Mountain Meditation: Kingdom Living

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 5:38-48.

This week I had the privilege to travel to Fruitland Park to spend a day in prayer for dear friends that interviewed with the Florida Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. I remember my interview day…nervous and knotted. So much led me to that interview moment: my call, my service in the local church, my education, my paper writing. And when I arrived at my interview I remember thinking “Okay, time to be perfect!”

Jesus concludes our Scripture passage for this week speaking of perfection, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). 

What is perfection? It is defined as the state of being perfect, of being free or nearly free of any flaw or defect.

Our God is indeed perfect. And I believe through our God’s grace we are going onto perfection, that we will be made perfect in this life. 

There is, however, a difference between being perfect and perfectionism. Being perfect is undertaking the heart work and hard work of facing one’s flaws – caused by sin – and being present in the process. Presence in the process looks like reflecting on what has happened, honoring the feelings in those reflective moments, and then discerning and acting upon decisions that will be life-giving rather than decisions that will further give into sin. This presence leads individuals in knowing him or herself and in knowing who God desires her or him to be. 

Perfectionism, on the other, is hard work without the heart work. It is an attitude rooted in performance and production rather than presence. People that act in and out of a spirit of perfectionism may look pristine on the outside, but the emptiness and achy-ness that results from perfectionism bores deep into one’s heart and soul.    

As I walked into my interview I heard Jesus’ words – be perfect. And in that perfection – seen in our Heavenly Father and seen in his Son – I was present. I shared my story – my struggles and my salvation. I shared of my transition from perfectionism practices to seeking perfection. I showed me and how God used and continues to use me. I testified to the truth that God has a plan and intent to include all people in God’s work.

God’s plan and intent looks different from the world’s. It is hard work to make our lives – to live our lives – in God’s plan and intent – but it is so fulfilling. 

In that spirit of fulfillment, I prayed my friends into their interviews. I prayed that they would be perfect and present, that they would show the evidence of their heart and hard work. 

And indeed, they did!

This is also my prayer for you this week. That you would take time to sit and reflect. That you would take time to be present in reflection of your struggles and your salvation. That you would take time to continue your attention to the heart and hard work before you. And in all of this, friends, we will be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.

Prayer: “God forgave my sin in Jesus’ name, I’ve been born again in Jesus’ name, and in Jesus’ name I come to you, to share his love as he told me to. He said, ‘Freely, freely, you have received, freely freely give. Go in my name, and because you believe, others will know that I live.'”* Amen. 

*”Freely, Freely,” The United Methodist Hymnal 389.

Mountain Meditation: Kingdom Blessings

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 5:1-12.

In times of great transition I find that it is not the best choice for me to consider the big picture. While the big picture is important, it is also quite overwhelming. Often I am energized by the abundance of tasks to be completed, but when I feel like my feet are on shifting sand, which usually follows the reminder that I am not actually in control, my energy drains faster than a white chocolate mocha out of my husband’s coffee cup.

And that, friends, is fast!

So rather than focus on the big picture and feel so daunted that I cannot accomplish anything, I choose to focus on the immediate next. What is the next immediate task for me to accomplish? And then once I do that, what follows? It could be a snack break; when I am stressed I forget to eat! It could be sending a quick message of encouragement or reading one sent to me. It could be – and maybe should be! – finding another two-by-two area of wood on my desk. Whatever my immediate next, this truth endures: small acts grow into tasks. Tasks grow into accomplishments. Accomplishments piece together the big picture.

And once the big picture is present, God invites us to look beyond that big picture and start the process all over again.

I have paused quite frequently this week to ask God to help me identify my immediate next. As I have studied the Beatitudes I feel my immediate next is peace. God is calling me to be peace as the prelude to any further activity, be it a conversation, compilation, or complication.

In an article he wrote for The Huffington Post, Eric Simpson says, “The Beatitudes teach us how to be peace not just be at peace, but to become peace so that peace can spread, and that peace can come from being rooted both in the life of God and in the physical world.” When I feel restless, anxious, worried, or out of control, being at peace is the furthest act from my mind. Being peace, however, helps calm my mind and my heart. Through peacefully approaching my immediate next – with a clear heart and mind; with encouragement from my God, family and friends; with the confidence that yes, there are trials in this life, but joy comes in the morning – I am able to accomplish whatever is before me as well as join God in nurturing peace in the world.

What is my immediate next? To trust that God knows what is coming. Right now I see glimpses of the big picture, but our God has the entire horizon in his view; God has the whole world in his hands. So with trust I walk forward to my immediate next – for myself and for our congregation.

Prayer: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of his Spirit, washed in his blood. This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long; this is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.”* Amen.

*”Blessed Assurance,” The United Methodist Hymnal 369.

A Knock At Midnight

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 11:5-8.

One of the most powerful moments in my ministry is to be present with people. One of the most powerful gifts in my ministry is for people to be present with me.

My aunt had surgery on Thursday, which took me to Lakeland in the wee hours of the morning to pray with her and be present with her husband and my cousin. Her surgery was a success, but in the time between our shared prayer and our reuniting in recovery, we three looked deeply into the face of mortality.

I saw a side of my aunt’s husband I am not accustomed. Usually cracking jokes with a toothy grin, Rodney was quiet and reflective. Expressions of hope and worry washed across his face as waves wash up on the shore.

I wanted to be strong for my family while also being present in my own emotions. I showed up for my family and my family of faith – at and beyond Tuskawilla – showed up for me. People prayed for me. People sent messages of hope and encouragement throughout the day. People named that cancer is awful and that I and my family are not alone.

What does it mean to be the church? It means to show up. It means having someone come to you at midnight – representative of a time of need, a time of great distress – and answering the door. It means going to someone in your time of need and time of great distress and being welcomed.

I am grateful to have answered my family’s knocking. I am grateful to have been welcomed in my time of knocking.

May we all continue on – encouraged, shaped, and participating in – the showing up of the church. May we knock and be answered. May we hear knocking and swiftly move to the aid of our family – of origin, of choice, of faith.

Prayer: “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above. We share each other’s woes, our mutual burdens bear; and often for each other flows the sympathizing tear.”* Amen.

*”Blest Be the Tie That Binds,” The United Methodist Hymnal 557.

Messiah: His Yoke Is Easy

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 11:28-30. 

Remember your baptism, and be thankful.

Last year on Baptism of Our Lord Sunday I worshipped as I watched our church family approach the baptismal font, touch the water and remember for themselves, and for most, to touch the water again and share the gift of grace the water represents with their spouse, child, or sibling in Christ. 

Remembering this moment brings tears to my eyes. 

As I watched our church family return to their seats I prepared to conclude our worship service when movement caught my eye. Half way back in the sanctuary, Phil Detmer rose to his feet to help his beloved Beverly Joyce – the girl of his choice, he told me – into her wheelchair and together they came to the font. Without thinking I lifted the bowl of the font off its stand and knelt with it. I watched Bev touch the water and touch her forehead. Then she touched the water again and touched Phil’s hand – a hand she knew so well. Every crease. Every callous. Every kindness created for her and the beautiful daughters they share in their over fifty years of marriage. 

Remembering this moment tears fall down my face. 

Commitment. Unity. These words join beautifully in Community

Ephesians 4:5 affirms the community we have with and because of Christ – “one Lord, one faith, one birth.” Our birth to new life through the waters of baptism is also our birth into the family of God, a family whose foundation is grounded in the covenant of God being our God, our being God’s children, and our responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters. 

I believe the care we are called to give is the care that is articulated in the marriage covenant – to have, hold, and honor – in all times and in all circumstances. 

I see commitment and unity to this belief in the family at Tuskawilla. I see community of this belief in the family at Tuskawilla. I saw it last Baptism of Our Lord Sunday as our family remembered our baptisms and expressed thankfulness. I saw it in the love between Phil and Bev. I see it in each face as we fellowship, study, serve, and worship as God’s family. 

We return to our regular worship service and small group times this Sunday – Morningsong at 8:30am, Small Groups at 9:30am, Worship at 11am. Both Morningsong and our 11am Worship Services will include opportunities for Baptism Remembrance. Peace, friends. See you Sunday!

Prayer: “Father in heaven, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan you proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. Grant that all who are baptized into his name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, One God, in glory everlasting. Amen.*”

*”Baptism of the Lord,” The United Methodist Hymnal 253.