Tag Archives: Gift of God

One Should Never Say Never…..

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It wasn’t long ago that I was on a boat with 48 other Revgals and during an ice breaker sort of activity, these three questions were asked:  Do you have a tattoo?  Would you consider getting one someday? You will never ever get a tattoo?  If you know you me you know where I fell into that group back in February — I would never ever get a tattoo.

Tattoo’s were not overly attractive to me (for the most part) and I was deathly afraid of the pain they would cause.  I respected and loved others who had them but I was certain that they were just not for me.  In addition to these reasons, I had nothing I thought that I wanted imprinted on me forever for everyone to see.

Then a couple of weeks ago both my husband and I stumbled along the semicolon project.  A project that seemed to fit my life in more ways that I can count or describe.  I suffer from clinical depression, extreme anxiety, and Fibromyalgia.  All of which can often just build upon each other and cause my depression to take me to deep dark places and often lend me to think about putting a period in my life.

Yet I also worship and serve a loving God that is with me always and has saved me from putting a period and placed a semicolon on more than one account.  I know in my head I have much to live for and be thankful for – a beautiful little boy (ok not so little at 9 but still my baby), a loving husband, wonderful friends, a calling to live my life as a servant to a God who sent his only son so that I might have life and life abundantly.

I have taken my experiences in childhood and my depression and tried to allow them to help me be a better pastor.  All of which help me empathize and at times truly understand on a deep level what the people God has allowed to cross my path are going through.  I can at times share my experience and it helps them know that they are not alone.  I’m also an advocate for better mental health care and have preached sermons where I point out the church’s difficulties caring for and understanding mental health issues and the way it affects the whole family not just the person suffering. I in no way believe that God caused me to suffer as a child, to have depression, anxiety or the chronic pain of fibromyalgia.  I do, however, believe that God can and does use these experiences to enhance my call as pastor and as a person who lives in a world inflicted with the darkness and pain of childhood mistreatment, depression, anger, violence, pain and the list could go on and on.  I can often sense one’s pain and am for the most part able to sit with them as they share or struggle to find God in the midst of their own experiences.

My husband has been extremely supportive of me for almost 20 years of knowing each other (it will be 20 years that we meet and started dating in about a month).  When he read about the Project Semicolon, he knew exactly that we would be doing this for my birthday.  His passion and support were what made me consider getting a tattoo.  If he was willing to have a semicolon permanently placed on his wrist in support of my daily struggle then why shouldn’t I be willing.  Not only will it serve as a moment by moment reminder to me to take a deep breath and even pause and remember that God is God and with me always; that it’s not time for my story to end but continue, it will also serve as another way to be an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention as I share the story of why a semicolon.

Here’s pictures of my forty-second birthday — a day I will never forget.

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#RallyRevGals — Peggy Edition

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Have a case of the Augusts? Not ready for the program year to start? Thinking about how you can’t save the world, or even your little corner of it? RevGals can’t fix it all either, but we can give you a reason to post to your blog!

The #RallyRevGals Blog Contest will run from Tuesday, August 18, to Sunday, August 31.

To be eligible:

be a member of our webring,*
1.  Write a blog post about a woman who has been a positive influence on your ministry (whether or not she is/was a pastor),
2.  Use the tag/hashtag #RallyRevGals in your subject line as well as categories or tags on your blog,
3.  Share the link in the comments on this blog post, in the comments on the accompanying Facebook group post, or on Twitter (be sure to use the hashtag so we can find your blog post).
4.  Everyone who participates will be entered in a random drawing for three prizes from our Cafe Press store.

I couldn’t narrow it down to just one woman who has helped me along in my 16 years of ministry, so over the next few days I will be blogging about a few more.  But here’s today’s special woman who deserves to be upheld as someone who cared and countinues to care for me as a pastor and a person.

In every church we’ve served I’ve found that there are a couple of lay people with whom I develop a special bond with.  Usually that bond is strenghtened by their witness to me and their unconditional love and support of me as their pastor.  It’s not that they wouldn’t be honest with me but perhaps it’s because they are honest – honest with constructive criticism and honest with compliments and words of encouragement.  There was always a feeling I had that this person had my back and was praying for me. 

 As I mentioned thankfully I’ve had this at every church that my husband and I have served but a few stand out.   One of those is a lady named Peggy.  Every Sunday Peggy and her children and grandchildren where in church I knew that I would be given a hug that would fill me with the energy and the joy that I would need to face whatever may come my way till we meet again.  Along with that hug were words such as “I love you so much”, ” Your prayers are so special and sincere”, ” You have gifts for ministry and I’m glad your my pastor” etc.   We all long to hear those words but we also recgonize that being ordained and thus behind the pulpit often set us apart from hearing those words that help sustain our beings.

My bond with Peggy I believe is unbreakable.  I haven’t been her pastor in close to 10 years but her family and my family still maintain contact (her daughter and son in law are our littleman’s Godparents) and in many ways I see her as an unofficial grandma to my littleman.  I’ve sat with her through declining health of herself and her husband.  After moving away I returned (within the boundaries set and with permission) to help officiate at her Granddaughters wedding, her husbands funeral and sadly her son’s funeral.  It’s just not every day that you can do those things but when some people ask you know in your heart your meant to be there and woulnd’t be anywhere else.

Peggy is a special lady and although she is now limited in the ways that she can serve I know that she serves a risen God with a servants heart.  Every pastor should be blessed to have a Peggy in their life.  Peggy has ralleyed around me and help me to remember at times why I do what I do and who it is that I serve.  I’m so blessed to have her in my life!

 

 

Sabbath between Meetings

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So I had roughly 40 minutes between meetings today and wasn’t sure what to do with my time.  I knew it wasn’t enough time to get back to my office and do anything and I couldn’t grab a snack because my next meeting was a lunch meeting.  I guess I could have sat in my hot car and responded to email’s on my phone but instead I remembered there was a park across from the restaurant that my next appointment was at and I could sit there and read, write and/or pray.  So I headed in that direction.

What a gift that decision turned out to be.  I found a delightful bench in the shade with this waterfountain in front.  Water is so soothing to me and I love to listen to it bubble and fall.  I sat there for a bit and took the opportunity to read both the daily text and a section of a book I’m reading for counseling — focusing on being in the present and the connection between mind and body.  I prayed I would continue to be present for my next appointment and then my hospital visit that would follow.  I prayed for grace for myself that I would begin to accept myself in all my bodies glory and limitations.  

Before I knew it my 40 minutes had passed but I felt renewed and refocused.   I felt alive and fresh in ways I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t accepted this gift of sabbath in the midst of the craziness of my day.  I’m reminded that God gifts us with moments like this often but we often fill those moments with acts of busyness instead of allowing God’s presence to penetrate our lives.  In addition to the gift of sabbath I believe I’ve found a new favorite spot to be quiet – it’s close to home and has water features and is super quiet – I susect it’s underused but will certainly become more used by me. 

Thank you Lord for these unexpected but much needed gifts. I enjoyed basking in your love.

Ash Wednesday

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It always seems Ash Wednesday sneeaks up on me no matter how prepared I think I might be.  But this year it seemed to come out of no where and not only was I not prepared for it but I wasnt feeling it either.  I just had some surgery a week ago today and have been pushing myself a bit more than I should lately.  I just want to get back to normal and go about being a pastor and not having others worry about me — usually it’s me doing the worrying about others.  

I’m blessed as many of you know to work with my husband in team ministry and I seriously contemplated asking him if he would mind if I stayed home tonight because I just didn’t think I could mange a service, even if I was just sitting with my littleman.  But something inside me, that still small voice that speaks and makes itself known spoke load and clear that I really needed to go.  So off I went next door to the church.  It was good to be seen and folks seemed happy to see me but I started to second quess listening to that voice as I sat in the pew with a growing uncomfortableness in my belly and where my incisions where.  Why had I pushed myself again I wondered — and wondered how long was it going to take me to recover again.  Up and down I went as we would stand and sit through out the liturgy and the singing of hymns.

Something shifted inside me as we came to the point in the service that my husband placed the cross on each forehead….ashes from the burnt palm branches from our last Palm Sunday Service.  The choir was singing “Create in me a Clean Heart” as the congregation was supposed to come forward as one felt lead.  The most eager and therefore the first one up was an almost 5 year old of the church.  He wanted to go all by himself and that he did.  He brought tears to many of our eyes — an eager little guy wanting to have the cross placed on his forward a sign he knew that Jesus loved him and had died for him.  I’m not sure I know all that went through his little mind as I didn’t get to talk to him but it was through him that I knew why the still small voiced urged me to church.  If we could all enter into the lenten season with such eagerness and passion.  If we could all cling to Christ’s love with no what if’s or no preconvinced ideas of what Christ should do for us instead of what we should do for Christ.  I looked around the sanctuary as this proud little boy returned to his seat where his parents still where and noticed there were a lot of tears in peoples eyes.  Children indeed have a lot to teach us adults and I’m grateful for his witness to those gathered at Fries Mememorial Moravian Tonight.  I’m blessed to be his pastor and to have watched him grow over these 2.5 years and I look forward to watching his continued growth.

 

At the end of service our younger child were finding their way up from the nursery and several of them wanted crosses on their heads also, which we gladly did.  It was wonderful that they were not afraid of the ashes but in many ways awestruck by them.  On sweet little girl who will soon be 2 got a cross on her forward and she was so proud of it that she showed it off saying “cross”.  She doensn’t have the deeper knowledge that some of the adults have but she had one thing for certain she had a cross on her forward and in time she will continue to grow into the knowledge and the love of that cross.   

So despite my intitial feelings Ash Wednesday turned out to be a moving and memorable days.  I’m sure that this Ash Wednesday is one that I will remember for years into the rest of my ministiry. It also serves to remind us that Children have a faith bigger and deeper than any of us can even begin to imagine.  And when we do hear that ever small voice so strongly urging us to go and do something, maybe we ought to listen because it’s often in those moments that our lives are forever forever changed.  Thanks be to God for using the youngest among us to remind us of a love that runs so deep that Jesus would give his life so that we might live.  Thanks be to God!  What a joy and blessing to serve such a rich church.

 

And of course how could I not include a cute selfie of my two boys:

 

Pictures taken by Kelly L. Moore of Joseph L. Moore and may not be used without written permission.

Hard to believe its Friday Again

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I just had the opportunity to spend a few days with ring member St. Casserole. I still remember the first blogpost of hers I read, both its detail and its whimsy, but at the time I had no thought we would ever meet and become friends “in real life,” as they say. Still, I encountered something in her turn of phrase that made me come back again and again, and eventually led to both a trip to her part of the world to volunteer after Hurricane Katrina and to the founding of RevGalBlogPals.

In this week some of us are preaching about a woman who encounters Jesus at the well, please name five encounters in your life leading to unexpected results. They might include learning a new skill, making a friend, falling in love, discerning a call or anything around or far off from those ideas.

  1. In the summer of 2003 I was in my second pastorate and went to the Interprovincial Women’s Conference that the Moravian Church in north America holds every 4 years.  I meet lots of folks at these conferences and many of them seem to know who I am but I feel so bad because often I don’t recall who they are.  Female clergy are almost always being asked to talk or rather listen and offer prayer.  But 2003 brought a different encounter for me.  I met someone who herself was feeling called to ministry and was my age.  We hung out a bunch and I believe I was with her when she received word from home that she had been accepted at Duke divinity School.  I prayed for her often but our paths didn’t really cross again for 5 years when she was asked to be the lay delegate and I the clergy delegate for a consultation that was to be held in Herrnhut Germany.  How elated I was when I found out who would be my traveling companion and together we did travel from Raleigh to London,  London to Prague (where we spent a few days) and then by train and eventually bus from Prague to Herrnhut Germany (our moravian home, so to speak).  But not only did we travel the world together our spirits were united in a friendship that today spans several states.  She’s my biggest supporter when it comes to taking time to care of myself and she helps me help the church see mental illness as something we need to do more than talk about.  She has become one of my dearest friends and without her I can’t imagine my life.  Daily I thank God for text messages, Facebook and other sources of modern technology.
  2. In a similar way I was at a youth convocation while in college and my room-mate and I had no idea who each other was.  She was from  North Carolina and I from Western Canada.  We chatted at night but didn’t really hang out as we travelled in different circles that week.  Fast forward several years and we would almost be room mates again but this time at Moravian Theological Seminary.  Her apartment was on the same floor as my soon to be husband and my first year of marriage my husband often jokes he thought he was married to both of us – as he would often have to kick us out of our apartment so he could go to bed….but we would just pick up bookes and our Pepsis and move on over to her apartment.  Both of us ordained now and we’ve never served any closer than 5 hours from one another but our friendship spans the states as we seek to support one another in ministry, motherhood, and basic day to day issues of juggling husbands, children, congregations, and our personal lives.  I’m blessed beyond measure by her friendship and the knowledge that I know she’s only a call away whenever I need a familar and comforting voice…..the icing on the cake is that she gets being a couple in ministry as her husband to is clergy.  But the cherry on top is that she blessed my life with a God daughter to love and by girly things for.
  3. While serving our second church my husband and I suffered several miscarriages and then infertility.  I carried one baby into my second trimester and ended up having to have a D&E.  I was eaten up over it and had lots of questions.  Normally I could turn to my husband for support but he was grieving also and we were at different places.  I turned to a bishop who I barely knew.  (In the Moravian church a bishops primary function is to be a pastor to the pastors, at that time and currently there were/are no female bishops in the south).   This bishop listened to me as I cried and grieved the loss of children, the longing to be a mother and the wondering of the theological implications of where my babies were.   But he also listened as I wondered if any of the trauma I had suffered as a child had any implications as to why I couldn’t have children – was God punishing me I wondered.  He never judged and has never judged me.  He gently reassured me and reminded me that I am a beloved child of God.  To this day he’s my pastor!  When we moved to the metro Atlanta area and adopted our son, it was he who travelled to baptize him – so that day Joe and I could be mommy and daddy.  It was he who visited me while I was on leave recently and he who visits our littleman when he has been sick and hospitalized.  Why is he an unlikely encounter – because of the trust I have for him!
  4. While in seminary I was also blessed to have a counsellor who later became more of a mentor.  She hugged me when I cried, she guided me through many life transitions – especially from being single to being married.  She listened and when all I could see was darkness she saw the light.  The light of Christ that surrounded me and was within me.  To this day when something significant happens she’s on my list of people to call to ask for prayers, to ask for advice or to simply just listen.
  5. I’m a knitter – not the greatest knitter – but when you are a knitter you find that knitters bound together in ways that are unexplainable.  I’ve got great friends whom I’ve never met but whom I text on a regular basis, I daily interact with a group of knit biters on ravelry that are truly my fiber loving sisters.  While in the Atlanta area I knit with a group of eclectic ladies on Friday nights that I knew had my back if I ever needed them.  We supported one another and helped one another in knitting projects but more importantly in life.  And even in my current setting I’ve got friends that the only reason our paths crossed was our love of yarn and our favorite yarn store.
  6. Okay I have 6 – I would be missing two of the most important people if I didn’t bend the rules just a bit.  My husband, my soul mate, my partner in life and ministry.  It’s he who picks up after me when I’m unable to do so myself.  God richly blessed me that first day of seminary in the first person I met – neither of us knew two years later we would be saying “I do”!  Together we have an 8 year old littleman who reminds us to take time and play, who makes us laugh on a daily basis and is forever keeping us on our toes.
Thanks for a great Friday five (or six), reminds me how blessed I truly am.  Truth be told I could have named five or so more folks whose encounters have impacted my life beyond my wildest imagination.  Thanks be to God for having my path cross with so many amazing men and women!

Blessed

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BaptismBaptism is a gift of God!  The Moravian Church has two sacraments: Baptism and Communion.  As a pastor I am almost always the officiant and worship leader when either of these two take place.  Don’t get me wrong, as I stand robed in my surplice (the liturgical garment worn by moravians upon administering the sacraments) I am aware that I’m standing on Holy Ground.  There are times that I’m moved to tears as I share the body and blood of Christ or offer the words of blessing over the waters of baptism.  These moments of ministry are life giving in many ways.

Regardless of how moving these moments are there is little that prepared for the the two times I’ve stood on the other side of  Baptism.  The first moment was at my son’s baptism.  He was 13 months old when Bishop Burkette poured the waters of baptism over him.  Baptism that day was his formal welcome into the Christian Church (at that time we were serving at First Moravian Church of Georgia) and it was also a binding time for our family as his adoption had been made final just 2 months before.

With both my husband and I being ordained clergy, either one or both of us could have baptized our son but we wanted to be mommy and daddy in that moment.  We wanted to stand with the sponsors we had chosen and proclaim the covenant of baptism with and for him.  Bishops in the Moravian Church’s primary function is to be a pastor to pastors and so we found it appropriate to ask Bishop Burkette to participate in this special moment.  My littleman is now 7 and I marvel at all he has learned about the unconditional love of God and Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

The second time that I stood on the other side of the baptismal font was this past Sunday as my husband and I were Godparents for some dear friends (who are also a clergy couple).  I was so excited and honored to be asked to be this sweet little girl’s God-Mother.  I didn’t really think this moment would come – after all I’m usually the officiant.

The week prior to her baptism was tough for me, I was hurting and exhausted.  I was recovering from the events of Holy Week and Easter.  On top of that we were hosting the Board of World Mission of Moravian Church at our church for their bi-annual meeting.  Folks from both the Northern and Southern Province of the Moravian Church (as well as our partner provinces, folks from Guyana, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Cuba, the East West Indies, Labrador, Tanzania) filled our fellowship hall and on Saturday evening filled the back yard of the parsonage as we gathered around an outdoor fire for fellowship.

So what does this have to do with being a God-Mother?  Six hours of travel!  Her baptism was to be held in Ohio and we live in North Carolina.  I was torn, I wanted to be there but I knew that wasn’t a practical option.  Saturday evening great JOY filled my heart as I exchanged text messages with her parents about how we would just “Skype” us in, allowing us to be “virtually” present.  Then I said, “why not use FaceTime?”  We all had iPhones and it would be so easy to do it that way rather than mess with a computer.  After consultation with the Bishop that was officiating at her baptism we agreed that near the end of the sermon they would FaceTime me. It was during the beginning part of our scheduled worship at Fries, so I sat in the living room of the parsonage, while my husband began worship and waited for my phone to ring.  As soon as it rang I felt transported to Ohio.  I heard the concluding part of the sermon and was present through the baptismal liturgy.

As Bishop Sapp asked:  “As you present yourselves before God and this congregation, we call upon you to profess your faith.  Do you believe in God as your Creator and loving heavenly Father, in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, and in the Holy Spirit as your Comforter and Sustainer, according to the Holy Scriptures?”  I was able to say “I do”.

As the liturgy of Baptism continued I was able to proclaim “I do” to the last two questions asked of the parents and sponsors:

“Do you in this faith turn away from sin, evil, and selfishness in our thoughts, words and actions; and do you intend to participate actively in Christ’s church serving God all the days of your life?”

“Relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, do you promise to lead your child by prayer, instruction, and example toward the time when she can by grace confirm her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and commit herself to the life and work of the church?”

I felt as if I moved with her parents as they went up to the baptismal font and heard the congregation sing “An infant we present to thee...” I felt the movement of the Holy Spirit as the liturgy moved on and tears welled in my eyes as I watched Bishop Sapp say “Rain, into the death of Jesus I baptize you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.  And although I wasn’t able to physically reach out and lay my hands upon her I certainly was able to be apart of the blessing:  “Now through God’s grace and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, you have been brought into the covenant; therefore live, yet not you alone, but Christ live in you; and the life which you live now, live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave his life for you.  Now the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord makes his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you; The Lord life up his countenance upon you and give you peace; In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

With that our call came to an end – I wiped the tears from my eyes, took a deep breath and walked from the parsonage to church thinking – “Wow that was awesome!” I entered into worship, that had already started, and took my place up front.  When it came time for congregational prayer, I was almost speechless as I tried to share how awesome it was to be able to “be” at her baptism.  By doing so I feel as if I shared her baptism with another Moravian church and the energy after worship was like that when a child in our congregation is baptized. Folks were excited and I showed them a couple of screen shots of the conversation.

In closing, I say that even though I wasn’t there in person for her baptism, I was present in spirit and just as i was only a FaceTime call away to be with her at her baptism, I’ll only ever be a FaceTime, email, or whatever new means of communication are bound to come up, away whenever she needs me!  What an amazing and awesome experience!

*All quotes are taken from the Moravian Book of Worship, Liturgy for Baptism page 165-169