Monday, March 21, 2016

Life is not a race

Recently I increased my normal 3 mile hike to a 4 mile hike.  Saturday was is a beautiful day and I knew I wanted to get outside and enjoy every minute.  I started my hike a bit later in the day than I had hoped but I didn't really care because I had enjoyed all that the unfolded within the morning hours.

I got out of my car, put my earbuds in, turned my app on to track my trail and mileage and got out my hiking poles.  Off I went, well sort of.  I got out of the parking lot to almost to the trailhead  and had to return to the car because I had on my glasses.  I'm far-sided and don't ever hike in my glasses because of my of trifocal lens...if you have ever hiked in trifocals you will totally get what I'm saying! So back to the car I went.  

I didn't let returning to the car bother me because the sun shining, the wind was gently blowing and the trail was before me.

I've been struggling with shin splits (before you tell me I need to do more stretching; believe me I know the importance of stretching and do it) and so today I loosened my boots just a bit to see if that would help.  It did not help, it only created a whole slew of other problems like my feet sliding forward in my boots as I descended down hills.  It wasn't helping with the shin splints on any level.  I stopped, took my boots off do the specific stretches that I know are designed for that very thing and put my foot back in my boot and hit the trail again.

I felt deflated and almost defeated because I really wanted a 4 mile hike  at a certain pace and I was no where close to that.  Honestly I'm not even sure that I'd make it mile 2 much less to mile 3.1 where my car is sitting.  

I finally decide that I'm going to slow down, physically hike much, much slower to find my footing.  

Just as I think I'm doing OK, I pick up the pace just a bit more and then not once but three times the cord on my ear buds get tangled in my hiking poles (I have never had this issues, I have no idea what was wrong with me).  

I get the earbud situation taken care of and I think, Amanda why in the world are you pushing to get the PR today?  What is so important about your time?  Why do you think you have to hike 4 miles instead of the 3?  Slow down.  There is much to hear, see and feel today.

Just when I am comfortable with hiking 3 miles instead of 4 my left ankle gives way and I feel myself falling face first into the leaves.  On the way down my right knee hits a rock and I am covered in the damp leaves that line the trail.  I simply lay there, my face in the dirt and my body covered in leaves.   Slowly, I turn over look up at the blue sky between the trees that are trying to bud and finally get up.  

I still had well over half a mile to my car and I laugh at the craziness of the hike today.

As all of this was happening,  I could not help but think of the ways that someone around me might have set out to accomplish a specific project; excited about an opportunity, job opportunity, an arrival of a new addition to a family and find themselves experiencing a journey that is much harder than they ever anticipated.  

I'm thinking about those who are walking in deep grief after an unexpected loss of a loved one.  I'm thinking about the persons who have given all that they are; their heart, soul and mind to something they know they are called to only to have it be washed away like a sandcastle on a beach.

I was reminded  that life is not a race.  
The journey is not always what we anticipate, hope for or long for.  

There are times when all we can do is lay right we are to find our bearings.  
There are moments when all that we can do is look up and find something beautiful to concentrate on.
There are seasons when we must rise slowly out of the muck and mire to find the strength to keep going.

If you are walking a difficult journey, know that while it may feel lonely and unbearable there are others who are with you in spirit.

May this be a word of encouragement, a glimmer of hope and simple gesture of love pouring over you today.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The process......

An inner calling.

A design that you cannot ignore.

An acceptance.

Telling your story in relationship to God's story

                                                     Confidence in who we are designed to be

Our stories of standing before you each week as we preach and teach do not come as easy as you might think.  Our lives are not as put together as you might believe.

Our personal stories of standing before you are filled with a movements that you rarely get a chance to fully see and understand.  Before we adorn our robes, places the stoles upon our shoulders and stand in the pulpit we must discern this inner desire to serve, to share the good news that has the power to transform lives and the longing to ensure that all people are invited and welcome at the table of holy communion.  

The process is hard; questions arise. Doubt creeps in. The fear that we are not worthy, that we do not have what it takes rises to the service.  We wonder if God will provide words for us to speak week in and week out.  We wonder if our sins are simply too much to overcome and if our transformed souls can really do this work of loving others. We wonder if we are enough, if God's prevenient, justifying and sanctifying grace is really ours for the taking.  

Slowly but surely there is an acceptance of who God has designed us to be. Words of affirmations come from those of who have seen something in us we could not believe in ourselves.  Encouragement is given and we begin the path to accepting the mantel that is being placed upon our shoulders.  We stand among the saints who have gone before us.  We begin to tell our story in relationship to God's story.  We stand at the waters edge, hearing the voice of one greater than ourselves asking us if we are willing to put down our ways and pick up his ways; casting our nets in such a way that when we encounter others that they too will be embraced in a life of wholeness and goodness.  

As the journey unfolds the pressure rises, expectations increase and every part of heart, soul and mind are examined.  The examination is difficult.  It involves articulating our unique Weslyan theological perspective, preaching, writing and developing your own bible study, disclosing our financial debt, and answering important questions about our personal call into this life.  Laity and clergy listen, pray, ask hard questions and discern if we have the tools to be effective in this calling that we have worked so diligently and  long to articulate, overcome the fear of failure, stood in the fire for and finally accepted as our personal God-given design.  

The examination ends and for so many of us standing before you (me included)we find ourselves sitting across from the table hearing words that we did not expect.  Words that this isn' the time; there are still growing edges that must be smoothed out and remolding that must take place.  The words are devastating.  They are words that make you wonder where in the world the God you believed so deeply in is.  You are wounded beyond words and your soul can merely cry in silence as you seek to say God take this cup from me, let your will be done.  Fear and failure rise; unworthiness and loneliness overtakes you.  

The words are painful and devastating.  Your being is shaken.

Then just when you think the darkness is never going to give way a sliver of light and hope return.  God's people come to you and lift you up.  The words of Jesus' healing take on a new and deeper meaning.  Get off your mat, suddenly means that you have to get up and be willing to do the hard work of smoothing out the rough edges; letting go of your ego and taking up the spirit of humility, sitting at the feet of Jesus because you yourself have are empty.  You have to listen to the words of others who have walked the road before and are willing to come stop along the road and carry you to a place where your wounds can be healed.  You have to die to your own ego; your own will.  It is only when we die that we are able to stand before you as resurrected people.  In that slow and gentle resurrection we find the courage to stand before you in our robes with our stoles around our neck proclaiming the good news.  

The process is hard.........

Not just our process of discernment but for all of us along the journey of faith. When you feel the disappointment and failures of life.  Remember that Jesus stopped in Samaria to pick you up and carry you to a place where your wounds can be tended to.  When your souls are pierced  and wounded remember that Jesus was pierced and wounded so that we might experience a resurrection.  If you are wounded, have experienced failure, had your God given design questioned know that in this darkness and loneliness a resurrection and new beginning is coming for you!