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The Road

June 18, 2019

Sometimes, the road preaches to me. Traveling home from Annual Conference was one of those times.

My dear friend and clergy colleague Kristi and I were driving merrily along, discussing the Conference and our hopes for our Church, when we saw an accident that had just occurred. The dust had not yet settled around the overturned trailer and the truck attached. People were getting out of the truck and another car, smashed and askew in its lane. We hadn’t seen the accident happen, but it could not have been more than a few minutes before we arrived on the scene. There was just enough room to get around the crash and, since others had already stopped to help, we chose to keep going.

Not long after that, we entered a cone zone where our two lanes narrowed to one and we were side by side with oncoming traffic. I watched in horror as a truck in the oncoming lane drifted out of his lane, taking out several cones separating northbound and southbound traffic. He headed straight for us, with debris flying out into the lane in front of us. Suddenly, the truck driver corrected his trajectory and moved back into his lane, but the base of a cone, kicked up by his tire, flew toward the windshield of our car, toward Kristi, who was driving. Somehow, the base of the cone flew over the car instead of into it. Other debris was raining down from the sky right in front of us and we drove through it all, miraculously, without any of it touching us! Nothing hit the car. The car didn’t hit any of the debris in the road. We were safe and, since there was no place to pull over in the cone zone, we kept going.

It had been raining on and off, but we had not been hit with any of the big storms that had been predicted, although we could see the ominous clouds all around us. I didn’t mind the rain, but hoped we would be spared the hail that had also been predicted. Driving along, we noticed what looked like blankets of snow beside the highway. But no, it was hail, melted on the pavement but still in abundance on the grass by the roadside. We drove by two miles of hail that we had been fortunate enough to miss. And still, we kept going.

Getting closer to Colorado, a man driving beside us and talking on his cell phone began drifting into our lane. Kristi did some more amazing defensive driving and we avoided a collision. The man in the car didn’t even seem to notice that he had almost sideswiped us. I don’t mind telling you, by now I was using language John Wesley would not have condoned. We kept on going and finally made it to our respective homes, safe and sound.

Our journey made me reflect on the journey our Mountain Sky Conference is beginning. We recognize that we cannot live under the new anti-gay laws that have been voted in by our denomination. We recognize that this is no longer the Methodist Church in which many of us were nurtured in our youth. This is no longer a Church to which we can belong. We must blaze a trail to something new.

We are beginning a journey that may be fraught with danger and disaster, and yet we must keep going. There will be accidents, distractions, and storms. Still, we must keep going. We must build a Church where all truly means all, where young people don’t need to come out of the closet because they were never forced into the closet. We must build a church where people who identify within the LGBTQ community no longer need protection for their ministry, but are empowered to preach the good news that God loves everyone, with no exceptions.

The welcome statement for my local church reads: “All are welcome whatever your age, gender, race, marital status, sexual orientation, address, physical ability, native land or language, economic reality or job status.” When we crafted that statement, someone asked how far would we take this?  If someone complained that we did not have height or weight on our welcome statement, would we add it? My answer was, “You bet.”

Because, my friends, THAT is the Gospel, the good news, that God loves us all. Period. The list of who that includes can be as long as it needs to be. All means all.

We are beginning a journey that is uncertain and uncomfortable. We don’t know what will happen. We are not even sure where we are going. Like the Israelites wandering the desert, we may look back and wish we had stayed where we were. But we must keep going until we get where God is leading us. God IS leading us. We are not alone on this road. Praise God! And in the end, God will lead us home. I believe this with all my heart and I pray that you may open your heart and find the truth of God’s love on this road.

God loves even you and I  
who try but sometimes fail
to see
God made us free
to choose which road
which destiny.
If we but seek
with an open mind
our own true heart
will surely find
that life
with all its cares
and all its woes
is but a road
         God walks with us.
"Is But A Road" by David Yantis

 

 

The Prayer of Confession

February 23, 2019

As the Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) begins in prayer, I, too, have been praying.

In fact, I have been praying for over 40 years. Praying that the Church I love, the Church that has loved and supported me, would widen that circle of love to include my gay and lesbian friends. Praying that the word “inclusive” would not become one of the dirty words, right up there with “politically correct” and “liberal.” Praying that all the people I love at my local church would not only continue to love me, but would also love all the people who are not at my local church, and would —gasp!— invite them in.

In other words, praying that everyone think like me. Hmmm…

In 2016, the UMC General Conference almost unravelled over the subject of homosexuality and whether or not the church should ordain brothers and sisters who identify within the LGBTQ sexuality spectrum, and whether or not clergy could perform same-sex weddings. At an impasse, the General Conference voted to hold a Special General Conference in 2019, specifically to address these subjects.

This year, as the Special General Conference drew ever nearer, my prayer changed significantly. I have been praying the Prayer of Confession that we use in our formal communion litany. Rather than praying for a specific outcome at the General Conference, I have been focusing on my relationship with God and what I perceive is my own role in systemic abuse. This, now, is part of my prayer:

“Merciful God, I confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of those in need. Forgive us, I pray. Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ your Son. Amen.”

Whatever the outcome of this Special General Conference, I know God walks with us as we continue striving to walk in love. Please join me in prayer during this time of decision, 2/23-2/26. And may the peace of God that surpasses all understanding guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and always. Amen!

Being in 2019

January 6, 2019

The stay-cation is almost over. I will go back to work and my friends will ask me, “How was your vacation?” My reply will be, as it so often is, “Great!” Then they will inevitably ask, “What did you do?” and I will gleefully answer, “Nothing!”

It seems strange to folks that anyone would enjoy just being, but I suppose that is because they can’t “be” me. For someone who runs at light speed most days, resting is a blessing. Most weeks, I take a sabbath day, when I also just rest.

I wasn’t always like this. Back in the day, I spent my vacation time back-packing in the high Sierras, playing in Palm Springs, cruising in Baja California, water-skiing at Lake Tahoe, exploring San Francisco, catching baseball games in Houston and Kansas City and Oakland and San Diego, and touring around Florida. I was always doing something. Busyness became a way of life.

One year, while busy with an intern position, I told my mentor that I felt like I wasn’t “doing” enough. He wisely told me that “learning is doing.” I got the message, and learned how to just “be.” By societal standards, I may be doing nothing, but by my standards, I am relaxing into being.

Being is where epiphanies begin. Being is where love lives. Being is the root of creativity.
And best of all, for me these days, being is where I find rest.

I pray that all of us find a way to just BE in 2019, and to let others also just BE, and in our being together, that we find epiphanies, love, creativity, and rest.

Happy New Year!

The Uncreased Prayer

December 17, 2018

Sometimes, I’ll hear or read a blunder that resonates with me much more than the correct statement would have. Today in church, we had the sweetest, young liturgist reading our Advent Candle litany. She read very well and with great confidence, but she made one little mistake that has stuck in my head, for which I am ever so grateful. The words from 1st Thessalonians read, “pray without ceasing,” but she accidentally said, “pray without creasing.”

Our young reader corrected herself quickly enough, but I have to say, her version spoke to me today. Pray without creasing. Don’t let those worry lines invade your prayer. Don’t crinkle that forehead. Don’t knit those eyebrows or wrinkle that nose. Pray without creasing. Don’t pucker or pout those lips, just pray without creasing!

I took those words to heart as I prayed this afternoon. With a deep breath, I relaxed the muscles in my face and shoulders, and lifted up my thanks to God. Not a list of petitions for those in my church, not a plea for world peace, just a heartfelt prayer of thanks, easy and unfurrowed.

There is a time when we need to pray hard and put everything we’ve got into it. Sometimes, we can’t help it. But there is also a time to give to God a pure prayer of gratitude from a trusting and worry-free heart, a time to pray without creasing. May you find such a time in this season of Advent.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Goals

June 23, 2018

Let me tell you about Everyday Dale.

Dale Webster, who resides in Northern California, is a world-record holding surfer. What’s his record? Biggest wave? No. Longest ride? No. Most people on a surf board? No.

Dale Webster, aka The Daily Wavester, holds the world record for Most Consecutive Days Surfing. Everyday Dale caught at least three waves a day — surf to sand, meaning all the way in — for a grand total of 14,641 days. He didn’t start out intending to set that record, but rode on into the effort one day at a time, until he finally admitted to himself that this was actually a thing he was doing. And then he kept after it. For forty years.

From 1975 to 2015, Dale went out regardless of any and all conditions — weather, health, marriage, family, sharks — and enjoyed the waves every single day.  His perseverance toward his goal inspired his daughter to set her own record: She was the first student in her school district to go from elementary school through high school with perfect attendance.

Dale’s streak ended when he needed kidney stone surgery. He decided that was as good a time as any to hang it up. No regrets, just many memories of good waves, a little bit of notoriety, the support of friends, and the joy of a goal achieved.

I realize this is not a current event, but tonight my beloved and I were watching “Step Into Liquid,” one of our favorite surf flicks ever, and seeing Dale’s quest featured in the movie reawakened my sense of awe for anyone who can plug away at something and keep at it longer than anyone else, like Ripken or DiMaggio.

As we pass the midway point in the year, when commitment to goals wanes and determination might begin to flag regarding our New Year resolutions, I hope we all remember Dale Webster and his code of honor while fulfilling his dreams. He said he could have taken only one wave instead of three and called it a day, or could have counted those waves that he didn’t ride all the way in. No one would have known. But for him it was a matter of honor. He didn’t want to be admired for doing something he didn’t actually do.

May we all adhere to this honor code as we pursue our work and the simple joys of life. And maybe someday, somewhere, an entire church will decide to set the world record for perfect church attendance! Well, a girl can dream.

“David also said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work.'” 1 Chronicles 28:20

 

 

 

Rain

June 6, 2018

The weirdest thing happened today. A quick little storm blew through, complete with dark clouds and tremendous winds gusting and groaning. The trees were waving madly and I began to wonder if this could lead to a tornado. I couldn’t see well enough from the windows, so I went out on the front porch to look (not a good idea, by the way, but if I were in a horror movie, I would be the one who opens the door to the closet containing the knife-wielding serial killer).

The first thing I saw from the front porch was a giant rainbow, so close it looked like it began and ended in our town.  So vivid and so amazing. As I took a moment to admire the splendor, I began to hear rain. But it wasn’t raining! I could hear what sounded like water falling on trees, but couldn’t see any precipitation. I walked to the end of the porch to investigate and saw that it was raining after all, but only in the back yard! The rain stopped short at the wing fence. Just to prove to myself that I could believe what I was seeing, I stuck my hand out beyond the porch rail and it remained completely dry.  I was looking at the very edge of a rain storm that seemed to be defined by our fence.

While this wasn’t exactly a parting of the Red Sea, it did seem quite unusual, to see one side of the fence getting watered and the other side remaining dry. I’m sure there’s a lesson in optimism here. Is our yard half watered or half dry? Also a lesson in meteorology, because the edge of the storm has to happen somewhere, or else it would be raining everywhere and we’d have another Noah-sized flood on our hands.

Today, the edge of the storm happened in our yard, which caused a moment of wonder. And then humor. I have heard about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. Now I can say it is also wetter. And maybe that’s the real reason the grass is greener. It’s not about envy at all. It’s about rain. Who knew?

Now, if only we could find a way to keep the snow from falling on the driveway…

“He decided how hard the winds should blow and how much rain should fall. He made the laws for the rain and set out a path for the lightning.” Job 28:25-26

Keep Calm and Carry On

May 26, 2018

The first time I saw the sign, I thought I read it wrong. I wasn’t going very fast, but I had never seen a road sign like that before, so I wasn’t sure if I read it right. Then I drove by the sign again and began to laugh.IMG_4036

If you’ve never seen a Traffic Calming Island, it is simply a device to slow traffic and provide more safety for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. The ones near our neighborhood are placed at a blind curve in the road that contains a cross walk connecting a bike path through the green belts. City planners installed Traffic Calming Islands in the middle of the street, forcing cars to slow down and pay attention to others sharing the road. Of course, they also installed warning signs to help American motorists look out for the islands that our friends in the UK have been using for decades.

Can I get one to go, please?

What would life be like if we all had these calming islands in our pockets, forcing us to slow down and pay attention, calling us to share space safely with others? What if all the roads and pathways in our lives contained calming islands to help us remember to look out for one another?

I’d suggest we all hang the sign from our rear-view mirrors, but I wouldn’t want anyone to get nailed for a windshield obstruction violation. Besides, I need those islands at other times of my life, not just in the car. Like in meetings. And on the phone. And when answering email. And when trying to fall asleep at night.

May our lives be filled with Traffic Calming Islands, and may they help us all live into the peace that surpasses all understanding. Go in peace today, friends! And may the Calm be with you.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27