On Summer

I find it hard to believe summer is over and we are in the first few days of autumn. Autumn: a season filled with pumpkins, cooler weather, brilliant fall foliage, and all the delicious flavors fall brings…unless you live in Florida…if so it is not fall but hurricane season. Either way summer is past and I am left scratching my head wondering where the time went!

And yet I know the answer to that very question. Since June 1st, life has been both hectic and wonderful. The Cocoa Methodist church, The Open Door, has merged with Grace UMC church where I serve as associate pastor. This transition has gone well and has given me the opportunity to get to know and work with many new and wonderful people and experience some new ministries. Most of all, I have seen God working in the lives of all the people as we become one church. Some really cool stuff!

My husband and I anticipated, then welcomed our fifth grandchild and his first from one of his children. (As a blended family we have seven children between us) So our sweet daughter Jenny gave birth to a beautiful baby boy on September 9th. All our other children are doing well and we couldn’t be more pround as parents and grandparents at how our family is growing and thriving for this season in life.

But with all the activity my blog took a back seat. I am looking forward to writing again beginning this fall seaon and I hope you are too. I know I am looking forward to hearing from all who read my posts!

One thing I have learned from all the activity these past four months, (with many activities left unlisted as I gave you all the “cliff notes version,”) is I made one rather large mistake. I took no time off over the summer. No vacation. No long weekend. I don’t think I will do  that again. Why? Self care is very  important. Self care gives us space in our busy days, weeks, and months. So…I have scheduled some downtime. Part of that will be spent in Ohio in the middle of October. So to my Ohio tribe: if you are in town and available, lets get together! I would love to see you all. To everyone else, I pray you are doing well and ya’ll have a very happy fall!

Peace,

Beth

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On Rain

“Rain, rain go away.  Come again some other day. Little Johnny wants to play. Rain, rain go away.”

This is a nursery rhyme I used to sing when it would rain on days I wanted to go outside to play.  It has come back to mind this summer as it has rained a lot here in Florida.  We are definitely not in drought conditions as we have been in some years.  Everything is green and growing well…almost too well.  In fact there are some areas that are getting a little concerned about possible flooding.  So yes, it has been a summer of rain.

It has also been a summer of gorgeous blue skies.  Sounds like a bit of a conundrum. How can you have rainy days and blue skies?  There have even been times when I was standing under a brilliant blue sky and behind me were foreboding and ominous black clouds!  Welcome to Florida.  As quickly as the rain comes and it comes in buckets…the skies clear and the sun comes out and it is once more a beautiful day with crystal clear blue skies as far as the eye can see.  The day made even more beautiful because of the rain that waters the grass, trees, and flowers making everything a brilliant green in the bright sunlight.  Life can be a little like Florida weather, each season bringing its own beauty and challenges sometimes all in the same day.  The thing is, while it might feel like time has come to a standstill, these seasons do not last a lifetime.  And when we stop to take a good look around, many times what we see is the sun peeking through the clouds.  I personally find there is always something good to see in life, I just have to be willing to see it.  And therein lies the catch…our willingness to see what is good even in what feels like the worst of times.

Peace,

Beth

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On Perspective…

This past Sunday was Ascension Sunday and during his sermon, the senior pastor at church talked about the Ascension and at one point during the sermon he preached about perspective… which got me thinking.  We tend to see the world and interpret what we see from our personal perspective.  A perspective that does not see the entire picture, does not know the whole truth.

One of my personal pet peeves is when people say to me: “perspective is reality.” I have a tendency to respond with the following: “while your perspective may be your reality, that doesn’t make it the truth.”  Because you see…what you believe to be truth depends on your perspective.  All making perspective a merry mess! But not all is lost…as long as we are willing to acknowledge what information we have is incomplete and we are willing to change our perspective when we add new information that fills in our incomplete picture.  It is when we choose to be completely closed minded that we get into trouble.

Since I tend to be a stickler for definitions I looked up the word perspective and as I have been saying it is all about the state of our own ideas.  And because they are our own ideas…they are incomplete, our picture is not filled in.  Mainly because we can’t possibly know everything there is to know about anything.  Asking questions and learning all we can about any given situation before we pass judgment (and we should still NOT pass judgment) is important. When we do this we have a better perspective of what is happening around us.

Once we are able to admit we don’t know everything there is to know about a situation we can be a little more compassionate about what people are doing or the choices they make.  Notice I said we could be more compassionate.  That doesn’t mean we have to agree.  I personally believe that anyone is capable of anything given the right set of circumstances.  I have been very fortunate to not have been put into a desperate situation where I felt I had to make a desperate choice.  I hope I never am.

In the meantime…I will allow my perspective to change as I learn more and understand better.

Peace,

Beth

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Time away

As of today, I am on vacation. I will be away with my family for 10 days. Not long but long enough for some much needed rest. We are not doing anything exotic. What we are doing is giving ourselves what my mom would call: hyacinths for the soul. God would call it Sabbath.

We live in a world that is moving at light speed. Changes happen faster than we can wrap our minds around them. Taking time away is important. It doesn’t have to be a vacation of a lifetime…although I hope everyone gets at least one of those. Time away can be as simple as a day at the beach, a walk in the woods, or laying in a hammock with a good book. Time away or Sabbath is anything that allows our minds and bodies to rest…to take a break from your typical and daily activities.

So for today as we are traveling down the road…my prayer for everyone is you can find a way to take some time away so you can come back refreshed.

Peace,

Beth

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A Time For…What?

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Growing up one of the popular songs that played on the radio was “Turn, Turn, Turn” sung by The Byrds. You can still hear it on radio stations and in many churches as the song’s lyrics are from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. You can find them in chapter 3 verses 1 – 8.

Here is a link to the song if you would like to listen to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4ga_M5Zdn4

So whether we read the scripture verse or listen to the song what we will hear is a timeless message that speaks deeply to our hearts.  There is a time to be born and there is also a time to die.  There is a time for planting and there is also a time when what we have planted needs to be uprooted. There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to search and a time to give up…and when you finish reading the passage we understand life has seasons…some are wonderful and some are hard. And whether we are in a good time or bad, they both bring changes.

So the question becomes: How do you feel about change? And be honest with yourself as you answer that question.  I think for most the answer would be “it depends.” If I am a bride getting ready to marry the man I love or a new mom or dad holding my child for the first time…then the change would be considered a good one.  If I am sitting at the bedside of a loved one who is dying or sitting as my boss is telling me I am being fired or “downsized”…then the change is heartbreaking.  I am sure you can think of many other scenarios that you all have been through in your own life that brought changes…changes that were good, bad, or a combination of the two.

I know that a couple weeks ago I posted another blog about change.  Change seems to be heavy on my mind lately.  While personally my life is staying relatively the same, it is also changing.  My husband is retiring which is a good change.  It will give him the freedom to do the things he enjoys and not be so stressed.  I will turn (gulp) 60 in November of this year. I am REALLY not sure how I feel about that change! Although to be honest, growing older is a privilege many do not get to experience. I continue to help Mom and Dad and that roll will grow – while I love being able to help them I can’t say the changes I see are ones I like.  Our church is getting ready to merge with another church and the changes are exciting but it also means they are not exciting for some.  It is bittersweet for those who will begin worshipping in their “new” church after closing their home church.  Change…it happens.

The one thing we can control through all the changes that will come our way throughout our life is our attitude toward changes.  We can grumble, complain, and be miserable or we can see the changes as a new adventure, a new leg in this journey we call life.  How we respond is entirely up to each one of us.  One thing we can hold onto through any change we experience is God.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Wherever you go, whatever you encounter, through every change, one thing remains: God – I find great comfort in that knowledge. I hope you do too.

Peace,

Beth

 

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On Grace

“Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

The above prayer is one that can be found in The Book of Common Prayer.  It is called a Collect for Grace and in my copy of the book it is located on page 100.  I was looking for a prayer this morning because I realized yesterday that May, which has been a crazy month for me for many, many years…is especially crazy this year.  So this morning, in quickly going over my calendar with my husband, I discovered that I have between now and May 22, two nights where I don’t have to be somewhere.  This doesn’t include work during the day or trying to find some down time in order to maintain peace in my soul go I can give grace to others.

Grace according to dictionary.com is: “elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action. It is favor or goodwill. It is a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior.”  I like grace. I need grace.  Grace gives me the courage to offer margin to people who are not “likeable” or “mean-spirited”.  Grace allows me to see both sides in an argument.  Grace helps calm anger, ease sorrow, and lift spirits. When I am filled with grace I become a safe place for people to share their fears and frustrations and know they won’t be met with judgment or condemnation.  So I like grace. But there is another  more important reason why I like grace.

Grace is also what God, the creator of all things, offers to every person.  Grace that allows us to figure out who we are and our place in this crazy world we live in.  Grace that gives us the space we need to wrestle with our questions about God. Grace that chases after us even as we are walking away from God who loves us so much God sent God’s son into this world to preach and teach and heal even if It meant Jesus would go to the cross to die.  Grace that defeated death once and for all time when God raised Jesus from the dead and in that act of resurrection offered us life eternal too. Grace a manifestation of God’s favor for the people God created and who don’t really deserve God’s grace.  But…we get it anyway. That’s why I like…why I need…why I desire…grace.

Peace,

Beth

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On Bob Dylan…

I love Bob Dylan.  It is not unusual to hear one of his songs on the radio either by Bob Dylan himself or one of the many artists who have done their own version of his songs.  He has written “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and “The Times They Are a Changin” as well as hundreds of others. Here is a link to the song on YouTube if you are interested in listening.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90WD_ats6eE&list=RD90WD_ats6eE&start_radio=1&t=0

The interesting thing to me about his music is the very timeless nature of the lyrics.  In this particular song he sings about how the times are changing. Written sometime in late 1963 and released on an album by the same name in 1964 the lyrics are as pertinent today as they were then. For example, the third stanza of the songs says this:

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

I sure wish our members of the senate and congress would get to work and stop standing in doorways and blocking halls! Our country is stalled and we need our elected officials to listen to the people who put them into office and instead of pointing fingers at one another, begin to work on desperately needed solutions.  We have people who are homeless for a variety of reasons and for many the barrier is the lack of affordable housing.  We have people who are hungry and for many is has nothing to do with not being able to purchase food but the lack of grocery stores within walking distance as they have no transportation.  We have roads that need work, bridges that need work…in fact our infrastructure across all states is in need of work and upgrades. We need affordable health care. And please…can we make solicitation phone calls illegal!!!!  We have so many issues that need help and need our country to pull together to find solutions and instead we are mired in political garbage…from every side.

Now please know this is not me advocating for a specific political platform. I honestly do not care what your party affiliations are. This is me advocating for help for the people who are struggling to find a place to live, food to eat, and jobs to work and finding solutions that can change those desperate situations.

Bob Dylan wrote “The Times They are a Changin’ during a time of political and social unrest and it seems as if we have not learned our lessons from history.  I am not sure the changes we are seeing today are for the better.  It seems we prefer to look out for ourselves and not for our country as a whole or for the more marginalized members of our society. And to those who believe in the pull yourself up by your own boot straps ethic: remember in life there are occasions when we all need a little help sometime.

Part of the problem is we don’t listen to one another anymore.  As soon as someone has a viewpoint that is different from ours we stop listening and start trying to convert them to our way of thinking. The result of that tactic only makes them shut down and stop listening to us.  It is a very sad merry go round we have chosen to ride.

One thing I have found that helps is to ask questions. Unfortunately, we don’t bother to ask questions.  Questions like: Why do you think_____? Why do you want this benefit, change, policy? Why?

Maybe we don’t ask questions because we are afraid if we do… we might have to change our stance on a position.  We might find out we were wrong or someone else’s idea is better…but is that really a bad thing?  One thing I know is true: the only thing that is unchangeable in life is the fact that everything changes.  Maybe we shouldn’t be so afraid of change and instead choose change as the opportunity to learn something new about something different. Maybe we might find out we like the change.

Peace,

Beth

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