It’s a Dark Place

It’s a Dark Place
Can’t to go through it alone
Some days, not even possible
To make it to the other side.
Push through with all that is mighty and strong
Even when it hurts with it’s own will and strength
To go through this wilderness is gut-wrenching
It’s dreadful beyond compare

Comes when least expected, yet comes right on time
Looking up or ahead is difficult to do
The darkness surrounds and suffocates
Every little crevasse and crack there is
Not a care in the world
Will make the trip any better
Except time. Space. Tears. Darkness. Fear. Isolation.
Patience. Hurt. Reality. Denial. And Fear again.

There are times when death becomes a wish
When the world seems worlds away
Hoping against hope to get through the night
Even when it is as bright as the sun and ice
To this day, there is little human understanding
On how one gets through the storm

The one Person, the one Soul
That was right there through it all
Never left me even when I dropped
Every known contact I had
God, I lost it all, I threw it all away
Those lines that kept me connected to you

Then I looked and I knew, you reminded me over and over
That’s when you carried me through and through
I don’t remember days and nights
They become a blur to me, to this day
I was alone, without anyone else
They continued on and left me behind
Yet you were there, through every step and every fall;
Through every painful stone along the way

You carried me through the pain
The struggle and the grief
You kept going, through it all
Holding me close to your heart
Wiping away my tears and bringing in the light
Even when I couldn’t see beyond the shadows
I certainly didn’t deserve it, but you loved then
and you love me now, even more
Your love makes this dark place
survivable, yet once again.

(c) Linda C. Moore, 2014

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I Wanted a Hug but Something Else Happened

I wanted a hug today but there was nobody around. So I did something I have been contemplating for a while.   Thinking that I can’t be the only person in town in need of a hug, I made a couple of stops in Greenville and shared hugs with some of my neighbors.

God provided a picture perfect day today.   I went to the park and made this sign, “Free IMG_2871Hugs”. The letters were big and bold enough for anyone to read. Now, where do I go to love my neighbor? Facebook friends provided suggestions for me and I considered them all. One suggestion was one that’s been on my mind for a while, the local Wal-Mart. Actually, it’s been on my mind for nine months. The Friday before I started my new job, there was a shooting in front of this particular Wal-Mart. Four people were shot. The suspect also shot at Greenville police officers as they were trying to apprehend him. The officers weren’t hurt. The suspect was.   Thankfully, all survived.

I found myself in front of that Wal-Mart today.   With my sign in hand and comfortable shoes on my feet, I stood just to the side of one of the entrances. I didn’t say much and I only asked twice if people wanted a hug. The sign did most of the talking for me. For the first seven minutes, not one person took me up on my offer, even the three gentlemen that were sitting on the sidewalk right beside me. They were the ones I asked. They laughed at me and shook their heads.  Hmmm, this might be tougher than I thought.

On minute seven, things started to change.

Two children hugged me first. Their parents did the same. Then throughout my 51 minutes many more followed suit. It was intriguing to watch people’s responses. Like I said, I saw laughter and smiles. People made eye contact and kept going. Others looked in the opposite direction. I heard a few “awe, that’s sweet” and a couple question the idea of “a free hug?” Two individuals asked questions I didn’t expect. One gentleman walked by and asked, “Free hugs? How does that work?” He didn’t stick around to find out. Then a woman wondered, “Who do you work for?” I simply said, “me,” and she kept going. I was not there to work. I was not there to make people do something they didn’t want to do. I simply wanted a hug.

Then I started getting hugs and not long after, my need turned into a want. I wanted to give hugs to those in need. It wasn’t about me anymore. It was about Greenville. I watched how people reacted. Based on some reactions, this was quite a strange experience to see in front of Wal-Mart. This project turned into a blessing. An employee said, “I sure needed this hug today.” Others responded the same when they hugged me back:

IMG_2877

“How wonderful!”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Thank you”
“God bless you”
“Really? A free hug? I’ll take one!”
“You made my day.”
“You know, I’m sure somebody needs a hug.”
“A hug can make a big difference in someone’s day. Thank you.”

Four ECU students gave me a group hug and took a picture with me.  Others skipped up to me and laughed before they too, took a turn. People stopped their cars in front of me, got out and gave me a hug. Others waved when they drove by. One grandmother stopped her shopping cart to give me a hug and her cart kept going. Her granddaughter exclaimed, “Grandma, your cart!” That one had us in tears laughing so hard.

This experience was great. Young and old. Black and white. Multicultural. Inter-faithful. Tall and short. Big and small. Men and women. Friends and solos. Somehow they all came around and you know what? So did those three men sitting on the sidewalk in the beginning. After they watched what was happening for about 30 minutes, they got up from their perch and gave me hugs. They were smiling about the whole thing. It was wonderful.

Then it all stopped, 51 minutes later.

Yes, you guessed it. I was told to leave. Two employees from the store, who I assumed were managers, came out and said I had to go. “You can’t solicit here. We know they are free, but you can’t solicit.” I could have interpreted those statements other ways, but I didn’t. I simply asked without anger or malice, “But I didn’t approach anyone. I thought I saw girl scouts out here a few weeks ago.” They explained that if I had applied and reserved the spot 30 days ahead of time, I could be out there. I didn’t apply. I barely gave it 30 hours of thought. I simply had a thought to go out and hug a neighbor.

I put my arms down to my side and walked away. Deep within me I wanted to be mad and say something like, “Well, you are denying people the chance to get a hug. That’s just rude.” But I didn’t because that’s not what happened. Instead I thought, “Hey, 37 neighbors got hugs in 51 minutes. How wonderful is that??!!”

Then I asked, where can I go now?

I found my way to Target and stood outside for about an hour. Do you know how tiring it is for an introvert to give two hours worth of hugs? The great thing is nobody told me to leave. Nobody turned me away. In fact, I got just as many hugs there, 44 to be exact. The funnier ones were the two ECU students who each gave me a hug and one said, “Can you run a tab? We’ll be back.” Sure enough, when the guys came out of Target, each one got another hug. Another group of ECU students gave a group hug and I was in the middle. One young teenager made her mom stop the car in front of me. She got out and yelled, “I want a hug!” Some folks smiled and continued on. Very few looked the other way. A woman thought I was one of those “Candid Camera” stunts and this little boy ran so fast to give me a hug, he almost knocked me down. And of course, there were many wonderfully gracious comments similar to the ones I shared above.

It was a great afternoon and one I didn’t anticipate. The feelings and responses were a bit overwhelming, yet so beautiful. There’s something here. I’m not sure what but I’ve got to find out.

IMG_2727One woman at Target said right before she gave me a hug, “I don’t know why you are
doing this but it’s awesome.” I’m not sure either. I simply wanted to love my neighbor as much as I love myself and on this day, I did both.

 

 

 

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I’m Fine but I Still Have Questions

I’ve had some kind people ask how I am doing since I posted my last blog.  For the record, I am doing fine.  I can promise you that if I weren’t doing fine, I would not have been able to write all that I did on my previous posts, or other posts where I shared some of my personal life.  If I weren’t doing well, I would have kept all of that information in my soul and allowed it to continue bubbling through resentment, hate, anger and hurt.  The fact that I shared as much as I did means I am doing better.

As I continue to grow and develop in my years, I still have questions that don’t have acceptable answers.  I am coming to you for that.  Based on my experience, I’ve had to reconsider my definitions of certain words in my vocabulary.  I’ve had to consider changing my views on certain positions as well.  If you feel so inclined to help me find answers to these questions, I will greatly appreciate it.

IMG_03801. I have to redefine what the word “family” means.  

The only definition of family I have is not a good one.  How do you define family now?  What does it mean when your biological family hasn’t come to see you in almost 6 years of living out of state? What is family to you?

2. I have to redefine what the word “friend” means.

Not too long ago, the word “friend” was very important to me. I could say to my friend, “I would do anything for you”.  That friend said, “I can’t say that.”  The word friend was an extremely important word to me, however I am finding out the definition isn’t the same for others.   In some ways, not even close to similar.    Who would you consider a friend? And what would you do for a friend?

Note:  one thing I have not gotten better at, and that’s finding friendship now.  Due to my experience with the above question, I am afraid to ask for new friends, not knowing how to define them, how to build trust with them and how to connect.  Be patient and understanding.

3.  I am learning it may not be possible for a single female to have married male friends.

Growing up with three older brothers and being a daddy’s girl, I tend to get along better with men.  There is absolutely nothing to fear with that.  Many men my age are married.   That’s not the surprise to me.  What is surprising is the fact that their wives don’t think it’s appropriate to have lunch with a female friend, or coffee, or even a phone conversation (although nobody uses the phone anymore anyway).  I guess you can call me singly naïve, but I don’t understand this.  Where is the trust?

4.  Is there anyone out there willing to do anything for a friend?

IMG_1521Who can I call at 3 in the morning when I am crying, hurting, in the hospital or in jail?   One of my favorite songs when I first became a Christian was Michael W. Smith’s “Friends”.  One verse, “A friend will not say never, ‘cause the welcome will not end.”  Does that ring true now? Does a friend “not say never”?

Disclaimer: Just for the record, I am having some anxiety about posting the question on friendship. I have some good people in my life now who call me “friend” that I work with. Please don’t be scared and please don’t leave. I won’t call you at 3:00 in the morning.  But I wouldn’t mind a cup of coffee or glass of wine after work.  And I love kids, so having a family is fine with me.

Dear world, your thoughts to any or all of these will be greatly appreciated.

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I’m Not Gay, But That Shouldn’t Matter

I am coming out as not gay.  That’s right. I am not gay.

Sounds strange to tell you that and yet, I felt I had to.  The need comes from the fact that due to how I look, how I dress, what I enjoy, how short my hair is and whom I support, suddenly puts me into the category of being gay and worse, non-Christian.  Why?

Why does it even matter who I am or what I believe?  Understand that this belief comes from years of researching scripture, questioning critics, and following Jesus’ Ministry.  I IMG_1812have a master’s degree from seminary. I have another masters in patient counseling. I have 15 plus years of studying scripture and its context.  I have 20 years of being a follower of Christ.  I should have the respect that is deserved from having delved into the words of God and actions of Jesus Christ, but people don’t want to look at it that way.  People want to look at the comfort of their minds and not the challenge of growth that comes with learning and being pushed out of the box.

What should matter is not who I am, what I believe or who loves whom.  What should matter is the fact that too many young people have committed suicide.  What should matter is that too many people have been bullied, judged, ridiculed, shamed and hated for being who they are.  What should matter is the fact that people are looking into the hearts and minds of others and grinding them to a pulp, instead of looking into their own hearts and minds and challenging their closed point of view. What should matter is looking at scripture in context, and realizing that it’s not black and white, it’s not a book where one can pick out bits and pieces and ignore the rest.   What should matter is that people who call themselves IMG_9961Christians are following the words of Paul and not the actions of Jesus Christ. What should matter is the fact that people are picking one rule in Leviticus to follow and choosing to ignore the others.  What should matter is that Leviticus and Paul were talking about a specific behavior, at a specific time, about a specific practice of adult men abusing little boys. But that’s a story for another time.

What should matter is the fact that boys, girls, men and women, don’t feel welcomed in the church for who they love.  Yet, I am welcomed despite the fact I am visibly a practitioner of gluttony, as many of my ordained colleagues are, including the very ones who preach against homosexuality.  Others are welcomed despite the fact they are divorced, are practicing slanders, evening fornicators and shrimp eaters.  There are couples that can’t be fruitful and multiply, yet are welcomed into the church without judgment.  It’s amazing to me how many “pastors” I know who’ve preached on what they consider the “sin” of homosexuality, but won’t touch on divorce, gluttony, slander and infertility.  If people are going to quote Genesis 1:27 as evidence of God making man and woman, in His image, to be together, people need to quote Genesis 1:28 as well. God told this man and woman to be fruitful and multiply. If they can’t be fruitful and multiply, then they are worthy of judgment as well and should be called out for their sins. If one verse matters, the other verse matters too.

IMG_5988What should matter is the fact that boys and girls, young and old, are committing suicide because they felt as if there was no other place to go, there was no other way to let go of the pain.  I know what that pain feels like and I know what that feeling of wanting to end it all feels like too.

I am not gay, but I grew up being ridiculed, shunned, made fun of, hated, laughed at, and discarded by people all around me.  I wear what I wear because I am comfortable in it, it is affordable and it’s what I have.  I wear what I wear because I grew up in a household of six people living on a construction worker’s salary. I grew up with three older brothers and I had to wear hand-me-downs.  We couldn’t afford new clothing and I wanted to be like my brothers because I wanted them to love me.  I grew up having to live in the same bedroom with my brothers through middle school.  I grew up not being able to do what my brothers did because I had to come straight home and stay in place where I wasn’t loved for me being me. I had to play alone and live alone in so many ways.  I had to grow up with a female parental unit who didn’t know how to love me, but knew how to manipulate and make me feel guilty, as many other mothers know all too well. I grew up with a male parental unit who was the only male to love me unconditionally, yet had to die on my 27th birthday without warning.  I had to grow up with brothers who were never taught to spend time with me, who ignored me at school, who didn’t call me, or make time for me, and don’t know what to do with me now.

I am not gay, but I was shamed at school.  Between the laughter, jokes, name calling, having things thrown at me, “friends” who ignored me, and being laughed at in front of the entire gym class, I wanted to die.  My favorite children’s author had everyone calling me “Blubber.” Thank you very much, Judy Blume.   My 5th, 7th, 9th and 10th grade teachers humiliated me in front of my classmates.  I was a complete embarrassment in gym class when I couldn’t finish the gymnastics obstacle course that we were required to do. I couldn’t get my body up the slanted bars.  The entire gym laughed at me, including the teachers. I was never asked to a homecoming dance or to the prom and when I did the asking, the guy laughed in my face.  His friends laughed and made fun of him, because the ugly fat girl asked him out, while standing in front of me.  I was stood up by my high school crush on my 18th birthday, and left at the theater to celebrate alone.

I wanted to die.  I know what it feels like to be completely alone in a world of shame and ridicule.

I am not gay, but I support those who want to be married to their loving partners.  The first wedding I officiated was for a former youth and her partner.  What should have weddingmattered was the supportive and loving church and family that she found out was not as compassionate as they claimed to be.  What happened instead was this “home church” (the one she grew up in) forced her into leaving the children’s ministry, her pastor embarrassed her, youth called her names, and her family was ashamed; all because of who she is.  Those same fingers pointed at me and questioned my call as a minister because I officiated the ceremony.  What matters most today is this young lady is now loved unconditionally and adored by her gorgeous wife and two absolutely beautiful children.

I am not gay, but I support and love those who are.  I have short hair and I wear clothing that is comfortable for me.  It’s been comfortable my entire life. I don’t wear too many dresses because I remember how people thought I was pregnant in the ones I wore. I remember when people said it took a football field of material to make the dresses that wrapped around my elephant sized IMG_5571body.   I am not gay but I love to watch sports because it’s fun, it’s competitive and I like to cheer for the Duke Blue Devils.  I am not gay but I read scripture and am told that God made everyone, in His image and I am to love everyone unconditionally, including me.   Why? Because, God said so and in the heart of every person, there is God.

I am not gay, but what should matter most is the fact that I as a chaplain, I’ve had to pray over way too many people, young and old, who committed suicide or attempted to, because they were not loved and welcomed for being the people they are….for the people they were.  I’ve had to pray and comfort the families that remained, in their loss, shame and guilt; and who didn’t know how to express their love until it was too late.

I am not gay, but I love my gay friends.  Jesus said to love my neighbors as much as I love myself.  Now I have to admit this commandment is hard for me. I love my neighbor very much but when I was brought up in an unloving life and world, shamed for being the person I am, it’s very hard to love myself in the way God wants me to.  It’s hard to love myself because of the way others loved me.  It’s hard to love myself when for my entire life; people said I wasn’t worthy enough of their time or their love.

I am not gay, but I know how it feels to want to die.  I know what it feels like to be surrounded by people every single day and feel like the loneliest person on the planet.  I am not gay, but I know how it feels to want to die in order to make people see what life would be like without me and wonder if anyone at all will show up to the funeral.  I am not gay but that doesn’t keep me from feeling ashamed to say how my greatest fear is that I will die alone, just because of who I am and what I look like.

Maybe we’ve gotten it wrong all these years.  We’ve been so worried about saving souls rather than saving lives that we forget what’s important to God. If we want to save souls, let’s first start with our own because Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, mind and soul.  And the second commandment is like the first; we are supposed to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. What matters most should be the fact there are too many broken hearts. There are too many families grieving. There are too many people dying without the love of their neighbor, the love of their family, the love of their church and the love in their own hearts.  What matters most is knowing this has to hurt God more than we care to realize or care to admit.

I am not gay but that shouldn’t matter.  What should matter is that many people are losing their lives because they aren’t welcomed and loved, by the very people who are commanded to practice that very thing.   What should matter is that suicide is the third leading cause of teenage death and out of every suicide that is “successful” there are 100 more attempted.[1]  What should matter is the fact that in recent years, the suicide rate has increased 30% among adults and there are no answers to stop it. [2]

That’s what should matter most; right this very minute, before another life ends all too soon.

What matters most to you?

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Hidden Secrets – A Sermon

Hidden Secrets
1 Corinthians 2:1-12
Epiphany 6
February 9, 2014

This is my first winter in North Carolina since I was in college.  I attended my first two years of college not far away from here, in Murfreesboro, NC.  Chowan College when it was a two year school.  The two winters I encountered in Murfreesboro were quite memorable.

My first winter, we had one great storm that packed about 20 inches of snow.  Classes were cancelled for a couple of days, however that didn’t stop a bunch of 18-20 year old students from going out, late at night and having a blast.  There were snowball fights in Squirrel Park, lunch tray bobsledding, and lots of snowmen.  In fact, I was a part of a group that built a snowman that stood 6 ft high.  In the center of the storm, we were out building, laughing and having a ball.

My second winter was just as exciting but for completely different reasons.  The week we were supposed to start exams, we had a terrible ice storm. There was no snow to cover like we had last week here. It was all ice.  And with that came challenging times for this old school.  The night we were all studying, the campus lost power and in turn, lost heat.  In my dorm, our floor took all of our mattresses and laid them side by side in the lobby.  There was no way we could study, so we had a big ol slumber party.  We woke the next morning to a campus covered in ice, students that were cold and restless, and an administration contemplating what to do, next.  We all converged on the steps of the administration building waiting to find out if exams would be cancelled.

They were canceled and we were told winter break could officially begin. Needless to say, we were happy. Then we realized that somehow we had to get home.  I was two hours away, on a good day.  The fear and trembling parts of our experience began to bubble their way to the top.  Imagine if you will, driving on the country roads of Eastern North Carolina, into Virginia. That can be exciting to begin with, but imagine those same roads, surrounded by woods, with towering trees all covered in ice.  The weight of the ice overpowered the woods. There were trees and branches all over the place, with no pattern whatsoever.  I was with another person and we weaved in and out, circled all around and hoped, without certainty, that we would make it home.  No, there was no snow or ice falling at the time. There was no storm to fight, but deep and hidden were our fears and worries of what will happen on the other side.

Now, a few years later, I am in the midst of my first ENC winter with all of you.  Last week we had an unpredictable coastal storm, with uncertain amounts that weather forecasters were skeptical to call, there was fear, trembling and panic in all the grocery stores, and many calls out to the community to stay home, take caution and see what happens.

What ended up happening, from my point of view, was a gathering of spirit, joy and optimistic caution. The snow came when it wanted to, schools and businesses were closed and people actually stayed off the roads.  What I found in my observation were people enjoying the peace, enjoying the time home, enjoying being together. I saw and heard stories of children sledding, dogs playing, and families being pulled along in trashcans, makeshift sleds and ATVs.  And the students of ECU did just as I did in school, enjoyed their time off with mountainside sledding and a community wide snowball fight.

The spirit from within took over and made those couple of days ones never to forget.

In the scripture I read earlier, Paul is working with the church of Corinth, where the people within the church were having days they will likely never forget either.  A spirit took over with them, a spirit of anger, division, uncertainty and impatience.  Paul had been working with this church, to unify them, get them to come together as one and let go of what is holding them back.

Reading what Paul said, human wisdom, knowledge and circumstances were holding them in this darkness.  There apparently was so much conflict and questioning going on with Corinth that Paul came to them with his own fear and trembling, not sure of what he would face.  Yet, he came to them to guide them and hope for a peaceful outcome…..even without all the questions being answered.  What Paul had with him was a trust in the spirit, not the spirit and knowledge of what they knew (and didn’t know) as humans, but with a faith and trust in the power and spirit of God, even when they didn’t know all the answers.

Paul explains to the church that what they will learn does not come from human will or knowledge.  This is God’s wisdom. This is God’s secret and hidden wisdom; His spirit will come from the depths of their soul, their experience and their trust.  It can and will guide them through.  Paul said to the Corinthians, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor human heart conceived, God has prepared for those who love him.” – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” They are prepared, even when they don’t know it.

Paul comes to the people of Corinth, with his own struggles, his own weakness and fear; he comes to the people and says, “I can’t give you the words that will explain the mystery of God, the reasons for the storms, the darkest of days, the struggles, the fear and the anger. I wish I could. The mystery will get you through it.”  What Paul explained to the church is that God’s wisdom is so deep that it can only be revealed in time and through the Spirit.  That Spirit will come from the depths of God and will grab hold of what can bring light to the unanswerable questions and trepidation and fear.

I am not exactly certain of what the church of Corinth was going through, but what I know is this, the church is made of humans, humans that were all going through their personal struggles, anxieties and fears.  Combine all of that together, with wanting to control the uncontrollable, and you have humans that are trying to find the answers to the uncertainty, to the struggles and to the need to put together the puzzles with our own hands.   It takes time, maturity, and clarity to even grasp at the uncertainty of life and the mystery of God.  Then when we try, it is still inches out of reach.  The mystery of God is not within our grasp, but may be found within the depths of our souls, a place where we can’t even see it, but IT’s there.

Just like Corinth, like Paul, and even Jesus, we all have weaknesses, struggles and darkness.  We all have our winters to work through.

If you didn’t know, winter can be a season of darkness for many.

Winter brings with it fears and struggles, from struggling to find heat, shortages on food, to people being sick, with the flu, norovirus and other illnesses such as depression.  It is known that people who suffer from depression have a difficult time during the winter months.  The season brings shorter days, darker nights, cold and brisk temperatures.  People who suffer with depression can feel their personal days become a bit darker; some with a few overlying clouds that will hang low for a few days and some will come with massive, turbulent thick dark rumbling depths of darkness.  Those with depression fight constantly, on a daily basis, to wake up get out of bed and face the day and whatever it holds. Those with depression fight an endless and lonely battle that faces many dark and wintry nights.

In the midst of winter and other days, many people struggle with times of depression, brought on by experiences and episodes in their lives. Here we are today, right here in this hospital, full of people in their own season of winter.  I know many  here are going through their illnesses, their struggles and pain. I have told people I sit with that on the darkest days, during the most uncertain times, it will be hard to face the struggle to fight through, and to get up. Some days, people want to give up on it all, when the pain is insufferable, the grief is too strong, the treatments are unbearable.  What will be done to get through?

What happens then is something that I can’t explain on a human level.  What happens then, what we have to trust as humans, is this…….somehow in the depths of our souls, from the deepest and sometimes darkest places we have never seen, there is a spirit within us, that will help us fight through the days, through the hours and through each and every breath, until we come out on the other side.  What happens on the other side, I do not know. Nobody does.  But we aren’t in it alone. When you look around, searching in the depth of your soul, you will see that you are not alone, none of us are.

God’s mystery, God’s indescribable spirit, will be right there, to carry us through.  When we aren’t able to rely on our own spirit, we have to rely on the very spirit we can trust, and that is God.

cemeteryOne more thing about winter and its wonderful little secrets;  I spent 5 years living in Boston. I have seen my share of winter days.  We had snow storms after snow storms.  The banks that I had to make to get to the car got as high as those snowmen I made in college. We had nowhere to put all the snow.  But some of my most wonderful moments came right after a freshly laid blanket of snow had just finished falling.

Before the trucks were out, the people went to work (because snow didn’t stop us from working) I would go out for a walk. Sometimes, I would go up to the cemetery and walk around and feel this sense of peace when I walked through the untouched snow.  It was beautiful. It was like a blanket of peace had covered this entire community of grief, hurt, pain and suffering and then wrapped us all in spirit and light.

Then something magical would happen, something out of my human spirit reach and into the spirit of God’s.  More snow would start to fall.  And as the snow drifted down from the sky, I just stood there and I stood completely still.  The longer I stood still, the louder the snow would become.  Yes, I could hear the snow as it fell. It was a loud whispering spirit, if that makes sense. Imagine how quiet it had to be, how quiet I had to be, in order for me to hear the snow.  And imagine how peaceful and how gracious it felt.  Imagine how comforting it was for all who were present to hear what I was hearing, to sense what I was sensing, to fee what I was feeling.  Can you feel it too?

My time in that stillness turned into a prayer and I could reach into the depths of my soul, where I would find God, speaking eloquently.  God’s spirit would reach out to me through the snow, through the stillness of the ground, through the spirit of the air.  I got a moment to glimpse into God’s spirit, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, that we may all understand, somehow and some day.  I believe we will.

We will somehow understand the gifts that God bestowed on Corinth that day, the same gifts that God bestowed on Jesus and on you and me. Until then, may we find hope in the hidden secret that will get us through the darkest of days.

May we stand still and listen.  Amen.

(c) Rev. Linda C. Moore, 2014

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Making Time for Me, the Whole Me

It’s back to work for me this week. I’ve been off since January 13th, on a terribly needed “staycation”. There’s a six-month probationary period when you start working at this hospital. That means you can’t take time off for six months.  For a hospital chaplain who works specifically in the trauma areas, that can be a difficult task.  By the last month, I was drained, emotionally, mentally and even spiritually.

I remember my boss warning me before I even started the job; to be sure I do my work and find my balance in order to prepare for these six months.  I confidently told her. “I’ve got it. Don’t worry.”  In all honesty, I had it. I did do my job and completed my probationary period.  Nobody can say that I didn’t do what needed to be done.  Well, that may not be quite accurate.

I did what I needed to do for the work portion.  What I realized during my time off was the fact that I didn’t do what needed to be done for me.  I prepared for the extended time but didn’t give myself permission to take a step back when I needed to.

I thought I was finding the balance I needed.  I come to work at the appropriate time for me.  It tends to be early on most days, so I can prepare my heart and mind for whatever I encounter.  I am good about leaving at the appropriate time too.  In fact, I am quite stringent on that piece.  There’s only been a few times that I haven’t done that, however I even prepared for that in advance.    However, there still wasn’t a “balance” that I needed.

During my time away, I was able to accomplish some tasks that I wanted to do, including surprising a family member, writing, communicating, working out, visiting friends, sleeping, and a few other things that I needed (and wanted) to do. There were moments that made me smile, inside and out.  They weren’t overbearing tasks or items that I couldn’t do at any other time, well maybe except the family piece, because that involved traveling and gas money that took a bigger dip than I originally thought. It was worth it though.  The rest of what I did can be done on a regular basis.

And that got me thinking about the six months and being tired.  I’ve been great about setting boundaries of when I arrive, when I leave and finding time to step away when things get tough.  However, I know it can be better. I know have a what I called in my 6 month evaluation, “stringent personal work ethic.”  I don’t give myself permission to step back when I need to, take a few moments to breathe and settle down.  I wasn’t giving myself time or permission to do what I really want and what feeds my heart.  What I did during vacation are things I can do during the workweek.  I came up with “I don’t have time for that” excuses or “I’ll get to it tomorrow”.

Two things I learned this week.  You make time for what you want to do.  I get that reminder on occasion and have been over the years.  If you really want to do something, you make the time to do it.  You may have to make some adjustments in your schedule, but you can do it if you want to.  I felt good last week and I want to feel good like that again.

The second thing I realized during my time off, well even before I had off, I am getting better in my self-care but I have a long way to go.  It’s like that Joyce Meyer quote I see a lot, “I’m not where I need to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”  So this week, due to some God inspired direction, I am making small steps to improve some of those things.  It’s going to take time and that’s ok.  I would rather take the time and get back in the right direction than simply get up, run and fall down again.  That’s something I’d rather not do anymore and it sure doesn’t feel good.

Remember Linda, you are not where you need to be, but thank God you are not where you used to be.  That matters more than you know.

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Can’t We All Sit at the Same Table?

Many of my Facebook friends have been asking how the conversation went on Monday with the pastor who did a 15-week sermon series on marriage.  For those who read this blog and don’t know what I am talking about, here is a little background.

I am visiting churches in my area as I seek to find a new church to call home.  One church in particular, I visited towards the end of summer and beginning of fall.   While I attended, this particular pastor started a “several week” sermon series on marriage.  I cringed when I first heard that. Out of my own bias, I tend to lean IMG_0229towards the lectionary and away from a long drawn out series.  At the same time, I am not a fan of the church focusing so much attention on one particular group.  This sermon series sounded as if he were headed in that direction.

I gave the benefit of the doubt and listened to the first five or six sermons because he kept making it clear that it was a series for all people in relationship.  Well, the first 5-6 sermons focused on marriage and marriage alone.  Then it was a sermon halfway through that turned me away, a sermon to the single people. In that sermon, this pastor apologized to the married population for doing this one sermon to the single people.  Yet, there were never any apologies to the single, divorced or widowed population for spending a significant amount of time on marriage.

After a few months away, I sent an email to this pastor about my concerns and asked to be removed from the mailing list. I waited a few months because I had to let go of the anger and frustration of something I’ve seen over and over again in the church.  There is such an emphasis on marriage and family in the church, that everyone else is either forgotten or made to feel like second-class church citizens.  Watch when a couple or families come to join the church.  Look at the celebration that comes from the congregation.  Then watch when someone else joins, one not in relationship, one who comes from a broken family, a divorced marriage, or an “older” individual who has never been married.  There is usually a significant difference in attitude and welcome.

Reflecting

Reflecting

Even as a minister, I experienced the same attitude from churches and fellow ministers.  When I was interviewing for church ministerial positions, it was more than once that I was asked the question, “How can you be a Minister to Families when you aren’t married?”  Or I was asked the ever-popular question that churches can get away with, “Why aren’t you married?”  When I did work in the church, it was assumed I had more time available to work because I didn’t have a family.   And when I was a church minister, I was also looked over by colleagues because there was no way I could understand what it was like to serve in a church and to do so with a family to attend to as well.  Since I didn’t have that experience, fellow ministers, and fellow sisters in ministry, chose not to accept me either. Other colleagues had to set boundaries and limit conversations because I am single, when all I was looking for was a sister, a brother and a family to share the journey.

Before I had the conversation with the pastor, I had to let go of my attitude from feeling the resentment of watching marriage and families catered to in a way others will rarely encounter.  I had to be sure the anger wasn’t about me and more about all who are discounted and neglected.  There are people who are “singled out” for being single; people are forgotten because they don’t have the perfect family; individuals who are searching for community when they don’t have a community of their own; all of these people who are searching and seeking to find this in a church, and finding out they don’t belong.  I wasn’t speaking for me anymore. I was standing for all who are neglected and forgotten.

We sat in his office and held conversation for an hour and a half.  Since I had shared all I felt and believed in my email, I was prepared for him to share all he believed in person, and he did.  He explained why he had this series, some of which did include sermons for everyone near the end of the series.  He shared his preparation and experience that led to this decision.  I listened and respected what he had to say.  It did seem to me that he put a good deal of thought and perspective on why he was led to do what he did.

At the same time, it was his perspective; from a man married for many years and a minister for just as long.  One piece of his perspective was the fact that by 2013, the covenant of marriage has come to a place of being discounted, with nonchalant behavior and commitment on both parties.  Marriage isn’t important to people anymore. When things go bad, divorce becomes the quick fix.  Living together without the covenant has become the norm.  What happened to the vows? To the promise? To being united as one?

After he was done, I commended him for his preparation for this conversation.  I also agreed on the fact there is a disconnect with marriage.  People do give up on themselves to easily and marriage becomes the casualty, which leads to divorce. He apologized that what he did caused angst with me and his intentions were not to alienate any group.  He could also see why I felt the way I did.  I did acknowledge that I did not listen to the last several sermons, which he said did have a focus outside of marriage.   I shared with him my perspective, that marriage isn’t what’s being discounted but everybody else who isn’t married is, including the widowed and divorced.   I gave the examples mentioned earlier, with a reminder of the number of people in scripture who were single, widowed and without family.  I explained that I didn’t want groups and individuals to be singled out.  That’s not what the church is for.  The “singled adult group” is gone. We don’t want that. We want to be a part of the kingdom and accepted by the church family. In a world where families neglect one another, the church should be the one place where everyone is loved.  It feels as if the church and many of her people believe that being married and having families will get a better pew in the sanctuary and a comfortable seat at the table.  Why does there have to be such a focus on one group when the community and the kingdom are made of many?

At the end of the conversation, there was respect and prayer.  We didn’t come together in agreement on who was right and wrong. That wasn’t the purpose.  We listened to one another and shared our views.  What it came down to was IMG_2498something that matters most to what we do in ministry and for Jesus Christ.  The church is the Body of Christ, with the ear, eye, and nose all having an important contribution to make in serving the kingdom. The only difference is his church meets in a sanctuary and my church meets in the hospital. We did agree on a point that mattered to me, a table has been set and all should be invited to partake.  In fact, all were invited to partake and by the very One who prepared it, Jesus Christ.

Why can’t we all sit at the same table and break bread together?

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