Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Divided House

I have received texts and Facebook messages all day asking how General Conference is going and what the mood and attitude is like out here today. I'll be honest. It's been a tough day. This morning Bishop Ough made a statement on behalf of the Council of Bishops regarding the Church's division over human sexuality. If you didn't see it, you can watch it here.

While it should have been common sense to me that the bishops don't necessarily know what to do with this nor do they agree on what should happen, it hadn't really occurred to me before. It was an unsettling revelation and I think the tension was felt throughout the convention center. A motion came to the floor requesting the Council of Bishops meet and come back to our General Conference with some sort of guidance on how we as a church proceed and work through our division. Our bishops are our spiritual leaders and to think that they don't have answers either leaves us feeling at a loss. Their advice would not be something as a body are bound to, we are earnestly seeking a way forward within the denomination.

So if I had to sum up how I feel right now it would be unsettled. I'm not sure how we as a church can find unity or come to any kind of agreement. I pray we do. I pray that our bishops will bring wise counsel in the morning and we can find a way forward through this to love one another through these differences.

During one of our breaks this afternoon I spent some time in the quiet of the prayer room, walking the labyrinth and praying at some of the other stations for the Holy Spirit to envelop this place and give peace and wisdom. My prayer is that we can see each other through the eyes of Jesus and love as he loves.

We will see what tomorrow holds. I'm nervous and unsettled tonight as I go to bed. God is here, He is with us and my prayer is that we will keep our eyes focused on Him and keep the main thing the main thing.
John Wesley said, "Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.” While this doesn't seem like a small difference, I know we serve a mighty big God. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Does It Matter?

I am serving on the General Administration Legislative Committee. A large part of what my sub-committee is dealing with is Plan UMC Revised. For those that don’t know, Plan UMC was a plan to restructure agencies within the United Methodist Church. It was adopted at the 2012 General Conference and then ruled unconstitutional afterward by the Judicial Council. When a revised plan was submitted for GC2016, the Council of Bishops asked for a declaratory ruling from the Judicial Council to determine whether or not it would be constitutional. This was to prevent the same situation as four years ago when so much time was spent on something that couldn’t be implemented.
When our sub-committee met yesterday, we moved fairly quickly to suggest adoption or rejection of petitions that were not related to Plan UMC. I was elected secretary of our sub-committee, which means that I am responsible for writing the recommendations of our sub-committee to the larger committee. Our sub-committee could take several actions: recommend approval of a petition, recommend rejection of a petition, or amend a petition and recommend approval. Once a petition goes to the larger committee, if it is approved it moves on to the entire General Conference for a vote. If the petition is rejected, it dies in committee. This are still ways it could get back to GC for a vote, but I’m not going into that here.
Today our job was a bit more tedious. We began to dig into Plan UMC Revised and its constitutionality. There are so many different opinions around the table about what needs to happen as we seek to streamline the structure of the church. It seems we have had a lot of discussion but not come to any kind of consensus or resolution. We still have some time to work on this, but it has felt like we were spinning our wheels this afternoon.
A few minutes ago we went out for a 20-minute break. While on break, I went to the prayer room to clear my head and talk to God. As I walked the prayer labyrinth, I began to pray for clarity and really ask God what He wants for His Church. These are some questions and thoughts I had:
God, You are the Creator of the Church. Does it matter to You how we structure the Church? Is what we are doing making a difference in kingdom building? How does this restructuring make disciples? God, You created us. Created us to worship You and we are called to make disciples. Agencies like the General Committee on Race and Religion and General Committee on Status and Role of Women do make a big difference to many people in the world. Because of our structure, and these agencies are a part of that, we are a connection that reaches people all over the world to further build God’s kingdom. We are called to be good stewards of the resources God has given us. A change in structure to redistribute resources is a part of being good stewards.
As I walked to the center of the labyrinth, my prayer was simply this: Jesus, be present. Jesus, be the center of all we say and do and guide our time together so that what we do matters for building your kingdom.

Many times when people hear of my involvement in the General Church or within our annual conference they say things like “That sounds boring,” or “I have no interest in getting into all of that political stuff.” For me though, it is so much more than church politics. It is about a structure that reaches around the world, providing resources and showing love to God’s people. It is about doing the most good with what God has given us and in doing so making the greatest impact. Does this committee work matter? It may not be something recognized in our local churches but I think it does matter and the impact is far reaching.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Peace When Life Gets Crazy

Y'all, sometimes the going gets tough around here. I'm not gonna lie. It's been one of those weeks. I'm trying to get ready to be gone for 2 weeks, Hubby's back is out and he is in a lot of pain, I got a call yesterday that Prince had thrown up at school and I needed to come get him and Princess is mad that she has to go to school without Prince this morning. When I opened the freezer to get ice for my water bottle an exploded glass root beer bottle that Prince forgot he put in there fell out on my foot and shattered everywhere. Oh, and my washing machine quit this morning. UGH! Did I mention I'm about to be gone for 2 weeks?! You can't make this stuff up!

Yep. It's been a challenging week. There are times when I would have crawled back into bed and just cried, feeling completely defeated. There are many times when I would have hollered and yelled at Princess to suck it up and threatened her within an inch of her life. This morning I managed to remain calm.

This morning I took deep breaths, counted to 10 and used my essential oils. I cleaned up the sticky root beer mess in the freezer and on the floor and dug the piece of glass out of my foot. Yes, Princess did go to school and no, she wasn't happy about it, but I didn't lose my cool through any of this. I would like to think that this is because I am a really awesome mom and I just decided to stop yelling one day. I would like to think that this is because I have perfected that whole self control thing and it was just that easy. I know that it's not. What I do know is that I have been spiritually armoring up for the stress that comes with leaving my kids and for a trip that will be exhausting. I have been intentional with my Bible study and my prayer time, spending time in quiet to listen for God and to allow Him to calm my spirit. I regularly invite the Holy Spirit in and ask Him to take over and make me over. The difference is my connection with Him. When I allow God to work and trust that He is going to move in and through me, I am a completely different person. It's not anything I can do in my own strength.

This isn't a post to brag that I have it all together. There are many times when I don't do this. I fail miserably and I worry and try to accomplish things in my own strength. During those times I am a stressed out, yelling, crying mama. It doesn't work out so well for me. It's really a post for me to see the difference so next time when I mess up I can remember the difference and turn things right again. It's also meant as a word of encouragement for those mamas who may be in the same boat, feeling like they just can't anymore. Yes you can! You just can't do it alone, and the good news is that you don't have to. Take a deep breath and ask God to be your strength and give you peace.

Click here to hear my favorite song at the moment...Holy Spirit by Francesca Battistelli.