Planting Seeds – An extraordinary journey

In essence, my calling is about how God has taken me, another ordinary person, and brought them along a most extraordinary journey.

In essence, my calling is about how God has taken me, another ordinary person, and brought them along a most extraordinary journey.

I was invited by my good friend and ministry colleague Jason Stanley to share my story on how I became a United Methodist Ordained Deacon. You can find it on his blog and a revised version below. I’d love to hear your story of where you see God working in your life.

The seed for my call was planted before I was born. My maternal grandmother was passionate about serving and caring for others – humans, animals and creation. It was through her life and the way that my mother was raised that I became an advocate for those without a voice. Granny lived a life and left a legacy filled with stories of providing for care for children. She opened the family home to her children’s friends giving them a warm meal, clothes to wear and a place to stay. Young people always had a voice around her table.

Granny cared equally for animals and there are many stories of family members coming into the kitchen to find beside the wood burning stove “the box”. “The box” provided protection for an animal that was born the littlest or one that was injured. Granny raised it with care until the animal was ready to leave. Her love for creation was equal to the love she had for people and animals. She was a farmer and a gardener who never seemed to have a challenge growing plants. I believe it was the care with which she planted the seed and tended the soil that enabled her gardens to flourish. Daily she gave thanks and praise to God for all that she had and deeply desired to share her blessings with others.

The seed was planted by my grandmother and the soil was tended by her and my mother – and countless family members and neighbors. I was raised by a village of people who cared for one another. I think that’s the way of the mountains and in my bias especially the Appalachian Mountains where I was raised. In those mountains there is a sense of family, of community, of belonging and it happens because of the people.

From an early age I found myself connecting with those on the margins – the elderly who had no family left to visit them, the person in my class who no one would talk to, the student who learned differently than others or the family member who struggled to find their way. My heart had a natural call to notice them, to encourage and to provide support and resources where they were needed. Throughout my life, I have been called to journey with others during the sacred moments of their lives.

In essence, my calling is about how God has taken me, another ordinary person, and brought them along a most extraordinary journey.

Throughout my life, I have felt called to be a voice for those without a voice and to a life of service. As a lobbyist and political advocate I worked on legislation and educational programs focused on the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It was this passion for social justice that brought me to seminary after a 16 year career of government and political work. I thought I was called to social justice ministry in a global sense and could see myself as a missionary serving in another country or assisting the church in being a voice at the legislative branch of government. That changed with the unexpected death of my brother in my second year of seminary. His life and death returned me full circle to offer safe and trusting spaces where they people can encounter God during the challenging and joyful moments of their lives. This call to be a bridge, a connector also helped me discern my call not only to ordained ministry but to the ministry of a deacon.

I currently live this out through teaching and proclaiming the Word of God at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Richmond. As an ordained Deacon and an Associate Minister, I have the privilege of journeying with people as they move from someone who comes to church because they feel they are missing something inside to being on fire as they serve as a witness of God’s love in a world filled with pain. My call is to create spaces where people can learn and grow as they journey the path of becoming a disciple of Christ. Not only do I work with others to provide opportunities that aid in spiritual formation through small groups, Sunday School classes, workshops and programs but I assist people in serving outside the church.

Good Shepherd UMC is a body that is committed to local, national and international missions. As one who builds bridges, I help people discover their passions and gifts so that they can find their place of service. Personally, I continue to serve as an advocate through local and global mission experiences – many through the work of the congregation I serve and some on my own.

I am constantly discerning how to respond to God’s call on my life and in doing so I try to connect with my passions. One of the areas I’m very passionate about is education, especially reading. I have had a love of reading since before I can remember. Because of being able to read I have received great privilege – in terms of school, jobs and relationships. When someone cannot read, their ability to achieve in the world is greatly reduced.  Being able to read makes a difference in a person’s life. This reconnecting with a passion has brought me full circle to serving as a tutor in the tutoring program offered by our congregation.

In each of these experiences, I have the opportunity to listen to others as they share their story – their sacred story. My hope is that by creating places where one can share their sacred story, each individual will become aware of the presence of God’s love for him or her and in turn each will be able to witness the transformative power of Christ in their life.

Are there experiences from your life that are nudging you into a direction that will make a difference in the life of another? Please share.

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You’re Invited to Discover That Food Is Not a Curse

MadetoCraveBook_largeMade to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire With God, Not Food is not only a book by Lysa TerKeurst, founder of Proverbs31 Ministries, it’s also an online bible study that I invite you to join me and 34,000 other women as we discover, or remember, that only God can satisfy our deepest desires.

I’m participating in this study so that I can refuel with reminders that all I need, all I desire, all I can hope for is found only by deepening my relationship with God. Sometimes food meets those needs for me – especially Chick-fil-A! There are days all three meals come from Chick-fil-A – it’s so easy especially the drive thru. Sadly, this often mirrors my relationship with God. There are days and weeks when I have a drive thru relationship with God. A quick devotional here, a popcorn prayer there, a “I’ll get my quiet time later.” attitude. God desires more and I desire more too.

The dedication to the book reads:

“This book is dedicated to you, my friend. While I don’t know your name, God does. I believe (God) led you to pick up this book because (God) wants to you to know your issues with food are not a curse but a gateway through which (God) can touch the rawest places of your heart and help you discover a deep satisfaction only (God) can give. God ahead and dare to believe that this time around things will be different.”

We’re going to discover that the cure for the cravings that don’t bring us fulfillment is a deeper relationship with God. My word for 2014 is commit. I commit to being on this journey with you, this journey of discipleship, this journey of becoming more like Christ, this journey of falling more in love with God. Will you join me?

What are the next steps?

Sign up for the Made to Crave study.

Join me each Thursday as I share my thoughts, struggles, questions, concerns as I work through this material and these issues.

I’m looking forward to being on this journey with you.

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One Little Word: Commit

In 2011 I read about Allie Edwards’ One Little Word and thought it would be fun to find a word for the year and see what would happen. The concept is that one word can be a focus word. A word to ponder. A word that guides. A word that challenges. When I was ready to begin I thought that I would choose the word. It didn’t take me long to realize that this is not how it worked. I didn’t choose the word instead the word found me. My word in 2011 was humility. Seriously, who would pick humility as their word? That year I was humbled publicly not once but twice. Both times as much as it hurt I grew in ways I never imagined possible. I saw how we humiliate one another with words, with our actions or worse our non-actions. It’s not a word that I would have picked but I’m grateful that I learned that humbling myself is not a form of punishment but an opportunity to grow.

Or suffering? No one wants to suffer. In 2012, I wanted to understand the suffering of Jesus. It’s like asking for patience. Be careful what you pray for because you’ll receive it. I suffered through personal attacks. I suffered through gaining clarity on my theology as I worked through requirements for ordination. I suffered through the loss of loved ones. In the suffering, I grew closer to Jesus.

Last year I thought a safer word had found me – presence. Wrong again. I wanted to spend more time in God’s presence and to be more present to and with others. I grew and stumbled in both areas. I learned a lot about what happens when I am or am not present – to God and others. There were moments of joy and times of struggle. As with humility and suffering, presence is a word that will never leave me.

This year, however, the most challenging of words landed on my heart. Commit. Not only did the little word find me but also a scripture verse too! Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him, and he will act. (Psalm 35:7 NRSV). So not only was I given commit but trust too.

Webster defines commit as:

  • to do
  • to decide to use (a person, money, etc.) for some particular purpose or use
  • to say that (someone or something) will definitely do something : to make (someone or something) obligated to do something

Clearly commit is an action. A step. A movement. One who commits must do something. As I pondered this definition I wondered what would I be committing to in this new year? The scripture mentioned above gives me some clues.

First, commit your way to the Lord. My way, my manner, my thoughts, my actions, my speech, my words, my heart, my all. It doesn’t say, commit a little bit of your way. Or commit on Sunday but not Monday. Commit is a 24/7 kind of word. It really is my heart’s desire to commit my way to the Lord. I pray for that every day and I’m grateful that God’s grace brings me back on track when I stray. How will this commitment change and grow this year? What new habits will develop? What old ones will I need to let go of in order to more fully commit myself to God?

Now the second part of this verse is so, so difficult for me. When I saw the word trust my initial thought was seriously – trust! You have to give me trust as a word to work on. I know I have trust issues and they get me into trouble all of the time. I try to do it all myself. I find it difficult to trust God first. And I have a horrible time trusting others. I think no one but I can do the task at hand. This is where I get into trouble. Deep down I want to empower and to encourage but when I have not committed the situation to God, then well, the person I don’t want to be steps in and takes over. I blame it on being the oldest in my family but I know that is not the case. I have a feeling this is the year that my issues with trust will not go unresolved. I’m glad I have an amazing support system to journey with me.

Finally, he will act. If I commit my way and then get out-of-the-way then God can act. Makes sense. The action step here is to move. To trust. As I write this my cat Twitter is Twittercurled up beside me. He loves spending time with me. I can rub underneath his chin without fear that he will bite me. He engages in one of the greatest acts of trust for an animal by allowing me to rub his belly. This trust has developed because we spend time together. I pay attention to him and am always learning something new about his personality, about his behaviors, his likes and dislikes. It’s the same with my relationship with God. God is there beside me, even closer than my cat. God is waiting for me to pay attention. To learn God’s way. To spend time in contemplation. To slow down. To listen. To trust. To get out-of-the-way. To make room so God can move.

This one little word is not so little. I don’t know where the journey is going to take me but I can believe that the One who I have committed my life to will be with me on the journey.

I’d love to hear about your one little word.

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