Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Conversion of Paul

So just the other day was the day we celebrate the conversion of the apostle Paul.  If you are unfamiliar with this story, I will quickly summarize the story. 

There is a very devout Jewish man named Saul.  He persecuted and had so much anger towards the followers of Christ.  While traveling he was struck down and had an interaction with God.  After this Saul no longer persecuted but preached in the name of Christ all under his new name, Paul.

It is a fascinating and inspiring story.  No matter what your background or what you have done, God still wants you, God is still there for you, and when you realize that, it is never too late!

And Paul makes this look so easy!  One day he is out persecuting all who follow Jesus Christ and then he is one of the first apostles of Christ and is responsible for 14 books in the Bible.  Now that is a big change in not a lot of time.

I wonder if he ever struggled?  I wonder if he doubted?

Now I will preface the rest of this post with again stating that I am not speaking based on scholarly evidence or theology that I can pinpoint or prove, merely a thought based on experience.

So when I look back at the story of Paul, I am always inspired.  It reminds me of my pilgrimage that I took to Greece to follow in his footsteps, which holds a lot of special memories for me.

The problem I have is that Paul is portrayed as having this one mega event happen and his whole life was permanently changed.

Yea, I may have to call him out on that one.

In my experience I have found that you can have a God experience almost anywhere and in many ways.  Whether it is outside in nature when you go out for a walk.  When you go to the rail for Communion on Sunday.  When you reflect on a weekend trip you just took.

God works in many amazing ways.  And this is not like college basketball, there is no one and done when it comes to God.

I find it hard to believe that God interacted with Paul just once and that was all it took.

As someone who has been angry with God and ran away and then found their way back and then drifted off again and returned again, and so on and so on…
I would have to say that my relationship with God has been a journey, not a single moment of conversion. 

One thing that I firmly believe is that God does not give us one chance to convert or to accept him.  No matter what we do or where we go, God is there too, even if we do not see it.

The other day in youth group, we had a conversation about whether or not there was such thing as an unforgivable sin.  A great conversation followed about forgiveness.

And from that conversation, I will share my views now. 

We, as humans, may not be able to forgive others for the wrongs they have done to us.  We may try but we may find it difficult.  Depending on the severity of the wrong, we not feel capable of being able to forgive that person.

What is even more difficult than that is forgiving yourself when you feel that you have done something wrong.  For many, this seemed like the more difficult thing.  Self forgiveness.  Many times we not be able to forget and forgive and move on from something we have done in our past that we are unhappy about.

However, then there is this amazing gift we have.  It was given to everyone and it is so amazing that it is almost too difficult to comprehend.  What is it you may ask?

God’s Grace!

Regardless of what we have done and what we do, if we try, if we make the effort and want to but sometime are unable to fully bring ourselves to always to the right thing…

If this sounds like you…you are in good company.

Have you heard this line from Paul’s letter to the Romans?

“…For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”
-Romans 7:18

So this inspires me.  Now I don’t think this gives us an excuse to go out and do whatever we want as long as we half-heartedly say, “Sorry” afterwards.

You have to try.  Make the effort.  It doesn’t matter how far you think you from God or how lost you , it is never too late to have  God moment.

Look at Paul…he went from a man who persecuted anyone who followed Christ.  To a believer and preacher of Christ.  To the man that speaks so passionately about how he wants to do one thing but does not have the ability.  To one of the most recognizable apostles.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Skiing with Jesus!

Tuesday greetings!

My, my our God is a truly awesome God indeed!  Last week I wrote about feeling God’s presence and how God works in our lives.  Not always in the way we are looking for or hoping for but in a way we need.

This past week has truly been eye opening and has really showed me the incredible ways in which the Lord works. 

On Friday, I embarked on a journey accompanied by 10 other adults and 80 youth to go skiing.  After nearly two years of talking and planning, the Diocesan Youth Ski Trip finally made its return to West Tennessee! 

As we loaded the buses to head to slopes, I was not prepared for the amazing ways the Lord was about to begin to work in all of our lives.

We had arranged to stay at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO.  We had been talking and working out details for a few weeks but we were still walking in blind.  We had never seen the church, had no idea what the facilities were like, and had no idea where would house everybody for the weekend.

Upon arriving two members of the church waited up till midnight to greet us with open arms!  Everything just fell into place perfectly!  Things could not have gone smoother if we had planned it.

We spent two days on the slopes at Hidden Valley Ski Resort and we all had a blast! 

Something that I enjoy doing every now and then is looking back and seeing how God was working in my life when it may be too difficult to see in the moment.

When we were on the bus heading to Missouri, I looked in my backpack and noticed that my sunglasses, the brand new pair that I had literally bought the night before just for this trip, had broken.

Well that was a great thing to find out!

The second day we were on the slopes, the weather was a little warmer and I did not want to wear my goggles and I really wanted to just wear some sunglasses.  Naturally this bothered me cause I thought back to my new, sad, broken, little sunglasses that would never be able to worn on the mountain.  Poor sunglasses!!!

Well, I decided that I would go into the gift shop and just buy a new pair.  As I was checking out, the cashier noticed my hat with the Episcopal shield on it and asked if I was an Episcopalian.  Naturally, in a very energetic voice, I proclaimed that I was and asked if she was too.  She was!  I then asked which church she was a member of and ironically enough, she was a member of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, the same church that where we were staying!

Now this may seem like a simple coincidence and maybe it was.  But that doesn’t stop me from thinking back to this simple event and how because of that we were able to thank her for the hospitality that the church had shown us.  As word spread, more of the adult chaperones and youth went into just to say thank you to her and talk about their church.

While this may be a very simple almost forgettable moment, I think it is important to remember them. 

Whether it may a simple coincidence or an act of God, I was grateful for the chance to thank a member of the parish for the kindness extended to us.

It was also yet another reminder to me to always be looking for how God is working in my life and in the world.

So this week, all I will say is to keep your eyes open. 

God is working.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

No, my Lord will save me!

So today I wanted to start off with a joke I heard…

So there is this man who lives in a house near the coast.  There is a big storm coming and they are afraid that the storm will cause severe flooding.  City officials begin to evacuate the city in hopes of saving as many people as possible.

When they get to the man to evacuate him, he says, “No, I am not going anywhere.  My Lord will save me.”

So the officials are like, uh, ok, whatever and leave him.

So the storm comes and the man’s house begins to flood.  He goes up the roof to get out of the water and waits.

As he is on his roof, another man in a boat comes up to his house and tells him to hop on.

Again the man says, “No, my Lord will save me!”

The guy in the boat says, uh, yea whatever, and leaves.

The flood water rises even more and it is almost up to the roof.  Another person in a boat who is looking for stranded people comes up to him and tells him to hop in the boat.

Again the man responds, “No, my Lord will save me.”

The flood water rises even more and now the man is standing on the top of chimney.  His house is fully submerged under water.  Just then a rescue helicopter comes and the call out for the man to grab the rope so they can haul him to safety.

Again, the man responds, “No, my Lord will save me!”

So then the man dies.

When the man gets to heaven he is so angry and goes right up to God and is all like, “Why didn’t you save me?!”

God goes, “I gave you a warning, sent 2 boats and a helicopter!  What else do you want from me?”

Granted, this joke my not be the best to tell at social gatherings or to get a great laugh, but I think it can teach us a lot about our relationship with God.

Many times in our lives we may feel very busy are completely consumed with stress.  It is almost like you drowning and you don’t know which way is up.  You take inventory of everything that you have to get done and you feel so…helpless.

A lot of times in these situations, we all may do the same thing. 

“Oh, Lord!  Please just help me get through this!”

How many times have you said something like that?

There is nothing wrong with saying things like this, as long as it doesn’t stop there.

Many times I think we get caught with thinking that our relationship with God is one sided.  We are in trouble, we turn to God, and our problems should sort themselves out, right?

I will admit that so far this year, I have felt the pressure of many things.  Work, life in general, whatever it was, I was feeling the stress just piling up.  There were times were I felt so helpless and no matter how hard I worked or tried, nothing was getting finished and more was piling up…I just wanted to stop and forget it all.

Let go and let God, right!


Luckily, I did what many people do in this situation would do, I talked to my friends.  They reminded  me to pray about it.  But they also said, hey, just figure out what you need to do and get to work. 

The reason I thought of this “joke” today is because I think it summarizes how we want to deal with our problems a lot of the time.  Just pray about it, say that our Lord will take care of it, because that is easier than taking care of it yourself.

I do not believe that is the way that our relationship with God should be.  You can not simple pray your problems away.  You also must work towards. 

Let go and let God, yes, but you also have to give God the opportunity to work.

Also, I think we all need to be reminded sometimes is that we are not in this alone.  Like in the story, the man received help 4 different times but was unable to see that sometimes it is the people in our lives that can be the answer to our prayers. 

I think we forget that sometimes and when we pray for help we expect some huge superhuman response.  When in reality the answer to our prayer may simple be a friend offering a helping hand or someone to listen to you just vent about what’s going on.

Why can’t that be an answer to a prayer? 

So today, as we go through all of the “stuff” we have to deal with day in and day out, remember this…

  1. Pray.  God is listening.
  2. Work.  Give God a chance to happen.
  3. Look.  You don’t know in what beautiful amazing way God will be there.
  4. Repeat.  It is not a one and done kind of thing with prayer.  Keep at it!

Just so you all know what's going on this semester! #chceyc

via Instagram http://instagram.com/p/jKfwQpp-Hs/

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

“You can’t reach for anything new, if you hands are still full of yesterdays junk.”

Tuesday greetings everybody!

It has been a little while since we have been together last.  Hope everyone is doing well and keeping warm!  Cause boy o’ boy is it chilly out there!

So for those of you who do not know, yesterday was the Feast day celebrating Epiphany!

Happy Epiphany everybody!

What is epiphany you may ask?  Well, lucky for you, I am about to tell you.

So Epiphany is the day we celebrate the arrival of Balthasar, Melchoir, and Gaspar.


They are the wisemen who traveled from the east, following the star, to the birthplace of Jesus.

To me this is an amazing story!  I think it says so much about the faith of the Magi and can teach us all a wonderful lesson.

So when I hear the story of the wisemen who dropped everything and traveled so many miles to follow a star because of a prophecy.

They do not actually know for a fact.  They do not go because there was actual physical proof.  They go because of a belief and because of faith.

I remember when I was in high school I struggled so much with following and living out my faith.  I believed and loved the church.  But I didn’t know how to live it.

The summer before my senior year, I traveled to Greece on pilgrimage.  18 youth went to go follow the footsteps of the apostle Paul.  You could call it a “Paul-grimage” if you will…

See what I did there…

Anyway, there was this moment when we were doing Lectio Divina on the beach and the scripture reading was about this man who approaches Jesus and asks to follow him because he believed so strongly.  When Jesus tells the man that he must give up all his possessions to follow him, the man is unable to do so.

This passage really hit me when I was in high school.  Not because I felt that I was overly attached to my material possessions.  But because I wondered if I would even have the guts to approach Jesus.  I felt that I would be intimidated.  Not worthy.

In another post I wrote about bringing your “stuff” to the altar every Sunday but then just before you leave turning around and going back to get it. 

Fast forward to today.  So after Christmas, I was fortunate to work at a retreat at DuBose Conference Center called Winterfest.  The theme for the week was healing.  Throughout the week we focused on different ways we heal and the communities that we lean on when we are going through this crazy journey called life.

Even though I was on staff and was working to relay the theme to the youth that were there, I experienced healing in ways that I never expected.

All the burdens that I dragged with me to the event were just washed away.  Being surrounded by so much love for an entire week…

It would be impossible to say that God was not at work. 

I was taught a very valuable lesson about my faith and my life. 

Everyone makes mistakes…and everyone needs healing.  It is not something you see but it something that you feel.  You don’t have the physical proof, but you can feel it.

I learned how in order to live out my faith that I can’t keep holding on to troubles of yesterday.

What I think about when I hear the story of the wisemen is this concept of blind faith.  These wealthy powerful men drop everything to follow a star.  To follow the light and to live out their faith.  They were able to leave behind all of their “stuff” and follow the light to Jesus.

So today my challenge for you is take everything that is holding you back.

Everything that may be keeping you from living out your faith. 

Imagine that all of that “stuff” is in your hands…and just let it go.

As Paul writes, there is nothing that separate you from the love of God.

“You can’t reach for anything new, if you hands are still full of yesterdays junk.”

-Louise Smith