God Created YOU

We are launching into a trilogy series called “Chosen.”

Part One: Running to You

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July 8th – “Chosen:  Running to You” God Created You.

July 17th – “Chosen:  Running to You” God chooses us just as we are.

July 24th – “Chosen:  Running to You” God chooses us FOR something.

Part Two: Choosing You

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July 31st – “Chosen:  Choosing You” We choose to follow Jesus.

August 7th – “Chosen:  Choosing You” We choose to step out.

August 14th – “Chosen:  Choosing You” We choose to be restored.

Part Three: Chosen to Act

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August 21st – “Chosen to Act” Chosen to share the Good News.

August 28th – “Chosen to Act” Chosen to bring light.

September 4th – “Chosen to Act” Chosen to love the world.

Psalm 139

The Inescapable God

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15     My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end—I am still with you.

19 O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
20 those who speak of you maliciously,
and lift themselves up against you for evil!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

This passage is titled “The Inescapable God.”

inəˈskāpəb(ə)l/

adjective

adjective: inescapable

  1. unable to be avoided or denied.
synonyms: unavoidable, inevitable, unpreventable, ineluctable, inexorable;

assured,sure, certain, guaranteed;

necessary, required, compulsory, mandatory;

rareineludible

“meeting the future in-laws is inescapable”

Meeting the future in-laws is definitely inescapable and I’m glad that I have good ones.  God’s love is unavoidable, compulsory, unpreventable….Do you find comfort in this or discomfort?  It sort of depends on how you see God or the nature of God.  If you see God as an all loving, omnipresent (all present), and omnipotent (all knowing) that’s our strength and our shield and a very present help in times of trouble, you are comforted by this Psalm.  You realize that even though God knows all you’ve done and said and the things you’ve hidden away and the deepest recesses of your heart, God loves you anyway.  Jesus scatters your sins from the east to the west and they’re not held against you anymore by grace alone.  Christ is the victor over all evil and injustice in this world and we work with the Holy Spirit to bring God’s kingdom to earth.  If your view of God is a task-master, one that checks off like Santa if you do this naughty thing, or that, or if you simply don’t trust God because what you see God doing in the world seems so unfair, unjust, and unfathomable, then you have an entirely different picture of who God is.  Scriptures abound painting with  all kinds of different strokes about the nature of God, but if you take the full picture, the full painting, you begin to see that God is longing for us to return home.  Just like the father in the familiar prodigal sermon.  God’s longing for us to come home so that God can throw a party just as the father did in the story.

This points to what United Methodists call prevenient grace.  God woos us to God’s self, even before we knew, even before we are aware of it.  God seeks each of us out to have a relationship with God.  God calls us where we are, in all of the mire and muck of sin, and as Jeremiah 18:1-4 says, “18 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.”  God, as the potter, has the power to make all things new.  As Isaiah 64:8 says, “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”  God creates each of us and calls us each by name.  God cares about each of us.  God seeks the heart of each of us.  To give us hope and a future.

8th grade was a very difficult year for me.  My dad was a United Methodist pastor so we moved the summer before my eighth grade year.  The exact wrong time to move if you’re a 5 foot 11 ½ inch girl and none of the guys at your school had hit their growth spurt yet.  I grew to this height in seventh grade, but we had been in the Hartsville schools for 7 years, but when we moved to Cheraw I was fresh meat.  My nicknames abounded that year:  giraffe, Olive Oil, stick.  They made fun of me for my long fingers and after a dance where some people had gone through my purse, I went home crying and being oh so dramatic and yelling at the top of my lungs to my parents, “I hate this town and everyone in it!”  I wanted to go “home” to Hartsville.  I felt out of place and wanted my old friends, old church and the familiar status quo.  Have you ever felt like an outsider?  That you didn’t belong?  Like Dorothy did you realize there’s no place like home.  It’s easy for adolescents to feel that way.  To hope that some day they will find a place where they fit.  As a teenager I always searched for this mythical home.  Even writing about it when I was 17 in a poem titled “My “Ganny’s.”

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This place has been my haven, through life’s many storms

A constant place of refuge, where things are close and warm

It’s seen my tears, it’s seen my smiles, and it’s picked me up each time

The one place that has never changed in the journey of my life

When I have felt lost – no real “home” – and confused

Or when I thought my heart was broken and my soul had been stripped bare

I go through life as a little child trying to keep on her disguise

But in these walls my face lights up for this is where my strength and hope lies

Things are brighter, life more precious, feelings really matter

Here I find my true self, amidst the family’s chatter

This place is not a castle, a mansion, or a dream

What makes it great is not itself but the things that are unseen

The simple words full of wisdom, lack of pretense, and genuine love for people and each other

Are the things I admire and respect about my grandfather and grandmother

Although I can’t say I have the pleasure of living here from day to day

This place is my strength and my rock and in my heart it will stay

A place given from God to me, to help me light my way

A place where I can dance and sing, a secret hiding place

Everyone needs a refuge, a place to feel free and loved

There’s always a light, open door, some chocolate cake and a hug

People need a “Ganny’s” to escape our stress-filled world

A home that shows the love and grace of Jesus Christ our Lord

Everyone should have a safe space, where they can simply be.  Simply relax.  Simply to take off the armor we sometimes carry around in our day to day lives.  Whether it is a societal shield or a learned behavior, to protect us from further wounding or to hide our hurt.  Why do we remember only the negative things years later, but we forget the praises in a heartbeat?  Why do we carry around our wounds?  When the great God of the Universe created us and calls us for a purpose.  God created YOU.  God created Me.  With all of our persnicketies and peculiarities.

We have to LET IT GO, as Elsa sings, or as Taylor Swift sings, SHAKE IT OFF.  We have to stop all of the negative tapes in our heads that we’re not good enough, we’re not worthy, we’re not strong enough, we’re not….enough.  Because that’s just Satan trying to keep us silent and feeling bad about ourselves.  Our baggage is the stuff we carry; the stuff we can’t shake.  At times, we carry it so long it becomes a part of us.  We begin repeating it in our heads in our litany of why we can’t do something.  It holds us back.  It holds us down.  It enslaves us, keep us in bondage, preventing us from being who God truly wants us to be.  Who God truly created us to be.  It can either be mistakes we’ve made or things that we’ve been subjected to be others.  Nevertheless, it’s a pain festering inside of us, an open festering wound. It’s time to let go and let God.  That’s where the healing begins.

It’s time to lay them all down at the feet of Jesus and he can play new words on the tape players of our hearts.

You are chosen.

You are beloved.

You are my beautiful creation.

You don’t have to DO anything to have my love.  You don’t have to BE anything to have my love.  I’m your home.  The place you belong is is resting in my love and grace.  You can hang out there forever.

If you’ve been carrying around these wounds, this baggage inside – take a moment and consider freedom from those things.  If you know someone carrying around this baggage, pray for them and that God will give you the courage and the words to ask them to lay their fears, worries, tapes, baggage at the feet of Jesus.

I’m reminded of the words from Paul encouraging Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:6-10.  “For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear.  God wants to take away our burdens.  God wants to be our refuge.  A very present help in times of trouble.  Don’t let anyone tell you who you are.  Tell them Whose you are and rest in that.  I know what I’m saying is easier said than done.  Some of us hold tight to our woundings like familiar, old security blankets.  Ask God to work on that with you.  God created your inmost thoughts, God knows everything about you, and God desires to give you abundant life in Christ.  Not a half life.

We cannot love our neighbors with God’s agape love until we first love ourselves with God’s agape love.  That sacrificial love that is exemplified as Christ dying for our sins.  So whatever your burdens are….Whatever separates you from feeling the love of God….ask God to reveal it to you….whatever baggage you carry with you….ask God to free you from it in Jesus’ name.  As Mother Teresa says, “When you know how much God is in love with you then you can live your life radiating that love.”  I want us all to radiate the love of God.  I’m praying as it says in Micah that we all seek to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.  Aberjhani, in Journey through the Power of the Rainbow says, “Love is our most unifying and empowering common spiritual denominator. The more we ignore its potential to bring greater balance and deeper meaning to human existence, the more likely we are to continue to define history as one long inglorious record of man’s inhumanity to man.”

I will tell you if you let go and let God in, God doesn’t promise to take the pain away, God doesn’t promise it will be easy, God doesn’t promise you will not be challenged and face all that the world throws at you, but God promises to be with you.  In Psalm 139:18, “I come to the end – I am still with you.”  These are the words of David, but they could express the emotion and commitment of Martin Luther King Jr. as well. The “end” nearly came sooner than later.

The year was 1968. The place: Memphis, Tennessee. Elvis Presley is living at Graceland with his wife Priscilla and newborn daughter Lisa Marie, and is enjoying the Grammy he has just won for his second gospel album, “How Great Thou Art.” In the minds of many, he is “The King.”

Another King comes to town on April 3, 1968. Several death threats have been directed at King, and tension is high, but he feels that it is important to press ahead and speak at a rally on behalf of the sanitation workers. In the course of this address, he tells the story of an earlier attempt on his life, one that brought him perilously close to death. According to Ralph Abernathy, his friend and successor, Martin Luther King stood up that night and just “preached out” his fear.

“You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up. The only question I heard from her was, “Are you Martin Luther King?” And I was looking down writing, and I said yes. And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that’s punctured, you drown in your own blood, that’s the end of you.

It came out in The New York Times the next morning, that if I had sneezed, I would have died. [Some time] after the operation, after my chest had been opened and the blade taken out, they allowed me to move around … and to read the mail that had come in from all over the states and the world. Kind letters had come in. I read a few, but one I will never forget. I had received telegrams from the president and vice president, but I have forgotten what those messages said. I received a visit and a letter from the governor of New York, but I forgot what was said.

But there was another letter that came from a young girl at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I will never forget it. It said simply, “Dear Dr. King: I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School.” She said, “While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I am a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing to you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.”

And I want to say tonight, I want to say that I [too] am happy that I didn’t sneeze.”

In his autobiography he wrote, “If I demonstrated unusual calm during the attempt on my life, it was certainly not due to any extraordinary powers that I possess. Rather, it was due to the power of God working through me. Throughout this struggle for racial justice I have constantly asked God to remove all bitterness from my heart and to give me the strength and courage to face any disaster that came my way. This constant prayer life and feeling of dependence on God have given me the feeling that I have divine companionship in the struggle. I know no other way to explain it. It is the fact that in the midst of external tension, God can give an inner peace.”

He died the next day after giving that speech in Memphis.  In the course of his life, Martin Luther King walked through many dangers, toils and snares, but through it all he knew that God was walking with him. He had the very same faith as the writer of Psalm 139, the ancient poet who said to the Lord, “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.”

After this week of unspeakable tragedy in our nation, “sides” being picked in our offices, homes and especially on social media, and children being afraid to go outside and play in their yards, we can draw comfort from the knowledge that God made each and every one of us, God is with each and every one of us, and God works all things together for God for those who love God.  God was with those who were shot, God was with the people at the rally in Dallas, God is with the ones that are recovering, God is with their families, God is with each of us as we grapple with the who’s, why’s, and how’s, as we explain such events to our children. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

I will close with this prayer that Beth A. Richardson wrote after the awful tragedy and deadly violence in Orlando.

The news is bad.
We are outraged and horrified.
We are shocked and afraid.
We are overwhelmed and numb.
How many more times will we awake to such news?

Some of us sit in front of the television,
Search the internet for stories,
Watch, listen for something
That will help make sense,
That will soothe or comfort,
That will bring order back again.

Some of us can’t bear the words, the images.
The press conferences and scrolling news feeds
Freeze our brains, our hearts, our guts.

Some of us pray.
Some of us escape.
Some of us rage.
Some of us cry.

God, have mercy on our world.
Have mercy on the powerless and the powerful.
Have mercy on the first responders and those in ministry to the brokenhearted.
Have mercy on the victims, their families, their friends.

Sit with us in our terror, our sadness, our hopelessness.
And let us hold the space for others as we
Sit or cry, light candles or pray,
In solidarity, in hope, in love.
Amen.

You are chosen.  God created you in God’s image.  God created all of us in the image of God and freely forgives us no matter the baggage, no matter the doubt, no matter what.  You are loved.  Don’t let anyone or anything wrestle that fact away from you.  You are a beloved child of God, a fearfully and wonderfully made creation.  May we all feel , after this particularly hard week, God’s tangible love for each of us that calls us to a new, higher way, when we will all journey home.

LOVE – Songs of my Soul for Now

In an hour I go to the hospital for my second brain surgery and it feels super surreal to write that.  I wanted to post a quick blog before I go to say thank you to everyone who is praying and who has been supporting us.  We can feel your love and the community surrounding us!

I spent this past week with 30+ students from Gator Wesley touring around the state of Florida doing our Spring Tour – singing, dancing, rocking out, reading scripture and so much more.  There’s a song that they sing in one of the sets (and I love the mash up that they do) called “Set a Fire” by United Pursuit Band and one of the lines says, “There’s no place I’d rather be…but here in Your love…”  I’ve felt that from each of you.

Campus ministry is this crazy special place where things intersect – struggles, fears, hopes, dreams, silly Vine videos, lots of laughter, and experiences that both challenge and inspire. The students this week have inspired the heck out of me.  I’ve been ministered to in their music and their passion and their faith, and even more than that in their zest for life!  There weren’t many stops during this tour where I didn’t feel moved in some way and though I couldn’t figure out how to share that with them without becoming a blubbering hot mess, I want to let them know how special this week was for me.  Even the trampolines.  And the cold water of the spring when knocked off a raft.

Two of the songs that they’ve been singing are two favorites of mine that I’ve been holding dear over the past few weeks.  They didn’t know that when they picked the songs how much they have been resonating with me and yet again, I know that God is weaving all of this together in mighty ways.  The first is Meredith Andrews’ “Not for a Moment.”

And the second is by an amazing band that we hosted here at Gator Wesley called Bellarive.  It’s their song, “Taste of Eternity.”

These have been the songs of my heart.  Worship taps into a place that breaks down the barriers that we place.  It digs in between the walls that we’ve built to protect ourselves and the layers of stress and muck that this world provides.  May the scales on our hearts and our eyes be removed that we may see God more clearly and know God more fully, as God draws us to God’s self.  I know that no matter what happens today, I know that I am God’s and God is ever in the midst working things together for good.

Y’all have humbled me speechless with all of your texts, facebook messages, tweets, and cards and I hope that each of you feels the love, hugs, fist pumps, and high fives that we have for you!  Thanks for being on this journey with me.

Much love!

Cheers to a new haircut!

Grace and Peace,

Narcie

Marked with the Holy Spirit

Yesterday the online Upper Room’s focus verse was Ephesians 1:13, “When you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in [Christ, you] were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.” What an appropriate text the day after Ash Wednesday as we boldly navigate this Lenten journey.

I love how the Holy Spirit shows up in the unexpected. Actually, sometimes I’m most surprised when the Holy Spirit shows up in the obvious places. Like a worship service. Dinner. Even a board meeting. Tonight we had our Wesley Board Meeting and our fellowship dinner and program night, followed by a joint prayer/worship service with BCM (Baptist Collegiate Ministry) and CRU (Campus Crusade).

I admit that I started off the day pretty well. One of the students even said I looked more rested and alive today. (Pretty good praise for a Thursday.) But by the afternoon as the students went to enjoy a game of sand volleyball by Winthrop Lake, my sinus infection had turned into a monster of a headache and I was just D for Done.

I can’t say that the headache went away or that everything went exactly smoothly and perfectly but I could definitely feel the presence of God as Jon talked about his calling into ministry and we as a board got to send him with our approval to the District Committee on Ministry to be a certified candidate. I could tangibly hear and see the wonder of this special community as students shared over dinner, relaxed, hung out and chatted everywhere, and generally looked like they were right at home. And then as we began to make our way to the Winthrop Amphitheater for a joint prayer service with BCM and CRU – none of us knowing exactly what this would be like – but coming along anyway – I was struck in wonder by the beautiful night sky, a chance to worship with fellow believers on campus, and an opportunity to not be the one in charge, but a participant.

You see we were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit. Even with our sinus headaches, our thank God it’s Thursdays, and our exhaustion, God still shows up, guiding and leading us in the midst. It’s not just something that’s a maybe – it’s a promise.

Where did God show up for you today? Was it when things were going super smooth or a little rocky?

What We Believe

Some folks have asked about the “What We Believe” that we say every week in The Journey worship service.  It’s posted below.  Share or use as you will.

We believe in God, our Creator and Loving Parent, who shapes and molds us calling us forth to new life and new beginnings.  We believe in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, who walks with us through life’s journeys showing us the way, the truth and the life.  We believe in the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Comforter, who blows peace, strength, and perseverance over our lives.  We believe that our faith is not merely a set of words or hollow sayings, but that it is life-giving and life-changing bringing God’s kingdom to earth.  Amen.

Your Love

I’m sitting in my office this morning not really knowing where to start.  There are preparations that need to happen for our Fall Break trip next week to New York for a human trafficking seminar, the protest we’re going to tomorrow, CROP Walk next week and the next, and Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week.  I am feeling discouraged and frustrated and tired and I have to admit, a little angry.

Angry?  Do you ask?  No idea.  Maybe it’s all the layers and layers of things that have been heavy on my heart.  Maybe it’s feeling like it is always one step forward and two steps back.  Maybe it’s being tired of constantly being pulled in different directions and feeling like I’m having to absolutely fight tooth and nail for so much.  Or maybe I’m just melodramatic.  Could be.

The text I’m preaching this Sunday is Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 where Jeremiah is writing the remaining elders and all the other folks in exile.  It’s an encouraging text in my mind because it shows yet again that even as the people are in exile, God is with them.  They face the consequences of being in exile but God encourages them not to just sit and wait and do nothing but be miserable, but to settle in there and not just put roots there but to pray for this place and these people that they have been exiled to live with.

I also find it fascinating that this passage comes before the oft-quoted verse 11 – “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”  It continues on to verse 14 speaking of God’s faithfulness even in the midst of the present circumstance or consequence. 

Everywhere I look there is an answer to prayer whether it be for my health or for our new air conditioner or the improvement with Enoch’s speech delay or the countless people stepping up to help Wesley.  There are blessings all over the place and I am thankful.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m not human and discouraged and frustrated and angry at times.

The awesome thing about our God is that we can be angry.  We can be frustrated to be in exile.  We can be sad or yell or whatever.  And as Romans 8 on my bulletin board says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.  And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes….”

A friend posted this video on my facebook wall the other day and I LOVE it.  We can get bogged down by the overwhelming to do list, the people that just aren’t happy with anything, the neverending demands for our time and attention, and our stark insecurities and inabilities but it all boils down to God’s love.  All of the petty who likes me or agrees with me this week or am I in the cool crowd or not or the I’m just doing the best I can.  God’s love is that thing that to me answers all the questions that roll around in my brain.  All of the fears.  The what ifs.  The wish I could have done better with thats. 

Isaiah 41:10 says, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

More than the Good Samaritan

So Sunday I preached the Luke 10:25-37 text which is commonly known as the Good Samaritan text.  I remember learning about the Good Samaritan in Sunday School with the felt board and little characters at Wesley Chapel.  When you’re a kid though you don’t get the inside info of the beginning piece of the lawyer asking Jesus “What do I need for eternal life?” or the back and forth of the conversation, and I totally don’t remember getting the big deal of this being a person from Samaria being the one to help.  All I know as a child was that this person was hurt on the road and needed help and yet these two people that were supposed to be the godly ones kept walking past while this other guy actually stopped, helped and supported the hurt person.  Pretty simple lesson right?  You want to be the one that stops and helps and not the don’t make eye contact, keep hurrying along people.

We watch The Bachelorette every Monday night.  Yes I know that is trashy television, some believe it’s scripted, they almost always break up, it’s contrived, etc., etc.  But I still love the show and when you can fast forward the yucky parts including most of the rose ceremony – it ain’t half bad.  Anyway, right after The Bachelorette they have this insane show that gets on my absolute nerves called True Beauty.  The whole premise is that these contestants think they’re trying to win a chance to be “The Face of Vegas” and they do all these challenges and everything, but the real contest is all these hidden cameras shooting them and showing what they’re really made of.  You see, they’re supposed to have beauty not just on the outside but on the inside as well.  So it records if they’ll cheat to get ahead or if they’re trash talking behind someone’s back or if they, just like the Good Samaritan, help those in need right in front of them or they just keep walking.  We didn’t end up watching the whole show because we wanted to catch up on some Leverage, but we caught the last 5 minutes where the poor girl was eliminated because she did cheat at the challenges, she did trash talk and she didn’t bother to help a mother trying to take care of her child and load luggage into her car, while the other contestant did.

So in thinking about the Good Samaritan I think about True Beauty.  If our lives were recorded every day what would the verdict be for us?  Would we have true beauty or would we cheat, trash talk, and keep walking when there’s an obvious need that we could do something about?  Lord only knows.  Literally.  I mean you’ve been waiting in a line at a red light with the other cars and someone’s trying to raise money for the Humane Society or the local Fire Department or some other group.  Do you readily give or do you do like I sometimes do and suddenly you get very busy changing the radio station, digging in your purse, or texting someone on your phone.  Do not make eye contact.

What I like about this text is that it’s not just about the story.  It starts off with that eternal life question and then it digs deep into the law – straight from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, “Hear O Israel:  The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.  Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.  Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.  Bind the as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”  And the other law follows – to love your neighbor as yourself.

On Sunday I took a blue sharpie marker and wrote on my palm the word “LOVE” for the children’s sermon.  There’s just something about those words in Deuteronomy about writing this as a sign on your hand or an emblem on your forehead.  Some of us might think wait a sec I don’t want to toot my horn and put all this stuff out there like I’m somehow better than other folk.  Or maybe it’s like many a pastor including me that has said I don’t want to put anything on my car – fish, bumper sticker, or clergy sticker – because I sure don’t drive like I should.  If we wrote something on our hand or on our forehead reminding us to love God and love neighbor – would that help remind us?  would that make us pause before we look away?  would that make us see the world a little differently?

The new Senior Pastor at St. John’s said some wise words the other day.  If the church isn’t going to really welcome people, we might as well take welcome off the door.  That’s made me think a lot.  We just took down our two welcome signs at Wesley so that we could paint and add some new ones.  It definitely makes you think.  If we’re not going to live it, we sure as heck better not say we do.  That’s a challenge to each of us.

What would they show on your True Beauty?  None of us get it right all the time, but I’d like to think we’re at least striving towards it with God’s grace.  What situations challenge you to show love?  patience?  grace?

It’s a New Day

I played Michael Buble’s Feeling Good a couple months ago at church.  Can’t remember the text at this point but it was about the swagger.  There’s a certain swagger to Michael Buble and this song and I think there’s often a certain swagger to the new day that was created in the resurrection.  When Easter came -” it really was a new dawn, a new day, a new life.”  Not that I’m actually picturing Jesus swaggering.  Can’t imagine him in a rat pack hat.  Not even “Buddy Jesus” a la Dogma.  But there is a certain swagger to this new day that has been created.  A day where we have hope.  A day where we aren’t just talking in metaphors and imagery, but we are God’s people here on earth trying to live into the already and not yet of God’s kingdom now.  Among us.

That is a powerful thing.  We’re not just all hanging out down here and doing the best we can for the heck of it.  We’ve been charged with bringing God’s kingdom to earth – that’s pretty weighty and scary and awesome and humbling.  It’s a new day – “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or fre, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galations 3:28)  No more do we have to bow down to classism or sexism or racism or whatever else.  No more do we have to just assume things are going to go on being and doing as they always have.  No more do we have to wait for someone else to stand up and make a difference.  It’s a new day for each of us.  It’s a new time for each of us.  It’s a new opportunity for each of us to really know each other and meet needs and get connected and become community.

Shane Claiborne’s article about inter-dependence day said it much better then I could so here’s a link http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shane-claiborne/this-july-4th-lets-celebr_b_633710.html.  In thinking about college campuses and what gets someone through the door of a campus ministry – what gets folks to seek community – what makes that connection – I can’t help but look towards the fall semester.  I know that having that community around you is vital in college life.  Having fellow journeyers with you is essential and I can’t fathom not having that support.  But how in a world where everyone feels connected (hello facebook, twitter, myspace, whatever the latest trend is) do you actually show the importance of real relationships and the vital news that we as a community, as a body of believers can make real change in the world?

I love Michael Buble’s song because of it’s implications for our Christian walk, but I also love it for this coming school year because we’re doing some things a little bit different at Winthrop Wesley.  Change is scary people.  Let me tell you.  I love how we’ve done things.  I love the students that have been here and are here.  A campus minister friend of mine shared an image that a campus minister shared with him about what campus ministry is like.  It’s like building sand castles in the sand.  As soon as you have a really good looking castle, the waves come and wash it away.  There are pros and cons with that – our “congregation” changes roughly every 4 years and even with students you’ll get the “but we’ve never done it that way before even if it’s been 2 years instead of 30.”  This past year we had a large group of seniors graduate and with some changes to Winthrop’s schedule and with the opening of the new Student Center, the Student Leadership Team and I thought this might be time to make a change.

So we are.  We’re going to mix up our meeting times, we (meaning the lovely Jonathan and Marissa) have painted some of our space, we’re going to do small groups differently and who knows what else differently.  Can’t wait for God to show us how this is going to look because it’s a scary thing stepping out and not doing the same thing that you’ve always done.  The familiar and the natural rhythm can’t be underestimated, but when you know it’s time, you know it’s time.

The main thing we’re doing differently this year is that we’re going to have a mission focus.  We will continue all of our work with social justice in terms of Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week, CROP Walk, and the Potato Drop…it wouldn’t be Wesley if we didn’t have that as our backbone.  But we’re going to spend this year with a focus on Human Trafficking.  I’ve been hearing about this for a couple years now and it is something that has captured my heart.  There is so much information out there and so many different organizations and books and people lifting up this issue it’s unbelievable if you start digging around and yet we’re not hearing about this from the media.  It’s not something commonly talked about.  That is frustrating.  So this year we’re going to learn about human trafficking and then we’re going to do something to help combat the problem any way we can.  This means inviting speakers in.  This means reading books and educating ourselves.  This means we’re going to New York City over Fall Break to the Church Center Building and are going to do a United Methodist Seminar with the amazing folks that coordinate the Seminar Program there.

A song and story that has captured our vision for this is from the band Bluetree and the song is “God of this City.”  If you watch no video I ever post on this thing, watch this one.  Seriously.  It is powerful and he can say it a lot better than I can write it.  It is powerful coming out of the mouths of these Irish folk asking each of us – what are we doing to combat these things (hunger, homelessness, child soldiers, human trafficking) in our world?  If this is a new day, what are we doing to show a hurting world the God that loves them and is very much alive?

Here is a video of the whole song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgQccYki-9Y&NR=1

Here are the words:

You’re God of this city, you’re the King of these people, you’re the Lord of this nation, you are…

You’re the Light in this darkness, you’re the Hope to the hopeless, you’re the Peace to the restless, you are…

For there is none like our God, there is none like You, God!

Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this city!
Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done here.

You’re the Lord of creation, The creator of all things you’re the King above all kings, you are…

You’re the Strength in the weakness, You are Love to the broken, You’re the Joy in the sadness, you are…

For there is none like our God, there is none like you, God!

Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this city!
Where glory shines from hearts alive with praise for You and love for You in this city.

Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this city!
Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done here.

For there is none like our God, there is none like you, God!

Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this city!
Where glory shines from hearts alive with praise for You and love for You in this city.

Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this city!
Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done here.