Woman in the Night: Eemas

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Exodus 1:15-22 and Luke 1:30-33, 38.

This Sunday the Tuskawilla UMC Family begins our Lenten Study entitled Woman In The Night. The series is based upon the verses of a hymn under that same name. Each verse sings of a woman in Scripture that had an encounter with Jesus – from his birth to life to his birth to new life.

Some of the women we will study in this series are named. Others are not. They are all important. Their witness is valuable. And Jesus’ ministry with them affirms Jesus’ presence, passion, and compassion is for all people.

Thanks be to God.

I hope you will join us in worship this Sunday as we begin this study. I will also provide a summary of the events of the Special General Conference Gathering this week in St. Louis.

And I hope to read some of our church’s big hairy audacious God purposes on the Family Room Wall this Sunday! Be sure to stop by the wall and share God’s purpose for your life with our church family sometime during Lent.

In prayer for both the work, growth, and discernment of our General Conference as well as our work, growth, and discernment as followers of Jesus Christ, may we unite our hearts with these words from Shirley Murray’s hymn, For Everyone Born.

Let us pray.

Prayer: “For everyone born, a place at the table, for everyone born, clean water and bread, a shelter, a space, a safe place for growing, for everyone born, a star overhead. And God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy, yes, God will delight when we are creators of justice, justice and joy!

For woman and man, a place at the table, revising the roles, deciding the share, with wisdom and grace, dividing the power, for woman and man, a system that’s fair. And God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy, yes, God will delight when we are creators of justice, justice and joy!

For young and for old, a place at the table, a voice to be heard, a part in the song, the hands of a child in hands that are wrinkled, for young and for old, the right to belong. And God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy, yes, God will delight when we are creators of justice, justice and joy!

For just and unjust, a place at the table, abuser, abused, with need to forgive, in anger, in hurt, a mind-set of mercy, for just and unjust, a new way to live. And God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy, yes, God will delight when we are creators of justice, justice and joy!

For everyone born, a place at the table, to live without fear, and simply to be, to work, to speak out, to witness and worship, for everyone born, the right to be free. And God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy, yes, God will delight when we are creators of justice, justice and joy!”*

*”For Everyone Born,” Worship and Song 3149

 

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Dare to Dream: Perseverance

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Deuteronomy 34:1-12.

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the first Florida Conference Spring Confirmation Retreat with TUMC’s Confirmands. Under the wonderful leadership of Alaine Gorman and the incredible mentoring of Dan Hood, our students had a fantastic weekend of learning, fellowshipping, and maturing in their faith.

I heard the worship speaker was pretty good, too. *wink*

One of our Saturday activities was to complete elements on a low-ropes challenge course. These elements typically involve balancing in tight spaces, steadying in large spaces, and maneuvering in narrow spaces. And for fun…why not complete the element without talking…or out of a group of nine, only one person can talk…

And it is not uncommon to select the least verbose in the group for this speaking role.

Low-ropes challenge course elements encourage critical thinking, communication, and teamwork – sounds like a good recipe for mindful and engaged leadership in the local church! During their time on the course, we watched our students find their voices, take the lead, encourage another leader, and take risks.

One element was a 12×12 grid. Their task: move from one side of the grid to another, one square at a time, according to a map that only the low-ropes facilitator could see and the students had to figure out through trial and error. Some students stepped from their starting square to the next potential square with great enthusiasm while others were cautious in not wanting to fail. They did not want to let down the team. They wanted to be correct in their choices. It was clear they wanted to succeed, to win.

It is good to want to be correct and successful. But I know that I miss out on the deeper meaning of experiences when I am tunnel-visioned on correctness and success.

It bear repeating – when you have the choice between being right and kind – choose to be kind.

Together the team of nine students – TUMC’s five and four from Peace UMC in Orlando – completed the maze. That was their last element before lunch. As we walked back to the lodge I asked the students about how the felt when they chose a correct square on the grid versus an incorrect square. Some said it was exciting; they would get to immediately try for another correct square. Others mentioned how their correct guess contributed to the team’s goal of revealing the entire map.

I mentioned how I thought their incorrect guesses also contributed to the team’s goal of revealing the entire map. They sat with that one for a minute. And then one said…”Oh, I guess that is what they mean by failing forward.”

That is it exactly. We try. We fail. We keep trying. We fail some more. And as long as we rise one more time than we fall or fail, we will succeed.

The rising – that is perseverance.

I am so proud of our Confirmands – of the faithful work they started in November and will bring to conclusion in their Confirmation Service this Spring. These students are bright, creative, thoughtful, and have some sass.

I like the sass.

They give me hope for the future of the church. Together with them under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may we all persevere towards God’s Kingdom. May we all rise.

Prayer: “High King of heaven, my victory won, may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s Sun! Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision, O Ruler of all.”* Amen.

*“Be Thou My Vision,” The United Methodist Hymnal451.

Dare to Dream: What Is In Your Hand

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Exodus 4:1-5.

This Sunday the Reverend David Killingsworth will join the Tuskawilla Family in worship leadership while I am off with our confirmands causing mischief at the first Florida Conference Confirmation Retreat at the Warren Willis Camp in Fruitland Park.

Please be in prayer for all the Confirmation Retreat participants this weekend. May relationships with Christ deepen, may understandings of faith increase, and may the coffee be strong – oh so strong!

(Not for the students – but for the adults – especially me!)

David serves as a co-pastor in partnership with his wife, Meghan, at First United Methodist Church in Sanford. David and I met many years ago when both he and Andrew were youth directors at two of the largest United Methodist Churches in greater Orlando. David has a sweet spirit, a wonderfully quick wit, and a deep love for the God’s people. David is passionate about strengthening the bonds between the church and the community through justice work. Ask him about The Picnic Project! Introduce yourself this Sunday and thank him for sharing his gifts with us at TUMC.

As I study the Scripture text for this Sunday, I am aware that it is a passage about what God’s power can do with current resources. Moses felt so ill-equipped and yet as a mentor told me years ago, God always equips the called. Moses doubted – his leadership, his potential effectiveness, his abilities, and his resources. Where Moses saw only deficiency, God saw efficacy. God saw how Moses could be and would be successful in drawing the Hebrews out of bondage and leading them into the salvation of the Promised Land.

I often joke with staff members and ministry colleagues that the first place I start shopping for ministry events… is at the Dollar Tree.

That is right. The Dollar Tree.

It is very seldom that the Dollar Tree fails me in what I am seeking. And hey – it saves a buck because everything literally is a buck!

People past and present have scoffed at my Dollar Tree shopping, but here is the truth: 1) Dollar Tree shopping is in keeping with TUMC’s commitment to stewarding our financial resources wisely and 2) I am always amazed at what God does with Dollar Tree resources.

Once again I am preparing for our Holy Week Lenten Prayer Stations – interactive opportunities for participants to read, reflect, and respond to Jesus’ Passion Story as they continue their journey with him from Hosanna to Empty Tomb. Most of the interactive elements at these stations humbly come from the Dollar Tree. Those candles, those pieces of clay, those markers, those silk leaves – through the presence of God’s power they become holy – and I am confident that God’s presence guiding their use accomplishes more in deepening faithful ponderings and encouraging faithful growth than I will ever know.

Just because something is humble or ordinary or commonplace does not limit God’s use of that object to draw you into deeper relationship with God or to display God’s power in guiding your life purpose.

Even items at/from the Dollar Tree.

Thank you, David, for sharing your gifts at TUMC this Sunday. Love them well and challenge them, too. They (we) are up for it!

Prayer: “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he; Lord Sabaoth, his name, from age to age the same, and he must win the battle.”* Amen.

*“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” The United Methodist Hymnal 110.

Dare to Dream: Lose Your Big Buts

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Exodus 3:11-15.

You know what is a really long list? All of the things I learned in seminary.

You know what is an even longer list?

All of the things I did not learn in seminary.

Let us pray.

In 1964 Simon and Garfunkel released their single “The Sound of Silence.” It begins, “Hello, darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk to you again.”

My adaptation – “Hello, fear, my old friend, I’ve come to talk to you again.”

There is a direct relationship between my fear and my lack of knowledge. And since the list of what I did not learn in seminary is longer than the list of what I learned in seminary, I am often afraid…

I immediately fear what I do not know – especially a task I do not know how to complete or a problem I do not know how to solve. At times the fear is paralyzing. I cannot move. My breathing is shallow. I feel tears welling in my eyes.

Fear stands before me. What are you going to do now? Fear taunts. The answer Fear wants? Nothing. Silence. Will Fear accept a verbalization? Sure – as long as it is an excuse which affirms that nothing will change.

My faith has taught and is teaching me a response to fear…

Fight.

(Not the word you were expecting, huh?)

I fight fear. First I admit that I am afraid. And then I get mad. And when I am mad, I am pretty unstoppable until the friend, accountability partner, or fellow servant is called; the skill is acquired; the task is completed; and the problem is solved.

I am like the T-Rex on the t-shirts with the handheld extender grabbers.

Unstoppable.

I would rather learn new skills in order to conquer challenges than make excuses. I would rather call on the community of faith that has supported and is supporting me than sit alone in my fear. Problem solving skills are vital in the church; they are vital in every day life. Fear wants to immobilize us. Faith desires to motivate us to make positive change and contribute, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to transforming our world more into God’s Kingdom.

Hello, Fear, my old friend…weren’t you just leaving?

What is your reaction to fear? How do you overcome fear? How has and does your faith form your response to fear? Share your answers with someone this week. See you Sunday!

Prayer: “When Israel was in Egypt’s land, let my people go; oppressed so hard they could not stand, let my people go. No more shall they in bondage toil, let my people go; let them come out with Egypt’s spoil, let my people go. Go down (go down) Moses (Moses) way down in Egypt’s land; tell old Pharaoh to let my people go!”* Amen.

*”Go Down, Moses,” The United Methodist Hymnal 448.