Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Responding in Relief of Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey has devastated millions of people since last Friday in southeast Texas and the surrounding areas. My heart aches for those that have been it its path. Some areas have endured 40 inches of rain, and the storm is still hovering. Since last Friday, Harvey has been disastrous, pouring rain, blowing wind, sending entire cities scattering for survival, leaving their homes behind. Still others have been faced with enduring the storm head on, staying in their homes while the rains and winds slam down.

You may be thinking: what can I do to help? As always, I encourage you to pray. Right now. Pray for the victims. Pray for those providing relief. Pray for and end to the rain, the wind, the flooding, the destruction. The following is a prayer that Scott Jones, resident Bishop of the Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, has prayed. Let it guide you...

Oh God, we need your help,
We need the rain to end, the
floodwaters to recede, the damaging
winds to stop. We need fortitude to
cope with this disaster. We need love
to share with our neighbors. We need
strength to endure. Lord, we know
storms come in our world, and
we are asking for your help in getting
through it, repairing the damage and
rebuilding our lives. We pray for
ourselves, our friends, and all those
affected by Hurricane Harvey and its
aftermath. Give us the willingness
and strength to be your agents in
responding to this disaster.


May this prayer guide you to further action as well. At times like this, I am so very thankful for our United Methodist connection. UMCOR, the disaster relief branch of the denomination, often provide some of the first relief efforts in the world to disasters such as this. A donation now would be timely, you can do so here: UMCOR Hurricane Harvery Disaster Reponse.

UMCOR has also encouraged us to respond in other ways here: 5 Things You Can Do

As the Lord guides you in your response, may we ban together as brothers and sisters during this extremely difficult time.

In Christ,


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Encountering God

Yesterday, the United States experienced a beautiful natural phenomenon: a total solar eclipse. Millions gathered in their yards, in public parks, beaches, lakes, and other places outdoors, to look through solar-filtered lenses on  glasses and telescopes, towards the sky. I myself watched from the top of a parking garage here at a local school where there were powerful telescopes capturing this awe-striking event. Tallahassee experienced about 87% totality. It was cloudy, too, so we did not experience a true total solar eclipse, but what I saw still took my breath away.

On top of the deck at Tallahassee Community College, the excitement began to rush through my veins as I waited in line for my solar glasses. I finally got up to the front, put them on, looked up, and was amazed at what I saw. I quickly got in another line, as the clouds rolled by, to look at the sun and moon collide through a telescope. In the line, a fellow observer and I struck up a conversation, and they said to me "We needed a day like today." I looked through the telescope as the words echoed through my eardrums.

They were absolutely right. Let's be honest, life in the U.S. has been difficult lately. We endured a heated election season, and have been divided politically as sharply as I have ever experienced (I'm only 29, but I venture to guess even others would agree with me). Even in my own Christian denomination, the United Methodist Church, we are divided along issues of human sexuality, among other things. I needed a day like yesterday. A day in which nearly every American was unified in their curiosity, their amazement, their wonder, of something bigger than themselves, bigger than the things that divide us.

A total solar eclipse is a very scientific thing that happens. The sun, moon, and earth form a perfect line for this to occur. Think of the detail. Think of the perfection. This is a rare occurrence, in part, because, related to the earth's orbit around the sun, the moon's is titled. Everything must be aligned for this to happen, and it is rare. On top of that, only a portion of the inhabitants of earth get to see this event, since the moon's shadow does not cover the whole earth. And it happened for us. We needed a day like yesterday. Not to prove of some blessing, but to remind us that we are small, that we are part of something greater, and that there is far more that we have in common as a people that we let on.

I think the U.S. had a collective encounter with God yesterday. Whether you knew it or not, God showed you something yesterday. What it is for you, personally, I don't know. To look up and the sun and moon colliding in some perfect unity with earth, had to make you feel something, to experience something, to wonder...

God of the heavens and of earth,
of sun, and moon, and sky,
You have created all that we can see,
and all that we cannot see.
We gathered in common awe and amazement
to experience something beautiful, something
quite wonderful.
As millions looked skyward, we were reminded
of just how amazing you are.
May yesterday's blessing fill us today
May your love be like an eclipse in our
very heart and soul.
We may not be able to fully explain it,
but we know it, feel it, and are changed by it.
May your grace and mercy fill us once again,
bringing all together in perfect unity.
In your Son Jesus' name we pray, Amen.


Photos from across the U.S. and from the ISS of the eclipse yesterday, August 21st, 2017.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Women in the Bible: Encountering God

Our next 3 weeks will be exploring some stories of women in the Bible who encountered God in some way. We begin with the story of Sarah and Hagar.

Sarah and Hagar had a difficult relationship, to say the least. Read Genesis 16-18 to explore some for yourself...

Their encounters with God come on the heels of God's continuing encounter with Abraham. God promises Abraham 3 things: land, descendants, and blessing in Genesis 12, 15, and 18. Sarah and Hagar's encounters with God help to fulfill the promise of descendants, but that that's not all their story is good for! When Sarah (Sarai at that point) was barren, she suggested that Abraham (Abram at that point) have a child with Hagar, her handmaiden. The plan worked, and Ishmael was born. But God promised to Sarah that she and Abraham would have a son, too, and they did! While they were very old, Isaac was born unto them (Genesis 21).

This family, although it could be considered broken and fragmented, was a fulfillment to God's promise. In Genesis 12, a messenger of God promises Hagar that she will have a child named Ishmael, and in Genesis 18, messengers tell Sarah that she will do the same. They both heard directly from God, who spoke to them. We may not think that this type of communication happens anymore, but I believe that God speaks to us through the people and events around us. Sarah and Hagar remind me of that.

What I love most about these stories of women in the Bible is that they are so different from each other. They are not all about the opportunity to survive by having baby boys, but they are stories of family, love, faith, courage, and strength. These stories encourage me to honor my own story with God. I hope they do the same for you.


We've a story to tell to the nations,
that shall turn their hearts to the right,
a story of truth and mercy,
a story of peace and light,
a story of peace and light.

For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
and the dawning to noonday bright;
and Christ's great kingdom shall come on earth,
the kingdom of love and light.

*The United Methodist Hymnal, 569.

In Christ,