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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. 

Fishing For People

3rd Sunday After Epiphany Mark 1:14-20

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people” -Mark 1:17

This week has been rough. My very dear friend passed away on Saturday after her battle with cancer. I met Lauren when I moved to Covington TN in 2013 for my placement at a church where I would serve as the youth minister while in seminary. Lauren was in the next town south of me and was so excited to have another female youth minister and seminarian that she showed up the very first day to help me move my furniture. From that point on we were together.

We got mistaken for sisters a lot, which was fun for us two only children. We shared a love of Mexican food, Chacos, coffee and youth ministry. The closest Starbucks was 25 minutes away from my house, and Lauren was conveniently on the way, so once, or twice, or many times a week I would pick her up and we would ride down to properly caffeinate ourselves before beginning our day. Even though both of us would “pre-game” (her term) with our own coffee at home.

We took joint mission trips with our youth groups, had combined youth group once a month, and generally shared a love of ministry together that was unparalleled. She would joke that we should go work for a church together where I could be in charge of games and lessons and she could do what she loved, be the master organizer of all things.

So what does this have to do with fishing for people? There was no better fisher in the world. Lauren reached into your soul and pulled you into her world, which was full of a deep love for Jesus. When she got her hook in you she didn’t let go, and you never wanted her to. My boys called her “aunt Lauren” as did many other kids in her sphere of influence.

She cast a wide net in her youth ministry, and her kids loved her fiercely. She caught sports stars, singers, instrumentalists, and kids who might have never felt at home anywhere, but they had a home with Lauren.

What I learned from Lauren would fill volumes, but for now, I’ll just say, go fishing. Catch people and tell them about the love of Jesus, maybe you go to church together, or maybe you just go out for tacos. Either way, be like Lauren, reel ’em in and never let go.

IMG_20150822_105639.jpg
Aunt Lauren and AJ at Build a Bear for his 11th birthday.

Listening for God’s Plan: A devotional

God's Plan Devotional

I’m a planner. I like to plan out my day, my vacations (thanks mom), my possible job opportunities including the rental costs associated with each job in each city. Planning comforts me, it makes me feel like everything is going to be ok.

But sometimes we don’t get to plan it all out do we? Or if we do, it doesn’t always go the way we planned. My husband recently lost his job at the church where he served as the youth minister. I still have one more year of seminary, so moving wasn’t an option for our whole family, but ministry jobs were scarce in our area.

Continue reading “Listening for God’s Plan: A devotional”

Must Be Nice

This is the last of my four devotionals written for the Young People’s Ministry. If you’d like to read more great devotionals, please visit their website and read from the other great contributors. 

Global Young People Devotions

Must Be Nice…

If you do a Google search for bible verses about money, you’ll find an abundance of them.

“For the love of money is the root of all evil” – 1 Timothy 6:10

“Whoever loves money never has enough, whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income” – Ecclesiastes 5:10

“For where your treasure is there your heart will be also” – Matthew 6:21

Continue reading “Must Be Nice”

Just Say No: A Young Adult Devotional

This devotional is the third of four I wrote for the Young People’s Ministries of the United Methodist Church. If you care to read all of them together, you can find them under the Devotional page here or follow the link below to the Young People’s Ministries webpage and you can read not only mine but other young writers.

Global Young People

When I was in elementary school we were expected to participate in the D.A.R.E. program. If you are unfamiliar with the program, D.A.R.E. stands for Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education, and was implemented as a program to get us to Just Say No to drugs. To our suburban selves this seemed pretty obvious. This idea of just saying no was really easy because it wasn’t ever a temptation. Nobody we knew did drugs, no one offered us drugs, so it was pretty easy to just say no.

Continue reading “Just Say No: A Young Adult Devotional”

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