First United Methodist Church

Devotion: Naming What Is

Do you ever have one of those weeks when your heart breaks over and over again? Over the last 7 days this has happened more than once for me. I have found myself in situations where I sit in the holy discontent of the world and say, “this is just not right!”

Last Thursday, another staff member and I toured the Orlando Rescue Mission, which has been serving homeless and vulnerable families since 1948. I started to cry when I learned that once a month, the children who have had birthdays that month get a group birthday party and get to share a cake that has their name on it and for maybe the first time in their lives, they see their name on the top of a cake. Then I went to Warren Willis Camp over the weekend and remembered with joy how many youth find their faith story here. And while it didn’t break my heart in the same way, my heart ached for the youth that have not yet experienced the power and presence of Jesus in their own lives and are left trying to piece together an empty and unfulfilling identity that the world tells them they are. And then I finished my week sitting on the Board of Directors meeting at the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home and listening to stories of abandoned, trafficked and abused children and how the Home has transformed their lives and given them a new family.

All of this to say, it has been a heavy week. Maybe you can relate.

While I am blessed to be a part of the faith journey in the lives of this church, I also carry the burden of the hurt I hear and the brokenness I see. This is part of my call. And as I was processing this with my Spiritual Director on Monday morning, she helped change my perspective and shone light in a place I hadn’t seen before. It could be, that the things that break our heart about the injustices of the world, the things that keep us up at night, the lumps in our throats, are actually Holy Spirit moments that are spurring us into action. Maybe the things that feel burdensome are actually gifts in disguise that help us figure out what we were uniquely made to transform or make whole.

It could be, that the Scripture from James 2 that we studied on Sunday is really about holy discontent.

The Message version of James 2:14 says,

Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it?”

I read that in light of the week I have just had, as an validation to sit in the sadness of the brokenness, but not an excuse to wallow. I read this modern version of the text to say, whatever it is that breaks your heart, God is giving you a task to fix, or an injustice to make right, or a brokenness to heal.And so I invite you to consider your own holy discontent and how your own heart breaks. Maybe the Holy Spirit is whispering to you about the gifts you have to help address that particular issue. It could be that God made you for such a time as this.

I close with Richard Rohr’s words from his devotion in Center for Action and Contemplation that says this:

Religion is no longer a spectator sport, an observing of some distant, far-off truth, but it’s an observing of what is true in me, and what is true in me is true of the cosmos. It’s all one reality. Frankly this makes the job of evangelization—if we want to use that Christian word—much easier because we’re not bringing in an extraneous message. We’re simply naming what is.”

And so church, let’s name what is; the hurt, the sin, the brokenness and put our broke hearts into action together.

God in a Box?

Check out our “God in a Box” skit by Pastor Rachel & our Children’s Ministry kids! It paves the way for what’s to come in our next sermon series- The Lorax, which is family-friendly and starts this Sunday!

Devotion: Resting in a Restless World

Recently God has been forcing me to learn more about rest, whether I want to or not. Over and over again over these last few weeks, several of my encounters have led me down a path of learning to slow down and just be. If you know me, you know that I don’t slow down well. Some of that is current life situation. Those of you with young kids get it and if your kids are grown, you remember. But besides my current life situation, I also don’t choose to slow down and rest much of my own free will. I am constantly looking for the next fun adventure or experience. My husband is the opposite, and he definitely balances my “go, go, go” way of living but I am constantly learning that God wants more of my being than my doing.

My spiritual director taught me this phrase years ago and I come back to it time and time again. Evelyn Underhill wrote, “We spend our lives conjugating three verbs: to want, to have, to do- but what really matters is TO BE. “

I was reminded again of this by my Barre workout coach this weekend who said that we are human Beings, not human Doings and I can’t agree more. But incorporating the spiritual practices that allow us to simply “be” will often need to be honed and refined. To be, doesn’t just naturally happen.  

And so, my question for us to ponder today is this. Why is it so difficult to just be? Where does the pressure, drive or expectation come from to make us human doings? And what does God have to say about it?

I can tell you from my own life that part of it is temperament, part of it is our family of origin and part of it is the community we find ourselves in. Only one of these things can we really do much about, and that is our temperament; our own self awareness and spiritual maturity. But so much of our temperament is influenced by our schedules, routines, internal and external needs and the way we view the world. When it comes to the way rest realigns us with God, I spend much of my time reorienting the way I view the world. Somewhere along the way I learned the untruth that doing is more valuable than being. That what I produce and accomplish is more important than who I am at my core. Part of that is the societal pressure that comes from us always introducing myself by my degrees, accomplishments, educational milestones and who I am connected to as a person. 

What if we flipped those societal pressures upside down? Could you imagine how different conversations would be if I introduced myself with this elevator speech: 

“I am Rachel, created and beloved by God, passionate about relationships, I enjoy church history, I hum when I am carefree, I am not interested in fashion, but very interested in helping others belong. And most of the time I am tired and a little bit of a hot mess, but I love to laugh and not take life too seriously…

What would your ‘being not doing’ elevator speech be?

The point is this. When we are authentically living into the person we are at our core, we are more open to resting in the Presence of the one who created us. We don’t have to put on a show, we can be vulnerable and still valued. 

When I think about why it is hard to just be, there is this sense of needing to prove that I am doing a good job, that I am a capable pastor, a competent leader, a gracious servant, a relatable friend. I look around at my other colleagues and clergy friends and feel sometimes that I am not enough. And then I remember that comparison is the thief of joy and I check myself again. When I get in a rut and push myself too hard and too fast that I miss the chance to slow down and be, I also miss the chance to really be loved on by God. 

Maybe this illustration will help. I think about how my children enjoy being loved on. Right now, our 11 month old is so busy exploring the world, crawling and almost walking that she doesn’t slow down and will only snuggle right at the end of the night when she is beyond exhausted, so much so that she fell asleep today in her highchair! She doesn’t rest well either because she is too busy. But my older two really savor their hugs from Ryan and I. They crawl into our lap, or ask to be snuggled before bed, they still hold our hands and they just want to be close to us. As I process my invitation to rest more as an adult, I think it is more like the second scenario. I think God invites us to hold God’s hand, or climb into God’s arms and slow down a bit. When we are that secure in the love of our Father, we feel fully known and still fully loved.

I want to rest like that and I want to get to a place where the world isn’t constantly getting in the way. Of deep and meaningful rest. I pray you find that rest too both physically and spiritually.

If you would like to talk more about the idea of spiritual rest and contemplation, I invite you to bring your own lunch and join me this Thursday, July 20th anytime between 11am-1PM at the church. We will talk through the practices of spiritual rest a little deeper and learn from one another. 

Financial Update from Pastor David!

Devotion: Upside Down Kingdom

Devotion: Words of Love

Over the last few Sundays, we’ve been talking about the Book of Revelation. We’ve used the language about opening other people’s mail and how we are only seeing a small part of the message that was originally intended for someone else.

That got me thinking about the words we say to one another, how they are heard, interpreted and received. One of my love languages is words of affirmation and so, if you have written me a card or letter over the last 2.5 years, know that I read it, treasure it and save it to read on rainy days when I am discouraged or worn out. There is power in our words, both spoken and written down.

A few years ago Ryan and I started a new tradition with our children, a tradition that we hoped would spark words of love. Emmaline is 7 and Charlie is almost 5 and we read a lot to our kids and they like to read to each other. I would like to think that we speak words of love to each other, as husband and wife and to each of them, our children. We aren’t perfect of course, but we do try and model gentle language in our home. And so every year at this time, when Valentine’s Day rolls around again, and we feel the same pressure to buy and spend, we’ve used the holiday of Valentine’s Day to actually Shower our children with words of love. Below you’ll see two pictures from yesterday morning. Late Monday night, we cut out colorful hearts, and wrote phrases of things that we love about each of our children on them. The kids had so much fun waking up yesterday morning and seeing them all over their door. Emmaline was able to read the majority of her hearts, but Charlie needed some help. As I read each love note to them, their smile widened, bigger and bigger as they heard words of love poured out on them. Isn’t it a beautiful feeling when we hear that we are beloved and treasured by someone else?


Now while I would agree that a lot of the Bible is hard to wrestle with and needs to be studied in community with others, I would say that if you look close enough, you can see words of love from God back to us. They may not be words that you would find in a Hallmark card, but they are words, nevertheless about God loving us and wanting God’s best for us. They are words about sin and redemption and sacrifice and hope. They are words that give life, and a deeper meaning than what our culture can offer.

When you read Revelation over this next several weeks, look for the words of love and encouragement. In the letter to Pergamum, from Sunday, the words of warning don’t sound loving, but they are the cautious words of a parent warning you not to fall into the wrong crowd at school. They are the encouraging words of a coach or music teacher that sees how hard you are working and doesn’t want you to give up your talent or your instrument. These words in Revelation are the words of a tired parent of a toddler that wants them desperately to listen and pay attention. Words that sound harsh, but when read through the eyes of a loving God, are actually full of hope.

As you read and study this book in community, my prayer for each of us is that collectively we look for the words of love that are being poured out on us for the sake of the church.