool to see the work of JHC.

We may all be a little hot, a little dirty, and a little worse for wear at times, but it’s a gift to see the students step up and come together in this place.  Watching them learn and grow and be challenged and enjoy this trip is such a beautiful thing.

So this week I may or may not be writing on this blog very much but we’re trying to post daily on the Winthrop Wesley blog – wuwesley.wordpress.com.

As always with these trips I know that I’m going to get much more out of this than I’ll ever be able to give back, but there’s no amount of money or clothes or things that I could give or receive that would ever outweigh the treasure of meeting people, knowing people, dialoguing with people, growing as a community across boundaries.  These are holy moments.

If you want to read more about the work of JHC, go here www.jhc-cdca.org/

 

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?

And Go!

Are you a procrastinator?  Do you put things off until the last minute?  Do you try to eek out every little minute before you need to go somewhere and often arrive barely on time or a little late?  Does this sound like a bad informercial to you?

I am a procrastinator.  Very true.  And it’s gotten worse over the years.  From high school to college to seminary, my procrastination and procrastinating skills increased exponentially.  I think part of my main fear of working on a doctorate one day is that there’s no way I can get any worse at waiting to the last minute.

So tonight is one of those hyper get everything done times.  Tomorrow morning some of the Winthrop, Charleston and Furman Wesley crews will leave for Student Forum in Indiana at 5 am.  This means Narcie needs to wake up at 4 so that I get to Wesley at 4:30 to load up.  This is not a good thing.  I should definitely be in bed right now.  But it’s also a newsletter night.  You know I can rattle off a lot of random nothingness until I need to actually turn in something for print with a deadline.  Nothing makes me not want to do it more.

Why is that?

Why can I languish on the to do list for days on end but wait until a looming deadline or trip or big event or conference to actually start cranking things out?

Now I was not one of the folks thinking we were suddenly going to be raptured this past weekend and I sure hope we don’t see as much news coverage, facebook statuses and other opinions when the new date of October 21st rolls around.  As much as I don’t exactly get where these people were coming from, I can understand the great feeling of getting your life in order.  For me, deadlines or trips or things are those times of organizing things so that I have to get them done.  It’s nice to have things organized.  It’s nice to mark things off the list.  It’s nice to finally do that thing we’ve been dreading whether that’s something big or small, repairing a broken relationship or finally taking that jacket to the dry cleaners.

So no, I’m not leaving with everything done.  I wish.  But this is reality.  However – I’ve done what I need to so that I can go in peace.  And of course try to do something on the way during that long drive.

Maybe we’re not people that believe in a set date for rapture.  I’m not even though I know the Hallelujah chorus is going to be sung at some point and it’s coming.  But, we can try to prepare and plan and keep walking on this journey moving towards that beautiful feeling of contentment and new life and peace and that sense of completion when we have done what we need to do, what we want to do, what we’re called to do.

What’s still on your list?  What’s unfinished for you?  Not just at work, but at home, in your family, in your friendships, in your heart?  It’s easy to look around a house that you’re thinking about selling and see all the things you’ve got to do and that you need to start working on little by little, but it’s harder to look into our lives and do the same thing.

So in the spirit of Spring cleaning and the beginning of summer let’s GO!  Take a break from procrastinating for just a bit and rock it out where God is leading us.

Journey for Parts Unknown

We went on “vacation” last week to Garden City Beach with my family.  Some dear, dear folks have graciously given us use of their condo since I was 6 years old and that has been the greatest blessing!  Enoch has been talking about the beach all summer and it was great for Evy to experience it as well!  The first day she was like ew…sand…yuck, but by the last day she was sitting in the mud as we dug a huge pool, river and pond.  I know, I know – who digs a river…and yes, in high tide, someone probably fell over in that deep hole we dug as the “pool.”  But it was good times!

Why is vacation in quotation marks?  Because when you take a one and a half and three year old to the beach or anywhere for that matter on “vacation” is it really vacation?  Trying to get them to sleep, follow directions, eat, nap and overall keep them sane and occupied is a near miracle and is certainly not restful for anyone.  Last week’s lectionary text from Hebrews (11:1-3, 8-16) begins by talking about faith and uses Abraham as an example as he is given this promise of God and sets out on this journey with his wife Sarah across parts unknown sleeping in tents and not knowing what the next day will bring but having this promise.  Dude.  We can’t even make it to the beach without a gazillion toys, snacks, books, and all of the “stuff” that we need to survive for less than a week. 

On the way to the beach (we left on a Sunday night) and I was exhausted.  Like for real tired.  The kids were asleep cuddled up in their child seats with their stuffed animals and I wanted to fall asleep so badly, but I’ve always been the one to drive to the beach and Mike doesn’t know all the cut throughs to get down there the non-GPS way.  So here I am awake telling him to go down Old Marion Road, no not that light, the next one, etc.  And I’m thinking oh wow – Abraham had no map, had no GPS, had no clearly marked laid out plan, and yet he took off, packed himself and his family up, and trusted God.

That is CRAZY.  There are many of us that are anti-GPS or even anti-google directions or anti-maps.  Some of us like to wander.  Some of us like to discover.  Some of us like the journey.  (Not with two toddlers, mind you…but you get the drift.)  J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “Not all those who wander are lost.”  Dad actually picked up a t-shirt with those words while we were at the beach.  Of course we gave him a hard time for that because that’s what we do since he loves his Mt. Mitchell camping extravaganzas, but I must say that I secretly liked the shirt a lot.  And I’ve always loved that quote.

Sometimes our wandering is part of the journey.  I was thrilled to return home and get our latest Entertainment Weekly out of the mailbox.  I love that magazine.  I do!  Call me crazy but I love stories and I love a magazine that talks about movies, tv, broadway, and books and has great columns with critical thinkers.  Good stuff.  Anyway – so there was a surprise for me in this issue.  I thought my days of getting little nuggets about the tv show Lost were over, but little did I know that with the new collection of dvd’s coming out, I’d get another gift of an article.  Some of you are like why in the world are you still talking about that ridiculous show and others of you are thinking I need to go get me an Entertainment Weekly.  But seriously it totally made sense to me and this text and this place that many of us are in – this journey.  Carlton Cuse one of the Executive Producers who wrote the show’s finale with Damon Lindelof were talking about how the finale was polarizing – some people happy with it and some people feeling like they wasted 6 years of their lives watching it.  He says, “It seems that the people who embraced the show as a journey and were not fixated on answers probably had the better experience with the show.”  Call me crazy but I completely resonate with that right now in terms of real life…

I’m not saying that we don’t wrestle with the big answers and the twists and turns and the why’s because as I’ve said before – God can handle those and God will give us what we need, but I am saying that part of this is the walk that we are on.  Part of this journey, this path is faith.  Faith that some of the big answers will take care of themselves and some may never get answered on this side of life, but faith that the journey – the life of faith that we lead – is enough.  It’s really easy to talk about faith and a lot harder to embrace it.  It’s really easy to talk the big talk about taking the scenic route and trusting our instincts or the leading of the Holy Spirit, but it’s a lot harder to put our money where our mouth is and not take the GPS.  Sometimes our faith leads us in scary directions with no quick Curious George DVD to plug in and a feeling of vertigo, and that’s tough and it’s scary and it’s real, but sometimes those scary places lead us to mountains of the highest heights and views we couldn’t have imagined and memories we will cherish like my prissy and beautiful little Evy with gritty and slimy beach sand all over her happily playing in the muck and loving it.  If we get stuck in place or if we’re too scared to move or if we stick our heads in the sand or are too busy to notice or care – yeah life seems pretty point a to b to c to d, turn left here, stay straight, this is how you get to your next destination.  But if we let go and let the Spirit lead…yep, we may have some twists and turns, yes, turbulence could be ahead, but what a ride.  What a faith that speaks.