Thursday, March 21, 2019

There is New Life- happy birthday

If you have ever lost someone, there are phrases that are the worst to hear. Ones that make your skin crawl, that make you want to jump up and down and scream that they are wrong, that make you cry and cry and anger you even further. If you are wondering if you are at fault for saying some of these...well, the answer is yes.

We all are.

We have all said the wrong thing when to someone we care about when someone dies.

"Oh it's for the best" Really? The best? Death?

"Well, at least they aren't suffering any longer" Umm..excuse me, they actually weren't suffering before

"It was their time" their time for what?

"Oh now they are in a better place"

That last one. That one is the one that used to make me so angry. ME. A PASTOR! After my dad died, I didn't care to hear that he was in a better place.

Absolutely not, because he wasn't supposed to be there yet. He died out of the natural order. Both of his parents were still living. He was only 56.

The list goes on and on. All the reasons that he shouldn't be in that better place.

As time has gone one, 5 years, I still wonder about that statement. Yes, I know he is in a better place but why can't he still be here and then go there in awhile?

I will never know the answer to that question, all I can do is have faith that he is there, that he is loving life and that he is living his new life to it's fullest potential because he is now sitting with God at the long table that Jesus went to prepare for us. The table with his parents, his friends, his family that are all there.

New life, new births, birthdays.

There are signs of new life all around us on a daily basis. For me, it is the green poking it's head through the dirt in my garden. My cousin, Brittany's beautiful baby. My children growing into little people.

They are all signs of hope, hope that there is new life after death, that there is something better out there and that there is something bigger than us all. Without them, without the hope of the "new" we would lose hope in the God that loves us, saves us and reminds us of this new life every single day.

As time goes on, the pain of losing someone starts to soften. It becomes more of who you are and not what you went through.

We all wear our pain and our brokenness in the way that we live our lives and it is what makes us beautiful. It makes us real, it makes us human.

As the season of Lent goes on, we are leaning into what that pain is and how to continue living with it vs living as though it never happened or that it was "the way things were meant to be".

God calls us to live a life of abundance, even through our pain, even through our brokenness and even through the loss of the ones you love the most.

We are invited this Lent to embrace this invitation and surrender to God- surrender it all and envision a life where our pain makes us beautiful and we look at ourselves every single day and know we are enough, we are worthy and we are beloved.

Happy birthday, Dad. I hope it's a great one.

Tell everyone hi- I hope you ARE living your best life in that better place.

-Pastor Ali

Friday, March 15, 2019

My Happy Place

As a child, we went every spring break to Lawrence where my mom's sister and her family lived. I grew up in Wichita, until I was 14, so going to Lawrence was always a big deal. My best friend was there, my cousin Brittany and my brother had his best friend, our cousin Skyler.

For a whole week we got to be with our cousins, doing whatever we wanted and I would imagine driving our mothers' crazy. As an adult and mother, I think they must have been crazy to be in a house with all the kids for a whole week. But I have come to realize that if you are in your happy place it really doesn't matter. My mom's happy place was with her sister and for us kids it was being with our cousins.

My sister, Paige, always went 20 miles down the road to our Nani and Nana's house. She got to the point where she was too "cool" to hang out with Brittany and I, she probably still is, and would go spend the week with our grandparents. During her time there she and our Nani would go flower shopping and spend hours planting flowers and learning about them. I never had any interest but as an adult something shifted.

Henry is on his fist real spring break. I was determined to make this week great for him, the one I remembered from my childhood. He has had sleepovers, been to his cousins and had a great week so far.

My happy place has changed over the years, no offense Becky and Britt, but I have taken on the love of going to my Nani's house, talking to her on the phone and calling her one of my best friends. Although I got sick this week with an awful cough, we still ventured down to my Nani's and I got to spend time in my happy place, which turns out to be a place of safety and joy for my children as well.

My Nani, being almost 81, goes at the speed of a 30 year old. Really, she has more energy than I do and when you go to Nani's you do not just sit around and do things. Oh no, there is a list of things to do and they will all be accomplished within the time you are there.

We ventured to many places yet the best one and the one that I know my Nani loved the most was getting our pansies. As a child, I never cared about flowers, that was Paige. Paige was the one that shared that love but it has shifted over the years and I am obsessed. My Nani and I began talking in Feb. about when we could go get them and we finally did. And we didn't stop there, we planted pansies, made fairy gardens and just spent time together talking and being present.


My happy place is with my family and when I get a chance to relax, spend time with my family and include gardening, there isn't much (even the tantrums of a 2 year old) that can bring me down. I now understand why my mom and her sister didn't care that us kids were running around like crazy for a whole week, they had each other and they treasured that time together through every meltdown, tantrum and fight us kids had, they were in their happy place.

I hope you all can find your happy place this lent. Find the place that makes you feel the closest to God and spend time there. Because when we do that, we are truly able to lean into our belovedness and live the life of abundance God wants for each of us.

Many blessings to you as spring starts to come- Know you are enough, you are worthy and you are beloved.

-Pastor Ali







Friday, March 8, 2019

Leaving a Legacy

Lent is upon us. It is a time of year to reflect on our lives and to look with God toward the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As Jesus is approaching the 40 days before his death, he is ministering to those in his midst, he is showing his true divinity to his disciples and he is preparing to leave a legacy of hope, grace and resurrection for all of God's people.

What is our legacy? What will you leave in this world for your children? Do you think about that often?

Over the past few weeks, I have been trying to put into words how I feel about the decision made at the United Methodist General Conference and what legacy this will leave for our children and future generations.

The church is at a stand still. When I am asked what do we do or what is next, I simply say "I don't know". And that is the truth, I don't know but here is what I do know

The UMC was founded on grace, love, mercy and acceptance of all people. John Wesley fought for the rights of those that didn't have a voice and wanted the church to be a place where all people felt welcomed and a church with open minds, open hearts and open doors.

The clergy are not the only ones tasked with the legacy of the church. All of us, every single member, child and clergy have to work together to be the church that God wants us to be. To leave a legacy for our children that they are proud of and not one of hate, exclusion and punishment.

My children love our church. They feel welcomed there, they are loved there and they run around that place knowing it is theirs and that the people inside of it will help to raise them to be followers of Christ with open hearts, open minds and open doors.

I want that to be the legacy we leave. The legacy of love. Love can be hard when we don't understand the other side. Love can be hard when we have been hurt by the other person but love is possible when we have the love of Christ in our hearts allowing us to see the true humanity in all of God's people.

I choose to leave a legacy of love, inclusion and hope for my kids. My hope and prayer this lenten season is that the church and all people in the church are able to look within themselves, to have true self-reflection and to surrender all their fears to God.

When we give it God, when we allow God to hold us and guide us there really is nothing we can't do and I strongly believe that. Trust that God is a loving God, a God of inclusion and a God of resurrection so that we can go out and be that to the world.

Do all this knowing you are enough, you are worthy and you are beloved.

-Pastor Ali

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

It is All About Balance

1 Corinthians 3: 16

"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst?"

Our family recently started going to the gym. If you know us, you know that this is new and not the "norm" or has ever been the norm. Now, before Paul met me, he did exercise and was really fit from the police academy.. then we got married and we each settled into our new life as a married couple and exercise and keeping ourselves "fit" just didn't fit in there.

Then came these kids of ours. It turns out that a baby really changes your body, oh and turning 30. 


In last three years, it has become apparent that if I want to maintain the way I looked when I was younger, I was going to have to do something about it.


Really it just started to make more sense to me as I started to reflect on my own life, my own well being and what kind of example I want to set for my kids. I want them to see me fit, I want them to see exercise as something fun and I want us to be healthy for each other so we can live a long life of abundance as God wants us all too. 


We joined the gym in November and honestly haven't missed a work out since then. Once we started, we got hooked. Not only is it a great work out...BUT there is CHILDCARE. Like there is a place where you can drop off your kids and say "have fun" and they love it and they get worn out and you get to be ALONE and exercise. I don't know why this mom secret has been kept from me for so long. Or maybe I was told it but chose not to listen.


I am aware that changing your way of life, leaning into your messiness and brokenness is about balance and a want within yourself. 2 years ago, you couldn't have gotten me into the gym but something inside of me changed. I started to see myself as this temple that God gave me, a body that God gave me to take care of so that I can live my life of abundance and belovedness to the fullest. 



This past month, there has been a competition of sort at the gym called "melt". While I do not really care about the competition it created a space for myself and two good friends to work out together and to explore some of the different group classes. I have shied away from the classes out of fear of what others may think... here is the truth. No one care.

Absolutely no one cares

No one is watching you and if they are it is because you are doing so amazing that they want to copy you, so no one is watching me

And no one cares

The group classes have pushed me further than I knew possible and have really opened my eyes to the different muscle groups that I didn't even know needed to be stretched.

One of my favorite classes is called centergy. It is a combination of yoga and pilates and really helps to stretch out all of the work you have done in other classes. Now, I will say that it isn't just stretching. Oh no. There is this whole 5 minute plank series and you do not just plank. Oh no, you plant on your elbows, move your legs side to side, move up to your hands and do this about 1,000 times. It pushes you. The first few classes I couldn't do it and I didn't push myself because I wanted to ease into what my body could do.

Tonight. Tonight I did it. I did the whole class without any trouble. I finally found the rhythm and then the last 15 minutes is spent on restoration followed by 5 minutes of Savasana. You simply lie on your back and breathe, eyes closed, letting go of all the negativity and breathing in the beauty of the world and what you just accomplished.

I left tonight feeling full. Feel connected to God and feeling connected to my body and how it needs to be taken care of. 

And then I picked up the kids. I took a deep breath and we got in the car. The screaming started pretty quick and I started to think about dinner... my zen started to go. One kid only likes candy and cookies, the other sits and eats but it takes forever and you have to count bites while they complain. 

It is all about balance. The balance of finding your zen and how to maintain it. 

I maintained that zen, sure did. The kids are currently eating McDonalds and I am zenfully writing this blog without a care in the world.

God wants us all to take care of ourselves so that we can go out into the world and care for others and sometimes that means giving in to what you can not control and maintaining your zen by going through the drive-thru.

No matter where you are in your life, how active you are or aren't always know you are enough, you are valued and you are beloved.

-Pastor Ali 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Unconditional Love and Change

Over the past few weeks, I have been doing a sermon series on Love. While most likely thought this series was created for Valentine's Day, they are all learning that I had a different idea in mind.

Love. What does love mean to all of us? What does love mean to people that haven't experienced love? Does love look more like violence? Does love scare people? Does love prohibit us from fully experiencing our lives out of fear of what may happen?

The United Methodist Church will face a vote at a special General Conference that starts Feb. 23rd. Bishops, delegates (the people that get to vote), clergy and lay people will gather in St. Louis, MO from all over the world to vote on the issue of human sexuality and the church. This vote has been up for discussion since the 1980's when the world of psychiatric deemed homosexuality was not a mental health disorder. Since then, the church has gone back and forth on the issue. Should they allow gay clergy? Should people of the same-sex get to marry in the church?

I spoke last Sunday on how we become the church in a world that tries to shut the church out. In a world that views the church as negative and in a world that puts people in different boxes based on their race, socio-economic status, gender and who they love.

How do we be the church? The one the first Apostles built? The one that is about change, the love of God and the Good News that Christ brought?

Love

Love

Love

I recently spoke to someone about the one-church plan that is going before the conference. This is the plan that the majority of the Bishops in the church are supporting. It is the plan that allows each local church to decide. It sounds simple enough- you decide what your church is going to do. Yet this plan still brings up questions for a lot of people. How does that work? What church am I suppose to go if I believe ___? Will churches leave? Will people leave our church?

Love

I just keep saying that word over and over again in my head. The church is at a crossroads and what the church does next will define the church for generations to come. Generations that will likely look at us and wonder why this mattered. I look back on giving the women the right to preach and wonder why it took so long- in awe that it took the church over 1950 years to finally make that possible when some of the most powerful people in scripture are...WOMEN! (getting side-tracked...)

So what do we do as a church? How do we keep going?

We love our way through it.

We love God, we love the church, we love our neighbors and we love all of God's people just as God tells us to through God's son, Jesus Christ.

Jesus came to this world to save us from ourselves, to show us what true love is and how to live that out in our everyday lives.

Jesus suffered and was killed at the hands of his own people yet even knowing this would happen he did the work of God. He healed the leper, he prayed with and taught women, he opposed the doings of the scribes and pharisees, he turned over the tables in the temple.

People fought against everything Jesus did and had to say but he stayed strong and went with one message.

Love.

Jesus is the church. Jesus is UNCONDITIONAL LOVE AND CHANGE. Jesus came to this world to change it so that we may all live a life of abundance and know our identity in God as God's beloved children.

Love. That really is the only way.

We continue to love and the church and all of us will get through this, all while knowing we are enough, we are worthy and we are beloved.

-Pastor Ali

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Where Does the time Go?

I can remember as a child sitting in my room often wondering "when will I ever grow up?" I was likely in trouble when these thoughts were going through my mind and wanted more than anything to grow up, get out of my parents’ house and get to do WHATEVER I wanted. 

It is amazing how time works.

As a child it seems as though you will never grow up. You long for the days that you have freedom. To be 16, 18. To go off to college. 

Then you get to college and you simply want time to slow down. You want to soak up every moment of the life you are living, you want to be young and carefree in this time of your life yet it goes by so fast that you wonder "where did the time go?"

Then you get out of school and life really begins. The life you were longing for as a child is here and at times it is everything you ever dreamed of and then at times you just want to go back to being a child, where people took care of you and you did not have to worry about bills, taking care of your own kids or worrying about what is going to happen to the people you love. 
Time. It goes so fast when we don't want it to and slows down when we long for it to just speed up.



Yesterday, marked 5 years since the death of my Father. 

In many ways it seems like I haven't seen or talked to my dad in 10 years and in others it seems as though we were all just sitting around my parents kitchen table laughing and living our best life. 

5 years. I would give anything to go back to the month before my dad passed and to just have a little bit longer. To realize that this was happening and to spend as much time as possible with my dad. To say all the things, I long to say to him. But that isn't how time works or life. 

I sit and think now a lot about the times with my dad. About how I was so very loved by him and so many of my friends wished they had him as a dad. 

He was the most of most cool dads and still to this day his legacy lives on through all of us.

I see him in my nephew Ben, the way Ben laughs and is kind of sneaky when he is being silly. I see him Henry, in Henry's worry for the world and his family. I see him in Tannie, in Tannie's willingness to do just about anything. 

Even when people leave this world, they still live in each of us. It is as though a piece of them has been passed down to all the generations to continue living so that their best life can still go on.

5 years. 

In 5 years, our lives have changed drastically. I became a Pastor- WHAT?!?! Paige had Ben. I had Tannie. Henry is in school. Evan got married. Mom moved. We all changed our jobs. 

While all that has changed and we are all incredibly blessed and at peace with the loss of our dad, time still doesn't take away the pain. There is a saying "time heals all wounds" and while time does heal, it doesn't take away the wounds. 

Our wounds are a part of us, they help to make up the story of who we are and without them or when we "forget" about them, we are denying who we are. 

We are broken, we are messy, we live chaotic lives, but we are God's children; enough, beloved and worthy of this life we are living.

Time may not heal all wounds and we may always long to go back to different times in our lives but know that living in the present, welcoming the pain of what you have been through and believing that God is with you through it all will allow you to embrace the days ahead without fear. 

My dad, the rock of our family, will always live on in each of us and that is because he shaped who we are, taught us how to love and never gave up on us. Even in the afterlife, as he is sitting at the table with God, he with us-guiding each of us and loving us through all our sorrow and joy because it is through him that we learned to love this life we have been given. 

Embrace today, live today with courage and love knowing your worth, knowing you are enough and knowing you are beloved.

-Pastor Ali 


Dad and baby Henry



Thursday, January 31, 2019

Stuck

Today I feel stuck. Do you ever feel that way? I haven't had writers block since I started preaching every Sunday. When asked "What is your sermon writing like", I always reply that it is one of my favorite things to do and it always just flows out of me and wherever I am, no matter what I am doing, I will sit down and write it out. 


Not this week. This week I am stuck.

I am stuck on what to preach about, I am stuck on what to talk about, I am stuck on how to tie it all together. So I sit here, at my desk, writing this blog post- STUCK. 

All around my office, I have words of inspiration. In the car, I listened to music that would surely give me a direction, I have laid awake the past nights thinking about it. 

And...you guessed it, I am stuck!

Why do we get stuck in our lives? Why do we all of a sudden see no direction? When things are going just right, when everything we do just flows naturally and we know the next steps- why do we then have absolutely no idea what we are doing and get completely stuck?

I wonder if that is the Holy Spirit telling us to look a different direction. That maybe the way we have always done things, the lens to which we have always looked through needs to change. Things need to be adjusted so that we can see clearly what path we are on, what direction to go down. 

It is amazing how God works in our lives like that. How one minute we are trucking along, doing everything the same way, living our lives, doing the work that we do then...BAM out of nowhere here comes God to turn things upside down, to point you in a different direction, to force you to look outside of YOURSELF and to look through a different lens. Perhaps it is a lens that leads to a new outlook on the world, perhaps it will be a lens that helps to define what your life is really about and what your purpose is or perhaps it is simply a lens that just need a little bit of adjusting, a little fine tuning to get you back to where you are supposed to be. 

Whatever it is that is going on with me, whatever "rut" I am stuck in, I just hope I can open my eyes to what God is saying to me, to open my heart and mind to the word of the Gospel and to allow the Holy Spirit to guide me to what needs to be said this week. 

If not, I hope everyone that attends church enjoys watching live streams of other Pastors because maybe they will know what to say this weekend :-)

Enjoy your weekend, apparently this bitter cold is going to turn warm! And always know that even when you are stuck, even when you feel as though you can't move forward, God is right with you telling you that you are enough, you are worthy and you are beloved.

Blessings,

Pastor Ali 

                                           Image result for animal stuck