I was overwhelmed by your thoughtfulness and expressions of love these past two Sundays. The hand-crafted pottery will have a special and prominent place in our new home. The framed picture collages will be hanging in my office so I can see them every day. The gift cards will come in very handy during this big transition time in our family. The cards and emails have meant so much to me as well.
Great things will be happening at Allen-Lee and I look forward to hearing about them. If anyone comes to or through Monticello, call me! I'll give you a tour and treat you to some good food (don't worry - not my cooking!). Thank you, Chad, for coming to serve Allen-Lee. And thank you, Allen-Lee, for accepting my colleague in the ministry. God's blessings to you all.
Love, Grace, and Peace forever more,
On this last Sunday together with me as your pastor and you as my congregation, my heart is full of love and thanksgiving. You have had many pastors here since 1839, when a small group of people began meeting, praying and dreaming about becoming a full-fledged church. Smith Chapel became Prospect Methodist that grew into Allen-Lee Memorial United Methodist Church.
Since those early days many pastors and lay people have worked together in the name of Christ to share the Gospel of love here in Lone Oak. Their commitment to minister as a global church was realized as they joined the United church committing to support it with their apportioned giving each year. You have continued to share this legacy as an important part of our identity as United Methodists. Young John Allen and the Lee family must be proud of the many ways you have honored their memories through the years by being faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
With each stage of your growth as a congregation God has been readying you for the next step. Lives have been transformed, families have found homes here, the hungry have been fed, children have been clothed, the lonely have found companionship and Christ has been honored. These outward signs of God’s grace will continue as you remain faithful. Then, where else is God leading you? Who is “out there” yearning for a place to belong? What gifts do they have that are needed for the building of God’s household? What part of this body will be enhanced by them?
As you all lean into God’s future, remember that your fleeting dreams are not God’s dreams … they’re too small. As you hold on to your faith give away all your love. While you are good stewards of God’s resources (even if you label them as your own) make bold steps forward in trust and hope. God blesses steps that are made to minister to the invisible and voiceless folks of this community. How will God’s land be used to serve the needs of others? What are the dreams of the poorest folks around us?
Don’t forget that God speaks to us through our spiritual imaginations, not in black and white letters on the wall. Dream big for God! Dream God’s dreams for the sake of the world!
Love, Grace and Peace forever more,
Reprinted from a devotional by Richard L. Floyd
"Behold I make all things new!" - Revelation 21:5
Thirteen years ago my life changed forever in an instant when I flew over the handlebars of my bicycle and landed on my head. Like Humpty Dumpty I "couldn't be put back together again." The name for my new situation is traumatic brain injury (TBI), the injury so many of our troops return with from war. Everyone's TBI is different, but all share the family traits of neurological deficits and behavioral changes that are challenging for both the one who has them and for the loved ones who must deal with them.
As I was trying to stay afloat in these new uncharted waters, my thoughtful neuropsychologist, Sarah, threw me a lifeline with the term "new normal." She said, "Don't compare how you are today with how you were before the accident. Compare how you are today with how you were after the accident. That's your new normal."
One of my disabilities is an impaired "executive function," the part of the brain that allows one to multi-task. Sarah told me, "Before your accident you could probably cook dinner, talk to your wife, and listen to NPR all at the same time. Now pick one." So I have learned how to do one thing at a time. Sometimes I get very frustrated by this, especially if I compare myself to before my injury, but measured by my new normal, I can see improvement.
This idea of new normal has been so helpful to me that I have begun to think about it as a metaphor for the life of faith. Since my injury I have been paying attention to the word "new" wherever I come across it in our faith. Scripture is full of it: the Revelation passage above is just one of countless verses where "God is doing a new thing."
And our hymnody is also full of allusions to the new: "morning by morning new mercies I see" and "new every morning is the love." These phrases carry so much emotional power for me.
They remind me that ours is a God of new starts, second chances, the God who raised Jesus from the dead. And you don't have to have a disability to benefit from thinking about your "new normal." The everyday bumps and shocks of life set us all back at times, and the aging process will in time diminish our capabilities. But this God of the new is never done with us, even in the face of death. So what's your new normal?
God of the Exodus and the Resurrection help us to see and know the new things you are doing in us and in the world around us. Keep us from discouragement about the things we can longer do, and let us be grateful for the things we can.
Words usually come fairly easy to me, as those of you know who have sat through some lengthy sermons through the years. However, during this part of our journey together, I'm finding it difficult to express my thoughts and feelings adequately.
To say that we've grown together during these six years is an understatement. I have often found myself feeling like a proud mama as I have watched you BE the church to one another and in this community. Remembering the faces of moms, dads, children, elderly folk, young people, no matter what their skin color, station in life, beliefs about God, feuds with others, ability to respond will always make me smile.
I've watched you give your time to plant seeds knowing that you wouldn't see the harvest. I've joined with you in being open to the gifts and graces of new people in our midst. I've wondered with you "Where is God leading us?" and then taking steps toward God's dream. I've struggled with you through difficult times when we each had to set aside our pride so that relationships would be spared or restored or ended.
Not only have you allowed me to be your pastor, you have ministered to me and accepted me as a fellow human being on the road.
We have much to thank God for as we close this chapter in the life of Allen-Lee Memorial UMC. We have been blessed and honored with the very presence of Christ among us and in us as we have worshiped, studied, prayed, met, owrked, ministered, and loved for his sake.
My life and heart will