You Might Be A Christian If…You Are Kind of Weird At Math

Sunday’s Scripture ~ John 1:1-5, 10-18 and 16:4b-15.

To quote the redoubtable Samantha Aupperlee, “Math is hard.”

True words, dear Samantha. True words.

I have had the privilege of knowing Samantha for six years. We met one another through the Young Adult Missional Movement, a ministry of the Florida Annual Conference. She was appointed to Tuskawilla UMC to serve as the church’s intern. And saying she (we) faced some hard circumstances in that first year together is an understatement.

What we really faced? Shenanigans.

Samantha never shied away from a difficult circumstance – from math or any other ‘opportunity’ where we did not see an obvious solution. Where others (where I!) saw broken bridges, Samantha always saw a chance to rebuild or to forage a new way. Samantha is calm and confident. Though she was not always eager to go along with my crazy schemes – like the day I seatbelted her into the front seat of my car with Easter Lilies when she can.not.stand. the smell of said Easter Lilies – she was and remains a faithful partner in ministry.

Recently I attended a leadership conference and one of the speakers – a former FBI hostage negotiator – who said church leadership conferences were not interesting!? –  said that humans are disposed to one of three responses when we encounter conflict: fight, flight, or make friends. I am quite familiar with the first two: Fight – take on the conflict with the hope of being victorious. Sometimes the victory is winning; other times the victory is achieving a mutual resolution. Flight – avoiding the conflict all together, a “do not pass go, do not collect $200” scenario. But the third was new to me. Make friends – curious. Very curious indeed.

Curiosity about a conflict is the first step in making friends with it. Investigate it. Get to know it. Ask questions of it. Seek to understand it. And then seek to understand yourself in association or relationship with it. Making friends with a conflict or hardship resonates on a different level with me than fighting a conflict because making friends necessarily begins from a place of peace – of hoping for the best in a person/situation, for a person/situation, for the duration of our cooperation together.

When I think back on Samantha, making friends is truly at her heart. Even when something is hard, Samantha, you seek to make friends.

You are brilliant, you know that?

When you encounter hardship or conflict or even a shenanigan – what is your response? Do you fight, flight, or make friends? How can curiosity become a tool for you to alter how you respond to future hardships, conflicts, and shenanigans? Share your answers with a friend this week. I look forward to worshipping with you on Sunday!

Prayer: “Crown him the Lord of love; behold his hands and side, those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified. All hail, Redeemer, hail! For thou hast died for me; thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.”* Amen.

*“Crown Him With Many Crowns,” The United Methodist Hymnal 327.

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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.