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Here am I Lord, But wait…

5th Sunday after Epiphany Isaiah 6:1-8

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!'”

This is one of my favorite old testament passages to read with children and youth. The imagery is crazy, God on a throne with a huge flowing robe, seraphs with 6 wings, hot coals, all the things. Its such a cool passage and as visions go, its a pretty crazy one.

But the really important part comes at the end, when God asks “whom shall I send” and Isaiah says “Here am I; send me!” But I’ve always wondered, if it weren’t for that crazy vision, with the Seraphs blotting out Isaiah’s sins with that hot coal on his lips, would he have been so quick to jump into the role God had planned for him?

Or would he have had the million reasons we often present for why we can’t do what God intends for us? His family needed him. He has to earn a living. He needs a little more time to pray about it. Maybe in a few years, but now he has student loans to pay off… (ok maybe that one isn’t an Isaiah reason, but how real is debt today???)

We’ve all got reasons we can’t stand up and say “Send Me”, and often those reasons are valid, or at least the appear valid in the moment. But God’s calls on our lives are rarely convenient and rarely care about our excuses. While we might not receive extreme visions, we know there are those nagging calls out there. Those calls begging us to do something new, something scary, something that expresses the radical love of Jesus Christ to the hurting people in the world.

So don’t be afraid, or maybe go ahead, be afraid, but stand up anyway and say “Here am I lord, Send me!” The good news is you’ll never be alone, the God that sends you out always goes with you.

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.

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

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. 

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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