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Weeds and Nerf darts

Ministry, Wife and Mom life… bring it on.

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Sara G.

Aaaaand We’re Back

And we will come back home, home again.

From Now On – The Greatest Showman

I led a small group of Jr High youth this summer, on a trip we took to Memphis for a theologically engaging service experience. Jr high kiddos can be a bit squirrely, and I am easily distracted by tangents, so every so often I would have to say “Aaaaaaaand we’re back” to get them back on track. Apparently this is what they remembered from the week, and really, that’s not so bad.

I’ve taken a break from writing for a while, not just writing for me, but writing for various youth ministry blogs and curriculum. It wasn’t an intentional break, it was more of a side effect of managing the stress of life. Unfortunately what I let go to manage stress were the things that actually bring me great joy. so its time to come back.

I was reminded of the things that bring me joy, and the things I’m passionate about, by attending the assembly of the Deaconess Community of the ELCA. I gathered with sisters from all over the US, Canada and Puerto Rico, for business meetings, worship, fellowship, and holy time together. In that time I heard stories of Sisters who fought battles I never new about, and heard the passions of those of us who are becoming Sisters now.

I was reminded of my own passions. Of writing and speaking and helping people better understand how we can be the church. I was reminded of the diaconate’s call to serve those on the margins, to bridge the gap between the church and the world, and to continually seek justice.

I also let go of some stuff I’d been holding on to. I let the community bear that for me, and then pass it on to the one who holds all things. I let Sister Le hold onto my face and say “you can’t quit, I need you to not quit”, when she couldn’t have known how close I have come to giving up on this very long process of entering the Ministry of Word and Service.

So I write this reflection with no real purpose, except that writing brings me joy. It is cathartic, it is spiritual, and it is life giving. And to say thank you. Thank you to the community, to the generations of Sisters whose shoulders we stand on now, and for the generations that are pulling each other up and along the road we travel.

We are inextricably connected. And for that I give thanks.

Featured post

Love is…

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany 2nd Reading 1 Corinthians 13.

Love is patient, love is kind…

Flash back to any weddings yet? I think sometimes those of us who work in churches roll our eyes at how often this passage gets used in wedding ceremonies, valentines day social media posts, and everywhere surrounding romantic love.

But Paul isn’t talking about romantic love. There’s a word for romantic love in Greek, and that word is eros. Here Paul is talking about agape love. Agape is the love that God has for us, and that we have for God. Its not bound by attraction or mutual affection. Agape is the kind of love that is unconditional, that we can’t earn or deserve, but is freely offered.

Sometimes I see all of the things listed in chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians and I think “yeah, that sounds great, but is love really like that? Are we capable of that?”

I truly believe we are. We catch glimpses of Agape love between people all the time, we just need to be paying attention. I asked some social media pals what they think Agape love is, you’ll find some of their answers below, mixed in with my own musings.

Love is…

When someone stops to help a stranger change a tire, knowing it will be an inconvenience.

Listening.

Showing up week after week to teach Sunday school when you’ve had it up to your neck, because kids deserve someone who loves them.

Selfless

Doing the dishes, and not bragging about it.

Opening every cabinet door in the fellowship hall kitchen with a 2nd grader, because he needs to do that with you instead of sitting in children’s church.

Being present.

Choosing a career that serves others, over the ever driving appeal of wealth.

Giving of oneself.

Not abandoning a teenager who has done everything to push you away.

Sacrificial

Sitting at someones bedside, even if they no longer know you are there, or who you are.

Always looking for the good.

Telling your spouse they will go to every inter-generational event at church because those kids are going to know you love them gosh darn it.

The way. The way of God because God is love. If it’s not agape love, it’s not of God.

Ultimately, love is hard. Its hard because we are human, and we are sinners. We mess up, we make each other mad, we hurt feelings, and we break relationships. But luckily, that love that is of God is the way. Its the way back to restoration, the way back to wholeness, the way back to Shalom.

The greatest of these is Love my friends, the greatest of these is Love.

Hand, Foot, and a Running Mouth

3rd Sunday after Epiphany Second Reading 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” – 1 Cor 12:12

Sometimes I read Paul’s letters in scripture, and I think “what on earth was he thinking”. Other times, like with today’s reading, I can’t imagine how words written a few thousand years ago could be so prophetic.

The early church was struggling with one of its most common problems, thinking some people were better than others. I’m so glad we don’t have that problem anymore…

Oh wait, that sounds awfully familiar. How many times have we thought “at least I’m a better christian than him” or “man she really needs to get it together”. Even while we might be cordial and polite to others, its easy to let that feeling of superiority creep in.

Or sometimes its the feeling of inferiority that gets us. That feeling that someone else has it all together. That they are such a better christian because they always post pics of their daily devotion on Instagram (because if they don’t post, does it happen?) Or because they participate in worship differently than we do. But Paul warns us all about that in this letter to the church in Corinth.

Paul argues that no part of the body is better than another, therefore no member of the community is better than another. My favorite part of this passage is about the organs. The fact that the organs are kind of gross (like I don’t need anybody showing me pictures of their surgery, mkay thanks) but our body covers them and protects them because they are vital to our survival.

Sometimes I think of the people we might find least important in the church like those vital organs. Kids. I know, I know, kids aren’t a lung, but hear me out. You might think “my kids are super valued in my church, they have their own space, their own worship, and the love being there!” And you would be correct, I’m sure churches value children in many different ways.

But churches aren’t always good at accepting children for what they are. Which is children. They are loud, they don’t always behave themselves, and they run their mouths at inappropriate times. But so do some adults I know… Just because kids don’t always have it all together doesn’t mean they aren’t one of the most valuable pieces that makes our churches whole.

So think about ways your kids are part of your church. Do they help lead corporate worship? Do they have roles in mission and outreach? Do they help with set up and clean up from events? Do they have input on what they’d like to see happen in the greater life of the church?

How do you show your kids they are a vital part of the church? Celebrate those ways, encourage the people who make them happen. If you can’t pinpoint the ways you value kids, what could you or your congregation do differently?

Kids are literally the future of the church, and I know its getting trite to say they are also our present, but we have to remember it. But they aren’t like a savings account. We can’t just put them away till they become adults. They need adults willing to walk with them, mentor them, and show them what it means to be part of the body of Christ now, so they are ready to take their places as the hands and feet… or inappropriately running mouth, of Jesus.

Great Gifts

2nd Sunday after Epiphany: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

“Now there are a variety of gifts but the same Spirit” – 1 Corinthians 12:4

What is the greatest gift you’ve ever been given? And I’m not talking about any of those noble answers like, the love of my child, or my amazing spouse… save it. When I say greatest gift, what comes to mind?

(Just to be clear, the love of my children and my spouse are both amazing gifts, but that’s just not what we are talking about right now)

I am an only child, and holidays were not a huge deal at our house, so I know I got great gifts as a kid, but I’m not sure I remember a lot of them. Although there was this one year when my mom wrapped up figure skates that I had been wearing for a few months, because those suckers were expensive, and when she said they were my Christmas present, she meant it!

One Christmas when my oldest child was about 5 and his brother was just a baby we were visiting family, and my oldest’s Godfather came over with presents. If ever there was someone who’s love language was gift giving, it would be his. Everyone got great gifts, and I got a laptop. It was such a huge deal for me, because it wasn’t something I would have been able to get for myself, and was something I really needed.

That’s sort of what its like with our Spiritual gifts right? Oftentimes we feel like our spiritual gifts probably don’t matter that much, like the time we got socks when we really hoped we were getting that new bike. But we needed those socks, and people around you need your spiritual gifts. Sometimes your spiritual gifts will be like my Christmas computer, big and bold and desperately needed. Other times your Spiritual gifts might seem more like socks, needed but not necessarily noticed.

But your gifts are unique to you. Even if you and another person both have the gift of hospitality, you are uniquely created and your gift will look different than theirs. That’s the beautiful thing about spiritual gifts, all of them are needed within the church, and outside its walls. Someone is waiting for your gifts to be used, for you to welcome them, talk to them, sing with them, or just sit with them. So take some time to think about what your gifts might be, and how you can best use them to serve your church and the world!

For more information on Spiritual Gifts (definitions, quizzes etc) check out these links:

http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/spiritual-gifts-online-assessment

https://www.elca.org/Our-Work/Congregations-and-Synods/Faith-Practices/Spiritual-Renewal/Assessment-Tools

Sisterhood

4th Sunday in Advent Year C

Luke 1:39-45

Mary and Elizabeth. Two women who played major roles in history no one could have prepared them for. One would bear a prophet who would herald the coming of the Messiah, and the other would be the mother of that Messiah.

Talk about your big ask. Both of these women would not only become mothers to sons (a very important job in their time), but their sons would hold occupations that did not necessarily bring honor to their families, and both would die pretty horrible deaths. Now, we don’t know if Elizabeth outlived John, but we know Mary was present at Jesus’ crucifixion.

Both women, tasked with huge roles, didn’t ask for them. Elizabeth desperately wanted a child, but I imagine she might have chosen a different life for him. Weather Mary was ready or not, she was to be a mother in a way she didn’t plan either. So where does she go? With haste, she heads to Elizabeth’s house.

Sometimes we need the sisterhood of believers. Women have often existed in the shadows of religious life, and even as more and more serve in leadership roles, we often are not intentional about seeking out those female relationships. Even when we do, (as can be the case in some larger churches) we pigeonhole ourselves into age specific groups of females.

We need Elizabeths. We need women who have gone before us, with struggles, and joys and sorrows to share. We need stories of how they’ve seen God so we can better see God ourselves.

And Elizabeths need Marys too. They need to rejoice in new life, and protect those who come after them. They need to be reminded of who they have been and how much they are needed now.

So enter into the sisterhood of believers and may your soul magnify the Lord!

People Pleasers

Baptism of the Lord

Luke 3:15-17,21-22

“You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”

I’ve always been a people pleaser, especially people in authority. I wanted my teachers, coaches, pastors, anyone in charge really, to be happy with me. If I’m being honest though, it wasn’t just wanting people to be happy with me, it was for them to like me best. I needed to be better than other people, I needed to be the favorite. (If you get a copy of the Linganore High School yearbook from 2001 you’ll find my picture next to the title of Teacher’s Pet, and yes I am appropriately mortified about that now)

Perhaps that desire to please others, stems from a real desire to please God. And since we don’t generally get to hear the voice that Jesus hears at his baptism “with you I am well pleased”. We don’t always know if what we are doing is pleasing to God.

Or do we? I think we have a pretty good idea of what pleases God. We know Jesus tells his disciples that the greatest we can do is to love God and love others, so if what we are doing is truly loving God, and truly loving others, and not our own self interest, its probably pleasing to God.

There are countless examples in scripture of things that people over the centuries have found to be pleasing to God, from offerings and prayers, to fighting for justice for the marginalized. We don’t have to look hard to find what pleases God, when we shine the light of Christ to others, God is well pleased.

I pray that you can continue to live in the light of Christ, and remember that people are flawed, and that even in all of our brokenness we are pleasing to God. That’s the mystery of Grace, that God loves us in the midst of our flaws. We don’t follow Jesus because it saves us, we follow out of the joy of salvation. And with that, God is well pleased.

Do You Believe in Magic?

Epiphany of the Lord

Matthew 2:1-12

Its that time. The time when people tend to pack away their trees, and put up the magic of Christmas. But what if we turned that around, and realized that the real “magic” started this Sunday, on Epiphany?!

The Magi (sometimes also translated as the Kings or the Wise men) are some mysterious figures in scripture. We figure they were probably astrologers, the scientists of the time who studied the heavens and were well respected for their knowledge. They saw a sign in the heavens and went in search of this holy baby, signaled by the star in the sky.

What faith it must have taken to go on that journey. To head off in search of something, not knowing what they would find. To be people of science, heading off on a journey of faith.

We are now people of science. We believe in the scientific method, we teach our kids to think critically, and God gave us these abilities to be used to their fullest potential, just as God set stars in the sky for the Magi to study. But even people of science need a little magic.

We need to remember that there are things out there beyond our understanding. That God is bigger than all of our scientific method, and that we don’t have to have it all figured out. God gives us a different star to follow on our faith journeys, and our light is Jesus.

We get to step out in faith, following the light of Christ even though we don’t know where the journey will take us. We will meet Herods, who want us to do things we aren’t comfortable with, and we will change course. Sometimes we will catch glimpses of the glory of God, and like the Magi, we will have no choice but to kneel in worship of the God that lights our paths.

Here’s to the Magic of Epiphany. May it live with you as you continue to journey on.

Rejoicing Always

3rd Sunday in Advent

Philippians 4:4-7

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice”

What does it look like to Rejoice in the Lord always? Does it mean being happy all the time? Does it mean ignoring the bad things in the world, turning a blind eye to suffering and misery, and pretend its not there? Sometimes it feels like that would be nice. To just live in the happy times, and to rejoice in all that God has given us.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the theme of Rejoicing in the Lord runs throughout the lines. One can assume that the circumstances in Philippi were less than desirable. Paul warns about behavior during times of conflict, both internal and external. He is trying to get the early followers to understand that their joy is in God not in their circumstances. 

God’s desire to return the world to a place of wholeness, or Shalom, is the reason God calls us to a broken world. We live in the middle of the brokenness, but we serve a God who is not broken. In fact, we serve a risen Lord who conquered death and rose again. We know we are called to restore the brokenness around us, and we get to rejoice in the promises of the resurrection.

Restoring the broken, living in the promise. That’s something to rejoice about. 

Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

2nd Sunday in Advent, Year C

Luke 3:1-6

If you want a great ear worm listen to Prepare ye the Way of the Lord from Godspell. Go ahead, google it. I’ll wait. Done? Ok. Its a great song, even if it just repeats the same words over and over again for 2 minutes. Any time this story of John the Baptist is told, I can’t help but sing this song.

What are we preparing for? Its the season of Advent, a season of waiting and preparation. The secular side of Advent pulls us in a million directions preparing for Christmas. There is china to pull out to reflect the season, decorations, lights to hang, and a million parties to go to.

The church side of our lives has its own pull. There might be extra services, concerts, cleaning, decorating, and its own parties to add to our advent preparation. Sometimes the preparation gets a little out of hand, doesn’t it.

We didn’t decorate this year. The tree is staying in the attic, along with the lights, ornaments, and other signs that my house would be “ready” for Christmas. We didn’t skip the decorating because I’m a grinch or anything, we just have a toddler and a new dog and I really don’t want to add “clean up the mess” to my list of things to do this month.

Not decorating has slowed things down a little bit. But It doesn’t stop the busyness of a season like this. Perhaps its time for all of us to take a moment to slow down and figure out how God is calling us to prepare the way for Jesus, in our homes, in our Churches, and in our hearts. 

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