Thursday, October 28, 2010

fifteen minutes

I pulled into the parking lot at 6:18 and was back in my car and pulling out at 6:32. Fifteen minutes of my time for the day was spent in the surgery admission area of the hospital this morning. I will spend more time digging through the pile on my desk today. I will spend three times that amount filling out budget forms. What does this fifteen minutes mean?

I spent a few minutes of my day in a vulnerable part of this family's day. They are stepping into fear, loss of control, and so many other emotions. Yet, for this moment in time, we stand in a circle and these people allow me into their lives. I get to speak to God on their behalf at this tender time. Many prayers have and will be lifted by each family member over the reason we stand in this waiting room. And I have the privilege of joining the chorus of voices.

This is what it means to be a pastor. It is not easy, it is sometimes uncomfortable and it definitely is not fun. However, sometimes it is the most important thing I will do with my day. Fifteen minutes before the sun has even appeared on the horizon.

My emotions call me to wish this moment away. For this family to not have to take that yellow card and check in at the desk in the middle of the room. Part of me desires to be able to pray away all the anxiety and be able to tell them "it is going to be fine". Yet, the truth is, I don't know what lies ahead. I don't even know what lied behind. I know this moment. I know God is in this moment. I know whatever is to come, God is there. For a moment I get to speak this truth into a life.
This is what it means to be a pastor.

I have no answers. I don't even really know the questions. I can crack a joke and we will laugh through the tears that fill some of our eyes. They will politely ask me questions about my life and I will answer. What does this fifteen minutes mean?
It means I get to be a pastor.

I may not get all the words right and it may be awkward at times. The family has a long day ahead of them in this building as I get to start my car and drive away. However, God is there and for that moment I get to be a part of it.
At least for fifteen minutes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

still processing

It has almost been 3 weeks since my airplane landed in St. Louis and I returned from my 8 days in Haiti. I wish I could process the experience enough to make sense of everything I saw, smelled and heard. However, I am still sorting through the pictures in my camera and the memories in my mind.
My family never talked much about social justice or the government's role in welfare. My mom just one day said, "we do not need more stuff and there are families in Springfield that do not have. So, we are going to give to others". I don't know if I have ever heard my mother talk about how the system is broken, I just have watched her give to those without. So, in turn that is all I know. I don't do well in a discussion about what causes poverty, I just want to do something to change a life. I may not always get it right, but my heart still strives to figure it out.
Don't get me wrong. I believe those discussions about how to fix the system is necessary and I am thankful for those that engage in the conversation.
However, when it comes to Haiti the conversation is overwhelming and the discussions could be endless. Answers would be difficult to find, if not impossible.
The election for President of Haiti is just around the corner. Is there a political answer to the brokenness I saw? I don't know. But somehow I think that Betsy, who carries water from the well to the shower/bathroom area in rural Mellier probably isn't going to vote.
It is about water that is not fit to drink, homes that are still in rubble and the grief that this country knows all too well after the January earthquake. It is about children that carry parasites that their little bodies may not be able to always fight off. It is about a young man that just wants the chance to continue his education.
And for me, it is about what can I do? Not my analysis of the situation or my opinion on whether the US money made it there. It is about the faces of children I cannot get out of my head and what can I personally do to help them?
So, yea I am still processing.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I have been in some form of ministry for 20 years, so this issue is not a new one. However, usually I am able to claim John Wesley's catholic spirit and peace is continued. So, I am not sure what it was about today that triggered my passion. Maybe it was a reminder of the gifts of ministry I saw in a young woman just this afternoon. Or maybe it was simply that I had not eaten for 15 hours and I was just grumpy.

However, please and I do mean please do not tell a young woman that there is something she can not do simply because of her gender.

You know what I am talking about.

Believe what you desire for yourself and you do not need to embrace a doctrine you cannot agree with for yourself. You can quote me Scripture (I have read them and yes, studied them several times) that makes your point and I will quote you some other Scripture.

I am not here to debate you on the issue of women in ministry.

I feel no need to talk you into believing that I am called by God to be in ministry. I really never have felt a need to rationalize my calling. I do not say this because I am that confident or bold. I say this simply because, if I am called to ministry or not is really not between me and you. It is between me and God. God called me, gifted me and has guided me. If you feel that I received or interpreted this calling incorrectly, the fruit will not be there and the Holy Spirit will move me along to something different. If I could have avoided the calling, I would have. Come on, didn't I just mention I have been in ministry for 20 years. So, this is not about me.

You do not have to listen to a women preach or teach. You never have to believe for yourself that God could call a women to preach. I am not asking for you to change what you believe.

I am asking you to allow a young woman's calling to be between God and her. That is all.

Let her figure it out without tossing some "man" made doctrine into the mix.

Monday, July 12, 2010


The question on the application simply asks why do you want to experience international mission? I am not sure how to put into words the part of me that has been crying out for 20 years. “I want to go” seems like such an empty phrase.

We are called to reach out. Somehow I think this includes more than the woman at the Sonic drive-in that hands me my diet coke most afternoons. I stand before a congregation on Sunday morning and challenge them to show Christ’s love to a broken world. Do I really know of God’s world? Do I understand brokenness?

Yes, my heart hurts for those I talk and pray with that are walking through broken marriages and grieving the death of a love one. However has my heart ever really been broken, literally broken due to the compassion I am called to feel for another? A tear may fall, a lump may gather in my throat and at times I have been moved to lift a prayer or throw in a dollar. I can collect food for a shelter, wrap gifts for the local Christmas giveaway and even rebuild the ceiling of a home in intercity Memphis and I am in missions. Yet, somehow my heart has craved more.

The draw for missions comes from the desire to have my small and comfortable world bump up against God’s complete world. To have my heart pierced with what pierces God’s heart. Can that happen as I drive to my air-conditioned office in my paid off Honda Accord?

Why do I want to experience international missions? The circle that I have spent the majority of my life existing is not even a drop of whom I am called to love and serve. My heart knows there is more on the horizon or at least on the other side of an airplane ride.
I want to go.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Let's Get Fired Up!

We are in the middle of a sermon series titled "Let's Get Fired Up" highlighting the Holy Spirit. In preparation for the sermon this morning I have been humbled by the reality of the power of the Holy Spirit. The third person of the Trinity which includes all the power, abundance and strength our our creator, God.
Think about it, all that power is ours when we receive Christ.
And we are just hanging out on a Sunday morning, just chillin. Not really plugging into the capabilities of the gifts we have been given. If I really understood the power of the Holy Spirit I would be in complete awe a majority of my waking hours.
It was this idea that I was discussing with my mom this afternoon when she reminded me of a little known fact. (Leave it to a mother to point out the obvious).

I was a painfully shy child and still am very shy in so many ways.

Yea, there is the truth. Some that have known me a little longer than a couple decades are well aware of this fact. It is those people that know anytime I stand before more than one person it is the by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Myers-Briggs will show you my introvert score. My heart rate before I have to do anything having to do with public speaking will point out my fear. And yes, my mom will testify to the level of shyness I have been known for.
This afternoon my mom was reminding me of this truth and how God has empowered me to serve.
When we truly surrender to God's call in our lives, whatever that may be for this season in our life, God will enable.
The reasons we do not serve are lame and I have tried most of them. They do not hold up when we honestly consider what God has done for us. The Holy Spirit has gifted us to serve. My heart so desires for God's people to understand this truth and to know how Scripture confirms the reality over and over.
Yet, what my mom reminded me of this afternoon was that it really doesn't matter what Scripture I quote in an attempt to point out this fact. The truth is shown in the simple fact that I could quote Scripture from behind a pulpit in front of people in the first place.
Plugging into that power can be an adventure.
Let's get fired up!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Still Standing at the Gates

I am still thinking about those "who stand at the gates of righteousness". The sermon from last Sunday is still bouncing around in my head (and heart).

I am processing this idea of receiving those who stand at the gates. I really get that part. I don't always do it right, but I get it. We can always be working on how accepting we are within the church. We should always consider how welcoming we can be in a congregation.

It is about radical hospitality.

However, what about those who never come to the gate? Do you know what I mean? What is the church's role to those who feel lost or left out and approaching the gate is the last thing on their agenda? The people who never make it to the door of the church because of fear or doubt. They don't reach out or even make a peep (that is in honor of the sugary products this Easter season!). They stay hidden in their homes and work places, yet are craving a relationship with their creator. Maybe they have had an active relationship with the church at one time and they have been disappointed. So, now they stand a safe distance from those gates.

And maybe they question why no one has reached out.

Sometimes we are so busy with those that walk in the door or at least turn around in the parking lot, can we really be responsible for those that we are not even aware need us? And if we did schedule some time in our Blackberrys (okay, iPhones) to reach out to those who are quietly questioning faith, how do we know who they are? Okay then if we know who they are and we are aware of the need, how do we reach out? We don't want to step on toes and they have made no hint that they may need to hear of these "gates of righteousness" in which we speak. Really it is none of our business to go there.

Or is it our business?

If the church really buys this thing about an empty tomb more than just a time to fill some pews and pass out some colored eggs to some children, what does that mean? Because of the passionate love of God and the sacrificial gift of Christ, isn't it the business of the church to keep an eye open, an ear to the ground or at least a hand stretched out?

No matter how uncomfortable it gets to go where we are not sure we are invited, we are called to step outside the gates. It is mandatory that the people of the church figure out how to share the incredible news of a savior. It is a good thing that we put on our red (blue, purple, green, yellow) vest and greet people at the gate. It is a wonderful thing to make our churches a place of acceptance and hospitality. However, I think the "radical" part of hospitality means taking one more step and praying about who it is in our worlds that need directions to the gates or maybe even a hand to hold as they walk to the gates of righteousness.

There are people, broken people who fear the gates and they need a friend to say "it can be well with your soul".

Who is going to be that friend? I want to be that kind of radical.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Standing at the Gates!

It was going to be a busy Sunday. Being the planner that I am, I had decided to skip my normal Sunday lunch with friends for a focused time of preparation. We were hosting Stations of the Cross this afternoon and the crew of volunteers would be there ready to pull the event together in only an hour and a half. I wanted to have things ready so they could just kick it in as soon as they arrived.

Things were clicking along and I had avoided all distractions at this point. As I got ready to move one more table to it's designated area for the afternoon I spotted her in the hallway.

"Can I help you?" I asked from the Fellowship Hall, really hoping the answer would be quick so I could return to my long list.

"I want to pray", her accent was thick. I walked toward her while sharing that the sanctuary is open and she is welcomed to pray. She nodded. I pointed to the door of the sanctuary.

She didn't understand. She told me she had come from a "long way away". From her difficulty finding the English word she desired, I could tell she did not mean Texas. She was having as much luck understanding me as I was understanding her. I realized this was not going to be as simple as pointing to a pew and getting back to the signs that needed to be made.

However, I kept hearing our morning sermon (yes, I get to hear it three times). They stand at the gates and are hungry to enter. "Do we stand as a builder and reject stones or do we stand as a greeter and say 'come on in'?" I opened the door to the sanctuary, motioned and asked her if I could pray with her. I was still holding my sandwich I had been eating as I moved tables. I found a home for my lunch and we moved into a pew.

The more I listened the more I realized that her accent was not the only reason she struggled to find the right words to explain her situation, she was extremely tired. She was overwhelmed. She was concerned for her family. The details of her story are not as important as how for a moment on a Sunday afternoon time stood still.
A women from the other side of the world (literally) was in the neighborhood and saw the church. (I am sure it was the new entryway). She was having the same kind of stresses that every other person that takes a seat in those pews every Sunday has. She needed someone to stop, put down their chicken salad sandwich and listen.

As I prayed over her, she sobbed. Almost as if she was releasing the stresses of the last couple weeks. She stood to leave, I asked her if she would come back and experience the Stations of the Cross. She simply thanked me and said she needed to go.

Because of her weariness and accent, there were moments during our conversation I missed. I am not sure if her sister from Boston is coming back into town. I didn't completely follow if she would visit her son before going back to her country. However, I did catch that she believes a miracle happened today as she walked into the church. I have to agree.
She reminded me that we are both stones that the builders reject, yet we are both passionately loved by God.

May we both stand at the gates of righteousness and beg to come in!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Who hears me?

I have been having problems with the wireless microphone I use for worship. I have been aware every since at June wedding when I found my voice projected over the speakers as I waited with the groom and the groomsmen. I didn't mean to be heard through the sound system.

So, I am consistently making sure the button is on mute, sometimes pulling the ear piece to my back or turning the microphone off just to make sure. However, over the last nine months, my voice has gone over the sound system when I have desired to be muted. Yea, can you imagine, me wanting to be muted? This past Sunday as I slipped out of worship to make sure phone calls were being made for a cancellation, I made sure the button was on mute as I headed down the hall. Yet, when I took my seat back in the chancel area, Andy said, "we heard your voice over the speakers". Ughhhh.

For months I have been trying to tell people that I am not forgetting to mute my microphone, there is something about the mic. As you can imagine my frustration was high. The sound guy did realize that my mic was coming in and out of mute even when he simply held it in his hand. So, I have given up on wireless #1 countrymen and will make another plan from this point forward. The problem with my microphone is fixed or at least remedied for the moment.

Yet, this experience has gotten me thinking. What if everything we said was heard through a sound system? Would everyone appreciate what you say? Is what we say full of integrity and honor? Wow, that is something to think about.

Next time I prepare to open my mouth, I am going to ask myself those questions. God hears everything I say and really, that should be enough to temper my words. Hmmmm.

When I was little my mother used to say, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all". Well, if you can't say something nice, remember it could be heard over the sound system.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I was thinking the other day that I have probably spent around 25 years developing my opinions about issues. That is a lot of time molding my thoughts about the controversial topics in the world.
I go along very peacefully thinking I know how I feel about things. And then someone takes a seat in the cushy chair in my office and tells their story.

Darn it! What does that particular angle of the issue do to my well developed opinions? Sometimes their perspective changes how I thought I felt about something. I am not talking about just rolling with whatever comes across my view and going back and forth as if having no real opinions. I mean, a real life with real emotions and consequences begins to mold how I once thought about something.

Possibly my view were black and white about the situation and I could rationalize the view from Scripture, experience, tradition and reason (yes, wouldn't Outler be proud).
And then I am given a chance to look into a world from a perspective that I have never even considered and the moment changes the issue completely.

My point is...sometimes I can be so sure of what is right and wrong and then God places a person in the midst of my opinion and all of a sudden the issue is not as simple as I so confidently thought all along.

I share this awareness because maybe this is true for you also. Maybe you are pretty sure about how things should be in our country, in our churches and in our lives. However, until we spend a little time in someone else's world we do not really know.

I know, I am as surprised as you that God is moving in me this way.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Another Monday

Running on very little sleep, my morning started early. However, before the clock got much past a decent hour of 6:45 a.m. I had recieved a phone call and a text message expressing how prayers were being sent to God on my behalf for the day ahead.

I was heading by myself to Columbia for some important interviews. Somehow I knew early, I was not taking this trip alone. Before I reached Lebanon, I had at least a dozen text messages telling me of thoughts and prayers. With each new ring of my phone I felt covered by a community, a support system.

When it had been all said and done, I recieved close to 40 (humbling) text messages, phone calls, facebook posts or offers of prayer expressing encouragement. So, it should come as no surprise that the question during my 3 hours of interviews that brought tears streaming from my eyes was "do you have a support system?"

I wanted to just hand the people behind the table my cellphone and say, "I don't know, what do you think?"

This past weekend at a spiritual renewal weekend I attended, there was a lot of conversation about being in community. I will admit, I had never thought much about community. I have friends, great friends. I have family, an incredible family. Yet, the idea of a community of support had not crossed my mind, until this weekend.

So, this Monday as God hit me with a 2x4 across the head, showing me the blessing of support and I was moved deeply.

Busy people experiencing another busy Monday taking time to express a word of encouragement to me made me realize how vital community is to this walk of faith. This display encourages me to take the time to make that text, write that note, make that phone call to say words of support to another traveling this road.

Because you never know when another Monday will become a sacred Monday.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Women's Retreat

Another women's retreat has come to a close. The Rubbermaid containers are full of pink fabric and stacked in storage. The feather boa fluff has been cleared from the tile. My office is looking normal again. The retreat is over.
Yet, there is still some fondue pots to be picked up in the kitchen. As a matter of fact, there is still some fondue in the fridge. I still am working on the details of the budget of the event. So, pieces of the event continue.
During the retreat, we talked about a woman named Esther who was beautiful, accepted and called to her destiny. We talked about how we are daughters of the King. We are beautiful, accepted and called by God. Do those pieces of information continue?
The world tells us that we are in constant competition to be beautiful. The hoops we must jump through to be accepted are crazy. And there is always something "more pressing" on our calendar than what God has called us.
So, we can easily let go of some awareness we gained on some snowy January weekend at church. We can pack away the reminders of the weekend and in turn pack away the words God spoke to our hearts.
Ladies, don't let it go. God is still active in this world and wants to show up in you! Put that feather boa on and get to work. Make that next step to which God is calling you. It may be hard, but you do not make it alone. You are a princess and not one that hangs out in the castle waiting for someone to rescue you. You have already been saved. Start living like it.
Get that passport!
Princess Melissa