Thursday, April 6, 2017

Staying still

It has been windy lately, and when it is windy I am reminded of my year teaching English in Japan.  I would ride my bicycle to the different junior high schools where I taught English, and in March and April it was so windy that I would be riding my bicycle and I would not be going anywhere because the winds were so strong.  I would be pedaling and pedaling, but not moving forward.  I am reminded of that experience often, especially during the time of Lent.  

We may have taken on a spiritual discipline in Lent or given something up in Lent. We wanted to do something to remember Jesus and to grow closer to God. For some folks, they feel like they have been doing their spiritual discipline or denying themselves something they enjoy, and they haven’t felt any difference in their spiritual life.  Or other people have eaten the chocolate that they were going to give up during Lent or they have stopped their spiritual discipline as life got busy and they have not been reading their Bible every day.  How often do we feel like we are pedaling and pedaling, but we are not moving forward?  When I get to that place of frustration, I remind myself to be still and to know that God is God (Psalm 46:10).  I am forgiven, and I can try again.  I am loved by God, and I can use the frustration that I feel to breathe in God’s grace and to know that God loves me.  

Staying still is not a bad thing.  Staying still can actually be a good thing.  When I stay still, I can feel God's Holy Spirit moving all around me. When I stay still, I stop and I listen.  When I stay still, I focus on being instead of doing. When I stay still, I breathe in God's peace and strength and love.  

#ThisLittleLightOfMine

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The journey

Last Wednesday I was not able to blog my weekly Lenten post because I was in Seattle with my family for Spring Break.  The wonderful thing about traveling together with your family is that you are stuck together.  If someone is grumpy, you have to figure out what to do.  How do you give them space?  How do you help? 

When I think about the best part about our time away, it wasn't the sights that we saw, the food that we ate, or the cousins we connected with (though that was a highlight).  The best part about our time away was the 24 hours a day that we were together.  There were no work or school obligations, no sports team practices, and no places to be.  We were able to spend time with each other, laughing, telling stories, being ourselves, and loving each other.  

One day we went whale watching.  We did have to set alarm clocks that day because we had to drive about an hour north to get to the boat.  The boat was going fast to try to find the gray whales.  The day before they had seen two gray whales, and the boat captain was talking to other whale watching boats trying to spot some whales but they could not find them.  I was disappointed.  This was supposed to be memorable and we had not seen anything. But the kids loved it.  They talked for days afterward about how fun the boat ride had been.  I had seen the trip as a flop because the goal had not been reached - we didn't see any whales!  But, the kids had focused on the process, they had focused on the journey and they had enjoyed it.  

So often in my life I have focused only on the end goal, and I have not enjoyed the journey.  As I let my light shine and follow my heart, my calling, and try to be or become who I am meant to be, I have to focus on the journey instead of only focusing on the end goal. My kids helped me to remember that to show love, forgiveness, kindness, and to be more like Jesus, I have to focus on the journey.  So often the disciples were frustrated with Jesus because he was talking to too many people, and he wasn't doing what they wanted him to do.  He was enjoying the journey. If they got to their destination, great, but Jesus was going to enjoy each step of the way.  

Traveling with my 12 and 9 year old children this week helped me remember also that time is precious and that before I know it, they will be all grown up.  I want to enjoy the boat ride.   

#ThisLittleLightOfMine

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Learn from others

This weekend was busy -  Confirmation/Youth overnight retreat, church, lacrosse game, and my mom and stepdad in town. By the time Sunday night came, I was tired. But, I got in the car and drove up to the church because Sunday nights at 5 p.m. during Lent we are having At the Table and In Conversation at Greenland Hills UMC.  I didn't want to miss our first night as we talked about our belief in God.  Yes, there were other places I could have been. Yes, there were other places that I wanted to be (the couch). But, I felt called to be at the church, sharing and learning with folks.  I am so glad that I went. We drew our image for God, and I was so blessed by what other folks drew. A tree, a sun, birds flying, and I drew a lap.  When I imagine God I see a lap that I can crawl into where I feel safe and warm, loved and protected.  I was so blessed by hearing how others view God. When other people share why they believe, it helps me to remember why I believe.

A few years ago I felt overwhelmed but I knew that once a particular project was completed, life would get back to normal.  But, after that project there was another project.  And throw in kid sport seasons, and it feels like there is no time to simply sit and be.  Sunday night gathered around tables with people from the church that I love, that challenge me, that make me better, I tried to simply sit and be and listen and learn from others.

During Lent I am blogging on Wednesdays and writing about following my heart, my calling, being or becoming who I am meant to be, who God created me to be, who I was put on this earth to be (thanks to Tesa Golden from Greenland Hills UMC for her original Facebook post about this).   So, as I think this Lent about honoring the sacrifices of Jesus, I want to show love, forgiveness, kindness, and be more like Jesus.  As Tesa said, "I want to SEE others and have them SEE me by letting my light shine."

In order for me to see others and have them see me, I have to show up.  I have to listen and learn from other people.  I saw a TED talk this week that has continued to rattle around in my brain.  It is Megan Phelps Roper sharing about growing up in the Westboro Baptist Church.  She talks about how we have to talk and listen to people we disagree with.  Here are her takeaways: 1. Don't assume bad intent.  2. Ask questions. 3. Stay calm. 4. Make the argument.

Shining my light today means that I am blessed to learn from others.  #ThisLittleLightOfMine

http://www.ted.com/talks/megan_phelps_roper_i_grew_up_in_the_westboro_baptist_church_here_s_why_i_left?utm_source=newsletter_daily&utm_campaign=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_content=button__2017-03-06





Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Blogging during Lent, year 2...

I am hopeless at giving things up for Lent.  I remember one year it was day three of Lent and the cookie was in my mouth when my lovely daughter said, "I thought you were giving up sweets for Lent?"  So, last year I resurrected this old blog and blogged every Wednesday during Lent. I love to write.  Writing for me is therapeutic, it is meditative, it is prayerful, and I enjoy it!  So, blogging during Lent, year 2 begins...

Tesa Golden is a part of the Greenland Hills UM Church family and she and I have been praying about a movement during Lent.  It is a movement to do an act of kindness for another person every single day during Lent.  We wanted to document those kindness acts on social media with a hashtag.  We have been praying about it and the Holy Spirit kept nudging us both toward a particular hashtag.  This past weekend, we were praying about it and Sunday morning at 9 am worship our amazing pianist Robert and Minister of Worship Arts Kristi Hassell played a duet of This Little Light of Mine.  Tesa looked over at me and asked if I requested them to play that song.  No!  It was the Holy Spirit!  So, Holy Spirit, you win.  Our act of kindness during Lent hashtag is 


Tesa wrote on Facebook this morning, "I absolutely believe that we will change the world by following our heart, our calling, our inner wisdom, being or becoming who we are meant to be, who GOD created us to be, who we were put on this earth to be. 
In the past year I have gone from the exhausting task of trying to be who I thought the person standing in front of me wanted me to be to learning who I really am and showing up as that person to all who will see me. It's glorious and much easier! Not only has it changed me, but I believe that it has changed my family, my friends, and my community like a piece of the puzzle fitting in the right place makes the whole picture a little more complete.
Instead of giving something up for Lent this year to honor the sacrifices of Jesus, I want to try to show love, forgiveness, kindness to others and BE more like Jesus...I want to SEE others and have them SEE me by letting my light shine. 
So, regardless of your religious beliefs, will you shine your light with me at some point in the next 40 days? And will you share those experiences of how your callings are changing the world?"

Tesa, here is my story of sharing kindness for today.
This morning the dog woke me up at 4:45 am because she needed to go outside.  My alarm woke me up an hour later at 5:45 am. I was at the church by 6:40 am because we have a 7:00 am Service of Ashes for Ash Wednesday.  At 6:50 am everything was ready and I was questioning my sanity.  Who gets up this early to get ashes?  Why did I plan worship at 7 am?  I am not doing this next year!  I am tired!  I want to go home!

And then people began to come.  We had 10 bulletins and we 10 ten people.  Okay, God, okay, I get it. Sometimes I imagine God telling me to stop worrying about everything and to just show up.  Be present.  God will work it all out.  

The lesson for me today is about showing love, forgiveness and kindness to MYSELF by showing up.  Trusting in God that if I am present, if I give all of myself to whatever it is that I am doing, then God will use it for good.  

At 9 am I was standing by the doors as our Preschool families came for the day.  We were giving ashes to go and I realized that I should probably say something age appropriate to preschoolers that wanted ashes.  "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return" is a bit abstract for preschoolers.  So, I said to the preschoolers, "This cross reminds us that God loves us." 

This first day of Lent, may God remind me that God loves me and may God remind you that God loves you.  #ThisLittleLightOfMine

Monday, June 6, 2016

Ten years ago today... 6-6-06

On this day 10 years ago, Bishop Moncure placed his hands on my head and other hands joined his.  The hand of my District Superintendent, the hand of the Chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry, the hand of Rev. Kathleen Baskin my mentor pastor, the hand of the Order of Elders, so many hands.  My husband Lee put his hand on my back as our almost two year old daughter sat in the congregation.  My family had gathered, friends were there, and church families from Oak Lawn UMC and Krum UMC. As I knelt down and the Bishop ordained me, those who loved me stood in support and love of me.  And the Bishop said these words:

"Kerry Sumpter Smith, take thou authority as an elder in the Church to preach the Word of God, and to administer the Holy Sacraments."

I remember that the weight of those hands was so heavy.  And then the hands lifted and the weight was gone and I stood and turned around to be greeted with a Communion cup from my Intern Pastor, Dr. Justin Tull, from Oak Lawn UMC.  He was retiring and I was just beginning.

It has taken me a long time to comprehend the enormity of that moment.

Being a pastor has been such a joy and such a responsibility.  As a pastor I am granted the opportunity to be with people at the liminal moments of their lives.  When they receive the cancer diagnosis, when they share the news for the first time that they are transgender, when they have had a child, when they have lost a child, when they are being welcomed into God's loving arms as they join the company of the saints.  To be able to baptize someone and welcome them into the Christian Church and to say this prayer over them, "May the Holy Spirit work within you that having being born through water and the Spirit you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus the Christ."

A few weeks ago I confirmed my daughter.  My daughter who was almost two when I was ordained.  My daughter who has grown up in the Christian Church.  And to say that prayer to her made me think about what it means to be a faithful disciple of Jesus the Christ.  "May the Holy Spirit work within you that having being born through water and the Spirit you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus the Christ."

What does it mean for me to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ? What does it mean for me to take thou authority as an elder in the Church to preach the Word of God, and to administer the Holy Sacraments?

For me it means that I am called to love and learn from everyone.  Everyone.  EVERYONE.

For me it means that I want to be on the journey with everyone together.  I don't have all of the answers, but I know that I can walk alongside people as we seek God's presence together.

God called me into ordained ministry because I wanted to make a difference in the world.  God called me into ordained ministry because I love Jesus and I want to share that love so that everyone knows that Jesus loves them too.

We are all called to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, for the transformation of the world (Matthew 28:19).

Maybe on this day that I remember and celebrate the 10th year of my ordination, maybe I am embracing the idea that I am only me.  I can only be me.  And maybe the weight that I felt that day wasn't a bad weight, maybe it was a good weight.  Maybe each hand that was on my head, maybe each person that stood was showing me that I am never alone.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.
Lee and I walking down the aisle together at the ordination service.

Bishop Moncure washing my feet.  What a powerful experience.  He died unexpectedly just a few months later.

My longtime friend Erica Hall! who came to show her support and love as I was ordained.



Reminiscing

Ten years ago today I was ordained. At the time those who were being ordained had the opportunity to address the General Conference.  This is what said on 6-6-06 and yes... at the end I had nearly 700 people singing!


Bishop, Members of the North Texas Annual Conference,


It is only by the grace of God that I am standing here.  My calling to the ordained ministry began before I was even born.  My mother attended a Methodist Church in her little town of Pennsylvania and when she was a youth, they received an ordained female pastor.  This was not long after female clergy were granted the same rights afforded to male clergy fifty years ago on May 4, 1956.  Growing up I found in church a haven of love and acceptance.  As I got older, I participated in everything that I could at Chapelwood UMC in Houston.  I was President of the Youth Group, President of the Youth Choir, and even preached on Senior Sunday when I graduated from high school!  When I went to college I thought that I would take a religion class because it would be easy, so I took Biblical Studies and I made a B!  Maybe there was more to this Bible stuff!  I took a class called Religion in America and visited a different place of worship every week.  One week I took my boyfriend who is now my husband, Lee, to a small Presbyterian church that was filled with white headed people.  Out bounced a young, blonde woman, and I turned to Lee and said, “I could do that,” and he said, “Yes, you could.”  I went to Japan to teach English for a year after college and while I was there my call to ministry continued to grow.  I told my non-church going friends there that I was feeling led to be a pastor and they didn’t think I was weird, they started calling me Reverend.  I started at Perkins at SMU when I came back home. 


It is only by the grace of God that I am standing here.  It is because of the love of the church family at Christ UMC in Plano where I served as a youth minister for a youth.  It is because of the love of the church family at Oak Lawn UMC in Dallas where I served as an intern and then as an Associate Pastor.  It is because of the love of my husband who went with me to England for a year while I pastored three small Methodist churches and discovered the joy of being a pastor in charge.  It is because of the love and the patience of the Krum United Methodist Church who has seen me grow in the past 4 years. 


A few years ago Reid Fade stood up here and talked about the ordination process as being like a tilt-a-whirl and over the last 9 years the ordination journey for me has had highs and lows and many times when I have felt out of control, just like on an amusement park ride.  I give God thanks for sustaining me over those 9 whirling years, through the Walk to Emmaus movement, through the churches I have served that have loved me, and through my family that have encouraged me and supported me. 


I am glad that God has been with me every step of this journey to ordination and Bishop, I can not wait for you to pray that the Holy Spirit will pour upon me for the office and work of an elder in the United Methodist Church.  I cannot wait for you for hands to be laid on my head, as Bishop Moncure says, “Kerry Sumpter Smith, take authority as an elder in the Church to preach the Word of God, and to administer the Holy Sacraments.” 


It is only by the grace of God that I am standing here.  Jeremiah 29:11 shares, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you a hope and a future.”  Praise God for that promise.  Praise God for the United Methodist Church and for the 50th Anniversary of the Ordination of Women.  Praise God that in 1980 Marjorie Matthews was elected as the first female Bishop in the United Methodist Church.  She was the first woman elected Bishop in all of Christendom!  I know that I am using my gifts to fulfill the call of God completely.  I give God thanks that I am a part of a church that allows, invites me, even encourages me to live out my calling and use the gifts that God has given me for the good of the Kingdom of God! 

Will you join me in singing, “Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.  Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.  Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.  Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.”  Amen! 

Me speaking before the Annual Conference at Plano Convention Center ten years ago today!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Community

This Lent I have been reading "Gifts of the Dark Wood" by Eric Elnes and he has talked about those times when we are disillusioned, afraid, or lost, and explored how God’s presence remains with us, providing opportunities for new growth and transformation. We enter the Dark Wood because we struggle. All of us struggle.  And in the Dark Wood it is possible to be moved and transformed. Elnes talks about Gifts of the Dark Wood: uncertainty, emptiness, being thunderstruck, getting lost and temptation. He talks about how uncertainty can help us let go of our fear of the unknown.  Emptiness can leave room for new possibilities.  Thunderstruck moments can offer insight.  Getting lost invites us to heighten our awareness.  Temptation can help us know our true path. 


The final gift of the Dark Wood are other travelers on the journey who enrich our experience of life and love.  It is those who have gone before or who are going with us. In the Dark Wood Elnes says, “walking alone is about as advisable as walking alone in a physical dark wood. It’s easy to get lost without the aid of companions… While we all walk our paths as individuals, the lone seeker is more likely to get lost or to give up than the one who travels in company” (150).  People who travel with us in the Dark Wood are as intentional as we are about embracing the gifts of the Dark Wood and finding their place in this world (157).  They are comfortable with the sadness of the Dark Wood and they share their own experiences and help us not be afraid. 

It takes a village.  It takes a village to raise children.  It takes a village to remember that you are not alone.  It takes a village to remind you that you can take one more step.  It takes a village to show you that there is always someone who has been where you are, and has made it through.   

A wise friend shared with me this past fall that if there was an event her child was going to, she always tried to find another parent to share the carpooling duties.  She said that it helped her to share the joys of parenting with other people.  It is very easy to try and do this thing called life alone.  Community takes work. But it is so worth it.  

And when someone asks to help us and we don't accept it, we are only hurting ourselves.  Community is good.