Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Call Part Two

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At least I hope part two, I hope this isn't longer than that!

My homiletics prof divided studying, writing and delivering a sermon in small, easy to digest chunks. It was very 'beginner' oriented. I'm sure the seasoned preachers in the group were insulted. (I've learned though, that while a sermons may seem the same to those listening, each preacher writes much to his/her personality. Much like the writers of the bible. God worked through their personality to write the bible. Anyway.) I went through finding a text, studying, outlining, scripting and then finally delivering. My prof added pain by video taping every step. Joy. I have most of those steps and have watched them, once, and cringed the whole way though. But what's funny is that the actual sermon I cannot find, was not video taped, so I have no record of actually preaching it. That's ok. That's not the point.

I got to the day I was supposed to preach. I was a wreck. There were three other people who had to preach theirs. We were the only ones in the class, because the other pastor/preachers were able to video tape theirs while preaching it in their church. Kay. Another day in the life for them. But for me, this was totally out of my comfort zone. My BFF had to give her sermon and so did another classmate who was not already a pastor. I could tell they were all nervous too, which made me feel a little better about the whole ordeal.

Then my turn came. And it's funny, each time I go to preach my heart rate reaches an insane crescendo that can only be equated to a herd of wild horses galloping across the prairie (with the same cacophony of noise in my ears as well!). I get nervous, for sure. But then, right as the first words float past my lips, my 'self' is removed and God takes over. It is not me speaking the words and the nervousness slips away.

That first sermon was a life altering experience. It started a fire in my belly, that when I've described to other preachers they know what I mean. It also unleashed a deep desire I didn't know was there. I enjoyed it. I loved it. I was blown away by the feeling of the Holy Spirit moving through me.

When I was done, I sat down and we had a break for class. I just sat there, in a daze, trying to take in what had just happened. My prof came over to discuss my sermon and asked me what I was going to be doing with my education. At first I thought it was because he was saying I had no business being in the pulpit, but another classmate said, no, it's because you have a gift not often seen in young women.

After that experience, I still really struggled with having this desire and being a woman in the pulpit. I asked God to confirm that call, so that I could make sure I was hearing Him right.  I was asked on several different occasions to speak.  I only spoke at one of the requests, but that spoke to me that God had called me.  There was no denying it anymore. 

Then I graduated, got married, continued in my job and subsequently forgot about my call.  I'm not sure what I was figuring, maybe it was for a long time from now, maybe it really wasn't what I thought it was.  I know for sure I didn't' know what my new husband thought about it.  So I squelched it.  I got pregnant with Nadia and really thought that was it.  I put it in the back of my mind.  It wasn't for this time of life.  Later.  Much later.  I also read a book, called the Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson.   It reads much like The Pilgrims Progress.  The basic premise is that God writes a dream for everyone.  The dream gives the person life because it is the abundant life that God has planned for the person.  But the dream isn't easy.  There are roadblocks, monsters and obstacles to overcome.  And at one point the dream is given back to the dream giver and there is a grieving over it.  But the main character eventually gets his dream given back to him after he realizes that it is not really his dream, but the dream givers.  And he goes on to actualize his dream.  It was a good book, but it didn't really do anything for me at the time.

I had had a talk with Andrew about my call but I wasn't really straightforward with my questions.  I beat around the bush and so I didn't get the answers I really was looking for.  I was afraid of what Andrew might say or think of me.  I would've rather been in the dark with the whole thing, than to be hurt.  And I think he didn't understand the parameters of my call either, to be fair.

I had my daughter and life was consumed with baby, husband finding a job, later moving and then having another baby.  My call was always in the back of my mind, for sure, but it was like a small, poorly labeled box on a bottom shelf of my mind.  Sometimes God would bring a gentle reminder, but I told Him (mistake) that this wasn't for this time.  I had babies for pete's sake and couldn't speak, plus I didn't have the support of my husband.  I couldn't do anything outside of what he wanted, right?  Besides, where would I speak?  I couldn't just walk into any church, could I?

And then, a few months ago, God whacked me upside the head.  Andrew had a sermon based on 2 Timothy 1, called Rekindle The Flame.  Verses 6 and 7 were particularly impacting to me:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
 I thought it best to post my husbands notes to his sermon.  The Lord spoke through him to, in essence, give me a boot to the head.  The following are copied from my husbands sermon that day:
In the word translated “stir up” we have repetition, life and fire.

So when we read “stir up” think rekindle the flame, relive the lightning. Again give life to the fire.

A fire if left go will eventually burn itself out. A blazing fire is warm and gives light around it. We can lay in front of a fireplace or cook smores around a campfire. And if we don't add any wood, by morning the beautiful fire may only be a few coals. And it can be a lot of work rekindling that fire.

If you have a wood or coal furnace. You want to keep the fire going.

God's power can flow through us. His love can flow through us to others. His wisdom sharpens our minds.

But these things will naturally fade if we do not focus on tending the fire in us.

God will not empower us if we ignore his commands. God will not channel His love through us if we ignore His love. God will not teach us if we ignore His word.
When these words reached my ears it was like God was telling me "Kathryn, I've given you a gift, if you don't use it, you will loose it.  Let Me decide when you should use it."  That hit me.  I didn't want to loose any gift given to me by God, much less this one.  I really enjoyed preaching.  I needed to talk to Andrew, and pronto!  So that night I discussed it with Andrew.  He told me that yes, he saw a gift, and yes he supported me.  Wow!  That's exactly what I needed to hear from him.  I talked to my BFF and she too supported me.  And then it was up to God to give me a time.  He used one of the ladies from the church, she asked me to preach for our women's sunday, unbeknown to her what had transpired between God and I.  Well, that was it.  I couldn't deny it anymore.  I felt like the gift had been given back to me.  It was humbling. 

I started studying and the writing of the sermon flowed.  It felt so natural.  And the actual giving of the sermon went so well.  It was just like the first time.  My husband told me, before I delievered the sermon "If I know you, you'll be sad it's over, you'll be hungry to do it again."  And he's right.  I can't wait to do it again.  I am so hungry to be used again.

Right now I pray for a pure heart.  I pray for a pure mind.  I pray for a pure attitude in all of this.  I'll be honest, it would be so easy to become puffed up about this.  But I don't want to become like that.  When that happens it becomes about me.  And that's dangerous.  This is His work, this is His church, this is His word.  I'm just honored and blessed to be even considered to do work with Him.  What a profound place we are in when we can work side by side with our awesome God!  I am humbled that He would use me for anything!  I am so flawed!  I am so selfish, so me me me.  How He can use a character like me is amazing.  No, it's grace.

So that is my story.  I am grateful to have shared it with you. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

My Call

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Disclaimer: I'm about to bare a little bit of my soul here, a little bit more than usual. If transparency bothers you, don't say you weren't forewarned. 

We are going way back, I mean way back.  Back to high school graduation.  At my private, Christian school graduation I was one of just a few that had absolutely no idea what I was going to school for.  I had applied to a local community college with an undecided track.  I was hoping soon that something would pop up for me.  I figured I could take care of the gen ed's first then maybe by that point a major would sound somewhat appealing.  I had a lot of things that sounded good and that I thought I could maybe do, but nothing clicked, or made me purr.

That is, until, November 1998.  I was going to turn 19.  I was in a bible study that I attended each week and was asked to read from Isaiah 6.
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
       "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
       the whole earth is full of his glory."  4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
 5 "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."
 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."
 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
      And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

I cannot tell you the experience I had reading this.  It was like I had been moved from the living room of my pastors house to the throne room of God, to the actual spot Isaiah was in.  I felt like the Lord was speaking to me.  And I felt like He was asking me, who will I send?  Who will go for us?  And I answered just as Isaiah had, Here am I.  Send me!  And I was excited!  I wanted to go.

From then on I pursued an education in bible studies/pastoral studies/christian studies something like that.  I didn't want to be a pastor, I didn't want to be a missionary, I didn't want to be a preacher.  I just wanted to absorb all I could about the bible, about God, about Christ.  I wanted more.  So I applied to a seminary and they accepted me.  Their program was a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies, Christian Studies Emphasis, Pastoral Studies Focus.  A really long title that means those who are old enough when they enter can be ordained within the denomination I am a part of.  I was not old enough.  That's ok, I still don't feel God calling me to be ordained.

I went to seminary, studied hard, met my very BFF and my sweet hubby.  I also had a homiletics class.  According to the seminary's catalog the course of homiletics is:

Students demonstrate understanding of a theology of preaching and the application of exegesis and hermeneutics in developing biblical sermons suitable for contemporary settings. They identify the biblical and theological basis for preaching; explore the nature of contemporary settings in which preaching takes place; and prepare, deliver, and critique sermons.
Did you catch that last part?  I'll repeat it, just so we're clear.  PREPARE, DELIVER AND CRITIQUE SERMONS.  Hello!  I am not a public speaker!  I am not going to be a pastor and I don't want to do that!  You see, I had to put together a sermon and deliver said sermon to a classroom of my peers.  Only thing is, said classroom is not my peers.  The program I was a part of was fairly new when I got in it.  In fact, I was the second young woman to enter it.  The first one was my BFF.  She had been in it a whopping 4 months before I came along.   We were so very alone there.  Most of the people there were older men, some where old enough to be our fathers.  And most were already pastoring churches.  They were preparing and delivering sermons on a weekly basis, taking this class was going to be cake.  Not for me.  I had only given a handful of speeches before in my life and they were before peers.  You know, other high school students or college students who couldn't give a rip about what I was saying.  And now they wanted me to do what?  I was too far vested into the program to drop out, so I gritted my teeth and took the class. 

I have a feeling this is going to be long, so I'm going to finish the rest of this in Part 2.  Tune in next week....

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Sermon - The Christian Mission

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This was the sermon I preached this past sunday, the one I had y'all praying for me for.  (Thanks, by the way!)  It preaches so much better than it reads, but I guess that's true for a lot of things.  I look forward to your thoughts!  I will be posting soon about this whole process of my personal call and my thoughts on this past sunday.   

Good morning! Sure is different being on this side of the pulpit. A whole lot more terrifying. Although being on that side can be just as terrifying. You never know what the Lord is going to say, how He will convict or how he will make you uncomfortable. That's how I ended up here speaking to you now. He called me one sunday morning, through the word of His servant in my comfy seat to stand up, speak His word. And that is why I stand before you now.

Today is Thank Bank Sunday. The in-gathering day for all the little thank banks you see around. Grace Pierson, the founder of the Thank Bank believed in Missions, believed in the word and the life changing power of the word. So much that she started the Thank Bank program.

Ah, the word, the bible, the canon, it is our life! So even though today is a different sunday we will not deviate from what we are here to do. Cuz it aint church unless you open the word. And if there is one thing I've learned from sitting under my husbands preaching is that if you are going to preach the word you'd better talk to the Man who wrote it first. Let's pray.

It is no secret in scripture that God calls us to tell others about Him. We see it everywhere. From Noah, to John, God called people to tell others about Him. Our relationship with God was damaged in the garden and it has never been the same. Since that time God has been calling us back to peace with Him. He has made a way. He has prepared a road for us to walk on in order to return to Him. Only many don't even know the road exists. He knows this. So he tells us, who know the road, know how to get to the road, to tell others about the road.

One such person in scripture is Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a prophet of God, a spokesperson, a mouth piece, a bull horn. He carried God's messages to His people. The book of Ezekiel is full of so many wonderful beings and scenes. Many are hard to comprehend or imagine. Just before God speaks to Ezekiel to call him to be his prophet, he sees a vision of God. He sees the four winged creatures, the strange wheels with eyes all over them. He hears the noise that comes with these creatures, loud like an army he says. Then, he sees God.

Ezekiel 2 – 3:11

Ezekiel's response is appropriate. In the presence of Holy God, the only response sinful man can have is to fall! Sin cannot stand in the presence of God. Ezekiel probably thinks he's a dead man. But God has something different in mind. He has a mission for Ezekiel. Here he is, a captive priest among family and friends standing on a riverbank in a foreign land and God appears and speaks to him. Isn't that like God? He speaks to us at the most unassuming time. I'm sure Ezekiel had other things on his mind at this point. He probably thought that God had abandoned them, I'm sure he wasn't expecting God to show up, at least not in enemy territory. And not only does God show up, but he has a job for him to do.

God is calling Ezekiel to speak for him amongst the captives. He tells Ezekiel that it will not be an easy job, mainly because they won't listen. He says that if he had sent him to a foreign people his job would be easy because they would listen! God says “Heck, they won't listen to me, you shouldn't expect them to listen to you. But I want you to go, I want you to speak, so they will know that I have spoken to them”. Basically they have no excuse for the muck they got themselves into. That's probably how they got themselves into this mess in the first place, weren't listening to God, weren't following God and so God passed judgment on them.

So God tells him to speak, God tells Ezekiel they won't listen, but the Lord says he wants him to go anyway. And I think the Lord tells Ezekiel they won't listen as encouragement. Because in verse 6 he says don't fear them, don't fear their words or their looks, because they are rebellious so naturally they won't listen.

And then he says, but don't you be like that. You listen to me. Take my word, take it into yourself, make it apart of yourself. And he hands him the word. Ezekiel eats it, even though it is full of lamentations and woe. It's written full of the terrible things that are going to happen to Israel. Who wants to read the terrifying things of revelations or Daniel? But yet, Ezekiel eats it and says that it is sweet like honey. That is the word of God! Sweet to those who take it in. Sweet, filling, satisfying and life giving.

So God gives him a job as a prophet among his own people, he fills him with His word to speak and then He gives him the encouragement he needs to do the job. He says I have made you just as bullheaded as they are. I get the image of two rams butting heads when I read verse 8 of chapter 3.

Read Ezekiel 3:8

Ezekiels job is going to be hard! The people aren't going to listen, they are going to butt heads. It will be like talking to a brick wall. We've all had conversations like that. You sit there talking to someone and they just stare at you with that deer in the headlights look. Just blank. And God warns him about this. He says it's gonna happen! But don't let it get you down Ezekiel! Don't get discouraged. Because I told you it would happen. But you be obedient and speak to the people whether they hear or whether they refuse. Be obedient.

I believe this word is for us today. Grace peirson was passionate about missions. These little banks were originally designed to collect money for missions. And a lot of time when we think of missions we think of Africa, India, China, some place far away from here, far away from me. Some place where someone else goes and does the hard work. It's good enough for me to throw some money at it, pray some nice prayers for those people and be about my business. If you are a christian it is not enough to just throw money at it. God is calling us to a people that we know. And people that know us. He is calling us to a rebellious people. I need not tell you the state of our nation, we know it all too well. We've heard it time and again what our president has said. We are no longer a christian nation! He is blatantly turning his back on God. As a nation we have rebelled against our roots. We are much like the nation of Israel of Ezekiels time. And God is calling us, you and me, to speak His word to them. And he's telling us it's not going to be easy. They will scoff at you, they will laugh at you, look at you like you are from Mars and they will hurt you. And, worst of all, they won't listen.

The theme for the women's ministry for the past three years has been mold me, fill me, use me. It is a model of calling. God first calls us, then he fills us with his word and then we are ready to be used. We can see from Ezekiel's call that that process can be a matter of minutes.

So we know we've got the call. Throughout scripture God has been calling His people to tell others about Him. Jesus gave us that in the great commission in Matt 28:19 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. Mark 16:15 – Go into all the world and preach the gospel. Acts 1: 8 – you shall be witnesses to me in jerusalem (your local neighborhood), Judea (the larger area like clearfield county) and samaria (the places and people you don't want to go to) and to the end of the earth. It's pretty clear that our first calling is to the people we know and who know us.

Second in this calling is the word. We can't preach the word of God to others if we dont' have it in our very being, our very souls. That means we need to be eating it every day like the food we eat. What would happen to our families, our churches, our neighborhoods if we devoured the word of God as much as we devour our breakfasts, lunches and dinners? Change. We would change as would our world. The word is our nourishment our life! So many christians are spiritually walking around gaunt, pale and near death all because they aren't eating up the word of God. They are spiritually malnourished. Barely alive in His word. He isn't kidding when he says it's the bread of life. Bread is the basis of food for many people in many nations. Without that bread they would die. It is so with our Christian life. We need the word of God. Everyday. Without fail. We cannot survive without it.

Then third in our calling is go, tell. You'll notice this is action! We can't spread God's word with closed mouths and stationary feet, we must move! And this action is simple: repeat what you read. That's all. The Holy Spirit will supply those words. You've been there, a conversation, a situation, and somehow a scripture comes up, that's the Holy Spirit. But He won't do that, or can't do that unless you've read that word. When that happens, repeat it. And be a witness: repeat the times that Jesus has been real to you. So going, doing, telling is just repeat the word and repeat when Christ was real. That's easy.

Those of us who are His Children, saved by His grace, in the family, whatever your choice phrase is for 'being saved' is, have a mission, a job given to us by the Father. We have been called to speak His word to the nations, but we cannot speak the word unless we know the word. So we must ingest it everyday. Eat it up, savor it like you would a good brownie, or cookie, or fudge. And then, once you have been fed and nourished, once the word has been given to you and become a part of you, then go, tell about that good word. And we must always remember that our sign of success is not how many people we 'save', but rather our faithfulness to the call that God has given us. Our obedience to His calling in our life is our measure of success. That is how He measures success.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


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For all those following....sermon went great. The Lord spoke through His servant and His word was uplifted. I was obedient, so it was all good.

Sermon to follow.


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It's early. Oh not so early, but I'm the only one up, the house is quiet and I preach today. That is enough to rouse me out of a comfy bed on a sunday morning this early. I don't suppose many will read this before we walk to church, but that's ok, I'm sure the Lord reads my blog too. That's kind of a funny thought, the Lord reading my blog. Sweet.

I haven't talked much about this at all. I've mentioned it a few times, but not really discussed it at length. In truth, I'm afraid of people's responses and I'm just not ready to fight it yet. But maybe I wouldn't get a fight. Who knows?

I'm preaching today. I'm not afraid. Nervous yes. But I'm a whole lotta excited. God has called me to this, I can tell. I thought maybe He did when I received all those affirmations, but I can tell for sure when I do it. The power of the Spirit comes on and it's for sure. I enjoy it! Who would've ever thought shy little Kathryn would be preaching in front of people. I think it was harder to preach in front of Andrew last night than in front of a crowd of people. Your gaze can get lost in a crowd, but when your husband comes in and out it's a little unnerving. But I did ok.

The only thing I don't like about preaching is that you say things that are uncomfortable. But I suppose that's the main point. God isn't around to make us feel good. Change hurts sometimes. I suppose that's why I feel just a bit unsettled. This is different for me. I grew up thinking women shouldn't preach. And here I am doing this today. Honey, I don't know, I just know what I cannot deny anymore. The Lord has placed this call on my life and it's more dangerous to say no, or not yet, or You are wrong to the Lord, than it is to go with man. I'm trusting Him.

So I go. And yet, when I think about the people and what they might say, there is a bit of fear. And then I remember the word for today. Ezekiel 2:1-3:8.

And so again, I go.