Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Daddy's birthday

It still seems odd not to call Daddy to wish him a happy birthday on March 20. Instead, I just say a prayer of gratitude for all he did for us on earth and now as part of that great cloud of heavenly witnesses since 2011. Feeling love for Daddy as well as Mom and all my family, today and always.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Did it happen if I didn't write about it?

Did it happen if I didn't write about it?

Or perhaps the more relevant question: Does it matter if I did it if I don't remember it?

For many years, I've been aware of how poor my memory is. Even when I try, I forget things it seems others remember without a second thought.

I think it's part of why I have tried to keep a journal and-or post things on a blog or Facebook.

I'm also aware it doesn't do a lot of good to write things down -- and even to post them on a blog or Facebook -- without a good system of sorting, labeling, filing or some other process that will make the information retrievable. And that's another place where I fall short.

And so, I find myself pondering some of the same questions that troubled me two years ago in Houston, Texas, and a year ago in Greenville, South Carolina.

What really matters?

Does it matter if I don't remember?

Does it matter if I don't know?

I don't know.

I trust that God knows. For today, that's enough.

Monday, March 11, 2019


Never accept that all your greatest moments are in the past.

More to come.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Unplanned act of faith

As has often been the case for me, entering this morning of Ash Wednesday, I had not settled on my plan for Lent, the 40 days (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter. It's that time when a lot of Christians "give up" something as they prepare for Easter through fasting, repentance, moderation and-or other spiritual disciplines, often marked by sacrifice. It's also become acceptable to add something, such as more Bible study or acts of kindness.

I've been doing a better job of daily Bible reading, study and prayer this year, and I thought that might be a good lead-in to the spiritual discipline of at least a partial fast. This morning, my Bible readings seemed to confirm it, as Scriptures and devotional readings spoke of fasting, letting go and trusting God.

Most direct was the verse of the day on the YouVersion Bible App:

"Yet even now," says the Lord, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;" (Joel 2:12)

Looking back at the morning's readings, I see that was the only one that mentioned fasting. But others (Matthew 19:26; Romans 5:3-5; Matthew 7:24-27) referenced how things that seem impossible to me are possible with God and are surely worth the effort and-or sacrifice.

So, I was a bit surprised and significantly troubled by just how strong and clear was the resistance of my spirit to this idea.

"Lord, if it is to be, it will have to be through your changing of my heart and transformation of my will. I lift it up to You," I wrote in my journal as I prayed.

"Show me Your way. This moment, it seems more likely Lent will be a time of preparing my heart to let go — to fast — than a time of actual fasting."

I long to surrender. And still I resist.

"Lord, I offer myself to You, to use me as You will. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Your will. Take away my difficulties, not for my comfort, ease or glory, but that victory over them may proclaim to others Your power, Your love and Your way of life. I pray to know and do Your will. I pray to trust You with my life — to trust You even when to me it’s not clear that You are in control of my will or my life. I believe You can and will transform me. I will look for evidence of Your work all around as well as within. And in all things, I will give You thanks and praise. This is my prayer. I lift it up in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."

This was followed by thoughts of things I might consider giving up. Peanut butter, chocolate, Diet Dr Pepper, gum and social media were possibilities that came to mind.

But I could not see any of it happening. I felt no willingness to let go, not even for Ash Wednesday, and certainly not for the 40 days of Lent.

I spent more time reading, praying and writing. I lifted up people and situations I knew to be standing in the need of prayer. I offered praise and thanksgiving. And finally, still with no strong sense of a plan for the day or for a spiritual program for Lent, I stepped out in faith, trusting that I would discover God's plan for me step by step.

It was early afternoon before I made my first visit of the day to Facebook, and there among my "memories" was a post from Jim Goodwin, a former pastor at the church I grew up in and my mother still attends, that affirmed the path I had fallen into for Lent.

Among his words from March 6, 2014:

"The quicksand of good intentions ... a slippery slope toward failure ... delusion of control ... promises ... expectations ... disappointing ... fear ... 
"So, is there another option? What about 'faith'? ... I'm talking about faith for this moment of the journey, just this one second; not tomorrow or next week, just for this heartbeat of life. ... Ah, there is the heart of the matter? Will it ultimately be faith in me and my limitations, or will it be faith in the unlimited resources of God? ... I wonder what would happen in the consistency of my commitments and promises if I learn to live simply ... by faith in God."

Maybe because of those stubborn illusions of control, it's hard for me to just trust God. It seems that even God should want me to have a plan. A lesson I'm getting to experience again and again this year is that my assessment of what I think God should expect of me is usually wrong. Living by faith rather than my plans worked well today.

I suppose it shouldn't surprise me. 

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord." (Isaiah 55:8, Revised Standard Version)

Lord I believe. I believe in You and trust You in many things and ways. Help my unbelief and my resistance in the places where I lack faith. I trust that You are at work for good. I love You Lord. I thank You. You are good. You are gracious. You are beyond my comprehension in all Your ways. ... I trust that You will lead me, to Your glory.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Marching onward

I forgot to go to the Upper Room prayer wall today but was grateful to attend the World Day of Prayer luncheon of the Gainesville (or maybe Cooke County) Women of Faith with my Mom at First Presbyterian Church. It was good to catch up with some folks I had not seen in many years. I was reminded the ACTS of prayer are adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. Its value cannot be overestimated.

This was also an important message for me this first day of March, 2019:

  1. Lastly, God is good at being God. Don’t try to fix what He hasn’t assigned you to fix. Don’t try to manipulate or control or spend all your emotions trying to figure it out. Let Him be God. Free yourself from this impossible assignment.
    From Lysa TerKeurst, Proverbs 31 Ministries, 3-1-19

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Finding my way forward

The United Methodist Church has completed its special General Conference that was called in an attempt to determine a "way forward" after years of debate and disagreement on matters involving homosexuals in the life of the church.

By a narrow margin, delegates from the global denomination two days ago approved a "traditionalist" plan that maintains prohibitions within the church against same-sex unions and the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.

A "one church plan" that was proposed as a way to allow churches and clergy to agree to disagree was defeated.

Those are oversimplifications. I'll try to come back later and add more detail and clarity.

I had hoped to express my observations on this process. Once again, I'm reminded of why I am no longer a professional journalist. In fact, I find myself wondering how I ever had been! Whatever clarity I ever had in writing about such things (yes, I spent several years as a religion writer!) has vanished.

On Facebook that night, I shared a United Methodist News Service report on the decision. I included these thoughts:

I did not expect this outcome. I'm not optimistic this has settled anything. One impassioned response read: "you cannot love someone and hold them as separate. You cannot love someone and hold them as different. You CANNOT love someone and treat them as less." That weighs heavily on my heart. Jesus calls us to love. He also said go and sin no more. What is sin? I'm no judge. I try to use the Bible as a guide. Sometimes the words and meanings are unclear to me. I do know I had prayed and fervently hoped the Holy Spirit would move through this conference to find a way forward with a demonstration of love perhaps as had never seen before, something only God could do, to bring people with such divergent perspectives on Scripture into a place of holy understanding and relationship, to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world. I choose to believe the Holy Spirit is continuing to work. I pray for the United Methodist Church, for the church universal and for all of God's creation. And I pray to know how God would have me respond in love and humble obedience, to His glory.

I'm very aware that I want to believe what I believe and not have people think I'm hateful. The thing I struggle with is that I'm not a Bible scholar, and I don't think Scriptures are clear on these matters. Is sin the bigger deal? Or is love? Is homosexuality a sin? Is there such a thing as speaking the truth in love? Is this a cultural problem or a spiritual problem? 

I've known for a long time that I want to be a peace-maker and a people-pleaser. I want to plant seeds of harmony, not discord. I want people to get along. I want people to understand me and like me. And I want to understand people and to like them.

I also want to honor God. I think that's the most important thing.

And I cannot clearly see what actions and response are truly the ones that honor God.

So I continue to pray and study and ask and listen. I will continue to worship and love and serve. I will continue to trust God.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Seeking and trusting God as I try not to overthink this

As a lifelong Methodist, I'm very interested in the special General Conference of the United Methodist Church that is set to begin Saturday in St. Louis. The task at hand is to find "a way forward" in which the church can remain united despite major differences of opinion and belief on whether homosexuality is compatible with Christian teaching.

United Methodist principles and laws currently say it is not, but this has been debated at least since 1972. In addition to the language in the Social Principles about incompatibility with Christian teaching, other disputed rules involve whether self-avowed homosexuals should be able to be ordained as clergy and whether United Methodist pastors can officiate at same-sex unions and also whether such ceremonies can take place at United Methodist churches. Right now, none of those things are sanctioned, although it is known that they have occurred.  

I am still learning and praying. I’m trying to understand how what always seemed clear to me is clearly different to many others. I wholeheartedly believe God is at work in this. I know He wants us love Him and to love our neighbors as ourselves. But what about sin? What is sin? What is holy? Whose interpretation of the Bible am I supposed to believe? The good news and saving grace for me is that I don’t have to agree with people to love them, work with them and care about them.

 Some of the things I’m working through are:
— all the things in the Bible that seem clearly forbidden but are freely embraced today (such as some of what women are allowed to do; and the punishments for wrong);
— the greatest commandment is to love God and to love our neighbor as ourself, but how does the second part of that play out if I and my neighbor disagree on whether something is harmful? I may think I’m acting in love, trying to protect them from what I see as the error of their ways. They may think I am judging.
— Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly.
— I’m also having to work through my fear that people I love and care about might not accept or understand why I believe what I believe. I want to be able to have conversations, which requires me to be clear, at least to myself, about what I believe and why. And I’m a slow, questioning learner, so a crash course won’t be much help, but the thought of starting over, reading the Bible from the beginning again and praying for discernment and clarity, seems overwhelming!!

It's that new covenant that came when God sent His son Jesus to die for our sins that many/seems like most of my friends say is why a committed, loving, same-sex union is acceptable to God. Jesus came to save the world, not to condemn the world. Who am I to judge? So, I don't judge. I can't say I agree either. Which to some means I'm being judgmental. 

I continue to pray for discernment and grace.