"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering." (Romans 12:1, MSG)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Happy birthday, Mom...

Today would have been my Mom's 63rd birthday. Some days I feel her absence more keenly than others. Today will be one of those days.

Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote in Lament For A Son (and I'm paraphrasing so that it fits my story):
"If she was worth loving, she is worth grieving over. Grief is existential testimony to the worth of the one loved. That worth abides. So I own my grief. I do not try to put it behind me, to get over it, to forget it. I do not try to dis-own it. If someone asks, 'Who are you, tell me about yourself,' I say - not immediately, but shortly - 'I am a son who lost his mother.' That loss determines my identity; not all of my identity, but much of it. It belongs within my story. I struggle indeed to go beyond merely owning my grief toward owning it redemptively."
These words resonate so strongly with me. Those who know me well assuredly know the story of my Mom's battle with and death from cancer. It is such a central part of my story. And, God has been working these past several years to redeem this greatest pain of my life by reconnecting me with a calling that I first felt many years ago. Thus, I believe I can say with the utmost confidence that had this painful chapter not been a part of my life experience I would not today be a pastor. 

It is that last statement that has left me thinking of Mom recently, much more than I typically have over the past eight years. This year has included many milestones moments that she would have been present for, cheering me on. Mom would have been there for my seminary graduation. She would have been there for my licensing as a local pastor. And we would have posed for the obligatory photographs to mark the occasion. 

Today, as I prepare to travel home to visit my sisters and my stepfather for a family vacation where we will likely pose for more photographs from which Mom will be missing, I am remembering Mom through some of my favorite photographs from days gone by. 

Mom, John, my best friend Jim, and me tailgating before a Redskins game in Jacksonville.

One of my favorite pictures...Mom crying tears of happiness as she hugs Lenora after signing as a witness on our marriage certificate. I'm not sure I can fully understand what it meant to Mom that Lenora and I found each other but this picture is a start.

Mom and me at the wedding reception.

Mom, John, and Gabrielle. I'm sure Gabrielle won't find this picture all that flattering but the smile on Mom's face is priceless.

This is the last picture I have of me, Mom, Alicia, and Michelle together. Mom died a little more than a year after this picture was taken. Mom loved us as much as any mother can love her children and the most beautiful thing for me is how she always made us feel treasured.

I love you, Mom...and miss you so very much. Happy birthday.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Word of Prayer - May we be creators of holy mischief...

I know I just posted A Word of Prayer yesterday but this prayer was simply too good not to share:
Lord God, help us to live out your gospel in the world. We pray for those who do not know your love, that they would be wooed by your goodness and seduced by your beauty. Form us into a family that runs deeper than biology or nationality or ethnicity, a family that is born again in you. May we be creators of holy mischief and agitators of comfort … people who do not accept the world as it is but insist on its becoming what you want it to be. Let us groan as in the pains of childbirth for your kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. Help us to be midwives of that kingdom. Amen. 
Excerpt from: Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove & Enuma Okoro. “Common Prayer.” Zondervan, 2010. iBooks. This material may be protected by copyright.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Word of Prayer - Back to School

As I said in my my last blog post, I have been dreaming and praying about how to use Every Day, Ordinary Worship as a tool for ministry. That visioning has led me to several ideas, which I plan to introduce you to over the coming weeks. One such idea I would like to introduce today is a regular offering that will be featured on the blog called "A Word of Prayer." Why? I'm so glad you asked.

John Wesley is known for saying, "Read and pray daily...it is your life."

The Apostle Paul exhorts the church to "pray without ceasing." (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

And, finally, Eugene Peterson asserts that a primary pastoral ministry is to pray with and for people and teach them how to pray. 

A dear friend, and mentor, of mine once told me that after more than 40 years in pastoral ministry his regret was not praying more and  teaching people how to pray. With less than a year in pastoral ministry, I can already say, "I wish I prayed more." And, as a pastor who is being asked to help lead the church in discipleship and spiritual formation, I know I need to strengthen my own prayer life in order to effectively teach people how to pray. So, a regular blog post titled "A Word of Prayer" is part of the solution. Some blog entries might come from reading  and studying books on prayer as a means of engaging in practical conversation about the discipline of prayer. Some blog entries might simply be prayers that I encounter, so that we can read and pray together.

This week, students in Gainesville and all over the country are returning to school. I came across the following prayer on a favorite website called ministrymatters.com. You can find the prayer here, along with a responsive prayer you might find appropriate to pray together as a family. 

Let us pray.
Our lives are marked, O God, by the changing of the seasons. We take unusual delight in these times, for they are periods of heightened expectancy and new growth. It has been a long and busy summer. We have exulted in our various activities. And now it is time to prepare for the fall and winter, and many are going back to school, some here at home and others at a distance. We thank you for all the good events of the summer months—for work and play and relaxation, for fun and friendships and frivolity, for trips to the lake or the beach or the mountains, for a chance to unwind and experience more leisure time. Now we thank you for all the good events that lie ahead—for exciting classes and new friends and ball games and plays and concerts and a raft of holidays. We pray for all our students at every level, and ask that this may be a good year for them. Let their learning be rewarding as well as challenging, and let them enjoy the growth that comes from new experiences. Give them spirits of joy and confidence, and help them to live gratefully at all times, aware of the gift of life and its incredible richness. Bless their teachers and coaches and counselors, and all others who are involved in their educational process. And grant that all of us may share the excitement of the season, whether we are in school or not. For you have made our world extraordinarily beautiful and fascinating, and we are happy to praise you for everything through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Some Thursday rambling...

“Hello, Blogspot, my old friend…
I’ve come to write a post again.”

I considered continuing to rewrite the remainder of the first verse, but quickly decided against committing any further heresy. I simply don’t possess the audacity to mess with The Sound of Silence any further. Simon and Garfunkel, please forgive me for even going this far.

Still, I have been away for a while. Too long, if you ask me, but this season I have been in has not allowed me to pause long enough to write. Here is a brief synopsis of what has happened in my life since my last blog post:

  • After nearly seven years of life together, my family and I said goodbye to the good people of Spring of Life UMC. It was so bittersweet. I heard my call to ministry there and they walked with me through my days in seminary and candidacy. They loved me in spite of my flaws and gave me the space to make mistakes. I will forever treasure the gift it was for me to serve God and Spring of Life and I feel blessed beyond measure to have been prepared and sent by them into the vocation of pastoral ministry.
  • During the Licensing, Commissioning, and Ordination Service of the Florida Annual Conference, I was licensed by the Bishop to serve as a full-time local pastor.
  • I completed my unit of Clinical Pastoral Education with VITAS Innovative Hospice Care, where I served as a chaplain.
  • My family and I moved from Saint Cloud to Gainesville. We lived in the house in Saint Cloud for four years, the longest I have lived in any one place in maybe the history of ever. Moving is hard…
  • I began my appointment as Associate Pastor to Trinity UMC in Gainesville. I am thrilled to be here but confess that there have been days when I feel like I am drinking water from a fire hose. I mean that in the best way possible, by the way. This appointment was one that I dared to hope and pray for and I am deeply grateful for the chance I am being given to live into what I have sensed God has been calling me to over the past several years.
  • Finally, I completed my 2013 Provisional Elder application as part of my preparations to appear before the District Committee on Ordained Ministry, round deux.
So, that is what I have been up to for the past few months and these are my reasons (not excuses) for my silence on this blog. I knew when I started the blog that I would never have the time to be a daily blogger. I did, however, want the blog to have a purpose. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how this blog’s purpose might connect to my role as Associate Pastor.

One of the areas I have been asked to pay particular interest to at Trinity is discipleship. As I’ve been contemplating my role in this, I have been continually reminded of why I started this blog in the first place (which can be read here and here). Living the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is an everyday, ordinary sort of deal isn’t it? I mean, it’s a lot more than Sunday, right? I guess what I’ve been wondering is how I might potentially use this blog as a tool for discipleship. Actually, I’ve been dreaming about it. 

I have a few ideas for regular postings about living a life of discipleship but would welcome your ideas, too. So, please join me in the conversation. And join me in prayer for guidance on the path forward. 

Until we meet here again…