I’ve Come a Long Way…Just to Begin

“I’ve come a long way, just to begin…”

This quote from the Indigo Girls song, “Come a Long Way,” echoes my life over the past year and now, my life moving forward. Many of you know that Corey and I are now divorced. This was not a decision I came to easily, and is a product of several years of discernment, counseling, and a lot of prayer.

Over the past few months, I’ve started to try to put the pieces of my life back together again, but at the same time, not really knowing what that looks like. Divorce does not come with an instruction manual. Co-parenting with a former spouse does not come with an instruction manual either.

There is no right or wrong, no direction, no precise way to move forward. At times it’s trial and error, failures mixed with successes. I am happy to say that Xavier seems to be adjusting well, and is very loved and supported by both of us.

Through this I’ve learned a few things that sound simple, but they are things you don’t really realize until you’ve been through something like this.

Life is messy.

Relationships are messy, complicated, and hard.

Parenting, whether single, married, divorced, widowed, etc. is still one of the hardest adventures you will ever undertake.

Being alone sucks.

Shame is a real thing.

We never really know what people are going through. Don’t make assumptions.

Vulnerability is the key to getting through a lot of crap in life, yet a lot of us won’t give into it. I’m trying and learning.

I am learning who my true friends are.

I am stronger than I realize, in a lot of different ways (I built a whole bed all by myself!!)

I can do things that I didn’t think I could do (see above!)

The thought of “getting back out there” is both intriguing and terrifying.

The fear of getting hurt and heartbroken is almost enough to never trust anyone with your heart again.

I must take one day at a time.

I must realize that it is ok to not know what the future holds, and that I have to live from day to day, doing the best that I can, and knowing that some days will be harder than others.

I am learning to love myself, and that this is harder that I ever imagined at times (I am my own worst critic)

Be open to support that comes from unexpected places.

Be your own advocate.

Trust your instincts.

Breathe deeply, a lot.

Quiet your mind and soul.

Listen for the voice of the Spirit.

The story of my marriage and now divorce is now part of my life story. It is part of Corey’s story as well. I have to own it, live into it, and emerge from it a better, stronger person than I was before. I’m holding onto hope (most days), and struggling to find it on others. I’m trusting that the path ahead is one of light and love. I’m holding onto the support of friends and family. I’ve come a long way…just to begin. Thanks for letting me be vulnerable with you.

I’ve come a long way
I was a show on ice
Dazzling and brittle
But subject to the sun
And then one day
I went little by little
Back to the water
The place where I’d come from
And I went under
Like stones tied in a sack
And I got emptied
And started my way back
My name
It’s got your name on it
My shame
It’s got your name on it
My home
It’s got your name on it
Everything I own
And all my schemes drowned at the seams
Have left me fine in my own skin
I’ve come a long way
Just to begin
-Indigo Girls, “Come a Long Way”
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Letting Go

This is my “pastor pondering” for our October newsletter at church. I just wanted to share it. Maybe someone else out there needs to hear these words just as much as I needed to write themfall_autumn_leaves_216867!

“The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go.”

I have seen this quote floating around on my social media for several weeks
now. It’s usually paired with a beautiful fall scene. It catches my eye every time
and makes me think about the things in my life that I am holding onto, perhaps too tightly- things like worry, stress, anxiety, busyness, or fear. If I am able to loosen my grip on any of these things, or even better, to let them go, I imagine I would feel lighter, and the world would be a lovelier place.

Matthew 11:28-30 tells us these words of Jesus:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take
my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you
will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

My prayer for all of us during this fall season is to consider the things that
are weighing us down and not allowing us to let go. Cast them upon the Lord and
watch the beauty that will unfold. May the loveliness of autumn be your

In Christ,
Pastor Jill

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Takeaways From UMC NEXT


I had the privilege of attending the UMC Next event this past week, held at the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. This was an event attended by over 600 people, at least 10 from each annual conference, to address what may be next for the UMC in the aftermath of the passage of the Traditionalist Plan. I won’t go into all of the details here since you can find more information at these links:

Planning New Directions for the Church, UM News

UM Insight: UM Next Vows to Resist Traditional Plan, Reform

What I want to share with you here, however, are my takeaways from this important time.

  1. The 4 Commitments are key to what this movement is about. This group came from many different geographical areas, held different opinions on the future of the church, came from all races, cultures, sexual orientations, gender identities, etc…yet we all were able to affirm and uphold these core beliefs and commitments at the end of the day:
  • To be passionate followers of Jesus Christ, committed to a Wesleyan vision of Christianity.
  • To resist evil, injustice and oppression in all forms and toward all people and build a church which affirms the full participation of all ages, nations, races, classes, cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations and abilities.
  • To reject the Traditional Plan approved at General Conference 2019 as inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ and resist its implementation.
  • To work to eliminate discriminatory language and the restrictions and penalties in the Book of Discipline regarding LGBTQ individuals.

2. These conversations, conflicts, and issues are grounded in the sin of racism and other “isms” in the church. This was made clear to many of us from the beginning. This isn’t just about LGBTQIA+ inclusion. This has roots in the fact that racism and white supremacy still hold power within our institutions. Just look at our history! And look at us today!!!

One of the people sitting at my table was an African American pastor. He said on several occasions that this is all about who is at the table and how has the power. Sometimes he felt that this was really just the fight of 2 white men. He’s not wrong.

The UMC is still struggling with racism, sexism, discrimination in our systems, and we haven’t done much to address it. Therefore, much of what we are dealing with now is forcing us to come to grips with the fact that we have repenting to do and reparations to begin. Reconciliation and affirmation need to be at the top of the list before we can really move forward.

3. I learned about the importance of pronouns. On the first day, whenever someone would stand up to speak, they would introduce themselves using pronouns. “Hello, I’m Jane, and my pronouns are she, her, and hers.” I’m almost ashamed to admit that I had no clue as to what this meant or why it was important. It was explained to us that we should never assume someone’s gender identity- they are who they say they are, even though “cultural norms” may say or assume something different. We were all challenged to introduce ourselves this way from that point on.

It never occurred to me that in our world where labels can do so much harm, that the pronouns we use for ourselves and for others could be part of the problem or part of a solution. This was a challenging and important takeaway for me personally as we enter into this work of the church regarding full inclusion of all persons.

4. Even though we gathered as a group of self-proclaimed “centrists, progressives, moderates, etc.” we are deeply divided. We had three options presented to us:

Negotiate for Dissolution (dissolve the denomination and rebuild, working with the “other side” to divide assets, etc)

Leave and Affiliate Together (leave the denomination and start a new movement out of churches who no longer wish to be a part of the UMC)

Stay, Build Community, Resist, Reform (stay in the UMC as it is currently and work from within to make change happen)

We took votes to determine where the group was and to see if there is a clear path in mind. There wasn’t. After a few votes, Dissolution and Stay and Resist were the top 2. For example, 329 people voted to negotiate for dissolution, 242 voted to stay, resist, reform. It was close.

At the end of the day, the consensus (if you can call if that) was that both options are something to work toward, maybe having both of these as the same path in one way or another. The point is that there was no clear path that we could chose together. Just because we all came together for a cause doesn’t mean that we all agree on what needs to happen moving forward.

5. Some final thoughts:

I was reminded of the importance of community. The fact that we all came together to have hard conversations about the church, to hear powerful testimonies from a variety of perspectives and people, and to work toward an inclusive and just church spoke volumes to what the UMC is experiencing. It gave me hope– that even in the midst of what feels like death, there is resurrection. There is the glimpse of liberation. And we are not alone.

We stand at a crossroads. Now is the time to be faithful leaders who are bold enough to go forward.

So where do we go from here?

We continue to pray, to speak out, to build community, to be a part of a new movement where diversity, equity, renewal, and inclusion for all are top priority.

We share the 4 principles with others, we connect with people of different sexual orientations, gender identities, races, cultures.

We have courageous conversations and bring people alongside.

We meet people where they are, whether they agree theologically or not.

Above all, we love people.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this meeting. There is a lot of work to be done, but thanks be to God for doing a new thing among us.

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A Saturday Church (Reflections on General Conference)

As many of you know, I have just returned from the special General Conference session in St. Louis as a reserve/alternate delegate from Indiana. I was privileged to spend a full day on the floor as a voting delegate, and the rest of the time I sat with friends and colleagues as we watched the proceedings unfold. It was an emotional, exhausting, and heartbreaking time for many of us. Why?

Because the church that we keep hoping will open its doors just a little wider has decided to still keep them shut to some. If not actually shutting doors, at least sending the message that not all are really welcome…or they may be welcome…but just to a certain extent. The General Conference voted to pass the “Traditionalist Plan.” This plan not only re-affirms the UMC’s stance on “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” and disallows same-sex weddings and open LGBTQI clergy, but also adds more restrictions on top of the already existing rules.

Another interesting note is that we have spent millions of dollars on special commissions, conversations, this meeting, etc after asking our Bishops to lead us. They recommended the One Church Plan, which would have allowed clergy and local congregations to choose in which direction they would go regarding LGBTQ clergy, weddings, ordination, etc. We asked, as a denomination, for our bishops to lead us. Yet we did not listen. But I digress…

I should add that currently, 60% of the Traditionalist plan is “unconstitutional” under our church law, which means that the plan that actually passed may end up looking a lot different than it is now. There is still a lot of unknown in all of this.

The plan, however, seeks stricter accountability for clergy who violate the existing rules, and, in my understanding, seeks to ask anyone and any church who doesn’t hold these beliefs to exit the denomination. There is prediction of a mass exodus to come of moderate to progressive churches. Our young people will leave. Clergy will be fed up. Those looking for a church home and an experience of Christ who are LGBTQ will turn away.

Under this plan, clergy and bishops could be asked to leave if they do not adhere to a particular way of thinking and practicing ministry. Open hearts, open minds, open doors? Take those signs down. It’s long overdue.

In Nadia Bolz-Weber’s wonderful new book, Shameless, she speaks of the shame that the church has placed upon people around sexuality in general, and how we must begin to change the narrative for church to be a place where people uphold one another and affirm one another for who we are, sexually or otherwise.

She says, “So often, rather than being the place where people can be unburdened by this heaviness (of shame), the church chooses to be a place where even more weight is piled on.”

This is basically what the UMC has decided to do. We have piled on the rules, the shame, and the harm of others who just happen to be of a different sexual orientation. We have become so obsessed with church law and our narrow interpretation of the Bible, that we have become the Pharisees. We have again nailed Jesus to the cross.

The way I see it, the UMC is currently a Saturday church. What do I mean by this? We are in the tomb. This decision of the General Conference and the way things went down, the harmful words that were said, the ways in which we dealt with sensitive topics and HUMAN BEINGS..well, that was Friday…the day of crucifixion. Now, many of us feel in the dark, awaiting the light of resurrection. We are a Saturday church. Where and how will Resurrection come? That is the question I am wrestling with as a clergy person, as a woman, as a mother to a young child, as a friend who has many wonderful LGBTQ persons in my life. What kind of church do I want my son to grow up in? Not a church that closes its doors, but a church where there is room for everyone to serve, love who they love, and lead, no matter who they are.

At this point, my hope is in the reminder that the body of General Conference and the decisions that are made are not the same as the local church. As one delegate said from the floor, “Thank God that this is not the place where disciples are made.” And she is right. On Sunday, I will stand in the pulpit and give a word to my congregation. We still have work to do, things to learn, people to serve. Church goes on, disciples are made, we continue to love people.

There is a lingering question in the back of my mind, however: Is there still a place for me here? In the UMC?

My fear is that the stain of the latest decisions of the General Conference will continue to equate the cross and flame with hypocritical, judgmental, homophobic Christianity. This is not the Jesus I know. This is not the church I want.

So now I wait in the darkness for some light. I’m not sure when it will come. But I know that it will. Sunday can’t be too far from now…

In the meantime, I want to say that no matter where I end up serving as a pastor, that I will never stop fighting for full inclusion of LGBTQI persons, and will be a welcoming and affirming pastor to all, including those who will disagree with me theologically or practically. No church law or flawed institution negates the fact that Jesus SEES each and every person created in the image of God, and so should the church. It’s time to do away with the shaming, the condemning, the “love the sinner, hate the sin” nonsense.

No matter where I end up, whatever church I serve, I want you to know that you are a child of God. You are equipped to lead, serve, and BE you as you are- no matter who you love or how you identify yourself. Don’t let anyone or any institution tell you otherwise.

And one more thing for my LGBTQI brothers and sisters: I AM SORRY. I’m sorry for the harm that the church as caused you. I’m sorry that we have let you down. I’m sorry that it just never seems to be enough. I hold fast to the idea of resurrection. And I hope you do, too. Love to all as we sit in the darkness of Saturday together.

In Christ,

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Same God on Both Sides

What is a Border? (this appeared as my monthly newsletter article to my congregation)

same god both sides

Friendship Park border fence, Tijuana

 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 

40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ –Matthew 25:34-40

 Several years ago, I spent a week at the border in Tijuana, Mexico with a group of pastors. We stayed at a place that housed men who had been deported from the United States. We heard their stories, prayed with them, and took the time to try to understand the complexities of immigration, asylum, and answering the question: What is a border?

To be honest, this was one of the times in my life that I was the most uncomfortable. As a young woman, I was certainly out of my comfort zone to be staying in such a place, not knowing Spanish, and surrounded by men who were experiencing trauma. But there was beauty, sadness, and education in this experience. One of the young men we got to know had a tragic story as he encountered “the Beast.”

“The Beast” is a freight train that runs from southern Mexico to the US/Mexican border.  Out of desperation for a better life, hundreds of people brave bandits, extreme heat and hunger, and cling to the wagons of “the Beast,” sometimes traveling up to 700 miles on the tops of the train cars or clinging to metal bars inches from the roaring wheels. Along the way, forces of evil assault and attack those most vulnerable. Brutal gang rapes, murders, and robberies are common. (Special thanks to Tracy and her blog which shares more of this story)

Our new friend was one such a victim of these unimaginable experiences. Having come all the way from Guatemala, he was now trying to find his family and he wasn’t sure where he would go next or how he would get there. After all, he had an additional challenge. “The Beast” had taken the bottom part of his leg. He was robbed and pushed, resulting in the loss of his leg the first time he rode. The second time he rode, his prosthetic leg, for which he worked over a year to pay for, was ripped from his body as he was beaten in his sleep. As we listened to his story and so many others, it became clear that something is very wrong with our systems, our treatment of human beings, and our lack of compassion.

Yes, there were men there who had committed a crime and had been deported, but they were in the minority. The rest of the men had been separated from their families, some having been working and established in the US for over 20 years, and now did not know when they would see them again. Some were simply trying to regroup and find work in Tijuana while they recovered from the trauma of escaping unfathomable circumstances in their home countries which caused them to flee.

I share this experience because we are experiencing not an “immigration crisis” in our country, but a human rights crisis. Those who come here seeking asylum from these situations are fleeing from ways of life that we cannot even imagine. Can you imagine having to make the decision to leave everything behind because your very life depended on it? Risking your future, the possibility of being separated from your family, and the unknown road ahead, just to be met with the kind of policies being enforced by this administration?

Separating families is wrong.

Forcing children into detainment centers is wrong.

Not knowing when or how these children will be in the arms of their parents again is unacceptable.

The way we are treating other human beings is wrong.

Listen to their stories. Hear their needs. Have compassion.

The United Methodist Church has a long-held stance on welcoming the stranger and migrant in our midst. In fact, at the Indiana Annual Conference last month, we unanimously approved a resolution entitled, “Welcoming the Migrant in Our Midst.” It states that

“The United Methodist Church affirms the worth, dignity, and inherent value and rights of all persons regardless of their nationality or legal status. Yet we have neighbors, co-workers, friends who have been separated from their loved ones or are living in fear of their families being torn apart through our broken immigration system. We call upon our political leaders and policymakers to assure our laws affirm the worth, dignity, inherent values and rights of immigrants and refugees. As the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church, as followers of Jesus, we commit ourselves to work to eliminate racism and violence directed toward newly arriving migrants from all parts of the world as well as those who have lived and worked among us for some time and that we express our opposition to any policy that breaks apart families.”

Our Social Principles state that, as United Methodists,

“We oppose immigration policies that separate family members from each other or that include detention of families with children, and we call on local churches to be in ministry with immigrant families.”

I ask you, as your pastor, to consider this: No person is “illegal.” People are people. As people of faith, we are called to welcome the stranger among us. What would Jesus do?

What is a border? Maybe it’s not as black and white as we think.

In Christ,

Pastor Jill


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10 Years…10 Learnings


The night of my commissioning, June 2008

10 Years…10 Learnings

This June, 2018, will mark 10 years of licensed/ordained ministry for me. This photo was taken the night I was commissioned as a provisional elder (received my credentials) in 2008. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years already! It seems like not long ago I was kneeling before the bishop and taking my ordination vows. I have been pondering lately about my time so far in ministry and the things I have learned. So here it is…10 things I have learned in 10 years of ministry.

  • You can’t please everyone: I’m a people pleaser by nature. So it’s been a challenge for me to live into the reality that not everyone will be happy with me all the time. And, for me to be ok with the reality that it’s not my job to please everyone. Instead, my job is to love, come alongside, pray, gently challenge, and allow people to feel what they need to feel.
  • Collaborate: Ministry is about collaboration. The United Methodist Church has a long standing tradition of being driven by lay people, not the pastor. So when new ministry ideas arise, it is important to collaborate. Sometimes we all feel that if we just took care of something by ourselves, it would be done “right” or it would just get done. Ministry is about playing well with others and listening to all ideas.
  • Take time away: As a pastor, I wear many hats. If I don’t take time to take them off, my well runs dry. I take my day off every week. I take vacation. I take time to learn, pray, grow, and be in fellowship with friends and family. It makes me a better pastor and leader.
  • Be flexible: “They don’t teach you that in seminary!” is a phrase I say often. I have learned over the years that being a pastor isn’t just one thing and there isn’t a set of “duties” I have to complete each day. My husband will tell you that as far as personalities go, I used to be an “A+” who needed to have everything in order and know what I was doing and when/why.

Now, I find myself more at a B or B- personality. I have learned to be flexible and to expect the unexpected. Being a pastor is many things, and means taking on roles I never thought that I would. As a pastor, I have led worship, meetings, and taught classes. I have prayed over the sick and dying. I have baptized babies and married couples.

I have also plunged toilets, been a part of a dance group, walked in a parade, vacuumed up glitter from the carpet after youth group, picked up dead mice, changed church signs in sub-zero temperatures, and prayed to rid a home of “evil spirits.” Each day is different. Each day is an opportunity to stretch myself in a new way.

  • The church is messy but beautiful: Fresh out of seminary, I was ready to take on the world as a pastor and had a view of the church that was perhaps too idealistic. I have learned over the years that church is a MESSY place. It is messy because it is made up of human beings, with our imperfections, our tendencies to gossip, be petty, or be afraid of change. The church is also a BEAUTIFUL place because it is the Body of Christ. At church we come together, experience God in worship, pray, and love one another. In the messiness, there is beauty. After all, that’s why we celebrate the Incarnation.
  • There is power in the sacraments: Baptism and Communion never get old or lose their meaning for me. And being called to preside over the sacraments of our church is a privilege I do not take lightly. Whenever I have seasons in ministry where I am frustrated or question my call, the sacraments draw me back to why I do what I do.
  • Preaching is a profound privilege not to be taken lightly: a mentor of mine always says that “Pastors have the power of the pulpit and of convening people together. Don’t ever underestimate that.” I realize that each week I have the opportunity to listen to what God is saying to me (and to you!) through the scriptures and how that message is relevant to our world and faith today. And then my task is to share that with you. Over the years of ministry, preaching is something that has really taken shape for me and has become a key component of what I do. It is a responsibility I do not take lightly. I am still learning.
  • The world is my parish: When I walk out the church doors each week, I am still a pastor. That is why I connect with people in our community, other pastors, and our neighborhoods. Jesus himself taught mostly from the fields and on the road. He met people where they were. The best pastors are those who look beyond their own congregations to meet people where they are- I have learned not to limit myself and my role.
  • Love your people: I once had a District Superintendent, who after our annual meeting, after hearing about everything going on in my ministry setting, would say, “Do your people know that you love them? Do they really know?” Well, do you??
  • Pray often: sometimes I don’t feel that I pray enough. It gets too busy. I forget. I don’t know how to pray for a certain situation. I find excuses. As a pastor, I must pray for the church, for the people, for the hurting places in the world, and for my colleagues who are on this road with me. Without it, I’m not sure where we would be!

There are many things I am still learning, and my goal is to never stop learning. My hope is that you will continue to learn with me and grow alongside me. We are better together.

“Pastors assist people in ‘giving birth’ to a new or deepened relationship with God. We are not the center of the action, or even key players in the drama. We perform our role in a variety of ways, for instance, by teaching, leading worship, and visiting the sick. We tell the Christian story, coach and encourage, listen and pray. What unites all of these roles and activities is that each provides an opportunity to encounter God.” -Martin Copenhaver, This Odd and Wondrous Calling

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Why I Spent a Morning with Guns

Why would I, an anti-gun pastor and mom, choose to spend a Saturday morning learning about guns, and even shooting a few herself? Read on!

On my very first Sunday at my current congregation last summer, someone approached me just a few minutes before I got up to lead worship, to let me know that he had put a “glock” in my office. Misunderstanding him at first, I finally realized what he had said. Someone had left a gun on the trunk of their car, and seeing it as a potential hazard, someone else brought it into the church and placed it for “safe-keeping” in MY office.

Fear was my initial response because 1) my toddler and mom were playing in my office and 2) I am terrified of guns and think they should be nowhere near a church building, let alone inside.  One of our members, who happens to be our media/tech guy, was standing next to me when this came to my attention, and as we were running down the hall, he said to me, “I’m an NRA gun safety instructor. Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.” And he did.

The end of the story was that one of our members had meant to place his gun in the trunk of the car, but forgot. Soon after this whole incident, it was back into the hands of the owner. I don’t think I need to know anything else about what happened to it after that.

But this got me thinking about several things.

One, of course, is that in the wake of mass shootings, gun violence in our communities, and global attention on the United States for our “addiction to guns” and the “gun problem,” I realized that my perspective is very one-sided.

Two, is that I am terrified of guns and know nothing about them. What kinds are out there, what do people use them for, why do people feel they need to own one (or several), and how to use one?

Three, I am in a season of my life where I feel the need to “step out of my box” and attempt to truly understand people with perspectives different than my own. Maybe this stems from my frustration with the divides over homosexuality in the United Methodist Church and how I struggle with those who disagree with my position. I try to hold fast to love for the other person first and foremost. But I confess that I sometimes I become angry, resentful, and bitter- not just with individuals, but with a denomination/institution that just can’t seem to get it together and go in a direction that I think we should go.

I confess that my personality is such that I have a really hard time accepting that my position could be wrong. I don’t think that it is, but someone else (many someones!) does. And that person is just as worthy to hold their opinion and position as I am. That is sometimes a hard and humbling realization, don’t you think?

I realized that it was the same way with me and gun control/gun rights. I have people in my congregation who own guns and feel strongly about their right to own them, and this is a topic that is widely discussed amongst my colleagues, friends, and in the national spotlight all the time. We hear about it the most, unfortunately, in the midst of a tragic situation.

So in the interest of expanding myself as a pastor and a person, I thought, what better way to immerse myself than to spend a day learning about guns and even shooting one?

And I could think of no better person than our tech guy at church- the one who saved me from myself that first morning at my new congregation, remember? His name is Alan, and I have very high respect for this man. I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to do this with anyone else! So, thank you, Alan, for your time and patience with me.

Corey came along for education and “moral support.” We spent the first part of our morning learning about different kinds of rifles, pistols, and firearms. We got to see and hold a variety of (unloaded) firearms, including the AR-15. We learned about gun safety, how guns work, and what to expect at a shooting range. I asked questions on legislation and different opinions on who can purchase guns, how, and why. And then we were off to the firing range to see some of the them in action.

I lasted about 25 minutes in the range. I never would have imagined I would be in a place like it. I recalled a time last year when I listened to a podcast sermon where a pastor visited a gun range and interviewed a person who worked there. 5 minutes into this portion of the sermon, I had to turn it off. The sounds of guns going off repeatedly was just too much for me. So it took me a good 5 minutes of standing in there (with ear protection) to not jump every time a gun went off.

Then it was my turn to shoot. The first 2 guns I shot were lighter and easier to shoot. One time I shot off one of the clips that hold the target. Corey about doubled over in laughter at that one. Good to know, however, that “it happens all the time…” especially with newbies such as myself 🙂

The 3rd one I shot was very powerful. In fact, I can still recall the feeling of shooting it even now as I’m typing. I’m a small person, and shooting that gun seemed like it sent a shockwave through my entire body. Some might say that they enjoy the powerful sensation of shooting a gun like that. I did not. I found it scary and disturbing. But at least I know now what it actually feels like. Ironically, the last gun I shot was the only time I got 3 holes onto the target paper! I’m not sure what that says about me!

I’m grateful for the experience. I’m grateful that I could take the time to learn about such a hot button topic in a safe, educated, and even loving manner. I’m thankful that I have trustworthy and respectful people to bounce ideas off of, to answer my questions, and to help me understand.

My positions have not changed- I feel strongly that we should have stricter gun laws and legislation, screening, and rules in place that keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. I am one who believes that it is a gun problem AND a people problem. It is not just one or the other. But I feel that I have been changed by this experience in several ways, and that yet another wall has been broken down for me. At the end of the day, it’s good to remember it’s about people and their stories, and connecting on a personal level- trying to understand, taking time to educate yourself on what all is out there, and at the end of the day, loving one another, whether we agree with a position on something or not.

In this world of one-sided media and our personal “echo chambers,” we all need immersion experiences that remind us to get out of our boxes, break down our walls, and spend some time out there in the real world.

I wonder what wall I can begin to chip away at next.


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Happy 50th, United Methodist Church!

(This is the May newsletter article for my congregation- I thought it might be of interest to share here, too!)

Happy 50th, United Methodist Church!!

Do you know or remember that the United Methodist Church was officially formed on April 23, 1968 with the unification of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, along with the dissolution of the Central Jurisdiction, a segregated group of African American congregations?

We celebrate this important milestone in our denomination and the ministries and mission we share in common in the name of Jesus Christ, both here in the United States and around the world.  Now, more than ever, we need to live into our mission statement: “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Beginning on August 5, and running for 8 weeks, I will be doing a sermon series called, “This We Believe: United Methodist 101,” which will cover basic United Methodist doctrines and will celebrate our heritage, where we are now, and where we are going.  This will be a good time to refresh your knowledge of our theology, or perhaps hear it for the very first time. I’m personally looking forward to digging into this series with you as a reminder of why we are United Methodists and what makes us unique!

In the midst of our denominational divisions and the unknown future ahead, I confess to you that I am weary and that I get frustrated by the state of things. And since I am on the Indiana delegation going to the special called session of General Conference in 2019, I am constantly bombarded with the divisive and “hot button” items on the agenda.

But I also know that the church, the United Methodist Church in particular, is where my relationship with Jesus Christ really began and continues to evolve and grow.  The United Methodist Church is where I felt a call into ordained ministry, and where I have since grown as a pastor and a disciple. It is where my mentors, colleagues, and dearest friends help me and shape me into who I am and who I will be. It is here, in this denomination, where my heart resides in the biblical foundations and the doctrines of John Wesley that still speak into our journeys today.

Recently, I asked a dear colleague of mine how he is not overly frustrated by the divisions and brokenness in our churches and denominations as a whole right now. He simply said, “It is frustrating. But, find the bright spots.” For me, the bright spots come in moments of fellowship with each of you, through the music of our worship, through the art and challenge of writing a sermon, through teaching moments where we wrestle together, through times where I see the Spirit alive and moving in our midst. Sometimes, we just need a reminder to open our eyes and our hearts enough to see the bright spots. What are they for you?

Happy 50th, UMC. Will you join me in prayer for the next 50?

50 Reasons to Celebrate the UMC

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“So, How Long You Been Outta High School?”

I’ve tried to be nice about it.  I’ve tried using it as a teaching moment.  I’ve tried to ignore it.  I’ve tried to ask a different question.  But after meeting someone (usually an older adult) and they learn I am a pastor, I hear all too often,

“So, how long since you’ve been outta high school?!”  or the similar, “You look like you’re 16!”  “Are you sure you’re old enough to be a pastor?”

Setting all snark aside, and with all due respect, I want to say this to people of older generations: Please, please, PLEASE stop asking questions like this to young professional women.  Just stop.  I realize that the person might be trying to be funny or may think it’s a compliment, or to connect with us, but please.  Stop and think about it.  Would you have said the same thing to a young male professional?

Young professional women are tired of feeling like we have to prove ourselves fit for ministry or our work by answering or responding to questions like this.  We are tired of having to verify our age, credentials, or education just so you can feel empowered by asking such a question.  Questions like this are disrespectful, hurtful, sexist, and are bridge burners instead of bridge builders.

After enjoying a conversation recently with an older gentleman whom I had just met, this question came.  He knew I was a pastor.  He knew I was sitting with some of the members of my congregation.  Yet he asked it anyway.  I immediately put a wall up.

Instead of asking this question or something similar to a young woman, why not ask about her ministry, her work as a pastor, her reasons for responding to God’s call upon her life?  If you’re so curious about her age, why not ask about where she went to school, or why, at a young age, did she go into ministry when there are a lot of pastors who do not go into ministry until later in life as second career? Or sometimes, it’s best just to say nothing at all.

As a young clergy woman, I want to build relationships with people of all ages and to be on this journey with them.  But when the older generation just cannot help themselves and makes comments like this, it makes it very hard.  The UMC has been ordaining women for 60 years, and I have a wonderful circle of young women clergy colleagues who are building the kingdom and the church, and we want to come alongside you.  So please, ask a different question.

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Give Them Jesus

Mark 1:29-39

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ 38He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.


Kimberli and Melchor were an average church-going American family with 2 young children, but in 2015, tragedy struck.  Melchor was diagnosed with cancer, and began an excruciating journey of chemo treatments, countless doctor visits and hospital stays.  Unfortunately, his battle with cancer ended with his death in February of 2017.  Kimberli shares her story with the world on her blog as she writes about Melchor’s illness and life now as a widow with 2 children.

In one of her blog posts entitled, “Why the Church Doesn’t Need Any More Coffee Bars,” she talks about how her husband’s illness and eventual death made her view church in a new way.

Through all of Melchor’s treatments and difficult moments, he did not talk about the trendy coffee bar at church, the pastor’s trendy jeans, or the modern lighting in the sanctuary.  He talked about Jesus.  He talked about the scriptures, the sermons he heard that gave him hope.  The healing moments.  Through the long nights, he sang hymns.  He prayed.  He needed Jesus.

Reflecting back, Kimberli said,

“There are people whose marriages are crumbling, people whose finances are deteriorating, people whose children are rebelling and people like me, whose husband has passed away after a brutal fight with cancer. And these people are not impressed with the stage lighting. They could care less about the coffee flavor. They don’t need to be pumped or hyped. They need Jesus.”

As a pastor I go to a lot of meetings and read a lot of books about how to grow the church or what the latest trend or hook is to get people in the door.  But all of that means nothing if we do not give them Jesus.

From our text today, it is obvious that a lot of people were in need of Jesus.  He had just come from teaching in the synagogue of Capernaum where he healed a man with an unclean spirit.  From this moment on, his fame began to spread.  Jesus was going “viral”!

After this, he goes to Simon and Andrew’s home, and proceeds to heal Simon Peter’s mother-in-law.  Demonstrating the effects of the healing power of Jesus, she immediately gets up and resumes her daily household chores and provides hospitality to those in her home.

Word must have spread very quickly, because only a few hours had passed before all of those who were sick gathered at the door, and Jesus healed each and every one.  The next morning, Jesus got up, went to a deserted place, and prayed.  Let’s not gloss over this.  In the midst of the chaos, the noise, the countless people who called for him, the Savior of the World needed a time out to pray.  To listen.  To sit in the silence.

When was the last time you sat in the silence and prayed?  When was the last time you took a time out from all of the chaos and noise of your life to listen for and sit the presence of God?  I know I have a hard time with it.  Sometimes the only time I really get is in the quiet of my son’s nursery when I’m putting him to bed at night.

I make it a goal to put my phone down, and instead of catching up on social media or my personal vice of shopping, I try to sit in the silence and pray.  And I’ve found in these moments the reminder of how much I really do need Jesus.  Because the world throws so much at us and tries to hand us things we think we need.  But we really do just need to simplify it and re-focus our lives on him.

Jesus himself takes time in the quiet to pray before his next task in his ministry.  While he is doing this, our text says that his disciples and others “hunted for him.”  Other translations say, they “tracked him down” or “searched for him.”  Either way, we get that the guy couldn’t even get a minute to himself before the masses descended.  “Everyone is searching for you!” they said.  But instead of going back to the same town and the same people, Jesus expresses the need to go to the other towns to share his message and to heal elsewhere, because that is what he came to do.

People needed Jesus- not just in one place, but in all places.  It seems that the people of Capernaum wanted to keep Jesus for themselves.  But Jesus makes it clear that he did not come for one group or one town or one type of people.  He came for all people in all towns and places.

This got me thinking.  How often do we keep Jesus to ourselves instead of sharing him with someone else?  Or how often do we tend to think of Jesus in our own terms, or put him in a box so that he only serves us and our opinions or agendas?

A well-respected colleague of mine once said that we tend to label Jesus for our own purposes.  If we are a Republican, Jesus tends to look Republican.  If we are a Democrat, Jesus tends to look like a Democrat.  If we are Libertarian, then Jesus tends to look like a Libertarian.  If we are on one side of an issue, we believe that Jesus is standing with us.  We forget that Jesus is on both sides, healing, preaching, and leading the way of God.

In our world right now that is so divided, so broken, so hurting- we need to give them Jesus.  Not the Jesus we tend to put in our own boxes or to keep for ourselves or the one who serves our own agendas- we need to give them the Jesus that came so that all might receive a powerful message of hope and healing.  That is, after all, what he came to do.

There was this great cartoon (PIC) making its way around social media at one point where people are drawing their lines around whatever the divisive issue of the day is, and Jesus is coming up behind them erasing each line, as if to remind us that he does not stand on either side of the line, but came for all that we may be one, in spite of our differences and disagreements.


If you have not read your February newscaster yet, I encourage you to do so because I have included a lot of information in there about what the United Methodist denomination is doing around the topic of homosexuality and the church, and there is information about upcoming opportunities for you to learn and be a part of the conversation.  As many of you know, our denomination has been divided over this for a very long time, and now we are at a critical point of asking how we as a church will move forward.

The future is unknown, the reality is that we are divided on many levels, but in the midst of this, there are, in fact, holy and loving conversations happening, and we are being encouraged to keep the main thing the main thing- to give people Jesus.  Because at the end of the day, we might disagree with someone, but Jesus is standing on both sides, ready to offer grace, healing, and mercy.  We are tempted to draw that line around ourselves, but then we turn around and see Jesus erasing it, inviting us to see the bigger picture.

I don’t know about you, but I want to hold on to hope for the church.  I want to continue to give people Jesus, and not keep him to myself.  It’s so easy to get caught up in catchy ways we can hook people in, and it’s so easy to get distracted by hot button topics, politics, and divisiveness in the church that we forget to in fact, give people Jesus.  As Kimberli, in the midst of her grief, reminds us,

“The church does not need any more coffee bars or the latest trends. Instead, tell a person how God has changed your life. Show them the love of God through your actions. Demonstrate how God helped you through the darkest of storms.

And a message to church leaders: Remember that you are not just trying to attract the hip and the cool to your church. You are reaching widows. You are reaching children who don’t have a parent. You are reaching someone battling with a disease. You are reaching a person going through a divorce. You are reaching a businessman who thinks they have all that they need. You are reaching the hurting. And the only thing they need is Jesus.”

A good reminder for us all.  A good reminder for myself- that I need Jesus.  When I get caught up in the divisiveness of the church right now, I need Jesus.  When we have days where we feel we might want to give up on this church thing, we need Jesus.  When we are struggling with health issues or we are helping a loved one through a tough time, we need Jesus.  When we are grieving, we need Jesus.

We need Jesus.  But today’s scripture lesson reminds us that yes, we need Jesus, but others need him, too.  We can’t keep him to ourselves.  That is not why he came.  So, church, let’s give them Jesus- those outside of this place who are hurting, isolated, grieving, lonely, addicted, feeling rejected, hungry, or poor in spirit.  For when we set Jesus free, we can only imagine the miracles we might witness right here in our own communities and the healing that will occur.

In what ways do you need Jesus today?  In what ways might you be holding him back?  How will you give him to someone else?


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