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Weeds and Nerf darts

Ministry, Wife and Mom life… bring it on.

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. 

Lead Me Lord

First Sunday of Advent Year C Psalm 25:1-10

25:5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

Leadership is a funny thing. We train up our children to be leaders, but sometimes we forget that we are also called to follow. Called like the disciples were called out of their careers and families to follow a man who would turn their world upside down. But in a world focused on increasing our leadership skills, how do we learn to follow?

Listen

It may seem sort of obvious, but one way we learn to follow is we start listening. We listen to the message scripture holds for us, or the spoken word delivered on Sunday morning. We listen to the ways God has been active in the lives of those around us, so we can participate in God’s action in our world.

But this listening isn’t always the same as the way we “listen” in our every day lives. We tend to listen with the intent to respond. We need to listen and hear those around us, without injecting our own opinions and prejudices into their stories. God may be trying to lead you through the stories of others, listen.

Learn

We may think that our learning was over when we stepped out of whatever our last school was. For some of us that was somewhere in the middle of high school, for others it feels like the journey of traditional education will never end, but we are called to learn throughout our life. Don’t just listen to scripture, learn about it. Go to Bible studies, challenge things you don’t understand and do the research to back it up. Talk to people who have studied the Bible and theology and ask them for help. Always be learning so you might also follow.

Lead

Lead to follow? Ok this doesn’t make any sense, but it may be unavoidable. Everyone leads someone. Children, friends, spouses, co-workers, people in a faith community, someone may be trying to follow you or your example. So help them listen, learn and lead to also follow Jesus. Remember you lead so you can follow, not so that others can follow you.

25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

25:10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees

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.

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

On Starting Over

Starting over is hard. Moving to a new city, finding a new job, starting kids at a new school, learning to find a new favorite grocery store… its a lot of new, and a lot of tough stuff. This past year has been a year of starting over for us. We finally moved from outside Memphis TN to Decatur Alabama, where my husband had been living nine months prior to our move. We’ve spent the last year with lots of new in front of us, and its been quite the journey. 

Continue reading “On Starting Over”

Then They Were Boys…

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We didn’t find out the gender of either of our kids. I remember sitting with my mom looking at baby things, and her saying “What if its a boy?” I had a momentary sense of panic. I’m an only child, of the female variety, so neither my mother nor I had any experience with boys. We didn’t understand them, and were pretty convinced that the aforementioned baby would have to be a girl.

Then they were boys…

5 years apart they were both boys. God’s funny that way, right? I was convinced that when my first son was born that it might have been some kind of cruel joke. What was I going to do with a boy? With all of the little sports onsies, tiny baseball caps, and overalls?

I wish I’d known how great it would be.

I wish I’d known how much fun it would be to play in the dirt. To button up little plaid shirts, roll up the cuffs of some jeans, and put tiny sneakers on to go to church, without frilly dresses and tights.

I wish I’d known potty training wouldn’t be the nightmare I thought it would be. That they’d be rough, fall down the stairs, yank out a tooth and laugh about it. Or how they’d fall asleep on the couch with me watching Harry Potter, and I would wish they could stay that little forever.

I wish I’d known that, while it would be hard to fight people when they didn’t act the way culture tells them boys should act, it would be worth it. That I would be raising them to be whole people, not media portrayals of boys. That they would love Nerf guns, and Pokemon, and Super heroes, but they would also love My Little Ponies, Princess movies, and singing along to “girl power” songs on the radio.

Being a mom of boys has been such a blessing, even when its hard. I cringe when I hear things come crashing to the ground, or when one comes in crying because his brother hit him. I have given in on more violence in video games than I ever said I would. I’ve not been as patient as I should have been. I’ve let them sleep in their clothes and go to school in those same jeans, because we all woke up late. And we forgive each other, and try again.

I wish I’d known that having boys would be amazing, and now that I do, let the adventure continue.

Stop Unfriending People Over Politics

tjpoliticsquote

So. There’s some sort of political stuff going on right? My guess is, if you haven’t been sequestered or living under the proverbial rock (where are these rocks people live under anyway…) then you have heard plenty about politics. There are inflammatory statements being made over every media outlet social and otherwise, on both sides, and people are getting really upset about it.

I don’t want to write about politics, which may seem strange from the title of this article, I want to talk about the changing nature of friendships. I currently have 517 friends on Facebook, (my husband has 2,606 as he is quite the social butterfly). While scrolling through my list I smile at the names that spark childhood memories of skipping rocks, grass-stained knees, and singing into hairbrushes. I see high school classmates who, for a time, were woven into the fabric of my life in such a way that to tear us apart would have been unthinkable. I see former church members who rocked my babies, and whose babies I rocked. I love seeing those same babies win state championships, sing solos, and make their parents proud.

However not all of these people are what people may consider real friends beyond Facebook, nor am I a friend to them outside of cyberspace. Time and distance have created their inevitable rift and we grew in different directions, as happens when time and distance combine. But much of this speaks to our actual understanding of what a friend actually is.

Continue reading “Stop Unfriending People Over Politics”

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