annual conference thoughts

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“I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions.”

Several weeks ago, Tom and I adventured to Sacramento for our first annual conference as part of the California-Nevada conference of the United Methodist Church.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect and was only there as a spectator, but it was quite an education for me. At many times, it had me praying about whether or not this was the denomination for us, especially as Tom is being asked to take on more tasks by our District Superintendent. I’ve been struggling to put my feelings into words that make sense, and I’m not sure I’m quite there yet but I need to share…

I’ve never sat in parliamentary style meetings before, much less for three days. I was at times, moved to tears and at others truly boggled by what our denomination chose to spend it’s time on.

“Get on fire for God and men will come and see you burn.” 

Our conference is in it’s fourteenth straight year of decline, and lost another 1,000 members this past year. During the three days of meetings, it was voted on to close three churches, including one that’s within 25 miles of ours. And I have to say that with each and every vote, I became physically sick to my stomach. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

I was disappointed – thoroughly – by worship. The worship leader, by all accounts incredibly talented, didn’t actually know how to lead worship.  What could have been an opportunity for hundreds of pastors to worship their God often felt more like a concert. It was just one of many ways in which I felt the denomination was out of touch.

“with all prayer (Eph. 6:18)” All sorts of prayer- public, private, mental, vocal. Do not be diligent in one kind of prayer and negligent in others… let us use all.”

I was a little surprise by the lack of prayer time. We did pray before all votes and I think there was a prayer request table, but I foudn this to be an opportunity for the leadership of the UMC to minister to it’s pastors and lay leaders that was missed.

It was an over-whelmingly gray-haired conference, from pastors to lay leaders. Tom was one of a handful of pastor’s under the age of 40, in a system that makes it nearly impossible for young pastor’s to reach the highest level of ordination due to hoops that made sense years ago…but not so much now. There is so much to be said for the wisdom that comes with age, but for a church to continue and grow youth must be reached.

I truly love the teachings of John Wesley (my favorite book on the subject), and I believe that the foundations of the Methodist church could reach so many unchurched people.

But we’re missing the target.

“Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils.  But if God be for you, who can be against you?  Are all of them together stronger than God?  O be not weary of well doing!”

The United Methodist Church, for many years, has been a church based social justice, but I believe that the non-stop push for social change without the life-changing power of the resurrected Christ is fruitless. We’ve become a church that is great at meeting personal needs while forgetting about the eternal ones.

Without the Gospel, we are nothing.

We must reclaim the biblical and spiritual basis John Wesley set forth over two hundred years ago if we are going to survive for another 200 and continue the changing work he began.

I believe, first and foremost, that the most important task of any church is to reach the community around it and attract new believers. It’s about Jesus, and if we’re not attracting new believers to Him, we have to seriously question what exactly our purpose is.

all italics are quotes of John Wesley

the summer crazies

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I’m afraid to check the date on my last blog post – I know it’s been a while.

Just checked and it’s worse than I thought: it’s been exactly a month.

In my defense, can I just say that – short of months when I had new babies or was moving – it’s been the busiest month I can remember.

We had our churches annual conference and were out of town for four days…and I’m still pondering and praying about that and hoping to post about soon.

Followed immediately by Vacation Bible School…which I’m still pondering and praying about and planning to post about soon.

There was the Fourth of July and doctor’s appointments…a lingering cold…special church meetings…more doctor’s appointments even further away…culminating in a fun day yesterday with my parents and nephews to Old Town Sacramento to visit the Railroad Museum.

Whew.

All of my brilliant plans for the summer have been thrown out the window…mostly. The kids are helping with chores quite a bit and earning rewards, but our schedule has been a mess our of necessity. I think we’re finally moving into a slower season of this summer, and I’m so thankful.

I’m also kind of impressed with myself, I have to admit.

I chose to go hardcore paleo again about a month ago, after realizing I felt like garbage and my weight was slowly starting to creep up after the stress of this spring. I also made working out a priority again, starting with a Couch to 5K app and then moving on to Turbo Fire for the last two weeks. I’ve also been tracking my eating for accountability on My Fitness Pal (my username is skwidlund if you want to friend me). More on all of this coming soon, I promise!

And while I’ve lost a few of those pounds again and absolutely love Turbo Fire, even more importantly, I’ve made it through this crazy month without any sort of emotional breakdown or anxiety - and even with an annoying cold, I’ve had consistent energy levels.

Those are the biggest wins of all.

I’m not just surviving what’s been a crazy summer, I’m thriving through this crazy summer.

That’s huge, knowing that come August our lives are going to get a little bit crazier.

I’m comfortable – for once – saying bring on those crazies!

I’m ready.

turn north

I was having a little devotional time this morning – something that has been lacking lately – and had to stop and share this passage immediately. It’s from Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst, but this passage was written by Ruth Graham and the emphasis is mine. And it helped give me a big old kick in the pants in regards to some new roles and decisions I’ve been fretting over.

Either we can be victimized and become victims, or we can be victimized and rise above it. Often it is easier to play the victim than take off our masks and ask for help. We get comfortable with our victim status. It becomes our identity and is hard to give up. The Israelites often played the victim card, and I love what God finally tells them,“You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north!” (Deuteronomy 2:3 [NASB]).
Turn north! It’s time to move on! Self-pity, fear, pride and negativity paralyze us. Taking off our masks takes courage, but if we don’t do it, we will remain in our victim status and end up stunted.

What mountain do you need to stop circling today? What north is God calling you to?

thankful thursday: 05.17.12

It’s been a busy week. Open house at Caleb’s school. Multiple doctor’s appointments. The last week of Little League (assuming we win the game tomorrow night – if not, there’s one more game to determine firt place). And we’re hosting our fourth house guest in the last six weeks.

It’s been a little tiring – so many guests in a rather short amount of time – but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We’ve been blessed to have so many of our former youth kids and volunteers turn into dear friends, and it’s incredible to me that they want to come visit us from all the way across the country.

I love having them here – seeing them interact with the kids (who have very much missed their youth friends and leaders), having someone to chat and reminisce with, and getting to show off a little bit of this Golden State.

Truly, California is a beautiful place to live. We’ve visited the giant trees in Kings Canyon National Park, the meadows and mountains of Yosemite, the Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz and the Golden Gate Bridge while in San Francisco.

And In & Out Burger.

Lots of In & Out Burger (I’m partial to an animal and protein style double double with extra pickles myself).

It’s also been a reminder of the legacy we leave every time we invest in any one with the love of Christ. One of my greatest joys comes from seeing how God uses these lives we’ve been so blessed to be a part of.

Our last guest leaves today and, while it will be nice to get back to a more normal schedule, I’m going to miss the excitement of these past weeks.

right now…

right now…

  • we have 18 days of school left…not that I’m counting or anything.
  • I completely forgot we have a Little League game tonight.
    ’cause I’m awesome like that.
    our friend from Florida that’s stopping in for a few days is probably getting fed dinner at the game.
  • I’m fairly positive Hanna has strep throat. luckily, we already have a doctor’s appointment for Caleb this afternoon and the doctor said he’ll see them both.
  • I’m seriously praying about and looking into going back to school to pursue a nutrition degree.
    like, for reals.
    I’m equal parts terrified and excited, and there’s a lot of work to be done before I can even start.
  • I only have nine more days with my little nephew that spends every day with me – his dad’s school gets out early. I’m going to miss him like crazy. last week, he was Buster, the rainbow puppy. today, he was a baby crocodile. life is just a little more awesome when he’s around.
  • I’m still on a bit of a family reunion high from this weekend. so fun to get together with family from all over the place and meet everyone’s kids. I even talked to one cousin who’s daughter went paleo due to health issues that were surprisingly like mine considering we’re something like second cousins once removed.
  • I’ve managed to gain a few pounds. I blame vacation and guests and stress. back to full paleo today and running in a few days when the swelling from the junk I’ve been eating goes down. it’s amazing to me how much I feel just a few extra pounds now, and it’s been incredible to really see what eating a few bad meals does to my body.
  • somehow, in the timespan of about 15 minutes, we decided to offer and then planned out a VBS for this summer. we’ve gone back and forth, but I’m really convinced it’s something we need to do as a church this summer…and it’s awesome to see so many members of our congregation get excited and jump on board. I’d blame Tom’s great sermon on Jonah yesterday, but we’d already decided before church even started. that sermon definitely confirmed it, though.
  • I nixed the idea to homeschool through summer. we all need a break, but we’ll still be having some reading time each day.
  • 18 days. I just can’t wait for summer break.

overwhelmed

As part of our Spring Break adventures this past week, we spent a day in Yosemite. I’m blessed to have grown up visiting my grandparent’s cabin just outside the part since I was just a few weeks old, but it’s been a long time since I actually went into the park.

And while the magnificence of Yosemite is unforgettable, I did forget – or perhaps blocked – memories of how high up this particular vista is.

And of the road that takes you through the tunnel and to the giant Sequioa grove.

And the winding cliffs alongside it.

As overwhelmed as I was by the beauty of the park, I was probably even more overcome by fear and anxiety by those heights.

I’ve been fighting fear and anxiety a bit more often lately.

We’re coming to the end of a crazy and busy school year…but not really. After realizing how spotty Hanna’s education had been this year, we’ll be doing light homeschooling through the summer. 8th grade honors English hadn’t read a single novel or done much of anything else and social studies – in a year that was supposed to cover American history – was still learning about the Revolution in March when we made the decision to homeschool…when they were learning at all.

We’ve got big decisions to make about school next year. If we send her, Hanna will be attending a high school where freshman can no longer get social studies and science their 9th grade year due to budget cuts. I don’t feel qualified – or called – to homeschool for high school, so we’re seriously considering an online virtual school. It has the same WASC accreditation all California high schools do, and offers so many more options. There’s still a lot of prayer and discussion to be had.

I’m anxious for summer. I think our warmer weather is here to stay, and I’m working on lists and plans for break. I’ve got a list of closets and rooms to organize, of projects I want to tackle and the pool at my grandparent’s house is calling my name. I see days with work in the morning and lazy afternoons in the future and after this wild school year, I’m looking forward to them.

I’m not feeling all that great, the effects of our Spring Break fun. It’s hard enough to keep only to foods that make me feel well when I have total control in my own kitchen…it’s darn near impossible with lots of travel and vacation days. There’s an anxiety that comes with the aches triggered by certain foods – a fear that I’ll slip back to the pain my doctor called fibromyalgia.

And yet, I give thanks. I’m thankful we have options for school next year – even if it isn’t perfect. I’m thankful we’ve had this wonderful Spring Break vacation – with trips to the coast and the mountains, which make me even more thankful to live in this beautiful state full of so much of God’s creation. I’m thankful to live near family again, and to enjoy visits from Florida friends. I’m thankful that I’ve had nearly two years to learn what is and isn’t good for my body and wellness, and for the desire I’ve been given to share that.

Rejoice always,  pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

ten

Our baseball loving, Percy Jackson reading, Halo obsessed boy is ten today.

It seems like this way just yesterday.

He’s always been an adventurer, a tinkerer, a kid who likes to figure things out…and sometimes take them apart…and usually put them back together.

He’s still just as sweet, just as caring, just as cuddly – though a bit bigger.

He’s conscientous.

He’s a good listener.

His baseball coaches love him – they tell him to make a correction and he does it. He doesn’t complain. And he’s being recruited for football next year.

We are so proud of this boy and love him to bits.

Happy birthday, Caleb.

side note: I’ll be on a blog break until early May. It’s finally Spring Break for us next week, and we’ll be doing a little traveling and entertaining guests.

He is Risen!

I Heard a great voice out of heaven saying
Behold the tabernacle of God is with men
He shall dwell with them and they shall be His people
And Almighty God will be with them

He shall wipe away all tears from their eyes
There shall be no more death
Neither sorrow, nor crying, and no more pain
The former things are all passed away

He that sat upon the throne said,
“Behold, I make all things new”
He said unto me, “Write these words
For they are faithful and true”

And it is done
It is done
It is done
It is done

He is the Alpha and Omega
The Beginning and the End
The Son of God, the King of Kings Lord of lords,
He’s Everything
Messiah, Jehovah The Prince of Peace is
He The Son of Man, Seed of Abraham
Second Person in the Trinity
He is Lord