Weddings are great for many things. They are good for tears of joy, delicious cake, nervous couples, stress, and memories, to name a few. But they are also good at reminding us how important and how much work relationships are.
I believe that when a couple say their vows to one another, in the presence of God they are promising to love each other in such a way that other people see Jesus’ love at work in their relationship.
That is why a marriage can be so rewarding and encouraging. The couple is there to support each other and help each other through out life.
That’s also why marriage isn’t always easy and takes work. Sometimes spouses don’t see eye to eye or does something to disappoint, but a promise has been made to love as Jesus loves.
Scott and I had the privilege of seeing this kind of commitment to the vows first hand. We met a couple that have married for almost 35 years. The love they have for each other easily displayed the love God has for them. There relationship is a clear testament to Jesus’ activity in their life.
This kind of love isn’t just for married people. Jesus commands us to love one another in such a way that sets us apart from the world.
But I don’t always get it right.
We met a man on the walk. He seemed friendly, happy, and was open to chatting as we were both headed in the same direction.
I never met some with so much hate on such a good natured face. He was comfortable with his world view and it helped him make sense of the world.
I talked to him about God’s love for all, but he thinks it’s just for some. Our time together was cut short, because Scott and I were switching out. I thought about him all day and prayed for him. I still wonder if I could have or should have done more? Maybe offer him a ride or to pray with him?
But, I learned the same lesson through the loving couple and the hateful man. Each relationship I am in gives me opportunity to love boldly and I should not pass it up. I pray for the strength for each of us to be a faithful witness through God’s love, whether it be long term relationships or short encounters.
I continue to be amazed by the incredible hospitality we are given. I am not surprised that everywhere we go congregations, pastors, and communities are hospitable. My amazement comes in the many ways hospitality is expressed.
There is the excitement of our arrival, the hands shakes and hugs, the conversations and sharing, the breaking of bread, the sharing of facilities and homes, and the overwhelming sense of belonging in places I have never been before. It is all so very incredible.
God is teaching and stretching me in incredible ways.
I love being a host, making everyone I can feel welcome and loved. That is my nature. But I struggle receiving the same gift that I love giving.
We talk in the church about radical hospitality, but narrowly define it. Hospitality is so much more than a pleasant greeting, it is making the guest feel so comfortable that they can receive the blessings being offered. Justin and I have felt that depth of comfort along this entire journey.
If we really want church to be places of radical hospitality, then we need to find the way to make everyone feel comfortable. That comfort enables hospitality to be received and for everyone to be open to the promptings of the Spirit.
So…whether in our houses of worship, in our homes, or in our workplaces; what practices do we have that can make others feel uncomfortable and guarded? When we find these and are willing to make changes, then we can talk serious about being hospitable.
I don’t think I fully appreciated just how big and how many churches are in our conference. Today we walked passed a church in Westover on route 36 south of Mahaffey.
I stopped, like I normally do, and walked around the grounds. Peering into the windows, I noticed the light was lit behind the cross. Thinking someone was in the building, I tried opening the door only to find it was locked.
A neighbor of the church was on his porch so we chatted for a bit. He says he attends the church and knows Pastor Adam. Near the end of our conversation I mention the light in the church. His response surprised me.
“The last one out turns the light off and God hasn’t left yet”, he said.
That light says that God is here and will always be here. Not just in that building as they gather, but in all places and at all times.
This is a message that needs shared across our conference and through our conference. Especially in places that feel they have been forgotten.
The passion for the people of Mahaffey was clear as Pastor Kendra talked about them. But the frustration was also evident as she shared stories of drug problems, poverty, and a social structure that is struggling to keep up with everything.
I get the feeling her story is not unique. As pastors, we want to help but sometimes feel isolated and alone.
Praise God the light is still on, because God hasn’t left yet.
Do you need to be reminded that you are not alone? Reminder: You are not alone. You are loved dearly.
Are you in a position to offer support and prayer to a church community that feels forgotten? If so, call your Pastor or District Superintendent and ask how you can help.
We are in this together.
Just a quick note before I reflect…keep an eye on the tracker. We have needed to make some changes along the way that may or may not affect our arrival times. Safety is always first.
We were blessed last evening with wonderful hospitality and conversation at Scalp Level Trinity. Pastor Jim also was a blessing as he joined us for a portion of this mornings walk.
This evening we are in Ebensburg and shared dinner and conversation with one of the many great families here.
Every step along this journey has been a blessing. Blessings that would not have happened if we would have given into the blister pain, the ankle pain, the aching bodies, the frustration of changing plans, or even the close run in with a speeding car yesterday.
I am not complaining about any of these experiences, they are part of the journey we are on. Journeys are never simple and always have obstacles. It is so easy to stop when the “going gets tough.” If we would have stopped we would have missed out on so many incredible moments.
I think we live in such a McDonalds world (we can get a meal in minutes with no work of our own) that we have forgotten that successes require work and overcoming obstacles.
Work always includes overcoming obstacles…otherwise we wouldn’t call it work. It requires activity and effort.
Ministry requires work. Mission requires work. Discipleship requires work. Change requires work. Relationships require work. And hard conersations and resolution seeking require work. The list can go on and on.
So why do we quit so easily? Why do we think life is like a drive through window where we put in our order and pull around to pick it up (having someone else doing the work).
If your goal is worthwhile and God directed. Don’t stop. Push through.
Praise God for the blessings that follow.
Last week was such blessing. Each day brought with it the challenge of walking more than a few miles, new people to meet, new churches to connect and celebrate with. It was filled with some great memories.
One of my favorite moments from last week was talking with a couple of the pastor’s and seeing the joy on their faces as they shared their passion for ministry and for the congregations they serve.
I was reminded that I am not in this alone. And it is not all about me. Those thoughts became especially apparent when I rested on Sunday. All week I worked hard on the walk, trying to go as far as I could, to talk with as many as I could. By Saturday I was done in. I had reached my limit.
Sunday was a day that I was able to sit back, worship God with First UMC of Somerset, and thank God for my limits. Because those limits make me rely on God all the more.
That day of rest helped me to realize if I act like I can do it all and don’t take the time to sit and worship in God’s presence and seek God’s will for my life, I will be useless. My energy will run out. I will dry up. My growth will become stunted.
I pray that we all find time to rest in the presence of Jesus and become filled with His love and spirit, so that we can keep putting one foot in front of the other in the service we were called to do.
This morning we enjoyed breakfast with pastors Mark and Mike. It was a great time of fellowship in Normalville.
We thought we had creatws the top of the mountain, but there was still more to climb.
The weather predictions were correct! Cool, rainy and foggy was the order of the day. The wind was a consistent reminder of the chill in the air, but we pressed forward.
Along the way we had a surprise visit from some folks from Trafford, spent some time at Wesley Chapel with the Pastor Lester, his wife and aome folks from the church.
We found ourself ahead of schedule in spite of the weather.
But by evening the weather had taken its toll on our bodies and left the road quite wet. We decided to stop 5.6 miles shy of our goal for the day and drive into Somerset.
Once we made the decision the sky opened up and the rain came down harder than all day. It was the right choice. When we arrived in Somerset the rain stopped.
We have been blessed with a hotel room for the night and a chance to worship and share tomorrow at Somerset First.
As we reflect on the day it was another great day. We also remember that God’s goal for us was never 520 miles as much as it was to promote health, surround the conference with prayer and to connect with the wonderful communities.
We cannot do any of those fully behind our desk, in our pew or in other idle ways. We can’t be totally mindful of prayer with our electronics and fast-paced schedules. And we cannot be connected with our community at 35-70 mph…maybe not even fully at 3 mph.
Tomorrow how about we all get up and move, spend focused time in prayer and slow down enough to enjoy one another.
It was good that the past two nights Justin and I were able to stay with family. Tonight we received incredible hospitality from Pastor Mark and Karen and the congregation of Normalville UMC.
We have met amazing folks along this journey. God is beyond good!
Before the walk began I bought a boonie hat. The one with the flap that hides in the hat or covers your neck to help keep you cool. (My new hat got some chuckles, but it works great.)
The hat’s tag implied that it was “one size fits all”. Ha! The reality is that the chin strap adjusts and the cord around the hat adjusts. It is only one size fits all after you “make” it fit you correctly.
This morning our journey began in Hopwood at the base of the Summit. As we travelled up route 40 we left a town, entered into the mountains, passed through farming communities, up higher into the mountains and into a rural community.
As we walked I began to think about the “quick fix” ideas, the universal plan that fits everything, the latest trend that will order your life or ministry. Guess what? There is no one size fits all. We have to work at things to make them fit. We have to know what we are fitting it on. We have to be engaged in the process.
As I follow General Conference, I realize that there is not one fix, one resolution, one piece of legislation that will fit everywhere. What we need is real work, real understanding of each other, and a real willingness to be engaged in creating a solution. (Praying all the delegates have safe travel to their homes from General Conference.)
Guess what? As I walked and thought I realized the same is true for the each of us individually.
List one: Miles walked Day 1: 27
Day 2: 24
Day 3: 24
Today: 11 a piece
When Scott and I started thinking about doing this, the motivation started as, “Do you think we could walk 500 miles?” It was an exciting thought, almost romantic. Walking around the conference had a certain macho ring to it.
But it took a toll on us. And we had to slow down. We now have a car and today we walked relay style. Scott walks 1.5-2 miles and I drive ahead. Then I walk the same distance while Scott drives ahead. All the while we are watching out for each other on the tracker and keeping in touch by phone. I won’t be able to say that I walked 500 miles.
List two: People interacted with on the walk
Day 1: 0
Day 2: 4
Day 3: 2
We needed a reason to do the walk. We prayed about it and came up with health, encouraging community interaction, and praying for the Conference. I had the blessing of sitting down with Diane Olson, pastor of Brownfield/Hopwood. She shared with we the joys of serving the churches there. Scott was walking a leg of the walk having his own encounters.
I may not walk 500 miles. But how important is that compared with making connections through Jesus?
It has often happened to me that God works through my imperfect motivations.
Has that happened to you?
Soooo…We made it to Jefferson today. It was a rough day. Our bodies are adjusting to the rigors of near constant movement. We are getting there (folds hands and raises eyes toward God).
I have learned that I need about 30 steps. My feet hurt, my legs are stiff, getting up takes more than a couple moments. The first several steps don’t always land where I want them to. The next several are more hopeful, as the legs start to find their stride. After that, the pain subsides and it’s down to business.
Getting started is by far the most difficult part if the day. But if we didn’t start we wouldn’t experience the blessing we have.
A big “Thank you”, to Oak View UMC for your show of support and your prayers. I am sorry we weren’t there to experience it. I was comforted to hear about your passion for the Lord.
Today was full of surprises and many blessings. We are still overwhelmed with the beauty that we are seeing and hospitality we are receiving.
We planned for everything, or so we thought. The right shoes, the right socks, the right gear and food supplies. But. Somehow we still developed blisters, small and large, on our feet. The socks were suppose to stop that. The shoes were to limit that. The Vaseline was suppose to ease that.
But…they appeared anyway. And each one helps us focus on the next step.
I, Scott, was surprised to find a rather intense pain in my right ankle. After receiving a ride from Hannah (Justin’s sister) Med Express found an old bone fragment from an injury years old had moved. I can still make the walk, but we have to adjust.
Adjusting is hard to do when you make all the decisions, but things don’t go according to plan. But, if we are focused on our goal and not on the preparations made we can avoid frustration and move forward.
The same is true with the unexpected surprise that looks to derail your progress. Focus on it we will freeze. Focus on a solution to overcome and move forward.
Adjustment and adaptation are always part of ministry. Don’t let yourself be frozen by frustration.
(We have made adjustments to the walk, but will be moving forward (just with a relay car). All is well. )
Watch for the new tracking link.