Thursday, October 1, 2020

 Lord help me. 

You called me to a life of ministry. 

You called me, Jesus, to follow you.

You called me Lord, to serve you. 


You called me Jesus,

 Light of the world,

to shine your light,

to share your love,

to make disciples,

to proclaim the Gospel

and the truth of Resurrection! 


Lord help me!


I love you. 

I love your people. 

I love sharing the good news

and creating space

for the healing of your Holy Spirit

 to bring miracles into marriages

and heal fractures in families,

 to create clean hearts,

to heal divisions amongst your people,

to reveal the peace

only your presence can bring.  


I love to be used by you 

to bring about wholeness, forgiveness, and reconciliation;

to ignite passion in your people;

to see blindness fade and faith grow;

to empower and equip your people so that 

together, we change the world and build your kingdom.  


Lord help me.

I know I am not alone. 

I know you are with me. 

I know I am surrounded 

by the saints who have gone before me. 

I know I am held in covenant 

with others who 

say yes to you 

and this great and wondrous call.


Strengthen me

and give me the courage

right now, and each day

to lay aside every weight

and the sin that clings so closely. 


Let me lay it down, Lord Jesus, right now.


Lay it down.


All my frustration

at how cumbersome

everything seems,

at how urgently

I want to share the Gospel

and how glacially

your church moves. 


I want to do this work and  yet,

I am discouraged by all that seems

to hinder and shut out

your Spirit of welcoming embrace. 


I am angry, Lord at the obstacles. 

I am weary of the entanglements

that feel of this world. 

I want accountability and

 I accept the charge we have,

and yet Lord, you call us to be released

 from the bindings and trappings of this world.


Lead us, Lord.


How do we walk this road at this time?


How do we throw off all the weight and sin that clings so closely?


Help us run with perseverance

the race that is set before us,  

looking to Jesus the pioneer

 and perfecter of our faith,

who for the sake of the joy

that was set before him endured the cross,

disregarding its shame,

and has taken his seat

at the right hand of the throne of God.


I will run the race with you, Jesus.

I am not ashamed of the Gospel.

It is the power of God

for the salvation of all who believe.


You are all I need.

I stand with you.

I live to glorify you.

I am called to proclaim the Gospel. 


And I will not be deterred.



Friday, May 22, 2020

Dear Momma

Dear Momma,
Remember this moment.
She is now asleep next to you.
She is safe.
It’s all okay now.
Remember this moment -God brought you through it.

About two hours ago….
Your lip swelled after she knocked her head back to head butt you.
Your cheek stung when she slapped you.
Your foot hurt as she hammered down on it with her heel.
Her Elbows tried to dig in your ribs. 
She punched your back and legs and anywhere she could.
She snapped at you with her teeth trying to bite you.
Her body writhing in anger possessed by this demon of depression--
She was trying to hurt herself and anyone else….
She almost crushed your glasses and you quickly moved them.

You held her in a proper restraint doing all you could to keep her safe… but worst of all were her words:

Telling you that you’re nothing.
"You don't care."
"I hate you."
"You are a terrible parent. "
"You have failed."
"No one really likes you."  
She wishes she was never born.
She wishes you would go away and never come back.
She says she wants to die repeatedly.               
"If you loved me, you would let me die and go to heaven."
"Leave me alone.  You don't care about me anyway." 
She is so angry and so sad.
You prayed and asked God to help you stay steady and not react.

When you didn't know how to continue to you reached out to call her aunts/ your best friends so she could hear that others love her.
And…so, you could draw strength from their presence and prayers.

You kept focused.
You prayed.

Even when you tried to say, "I love you."
She became more fearsome and lashed out more.

So, from then on you only said, "When you drink the water and take a bath, I will let you go and leave you alone."

She said, "I want to die."

You asked, "What is your plan?"

She said, "I am not going to cut myself or shoot myself that would hurt too much. I will just refuse to drink and eat and I will starve and die."

It took everything you had not to say a word- not to react- to simply stay focused on holding her safely  and keeping her from hurting herself or you more.

When you called her aunts she was polite and wanted the conversation to end.

She said you made her feel guilty and like a monster.

She said, as she often does, "You are the worst.  You don’t know how to do anything right.  You are bad at calming me down."

The phone calls were a mirror where she could not deny her behavior.

It was a moment for you to know you were not alone.

You had to send Dad away to another room, because he screamed when she threatened you and then she reacted worse.

You had to ask her big sister to go upstairs because this was not something she needed to be part of and every time she tried to help she could only talk about wanting to play her video game with her sister-- so then she was screamed at and told she was selfish and didn't care.    

You knew--- they just didn't have the capacity to give what was needed at the time.   

You… didn't have the capacity either.

And yet God supplied it.

Finally- like a miracle-- she said- "I'll drink the water."

She took a sip.

You said, "How about you have 11 sips, since you are 11."

She did it.

Then you said- "Great now you can take a bath."

You said," I'll get the bath all ready for you."

You turned your back for a moment to get the water going and you didn't know where she went.

You ran downstairs, heart pounding with so much worry, fearing she had gone outside in the rain or gone to hurt herself.

But then you found her on the floor in her sister's room cuddling the dog.

You got everything ready.

Lavender Epson salts in the water.

Her muscles ached from refusing to get out of bed for a few days.

You placed a hot towel on her back.

You rubbed her feet.

You stayed quiet.

She looked up and said, "I hate that I feel so mad. This is not how I want to feel. I'm sorry I said all those terrible things to you.  I didn't mean them.  At least not all of them.  I'm sorry I hit you and hurt you."

You told her you loved her, you forgave her, you were there to hep her.

And then you stopped talking.

And listened.

And listened.

She talked about how laying in bed watching TV was the only thing that made her feel good.

You reminded her of spring break and how you all did art and exercise and had fun.

You mentioned how fun hiking last week was.

She got mad and splashed you.

You calmly reached for the towel and wiped yourself off. 

She said, "Mom!  You can't just get up and do stuff when you feel bad.  When you don't want to get out of bed, you just want to lay there and watch TV.  It's the only thing that helps."

You said, "Until that wears off.  It just numbs it for a while."

She said, "Sometimes I want to feel numb."

You washed her hair.
You conditioned it.
She got mad again and screamed about getting out.
You stayed calm and said, "Let's rinse the conditioner out."
She relented.
Then she let herself lay back in the warm bath and she closed her eyes and breathed.
You breathed too.
Then she rested a bit.
Then she was done and wanted out.

You asked her to stay while you got fresh towels.
She complied.
She got dry and but still felt weak.
She decided to crab walk to the room with her towel on.
Your room.
She hasn't slept in her own room most of Quarantine.

You got her dressed. 
She asked you to fix the bed and you did.
You got a hairbrush and brushed her hair.

She said she wanted a haircut.
"Momma cut my hair now!"

You said, "I'm not good at that, but I'm happy to get an appointment for you.  For now, I can brush it and braid it and get it out of your way."

You slowly brushed all the knots and mats out.
You braided her hair.
She laughed and told you stories.

Remember this Momma.
You sat brushing her hair and she said, "I love you Momma."

An hour before she was telling you she hated you and wanted to die.

She colored on a coloring app while telling you stories.

Today you pushed depression back.

But it was not defeated.

And you still you resiliently resisted.

You breathe and remember the advice a church member gave you when you brought your first child home, "You only need to keep them alive."

Advice meant to keep you from worrying about all the other stuff. 

It's harder than you think.

Every day-- Just keep them alive.

They will hate you, then love you, they will know everything, and you will know nothing.

Do not react.

And keep them alive.
Trust in God and hope.
Keep on loving.  It will get better.

For now--rest.
Then let your busted lip heal.
Eat some food.
Take care of yourself.
Read this and remember whenever you need it.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Reflections on turning 40, General Conference, and finding a true home

My heart has been hurting so much this week.

I have gone from moments of hopelessness, to invigorated sticktuitness, to a desire to give up and just be and to do something else with my life and …..then…. I go around again.

I have reminded myself that in grieving, it is best not to make any decisions for a year.

A parishioner asked me, "Why are people so upset if nothing has really changed?"

The Book of Discipline on the matter of LBGBTQIA+ people has not changed, it has strengthened its penalties related to clergy.

My first thought was this process and how we behave and what all this says about us ---This may be, what I am grieving.

Yes, I had hoped for a different outcome.

But I tend to be a person more focused on process than product.

 If a group makes a decision that I do not agree with, I can be okay as long as the process was loving, kind, and contextual to the people and places the decision affects.   

A good friend and I talked about this and she said something helpful for me- that she noted that those for the One Church Plan and those for the Traditional Plan may be defining what is is to be "loving" differently.  

People who were for the One Church Plan felt that the loving thing to do was to be able to be one church to "love alike, even if we think alike."
People who were for the Traditional Plan felt like the loving thing to do was to hold others to their understanding of biblical accountability.  

1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 says:
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I had hoped that the church could be a beacon of light to say that we can love one another and have space for different understandings even when we disagree.  
We do not agree or have the same understanding on a number of theological issues.  
We do not understand fully the Holy Mystery of communion, we do not fully understand the Holy Trinity,  we do not agree on how God created the earth.  

I had hoped for the One Church Plan because I hoped that through the church, God could show the world a new way of being.

We do not see that modeled anywhere.

Everywhere we see division, bitterness, slander, malice, and I had hoped we could see one another first as beloved sisters and brothers rather than opponents on differing sides of a theological issue.
But that is only part of what I am grieving.

My heart hurts so much in a personal way-- so why am I grieving?

I am a white, cis-gendered, straight, married, mother of two-- how does General Conference affect me other than the fact that I am a clergy person who followed the rules a week ago and still is following the rules of the church today.

I am a rule follower.  I always have been. 

I used to wonder if I would have been courageous enough, to stand up against Nazi's during the Holocaust,  to march during the Civil Rights Era, to care for refugees if I lived on the border of a war-torn nation.  
I hope that I would.  
I have not had to break any rules to follow my conscience so far in my life. 
I believe that makes me fairly privileged. 

I love people and I love loving ALL people.
I don't like living divided.
And I am by nature not one to antagonize.   
I am not a rebel rouser. 
I may cuss and "Detroit Beth" comes out if I get riled up….

But I am by nature a peace maker, a dialogue creator, a bridge builder. 

I have willingly placed myself in places where I would not be readily accepted because I felt called to serve God and love people. (A Birmingham, AL women's shelter, the streets of Detroit loving the homeless, serving as the chaplain in a mixed income housing community in East Atlanta).  I have served in places where I was harshly judged for being a woman, for being young, and for being a mother.  (Not gonna name those places).
And I have loved them all.  

I have been fully me in all these places, although who I am has not always wanted, accepted, or appreciated.  
And I have loved them all. 

I have served in churches filled with parishioners who were the first to go march in the streets for peace and justice AND in churches where their news channel stays unchanged on FOX news.
And I have loved them all.

I have served churches with people of ages, nations, races, sexual orientations, and gender identities.
And I love them all.

I love being in a room of diversity -of color, gender, age, identity, and opinion.

I do not like being in places where I am told I must agree in order to be included; I had enough of that growing up in the Buckle of the Bible Belt. 

Growing up there, the sometimes outspoken, but always underlying attitude was Catholics weren't really Christians, People of any religion other than fundamentalist Christian were to be eyed with suspicion, People of color were second class, women were not allowed to speak in church, Science didn't matter, Higher Education was for only the rich, etc…

Everything felt segmented and segregated growing up.
There was nothing that eased feeling fractured and broken in this culture, including my family, who were broken and fractured in their own right. 
It felt like we were Broken and Broken and broken and broken and broken over and over again.
It felt like I was never enough to fit in or belong.
There was never enough time to just be.
I was never worthy enough.
And there was never enough capacity of love to be given.
I was always yearning and searching for what home felt like.
The place that felt safe and worthy.
The place where love lived even when opposition arose.
The place where you didn't have to be only one thing to matter or make a difference.

I found that place.
By a cross at Lake Shalom, singing how "It Only Takes a Spark to Get a Fire Going" every summer at Camp Hat Creek.
And I found that place.
In the streaming light of Yielding Chapel at Birmingham-Southern College while holding a red hymnal in my hands and reading about this grace of Jesus Christ that loves me no matter what and will never let me go. 
I said Yes to a Call in that chapel and thirteen years later as I kneeled before my Bishop with her hands laid on me telling me to "Take Thou Authority of the Word of God." 

What am I grieving?
I thought I had found my home.
Found my family.
The safe place to fully be me and who God called me to be.
To fully serve and make a difference.
To be part of something that was connected all over the world.
To really feel and witness the power of the Holy Spirit.
And now….

That home is fractured.   
That home feels like a place that says, I am not welcome and I am not worthy to be here.
Why does it feel like that now and not a week ago?
Because it says, to me, if my call and my faith call me to welcome my LGBTAI+ sisters and brothers into full inclusion as part of the Body of Christ that I am unchristian, unfaithful, and unwelcome.
This home, that used to feel like a big tent where all were wanted and welcome.
Now feels like a box that where I may no longer fit.  

I've been praying. 
And I realized...  I was wrong about what the home was. 
The home I found, wasn't Camp Hat Creek, or Yielding Chapel at Birmingham-Southern College, or even The United Methodist Church. 
These places have lived out glimpses of my home, but they are ultimately not my home. 

The home I have found is in the Kingdom of God. 
Some  refer to it as the Kin-Dom of God-- because it is a place where we are kin, where we are truly all family, no matter what. 
United by the love of Jesus Christ. 
The Kingdom of God is bigger than any institution we can create. 
And Jesus Christ and His Kingdom will never forsake me. 

I turn 40 tomorrow.  
And I I've been reflecting on  what I am done doing.
I struggle with self-care and people pleasing and working too much (too often at the expense of my family and my own well-being).

I decided I don't want to spend the second half of my life doing those things.

I don't want to be stuck in a box or to fight to make one bigger.
That doesn't mean I don’t care or I don't want justice.
It doesn't mean the church isn't worth fighting for.
It especially doesn't mean that those who have been harmed by the church aren't worth fighting for.

I don't really know what it means.
Maybe I don’t think I'm a good fighter.
Maybe I just want to use my energy to work for rather than against.
I want to focus on sharing the good news of Jesus and loving people.
I want to focus on equipping the saints for the building up of the body of Christ.

In some ways.... I'm not sure how to do that here anymore.
Because it's looking like I need to make a choice.
I can't stay where the walls are closing in.
And I don't want have the desire fight about an institution anymore.

But I will listen and keep praying. 

For now, I will keep loving. 
I will keep serving.
I will remember who I am and why God called me.

I will keep listening and praying. 
God called me to ministry. 
And God has not released me from this call. 

So tomorrow, on the day I turn 40. 
I will get up, I will praise God. 
I will lead my church. 
I will preach God's word. 
I will love like Jesus. 
I will preside at the table of our Lord. 
I will serve communion.  
I will pray with and for my congregation. 
I will hold on to hope. 
I will cling to Jesus.  

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. - Hebrews 10: 23-25

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

After the 8th Day of School

We have had our 8th day of school.
We had 4 days and then one day and then we waited for the Hurricane.

After the Hurricane, we send the relief help and prayers to those who are suffering in the Carolinas as we send our children back to school seeking rhythm and routine.

And today is the the 8th day of school.

We've been figuring out the middle school schedule.
Grace typically takes a small dose of her ADHD medicine at 3pm....but school doesn't start to dismiss until after 4 and she's home by 4:30pm.
Yesterday we talked with her doctor about this and he said, "We'll just see if she needs it or not."

Well- she does.
We saw that clearly today.
A person with ADHD uses a huge amount of energy and focus just to get through the day.

Add to that anxiety-- and it can be even harder.

Every ounce of energy and self control is harnessed in order to navigate what other folks may see as simple tasks.

Simply figuring out the most logical order to do tasks can be difficult for someone who has ADHD and anxiety.

This also can open them to see things in surprising and creative ways...

Tonight Grace was exhausted.
And she had nothing left- no energy to be with people, no energy to navigate and function even when given clear instructions and expectations.
We had moments when I thought I was asking her to do something simple- ( you may watch a show after homework is completed) but given her reserves and resources (or lack of) it was like asking her to climb a mountain.

And she melted down.

She could not process it all.

She was zooming in to obsess over this one thing she had to do. And I was not letting her have it. At least, that's how she saw it.

Then she was embarrassed because we were at church and other people saw her.

Wednesdays for us mean --church dinner and small groups.

I had a small group to lead, my husband had a group to lead, her sister was in bible study too....

She wanted to go home.
She had never taken her plate from dinner to the window, so it never got scraped or cleaned.
So-- I made her clean it up.
Again--- mean mom.

It's hard to find the places where you give in and where you maintain a semblance of structure and personal responsibility.
So on this-- I said she couldn't just leave the dirty plate and I wasn't going to do it for her.
I would be with her and help her. She did the washing and I helped squirt the soap and rinse.

She went to the car, I went to pack up my things....

We began to process it on our way home...but she really wasn't even in a place to be able to process.

But we were able to get one thing clear.

She said, "Everyone saw me. Everyone will think I am a maniac or that there is something wrong with me."

I said, "No- there is nothing wrong with you. You were not able to be your best self tonight because you were not medicated. This is not about you-- this is about not having the resources you needed to be your best self. Do you see the difference?"

I am more productive when I've had coffee.
I'm really productive when I've had a full night's rest.
I have been known to be snappy when I am hungry.

I tried really hard tonight to be generous.
To be filled with a generous amount of empathy when she said repeatedly, " I hate you" or "You are the worst."
Because I know she is not able to be her best self right now.

On my best day I will never be "the best" mom/pastor/wife/person and on my worst days I won't be "the worst." I'll just be me doing the best I can with what I have at that moment.

Most of us are just doing the best we can with what we have at any given moment.

Whenever I see people struggling, I want to be able to be generous.
I want to be able to be filled with the kind of empathy that leads me to simply meet them where they are and acknowledge that they may be doing the best they can with what they have available at that given moment.

That is not ever an excuse....

We can grow our capacity and our ability to deal with difficult situations.

We can expand our resources and reserves so that we are ready to be resilient through challenges.

But we will also never be ready to perfectly handle everything that comes.

But That is what I want to do.

I want to know the exact right thing to do and say at every moment.

I want to be able to do the right thing that won't set my child off.
But I can't operate that way.

I want to be able to never have to hold her while she cries and calls herself names.
But I know this will happen again.

I want to never hear her say, "I hate myself and I want to die."
But these words have become ingrained her her system and it will continue to take work to remove them.

I want to make it through this November without her spiraling into depression.
Because I have done that the last two years, and I don't want to go there again.

I mostly want a guarantee that she will live a full, happy, and fruitful life being able to always access the best of herself.

But the world whispers to me, "There are no guarantees."

And faith says back, "Yes there are."

I know God will always love us.
I know Jesus will always walk with us (often carrying us).
I know the Holy Spirit breathes deep breathes in me and through me.

And I know the same is true for Grace.

I'm going to hear "You're the worst mom ever" and "I hate you" again.

But for tonight I am thankful I have a two girls who are asleep in their beds and they know they are loved.

After hearing Sophia share the daily "Tell me 5 things about school today" I said, 'Why do you think I want to hear about your day so much?" She laughed and in a non-sassy/ more silly way-- rolled her eyes and said, "I know! Because you love me!"

After finishing her homework tonight with the TV off- Grace said, "That was so much easier!"
So much easier than what?
Easier than her trying to do it with the TV on!
i said, 'Yeah- now you can enjoy your show... because the work is done."

There is always an "after"

After we get more sleep.
After we have taken the medication we need.
After we have had food.
After we are calm, collected and ready to be kind....
After we have exchanged our warring hearts for hearts of peace.....

Jesus showed us this....

After the storm.
After the tables were turned over.
After a lot of prayer.
After denial and desertion.
After pain and sacrifice.
After forgiveness and grace.
After 3 days.

After.. . always comes resurrection.

Praying for all those who struggle tonight.
All those wishing they could skip to the after, but who are right now in the messy middle.
Praying they can feel God loving them in it,
praying they can see Jesus walking beside and leading them through it,
and praying they can access the Holy Spirit power to breathe in the midst of it.