Wednesday, October 3, 2018

What about her?

Her name was Queen Vashti.

She is in the Bible.

She was a queen.

She was respected.

She was banished.

Do you remember her? Queen Vashti was married to King Ahasuerus before Esther became queen. Most readers know of Esther because she was the one to stop the total destruction of the Jews by going to her husband and telling him that she was Jewish and that Haman (his right hand man) was going to have all the Jews killed. The King stopped the annihilation and Esther has always been spoken of as brave and courageous.

But what about Queen Vashti?

Queen Vashti was beautiful, she was loved. Her husband, the King, decided to drink some wine with some friends and asked the Queen to come out in her royal crown in order to show the people and the officials her beauty.

She said no.

She did not want to be paraded around, perhaps touched or fondled by the drunken men. She said no because she didn't want her life to be about her beauty and she did not want to be taken advantage of.

And she was banned.

She was banned and her title of Queen was taken from her.

Women have been blamed and lost their titles for years- all the way back to the beginning of time. If a woman doesn't want to be paraded about, if she doesn't give in to her employers demands if she tells that there is sexual harassment going on, she is punished. She is blamed and she is held accountable for the actions of her perpetrator.

So what about her? What about the she that speaks out? Or the one that stay hidden? Or the woman that bears it all of her life and finally says something, finally has the strength to confront her abuser/perpetrator/the one that assaulted her. What about her?

What happens to her? I would like to assume that our world has advanced from the days of Queen Vashti. That our world has learned to listen to women, that our world has learned to hold perpetrators accountable but that is not the case. In our own city, right here in Kansas City, a Judge, Judge Hughes, sat on the bench ruling over city domestic violence cases and always- ALWAYS- was very lenient on the abuser. I could never quite understand it....until the day he too was arrested for domestic violence.

How does that happen?

How do we allow people to be in power and to make decisions that impact our lives and our country that are abusive or sexually assault women?

I want to be clear, that as a Pastor I believe in the power of grace. I believe that we have the ability to forgive those that have trespassed us. I say that prayer every week and I believe it. Yet, I also very strongly believe that as a society and a culture people, ALL people, have to be held accountable for their actions.

So what about her?

What do we do about the woman that speaks out and is told that she isn't believable because she was talking like a child? Or because she couldn't remember exactly when it happened? Or because she didn't know where she was or because she said she had been drinking?

We believe them.

We fight for justice for those that can't fight for themselves.

We follow our living God and Jesus Christ and fight for the oppressed.

Isn't that what the Gospel is about? When God created this world, God created it for people to take care of it. God created it for us to love one another and to do God's will. Jesus preached this everywhere he went. He knocked tables over in the temple, he challenged the Pharisees and Scribes, he held hands with the leper, he touched the bleeding woman, he stopped the woman from being stoned. Jesus fought for the rights of others; for ALL of us to be heard and for those that need to be held accountable to be so.

I haven't used the name or the situation that is triggering this post yet we all know why I am writing this. Yet, this is nothing new for me to say. Nothing new for me to write and my views on violence against women will always remain the same. To simply believe. To understand that women have the right to say no, that trauma survivors will often forget things and details due to the trauma of what happened and that women often risk everything when they say enough is enough and stand up to the one that is hurting or has hurt them.

Queen Vashti said no. She refused to be treated in that way and it cost her everything.

I pray today that all women know their strength, know their power and that we all come together as people, simply people, trying to do what is right in this world.

Our one commandment- to love God with all our heart mind and soul and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

I blare this song daily on my way to work, I blame my sister for that. But know you are brave, that you are held and you are loved.

-Pastor Ali





Thursday, September 20, 2018

Just go smell the peanut butter

For years my Nani and Nana would tell me that once you can't smell peanut butter it is a sign of "losing your mind". I would often watch them smell the peanut butter and give each other a high five because they could smell it. I once asked my Nani if she would ever tell anyone that she couldn't and she replied "I'm not stupid"

Yesterday, I attended a district meeting and asked for prayer for my Nana. After, I was approached by a few people to see what is going on and told that he left a legacy in the Kansas East Conference.

I had to call my grandparents and tell them this. I was so honored for the kind words but as soon as my Nani answered I could tell in her voice that something was off. She had to go to another room to talk and told me that Nana doesn't know who she is and that this is the first time this has happened. She said that he kept telling her that she isn't his wife because his wife, Pinky, has red hair and her hair is red.

Where does our mind go? I often wondered that as I watched my dad's mother wither away due to alzheimer where she went. Was she stuck in there? Watching her life, knowing who she is and but can't articulate it?

OR

Perhaps, was she simply stuck in the middle, in the between of eternity trying to find a way to let go of her human life so that she could go be with God.

I like to believe that is where their mind is. That they have reverted to a childlike persona only to be connected to God in a way that we all don't remember.

Jesus called the children, the prophets said that a little child will lead them.

Maybe just maybe when our minds go we are able to go to a deeper place of spirituality. Maybe we are able to truly understand what God and Jesus meant when they tell us that a little child will lead us. While children make sense and the innocence of children, people that suffer from alzheimers or some form of dimensia also become childlike.

I do not know what the future is going to bring for our family. I know that my grandfather likely doesn't have long- months, weeks, whatever it may be.

Yet I also know that he is already with God in many ways.

His faith is something I strive for and I know that he has experienced a level of spirituality that many of us work our whole lives working toward.

My grandfather, my Nana, will someday leave a legacy in the United Methodist Church. He will leave paths for many to walk down and words for us to remember- he has helped to shape me into the Pastor I am and I continue to learn from him in our talks and from his writing.

I know that he struggles with what is happening. I know he feels useless but I also know that God is with him, God is holding him and God is using him as a vessel to guide others that are in ministry to find their true wholeness with God.

I can smell the peanut butter and maybe it isn't real, maybe it is, but I can guarantee you that I will always make sure I can smell the peanut butter and never ever will tell anyone if I can't.

God's many blessings to you all

Remember that you are loved, you are enough and you are worthy

-Pastor Ali


Monday, September 3, 2018

Some birthdays are just different than others

I turned 33 last week. I was really looking forward to my birthday. It has been such a year of change and transition for myself and our family that it felt good to celebrate all that we have done and accomplished in one year.

Henry turned 5
Tannie turned 2
I transitioned from a part time Associate Pastor to a full time Senior Pastor
Henry started kindergarten
Tannie started kids day out
And Paul...well he was a long for the ride and I am sure he had great accomplishments in there :-)

It has just been a year. Most years, I choose to celebrate with friends for my birthday. No kids, typically adult activities and just let loose to celebrate another year. But this year, I wanted to celebrate with our family so we decided to go to Main Event and bowl, play arcade games and eat food that is just not good for you.

So off we went. My family, my mom, my sister and her family, my sister in law and my cousin.

The evening started off great. The adults and "big" kids (Ben and Henry) were bowling while Tannie ate her dinner and played on my phone.

Then dinner was over and Tannie lost interest in her phone and it happened.

It happened faster than we could blink....

Tannie looked at myself, looked at Paul and began running.

First she ran around the booth and where the bowling balls are and then she took her chance and off she went...

Down the lane

And we took off after her

Paul and I both running down after her and of course we both fall because it's a BOWLING ALLEY and all I could think is my daughter is going to make it to the end, knock down all the pins and get crushed by the big giant thing that will come down and take her off wherever it takes the pins...

And then she fell and all I could hear was Paul yelling "grab her leg"

Somewhere between the running, the falling and laughing/almost crying we got her. She only made it halfway and at that point we decided bowling as not the best idea.

I calmed down, Tannie quit crying and began laughing.

I laughed about it a lot the next day. Honestly, it was hilarious.

She's two, what did we expect her to do? She saw her chance and took it. Just like anyone would, when we have our chance to do something great why wouldn't we just go for it?

My birthday was perfect. While it was chaotic and filled with kids everywhere, I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Oh and Paul did surprise me with a family pizza party the day before my birthday and a new watch so he wins points for that.

Cheers to the years when we lean into the season in our life we are in and we embrace the love of our family and God in all of our hearts.

God bless you all and may your birthdays be filled with joy, laughter and maybe something just a little different this year.

-Pastor Ali

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

It's EVERYWHERE

I wish I could tell you that this post is about the Holy Spirit and God being present everywhere in our lives, that it was about the abundance of joy I feel everyday when I wake up and know this to be true. And while all of this is true, this is not that kind of post.

If you prefer to not read about bodily functions then I would recommend stopping right now. This blog, this one is for all the mamas out there that deal with this every single day.

Pee.

I am talking about pee.

Since, Henry was born almost 6 years ago this has been a pretty consistent part of our lives. From being peed on, to potty training to teaching a boy how to properly use the bathroom while not being distracted by EVERYTHING in the room. I mean, it literally takes less than 30 seconds to pee, so why is it EVERYWHERE.

Honestly, I hadn't really noticed it until recently and it isn't because of Henry. It's Tannie.

Tannie has decided that she lives in a naked house, that it is better to be in the nude than to be in her clothes AND her diaper.

At first it started with her telling me when she needed a new diaper and now it has progressed. It has progressed to bringing me her diaper when she has peed and then at times bringing me a diaper and peeing on the floor.

Pee. It is literally everywhere. I have started to notice it more and more and succumb to the fact that it is a part of my life probably for quite awhile.

Potty training is in the very new future, then teaching how to actually use the bathroom properly and all the stuff that comes along with that.

My mom tells me it is karma. Apparently she used to pick me up from the church nursery and all of the other parents would be giggling...giggling at little Ali who was standing in the nude except for her little socks and patent leather shoes.

Truth is, I have created a mini me. I have created a fierce and fiesty girl that knows what she wants and loves her family more than anything.

I have created a son that is a typical little boy, a little boy that thinks peeing is funny and is very distracted within 5 seconds.

Our lives are consumed with these types of things as soon as we become parents and if we allow them to be all we focus on we can lose the reason why we had kids. The reason why we love them some deeply- they love us with their whole hearts and despite the pee and bodily functions they are always going to love us more than we can imagine.

Tonight. I came home and Paul laughed that Tannie was probably in her room naked. I went in a little nervous and found this.

My sweet little girl had set up a tea party for us. She poured the tea for me and said "I love you, mama, is it good?"

I was reminded tonight that despite it all, the love I have for my children is what fuels me, what gives me hope and reminds me that God is present in our lives and the Holy Spirit is always with us.

As I say all this, I am listening to her yell from her room... 50/50 chance that she is in her bed naked, what's your vote?

Always know you are loved, you are worthy of life and you are enough

-Pastor Ali

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