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Sermonizing, Baby

I have had the pleasure to preach the past two weeks, first at Cullowhee UMC and then at Webster and Love’s Chapel.  You can check out my sermons below if you wanna!

July 28th, 2013

Luke 11:1-13

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples. ’He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.’

And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread;for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.”And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

Sermon:  Just Ask! (click here for the audio.)

August 4th, 2013

Colossians 3:1-11

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Sermon:  Clothe Yourself

Some of you may have seen a TV show called “What Not To Wear.”  On this show, the hosts take a participant, usually a woman, who wears inappropriate clothing for her age or her work context and transform her wardrobe into something more appropriate.  But the show not only changes the woman’s wardrobe; it changes her life.  By simply putting on clothes that fit and adequately reflect her profession, the woman can more properly express her personality, abilities, dreams, and confidence, things that went missing while donning baggy clothes or sweat pants at work.  It changes the way people see her.

I’ve experienced something similar in my life.  When people see me wearing casual clothes in a restaurant or at the grocery store they think, “Oh, that is just a young girl.”  They are shocked to discover that I’m a minister because it is so unexpected.  But when I wear my robe, no one questions my vocation.  Our clothes reflect who we are on the inside.  What can be seen on the outside reveals essential qualities about each of us to every person we encounter and communicates to others who we are.

The writer of Colossians begins the passage we read today by referencing literal clothing.  He is speaking to a Christian community filled with baptized people.  In the early church, people would strip off their old clothes, usually a dark colored cloak, before baptism, then would be baptized naked, and then would put on a brand new, crisp, clean white robe after emerging from the water.  Changing clothes signified that they had died to their old, sinful life and had been raised with Christ into a life focused on heavenly things.  The new robe reflected the renewed life the person had taken on at their baptism.

Just as early Christians took off their old clothes at baptism, so do we take off the things that are earthly at our baptism.  The writer gives a pretty extensive list of the things we must shed:  fornication, impurity, lust, evil desire, greed, lying, slander, and abusive language.  As Christians, Christ has become our life.  At our baptism we begin our journey as disciples who are given the responsibility to act as Christ’s representatives on earth.  What we present on the outside reflects not only our own beliefs and values, but also directly reflects Christ and Christ’s church.

When we call ourselves Christians yet gossip about our neighbors, we misrepresent Christ.  When we call ourselves Christians yet have an extramarital relationship, we misrepresent Christ.  When we call ourselves Christians yet hold our money tightly in our fists, we misrepresent Christ. We can’t just talk the talk and not walk the walk.  We can’t proclaim Christ as our lord and savior and then act like we’ve never cracked a Bible or heard the Gospel proclaimed.  Other people are looking to us to show them the loving nature of Christ, both people within these church walls and without.  We have a responsibility to love all of our neighbors.  As disciples of Christ, we must shed all things that wound our relationship with God and our relationship with one another.  We must strip off the old self.

But it’s not just about what we take off; it’s also what we put on.  What does our new, crisp, white robe look like?  In verses 12-14, the writer reveals what holy things we should wrap ourselves in:  compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and above all love, which binds all things in perfect harmony.  Wearing the robe of Christ means showing abundant hospitality to everyone who walks through these church doors.  It means looking at a homeless person in the eye, embracing them, making them feel like a human being with dignity.  It means approaching mission work with the attitude of a humble servant instead of a self-righteous savior.  It means forgiving that one person you love to begrudge.  It means showing Christ’s love to others in every word and deed.

We can’t just talk the talk and not walk the walk.  We can’t proclaim Christ as our lord and savior and then act like we’ve never cracked a Bible or heard the Gospel proclaimed.  Other people are looking to us to show them the loving nature of Christ.  We have a responsibility to love all of our neighbors. We must take on all the good things that were once lost to sin, but have been renewed in us by Christ at our baptism.  We must clothe ourselves with the new self.

I don’t know about you, but reading these lists of do’s and don’ts makes me feel pretty overwhelmed.  Some of our earthly self is hard to let go of, and some of our new self is hard to put on.  And the weight of knowing you are representing Christ every second of every day can prove pretty taxing.  How can we be perfect enough?  How can we adequately represent Christ?

 (Insert a big long dramatic pause… wait for it… wait for it…)

The good news, my friends, is that we simply can’t.  Even though we were regenerated at our baptism, we are still sinful people.  It’s like we have one arm in the sleeve of our old cloak and one arm in the sleeve of our new cloak.  We have been blessed with the awesome responsibility to live as disciples, but we cannot do so alone.  We need Christ.  And our need for Christ unites us.

I have been attending a Bible study comprised of people of both Webster and Love’s Chapel since I arrived in this community a month ago.  We have been studying Paul’s letter to the Romans, and every week we always reiterate what Paul says, “All of us are sinners.  We are not better than another person just because our sin if different from theirs.”  We all fall short of following Christ in our own ways.  We are not better than the person sitting beside us in these pews just because our sin looks different than theirs.

And just because we, as Christians, have been given the responsibility to put on our clean, white robes, does not mean we are better or more holy than people who never step foot inside of a church or believe the Gospel. All of us are created in God’s image and God called all of us good.  We, as Christians, have the privilege of knowing the good things God intends for us to clothe ourselves in, and we should strive to be holy every day.  But even with our knowledge of God’s goodness and our responsibility to walk as Christ’s disciples, we fail every day.  No one, inside this church or out, is holy.

Humans cannot judge each other and divide ourselves into “the perfect, holy ones” and “the terrible, unholy ones.”  We are ALL unholy sinners.  We are ALL unworthy of Christ’s love and forgiveness.  And yet each of us receives it.  Christ unites us in his grace, for in Christ’s renewal there is no longer Greek or Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free, but Christ is all and in all!

Our unity as sinners in desperate need of Christ’s love to even begin to put on our new selves each day does not get played out more openly and beautifully than at this Communion table.  A few years ago I attended a worship service at Haywood Street Congregation in Asheville, a congregation that focuses on homeless ministry.  When I went forward for Communion, I was served the cup of juice, Christ’s blood, by a homeless woman.  It was very apparent that she was homeless.  Her clothes were old and very dirty and her hair was matted.  I could smell that she had not bathed in many days.  As I paused before dipping the bread in the cup, I wondered about her story.  Was it addiction or mental illness or a desperate escape from an abusive relationship or simply the economic injustices of our country that kept this woman in poverty?  Ultimately, it didn’t matter.  I was a sinner and she was a sinner.  I was a human and she was a human.  I was in need of Christ’s love and forgiveness, and she was offering it to me.  I looked her in the eyes, ate the bread of life, and thanked God for uniting me with this woman at Christ’s table.  That encounter completely and utterly humbled me. It was a life-changing moment in which God taught me how to pull the cloak of humility and love and compassion and forgiveness a little bit farther up my arm.

Here, at this table, we are reminded that Christ died for ALL of us because we are sinners.  Here we remember his sacrifice so we may remove our old cloaks and clothe ourselves in a way that reflects Christ.  Here we join together with other sinners to beg for God’s forgiveness.  Here is where we receive it.  Here is where we are renewed and once again find the strength and courage to try putting on our new selves and living out our call as Christ’s disciples.  Here is where we learn to love each other.  Come and see and taste and smell the truth that Christ is all and in all.

Amen.

Shaking Off the Dust

Over the past month, the image of shaking off the dust has been catching my eye everywhere.  In several morning devotions I have read scripture passages where Jesus instructs his disciples to shake the dust from their feet and leave towns that aren’t so happy to hear the Good News.  Paul does the same thing, letting the people hostile to him know that he’s shaking off the dust and leaving them in it.

Shaking off the dust has always fascinated me.  When I was a teenager I was straight up appalled by it.  “But Jesus, that isn’t nice!” I’d think, only to later realize that, although Jesus is good and loving, he isn’t always nice (poor fig tree! And that whole turning over tables in the temple tantrum…).

I think the reason shaking off the dust bothers me so much is because I’m not good at doing it.  I don’t want to give up on things I’m passionate about or people I deeply care about.  I think that if can do anything to help this person/make this project successful I have to keep trying.  I’m very much an idealist who emphasizes the good.  I’m very much a person who holds on to the potential of the way things should be, not what they necessarily are.  I am perpetually compelled to make all things better.

As much as I want to pretend that this compulsion is completely holy and kingdom focused, I suspect it also has a tiny bit to do with the fact that I love being in control.  I’m an organizer and a planner.  I analyze things, discern how to execute them, then do everything in my power to get them finished.  And when I fail, I’m crushed.  I take everything upon myself and when things don’t work out I feel like there is no one to blame but myself.

Unfortunately, refusing to shake off the dust and holding tightly to my control doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for the Holy Spirit.  Even though I forget it a lot of the time, God can do more than me.  And believe it or not, I am not a person’s savior.  But Christ is.  In the words of my former minister, “Who woulda thunk it?”

This week I came across a sermon by Sam Wells, who was dean of Duke Chapel during the majority of my time in divinity school.  In his sermon he makes a brilliant point about shaking off the dust, which led to my recent revelation that God can and will do more than me, and it will be beautiful.

“By shaking the dust, you’re letting God do what only God can do. Shaking dust isn’t sadly washing your hands of failure or angrily tossing aside a broken project. Shaking dust is a prayer that God will do a miracle by making beauty arise from ashes and making life come from the dust of the earth. You have prepared the way of the Lord; that’s all you can do. Now, pray that all people will see the salvation of our God.”

So let us shake, shake, shake that dust.  Make a huge cloud and walk away.  Because you and I have planted a seed.  We have prepared the way of the Lord through your passion and energy and love.  Now it is time to let God do God’s work.

For the rest of Rev. Wells’ sermon, click here!

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I have been incredibly lucky to have stumbled upon some freaking amazing summer reading.  Literally the most eye opening, challenging, faith shaking and stretching books in the world.  They’re soooo good, I just have to share!

“Girl Meets God” by Lauren Winner:  this memoir is written by a professor at Duke Divinity School and chronicles Dr. Winner’s faith journey.  She was raised Jewish and then decided to convert to Orthodox Judaism as a young adult.  Then one night she has a dream about Christ that completely changes her life.  This book candidly explores her path to becoming and Christian, delving deeply into the pain of losing relationships and traditions that shaped her life as well as the joy of finding a home in the Episcopal church.  I admire the honestly of this book.

“Take This Bread” by Sara Miles:  Sara was an atheist living in San Francisco when she stumbles upon a tiny and eclectic Episcopal church, sneaks into the service, and decides to partake in Communion.  The body and blood of Christ completely changes her life.  Sara marries her love of food (she was once a restaurant cook) and the hunger she sees in her neighborhood, opening a food pantry in the church.  At first the church members are weary of her proposal (Who will volunteer? Will outsiders mess up our sanctuary?), but Sara has faith.  And through faith, amazing things happen.  Suddenly the food pantry is serving over 300 people a day, people who have been visiting the pantry become volunteers, and everyone learns what the body of Christ truly looks like – breaking bread with the poor, the oppressed, the outcast, the addict, the mentally ill.  That is the kingdom, y’all.  This book inspires me to be bold, dream big, and have faith that God can do incredible things!

The next two books I’ve read focus on Christianity and homosexuality.  I bought them planning on reading them and comparing the two (assuming “Torn” had a more “liberal” [what does that word even MEAN?] view), but I quickly learned this wasn’t the case.  So I’ll write about each separately. 

“Washed and Waiting” by Wesley Hill:  In this book, Wesley describes his struggle with being both an evangelical Calvinist Christian and a gay man.  Wesley has decided to remain celibate because he believes that is what the Bible and the church mandates.  He also hopes that God will change his sexuality to what he views as the right sexuality, heterosexuality.  Reading this book was extremely challenging for me.  I remember one day I was just sitting at the pool crying over his words.  I’m sure people thought I was crazy (and they’re probably right).  His decision has left him so lonely and hurting.  He believes that God is causing him to suffer and through is suffering he will be closer to Christ and get to heaven (which challenges my Arminian understanding of a loving, merciful, graceful God).  This book just completely broke my heart.  To me, his decision does not seem life-giving, and following the Gospel, while hard for us, should be nothing but life-giving.  His book also raised many questions.  Here are a few:  If God creates people gay (Wesley believes he has been gay his entire life), how can it be wrong and sinful?  God doesn’t create anything that isn’t good. (If anyone has a suggestion of a book on Christian anthropology and sexuality, let a girl know!)  Is sex simply about the right genitals (aka male and female) making contact, or is it more about deepening a relationship with a person you love and trust?  If desiring God should be enough for our human fulfillment, then why should anyone, even straight people, get married? How can the church learn to love gay people, and if they choose to be celibate, support them in that decision?

“Torn” by Justin Lee:  Thank God for a book like this.  I could not put it down!  Like Wesley, Justin was an evangelical Christian seeking to go into ministry who discovered at puberty that he was gay.  Like Wesley, his revelation completely mortified him.  All his life he was taught that being gay was a sin, that it was a choice, and that his sexuality could be “fixed” through therapy.  For a while he desperately seeks to find “healing” through the ex-gay movement, which boasts that they can turn people straight, only to discover that these “straight” men who have wives and children still have same-sex desires, fantasies, and sometimes contact.  He also explores the “nature vs. nurture” debate, one claiming that sexuality is determined by biology and the other by having an overprotective mother and an absent father.  While taken as the truth by his faith tradition, he can’t stop questioning these beliefs.  He has supportive parents and sees right through the ex-gay movement’s promise to completely free him from his sexuality.  How can he reconcile being a gay man and a Christian?  In college he is a part of both groups and works to find a way to bridge the gap between the two, who are completely hostile to the other.  His efforts soon grow into the Gay Christian Network, which continues to support gay Christians and their families.  Justin also offers some very tough words to the church.  He says that “homosexuals” or “our sinful culture” are not threatening the church, but CHRISTIANS are hurting themselves by creating a divide between all of God’s children based on sexuality and making the church an unsafe place for gay people.  He calls Christian misinformation about sexuality the “bad yeast” that poisons the Gospel and calls for better instruction.  His own personal story, his thoughtful and deep Biblical exegesis, and his suggestions for saving the “Gay v. Christian” debate are profound, insightful, and so very important.  Every single person needs to read this book.  What are you waiting for?  NOW!!!

Go forth and get your read on, friends!

At the end of June I packed my life into boxes and made the move from Durham to Cullowhee. Well, not quite that smoothly. I am very excited to move into a brand new apartment! The only problem is that said apartment is not quite built yet. So I first moved a few boxes home and then put the rest in storage, then a few days later we moved a few of my things to my sublet. It is a fully furnished studio apartment in Cullowhee. So, so cute! Take a picture tour below!

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Along with moving into a new apartment, I moved into my first office ever! I am completely blessed to have such a huge and wonderful office! When I arrived, the secretary had left beautiful blue flowers on my desk! I have soooo much shelving and cabinet space that I can’t even begin to fill up! Along with all of my office supplies, I also put up pictures of my Duke Divinity friends! It gives me comfort having all their wisdom and support behind me. Oh, and check out these cool diplomas! :)

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I’ve spent the past week or so settling in and learning the ropes.  On Sunday I had the privilege of experiencing two wonderful installation services.  At the early service, everyone got out of the pews to surround me, place their hands on me, and pray for me and my ministry.  I felt completely surrounded by love and the Holy Spirit.  It was a profound moment.  The early service is pretty laid back and informal.  They played some really great music!  In the late service we did an installation liturgy and I got to say a few words of gratitude and excitement for the future to the congregation.  I also got to be a part of the children’s time, read scripture, and give the benediction.  Then it was time to eat!  The hot dog reception was so tasty and the dessert table overfloweth!  I was sent home with so many leftovers.  The pantry items this church also gave me was beyond generous!  I got so much good food, including eggs from people’s chicken coops, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers from local gardens.  Unbelievably good!

I’m just starting to organize what I’ll be leading and helping with in the fall, so I can’t give too much detail, but here is a list of what I’ll be up to at Cullowhee very soon:

  • Helping with the Middle School Sunday School class and teaching the High School Youth group.
  • Teaching a Sunday School class comprised of retired professors.
  • Organizing the Wednesday night meal and teaching a Bible study.
  • Working with the hospitality ministry.

I’m also working with a student pastor who ministers a two-point charge in the area.  She’s young and has good ideas.  I’m very excited to work with her!  I’m going to join their Wednesday morning Bible study and help teach the adult VBS class soon!

I also have a couple of preaching gigs.  I’ll be preaching at Cullowhee at the end of the month and then the next week I’ll preach at both churches in the two-point charge.  Back to back preaching?  Who do they think I am? AN ELDER?! (Jokes!)  I’m also looking forward to participating in a baptism this Sunday.  Did I mention it’ll be in the Tuskegee River?  GEEKING OUT!!!

Life is beyond wonderful in Cullowhee.  I feel so happy and so fulfilled here.  I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Last week I gathered with members of the Western North Carolina Conference at Lake Junaluska to do some holy conferencing during Annual Conference.  Our theme was “To Serve the Present Age” and our supplement had a picture of foot washing on the front, which made this Deacon totally geek out!  The scripture we meditated on during conference was Micah 6:8, which says, “God has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  A powerful charge for our conference!

On Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend my first clergy session ever!  Those who were candidates for commissioning were called by name and asked to stand in front of the body so they could see who we are.  They also gave a little bit of our background:  our district, our undergraduate school, and where we went to seminary.  After Kim Ingram read that I had attended UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke Divinity, a random woman in the crowd cheered.  It made all of us laugh!  Thanks for the shout out, girl!  After we were presented the clergy had to vote on whether we could be commissioned.  They voted YES!  It was an exciting moment and rite of passage.

During the clergy session, Bishop Goodpaster challenged us to be bold and brave, to spread the gospel to all in faithful ways.  Although doing so may not be popular or easy, it is imperative for building up God’s kingdom.  At the end of the session, we worshipped by singing a song by Sara Bareilles called “Brave.”  It was AWESOME!  Check out the video below!

Thursday was a loooong but wonderful day.  In the morning I attended the Women’s Breakfast where I met other ministers, ate delicious food, and was warmly welcomed into ministry.  Conference began the day with a beautiful service of Word and Table.  Nothing is more powerful and unifying than partaking in the the body and blood of Christ with people and I was so thankful to begin the day this way!  Afterward, we had a business session followed by a empowering Bible study with Dr. Elaine Heath, who teaches at SMU.  She gave part of her personal testimony and was very candid about some of her struggles and how the church played a role in her life.  It was very moving.  Then there was another business session before a mad dash home to change into a dress for a banquet!

The Board of Ordained Ministry hosted a banquet for all the people who were being commissioned and ordained at this Annual Conference.  We had the chance to eat some delicious food and fellowship with our new fellow ministers.  They also asked us to stand and tell where we will begin work in July.  And, as if this event wasn’t enough, the BOM gave us a pocket-sized Book of Worship.  It was a lovely time!

The evening finished with another worship service (Bishop Peter Weaver preached.  He was so dynamic and vibrant!) and then a practice for the commissioning.  Then I headed home and promptly passed out in bed!

At 7:45 the next morning I was jumping out of my car, half running in heels, trying to zip my robe as I headed to Memorial Chapel.  We gathered there before the service so we could take pictures.  While I was outside by the Lake getting outrshot, my candidacy mentor stopped by for a hug!  She gave me a beautiful card and a Deacon pin, which I love!  It was so thoughtful for her to stop by.  I also had a chance to snap a picture of my own with the two other Duke Divinity 2013 grads getting commissioned with me.  Wil, Innocent, and I were so so excited to share this experience together!

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Then it was time to line up!  We headed outside of the chapel and waited for the processional hymn.  It was a joyous time as we waited and greeted people we knew headed to the service.

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We walked into a packed auditorium to the hymn “Here I am, Lord”, one of my favorites.  We sat at the front and joined in the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer.  After recognizing the Local Pastors, we heard an honest and convicting sermon by Bishop Ken Carter (who used to be my DS) on envisioning a future hope for the church.  Next they presented us and, one by one, we stood when our name was called.  The congregation consented to our commissioning and then the Bishop examined us the with historic questions in the Book of Discipline.  After we had replied to the questions, we went up on stage and kneeled a kneelers in a U-shape.  At the practice everyone had fit, but when we went up during the service there wasn’t enough room for me!  After readjusting, a space opened and we all silently rejoiced together.

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I was the last person to be commissioned, thanks to my T last name, so I had the privilege of watching my peers get commissioned first.  The closer the Bishop got to me the more emotional I got.  Then the Bishop placed his hands on my shoulders and asked the Holy Spirit to empower me to do God’s ministry.  It was a sacred and holy moment.

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Then I was officially a reverend!  I was so excited and felt so blessed that my call had been affirmed by a great cloud of witness and that I had been empowered to do God’s work!  We filed off the stage, received a cross necklace, and then recessed out to meet our families and friends!

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I was so thankful to have my parents, my aunt, uncle, and cousin, my best friend Graham, many people from my home church, people from the church I worked at during Field Education in Welcome, Divinity School friends, and other clergy attend the service!  There were so many hugs and smiles and kind words.  I felt so loved and welcomed and blessed.

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After the service my family and I went to one of our favorite places, Joey’s Pancake House, for breakfast.  It was a delicious way to celebrate!  I came home to a few presents waiting on me.  Graham had brought me back gifts from his trip to China:  a silk scarf and a lavender pearl necklace from markets in Beijing.  So beautiful and thoughtful!

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My parents got me a few things to place on my desk, a beautiful stained glass dress, and a stunning emerald ring.  So very thoughtful!  We also snapped a shot at the gifts I received at Conference, including a beautiful pottery piece of Lake Junaluska from my DS.

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And in case you weren’t sure if I’m officially a minister, here are my papers to prove it! :)

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That night Graham and I hit up the worship service.  When we left, there was a gorgeous full moon.  Can you believe how awesome this is?!

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On Saturday I played hooky to spend time with Graham in Asheville.  We had lunch at Mellow Mushroom, walked around downtown checking out stores and book shops, tried some homemade chips at the Gourmet Chip, caught an indie movie at the Fine Arts Theater, and had dinner at one of our favorite Mexican Restaurants.  So much fun!

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We closed Annual Conference on Sunday with worship, which included the fixing of appointments.  Then each of the clergy had a piece of liturgy to recite.  I happened to be the only Deacon in my section, so when our turn came I felt like I was a lone voice in that big auditorium!  But I did what I could to represent our order.  Then it was out into the world to serve!

Annual Conference was such an exciting and empowering time.  I am unbelievably thankful to be able to live out this call on my life as a Deacon within the United Methodist Church.  Next up, new adventures in Cullowhee!

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On Saturday, June 15 I had the honor of watching two friends from Duke Divinity celebrate their love through marriage!  But I’m jumping the gun.  Our story begins on the Thursday before the wedding.  On that day, my friend Elizabeth flew from Washington D.C., where she is doing her Field Education internship, to Greenville, S.C., where our friend Laura-Allen is living as she anticipates beginning her first appointment in the UMC.  The two of them hopped in a car and drove to the big city of Clyde to meet me!  When they arrived, I gave them a grand tour of Haywood County, showing them downtown Waynesville, Lake Junalusaka (LA had never been!), my home church, and where I went to high school.  It was rainy that day, so they even got to smell the paper mill!  It was an authentic experience!  Then they came back to my house for dinner.  Mom fixed delicious lasagna, salad, garlic bread, and then we chowed down on left over cupcakes from my party at church.  It was a great meal and we talked and laughed together for several hours!

The next day we jumped in the car and drove and drove and drove to Shreveport.  It’s not so bad to drive long distances when you have good company and people to split up driving time with.  After 12 hours, we arrived in Louisiana!

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Although we were exhausted, we got our party outfits on and met the wedding party at a bar for a drink.  It was so exciting seeing the bride, groom, and the rest of our Duke Div friends!  About a dozen of us were there for the wedding and it was the first time being reunited after graduation.  It kicked off the celebrations perfectly!

The next day the girls and I attended the bridal brunch on beautiful Lake Cross.  We had really tasty appetizers, including chicken salad sandwiches, melon skewers, and cookies all cut into the shape of hearts.  It was a beautiful day, so we got to eat on the outside patio overlooking the lake.  So much good conversation!

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Duke Divinity Ladies

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After brunch we decided to partake in a Louisiana cultural experiences – drive thru daiquiri stands!  In LA, you can buy booze in the same way you can buy a Big Mac!  Crazy!  I had a delicious watermelon margarita.  We were so proud, we took a picture with the city of Shreveport in the background!

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The afternoon flew by, and then it was time for the wedding.  We arrived at the Methodist church and entered a gorgeous foyer with a huge stained glass window and chandelier.  We took our seats in the sanctuary and had the honor of partaking is a beautiful service.  Colleen looked stunning in her lace dress and Adam was handsome in his tux.  They both were so happy!  They also served Communion together, which was very special.  Then, they were wed!

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That’s when the party began!  We went to the Scottish Rite’s Temple where we ate more super delicious food, talked, laughed, and danced to a really fun band!  You know I was out there shaking my groove thing on the dance floor.  Near the end of the night they handed out tambourines and that really got me in the dancing zone!  I had such a fun time celebrating Colleen and Adam’s love with friends!

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My friend Elizabeth takes Vine videos on her phone, so I’m going to borrow the one she took at the reception so you can get a taste of what the party was like!  Click here!

Soon the night came to the close and we said goodbye to the happy couple by cheering and throwing rose petals.  Another video captures the action here!

It was a blessing to celebrate this beautiful couple.  Congratulations, Colleen and Adam!

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Last week was packed full of celebrations!  We started off by celebrating my Dad.  At the end of the month, my father will be officially retired!  He has been a public school teacher, librarian, vice principal, and Central Office administrator for 38 years!  At the end of the school year, they have a cook out for all the teachers and recognize the retirees.  He got to go up on stage, receive a rocking chair, and eat lunch first.  He was so happy and loved every minute of it.  So proud of my Dad!

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The following day we played a trick on my poor Dad.  The Central Office planned a surprise luncheon for him at the Maggie Valley Country Club.  Mom and I kept quiet, and even though people kept sneaking out of the office, he had no idea.  When he walked in, it took him a few seconds to realize that this was a party and that it was for him.  He was totally shocked!  We had a delicious meal, watched him open cards, heard beautiful speeches from his coworkers, and ate a really cute and delicious cake.  Oh, and there was one more part of the party.  When I was a very small child, my father would dress up as Read-It the Clown and go around to schools to promote reading by giving kids books.  They dug up some pictures of him all dressed up and made them into placemats.  They also gave him a nose and glasses to wear.  Silly Pop!  It was a fun and touching tribute to Dad.

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Sunday was my last time to worship at my home church before I begin my new job.  I wore the beautiful robe that the church had taken up a love offering for and was able to serve Communion.  Nothing fills my soul more than looking people I love in the eyes and offering them a sign of God’s grace.  At the end of the service I tried to thank a people and a church who has love, supported, nurtured, and prayed for me for the past 21 years.  I don’t really remember what I said – I didn’t have enough words to express the depth of my gratitude and it was an emotional few moments.  Since my words alone were insufficient, we did what any good Southern Methodists would do… we ate!  My family decided to have a Thank You Reception as a small token of our gratitude to the church.  Mom planned and coordinated and chopped and set up a beautiful spread of cheese and ham ball with pretzels and crackers, fruit trays with dip, veggie trays with dip, chicken salad with petite bread, and cupcakes.

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She also bought purple plates, napkins, and table cloths, my favorite color!  I found some pretty napkins and lanterns that we filled with Hershey Kisses for centerpieces.  I really loved them!

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I had the opportunity to talk to and hug each person who walked through the door and thank them personally.  It was a really wonderful reception.  Everyone was impressed by the food (special shout out to City Cupcakes in Waynesville and Duckett’s Produce for supplying us with tasty treats!) and had a wonderful time chatting and celebrating.  I am so thankful for this amazing church family.  Without them I would not be where I am today, preparing to serve God’s people as a Deacon.  I’m also very thankful for my parents helping me thank the church so well.  Mom did a ton to prepare and coordinate everything, and Dad did a lot of the heavy lifting.  I also want to thank my cousin Ashley who provided us with many fruits and veggies from Duckett’s as well as took all of these pictures with her fancy camera!

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I’m just so grateful for last week’s celebrations and getting to spend time with people I love!

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