Help! I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 10:25-37.

Some weeks are more difficult than others. There are stressors, challenges, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, long hours, slow progress, and questions – lots of questions. During difficult weeks I tend to feel like the traveler making her way from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked leaving her beaten and broken along the road.

Eyes cast down. Curled in the fetal position. Longing for relief.

Hoping for a friend.

I am grateful that during difficult weeks that I do not hope in vain. Friends are near, present, and quick to bring comfort. And friends, we need each other.

Friends connect by phone call, text, and email. They offer a hug and then another. They recognize contributions. They listen. They give their time. They offer their humor. They help. They come alongside. They connect.

Friends – loved ones – help us stand, help us heal, and help us make our way forward.

Feeling better with the help of my friends and loved ones reminds me of my responsibility (my joy!) to be the friend and loved one of others – to offer love, support, listening, encouragement, hope, and help. And so I took time to do just that, which further transformed my difficult week into a week that witnesses to our call to care for our sisters and brothers in Christ.

There are people all around us that are wounded – with eyes cast down, curled in the fetal position, longing for relief, hoping for a friend – be it literally or figuratively. And our Jesus calls us to take on the posture of the Samaritan – to connect, to help, and to restore hope.

Who is on your heart to connect with this week? To offer a hand, a smile, and a hug? To share encouragement, humor, and time? I encourage you to do so. These small acts can change the tide of someone’s week. These small acts can save someone’s life.

I am delighted to welcome our friend, certified candidate for ministry, and seminary student, Samantha Aupperlee, in worship leadership this week at Tuskawilla! She will preach at both morning worship services. Join us to hear her sermon on The Good Samaritan and to wish her well on her second year of seminary studies.

Prayer: “‘Go, make of all disciples.’ We hear the call, O Lord, that comes from thee, our Father, in thy eternal Word. Inspire our ways of learning through earnest fervent prayer, and let our daily living reveal thee everywhere.”* Amen.

*“Go, Make Of All Disciples,” The United Methodist Hymnal 571.

 

 

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‘Check’ None

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Romans 1:16-17 and Luke 10:29-37.

A week ago while out running errands I stopped at a local alterations place to pick up a blouse that needed mending. On the way out of the store, I saw a young woman – maybe high school or early college – sitting at an outdoor table with her face in her hands. Her shoulders were up by her ears. She was quiet or perhaps striving to stifle cries.

And what did I do?

I walked right on by…

I know well the story of the Good Samaritan. And I like to think that I am the Samaritan…but in this moment I was the Levite. This young woman was in need and I did not stop. The rest of my errands took precedence.

Friends, I got it wrong. And so, I ask for forgiveness.

It is a challenge to put feet to our faith. It is a challenge to live the words of Scripture that we read in our daily study and hear proclaimed in worship. It is a challenge, but it is not a challenge that we cannot fulfill. It takes practice. And the more that we put feet to our faith, the more consistent our behavior becomes.

The invitation to put feet to our faith is not a one and done. It is an invitation before us each moment of each day. It is a challenge, but it is not a challenge that we cannot fulfill. It takes practice. And the more that we put feet to our faith, the more invitations we will receive to do it again.

Last Sunday before Morningsong I had to privilege to share with a guest to that service what United Methodists believe about Holy Communion – specifically the transformation we believe occurs through praying that the bread and the cup be for us the body and blood of Christ that we may be for the world the body of Christ redeemed by his blood. By receiving the grace of the sacrament we believe we are transformed by that grace so much so that we – because of and with God’s grace – will transform the world to God’s glory. Our transformation will be noticed by others – it will witness to them – and through God’s Holy Spirit working through us – our witness may stir up a curiosity in them to seek what is different about us…that it might become what is different for them.

I am confident of humanity’s deep need for God’s grace. I am confident that humanity’s transformation by grace is what caused the Samaritan to stop on that Jericho road. I am confident and hopeful God’s grace will hold me accountable and remind me to stop when the next invitation comes my way.

Be sure to join Rev. Kate Ling and members of the Quest Sunday School Class as they lead worship on these Scripture texts this week. Thank you, friends, for your leadership in worship and service to the TUMC Family!

Prayer: “I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus – no turning back, no turning back.”* Amen.

*“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, The Faith We Sing 2129.

Giving Up: Control

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11.

As I scrolled through social media this morning a fellow pastor and friend posted this as his status,

Lent is kind of annoying. Kind of like Jesus. 

At first I thought, “*name has been removed to protect the innocent*, did you really just write that!?” And then as the words washed over me, I realized…Lent is kind of annoying. Kind of like Jesus.

Lent is the season of the church year that is the antithesis of a spiritual warm fuzzy. Lent is not fuzzy; it is scratchy – scratchy like burlap, scratchy like sackcloth, scratchy like ash on my forehead.

If we choose to lean into Lent, then we choose to lean into our lack. We participate in the sort of self examination where the answer is always you have been found wanting. We look at our sin full on in the face, and in doing so, look deeply into our mortality.

“For I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me” (Ex 20:5) .

“For the wages of sin is death”(Rom 6:23a).

Ouch, Lent. Ouch.

I believe leaning into our lack presents us with two opportunities:

(A) We could become so consumed by our lack that it defeats us. We could throw our hands up in the air. We could roll our eyes at Jesus. We could question (could yell) “What is this life of faith even about? Why are you making me feel worse than I already am? See, I was right; you are just here to judge me!”

(How many of our friends that do not have a relationship with God or are hurting in their relationship with God share these words on a regular basis?)

OR

(B) We could see in our lack – and in recognizing our lack – that God is near. That God’s grace is abundant. That it is annoying to unlearn or change present behaviors so that we are transformed into God’s people who are on the path towards life rather than death.

God is not here to judge us. God is here to love us and to give to us – be for us – the example of holding one another accountable for our actions and behaviors so that we will be a people of life rather than a people of death.

If we continue reading in the two Scriptures quoted previously, see how grace is present in the next breath,

“For I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Ex 20:5-6).

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23). 

During the Season of Lent the Tuskawilla Family will study our way through a sermon series entitled Giving Up, which will encourage us to give up practices or learned behaviors not just for this season, but forever. Giving something up – a regular practice for some during Lent – can be annoying, but I encourage you, if you give something up, to see it as an opportunity to recognize the nearness of God and God’s grace to you in this time (and at all times!).

The life of a disciple is necessarily a life of change – of giving up and taking on, of leading and following, of serving where comfortable and serving beyond our comforts. In all of these environments, God perfects our faith, Jesus strengths our compassion, and the Holy Spirit feeds our appetites for further work in the Kingdom. Essential to this growth in the knowledge and love of our Triune God is recognizing the depth of our need for God’s incredible grace. The Season of Lent, then, is a unique opportunity for us to look into our lack – which can be oh so annoying – and find God’s grace – which is oh so abundant.

Prayer: “O God our deliverer, you led your people of old through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land. Guide now the people of your church, that, following our Savior, we may walk through the wilderness of this world toward the glory of the world to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.*”

*”Lent,” The United Methodist Hymnal 268.

A Modern Resurrection Appearance

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Romans 12:1-8

When I was younger and having a bad day my mother would often offer me this advice…opportunity…directive…

“You need an attitude adjustment.”

Thanks Mom.

Something inside me needed to change – the way I approached situations, the way I reacted to situations, the way I processed situations. This change could not come from outside of me; it had to be my choice and taken under my initiative.

I find now that I am a bit older that some days I continue to need an attitude adjustment. Somedays I also need a mind adjustment. And I have learned that these two are related.

When I have endure a series of bad events – similar to the woes of Alexander and his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day – not only does my attitude fall into a slump but my mind does as well. I sour in my interactions and I sour in my outlooks. Not only do I approach, react to, and process situations poorly, but I also go looking for situations and circumstances that will keep me in and feed my poor attitude rather than move me out of it.

It is only when I go through a change in my mind that I truly experience a change in my attitude and outlook. This mind change is not so I seek and see all the “silver linings” so that I can obscure or ignore my difficult or less than desirable circumstances. This mind change enables me to grow in self-awareness, identify blessing in the midst of hardship, and chart a path forward that includes my mother’s peaceable prescription for a change in attitude.

Paul wrote in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” More often than not I believe our world encourages to see, act, approach, react, and process situations from sour places. We fixate on negatives, complaints, and problems…and when there are not enough negatives, complaints, and problems, some of us choose to create more.

We – humanity – have become too familiar and too comfortable with conformity. We – humanity – as a whole need attitude and mind adjustments.

Paul prescribes transformation and this sort of transformation will only come with God’s help. God’s transformation will bring God’s will into focus, set our feet firmly on God’s path, set our eyes squarely on God’s face, and set our hearts ablaze with passion for God’s people. Through God’s transformation I believe we will be counted among what is good, acceptable, and perfect.

These past few months have been a season where I have constantly asked myself, “Why is this happening to me?” I have felt like the world is out to get me. I have let my frustrations and doubts get the better of me. I have been in the need of serious attitude and mind adjustments. A practice that I find beneficial in launching my attitude and mind adjustments is taking the time to answer this question,

“What brings me joy?”

On days I am able I ask others, “What brings you joy?”

This question breaks my conformity cycle. This question interrupts what was and has the potential to hold and crescendo a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. This question gracefully adjusts me. Some days it is a difficult question to answer…but it is so worth answering.

What brings you joy? Think about it. Answer it. Ask a friend. Listen. Learn. Invite God to adjust not only your attitude, but also your mind.

Prayer: “I’d stay in the garden with him though the night around me be falling, but he bids me go; thru the voice of woe his voice to me is calling. And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”* Amen.

“In the Garden,” The United Methodist Hymnal 314.

Longing for Spring: Reports from the Horizon

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Philippians 2:1-13

My morning routine follows thusly: (1) Wake up before the alarm sounds (2) Listen to my pups yawn and stir (3) Scroll through the day’s headlines (4) Pray.

The first headline I saw this morning? Reports of another earthquake in Nepal. Once again the aching feelings of fear and loss coursed through my heart. I shared the news with Andrew and he lamented how the Nepali people cannot seem to catch a break. One of my yoga instructors is currently in Nepal helping with relief efforts. My thoughts immediately went to Beth and prayers ascended for her safety. She was assisting with a surgery consultation when the earthquake struck (I know – yoga instructor and certified firefighter/paramedic with specialized training in rural and wilderness medicine – she’s amazing!). She and her team are okay. They will continue to serve in the mounting devastation. And they serve with hope.

Many of you have asked if we have an update on our driver Ramesh. We do not. Please continue to pray for him, his family, and all of the beautiful Nepali people.

Halfway through our trip Andrew and I took a bus ride to Pokhara, which is in Western Nepal – about 200km (or 125mi) from Kathmandu. It should be said that when Andrew and I drive an-y-where we get in the car and do not stop till we are out of gas. Well, that is not how Nepali’s travel. They travel in the posture of the Hobbits from Lord of the Rings. They stop for first breakfast, and second breakfast, and a bathroom break, and gas, and eight hours later you arrive at your destination. Oh Nepali bus rides…

Pokhara is home to one of Nepal’s largest fresh water lakes – Phewa Lake – and is a great look out point to view the Annapurna range of the Himalayas. We were hopeful in traveling to Pokhara that we would actually see the Himalayas. The first day in Pokhara was dismal…cloudy and rainy…and no mountains to be seen. We spent most of the day in a trekking hotel sending wishes heavenward that the clouds would break just for a few moments.

Andrew splurged on our room in Pokhara…$15 each night for a room with a view…and as I looked out the windows of our room toward the horizon I spied this.

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Sitting up on a “grassy hill” overlooking Phewa Lake is a World Peace Pagoda. This pagoda was built under the direction of Nichidatsu Fujii, a Buddhist monk from Japan. He was greatly inspired after meeting Mahatma Ghandi in 1931 and decided then to devote his life to promoting ahimsa, a Sanskrit word meaning non-violence. In 1947 he began constructing World Peace Pagodas around the world. His hope was that these pagodas would serve as symbols to inspire peace and be places where people of all races and creeds could unite in presence and heart in seeking world peace.

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In the style of traditional Buddhist stupas this peace pagoda has four images of the Buddha facing the four cardinal directions. It is a solid structure.  Patrons and guests of the pagoda are not meant to go inside of it; they are invited to prayerfully walk around the stupa in a clockwise path. While upon this elevated space patrons and guests can look out across the horizon, admire its beauty, give thanks to their Creator, and send prayers and thoughts of peace to all the patrons of the world.

In our Scripture lesson for this week Paul encourages us to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4). When we turn our attention to the interests of others we become other-focused rather than self-focused. The World Peace Pagoda was built in Nepal not for people to look inside it but for people to stand around it and look into the world. This structure invites people to look not to themselves but to others with hopes for peace, growth, flourishing, and life.

I cannot think of an image more fitting for the Nepali people this day and for all of God’s people everywhere. When we look towards the horizons in our lives, what do we see? Do we see devastation or do we see delight? Or do we choose not to see the devastation so that we only see the delight? To flourish as Christ’s Body on earth, to strengthen God’s coming Kingdom we must come alongside our neighbors in their time of need. We must add our hands, hearts, and voices to God’s mighty work of transformation from destruction to delight.

Our God is a life-giving God. We are God’s children. We must add our hands, hearts, and voices to God’s mighty work of transformation. We must do it today.

Prayer: “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”* Amen.

*The Prayer of St. Francis.

Be Still: Stand Still and See

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Exodus 14:10-22

When was the last time you took a moment to stand still and see – to stand still and marvel at God’s creation and what God is doing?

I have been blessed with the privilege to see some of God’s most amazing sites in creation – the Grand Canyon, the Grindelwald Glacier in Switzerland, sea turtles swimming along the North Shore in Hawaii, a rainforest-filled valley below a smoldering volcano in Costa Rica, the fog settling among the peaks of the Smokey Mountains – to name a few.  These creations are a wonder to behold…and there is so much about these creations that a picture can capture and so much that a picture can not begin to capture.

These are grand images.  They are truly wonderful.  And what amazes me about them most is that they did not appear overnight.  The Grand Canyon was carved through years and years of water slowly running through sedimentary rock.  The Grindelwald Glacier amassed as one singular ice crystal connected with another, and then another, and then another.  The mature sea turtles grew from eggs, the trees in the rainforest from seeds, the volcano and mountains through continuous pressure from colliding tectonic plates.  Each of these developments in our environment are the result of a change – from egg to animal, from seed to plant, from plain to peak, from shallow to deep.

Change requires time and commitment – and in that knowledge I receive grace – not only for others and for the systems that I participate in, but also for myself.  I have been on a personal journey for a little over a year for better health and wellness.  I am engaging in regular physical activity through walking and yoga.  I have altered my eating habits, eating more vegetables, fruits, and leaner meats.  I am eliminating foods and beverages that are “empty calories” – I love to eat…so when I eat I want every one of those calories to count!  There have been times along this journey that I have questioned whether or not what I am doing is making a difference…and when those negative worries creep in God always seems to place someone in my path that says something about my transformation without any prompting.

I have heard to said that it takes four weeks to see a change in your own body/life, eight weeks for your friends and family to see it, and twelve weeks for the rest of the world to see it.  In my own journey I feel that I have lived the reverse.  It took my eyes the longest to adjust and to see what everyone else sees – to see what God sees.  God is making me a new and beautiful creation.  God is making me a wonder to behold.  And God is inviting me to stand still and see what God is doing in my life that I will celebrate!  God has delivered and is delivering me to a place of whole-iness.

“Rome was not built in a day” as the saying goes.  Transformation takes time.  And God’s imprints are all over it.

Have you taken time to stand still and see the transformation God is doing in your life?  In your own body?  In your relationships?  In the systems in which you participate?  Receive God’s grace that accompanies change.  And take time to wonder.

Prayer: “I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord; no tender voice like thine can peace afford.  I need thee every hour; stay thou nearby; temptations lose their power when thou art nigh.  I need thee every hour, in joy or pain; come quickly and abide, or life is vain.  I need thee every hour; teach me thy will; and thy rich promises in me fulfill.  I need thee every hour, most Holy One; O make me thine indeed, thou blessed Son.  I need thee, O I need thee; every hour I need thee; O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee.* Amen.

*”I Need Thee Every Hour,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 397.