Friday, July 20, 2018

Though the Days Are Long

I have been in school for the past two weeks. The days have been incredibly long and exhausting. I started to envy the people in my classes that were staying in hotels and not having to go home to responsibilities all while having to do homework and get to bed at a decent time to be back in class by 730am. Oh and write a sermon in the midst of that.

Doesn't a week in a hotel BY YOURSELF sound amazing? 

Oh the silence

Oh the sleep without arms and legs flopping all over me; on a typical night at least one child ends up in our bed

Oh and getting JUST myself ready in the morning. No screaming to find your shoes, to get dressed or yelling at your two year old that cheetos are not an accetable breakfast, to finally give in and compromise on club crackers...

Then I got home today.

It had been a long two weeks.

I took a nap and woke up feeling refreshed.

Tannie woke up next and I could tell it was cloudy outside so we went out to see how it felt. I ended up sitting with her and giggling for a good 10 minutes. 

Then it started to sprinkle and I called Henry to come out and the three of us danced in the rain trying to catch rain on our tongues.

This is one of those moments in time you want to freeze.

It helps your to forget about the whining, the screaming, the fighting and all of the hard parts of being a parent. 

They say the days are long but the years are short- I have found this to be especially true these last few weeks. I have felt disengaged from my children and husband and focused on what I need to do for school and work. And while I feel as though I have grown spiritually and am able to take practical things back to the church, there is still a balance needed.

Today though reminded me that life isn't always this chaotic. That is slows down. That you are able to be present and to find moments that make it all feel okay.

Our lives are rushed from one thing to the next and it is important for us to slow down, breathe and remember that in order to live a life of abundance- the life that God wants for us- we have to find balance, find rest and find peace. 

Even if your kid is currently screaming at your to get off your computer and find him a snack :-)

God Bless you all

-Pastor Ali

Friday, July 13, 2018

But I don't want to go to school

My alarm went off early this morning. 6:15am. That may not seem early for some but for me that is an awful time, it is literally in the middle of the night in my opinion.

When my alarm went off, I turned it off, rolled over and kept sleeping. Paul shook me and told me to get up. I said, of course in the sweetest voice you can imagine, "I KNOW what time it is". So I got up and got ready. Then I went into the bathroom and told Paul "but I don't want to go to school" and we laughed.

I am in school this week for ministry. Turns out you have to learn things in order to be a Pastor. I have enjoyed it, I have learned a lot of tools and ways to improve my preaching and theology YET it has been a long week. I am exhausted, I am burnt out and I am ready to go home today.

I have also learned a lot about myself this week.

I have learned that my call to ministry is solidified- I have known that for awhile but it is always good to have that affirmed on a regular basis.

I have learned that I am a good student. Turns out that my grades in college do not reflect my ability and going to school again has allowed me to trust more in myself, to really believe that I am enough and to really believe that I am capable of doing this.

Henry has been in preschool two days a week and toward the end of the year he started saying "My cheek hurts, I can't go to school" or a good one was "mom, I have a booger I can't get out and need to stay home". He starts kindergarten this year and it will be interesting to see how many times his excuses come up.

Where does that come from? The need to make excuses to not do the things we have to do. Often when we get there we love it, we get a lot out of it and we strive to do our best.

School, education and growing in not just our knowledge but our faith is key to living a life of abundance.

As Christians we need to keep asking questions, to keep learning and to keep growing in our faith. If we choose to stay stagnant in what we know and believe we won't grow and that is hard to see happen to people or in your own life.

School is tedious, the work is hard but the time in class has proven to be valuable for me.

When I look at this in the context of the church, I encourage people to grow in their faith. To take a class you have always thought about but just keep putting off. We can make excuses and most of them are valid but I guarantee you, if you sign up for that Bible Study, if you join that Sunday School class it can transform your life to really understand what God is calling us to do- to go out into the world and make Disciples for Christ for the transformation of the world.

I am eager for Henry to start school. I know he is going to love it and I also know he will begin making every excuse to not go but he will be amazing, he will grow and he will become more of the person he is meant to be.

God bless you all, know you are enough, know you are worthy of the life you are living and know that you are loved,

Pastor Ali


Friday, July 6, 2018

Things you do not learn in Pastor school...

The weeks leading up to today have felt like a whirlwind. I have watched our Senior Pastor for the past few years run around like she has fire lit under her.

I always kind of thought- well maybe she just does too much. Maybe she doesn't take time for herself...all of these excuses because I won't run around like that.

Nanette- I apologize for ever thinking that. You are amazing and while you do need to slow down a bit at time, I think I am starting to get it and it's only week two.

For my new congregants reading this, this has absolutely nothing to do with you and all about me.

I am adjusting to working full time again- I had been rocking this 20 hour a week gig for awhile and phew here we go!

I am figuring out that a full time job takes my time and energy but I am also learning how much I LOVE this and can't wait to really get into this work.

Until today and in the next two weeks, I am not sure I will know much of what is going on and here is why

-Had to say goodbye to a beloved member of our family, our dog, McGehee
- First sermon and service on July 1st- while planning for the next Sunday because I was going out of town
-Immediately left for Chicago with my family later on the 1st
-Navigated an amazing city with an amazing city and celebrated our daughters 2nd birthday
-Came home last night
-Went into the office today and wrote my sermon
-Tomorrow we will clean the house, I will sermon prep more, I will take my son to a birthday party, I will then do more sermon prep and try to go to bed early
-Sunday (it really does come every week) service and preach. Mother in law comes that afternoon (yay!!) and we have Tannie's family bday dinner that night
-Monday-Friday I have class from 730am-530pm
-Ad Board meeting Tuesday night at 6pm
-Saturday birthday party
-Sunday (it really does come every week) preach and service
-Monday-Friday classes from 730am-1230pm

AND THEN.... Sunday comes again and I breathe (after church)

It is an interesting start to this appointment and I find myself wanting to be in 5 places at once.

I am dedicated to Indian Heights.

I want to get to know the people, I want to be in the office, I want to get to know my co-workers but life is calling me in all different directions.

I am not sure when I took this appointment if I realized how crazy the first few weeks would be but I can promise you all this- I am still here. I am present. I am aware and I am your Pastor.

The biggest thing I can say that they do not teach you in Pastor school is how much there is to learn at a new appointment and how you will want to learn everything right away so you can be the best Pastor you can be...BUT you have to take it one day at a time.

One class at a time

One sermon at a time

One Ad Board meeting at a time

All while trying to be present with your family.

I truly believe that if I didn't believe in this whole "presence" thing and taking things one day at a time I would be panicking right now but here's the thing...

I've got God on my side.

I've got God telling me to breathe.

I've got God holding me and guiding me through all of this.

I've got an amazing support system.

I've got amazing congregants at Indian Heights.

I can't wait to go on this journey with each of them and I can't wait to just breathe (that happens, right, Nanette?)

God bless you all. You are loved, you are enough and you are all worthy

-Rev. Ali

Thursday, June 28, 2018

"And Craig was Smiling"

I tend to talk about the things that are on my mind the most....well... as most of you know, I recently left my appointment (Sunday was my last day) and started this week at Indian Heights UMC as their one and only Pastor. Just me.

My first Sunday is this Sunday and I look forward to sharing my story with them, to sharing the Good News of Christ with them and helping them to believe, as my good friend Tiffany has helped me to know, that they are enough, they are worthy and they belong.

My last week at Grace was a classic last week. I got home from annual conference on a Saturday morning, preached Saturday evening, did a funeral on Monday and packed up my desk on Tuesday and Thursday. Phew.

I have talked about my anxiety on here, I have talked about my stress and of course situations like that bring out all of those feelings in me. I have ways I handle things but there are times when you need something you do not realize and that for me came from our accompanist right before the funeral service.

Rick is the Director of Music for Grace and knew my dad really well as he was the choir director and my dad loved that choir, they even sang at his funeral.

Rick called me over and told me that he usually doesn't think much about Pastors moving and struggles with the belief that we can still be surrounded by our loved ones once they pass yet he smiled at me, got tears in his eyes and said "When I heard of your appointment change, I looked up and saw Craig just smiling. He is so proud of you".

Part of my grief in leaving Grace is leaving the church that my dad loved. Not being able to look at the choir loft each week and see my dad's face and leaving the place where we celebrated his life.

And then Rick reminded me that the veil between this world and the next is so thin. That Jesus went before us, prepared a table and my dad is sitting at that table smiling and I guarantee you he will be singing in the choir on Sunday at Indian Heights, sitting in the front row and smiling as I start this next adventure in my family's life.

God bless the things you don't expect and pay attention to them when they happen.

Know you are loved, worthy and belong

Rev. Ali

Thursday, June 14, 2018

This is Summer

I don't particularly love summer. I like spring and fall a lot better but it seems as though we now have two seasons that are either so hot it is unbearable or so cold you don't ever want to leave you bed. Heat and I are just not friends.

I am fair skinned and burn faster than you can imagine. I can go outside for 10 minutes and burn, I can ride in a car and burn, if I don't reapply every 45 minutes I can burn. I can remember as a child our family never went to the beach, well just a few times. I remember my mom telling us to pretend we were Irish because that would at least help people know why we were so fair skinned and wore layers to the beach :-)

Paul has helped me get out of my comfort zone this summer. On the hottest of days he has made me come outside and watch the kids run through the sprinkler and allow them to spray me. He has made us all get in the hot hot hot hot car and go get ice cream. Watching your two year old eat ice cream really is a joy and a mess. He made us go fishing as a family the other night....we didn't catch anything and the mosquitoes were everywhere but we went.

So maybe just maybe this whole summer thing is starting to grow on me.

Watching Henry chase lightning bugs, watching Tannie experience the pool, watching them both pull down the branches of the mulberry tree and eat the berries- now that is summer and is something I am enjoying.

This week the great plains conference of the United Methodist Church is gathering for annual conference. We are in Wichita and it is HOT. Yet as I walked to and from my car today I wasn't upset about the heat, I just simply soaked it in (it also helped that this nice man in a golf cart drove me to my car in the heat of the afternoon!)

This is my first conference. I have found it to be interesting so far and I have learned a thing or two I didn't know but the part I truly enjoyed and will soak in was being in the clergy section. Going to the clergy sessions, seeing my name listed in the long booklet of clergy in our conference, along with the retired clergy which includes my grandfather. I am fulfilling his legacy and seeing my name with his- well that was enough for me to know that I truly am.

When we focus on what we don't like about things we aren't able to live in the present and in the moment. We aren't able to experience the beauty of this earth that God has created, we aren't able to fully participate in the Kingdom of God that is everywhere we go.

Enjoy the heat, go to the pool, watch your kids chase fireflies and experience the Kingdom of God in everything you do.

Also, my mother in-laws apple pie really is the icing on the cake

Have a blessed summer.

Monday, June 4, 2018

It's in my we go!

I like plans. 

I like structure. I like knowing what is coming next.

God however, has a different way of doing things. God tends to come into our lives and change things when we don't think we need a change, when we are content with what is happening in our lives and when we have planned our career around when our children will both be in school full time.

My world is changing a bit...

Mother's Day weekend we were in Andover visiting my in-laws. I had two missed calls over that weekend from a 785 area code and just ignored both. I get a lot of soliciting calls and people saying I won a trip to Florida and a cruise- of course after I pay $1000. 

When we got home, I finally listened to the voicemail and it was our district superintindent- my boss in the United Methodist Church. 

My first thought was "crap. crap. crap. They only call for one reason this time of year"

You see this is appointment season. I thought I had gotten through it without getting a call because it was late in the season and I wasn't requesting a new appointment nor was Grace asking for me to move. 

Yet I knew why he was calling and I was right.

"Hi Ali..."

And that was it. I was offered a full time appointment. My OWN church. ME. Why me? 

I have been told multiple times by my dear friend Tiffany that I am enough, that I deserve good things and that I will be a great Pastor. But me? 

I haven't been to seminary yet and I am still taking classes. So me? 

I said yes within 24 hours, met with the Staff Parish committee later that week and my church home at Grace was told this week.

As of July 1st, I will be the Lead and ONLY Pastor at Indian Heights UMC in Overland Park.


I keep thinking why. I keep wondering what are they thinking and then I go to God.

I trust that God is putting me in the right place. I trust that God knows I can do this and I trust in a God that gives me the strength I need to lead.

It is interesting. I am a good leader. I ran a domestic violence shelter and co-supervised over 30 people. I made policies, changes and did things that were incredibly hard. Of course I can run a church...but every week? As the only Pastor? 

It's in my blood. My family is United Methodist through and through. Our family has had Pastors in every generation (except my mom's) dating back to the circuit riders.

This is my calling. This is what I am supposed to do. 

The members of this church are lovely. They are kind, generous, welcoming and open- everything I love about the United Methodist Church. I am beyond thrilled to be their new Pastor and I can't wait to see where this next chapter takes me.

I am sad to leave Grace. That church raised me. I have been a member there for 20 years. My dad's funeral was there. Both of my kids were baptized there but at some point everyone has to move on. To spread their wings and fly.

So here we go and I can't wait.

Blessings to you all. Come find me on July 1st and every Sunday after at Indian Heights in OP.

Monday, May 28, 2018

What are we doing?

"Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket[a] for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him"
Exodus 2:-4

It is a story most of us know. A story of two people that could not hide the child they were supposed to have killed so they put the baby in the basket and sent him up the river. We know this story ends with Pharaoh's daughter finding the baby and raising the baby that we all know as Moses. Moses would go on to fight for the freedom of his people, The Israelites.

It's such an old story. It seems that it has zero relevance today except that Moses freeing the Israelites has pivotal in the story of the Bible. 

Here is where I am stuck and can't quite figure out how to ignore this. 

Yesterday I read a facebook post by Rachel Held Evans, a writer and blogger. She shared of immigrants crossing the border and having their children being ripped from their arms and taken as "punishment" for crossing the borders illegally. These are people that are fleeing persecution in their own countries, that despite what they may or may not know about the state of the US still believe it will be better. So they risk it and come. They come hoping for a better life and then their children are taken. Put into the foster care system or maybe lost in the foster care system some to be suspected to be sold into human trafficking.

Moses' mother knew that her child would be killed if he was found. All boys under the age of 2 were to be killed out of fear. Pharaoh wanted all of the power- so when power is threatened just kill kids. For Moses' mother this is what she thought was best. She risked him being killed in the river, being found by someone that would know he was an Israelite and kill him yet she thought this was the best option for her son. 

As we honor fallen soilders and those that have gone before us today, I wonder what they would think of this. I wonder if the country they fought for was one that takes children from their mothers' arms or if it is a country that provides stability and life for people that may not find is elsewhere. 

When a young person signs up to be in the military you often hear them say that they want to do good, they want to defend our country, they want to make us safe. 

We are lucky. We are lucky to live in a country that gives us the freedom to walk out our door and not worry that a bomb will fall on us. Now there are many things not okay with this country but I won't go into that. 

I want to believe that the people who have served our country and have lost their lives for our country wanted it to be safe for all people. For the children they met while serving in Iraq that were scared, hungry and needed safety. 

I have to believe our world is better than this.

Moses was lucky and chosen by God to save his people. Moses' mother risked it all to save her son and knew that she would likely never see him again. This story should be one of hope for all of us, that we do not have to live in fear of this EVER again. Yet it isn't.

I don't know how to fix this, how to do something about it but I do know that Jesus welcomed the stranger, fed the hungry and preached for us to welcome the immigrant.

Prayer and hopes won't fix this. Legislation and fighting for the oppressed is what will. 

Rachel Held Evans encourages all of us to call our Senators and Representatives to tell them to make this stop. Call. Call. Call. 

Action and fighting for what is right is what will help us all be the transformation that our world needs, that God longs for and Jesus preached about.

Moses was an unlikely choice to save his people- he hated talking in front of crowds, he was awkward. Yet he was chosen, just as we all are. To share our abundance and the love to Christ to all that we meet.

God Bless all those that fought for my life to be free and for all those that continue to do so. May we make you proud and live as our God and country wants us to.

Blessings to all