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Help Is On The Way

 

Hurricanes have always been a major part of my life in southeast Louisiana. As a child when my family decided to “ride out the storm”, I can remember filling the tub with water, taping our windows in the shape of an “X”, and parking our cars on high ground, praying the storm would pass us by. Hurricanes are a way of life that I never got used to. In the back of my mind, I am always wondering if this is the storm that will change my life forever.

Meteorologists can guess a hurricane’s path but we are still at the mercy of Mother Nature. We can’t possibly know where storms will go or what to expect when they hit. We have seen the chaos and havoc these storms can have on communities. People who have been affected by hurricanes, like Katrina, identify timelines in their life as “before the storm” and “after the storm”. An impact of a hurricane can be felt for generations.

Hurricanes aren’t’ the only disasters that have us on high alert. We have seen quite a bit of devastation in the United States over the past few months with heat waves, forest fires, flooding, and earthquakes. No matter what your views are on global warming or the environment in general, you have to admit these natural disasters are more dangerous and happening more frequently, and not just in the United States, but around the world. No matter where these catastrophic events happen it is God working in His people that remind us that it is not what we lose but what we gain in our most challenging times…each other.

Matthew 25:35-40 is assurance that when we are most in need, most desperate, God is present among us through the kindness and generosity we show to one another.

Our first responders are a perfect example of God showing up for people in distress, but they are not the only ones. We have seen heroic efforts from everyday citizens going above and beyond to help the “least of these.” We have witnessed an overwhelming response of donations and support to nonprofit organizations devoted to response and recovery, like the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). We have also heard reports of everyday citizens risking their lives to rescue souls from danger and getting them to safety, even going as far as offering refuge in their own home. God is present among us!

In 2015, I had the honor of traveling to Bellagio, Italy to share my experience of recovery after Hurricane Katrina with leaders from around the world. At this convening hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Municipal Art Society, representatives from countries impacted by natural or manmade disasters told stories of pain, recovery, and hope. Each delegate was faced with the question, “What makes a community resilient?” Our conclusion regardless of ethnicity, language or region, resilient communities exhibited determination, inclusivity, and philanthropy, which is parallel to the research conducted by the Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities. Resilience is about people.

We sometimes want God to shield us or protect us from harm. We pray for grace and to be spared from pain. However, God doesn’t guarantee that we won’t experience heartache. The Bible has numerous examples of good people enduring the most extreme circumstances. Sometimes the storm hits and rocks us to our core, and sometimes it spares us. If a storm tears our world apart, rest assured, just as it entered our lives, it will also pass and the skies will clear. In the aftermath, we can give thanks and know that God’s love will be living and moving through the courage of His people. When someone helps a neighbor in need, or gives without expecting anything in return, or opens their heart to the broken, we know this is God showing up for us just as He promised!

So, when we pray for safety in these most uncertain times, may we also pray for resilience. Just as one is spared by Grace, another is seeking Grace. Our faith tells us that God will show up! May we each be used as God’s hands and feet, when our neighbors need to see His presence the most.

 


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Mrs. Sabrina N. Short is a ministry consultant specializing in community engagement and outreach. Mrs. Short has been recognized for her work with youth around social justice and youth-led community organizing. A former faith-based community organizer, with PICO National and All Congregations Together, she works closely with United Methodist Churches across the country and its national institutions advocating youth leadership in ministry, social justice and mission. She has over 15 years experience in the non-profit field, partnering with numerous organizations to serve disenfranchised communities.

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Seek Adventure

Seek Adventure.

Seek: verb; attempt to find (something)

Adventure: noun; an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.

Simple words, but they’re not always the easiest to follow for a wanderlust traveler like myself. I have driven thousands of miles across the last few years in search of new sights, new creatures, and new experiences. Most of my time has been spent in the American Southwest. I’ve spent countless weeks in this area hiking along trails and looking for reptiles/amphibians. I love the heat, the giant cactus (especially the saguaro in Arizona), and the rugged beauty of the landscapes. More importantly, I love the sense of adventure.

When I think of the word ‘adventure’, I typically picture a several day trip to some state park, national monument or national park where I camp hundreds of miles from home beneath a sea of stars with a campfire crackling a few feet away. Even driving to these locations is an adventure because of the sights and sometimes the traffic. I can spend hours outdoors hiking and exploring nature. Going off the beaten trail in search of a lizard or snake I thought I saw. Standing in a forest or on the side of a mountain listening to the quietness that fills the moment. Someplace wild where I lose the familiarity and comfort of everyday life.

Adventures such as this are rare, particularly for the everyday working person. We wake up early in the morning for an 8-5 Monday thru Friday job and seem to only live for the weekend. Even on the weekends, we are too exhausted to do much besides things around the house or spend an evening out with friends. We now daydream of adventures with family and friends but we can’t break out of the daily grind we have found ourselves in. Having to deal with the real world just sucks some days, especially when you’re stuck in the office planning your next trip almost a year in advance. The longing for a wander will become a real issue at this point, and it will make you want to leave your job to find the nearest nature trail.

Leaving your job isn’t the best answer however, but I have found that in our daily grind, we can find small adventures. This can be anything from saying hello to a new person, to trying a new restaurant, or just driving around an area of town we aren’t familiar with. Just by saying hello to a new person we may make a new friend and that new friendship could turn into another adventure. By trying a new restaurant we may experience new tastes and possibly find a new meal that we fall in love with. By exploring a new area of town we may find a business or building that offers a unique service or activity for us to try out.

When I first moved to Lubbock, TX I worked at the University Medical Center. It took me a while to talk to the people I worked with but when I finally did, I became really good friends with them. From there they introduced me to a new restaurant that I love (Torchy’s Tacos is the best) and they invite me to random places where we hang out at. It may not seem like it, but I consider all that to be an adventure nonetheless. These smaller, personal adventures keep me going until it’s time for the next big adventure.

An adventure is meant to be something that gets you out of your element and to experience something new. As much as we badly long for the epic adventures, these adventures don’t fit into our daily routines. As much as I’d love to be outdoors hiking and seeing wonderful views, I’ve come to realize that the small, daily ones challenge me in different ways, and they matter just as much as the grandiose adventures.


18589082_10154791395419069_7623149350546830247_oJacob Kemmer is a young man from Lubbock, Tx who seeks adventure everywhere he goes. I’ve known Jacob for a long time and his passion for nature and the creatures in it is inspiring… minus the snakes… snakes are never “cute” or “cool”.  I’m pretty sure Jacob is one of the Wild Kratts brothers… GO WILD KRATTS!

(Sometimes I enjoy writing bios for people ~Zach)

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Never Too Young For Mission

This summer was a humbling one and one that opened my eyes to the important things in life. I was blessed with the opportunity to go to both Honduras and Guatemala. These trips were very different and yet they both humbled me. While on Honduras our team worked at a children’s home with orphans and helped with projects and a medical clinic on the property. We participated in a feeding program alongside a highway where children and families live in shanties. We were blessed to play with children, feed them, and show them love through our smiles and our presence.

In Guatemala, we stayed in host homes and were engaged in on going outreach programs I the community. This trip was extra special because I was able to have my husband and 10-year old son join me. This trip was focused on relationships and authentically engaging the community we were in along side the long term missionaries and local leaders. I learned to sew from the women who were learning the trade in hopes of making money for their families. My husband and son engaged the children of various communities in a new start up sports ministry visiting schools and local officials. We ate around the table with our host family every morning and night. Watching my son experience this cultural awakening and realize that the world is bigger and looks much different than his day to day life was the most humbling part of the entire summer. Watching him play soccer along side children who could not afford to go to school despite the language barrier and to learn enough Spanish to find out their name and age was a privilege I will never forget.

So often we in ministry and in our churches find it hard to find a place for children in our work and outreaches. They belong in their Sunday school classes, in the youth activities, in the children’s worship service, but having them in the larger church body seems like a burden. This could not be farther from the truth. Children have so many truths to remind us and to show us. Even Jesus said in Luke 18:16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. We wait until youth to engage children in mission trips and we divide families up by ages. This is not how we build up the mission of God, for even children have gifts that God can use. Family mission trips are a wonderful way to expose our children to missions while also modeling the importance of serving along side them. It doesn’t have to be an international trip but our children are not too young to start. Studies show that children in the pre teen years are making decisions for Christ and about the church. Waiting until youth or adulthood to engage them in missions is missing a critical time when their hearts are open.

I encourage families and churches alike to consider what it would look like to engage children of all ages in the mission of God that we are all called to be a part of regardless of age.

 


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Sara Lattimore is Serving as Director of Missions and Outreach at First United Methodist Church in Lubbock Texas. She has served in full-time ministry for the last 10 years in Children’s and Family Ministry, Camping Ministry, and now Missions and Outreach. She is currently also attending seminary at Iliff to obtain her MDiv. Sara is following her calling in full-time ministry building relationships and emphasizing the importance of family, but she also has another calling, her family. Sara has been married to Aaron for 12 years and together they have 2 children Carson 10 and Kennedy Grace who is 4.

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Where Do You See God At Work In Your Life Today?

Where do you see God at work in your life today? We ask this question often here at BeardedTheologians becasue we find ourselves answering it often.

Here is a blog I wrote as a continuation of my sermon from this past Sunday.

Ask yourself (1)

This past Sunday I ask the question, “Where have you seen God at work in your life this week?” in response to the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:7-8.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

The promise to be pure in heart is to see God. I do not think that promise only comes in death, I think we realize that promise each day. I believe when we ask and respond to this question open and honestly we open our mind, our body, and our souls up to seeing God here among us.  These moments of God’s work may be so big we can’t miss them and they may be, in our minds, so small that they were right in front of us and we still missed them.

I asked the congregation to share their stories with me of where they have seen God at work this week.  I would be remiss if I didn’t lead by example.

The easy answer to this question of where I have seen God at work is how well our transition has been in moving to Montana.  The people of Brady, Choteau, and Dutton have welcomed us with open arms and have bent over backward to make sure we have everything we need.  My clergy Colleagues have reached out made sure I know that I am welcome. Mikel and I are truly grateful for all of this.

I want to search into the depths of this question. Where have I missed God at work in my life? Where was God right in front of me and I missed it?  I think it has been with my kids.  They have been absolutely amazing through this move to Montana.  From the word go there have been minimal tears and yearnings to go back “home”. All three have been excited about the new adventure. Zoe and Noah started school last week and have made friends and feel like they belong.  Ryann starts preschool today and she is excited to be a “big girl”. This something is so easily taken for granted because our transitions in the past have not always been smooth.  Zoe started the fifth grade in what will be her fourth elementary school. Noah started the second grade in his third elementary school.

Zoe and Noah continue to teach me what faith and peace look like.  I say that knowing full well there have been tears and questions, and restless nights worrying about a new school in a new town. Each day they wake up ready to walk to school and see their new friends and sharing with me what they are excited about for that day. Today, Noah was excited about playing Skylanders at recess with his friends and Zoe was excited to go to band because she wants to play the French horn. More often than not they share something they are excited about rather than what they are nervous or scared about.  I believe this is God at work in their lives answering their (and our) prayers for peace.

It is these moments that pass right in front of me that I often miss.  God’s peace is at work in my kids and too often I miss the lessons they have for me.  My prayer is that I hope to see more of these moments than I miss. I pray I am able to focus on what excites about my day and not what makes me nervous or scared.

So, again, I ask you “Where do you see God at work in your life today”?


 

15259719_10153880565206441_5213022733762386602_oZach Bechtold is Co-Founder of Bearded Theologians and a pastor of three beautiful churches in the Northern Plains of Montana.

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When Books Pick You

     Have you ever had a book pick you? Recently, my family traveled to stay at Lake Erie. We were doing some shopping as a family. My seven year old asked to go into the bookstore. So I journeyed with her to the children’s section. While I was waiting, I thought I will peruse the religious section beside the children’s section.  My eyes rolled across book after book. There was one book that I noticed, but I was not in a book buying mood.

     I walked back to my daughter and discussed her selection.  As I walked to the front, I picked up the book that had caught my eye. I actually thought to myself, you don’t need another book. I didn’t even know what the book was about. Waiting for the cashier, I glanced at the back of the book. I noticed that two of the people making comments were football people, Tony Dungy and Chris Carter. I was still not excited by this book, but I could not convince myself to put it down. I purchased the books, one for my daughter and one for myself. As I exited the store, I chastised myself in my head to myself about all the books I own that are not read or not fully read. “All I need is another book.”

    The next day I started reading the book. I was finished reading in 3 days. I believe the Holy Spirit prompted me to make my purchase of the book that day. I am very thankful for the promptings of the Spirit.  That book was exactly what my heart needed. It very much prepared me for the journey I would take in the next couple of weeks.

    In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he needs to be born of water and the Spirit. Uncertain of Jesus’ words, Nicodemus questions the meaning of this birth. In today’s world, I fear, we have lost our understanding of what it means to be born of the Spirit. When we accept Christ we become a vessel of the Spirit. That means we are transformed by the Spirit of the Living God. Wow! Impressive! Overwhelming! How amazing is it that we can be filled with, transformed and guided by the Holy Spirit!

    In the world today we need the Holy Spirit so desperately as we encounter issues such as addiction, diseases, financial crisis, and relationships (just to name a few). I am drawn to the words of Francesca Battistelli’s song, “Holy Spirit, You are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory God is what my heart longs for to be overcome by your presence Lord.”


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Kara Rowe is an ordained Elder in the West Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. She currently serves Newell and First Chester United Methodist Churches. She lives in New Cumberland, West Virginia with her husband, Michael and her three children: Caleb, Abigail, and Jakoba. In Kara’s free time she is a crime fighting ninja, but don’t blow her cover!