I have been convicted by the Holy Spirit to blog more, well really to write more. I have always wanted to write, but have always thought I wasn’t good enough with my grammar to write more than occasionally.
I don’t always know where to put a comma or how to craft eloquent sentence. I do know that God has given me life experiences to share with the world. I know that life is compromised of our stories, and we give power of those stories when we share them. I also know that sometimes we can find encouragement to keep going when we find someone else whose story is similar to our own. I started this blog to share my stories. I have done this very haphazardly over the years. As I begin this new appointment year, I hope to be more dedicated and disciplined to blogging.
I write every week. The only people that I share that with are the people who hear my sermon each week. So why not at-the-least share my sermons on my blog?
I will start with my calling story, which also was what I preached this past Sunday (07/09/17).
This is what I preached Sunday July 9th 2017.
The scripture reading this morning comes from Isaiah 61:1-11
- The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;
- to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
- to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
- They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
- Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines;
- but you shall be called priests of the Lord, you shall be named ministers of our God; you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations, and in their riches you shall glory.
- Because their shame was double, and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot, therefore they shall possess a double portion; everlasting joy shall be theirs.
- For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
- Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
- I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
- For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.
This morning I would like to share with you my call story. I want to share this story with you to open the doors to build a relationship with you.
I chose this selection of scripture verses for one reason; verse 3 “to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.”
And really verse 3 is nothing without verses 1 and 2: 1..The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; 2. to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
This scripture specifically about God calling the prophet Isaiah to bring good news is SO FULL OF HOPE. If we read it over and over and over again we see that there is a something very beautiful in these ancient words.
This is the first time we hear these words in scripture. When God’s people the Israelite’s were desolate and destroyed he sent the prophet Isaiah to remind them who they were to remind them that even in the midst of the Babylonian diaspora God is making something beautiful from their ruins, that God was making a masterpiece with their lives.
A commentator says: God was referring to Zion, the Holy City. The City of David. The place that once housed the Ark of the Covenant, and thereby the very Presence of God himself.
It was in ruins, but those ruins will be “built up” and repaired. Not in an act of historical refurbishment, but in a new way – in a new form.
And, far more important than the ruined buildings, was the faith of Israel that was in tatters. It was a renewed faith and hope that the God who had brought them out of the fiery furnace in ages past would once again work his wonders.
The second and third time we hear this scripture is in the Gospel of Luke. Mary sings part of it in her song after she learns she will be the Mother of Jesus. Then Jesus himself reads this scripture from the prophet scrolls. It is the first public scripture reading Jesus does after his wilderness experience. This frames the ministry of Jesus. Restoring the broken-hearted, bringing hope to the hopeless, bringing comfort and good news to the downcast and oppressed.
When we think about ruins, and the bigger picture of what that means for us, for this community, for this state, nation, world; It doesn’t take much these times to witness things in ruins. Neighborhoods, Companies, Economies, Job Market, Relationships, Childhoods, Educations… The list could go on and on.
But, our God is a God who builds up and restores. Who makes all things new. And, he’s the God who has invited us along, to pick up a hammer and get to work rebuilding and refashioning the world around us, and the faith that has been entrusted to us and handed down to us by the saints.
Everybody at some point in their life has to answer the question “What am I going to do with my life, what is my job going to be, how will I be an upstanding citizen?”
For years I have tried to discern my way through this quote:
Vocation comes from the Latin vocare, “to call,” means the work a person is called to by God.
There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of society, say, or the superego, or self-interest.
By and large a good rule for finding out is this: The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need to do and (b) that the world needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing cigarette ads, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a), but probably aren’t helping your patients much either.
Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
~originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words
I am the 2nd child of 5. I have an older Brother Ben his wife Shelley 3kids (who is a pastor serving in St. Joe) A Twin sister (Rachael) in Texas, a younger step brother Matthew his wife Kendra 4kids and a younger sister Andrea her husband Andrew 3kids. We are a rowdy bunch when we’re all gathered. It was chaotic and fun growing up in a large family.
My parents divorced when I was 8.
My dad raised us.
This was the first time I realized I was different than everyone else. Unfortunately I grew up in the era when divorce was common, and it seemed that everyone had a stepparent and that I was the only one I knew whose Dad was raising them.
I am a product of divorced parents and a blended family. If you will go with me with the theme of broken down ruins– this was the first part of brokenness I can recall. The first “stain” or “ruins” in my story.
I was raised in a Christian home we were at church at every single event they held. Living as an active and faithful Christian was very important to my Dad. My childhood summers were filled with going to church camp, Girl Scout camp, and family trips. In high-school I was a part of Christian clubs/organizations through the school and went to several ecumenical christian weekend retreats.
I felt God calling me towards full time service in the church while at church camp my before my senior year of high school. Maybe it was just a response to a mountaintop experience; I think it was much more. It was God’s prevenient grace stirring the flame of ministry in my soul.
After high school I went to college at University of Central Missouri—where at the behest of my father I became active in the Wesley Foundation on Campus. It was a small ministry that was a blessing to be a part of. As I continued through college and struggled with the normal struggles of young adulthood I continued to seek God’s guidance in answering that first tug he placed on my heart. I became an active member and volunteer of the United Methodist Church in Warrensburg where I helped teach Sunday School and helped in the contemporary worship service. I quickly became a leader in the Wesley Foundation, this is where I had my first experience planning and facilitating programs, as well as attempting to grow the ministry through outreach.
As a part of the Wesley Foundation I went on several mission trips and United Methodist Student Forum trips. These trips gave me experiences that helped me articulate my calling more. It felt natural for me to lead others in prayers, worship, and bible studies, especially my peers. This was the first time I experienced leading others in worship, and the first time I had the gift of ushering in the Holy Spirit, praying over people, serving others in the name of Christ. This was the first time my gifts for leading people spiritually were articulated back to me, in other words, friends and other students would seek me out to help them in their problems, to help them in prayer, and lead bible studies, and told me I was good at it.
In my last year at UCM, the Wesley foundation spent a semester without an appointed pastor; it was here that as a senior in college—ready to graduate—and also deeply concerned with the continuation of this small ministry, so I invested a lot of personal time to keep our programs alive.
This experience was hard, but rewarding. I was told by my peers that they thought I would make a good campus pastor one day. This was a very meaningful experience that grew my faith, prayer and study life and solidified my calling. This persuaded me to pursue that calling no matter the consequences.
After this experience I had to complete an internship to finish my degree. With my mission experience in Juarez Mexico I was interested in inner-city ministries and ministries related to poverty. I did some research and applied to be an Americorps Intern for Project Transformation in Dallas TX. I served as an Americorps Intern for Summer 2005.
Project Transformation is a non-profit ministry that provides a summer day camp and after-school program for the under-served neighborhoods in Dallas TX.
After my summer internship, and finishing my degree that next semester, graduating in December, I was hired on Full Time at Project Transformation as their VISTA-Americorps Intern serving as their Curriculum Coordinator for 1 year. The leadership experiences through Project Transformation provided a lot of substance to my calling. I asked a lot of questions about ministry, observed a lot, and worked hard. Moving from Warrensburg MO (a small college town) to Dallas TX (A major metropolis) was not only a cultural shock, but opened my mind and heart to a God that was so much bigger than what I had first thought. I experienced inter-generational, intentionally diverse, intentionally mission focus ministries that expanded my worldview more than anything I had experienced thus far.
I also got a lot of “real-life” or “hard knocks” experience–I call this my “OH this is what adulthood is?” period. During the four and half years I spent in Dallas. I met, married my now ex-husband, and birthed our child (yeah life experience!). After completing internships with Project Transformation and gaining employment as an early childhood teacher, I pursued my calling and applied to Perkins School of Theology. As I began classes, gained employment at local church as a children’s minister, my ex began to vehemently disapprove of women’s leadership in the church. The marriage quickly became unhealthy and unsafe for both myself and our infant child. I felt the only way to resolve our issues was to either save my marriage and deny my calling or leave and return to Missouri (home). After a year of anxiety ridden prayers discernment (and an emotionally/spiritually abusive marriage) I heeded the advice from my pastor who advised me not let anything stand in the way of answering God’s call on my life. In January of 2009. I left my ex-husband. My son and I returned to Missouri.
It was a time in my life when I thought I was completely ruined, an utter failure, yet I had a baby and couldn’t give up. I knew my faith was strong enough to survive. I did not know that God could still use someone like me.
If we keep up with the ruins imagery that we find in this scripture, the second biggest place that is “in ruin” or “rubble” for me is this. I am a divorced woman, single mom, and still called to the ministry, really God?
After many months of shame and guilt of having a failed marriage, and dealing with all of the social taboos of being a single mom of a mixed race child whose father is not active. I decided I was tired of holding it all myself. So I gave it up to God. I allowed God to use me in spite of my failures. This allowed me to learn about healing powers of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Through a combination my very faithful (full of faith) parents, sister, friends and the Holy Spirit I was able to come to a mental place where I knew to be whole again I had to be faithful to God’s call on my life.
I reminded myself that Scripture gives us story after story where God uses the mess ups and the ‘ruined’ people to share the good news, to bring hope.
I remember praying “God if you can use Moses, Sarah, David, Rahab, Esther, Ruth, the woman at the well, and Paul; then you can use me too. It took me some time to get here, but I got there. I believe that if we give our lives fully to God he will use our lives, any part of them to bring good news to others.
When I came to this epiphany I had faith that God was going to open doors for me and my son. So I applied to seminary in Kansas City and in the fall of 2009 transferred to Saint Paul School of Theology in the fall of 2009. I received scholarships for tuition and found that I was smarter than what I believed.
Not only did I get accepted to seminary and receive scholarships, but I made it through! A lot of people thought I was crazy for going to school full time with a 2 year old and working 2 jobs (Sometimes 3). I graduated seminary with a Master of Divinity specializing in Wesleyan Studies with a 3.3 (B+) grade point average. ONLY through the grace of Jesus could I have done this.
It continually humbles me how God lifts me (all of us) out of my (our) broken, dark, lonely pit of life experiences to help others see the Good News, to help others know they are dearly loved by a God who is always there walking beside us.
If my story can help one other person see the Good News of the Love of Jesus then I’m all good.
Sometimes things happen in our lives and we have this thought that God could never use this mess that has happened to us or that we have allowed to happen to ourselves. And we think we’re too ‘ruined’ to be used by God. I stand here today to proclaim that is untrue. You might have some messes in your life; but there is nothing God cannot use.
God makes beautiful things out of dust. He takes our Mess and makes it his masterpiece.
GOD IS MAKING ALL THINGS NEW
Even with all of my scars, with all of my mistakes, with all of my shortcomings, I know that God called me to love his people. I know that God called me out of his grace, because he created me in God’s own image as a human being gifted with empathy and compassion for all. I know he has called me to help others see the Good News, to help keep the church alive, to help keep the word ‘church’ a verb, and to make disciples by helping others fall more in love with Jesus.
EVEN IN THE MIDST OF THE RUBBLE, EVEN IN THE MIDST OF THE RUINS, GOD IS AT WORK, GOD IS MAKING THINGS NEW, GOD WILL USE ANY OPPORTUNITY THAT WE ALLOW HIM TO USE TO BRING NEWNESS, TO BRING BEAUTY.
I am so excited that I get to journey with you, and you with me, as we help and watch God create a masterpiece out of us, and out of Smithville UMC.
So please ponder these questions this week:
Where are the ruins in your life? In your church? On your block?
Where are the places that you see, and instantly think that’s ruined, or broken down?
Because right there is where God is at work. And, right there is where God needs us. It’s where he plants us.
The GOOD NEWS today is that Even amidst the ashes, the crumbling brokenness, God is there making all things new.
That’s all for today y’all
~Rev. Single Mom
PS: the italicized words are not my own words. Credit given to these sources: