Today, I wish to share a personal experience with all of you that informed this devotion because it has been something I have been reflecting on for the last four or five days now. I have been through a lot of up and down emotions since Friday’s Supreme Court Ruling and have had multiple conversations with Christians and non-Christians alike as we live into this new reality. Part of this ties to Pastor Philip’s sermon on Sunday regarding anger and part of this has to do with what God is teaching me while I am in relationship with people I don’t always agree with.
For the first time, in a long time, I decided to post something on Social Media, on my own page, using my own story and my own opinions. For the most part, there was positive feedback in the form of agreement, appreciation, and respectful conversation. But there is always a few that can ruin a good thing. As a pastor, I have never used Social Media to push an agenda, to endorse a candidate, to call someone out or to speak about things I know very little about. And so I prayed hard and processed deeply the words that I felt I needed to share as a woman of faith on the issue. I know that God was in it because I have heard from quite a few women and men who have struggled in their faith over the last few years and by me lending a voice and a personal opinion to the mix, a door was opened for conversation about the Christian faith, Scriptural interpretation and where Jesus is present when we struggle. I also know that this was of God because several of these people I hadn’t talked to since High School and so I am thankful that they reached out and I hope I can maintain a friendship with each of them. While those interactions were positive, one thing I learned in this experience over the last weekend is something I have always known but still hurts when it happens to you. The truth is this, not everyone will agree with me. This may sound obvious, but when members of your own family start to degrade and discredit you in a public setting, I found myself taking a deep breath and then pondering, if I am truly a follower of Jesus, I must find a way to have a Heart at Peace. I alluded to this in my pastoral Prayer on Sunday as well. How do you have a heart at peace when it seems like you have one conversation after another with someone that seems to have a heart at war? How do you peaceably engage with someone that is after you, in every sense of the word who wants to do very little listening and a whole lot more arguing? How do you act as the face of Christ when the person you are engaging with just wants to be right?
One of the most formidable books I have read and taught on over the last few years has been, The Anatomy of Peace, by the Arbinger Institute. I had a chance to plan a sermon series and Bible Study around this book at my last church. I may re-read it as we continue to walk through polarizing times as a nation and as a denomination. I don’t know about you, but I have felt like there has been one struggle, one disagreement, one divisive thing after another, especially over the last two or three months. And I can physically feel that part of me that wells up and gets a “hot nose” as we heard about on Sunday, when I perceive an attack coming on. Jesus was not a stranger to conflict and disagreements, and quite frankly I’m not sure where this idea of the ‘Precious and Gentle Jesus’ came from, but I think Jesus had a part of him that was constantly having to defend himself and his followers. I am sure there were moments that could have push his buttons and really made him angry, as we heard about on Sunday, but he used that righteous anger for reconciliation. Ultimately, Jesus is the best example of having a heart at peace when everyone else seems to want to go to battle.
While I am nowhere near perfect in having a heart at peace, God has used specific experiences in ministry, in family and in society to help me learn how to have a heart at peace where I would otherwise go on the defense. I wanted to share a diagram with you that may help. The book talks about having a “way of being” and how there are essentially two ways of being. One is with a heart of war, where we see people as objects and the other is a heart at peace, where we see people as people. I’m sure you can guess which way of being I would encourage and which way of being Jesus modeled.
I want to encourage each of us reading this to have hearts at peace. Remember, no one was ever argued into a new perspective and all conflict isn’t bad. Social Media and Email isn’t the best way to communicate your strong views, but face to face conversation is the Biblical way and the best course of action for mature followers of Jesus. Intrapersonal conflict is inevitable in this thing called life, but the Holy Spirit is still at work even in the most tense of situations. I want to encourage you, as I learn this lesson myself, to always strive to have a heart at peace and to see people as people, not as objects. To honor their Imago Dei and their sacred worth, even if they seem like a piece of work in the moment. We remember that we are all broken, including ourselves and that God is not finished with us yet. I hope this diagram helps you think through how to choose a heart at peace in the midst of conflict. I hope this devotion speaks an encouraging word to you too because I am also on this journey, and we are figuring this out together!
“That’s Not Fair”…this is a phrase we have heard a lot or thought a lot in our house over the last month. Maybe you can remember this season in your parenting and family life. We are hoping it is just a phase. Emmaline and Charlie voice this opinion quite frequently these days and when I am my best self; rested, patient and centered on Love of God and Neighbor, I can’t say I disagree with them. We learn early on as children that life isn’t fair. The sooner we learn this, the better. But even as an adult, I have this feeling from time to time because there is something innate in me that wants fair and reasonable circumstances for all. I desire this not only just for myself, but for all of God’s children. We can use the time when our children bemoan their unfair lives to remind them that they are right, life isn’t fair. That there are many children, just like them all over the world who are hungry, cold, sad or sick because life isn’t fair.
I don’t know if you are like us, but as Mom and Dad, Ryan and I try so hard to use this opportunity to teach about the vision for God’s Kingdom and how the world is still so broken. While many of us live in privileged places of comfort and support, this is not the reality for most. I serve on the Board of Directors for the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home and I can tell you that we are a blessed people and that most children in our world do not have the stability, support and resources that our children have. And it is our job as parents, grandparents and church leaders to paint a realistic picture for our next generation.
As I thought about this “fairness” conversation I am having with my own children and then listened to the Rev. Dr. Martyn Atkins this Sunday speak of God’s guidance and God’s will for us, I hear that small childish voice within me begin to protest, “that’s not fair…!” Why can’t I know God’s plans for me? Why can’t my future be clear? Why is faith so often about trusting blindly and what does this mean about the God we serve?
While I believe that God is a fair God and loves each of us equally, the world doesn’t play by those rules. In fact, from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry on earth, it became clear that Jesus came to turn that idea of fairness upside down. For instance, who works a whole day in the heat of the fields while someone else only works an hour and they get paid the same…I mean, c’mon, that’s not fair! (Workers in the Vineyard Parable: Matthew 20:1-16). We worship a God who has turned our worldly understanding of fairness on its head and the beautiful thing in all of it is that it is completely God’s right to do so. And so if we apply the quandary of faith and the fairness we feel we are owed, we quickly see how there is so much mystery involved in this journey of ours. Maybe you can relate. And while I don’t have a “feel-food” answer for frustration, I can share from personal experience how much is learned on the journey through the act of waiting and humility. What I try to teach my children and remind my own heart of at times is that I can’t see all that is going on, but I trust the love of the Parent who guides and directs. It doesn’t all make sense to my children why things seem unfair, but they can trust my love for them, my deep desire to protect them and my hope for their future. I pray that as you wrestle with your own faith and find yourself shaking your fists up to God at times saying, “That’s Not Fair,” you can also rest in the love of the Great Parent and the promise of a future with hope!
Hear from Pastor Philip, Pastor Leah, and Jared Tucker to learn how you can get involved with these vital ministries this Summer!
For the past week and a half, my family and I have been traveling together through the Rocky Mountains visiting three National Parks, hiking and spending over 30 hours of quality time in the car and small living spaces. Every year, we have prioritized taking our children on an adventure to show them part of our country that is full of God’s beauty. This trip was a success and we came back so thankful for this experience. While we were gone, you heard the beginning of our Summer Series, “Living Inside Out” and Pastor Philip and Pastor Leah told the Pentecost story and connected it back to our Core Memories. Over the next few weeks, we will be thinking about our Core Memories and how they are connected to Fear, Joy, Anger and Sadness.
I want you to think about a place you have been to or visited over your lifetime that brought about a visceral response like the emotions we will be talking about over the next few weeks. Have you felt Sadness over a place you visited that held such brokenness or history? I remember feeling that at the Holocaust Museum outside of Jerusalem two years ago. Have you felt fear while visiting a place that held such beauty? I felt this multiple times these past two weeks when my 6 and 4-year-old little explorers got a little too close to a trail edge or a rock face and I had to yank them back. I have felt Joy many times while traveling and seeing new places around the world, especially when the people I loved most could experience it with me. The point is that we all have experiences that bring out emotions in us that are tied to our Core Memories and those stay with us forever.
God gave us emotions, they are a part of what makes us the Imago Dei, but often times our emotions can be confusing, off-balance, and hard to understand. This past Sunday, Pastor Philip talked about the story of Pentecost and how there was fear wrapped up in it, especially for the disciples. As you reflect on the story of the birth of the church, I want us to be thinking about a time that we experienced fear, but it made us stronger, more courageous, and more grateful to be alive. Maybe you are one that served in our armed forces or fought in a war. Having never served in the military I can only be thankful for those that have and I imagine that you have had many moments of fear and uncertainty because of that sacrifice. Maybe you felt fear in a new relationship, career change, or even walking back into life as it once was after the pandemic. Maybe you have fear, like Peter did, around your boldness of faith and trusting that the Holy Spirit would come through for you when you needed it the most. I want to encourage you if you are in the midst of that fear that God is with you. Fear can shut us down or spur us on. Fear can create walls or barriers, or fear can cause us to climb over those barriers to see what is on the other side. Fear, like in the story with the Apostle Peter pushed him to do more than he could ever have imagined. I hope you know that we worship a God that not only walks with us, but is open to hearing about our deepest fears and anxieties. Not only are we able and willing to share that with a Holy God, but we can rest in that sharing because God is a Loving Father.
My prayer for us over these next 4 weeks is that as we name the emotions that are unique to us, we will find a deeper comfort in who we are and who we have been called to be. Also, if you haven’t marked your calendars, join me and others from your church family this Sunday evening, June 12th at 5PM to watch Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out together at our Winter Park Campus in the Matthias Family Life Center! Click the link below to register today.