Monday, August 17, 2015

Wired for Community

Last week I was driving home at that time when the sun was just setting behind the tree line. If you drive west ever at sunset, you know that when the sun is about to slip behind the trees there is a moment of temporary blindness.  All you see are the rays of a brilliant sun. On this particular occasion as I drove up the crest of a slight hill, a cyclist broke the summit from the other side. In a moment of panic I swerved slightly in order to not hit him and the two other riders behind him. As I looked in my rear view mirror I saw that none of them wore helmets. I continued driving slowly and wrestled with myself internally, "Do I go back? Do I say something?"
I pulled into the turning lane and second guessing myself pulled back into the driving lane. Then I flipped on my blinker and decided that I needed to turn around and talk to them. I pulled into a neighborhood, turned around and hesitated before making my final decision to go and talk to the kids. 

I followed them down a side street and pulled ahead of them to give myself enough room to get out of my car and address them. 

As they swerved from left to right up the street I called out to them, "Do you know that when riding you should ride with traffic? I didn't see you. I almost hit you!" 
The kids retort was a typical teenager response, "Well I saw you." 

And he continued to ride on. I followed him and told him that that wasn't the point and that I am the one in the large rolling piece of metal that could have hurt him had I not swerved."

He proceeded to apologize and I told him that he needed to be safer on the road and to wear a helmet. I wasn't concerned with his apology as it didn't hurt my feelings, but that had I hit him I would be the one apologizing to their parents.

As most teenagers go, they of course didn't want to hear from some strange adult on the side of the road and kept moseying right along.  But I had to say it, I had to approach them so that they at least heard it somewhere that cyclists when riding on city streets should ride with traffic.

As I've reflected on this situation, I have asked myself, why did I do this? What prompted me to get out of my car and confront teenagers. The answer is because I have been apart of the Kansas City cycling community. As somebody who has used a bicycle as my main means of transportation, I am an advocate for safety when out on the road. I have attended and assisted with bike safety training for children because I feel that so many just see the bicycle as a "fun" piece of equipment. However, it is a vehicle as well and needs to be operated in that manner. Bicycle safety must be taught at a young age. 

Community is so important. We are all a part of different communities and they are essential for us to thrive. God created us for community. God has intended us from the very beginning to be in relationship with one another. When God created humankind, God created us both male and female so we would not be alone. In community, we learn what it means to be in relationship with one another and ultimately with God. When we surround ourselves with people who value the same things, we ultimately end up holding ourselves accountable to one another.

John Wesley, the founder of the unintended Methodist Church, understood this concept. He created bands, class and society meetings where people could meet to hold one another accountable to their spiritual faith walk that would allow them to grow closer to God. It is in small groups where our faith grows. 

In these small communal settings we learn to study the Word together, pray together and live out the gospel together. Together we grow closer to the heart of God.
Creator God,

You are the One who brought order out of chaos.

You are the One who created us in your image. You created us, both male and female because you knew that through relationship we thrive. Through our relationships we learn what it means to be in relationship with you. This life that you have given us is such a blessing God and we want always to please you and live into the lives that you’ve given us.

But you know how we are. Sometimes we remove ourselves from one another. Sometimes we hide away from those that can help us grow closer to you. When we find ourselves looking inward, we pull ourselves far away from you. We fracture into pieces and we go our separate way. Forgive us God for all those times when we lose sight of the life you’ve intended for us.

As a part of a community of your followers God, you taught us that when we come together we should pray for one another. So today, God we take these moments of silence to lift up to you all those who are suffering whether in mind body and spirit…

Teach us God to walk in your path. Teach us to be your presence in the lives of those we meet daily.

We ask all these things in the name of your Son Jesus Christ who taught us to pray…

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Defeating Self Talk - 3/15/15

When I was in High School I suffered from very low self-esteem. In fact, this issue persisted into college and I was a master at self-doubt and demeaning self-talk. I never thought I was very smart so when I wanted to contribute in class discussions, I would often sit trying to convince myself to speak up and say something. More often than not, the opportunity would pass and then I’d beat myself up even more and tell myself that I just didn’t quite measure up.
This negative self-talk eventually took its toll on me and in my mid-twenties I struggled with pretty bad bouts of depression.
But God touched my heart and on a random Sunday I attended church with my grandparents and the Scripture lesson that day was from Romans 5.

8…God proves his love for us in that while we [were still] sinners Christ died for us. 9Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him… 10For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.

It wasn’t until I took the time to listen to God rather than my own voice that I began to realize that I AM good enough. God loves me so much so that God would send himself into the world and then die for me.

In this moment of listening, I felt all the feelings of fear of unworthiness lifted.

I let the voice of God fill me with assurance.

Does that mean that I don’t experience moments of negative self-talk? 
No, absolutely not.

I find that I need those moments of silence to let God’s love fill me up. I need moments like an hour of worship to connect with God through raising my voice in praise and thanksgiving.

I need moments to be here with all of you offering our prayers together.

So, I invite you in this moment to join me in conversation with God – let’s pray:

Pastoral Prayer
God of strength,
You are ever present in our lives, you guide us and lift us up in times of doubt and struggles. As your people we strive to constantly turn to you, to hear your voice amid the voices that tell us that we aren’t good enough… amid our own voices that so often drown you out. Help us Lord to take moments of silence and reflection so that we can hear your voice, your voice that assures us.
We have been created in your image and we know deep down that your love is boundless. You want all that is good for us, you want our lives to be abundant.
So God, we ask that you help us turn our hearts always to you.
We ask that you help us to be aware of your constant love.
Remind us daily of how you see us.
Remind us that we are worthy and that with you by our side there is nothing to be afraid of.
We put our trust in you God, knowing that you will deliver us.
Today, we lift all that is on our hearts and minds as we pray the prayer that your son taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name; they kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Second Sunday in Advent

Every week I craft a prayer for our church services. Instead of just keeping them quiet, I thought I'd share them. So here is this past weekend's prayer:

Have you ever been to someone’s house leading up to Christmas and noticed the gifts that extend beyond the wide branches of the Christmas tree?
Do you ever think to yourself, and Santa hasn’t been here yet either???
I don’t have a children… yet, but I do understand already wanting to give my future daughter everything she could want or need. I’ve already found myself wanting to buy her Christmas presents and she’s not even here yet.
I’ve had to stop myself and say, really Angie? Does she need that? Or is it me that WANTS that because it’s so cute??? 
I have to stop and think that the first thing she is going to need is her parent’s love and comfort.
One of the things that I have actually begun is reading one of those rhythmic Baby Bibles to her and saying nightly prayers because I want her to know how much God already loves her.
I want her to know that the ultimate present she could ever have is the love of God and the gift that has been given through the incarnation, life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
During this busy holiday season, I hope that we all take time to remember that gift: The greatest present of all that God has given us.
Will you pray with me?

Pastoral Prayer
God of abundant life, you have blessed us with so many gifts and we give you thanks. We give you thanks for the gift of life that you have given to us through your Son Jesus Christ. You are the ultimate provider and you fulfill our lives. But during this Season as we await with anticipation the celebration of your gift to us, we find ourselves too busy with preparations. We find ourselves overspending of presents so that we can provide our children and loved one with material things that we think will make them happy, when really it is you that is often needed most. God, we ask for your forgiveness when we pull away from you and forget that you are the focus of this season, you are the one that truly loves us.
God, we know that your Spirit is upon us, you have called us to work alongside you to bring good news to the poor, to liberate those captive to darkness. You love is our strength. Through you we can do all things, you surround us with constant forgiveness and love.
And we offer to you now our prayers for healing for those in our lives who need you most.

God, we lift up those on our hearts. Help them to know that you are ever present with them. Help us be faithful witnesses to your law of love and unity.
We ask these things in your son’s Holy name, Amen. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

MIssio Dei

Preparing for Local Ministries: Required. Meet weekly with a group of fellow students to share our experiences within our ministry settings. Easy and fun.
Christian Traditions (or the History of the church): Required. To be an effective pastor, you should have a working knowledge of the History of the church.
Biblical Hebrew: Elective. I like to challenge myself with languages, and writing right to left!
Missions of the Church in the Contemporary World:  A Church and Society required course. This course is a practical course for church management.

These are my seminary classes this fall and the course I am most excited about is the Mission of the Church in the Contemporary World (Hebrew is a close second) and it is incredibly fitting now that I have stepped into the role of Director of Missions at a church that values service and living for others. Yesterday I began reading the first required book for this class, and the first question the author asked was, is the service the church is engaging in the mission of that particular local church or is the service being engaged in, truly adhering to God's mission? Wow! Sometimes, I think that when we go into service and living for others, we forget that when we volunteer to do church work, we are ultimately working as vessels by which God's mission for his world is achieved.

When I first started this position, I thought to myself, what is it we are doing as a church that embodies living for others? We definitely have people that are going out regularly to be in service, but are we going out because as followers of Christ we strive to affect transformation in the lives or others? Or are we going out because it makes us feel better about ourselves, or because it keeps us busy and out of trouble?

From what I have seen from those who are actively going into the mission field every day (and yes, the mission field can be found in our own community), I see the passion for Christ as the driving force. I see our congregation actively engaged in bringing God's kingdom and his will to earth. And this excites me!

This past month I have been working with a group of individuals for our upcoming Every1Serve which is scheduled for Saturday, October 5th. The challenge I gave everyone was to make sure they know why exactly they are engaging in service that day and to be able to tell all those who step up to volunteer for various projects what exactly they are doing, and most importantly why. I believe that you can ask anybody to work and most people can and will work. However, I believe even more ardently that when you tell someone why they are working, you can really inspire them to live for others when they see how their work is bringing about God's mission.

That is why each project and organization for Every1Serve has a definite mission that strives to transform lives. We are all called into ministry, to love and care for our sisters and brothers no matter where they are in their journey with God. I wanted us to really focus on transformation. I want us to not focus so much on carrying out the mission of our local church but to carry out the mission of our most loving God. We are called to love one another and being in service to our neighbors, even our enemies, affects change in the heart of God's children, including those of us who choose to serve.

I look forward to this upcoming Every1Serve. We have worked hard to secure a variety of projects for all ages and skill levels. I keep saying to everyone, this is called EveryONEServe, not JustafewServe. I hope that everyone who is available on October 5th, will step into service for a few hours that day and prepare to be amazed at how God can work through you to bring his healing grace and power to those in need.