Thursday, March 26, 2009

New Blog for Spirituality



So, a lot of times I discuss religious aspects of life on this blog.

Well, I'd like to invite those of you who are interested to check out a new blog that I will be contributing to, along with my best friend Whitney, dealing with life issues and spirituality. The blog will focus mainly on Christian principals, but we hope that we can have a discussion that is open to all peoples, no matter if they are a practicing Christian or not. So, please take a look at our new blog and share with your friends. It is geared more toward women in their 20s and 30s, but anyone is invited to join in on the discussion!

Here is the link: http://zoeandsofya.blogspot.com/

The blog is called Zoe & Sofya which means Life & Wisdom in Greek. We hope to provide wisdom for today's life issues in a loving and caring manner!

Check it out and please take a moment to comment on our first post (there are even discussion questions to get you started)!


The joys of Internet (at home!)

Well, the battle has been fought, and we came out victorious! Yes, there is high-speed broadband internet at the casa de Downey!

It was a long and difficult process, that literally took months of my time, but last night at 7 p.m., we were able to actual access the internet from way out in the country of St. Cloud manor!

I don't even feel like going into all the annoying details (especially the part about having a Comcast tech at my home until nearly 1 in the morning) but, it's over with now and last night I was able to sit down and actually do my homework without having to go to the library for hours (St. Cloud library is really nice though, and has this great little study room!) I wrote all the papers that I have due for the next few weeks because I was able to actually do the research I needed. It was so refreshing!

Of course, Martin was ecstatic because he could finally update the Wii and download songs onto the Guitar Hero game, so that was exciting too. It seems to be really good service, I checked out You Tube and Netflix and both ran very smoothly.

So, finally I can start blogging again and really get back into updating.

I do want to blog more about Kelly's wedding but that will have to wait until later, I need to get ready for class!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Kelly's Wedding

Here are a few slideshows. There will be more info about the wedding to come. It was absolutely beautiful and we had a great time ... I also got really dolled up and it was a great place for Martin to take some portraits of me ... more on all this later (including airbrush makeup). I haven't had time to format all photos, but you get the point! Also to see them better, click on the slide show :)

Enjoy!




Monday, March 16, 2009

When Jesus Turns Our World Upside Down

*This is a sermon that was preached at FUMC-Kissimmee on March 15, 2009. This was the rough draft.*

Scripture Reading I: Exodus 20:1-17

The Ten Commandments

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

Scripture Reading II: John 2:13-22

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Sermon:

When I was in high sch ool back in Arkansas there was this great little place that some of my friends and I used to visit, we referred to it as "The Rock." In the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains is Lake Degray, and out on that lake, is a few little "cliffs." I say little cliffs because they aren't very high, but they are just high enough that if you find the right one, say one like "The Rock," then you can dive right off into the lake below. I loved going to the Rock, but getting there was never easy. It was located out in the woods pretty far back,

and there really wasn't a set path to it. I knew where the rock was, and I knew where the road to get back was, so I thought. One day at the Rock we realized we had forgotten to pick up stuff to have a bar-b-que, since I knew the way back to the car I offered to head back with a friend to go get the cook-out stuff. We began walking towards the car ... it was about 45 minutes later that we realized we had made a wrong turn.

Even though I knew the way perfectly, somehow I had gotten lost. I tell you this story because I think that sometimes when we read the scripture that was read today in John, we want to think that the temple sellers were bad people, I want to share with you today, that I think just to opposite, I think they were good people, who THOUGHT they knew the right way, but soon realized that in fact, they had been taking the wrong path all along. It started with "The Law."

Can you remember the first time you heard the ten commandments? Probably when you were a small child, probably about the time when you told your first lie, someone in you family might have said to you, "God doesn't like it when we lie," or "God says it's a no-no to take things that don't belong to us." The Law was given to us at a early age, and it was given to the Jewish people during Jesus' time at an early age as well, but it wasn't just the ten commandments that was read today that was given to the Jewish people to follow it was those plus the 603 or so other laws that you can find in Leviticus and Numbers. The people of the time KNEW the law, and they did everything they could to follow it to the best of their ability. That's the background that we have coming into Jesus' visit to the temple. People were simply following the law, in fact law number 482 under sacrifices, "To offer a sacrifice of varying value in accordance with one's means (Lev. 5:7), so when Jesus came in and started throwing tables around and demanding the people out who sold these sacrifices, you can imagine the people were outraged, in fact you could say that at that moment, Jesus had just turned their world upside down with every table he turned over!

What we would like to say as Christians, who know who Jesus was and is, is that the people got what they deserved, they should have realized that they were going down the wrong path, but hey, don't judge them, they've been following this path all their lives, how could they have known that they were going the wrong way. Maybe, the same way we often don't realize when we are going the wrong way today?

You see, going back to experience at the Rock, it wasn't that I didn't know the way, it's that I got distracted. I was talking to my friend, we were just going along just find, never noticing that maybe the path had shifted, we didn't forget the way, the way was always there, we ignored it. That's where we find the good people of the temple, the path didn't change, but there were so many laws, so many observances, that focusing on the path became less of the idea and focusing on the laws became more important. They stopped focusing on God and began to focus on "being Religious." When Jesus turned over the tables, he wasn't stating that these were bad people, he was just calling to their attention that the right path was in front of them and they were headed in the wrong direction.

How many times has that happened in our lives, when we stopped focusing on what's important? When did you start following the path toward salvation, was it when you were little and someone spoke to you the first of the ten commandments, was it an epiphany moment where you knew salvation was at hand, where did you go after that ... when was the last time Jesus turned your life upside down?

As some of you may know, I started seminary this Spring at Asbury , and man is it fun! I am learning so much about the Methodist church and the path that those of us who are Methodist have taken to become Methodists. My favorite class is John Wesley's Theology for Today. John Wesley, is of course, the Anglican Church leader who decided that the church he attended path was becoming a bit too legalistic and began to explore other options, in that exploration the Methodist Way began. I like how he looks at our paths in his order of salvation. According to Wesley, salvation from original sin begins with justification, continues in sanctification and ends with glorification or in layman's terms or how some theologians today like to refer to it, awaking, attaching, advancing and assuring. I think that the journey when we encounter Jesus is in that awaking moment.

When was your awaking? Was it on that path when you were first told the Ten Commandments? Think about that ... look at this chart and try to imagine where each one has or will happen for your life. Now, here is the kicker, John Wesley didn't believe that this was a step-by-step process, in fact, he believed that you could walk down the path many many times. God desires us to be aware of him OVER and OVER again — the journey continues. Often times it continues with Jesus turning our world upside down. Here are some good examples, last week Pastor Scott preached on Nicodemas, a Pharisee, his awareness came when he learned the Jewish law, and he became aware again when he asked Jesus how we must be born again, Paul, another great Jewish leader, was very aware of God, was following the path, and then BAM! Jesus appears on the road to Damascus and turns his world UPSIDE DOWN ... want some more modern examples, CS Lewis, didn't believe in God, found religion to be too full of laws and rules, until he had an encounter with Jesus and was "Surprised by Joy." These are all good examples of people who have had their lives turned upside down by Christ, and continued to let him do so.

Often times, we find ourselves on our own path. We think we have been going the right way all along, until something happens, if like me, you notice the trees don't look the same, or like Paul, you have lost your vision completely, or like John Wesley, you find that the denomination you have loved all your life has become too ritualistic, you might be having an encounter with God. Becoming aware again of who you are, looking down the path and examining, is this where God wants me to be, have I been focusing on him, or have I just been following the way, because that's the way I've always gone. Where have you already encountered Jesus and you missed it because you were taking your own path, was it in the homeless woman that you met at the grocery store who was buying food for her kids, and you were in a hurry and only noticed that it was taken her WAY too long to count out the change, did you meet Jesus on your path when your boss came to you visibly upset and you didn't bother to ask what's wrong because you were too worried about all the things YOU had to get done that day? What about when that small child looked at you and asked you to play outside, and you said, no, did you miss Jesus simply because you didn't bother to look?

Don't stop looking for God at the first awareness, don't forget to become aware again after you have found sanctification, but instead, keep pushing forward. Open your eyes to the road around you, REALLY listen to the people you meet along the way, take a moment to smile, enjoy the scenery and make sure that you are on the path that is focused on Christ, and not on anything else. And, if you find that the path has shifted, and you have you lost your way to "The Rock,," remember the words of Jesus in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life." The pathway is there, we simply must open our eyes, look for the signs, and let Jesus turn our world upside down once again.

Let's pray: Thank you gracious and holy God for your son Jesus Christ. Thank you that you have given us his examples and his words to follow as we walk down the paths of life. Lift our eyes up to you and give each one of us the assurance that you want us to become aware of you again, and again, and again. Amen.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Dog Did It!


My Dog ate my internet. Allow me to explain. The last few weeks have been SO busy, I feel like I have gone non-stop through the month of February and I can't believe that it's already the middle of March, so many things have been going on that I can't remember the last time I slowed down. However, that's honestly, how I like it. I enjoy being overbooked, I find it to be one of the major challenges in life and if you can do 500 things at once, I think it's really a God-given gift to do so.

Usually, I have no problem overbooking myself, until the dog ate the internet. Yes, I was busy, so when I got up Thursday morning at 6 a.m. to do my homework and finished it at 8 a.m.to rush to get ready and drive off to class, I didn't think about the small connector that usually is plugged into my computer that had fallen onto the floor (or laid out on the table). I must have missed it, I am usually really good at putting things away, but this time, it didn't happen that way. I went to class, and then came home to find my nice little USB Connector, chewed to pieces, not only that, but Sawyer (the pup) seemed so happy to have me home, that I couldn't very well punish him when he's so cute and sweet, and really he didn't know what he'd done wrong.

What he did, was have me in a fit! I called AT&T first, to find out how much it would be to replace it, right away they reminded me that I didn't bother to buy insurance on the precious port and it would be $300 to replace it. I promptly hung up with them since I already knew it would only cost $125 to cancel the service. I then called my old friends at Comcast, now what most of you probably don't know, is that because we live in a cul de sac in St. Cloud, this apparently means that we are not allowed to have internet service (because they are too lazy to lay down our lines). However, Comcast has sworn to me that they can and will get us internet, so I called them to see if it was available yet.

They first scheduled me for an appointment for Friday from 4-7, so I went to work, ran some errands and was back at the house by 4 p.m. ... 7 came and went and they were a no show. I called and they had conveniently moved my appointment without telling me to Saturday from 10-12 ... I was at work, but checked in with Martin and found that at noon they still had not come. I called and they had rescheduled for 11-2 p.m. According to Martin someone from Comcast showed up around 2:30 to "look" at our lines. Come to find out, Comcast had done some work toward getting us internet, but they needed to have tech come out and look at the wiring. We were told to expect the tech before 5 p.m. The tech showed up at 4:30 to tell us that actually, a contractor would need to come out and have a look. So now, it's Thursday and there has been no word from Comcast. I called Tuesday morning just to get an update, and of course there was no record of ANYONE coming out to talk to me and alas, my service has been discontinued. SO, some customer service woman told me she would have the contractor supervisor call me back ... yeah, we all know that's happened.

So, if the blog updates are less frequent don't blame me ... blame the Dog!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Work/Life/School/Church/Facebook Balance

I logged into Facebook tonight. Not because I wanted to social network, but because I wanted to disconnect my blog from my account. I decided that updating my account through blogger was still a form of social communication, and so I decided I needed to fix the problem. However, I was very good, I logged in, went straight to my import options and disconnected my feed. I did not read one person's status or check my messages or see what sort of notifications I had. I wonder at what point Facebook stops notifying you or your notifications, because I have a feeling that number is going to get very high.

In all honesty it hasn't been that hard to give up the social networking, I have been so busy with work and school that I would barely have time to log on anyway. I didn't get home from work tonight until nearly 9:30 and this has been my routine for the past few days. I have been having some trouble sleeping too at night, so I've been using that time to catch up on work stuff (mostly e-mails at 1 in the morning, sorry guys with the blackberrys :). It hasn't been that difficult to manage my time, but I do know where my priorities lie, and it's not really with school.

School is getting the back burner of my time, and I'm okay with that. I recently had to write a paper for my church history course, I didn't give it as much time as I had wanted, and if I had been grading myself, I would have given myself a C. It was a C paper for me, I knew it, but it was really all I could give it. I got my grade and feedback today, not only did I make an A, but I made an actual 100%, I don't know that I even made a 100% on anything I did in my first Masters, so great job Henderson State for preparing me to write papers that would get a C in Truth, Order and Beauty that gets an A everywhere else! I guess I was more prepared than I thought. However, a test is coming up in there, and I haven't read half of the materials to take it, but we get to use our notes so I will be making myself a nice study guide before I open that test! So, I think I'm going to be okay with school. I do know that next semester if I take this many hours I will do it all from online. Going to class takes a big toll on my time (especially away from work). I have a great and understanding office, but I don't like getting in the office so late. I think that I will try to only take one class on campus per semester.

However, I do love the classes that I am in. John Wesley's Theology for Today is a great class and I am learning so much! When I am in class I really feel like I am where I'm supposed to be, I understand John Wesley, I see what he sees, I am a Methodist to the core. The thing I love about John Wesley is that when his Bishop asked him to find a church and "settle down," which basically meant, stop stepping on other people's perishes, John Wesely responded, "The World is my Parish." This is so what I am about. It's not that I don't want to itinerate (be moved from one church to another) but that I believe that my work belongs outside of the church, that the world truley is my parish. Class has already helped me better define my call, so I am looking forward to my next Ordained Ministry review because I am really starting to articulate better why I want to be a Deacon working in the World.

My other class that meets weekly is Worship Leadership. I really enjoy this class, but I didn't think I would. I really disliked worship planning when I was working for the church. I was always so stressed that things weren't perfect and that some stupid mistake that I had made, hindered someone else's worship. There was a lot of pressure for worship to go smoothly and sometimes I think I put more pressure on myself than was nescessary. I thought this would come out in Worship Leadership. But, really I am learning more about why we do the things we do in worship, why we pray what we pray, why we gather the way we do. It's really fasicnating stuff that dates back to when God called the people to worship him outside of Mt. Siani.

Work is going really well, but we are down two in the office (Yay for babies!). We have been working on a strong intiative to have a volunteer base, and we did our first training tonight. I had planned the training to last 45 minutes, it was 2 hours. Basically because the volunteers wanted to ask questions and share ideas, and they were so excited that I didn't mind that it was nearly 9 when I left the office. It was good seeing people in the community reaching out and being willing to help those who are in need! I think this is going to be really exciting and I can't wait to see what great things we are going to do! We also have some really great events coming up that I plan to spend most of the week working on. I basically took my google calandar and scheduled me time for just about every thing that needs to be done. I've followed it pretty well, but I think I should schedule myself naps so I don't feel guilty taking one when I was going to read Church History (which at times gets so boring that IT puts me to sleep! : )

I suppose that's it for now, just an update on my goal to "perfect work/life balance." So far, so good.

As a pastor I heard recently say as his benediction and I LOVED IT ... PEACE OUT!