Drive-Thru Service

May 27, 2010

My mother and I normally talk once a day but this week its been about every three days. So, yesterday I called her up to check in and say hello! She was at a drive-thru and complained LOUDLY throughout the call how poor the service had become and how no one in town (business wise) could offer great customer service.  I was embarrassed at how this discussion was taking place in front of the workers…she was so loud. I began to ponder how to point out that perhaps they didn’t have the best of jobs, or pay, or customers. Perhaps, in order for them to offer great customer service, we should all try to be great customers with please, thank-yous, and its ok, I understands.

My mother didn’t take me up on my advice when I offered it and reminded me it was their job.  This began my mind (which tends to wander) cruising down the aisle of how often do we ‘blame’ the other person? Is that not what we do when we call them God-less or heathens?  How often do we assume we’re right and loudly proclaim our beliefs without finding out the other guys/gals story?

Somehow we must stop this loud proclaiming of our rights, ignoring others. God loves all, accepts all; therefore so should we. I liked my book for Mission and Evangelism- Evangelism without Additives. I think I’ll try being nice to folks this week and if they ask why, I’m simply state because that what my God requires of me. I’ll leave the rest up to God and be there to answer questions/guide if the Spirit wills.

Finding the Good News in Strife

May 18, 2010

    I learned an important lesson in humbleness and determination yesterday. I had met with DCOM (District Committee on Ordained Ministry) last Wednesday so I could ask them to certify my candidacy for ministry. I had been told that we would meet for forty-five minutes, then they would discuss for fifteen minutes, and they would then let me know their decision. However, this did not happen. We met for forty-five minutes and then they dismissed me with instructions to expect their decision in the mail. I was aggravated but felt confident in my certification. My mentor, who had been my silent support during the interview, assured me that it had went very well. Prior to the interview, my professors and friends from NHTS as well as my senior pastor had assured me all would be well, that I was a great candidate.

     The much-anticipated letter arrived in the mail yesterday. I quickly opened it and my heart plummeted. They had decided not to certify my candidacy this year and requested that I meet with them again next year for certification consideration.  They gave four reasons/requests to complete by then -none of which were difficult. However, all I could read was the negative. My heart broke and the tears began to fall. I wondered what I did or said wrong, why was I not good enough. I felt surely I must be the only person to have ever been told no..or their phrase “not yet.”

     It took about five minutes for me to remember why I’m on this journey…to serve God. Luckily, God did not take that long to remember me.  As I  began to pray I felt peace and comfort that can only come from God.  The Spirit enabled me to re-read the letter. In truth, the letter was very encouraging. It specifically stated that the committee saw that I had the gifts and graces required for ministry. However, they felt I needed to slow down… a message I’ve heard a lot lately.

     The good news: God is always with us, no matter what. There is no committee to decide on whether we can serve God, God uses each of us to serve his kingdom if we but listen. God uses the ordinary, imperfect remember that and stay humble. Remember that the best laid plans don’t always come out as expected…take it as a hint to fully rely on God or F.R.O.G. as a young friend says.  Where do you find God in times like these? How does this enable you to share the good news? For me, God is always with me and humbleness allows  me  to relate to everyone I meet. The determination given to me by the Spirit allows me to serve God wherever and whenever.

God be with you each and all in the joys and the sorrows. F.R.O.G.!!

Stories

May 1, 2010

We must be open with another even if we suspect that we may disagree. I’m at UMW Assembly right now and there are people from all over the US and some from overseas. Today we had a lady speak about immigration rights. She appeared like she was from the area of which she spoke, Central America. She ended her speech by saying: Do not close the doors of your church from me because of my appearance. (Pause) I am Puerto Rican and am a U.S. Citizen too!

While I would not have closed my church door or even the door of my home to her, I was surprised at how well she spoke of the issues of immigrants while being a U.S. citizen…I had made assumptions and we all know what happens when you assume. We must take the time out to listen to each individual’s story. While some people appear alike, often they are very different. Even people from the same family, raised in the same house can be vastly different.

Something else, I’ve learned is that before you start seeking the stories of others, you must reflect upon your own. Why are you where you are? How does your upbringing effect your beliefs? What have you kept, what have you discarded? Why? Now, reflect on how all of this will affect your listening to others stories.

We need to openly discuss who we are and be willing to openly listen to who others are. How are we similar? How are we different? How can we use the similarities and differences to enhance each other? Living in our own bubble helps no one. Keeping away from that which is different, which we may fear or dislike only keeps us ignorant and builds a bigger barrier between ourselves and God.

God created everything out of love. Everything was created equally. Jesus is God incarnate. Through his divine/human reality humanity has been shown the way of God which is in being for each other. Jesus was not here for himself, he came so that we may live. Do not let assumptions keep you from the good news.

Marathons and Baby

April 24, 2010

Last November I had just run a marathon and was preparing to run another. I was both physically and mentally in the best state of my life. Several people commented on how awesome they thought my running a marathon was and commended me on my physical form. Fast forward five months to the present, I’m at the end of my second trimester of pregnancy with my fourth child. My athletic body has given way to a curvy mother shape. Now, I get comments daily on my nuttiness for having another child while going to school. Also, I constantly get comments on my size such as “wow you’re huge!” or “I bet your really having twins, your too big for just one baby.” These comments are not affirming like those of my marathon days.

                Both being able to run a marathon and the ability to be with child are gifts from God. Why are they judged so differently? Why is one praised and another criticized? Biblically, Paul discusses the many gifts of God and states that one is not greater than another.  Still each culture places more emphasis on some abilities than others? We fail to see God’s image and gifts in the other.

                To spread the good news we must constantly seek God within the other. This means recognizing all of God’s gifts as equal and recognizing that all of humanity is gifted by God. I challenge you this week to be in holy conversation with those around you. Speak to each and every person as if you were speaking to God himself. Look for evidence of God’s gifts in each person. Then reflect how this changes your relationships and your ability to communicate.  Does it affect your ability to share the good news of Christ?

God be with you, in you, and around you this week!

Splash and Dash

April 22, 2010

My senior pastor is fond of talking about how the “build it and they will come model” of church management is outdated. He says you can build it but there is no guarantee that they (those in need of the church) will come. I experienced this a few weeks ago as I visited a church out of state. My husband and I found the local Methodist church close to our hotel online and picked a service to attend. Upon arriving at the church we took our best guess as to where to enter and started off in our seeking. We found out we went the wrong way and were gently redirected back unto the path. We found the service, participated, and the left. No one said hello or attempted to find out if we were visitors; no one invited us back. It was plain weird and left me feeling empty even though the worship was good.

            I think sometimes we evangelize in the same way. We put on a good program, advertise it in the paper and wait for the sinners to roll in seeking their salvation. Perhaps a few visitors show up to our awesome event where a good time is had by all and then they leave. No one follows up with them or invites them back. No personal stories are shared, no connection is made and the visitors disappear.

            This splash and dash method of sharing the good news simply will not work. As Christian leaders we must make our presence known in the community through participation. We must reach out and form connections. We must encourage other Christians to do the same and have them invite folks to church like they’d invite them to their home…with hospitality and graciousness. Then we must continue sharing the good news for it’s a never ending story!

KWL of Conversion

April 14, 2010

As a teacher I often used KWL charts, which organize what students know, what they want to know, and what they have learned about a particular subject. In my education classes I was taught that if you want someone to learn something, you have to start off with what they know. I believe that this could apply in sharing the good news; what does a person know or feel about God, what do they want to know, and what are they learning. One of our readings for my Mission and Evangelism class criticized the method missionaries used in South Africa; it was a paradigm where all otherness is unacceptable and to be Christian one must be like the missionaries. As a teacher I can see how such methods wouldn’t win many converts. In order to share the “good news” Christians must first realize that we are equal regardless of appearances. Then, we must get to know those whom we wish to share the “good news” with so that we may start off with what they know. Although their beliefs will be different than our own we must not assume they are wrong and must be willing to discuss our likenesses and differences. We might just learn they already know the “good news” or we might learn together different ways of living with the “good news.” Perhaps the biggest lesson I got as a new teacher was that the teacher does as much learning as her students, sometimes more. Those that wish to share the “good news” must be willing to change, after all isn’t that what the good news is all about, the change Christ makes in each of our lives? I like when Okure defines conversion as an on-going process. All converts grow and change, including those doing the converting.

Good News

April 6, 2010

I have good news. There is a home where everyone is welcome. God is the host and what a wonderful hostess the Divine is. Now, you must know that this home appears different to each. Some will easily find it while others get lost with a map and a guide…that’s ok as the hostess doesn’t tire of waiting for your arrival. The thing about this home is that you have to be clean from the inside out before you begin which can be difficult as the road there tends to be really dusty and coats its weary travelers. However, there is more good news! Along the dirty road there is a car wash of sorts which you can go through that will clean both your inside and out. The wash is called Jesus and it comes directly from God. Everyone has the opportunity to experience/use the wash you just have to be willing to believe in it and be faithful to what you learn in it. You could find this Jesus early on the journey or late in the journey, there are a lot of factors in this.  Even though you may find Jesus early, the road will still be dusty and you will occasionally become dirty again –some more often than not. That’s ok though, you just ask Jesus for cleansing and you’ll become clean once more. You can even ask for direction in avoiding the dust clouds and you’ll get. Be sure to listen carefully though because the road can get noisy at times. Again, I remind you of the good news –there is home for you, a hostess that loves you, and a Jesus that will keep you clean until you get there!

God in the Chaos

March 25, 2010

My life is filled with chaos these days, well more so than usual. You see we may be moving or we may not be. I started attending grad school last year to attain my M.Div or in plain English, to become a pastor. While doing this I have worked three part time jobs, two which I love-being a homeless youth caseworker and a student pastor. In addition to this I attempt to take care of my husband and our three children. While most people might feel this is chaotic, it had a happy rhythm to it for me. And then…

We found out we were unexpectedly expecting right at Christmas, my husband got put on a performance plan at work, and things kind started exploding into action. Now, we have our house up for sale, my husband has been accepted to DU in the fall, and has a job interview in Colorado on April 12th. Are we moving to Denver, are we not? Will the house ever sale? How are we going to cover expenses for both of us to go to school? Will I be able to find another midwife for a HBAC?  The questions are endless to say the least.

I have found that God is in the chaos. I’ve prayed diligently to discern the will of God and I’m not so sure he’s as picky about somethings as I am and that’s ok. I’ve been taught to quit organizing, trying to plan out the next five years or even the next 3 months, and instead to trust God. Through this I have found peace in the waiting and the joy of happy surprises has been multiplied while disappointments have been easier to accept. I’m not sure where we’re going, how we’re getting there, or what will happen when we do get there, but I am sure God is with me every step of the journey. I am thankful for the chance to let my logical side go and to be able to listen for the Spirit. I appreciate my fellow travelers for their comfort and prayers and invite you to join me in listening as we continue to move ahead one step at a time.