Tuesday, March 3, 2020

I'll take anything for free...

My family jokes that I will take anything for free. 

Anyone want this? 

My hand goes up first! 

Allow me to clarify and defend myself a bit. I don't raise my hand for the "crap" (well maybe sometimes) I raise my hand for the things that mean something to my family. 

When I look around my house, the majority of it came from someone. 

The milkcan in my kitchen was used on my Grandma Leitnaker's dairy farm as a child. The lamp sitting on our buffet was the original Tannie Haynes' (Paul's great-grandmother). The silver I have is Aunt Grace's, the china was passed down from my mother in-law, the gold band I wear as my Grandma's. I have necklaces, bracelets, watches all passed down from family and those are the things that I hold the most dear and will never give away until I give them to my own children.

Henry is the star student this week. Tomorrow he takes 5 things to school that mean something to him. Two of them made me cry:

My dad's baseball glove

My grandfather, his Bear's, baseball hat

Henry knows that those two things are special; that they were given to him by two people in his life that have passed on to the next and he was grateful to know them and have their stuff.

What do you hold on to?

What things do you take for "free" from your family? 

As I sit here and think about what means the most to me, it is just that. My family. Our things that have been passed down through the generations that will continue to be passed down. 

Abraham and Sarah longed for a family and they were told that their descendants would be more than all the stars in heaven. They were given the ultimate legacy and we are tasked with carrying that on through our faith, our family traditions and our stuff. 

The stuff tells the stories of all of our families

I cherish my Nana's Bible's, I cherish the communion cup and plate that was given to me by my Nana that was used in WWI, WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam by Army Chaplains. All that those items have seen are held in the space and spirit that surrounds them and I am grateful to pass them on one day to my own children.

Don't pass up your chance to get that free stuff in your family; take it and cherish it because it is apart of who you are. 

Take the free stuff and when you do know that you are enough, you are worthy and you are beloved. 

-Pastor Ali 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

God showed up

I encourage my congregation to recognize when God shows up in their life. I recently preached on the topic and had them share among each other when a prayer was answered, when God showed up or when they had a hard time finding God. 

Often you can look around trying to find God and think "is that God?" 

I go with the thought that if you think it's God, then it is. God has shown up many times in my life when I least expected. Nudging me in certain directions, giving me guidance and reassurance that what I am doing with my life is the right thing.

God was present when each of my children were born

God was present the day I married Paul

God was there the day my dad passed 

God was there when I finally accepted my call into ministry 

and God is with me every single day even if I don't "see" God

God never abandons us and provides for us in ways we least expect.

This past week, my family and I traveled to Arkansas to celebrate the life of my husband's grandmother, Gran. Gran passed from this life to the next on Feb. 13th. She was laid to rest this past Sunday. 

As I prepared to leave for Arkansas, in a bit of rush, I had set everything up for worship on Sunday. 
Preacher- check
Music- check
Email to those that needed to know- check

And off we went, to be with family. 

I ignored my phone ringing on Sunday morning, sorry Jae, and just let God handle whatever was going on.

I later learned that it was an urgent situation. Our music director was not going to make it to worship due to things out of her control and our worship leader and choir section leader were tasked with leading all of the music.

As I spoke with Jae this morning, they explained that they and our worship leader had come up with a plan and were ready to go. Yet, when Jae sat down at the piano, Jae felt as though they no longer knew how to the play the piano and it wasn't going well...

Suddenly, Jae felt a tap on their shoulder. A woman, one no one had ever seen, said "would you like some help"

She sat down and played and she didn't just played she WAS AMAZING. She played for the rest of worship. 

Countless people today told me of the God moment at Indian Heights. God showed up that day, in the form of a woman who was able to play the piano and make worship even more meaningful. It would have been a beautiful service even if she hadn't given of her talent, taking that vulnerable step to offer help- that was truly a gift from God. 

Hebrews 13:2 states 
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it."

To Jodi- the woman who played the piano. You were the very image of God on Sunday.

God shows up

God provides

You never know when God will appear in your life

You don't have to sit around and wait, simply live life and be open to the possibility that you are in the presence of God; because God truly is all around.

See God in the beauty of every day life and the people in your midst. 

Know you are enough, you are worthy and you are beloved.

-Pastor Ali 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Faith and Guns

I have never considered myself a pacifist; however, the older I get and the more I see the pain in the world, I know understand why my grandfather, his father and father-in-law all lived this way. 

My faith calls me to see all people as equal

My faith calls me to help all people

My faith calls me to see everyone as worthy

My faith calls me to see the value of all of humanity

And my faith calls ALL of us to put down our arms

Jesus lived in a time of political turmoil, much like the times we are living in today. He was arrested by the Empire that was oppressing the Jewish people and turned over by his own. He was a political pawn and no matter what he did, he couldn't change the hearts of all the people encountered. 

For many Christians that came later, after his death and resurrection

I don't believe God required a human sacrifice for the atonement of our sins; yet that is what happened, and it was in the most violent and humiliating way possible.

Being hung on a cross to die was reserved for the worst kind of criminals and the Son of God was nailed to that cross and died right beside them all.

As he was being taken away, Peter pulled out his sword and Jesus tells him to put down his sword. To not fight violence with violence.

Jesus is calling all of us to put down our swords and violence that we carry in our hearts and thoughts.

The city of KC celebrated the winning of the Superbowl on Sunday.

It was amazing, I have never felt more proud to be a part of Kansas City and to watch the unity that this brought to  the city. Yet, how long does that last? 

Today as soon as the parade was over, breaking news came on. The vote in the Senate impeachment trial was taking place. And I have stayed off social media since then out of fear that people are now moving away from unity and spouting off hateful rhetoric toward one another.

How do we move from unity to separation that fast? And how do we get back to the shared goal of Christianity- to love God with all our heart mind and soul and our neighbors?

Violence has been a part of this world since the beginning of time and people pride themselves on their right to carry, their right to protect themselves but at what cost? 

See the source imageHow do faith and guns go together?

They don't.

They simply don't.

Owning a firearm for hunting, sport or b/c you hold a job that requires it makes sense and I can wrap my head around.

I don’t understand around talking faith while promoting organizations that want to put guns in the hands of all people that want them.

I have witnessed too many people be hurt by firearms, working in domestic violence will do that. I have heard the stories of pain, see the gunshot wounds and listened on the phone as a woman begged for her life. 

As Christians, we are called to be pacifist, like Jesus. Like Jesus told Peter to be. 

We are called to love one another, to respect one another and to put down our arms. To live in unity and to love each other wholeheartedly.

Faith and guns? 

They don't go together. 

Faith and love do 

Faith and unity

Faith and forgiveness

Faith and pacifism. 

I guess I am more like my grandfather than I thought.

I hold strong to my beliefs and with that I believe our city can live in this unity we are in right now after the high of winning the Superbowl. And I believe that we can lean into the stories of one another and see each other for who they are; truly beloved children of God just trying our best in the world. 

And we can do all of that while putting down our swords, opening our hearts and telling all of God's people that they are enough, they are worthy, and they are beloved.

-Pastor Ali 

Monday, January 27, 2020

Most of Most- 6 years too long

There are times that I just want to fly through the day. Life can be hard and being a parent is probably the hardest part. Raising children to be kind, brave, loving and just the best versions of themselves puts pressure on parents. Yet, it is by far the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

I look at my kiddos now, well now they are actually in their room ignoring me... but in general I look at them and can't believe how big they've gotten. Henry is 7 and Tannie is 3. Just yesterday it felt as though I was bringing Henry home from the hospital, terrified of how to even change his diaper. Now I look at him and wonder how I can possibly protect him from the world. I know I can't but I hope he always knows that through all the trials he will go through, his mom and dad will be there.

I grew up with strong parents. They gave us a foundation to be the people we are today. Without them, I wouldn't know how to be a mom. And then I found my husband, Paul, who grew up with the same values and heart for family.

6 years ago, on Feb. 5th, my dad passed from this life to the next. Most days, I live in hope that I will see him again and then there are days that I look at my children and long for him to be here. I do believe he sees us and guides us in our life but he isn't HERE.

6 years

6 years of birthdays, weddings, deaths of grandparents, buying of homes, laughter around the table, Christmas eve and morning- so many things he has missed.

And yet my love for my daddy goes stronger every time I see my kids and how much they are like him in many ways. Henry is sensitive. If you knew my dad, he could cry at the drop of a hat. Tannie is kind and funny, so was my dad.

It amazes me how as time passes we grow to adjust to the ones that are no longer in our lives but it really never gets easier, just more manageable.

Faith has gotten me through the past 6 years. A faith so strong that it has pulled me out of the deepest pits in my life and brought me closer to my family and made me a better mom. Faith that is strong enough to know I will see him again and that he is sitting in the present of God waiting for the day we will be together.

Time flies.

Treasure the crazy of the days and the shortness of the years. Because before you know it, your kids will lock you out of your room and want "alone" time.

I await the day I will meet my daddy again. But dad, you're gonna have to wait awhile, I've got these kids that need me. We have a life that is incredibly beautiful. And daddy, I thank you for that. Always believing in me and giving me the best chance in this world.

Camila Cabello sings it beautifully "You were the first man that loved me"

Love you most, dad.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Why Advent?

It's cold here this week. 

Really cold. Scrape the ice off your car cold and do the whole I can see this little tiny slot, cold. 

Finally beginning to feel like the Christmas season although I hate this weather. The cold really is not what I would choose but it is the season we are in and it's Advent. 

The season of waiting. The season on wonder. The season on hope, peace, joy and love. 

As I sit here writing, early this morning, I have to wonder "why"? 

Why do we celebrate the coming of Christ? How do we find hope and peace and joy and love in a world that is tearing itself apart? How do we experience the miracle of the tiny babe born by Mary?

I preached on the 2nd week of Advent, peace, this past Sunday looking at all that was happening in the world. We talked about the shootings on naval bases, poverty throughout all of the world, violence that seeps into people's everyday life that some of us are so far removed from we assume it doesn't touch our lives.

Yet does it? Of course it does. Everyone that is suffering, everyone that lives in fear, everyone that is fighting and searching for justice in their life; they are all of our responsibility as the tiny babe will grow into a man and tell us all of this. 

And we seem to forget it from time to time or only focus on the realities of the world at certain times of the year when we are truly called to remember the coming Christ, to remember the Resurrected Christ and the Very Spirit of God each and every day in our lives and not just when the season seems appropriate.

Advent is needed and longed for every single day that we wake up with a fresh start a head of us. 

Every single time that we meet a person in need.

Every time we are told no b/c of our gender, race, culture, gender identity, socio-economic level

Every time we are made to feel less than any bit of who we are; named and called beloved by God.

Isaiah prophesied that a child will come, a tiny babe, to lead the whole world to this place of peace where even the wolf and the lamb will be in peace together. Where prey will not know predator

Where people will be one and be with God and where the true miracle of the world will happen; the true Advent, the true start of a new beginning that is with God and of God. 

We can sit around and wait every single year for Advent to come or we can live out Advent every day. 

We can stand up for one another, we can feed each other, we can clothe each other, we can tell each other about the love of God that surrounds us, holds us and names us. 

We can be the light of Christ for each other, not just on the longest night of the year but each and every day that we are called to be God's children and called to care for the least of these. 

So the answer to my question- why advent? 

Advent because advent changes everything. Advent reminds us of what we are longing for in our lives, the peace and tranquility that comes with the birth of Christ

And that even when we are in the midst of deep despair, grief, illness and everything that gets in the way of us seeing God in our lives... Advent reminds us that God is there

That God came in the form of the tiny babe, born to a woman and a man that were incredibly scared of what it meant and how they were going to raise the Christ child.

Lean into the uncertainty just as Mary and Joseph did, into the unknown and find the love of God in your life so you can go out and share it with all.

Lean into Advent today and everyday and as you do remember that you are enough, you are worthy and you are beloved.

-Pastor Ali 

Friday, November 8, 2019


Growing up and in my early adult years, I always struggled with feeling as though I didn't quite belong. I wanted people to like me, I wanted to feel included, I wanted the affirmations that I was enough. 

Many of us go through that in our lives. We care what people think about us more than we care about ourselves. We care about making others happy instead of making ourselves happy.

I don't know exactly when I realized this was no way to live but at some point in the past 5 years, since my dad passed and I went into ministry I realized that I had to love myself a little bit more.

By loving myself, I no longer cared and worried about making others happy and ensuring that I "belonged"

In recent months, I have become even more aware of this.

Two months ago, I quit taking anxiety medication that I had taken since my dad passed and it is as though something inside of me woke up

A fire inside of me that was missing for so long and wanted to come out and it certainly has.

I not only have to come to the conclusion that in order for me to truly care for others, I must love myself but also that if people do not care for me or to be around me.... this is hard for me to say... That's OK and I no longer feel a need to let it control my life in ways that it had before

I have felt the most free I have ever felt and I also have felt the most fire inside of me that I have ever felt 

Say something or do something to one of my kids- yeah, I will no longer hold my tongue and watch it happen

Treat me poorly- yep, going to say something

Treat OTHERS poorly for just being them.. you guessed it I am going to say something

This fire inside of me is not one I want to go out. It is one that is giving me the permission I have always struggled to give myself to stand up to people and say that you can't treat people in a certain way. To say something when someone is being flat out rude and to not allow people to talk down to me for being a woman or younger than them and most of all to not make me feel as though I am less of a mom than them... Oh and don't mess with my kids because this mama bear will come out and she is fierce, strong and filled with fire

We all want to feel that connection and that we belong

Most of us will live our lives trying to please others so that we can be in the cool group and most of us will try so hard it will be at the detriment of ourselves and our own happiness.

Perhaps instead of trying to belong, instead of trying to make others happy that aren't trying to do the same for you... 

Perhaps we stop that

We stop and look at ourselves and tell ourselves every single morning "I Belong". 

I belong

I belong to myself

I belong to my own happiness

I belong to my own worth

I belong to my own value

I belong to the Kingdom of God that is so overwhelming beautiful and filled with abundance, love and grace and I belong to that Kingdom and that cool group before I even believe

God named us good

God told us that God wants us to live a life of abundance 

God called us beloved

That is the group I want to belong to know and know with my whole heart I do. The group that stands up for one another, the group that doesn't try to please everyone, the group that is simply present in the fact that we are all just living our lives doing the very best we can 

Because in the end we will all be one together, with God and for God and the other stuff will no longer matter.

Find that fire inside of you that forces you to believe all of this and know that when you are struggling;

You belong

You matter

You are enough

You are worthy 

You are beloved

-Pastor Ali 

(oh and don't be afraid to use your voice. God gave you that too and it is powerful)

- and one more thing. I truly believe in the power of medication and know that for a time in my life it saved me. I hope if you read this and are one medications for anxiety or depression that you know I am not suggesting you get off of those. Absolutely not. They are life saving for many of us and I am grateful that I know they will be there for me if I find myself needing them again. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Resisting in the Wilderness

I have been in a wilderness period of my life lately.

I think we are always in the wilderness trying to discern the next best step in our faith, our families and for me the church I serve.

Being in the wilderness is not always a bad thing.

It is a time for me to reflect, to look at the things that maybe are not going well and examine what to do to bring fruit to the work I am doing.

I find the wilderness to be humbling at times. A time when we realize that maybe the things we have been doing in the past aren't working and that we need to move over, through and past certain mountains in order to move forward.

In this particular wilderness moment for me, I find myself resisting.

Resisting the way in which the world says I should act as a mother, a wife, a preacher, a woman

Resisting the way I am being taught in certain classes and challenging the theology of people who possibly have never been challenged.

Resisting what the UMC voted to changed in Jan. 2020 and trying to find a way over that mountain and storm that is coming.

I am resisting; and instead of it being a time of confusion and worry; I love it

I am challenging myself in ways that I never have before, standing up to people I never thought I could because I feel the fire of women like Shiprah and Puah in me.

Do you know these women?

It is a story in scripture that is often not preached but if it wouldn't have been for these women many of the Hebrew male babies would have been killed.

Pharaoh started to get worried that the Hebrew people, the slaves of Egypt, were going to get too big and thus start an uprising so he thought if the midwives just killed all the male babies the problem would be solved.

Well, he didn't count on Shiprah and Puah 

You see, they valued the life of those babies and were in those wilderness moment.

Having to decide if they should follow Pharaoh or do something a little different. 

They let the babies live and they told Pharaoh that it wasn't their fault b/c Hebrew women have babies much faster than Egyptian women and they couldn't get there in time.

Shiprah and Puah had fire in them; the fire given to us by God to change things in this world

The fire to resist what we are "supposed" to do 

Shiprah and Puah are two of the first women we see in scripture that are resisters, as they are early on in the Biblical narrative, and they pave the way for many women resisters to come.

Including all female clergy that are resisting this week to the comments made by John MacArthur. 

John MacArthur is an influential Pastor and when asked what he thought of author and Pastor Beth Moore he said he thinks she should "go home" because God did not intend for women to be Pastors.

He says that women are not feminist for equality; that they just want power. The power to Preach, the power to be CEO's, the power to lead educational institutions

And he is right, women do want that power because men have had it for themselves for too long 

To all the female preachers feeling in the wilderness after this comment, resist it.

Resist it and let everyone know that you are called by the very God that formed you in your mother's womb, that named you beloved and called you to Preach the Word of God for the people of God.

I think I kind of like being in the wilderness

In the wilderness, I am finding a new way of standing up for myself

In the wilderness, I am finding ways to humble myself in the presence of God

In the wilderness, I am finding that we are really on a wilderness journey for most of our lives; hoping for the day that God will lead us to our own promised land and that day will be beautiful, that day all will be equal and that day Shiprah and Puah will be there to greet me; 

And tell me that I preached the gospel and resisted just as they without fear of anyone and that is a holy resistance. 

One that Jesus too will see and know that he gave me the very Spirit to do so. 

Blessings to you all in your wilderness journey and always remember through all of it; you are enough, you are worthy and you are beloved.

-Pastor Ali